Saturday, April 19, 2008
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Newark Star-Ledger Staff
Friday April 18, 2008, 4:24 PM
The E Street Band (1980)
Danny Federici, the E Street Band keyboardist who died on Thursday, can never be replaced.
One musician can never duplicate another's playing exactly, of course, but that's just part of it. Federici, who died of cancer, at the age of 58, added something intangible to the band by his mere presence.
Core members of the E Street Band band came together in small Jersey Shore clubs, struggled to attain stardom together, played arenas and stadiums throughout the world and now, in middle age, are still doing it. And Federici, the first E Streeter to die, played with Bruce Springsteen the longest.
"I loved him very much ... we grew up together," said Springsteen Thursday, in a message posted on his Web site.
In 1969, the Flemington-born Federici and drummer Vini Lopez recruited the longhaired hotshot guitarist from Freehold to play with them, in a band called Child. Child morphed into Steel Mill, then Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom, then the Bruce Springsteen Band, and, finally, the E Street Band. Federici played in them all, and stayed in the E Street Band until his disease forced him to take a leave of absence in November (though he did join the band one more time, for a surprise eight-song appearance at an Indianapolis concert, in March).
Federici and Springsteen's shared history included legendary all-night jam sessions at the Asbury Park club, the Upstage, and the kind of communal living arrangements that young musicians of limited means often resort to. At one point, Federici lived with Springsteen and Springsteen's family in Freehold. At another, Federici, Springsteen and others shared a house in Bradley Beach.
"We all shared the rent," Federici told Backstreets magazine in 1990. "It was one for all and all for one. It was a collection of togetherness. It was a good time."
Part of the band's appeal has always been rooted in their personal camaraderie, and the kind of deep musical communication that only comes when musicians have logged countless shows together. That shared history made Springsteen's decision to reunite the band, in 1999, a big deal. And it makes fans fear that every tour will be their last.
The E Street Band will continue without Federici. Charles Giordano, who has been substituting for Federici since November, has proven to be quite capable. But it's not exactly the same.
"I haven't felt this bad since I saw Mickey Mantle's funeral, and I knew part of my youth was being buried with him, forever gone," said Joel Ram, a singer-songwriter from Cedar Grove, and a longtime E Street fan. "It just hits you hard."
The E Street Band has always seemed like a bunch of regular guys, not rock-star prima donnas. And no one seemed more human than Federici. His place on the stage was usually far away from the center spotlight. His keyboard riffs added textures behind the charging guitars and pounding drums, but rarely dominated an arrangement.
He released two solo albums of jazz-pop instrumentals, but never really established himself as a solo artist. And he had a drinking problem, spending two stints in rehab before quitting in 1983. "During my drinking binges over the years I must have quit the band three or four times," he told Backstreets. "I was always talked back into it, which I'm grateful for."
Several key members of the Asbury Park rock scene have died over the last few years. Bill Chinnock, who Federici and Lopez played with before they met Springsteen, died last year, as did Springsteen's longtime assistant and confidante, Terry Magovern. The theme of mortality winds through some of Springsteen's best post-reunion songs, like "You're Missing," and "Matamoros Banks," and "Devil's Arcade." Springsteen's tribute to Magovern, "Terry's Song," closes his most recent album, "Magic."
Springsteen and the E Street Band postponed two shows after Federici's death, but will resume their tour Monday night in Tampa. Springsteen will surely add some kind of tribute to the show.
Maybe he'll sing "Blood Brothers," his 1995 meditation on the eternal ties that bind the members of the E Street Band together.
"The stars are burnin' bright like some mystery uncovered/I'll keep movin' through the dark with you in my heart/My blood brother," he pledges in the song.
He might not have been thinking about death when he wrote it. But it will be hard to think about anything else, now.
Federici's family is requesting that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Danny Federici Melanoma fund.
Jay Lustig may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 392-5850.
ASBURY PARK PRESS MUSIC WRITER
April 19, 2008
If the music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band is the quintessential sound of the Jersey Shore, then it is due in large part to Danny Federici.
Federici, who died Thursday after a three-year battle with melanoma, was a Flemington native. But his musical style was evocative of the beach-and-boardwalk scene that inspired much of Springsteen's work.
With a few taps on the keyboard or accordion, Federici could conjure a summer day in Asbury Park — the rides on the boardwalk, the call of sea gulls and, most importantly, the swirl of emotions such a day can bring. In songs such as "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" there is the melancholy hum of Federici's notes. In "Hungry Heart" there is irony, as Federici's bright lines contrast with the narrator's tale. In "Kitty's Back" there is excitement, anticipation and the swagger of youth.
"Kitty's Back" used to be one of those Holy Grail songs — a track everyone wanted to hear live but that the band seldom performed. But in recent years, the song has become a more familiar presence on set lists. And it sounds great in Convention Hall in Asbury Park, maybe because there are so many longtime fans in the audience and their energy gets linked to the song. Federici always received his due from those crowds during those kinds of songs.
"I knew him to be a tremendously talented musician and a natural, organic player," said Tony Pallagrosi, a former member of Southside Johnny's Asbury Jukes and a longtime participant in the local music scene. "I still listen to "Flemington,' one of Danny's solo albums. When I first heard it, I thought it was the contemporary version of Booker T. It was so grooving. Here's this cat who's part of a group and he had the chance to step out and do something different, and it reeked of the great R&B influences that made the E Street Band what it is."
As the editor of the New York-based Crawdaddy magazine, Peter Knobler first encountered the E Street Band on Dec. 7, 1972, at a concert at Sing Sing Prison.
Crawdaddy chronicled rock 'n' roll as it became a force in the '60s and '70s, and Knobler said he recognized immediately that the E Street Band was the real deal. The band's camaraderie, he said, was compelling.
"They were a band of brothers — they were good friends," Knobler said. "Danny Federici, he was just a classic Jersey guy, a regular guy. He totally filled out the sound. He had no airs about him, none of them did. He did not take his musicianship too seriously, yet you should've seen him play."
Chris Phillips, editor of the North Carolina-based Backstreets, a Springsteen fanzine, said Federici added to the mystique of the band.
"I've been listening to the live version of "You're Missing,' " Phillips said, "and it's a fine example of Max (Weinberg) hits the snare and Bruce points it over to Danny. And it's not that anything jawbreakingly technical is going on, but those notes Danny plays say as much or more than the lyrics. Sometimes he would bring that Jersey Shore sunshine part of the song, or maybe even some circus tones, but his music also was haunting at times, bringing in a whole different color to a song.
"I don't see Bruce as a poet, I see him as a songwriter," Phillips added, "and that's why the E Street Band is so important, because they provide that half of the experience. And Danny has always been part of that foundation."
Backstreets plans to devote its June issue to a tribute to Federici.
"Danny was there from the beginning — he and Bruce knew each other from the '60s," Pallagrosi said. "They were all in their formative stages at that point, and whatever they did individually influenced each other. They forged a musical identity together.
"That's the magic of music, and one of the defining characteristics of rock 'n 'roll: The whole is greater than the parts," Pallagrosi said. "That certainly has been the case with the E Street Band, just like the Rolling Stones, The Beatles and all the bands that have created something important. When members leave, it changes the equation."
Springsteen's concerts for last night in Fort Lauderdale and tonight have been postponed. Springsteen and the E Street Band are due back in the area in July for shows at Giants Stadium. Springsteen also is scheduled to perform May 7 at Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank.
On his Web site, www.brucespringsteen.net, Springsteen posted this remembrance: "Danny and I worked together for 40 years — he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much. . . . We grew up together."
Federici's family and bandmates have set up the Danny Federici Melanoma Fund to raise money to fight this most deadly form of skin cancer. Details will be announced on www.brucespringsteen.net.
For more thoughts on Danny Federici, read Press Staff Writer Jean Mikle's blog.
Friday, April 18, 2008
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4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)
By Bruce Springsteen
Sandy the fireworks are hailin' over Little Eden tonight
Forcin' a light into all those stoned-out faces left stranded on this Fourth of July
Down in town the circuit's full with switchblade lovers so fast so shiny so sharp
And the wizards play down on Pinball Way on the boardwalk way past dark
And the boys from the casino dance with their shirts open like Latin lovers along the shore
Chasin' all them silly New York girls
Sandy the aurora is risin' behind us
The pier lights our carnival life forever
Love me tonight for I may never see you again
Hey Sandy girl
Now the greasers they tramp the streets or get busted for trying to sleep on the beach all night
Them boys in their spiked high heels ah Sandy their skins are so white
And me I just got tired of hangin' in them dusty arcades bangin' them pleasure machines
Chasin' the factory girls underneath the boardwalk where they promise to unsnap their jeans
And you know that tilt-a-whirl down on the south beach drag
I got on it last night and my shirt got caught
And that Joey kept me spinnin' I didn't think I'd ever get off
Oh Sandy the aurora is risin' behind us
The pier lights our carnival life on the water
Runnin' down the beach at night with my boss's daughter
Well he ain't my boss no more Sandy
Sandy, the angels have lost our desire for us
I spoke to 'em just last night and they said they won't set themselves on fire for us anymore
Every summer when the weather gets hot they ride that road down from heaven on their Harleys they come and they go
And you can see 'em dressed like stars in all the cheap little seashore bars parked making love with their babies out on the Kokomo
Well the cops finally busted Madame Marie for tellin' fortunes better than they do
This boardwalk life for me is through
You know you ought to quit this scene too
Sandy the aurora's rising behind us, the pier lights our carnival life forever
Oh love me tonight and I promise I'll love you forever
Copyright © 1973 Bruce Springsteen (ASCAP)
ASBURY PARK PRESS STAFF WRITERS
April 18, 2008
In this image released by Backstreets.com, Bruce Springsteen and Danny Federici perform on stage at the Mellon Arena in Pittsburgh, on Nov. 14, 2007.
NEW YORK — Danny Federici, the E Street Band's organist and keyboard player since its inception whose stylish work helped define the band's sound, died Thursday after a three-year battle with melanoma.
Federici, 58, a Flemington native, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. News of his death was posted late Thursday night on Bruce Springsteen's official Web site, www.brucespringsteen.net.
He had performed with Springsteen longer than any other E Streeter, playing with him in bands such as "Child," and "Steel Mill," before the E Street Band was formed.
Federici was also a regular at The Upstage, the legendary Asbury Park club where Shore artists honed their skills in all-night jam sessions. Among his most notable E Street performances were his organ playing on the hit "Hungry Heart" and the accordion solo on "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)."
"Danny and I worked together for 40 years -- he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much ... we grew up together,'' Springsteen said in a statement posted on his Web site.
In November, Federici took a leave of absence from the E Street Band to battle melanoma following an emotional send-off at the Nov. 19 Boston show.
During that show, Springsteen frequently allowed Federici to take the spotlight during songs like "Kitty's Back" with its extended organ solo, "This Hard Land," "E Street Shuffle" and "Sandy."
Following the last song that night, Federici had tears in his eyes as the crowd chanted his name. Federici made only one more appearance with the E Streeters, on March 20 in Indianapolis, in which he again played "Sandy" and several other songs.
When he announced Federici's plan to take a leave of absence from the band, Springsteen described him as "one of the pillars of our sound." A clip of part of Federici's last E Street performance in Indianapolis can be seen on Springsteen's Web site, www.brucespringsteen.net.
In a 1998 interview with the Asbury Park Press, Federici spoke about the first time he saw Springsteen perform.
Said the musician: "When (drummer) Vini Lopez and I first saw Bruce play at The Upstage Club — because we were pretty much playing at the same time — we basically said, "We've gotta have this guy in our band.' So we decided to start a band.
"So he (Springsteen) quit Earth to put a band together with me and Vini. And we found a bass player, Vinnie Roslin. And that band was called Child. And that's how the whole switcheroo thing — getting him out of Freehold — began."
Danny Federici, keyboard player in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band in Manhattan (2005).
Federici also reminisced about jobs he worked around the Shore area before joining Springsteen's E Street Band.
"I was an electrician for a while," Federici told the Press. "I worked construction. Actually, Allan Berger — he was the bassist with Southside (Johnny Lyon) for a while — his dad was the super on a construction job I worked. A couple of times, I worked at a paper place up in Wanamassa (in Ocean Township). And of course, I worked in a surfboard factory with "Tinker' (Carl West), Bruce's first manager — Steel Mill and Child's first manager. He'd throw us a few bucks."
Said Federici of his early Asbury Park days: "I lived on Bangs Avenue for a while, almost right across from the police station. I had to move closer to the buses and the trains — I lost my license as a kid."
Federici was often introduced in concert by Springsteen as "Phantom Dan," a nickname the keyboarder got following the night in 1970 Springsteen and his band Steel Mill went head to head with Middletown Police Chief Joe McCarthy.
When a concert at a swim club did not shut down promptly at 10 p.m., police stormed onstage and ended the performance. Twenty-one people, nine of them juveniles, were arrested on a variety of drug and assault charges.
"I could see the cops were getting ready to do something, so I went backstage and pulled the plug on the band," Richard Kleva, who arranged for the concert, said afterward.
The crowd immediately began to shout to turn the music back on. A roadie for Steel Mill plugged the amplifiers back in. Then the police took the stage, and bedlam broke loose.
McCarthy was injured when an amplifier toppled over onto him. Witnesses said one police officer on stage jabbed Springsteen in the ribs with a nightstick, while others chased Federici.
After the concert, warrants were issued for Federici's arrest, because the police believed he had purposely knocked the amplifier onto McCarthy.
"I was a fugitive," Federici recalled in an interview in a book on Springsteen published by the Springsteen fan magazine Backstreets. At several Steel Mill shows after the Middletown concert, police were waiting to arrest Federici, he said in the book. So Springsteen devised a plan.
Steel Mill usually closed its concerts with a song called "Resurrection," during which Springsteen would pull people out of the audience to dance onstage. When the stage was crowded with dancers, Federici would slip away, and the police would lose him in the crowd.
Federici eventually turned himself in, but nothing came of the charges.
In a band with larger-than-life characters like saxophonist Clarence Clemons and bandana-wrapped guitarist Little Steven Van Zandt, Federici was content to play in his familiar position to the side of the stage. But his playing was as vital to Springsteen's live show as any instrument in the band.
Federici released a pair of solo albums that veered from the E Street sound and into soft jazz. Bandmates Nils Lofgren on guitar and Garry Tallent on bass joined Federici on his 1997 debut, "Flemington." In 2005, Federici released its follow-up, "Out of a Dream."
Besides his work with Springsteen, Federici played on albums by an impressive roster of other artists: Van Zandt, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker, Gary U.S. Bonds and Garland Jeffreys.
Springsteen concerts scheduled for today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Saturday in Orlando were postponed following the news of Federici's death.
The Associated Press contributed to this story. This story contains material previously published by the Press.
Posted by Stan Goldstein
April 18, 2008 1:35AM
William Perlman/The Newark Star-Ledger
Danny Federici in New York City in July 2005.
When I heard the news tonight that Danny Federici died, it hit really hard.
I guess it was expected, but the reality of it is still sinking in. To many of us E Street Band fans, it's like losing a member of our own family.
My first Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show was on Aug. 2, 1976 at the Monmouth Arts Centre (now Count Basie Theatre) in Red Bank. The song I most wanted to hear that night was "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" because it was about the Asbury Park boardwalk where I hung out playing pinball on many a summer afternoon.
My sister, who took me to the concert, told me that you could tell when Bruce was going to play "Sandy" because Danny Federici would leave the organ and come to the front of the stage and play the accordion.
The second encore of that night, Danny put on the accordion and I still remember that feeling his accoridon brought of the boardwalk and the Jersey Shore. Everytime I've heard "Sandy" since, I think of that night in 1976.
Other memories that come to mind are watching Danny run from Roy Bittan's keyboards back to his organ toward the end of "Born In The U.S.A." when Bruce opened the shows with the powerful song in 1984-85 . Danny would start the song playing next to Roy, and then toward the end of the song, he would run like an athlete to his own organ on the other side of the stage.
I also liked when Bruce introduced him as "Phantom Dan Federici." The story goes that the Middletown cops were looking for Danny after the infamous Clearwater Swim Club riot following a Steel Mill show on Sept. 11, 1970.
Danny may or may not have pushed an amp from the stage on to the Chief of the Middletown police. Later, the cops were looking for Danny and he escaped arrest on future nights by disappearing into the crowd when Steel Mill would perform "Ressurection," which started his nickname "Phantom."
I had a chance meeting with Danny in the Tampa Airport following the three great Florida shows in November of 2002. I was flying back to Newark and when I got to my gate, I saw Danny sitting by himself, at the next gate. I hesitated going up to him to say hello, but we had a mutual friend so I figured I would just go up and say a few words.
He was a nice as could be and asked me how I liked the shows in Orlando, Miami and Tampa. I told them I thought they were all great and he said to me "yes, they were. You sure picked three good ones to see."
I was fortunate to be at Miller Park in Milwaukee on Sept. 27, 2003 when Bruce brought Danny up front with the accordion to play "Beer Barrel Polka." That was fun.
Maybe Bruce summed Danny up best with this quote when he was indcuted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 15, 1999.
"Danny Federici, the most instinctive and natural musician I ever met and the only member of the band who can reduce me to a shouting mess. I love you Danny. Your organ and accordion playing brought the boardwalks of Central and South Jersey alive in my music. Thank you.''
Yes Danny, thank you for many nights of wonderful music. That great band in heaven just got itself one great organ and accordion player.
Friday, April 18, 2008
I confess that when the producers of Ben Stein's new documentary "Expelled" called, offering me a private screening, I was less than excited.
It is a reality of PC liberalism: There is only one credible side to an issue, and any dissent is not only rejected, it is scorned. Global warming. Gay "rights." Abortion "rights." On these and so many other issues there is enlightenment, and then there is the Idiotic Other Side. PC liberalism's power centers are the news media, the entertainment industry and academia, and all are in the clutches of an unmistakable hypocrisy: Theirs is an ideology that preaches the freedom of thought and expression at every opportunity, yet practices absolute intolerance toward dissension.
Evolution is another one of those one-sided debates. We know the concept of Intelligent Design is stifled in academic circles. An entire documentary to state the obvious? You can see my reluctance to view it.
I went into the screening bored. I came out of it stunned.
Ben Stein's extraordinary presentation documents how the worlds of science and academia not only crush debate on the origins of life, but also crush the careers of professors who dare to question the Darwinian hypothesis of evolution and natural selection.
Stein asks a simple question: What if the universe began with an intelligent designer, a designer named God? He assembles a stable of academics -- experts all -- who dared to question Darwinist assumptions and found themselves "expelled" from intellectual discourse as a result. They include evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg (sandbagged at the Smithsonian), biology professor Caroline Crocker (drummed out of George Mason University), and astrophysicist Guillermo Gonzalez (blackballed at Iowa State University).
That's disturbing enough, but what Stein does next is truly shocking. He allows the principal advocates of Darwinism to speak their minds. These are experts with national reputations, regular welcomed guests on network television and the like. But the public knows them only by their careful seven-second soundbites. Stein engages them in conversation. They speak their minds. They become sputtering ranters, openly championing their sheer hatred of religion.
PC liberalism has showered accolades on atheist author Richard Dawkins' best-selling book "The God Delusion." But when Stein suggests to Dawkins that he's been critical of the Old Testament God, Dawkins protests -- not that Stein is wrong, but that he's being too mild. He then reads from this jaw-dropping paragraph of his book:
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
Dawkins has a website. Its slogan is "A clear-thinking oasis."
It's understood that God had nothing to do with the origins of life on Earth. What, then, is the alternate explanation? Stein asks these experts, and their very serious answers are priceless. One theorizes that life began somehow on the backs of crystals. Another states electric sparks from a lightning storm created organic matter (out of nothing). Another declares that life was brought to Earth by aliens. Anything but God.
The most controversial part of the film follows Stein to the Dachau concentration camp, underlining how Darwin's theories of natural selection led to the eugenics movement, embraced by Adolf Hitler. If there is no God, but only a planetary lab waiting for scientists to perfect the human race, where can Darwinism lead? Stein insists that he isn't accusing today's Darwinists of Nazism. He points out, however, that Hitler's mad science was inspired by Darwinism.
Now that the film is complete, the evolutionist prophets featured in the film are on the warpath inveighing against it, and the alleged idiots who would lower themselves to watching it. Richard Dawkins laments how the film will solicit "cheap laughs that could only be raised in an audience of scientific ignoramuses." Minnesota professor and blogger P.Z. Myers predicts the movie is "going to appeal strongly to the religious, the paranoid, the conspiracy theorists, and the ignorant ---- which means they're going to draw in about 90 percent of the American market." Myers and Dawkins now both complain they were "duped" into appearing in the movie (for pay).
Everyone should take the opportunity to see "Expelled" -- if nothing else, as a bracing antidote to the atheism-friendly culture of PC liberalism. But it's far more than that. It's a spotlight on the arrogance of this movement and its leaders, a spotlight on the choking intolerance of academia, and a spotlight on the ignorance of so many who say so much, yet know so very little.
Founder and President of the Media Research Center, Brent Bozell runs the largest media watchdog organization in America.
by David Berlinski
One man -- Charles Darwin -- says: “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. …”
Another man -- Adolf Hitler -- says: Let us kill all the Jews of Europe. Is there a connection?
Yes, obviously is the answer of the historical record and common sense.
Published in 1859, Darwin’s On the Origin of Species said nothing of substance about the origin of species. Or anything else, for that matter. It nonetheless persuaded scientists in England, Germany and the United States that human beings were accidents of creation.
Where Darwin had seen species struggling for survival, German physicians, biologists, and professors of hygiene saw races. They drew the obvious conclusion, the one that Darwin had already drawn. In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals. German scientists took the word expense to mean what it meant: The annihilation of less fit races.
The point is made with abysmal clarity in the documentary, Expelled. Visiting the site at which those judged defective were killed -- a hospital, of course -- the narrator, Ben Stein, asks the curator what most influenced the doctors doing the killing.
“Darwinism,” she replies wanly.
It is perfectly true that prominent Nazis were hardly systematic thinkers. They said whatever came into their heads and since their heads were empty, ideas tended to ricochet. Heinrich Himmler proclaimed himself offended by the idea that he might been descended from the apes.
If Himmler was offended, the apes were appalled.
Nonetheless, even stupid men reach their conclusions because they have been influenced in certain ways. At Hitler’s death in May of 1945, the point was clear enough to the editorial writers of the New York Times. “Long before he had dreamed of achieving power,” they wrote, [Hitler] had developed the principles that nations were destined to hate, oppose and destroy one another; [and] that the law of history was the struggle for survival between peoples … ”.
Where, one might ask, had Hitler heard those ideas before? We may strike the Gospels from possible answers to this question. Nonetheless, the thesis that there is a connection between Darwin and Hitler is widely considered a profanation. A professor of theology at Iowa State University, Hector Avalos is persuaded that Martin Luther, of all people, must be considered Adolf Hitler’s spiritual advisor. Luther, after all, liked Jews as little as Hitler did, and both men suffered, apparently, from hemmmorhoids. Having matured his opinion by means of an indifference to the facts, Roger Friedman, writing on Fox news, considers the connection between Darwin and Hitler and in an access of analytical insight thinks only to remark, “Urgggh.”
The view that we may consider the sources of Nazi ideology in every context except those most relevant to its formation is rich, fruity, stupid and preposterous. It is for this reason repeated with solemn incomprehension at the website Expelled Exposed: “Anti-Semitic violence against Jews,” the authors write with a pleased sense of discovery, “can be traced as far back as the middle ages, at least 7 centuries before Darwin.”
Let me impart a secret. It can be traced even further. “Oh that mine head were waters and mine eyes a fountain of tears," runs the lamentation in Jeremiah 9.1, “that I might weep day and night for the slain daughters of my people.”
And yet if anti-Semitism has been the white noise of European history, to assign it causal powers over the Holocaust is simply to ignore very specific ideas that emerged in the 19th century, and that at once seized the imagination of scientists throughout the world.
What is often called social Darwinism was a malignant force in Germany, England and the United States from the moment that social thinkers forged the obvious connection between what Darwin said and what his ideas implied. Justifying involuntary sterilization, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes argued that “three generations of imbeciles is enough.” He was not, it is understood, appealing to Lutheran ideas. Germany reached a moral abyss before any other state quite understood that the abyss was there to be reached because Germans have always had a congenital weakness for abysses and seem unwilling, when one is in sight, to avoid toppling into it.
These historical connections are so plain that from time to time, those most committed to Darwin’s theory of evolution are moved to acknowledge them. Having dismissed a connection between Darwin and Hitler with florid indignation, the authors of the site Expelled Exposed at once proceed to acknowledge it: “The Nazis appropriated language and concepts from evolution,” they write, “as well as from genetics, medicine (especially the germ theory of disease), and anthropology as propaganda tools to promote their perverted ideology of ‘racial purity.’”
Would he care to live in a society shaped by Darwinian principles? The question was asked of Richard Dawkins.
Not at all, he at once responded.
And why not?
Because the result would be fascism.
In this, Richard Dawkins was entirely correct; and it is entirely to his credit that he said so.
David Berlinski is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, the author of “The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions” and appears in the new documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”
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Bruce Springsteen, Danny Federici and Roy Bittan
NEW YORK - Danny Federici, the longtime keyboard player for Bruce Springsteen whose stylish work helped define the E Street Band's sound on hits from "Hungry Heart" through "The Rising," died Thursday. He was 58.
Federici, who had battled melanoma for three years, died at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. News of his death was posted late Thursday on Springsteen's official Web site.
He last performed with Springsteen and the band last month, appearing during portions of a March 20 show in Indianapolis.
"Danny and I worked together for 40 years — he was the most wonderfully fluid keyboard player and a pure natural musician. I loved him very much ... we grew up together," Springsteen said in a statement posted on his Web site.
Springsteen concerts scheduled for Friday in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Saturday in Orlando were postponed.
Federici was born in Flemington, N.J., a long car ride from the Jersey shore haunts where he first met kindred musical spirit Springsteen in the late 1960s. The pair often jammed at the Upstage Club in Asbury Park, N.J., a now-defunct after-hours club that hosted the best musicians in the state.
It was Federici, along with original E Street Band drummer Vini Lopez, who first invited Springsteen to join their band.
By 1969, the self-effacing Federici — often introduced in concert by Springsteen as "Phantom Dan" — was playing with the Boss in a band called Child. Over the years, Federici joined his friend in acclaimed shore bands Steel Mill, Dr. Zoom and the Sonic Boom and the Bruce Springsteen Band.
Federici became a stalwart in the E Street Band as Springsteen rocketed from the boardwalk to international stardom. Springsteen split from the E Streeters in the late '80s, but they reunited for a hugely successful tour in 1999.
"Bruce has been supportive throughout my life," Federici said in a recent interview with Backstreets magazine. "I've had my ups and downs, and I've certainly given him a run for his money, and he's always been there for me."
Federici played accordion on the wistful "4th Of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)" from Springsteen's second album, and his organ solo was a highlight of Springsteen's first top 10 hit, "Hungry Heart." His organ coda on the 9/11-inspired Springsteen song "You're Missing" provided one of the more heart-wrenching moments on "The Rising" in 2002.
In a band with larger-than-life characters such as saxophonist Clarence Clemons and bandana-wrapped guitarist "Little" Steven Van Zandt, Federici was content to play in his familiar position to the side of the stage. But his playing was as vital to Springsteen's live show as any instrument in the band.
Federici released a pair of solo albums that veered from the E Street sound and into soft jazz. Bandmates Nils Lofgren on guitar and Garry Tallent on bass joined Federici on his 1997 debut, "Flemington." In 2005, Federici released its follow-up, "Out of a Dream."
Federici had taken a leave of absence during the band's tour in November 2007 to pursue treatment for melanoma, and was temporarily replaced by veteran musician Charles Giordano.
At the time, Springsteen described Federici as "one of the pillars of our sound and has played beside me as a great friend for more than 40 years. We all eagerly await his healthy and speedy return."
Besides his work with Springsteen, Federici played on albums by an impressive roster of other artists: Van Zandt, Joan Armatrading, Graham Parker, Gary U.S. Bonds and Garland Jeffreys.
On the Net:
Bruce Springsteen: http://www.brucespringsteen.net
By Amy Welborn
The American Spectator
Published 4/18/2008 12:08:35 AM
Pope Benedict XVI (R) visits the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to hold a Vespers prayer service with the Catholic Bishops of the United States in Washington April 16, 2008.(Max Rossi/Reuters)
Before Pope Benedict XVI's arrival in the United States, many hoped he would address the clergy sexual abuse scandal, but no one could know for certain if he would. The doubters pointed to the fact that he had been invited to make Boston -- epicenter of the 2002 revelations -- a part of the itinerary, and declined. Didn't that imply a lack of awareness of the importance of the issue?
Midway through this journey, Pope Benedict has addressed the clergy sexual abuse crisis three times with words and a fourth in a way far more powerful than words -- by meeting with victims of clergy sexual abuse on the afternoon of April 17.
Benedict was not cajoled into uttering any of his words on the issue. Even in the most informal of settings in which it came up -- the press conference on the plane -- those questions asked of the Pope were preselected. And the first question selected to be answered, posed by veteran Vatican reporter John Allen, concerned this very issue.
I'll come back to what Benedict has said about the abuse scandal in a moment, but first some background on his previous engagement with the issue, which has not made headlines, but is telling.
As prefect of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, part of Cardinal Ratzinger's responsibility, especially in the latter years of John Paul's pontificate, was to handle the cases of priests accused of sexual abuse. He referred to his Friday mornings reading these dossiers as his "Friday penance."
In an article published after his election, Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times wrote of this troubling part of Ratzinger's job and also of the meetings some members of the U.S. bishops' National Review Board had with him in 2003. Former board chair Anne Burke reported they found a concerned and engaged listener in the Cardinal.
THIS RELUCTANT IMMERSION in these cases led to a strong and poignant moment in 2005, just days before the death of John Paul II, when the traditional Good Friday Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum, written that year by Cardinal Ratzinger, read, during the meditation on the Ninth Station:
Should we not also think of how much Christ suffers in his own Church? How often is the holy sacrament of his Presence abused, how often must he enter empty and evil hearts! How often do we celebrate only ourselves, without even realizing that he is there! How often is his Word twisted and misused! What little faith is present behind so many theories, so many empty words! How much filth there is in the Church, and even among those who, in the priesthood, ought to belong entirely to him!
Finally, and to me, very tellingly, in the fall of 2004, Ratzinger re-opened the long-controversial cases charging Legionary of Christ founder Marcial Maciel Degollado with abuse and exploitation of seminarians.
Maciel was disciplined in 2006 and when he died this past January, the Vatican had nothing to say. It is standard procedure for the Pope to issue a statement of condolence when a religious order founder dies. But from Benedict, silence.
This week, the Pope has used his voice to recognize the terrible cost of the sexual abuse crisis in this country: most of all to victims, but also to the entire Church.
On the plane, in answer to Allen's question, Benedict used the word "shame" in relation to the scandal, then briefly outlined the areas in which the Church should act: juridically, pastorally, and in relation to seminary screening and formation.
The emphasis on victims came through very clearly in Wednesday's speech to the U.S. bishops, when Benedict said that it was their "God-given responsibility as pastors to bind up the wounds caused by every breach of trust, to foster healing, to promote reconciliation and to reach out with loving concern to those so seriously wronged."
JUST WORDS? Not at all, if you consider the priorities of various dioceses in the past. Showing compassion and care to victims has not always topped the list, which is exactly the reason we are where we are. Benedict reminded the bishops not only that this was most important, but that it was what God -- you know, God -- expected of them.
In the earlier days of these scandals, we were reassured that those in charge were trying to respond to the concerns of the faithful on this score, and that they were listening to us. Frankly, I never really cared if they were listening to me. I just thought they should try listening to Christ.
Speaking of Christ, he came up, too. Benedict told the bishops that their lives should be Christ-centered and prayerful, devoted to the virtues and holiness.
In saying this, Benedict isn't tossing out self-help platitudes or suggesting magic formulas that make suffering and complexity disappear. Rather, he's saying that in addition to other concrete efforts, Christ-centered bishops should foster holiness in priests, and when sins are committed, they tend to victims first. First. First.
Thursday, during his homily at Mass at Nationals Park, he brought the subject up to those gathered and, by extension, to Catholics across the country. First, once again, were victims. And only after that did he ask them to "love your priests, and to affirm them in the excellent work that they do."
And finally, Thursday afternoon, in a surprise move, Benedict met with five victims who were escorted to their meeting by Sean Cardinal O'Malley of Boston.
NO, BENEDICT DIDN'T take anyone publicly to the woodshed. He didn't lay out any canonical or structural issues. Those things are important, but they are also not the stuff of homilies and press conferences.
Here in the U.S., Benedict spoke as a pastor, laying it out plainly before all of us, including the bishops, not only by his words but by his actions.
Time after time, we hear that in the beginning, victims of abuse asked something simple of bishops: Meet with us. Listen to our stories. Help us.
How many bishops were asked to do this, how many times? And how often did they refuse?
This week, one bishop said "Yes."
By Kathleen Parker
April 18, 2008 12:00 AM
Pope Benedict XVI gestures to the crowd while celebrating Mass at Nationals Park in Washington April 17, 2008.
Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the U.S. has afforded the American media and others an opportunity to remind us that the Catholic Church is “out of step” with modern times.
That is both a criticism and compliment — praising with faint damnation.
What exactly about modern times would compel a pope to change his institutional mind about the fundamental belief in, say, the dignity of all human life?
The central life issue is, of course, abortion, about which even a majority of American Catholics (58 percent) differ from the Church’s view. Other related concerns include embryo-destructive research, cloning, and assisted suicide.
The Catholic Church persists in opposing all of the above, insisting that life begins at conception, all life has value, no human being has the right to terminate the life of another. Case closed.
And, really, who would insist otherwise? In the abstract, few. In practice, millions.
Though we know that life biologically begins at conception, we’ve decided to disagree about when that life becomes “human.”
And, though we sort of believe that all life has value, our actions suggest that we think imperfect life has less value. Increasingly, Down Syndrome babies today are terminated, for instance.
If we quantify human life only according to productivity, then imperfect life inarguably is less valuable. But is it less human? Nazi eugenicists thought so. But measuring productivity requires a detached calculation — and, inevitably, bureaucratic enforcement — that defines inhuman.
This is not, by the way, a judgment of people who have made difficult choices. None of us really knows which path we would take until presented with the intersection that forces such contemplations.
Finally, all agree that no human being has the right to take another’s life except in self-defense. Since most abortions are for reasons other than the mother’s health, our current practices are possible only if the unborn are considered “not human.”
Keeping that definition alive is the trick. Human or not? Who decides?
A majority of Americans are comfortable with the view that a woman, her doctor, and her God should decide. But what if there were irrefutable proof that a fetus at conception is fully human? Would we then feel that government has a role in protecting unborn life?
These questions are especially tricky for Catholics. For those who side with the pope, the answer is clear: If life is a gift of the creator, then only the creator can be the ultimate arbiter of conception (though the Church does allow for limiting and spacing babies on the basis of informed conscience, just not through artificial means).
To believe in God’s autonomy over human life, however, is a hard sell. How does one justify creating more mouths when so many can’t be fed? My own Catholic grandmother, the youngest of 11 children, was handed over to the nuns at age 4 when her family could no longer feed her.
And yet, the nuns did feed my grandmother. And she did manage to grow up and marry and create my father, who then created me. So.
Pro-choice arguments are, nonetheless, compelling. Privacy from government intrusion, yes. Women’s autonomy over their own bodies, yes. All children wanted, well, of course. But none of those testaments to logic alters the essential truth that life begins when egg and sperm commingle and that every one of us was at that far end of the life continuum before we were able to dabble in ethics and trifle with electronic keyboards.
The question is how we reconcile what is true with what is merely convenient? That we might choose a path other than the pope’s is the prerogative of a free people — and no one recognizes that freedom with greater consistency than this pope. No one has to be Catholic.
But to ask Benedict to change the church’s rules to suit modern appetites and lifestyles is to ask that he forsake the sanctity of human life for the benefit of earthly delights. Those are not his concerns.
Even for non-Catholics like me, there’s something comforting about a stubborn pope in a world of moral relativity. Like a strong father, he ignores his children’s pleas for leniency knowing that his rules, though tough, serve a higher purpose.
If Benedict were to relent and compromise the value of human life, what would be left to debate? Perhaps only one’s own time to die. And then ...
© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group
Thursday, April 17, 2008
By Peter Wehner
April 17, 2008
US Democratic presidential candidates Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) stand at their podiums before the Democratic Presidential Debate at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia April 16, 2008. (Jae C. Hong/Pool/Reuters)
1. Senator Barack Obama’s strongest defenders, led by Andrew Sullivan, were furious at the questioning directed at Senator Obama by two of the best in the news business: ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. In Sullivan’s words:
The loser was ABC News: one of the worst media performances I can remember — petty, shallow, process-obsessed, trivial where substantive, and utterly divorced from the actual issues that Americans want to talk about.
What really irritated Sullivan is that the early part of the debate focused on issues like Obama’s former pastor Jeremiah Wright Jr., Obama’s association with a former leader of the radical and violent group the Weather Underground, his reluctance to wear an American flag pin on his lapel, and his comments in San Francisco about how middle-class voters are “bitter” and frustrated and “cling” to guns, religion, and xenophobia.
These issues were entirely appropriate to raise — and, in fact, several of them have not been asked of Obama before, including Obama’s relationship with William Ayers (the former leader of the Weather Underground). Obama, after all, was given a chance to respond in full, and there are few questions that should be declared out of bounds for presidential candidates. There was no “specious and gossipy trivia” (to quote the close-to-unhinged Tom Shales in Thursday’s Washington Post). And the debate did not focus exclusively on those issues; there were questions about Iraq, Iran, taxes, guns, affirmative action, and other topics. This debate, more than most, was enlightening and useful. Obama’s supporters are enraged that he would be treated like any other candidate running for president.
2. The consensus view is that the reason Obama did poorly Wednesday night is because he was on the defensive due to his recent gaffes. But let’s unpack some of the substantive policy answers Obama gave as well.
On Iraq, Obama reaffirmed a rock-hard pledge that he will withdraw our combat troops and leave no permanent bases. He is wholly uninterested in what General Petraeus or anyone else has to say on the matter of our mission; our troops are coming home, come what may. And if as a result of a precipitous withdrawal we see mass death and genocide, a revitalized al-Qaeda, a strengthened Iran, and massive instability in the region, the withdrawal would presumably continue. There is, it seems, no scenario that would cause Obama to change his mind. David Brooks of the New York Times put it well: “To pledge an automatic withdrawal is just insane. A mature politician would’ve been honest and said: I fully intend to withdraw, but I want to know what the reality is at that moment.”
3. On the matter of capital-gains taxes, ABC’s Gibson pointed out that in the past, when the rate dropped, revenues increased. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased, revenues went down. “So why raise it at all,” Gibson asked Obama, “especially given the fact that 100 million people in this country own stock and would be affected?”
Sen. Obama’s response was, “I would look at raising the capital gains tax for purposes of fairness.” Obama assures us that he wants “businesses to thrive and I want people to be rewarded for their success.” But he also wants to “make sure … that our tax system is fair and that we are able to finance health care for Americans who currently don’t have it and that we're able to invest in our infrastructure and invest in our schools.” But back to the empirical evidence: when capital-gains taxes are cut, the private economy expands. So if lowering the capital gains tax led to a stronger economy and higher revenues, Obama presumably would still oppose it on grounds of “fairness” (a concept that doesn’t help you determine what the precise tax rate ought to be). This demonstrates the depth of Obama’s animus toward the corporate world, which is the engine of prosperity for America.
4. Obama wasn’t much better in his treatment of other issues. Last night he said that a central focus of his campaign was to deliver on “middle-class tax relief.” When asked if he had just taken a pledge on not raising taxes on people making less than $200,000, Obama agreed. But later in the debate Obama admitted he would raise the cap on the payroll tax, meaning that those making more than $97,000 a year would pay higher payroll taxes. When Charles Gibson pointed out this fact to Obama and said there are “a heck of a lot of people between $97,000 and $200(,000) and $250,000” and that if you raise the payroll taxes, that will raise taxes on them, Obama said, “I would look at potentially exempting those who are in between.” But of course if he exempts all of those in between, then he’s not going to raise the payroll tax to help save Social Security. And if he doesn’t exempt all of those in between, then he’s raising taxes on those making less than $200,000.
On affirmative action, Obama was asked “how specifically would you recommend changing affirmative action policies so that affluent African Americans are not given advantages” over poor, less affluent whites (a position he had previously stated). His response was that the “the basic principle that should guide discussions” is “how do we make sure that we're providing ladders of opportunity for people.” That’s not terribly specific. He then went on to say, “race is still a factor in our society.” This exchange followed:
SENATOR OBAMA: And I think that for universities and other institutions to say, you know, we're going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they're black or Latino or because they're women…
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Even if they're wealthy?
SENATOR OBAMA: I think that's something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So if they look at my child and they say, you know, Malia and Sasha, they've had a pretty good deal, then that shouldn't be factored in. On the other hand, if there's a young white person who has been working hard, struggling, and has overcome great odds, that's something that should be taken into account. So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black or white or Hispanic, male or female. What we want to do is make sure that people who have been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future.”
So Senator Obama believes in affirmative action but not in quotas to overcome “potentially current discrimination.” He believes as well that race “can’t be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person.” But what specifically does Senator Obama have in mind when he speaks about affirmative action without quotas? And in what circumstances should we make decisions based on race? Should a middle-class black get a slot at an Ivy League university because of race if he’s in competition with, say, a lower-class Asian woman? Obama seems to believe that race can be a factor that is taken into consideration when it comes to college applications and jobs, but it shouldn’t always be a factor. And sometimes, but not always, class circumstances should trump race. It’s very hard to discern a principled position from Obama on this important matter of constitutional law.
5. On the issue of guns, Obama said, “As a general principle, I believe that the Constitution confers an individual right to bear arms. But just because you have an individual right does not mean that the state or local government can't constrain the exercise of that right…” When asked if he still favors the registration and licensing of guns because, as Gibson pointed out, “in 1996, your campaign issued a questionnaire, and your writing was on the questionnaire that said you favored a ban on handguns,” Obama denied it:
No, my writing wasn't on that particular questionnaire, Charlie. As I said, I have never favored an all-out ban on handguns.
But as the New York Times points out today
Politico.com recently found an amended questionnaire that [Obama] filed with [a liberal] group that year  with the same answer to the handgun question.
So contrary to what he said last night, Obama did favor banning the manufacturing, sale, and possession of handguns.
* * * *
Wednesday night’s debate was a bad one for Senator Obama, both substantively and in style. He was on the defensive because of associations he’s had, things he’s said, and positions he’s embraced. Indeed, the last six weeks have been damaging ones for him. People who were once impressed with Obama are beginning to wonder if the image he projects — post-partisan, post-ideological, post-racial, a uniquely unifying and hopeful figure for America — is deeply at odds with the man himself. As the election plays out, we will see if these concerns are valid. But it’s fair to say that for Barack Obama, the magic is gone. The videos which were so fashionable just a few weeks ago, featuring people chanting “O-ba-ma,” now seem even more weirdly cult-like, empty, and out of touch. And Democrats now find themselves on the cusp of nominating one of the most liberal and untested nominees in history — a man of obvious talents but also a man of obvious flaws.
Democrats have good reasons to be nervous.
— Peter Wehner, former deputy assistant to the president, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Democrats' "Fake-Out America" adviser, Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff, must be beside himself. Despite Lakoff's years spent training Democrats to "frame" their language to stop scaring Americans, B. Hussein Obama was caught on tape speaking candidly to other liberals in San Francisco last week.
One minute Obama was bowling in Pennsylvania with nice, ordinary people wearing "Beer Hunter" T-shirts, and the next thing you know, he was issuing a report on the psychological traits of normal Americans to rich liberals in San Francisco.
Obama informed the San Francisco plutocrats that these crazy working-class people are so bitter, they actually believe in God! And not just the 12-step meeting, higher power, "as you conceive him or her to be" kind of God. The regular, old-fashioned, almighty sort of "God."
As Obama put it: "(T)hey get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
The rich liberals must have nearly fainted at the revelation that the denizens of small towns in Pennsylvania have absolutely no concern for the rich's ability to acquire servants from Mexico at a reasonable price.
We don't know much about Obama's audience, other than that four fundraisers were held on April 6 at the homes of San Francisco's rich and mighty, such as Alex Mehran, an Iranian who went into daddy's business and married an IBM heiress, and Gordon Getty, heir to the Getty Oil fortune.
It is not known whether any of Getty's three illegitimate children attended the Obama fundraiser -- which turned out to be more of a McCain fundraiser -- but photos from the event indicate that there were a fair number of armed (and presumably bitter) policemen providing security for the billionaire's soiree.
In 1967, Gordon sued his own father to get his hands on money from the family trust -- and lost. So Gordon Getty knows from bitter. It's a wonder he hasn't turned to guns, or even to immigrant-bashing. God knows (whoever he is) there are enough of them working on his home.
These are the sort of well-adjusted individuals to whom Obama is offering psychological profiles of normal Americans, including their bizarre theories about how jobs being sent to foreign countries and illegal-alien labor undercutting American workers might have something to do with their own economic misfortunes.
It's going to take a lot of "framing" for Democrats to recast Obama's explanation to San Francisco cafe society that gun ownership and a belief in God are the byproducts of a psychological disorder brought on by economic hardship.
It is an article of faith with the Democrats that they must fool Americans by simulating agreement with normal people. The winner of the Democratic primary is always the candidate who does the best impersonation of an American.
But then, after all their hard work making believe they're into NASCAR and God, some Democrat invariably slips and lets us know it's all a big fake-out. They're like a gay guy trying to act straight who accidentally refers to Brad Pitt as "yummy!"
The Democrats' last phony American (or perhaps I should say "faux American") was John Kerry, who famously said that if "you study hard and you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Kerry claimed this was not an accurate reflection of his feelings about the troops, despite a four-decade record of contempt for them, including accusing American troops of being baby-killers during the Vietnam War.
Rather, he said, it was a "botched joke." (In Kerry's defense, he was the opening act for Randi Rhodes' stand-up comedy show at the time.) But as with his military records, Kerry refused to allow his joke-writer to release any of the jokes cut from that speech.
In case there was any confusion, other Democrats immediately clarified their position by going on television and saying -- as Rep. Charlie Rangel did -- that our troops are people who don't have the option of having "a decent career."
These Democrats can't even pull off attending a NASCAR race without embarrassing themselves. In August 2004, Kerry exclaimed: "Who among us does not love NASCAR?" And then, about six months ago, Democratic congressional staffers to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., sent out a memo urging aides going to NASCAR races to get inoculated before attending.
Obama had been so careful until now, "framing" his message as "change" -- rather than partial birth abortion, driver's licenses for illegal aliens, tax hikes, socialized medicine and abandoning mandatory minimum prison sentences for federal crimes.
His message is "change" -- not that his wife has not been proud to be an American for most of her life.
He is for "change" -- and don't mind the crazy racist loon who has been Obama's spiritual mentor for two decades.
One can only hope that Obama got his shots before bowling in Altoona, Pa.
- Ann Coulter is a bestselling author and syndicated columnist. Her most recent book is Godless: The Church of Liberalism.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
The American Spectator
Published 4/15/2008 12:08:07 AM
U.S. President George W. Bush and Pope Benedict XVI watch a marching band on the South Lawn of the White House as Bush welcomed the Pope to the United States at a ceremony in Washington, April 16, 2008.REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
"They say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account.'"
So wrote the Apostle Paul describing the scuttlebutt about himself in one of his periodic gusts of annoyance with the Church at Corinth. The Corinthians had definite ideas about what an apostle should look and sound like and Paul did not measure up in their eyes. Part of the problem was that there seemed to be a disconnect in the minds of the Corinthians between how Paul sounded in print and the way he came off in person. Communication wasn't especially helped by the fact that the Corinthians were pretty confident they were All That and that Paul would really be improved if he would just listen to their up-to-date theories. Throughout the correspondence that constitutes 1 and 2 Corinthians, you can see Paul patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) attempting to shepherd a group of people who are blissfully confident that they had it together.
The Corinthians brag about their tolerance of sexual immorality, revel in class inequalities, pull their chins thoughtfully while the latest philosopher tells them there is no resurrection from the dead, resent Paul's authority, are all excited about some new moral theory that "Grace" = "Go Nuts and Do Whatever you Want!", as well as various other alarums and discursions that force the apostle to put out a bunch of fires.
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The Corinthians sound remarkably American. And as you survey the Mainstream Media (MSM) coverage about Pope Benedict, who is visiting America this week, what comes through again and again is that much of the MSM is already weary of hearing what it has never yet heard.
Many come to bury Benedict, not to praise him, let alone listen to him. Their minds are made up. Like the Far Side cartoon about what we say and what dogs hear, much of the press coverage will consist of TV spots which will consist pretty much of regurgitations of The American Media Narrative on Benedict: "Benedict blah blah blah Hitler Youth blah blah blah God's Rottweiler blah blah blah inflexible blah blah blah homosexuality, divorce, women priests blah blah blah Vatican crackdown, etc. blah blah."
THIS WILL NOT be helped by the fact that we are a Paris Hilton people meeting a Pope who expects us to think. Much of the media -- especially the visual media -- finds this as hard as Barbie finds math.
So large swaths of TeeVee America encounters the Pope's visit on exactly the same basis they encounter the Presidential race: "How does the guy look? He has a German accent! His eyes are deep set! I heard somewhere that he thinks only Catholics go to Heaven! I liked John Paul II better because he had twinkly eyes."
I wish it were not so, but the fact is a visual medium encourages this sort of surface stimulus/response and discourages large numbers of people from doing much else. Who has time for all those encyclicals and all their big words?
Nonetheless, this Pope who believes so strongly in the transformative power of the Holy Spirit appears to think that even a Paris Hilton people can be granted the sight to see beyond the tips of their own cosmetically-enhanced noses.
He comes to us in one of the darker hours of our history when we are at war, the economy is in a shambles, the election is a choice between Larry (D), Curly (D), and Moe (R), Solomonic judgments are about to be made in the field of bioethics by the best court prophets money can buy, the Church is wracked by scandal, and we are preparing ourselves to cope with it all by watching That Pregnant Guy on Oprah and dosing up on a cocktail of Viagra and Ambien.
Will Benedict succeed in his mission to America? I suppose it depends on what you mean by "succeed" and "mission." Will he succeed in making the world not be the world? No. Even Jesus couldn't do that. But then, that's not the mission for either Jesus or Benedict.
Will he succeed in preaching the gospel? Yes. Nothing can stop that, including three nails and a lance.
MY OWN MODEST definition of "success" would include, as well, some modest progress toward fulfillment of Shea's Iron Law of Media-Reported Benedictine Growth, It states, "Whenever the MSM declares that Pope Benedict has grown, undergone a dramatic change of course or gone a long way toward accepting positions he once rejected this invariably means the reporter or pundit who has discovered Benedictine 'growth' has no clue whatsoever what Benedict (and often, the Catholic faith) teaches and is only now discovering it."
So I look forward to some dim recognition by the media that Pope Benedict, while mysteriously choosing to remain Catholic despite exposure to the bracing intellectual and spiritual winds blowing from the summits of our Hiltonic media culture, still has some good points and does not seem to be as mean and anti-intellectual as member of our journalistic class have been assuring one another he is.
This tiny movement of the grey matter, while no great shakes by itself, could be a prelude to at least some of our chattering classes attempting to familiarize themselves with the immense oceans of light and lucidity that are his works. For though his bodily presence may be "weak" (to use Paul's term) or "unphotogenic" (to use the language of the image-obsessed media), his letters are indeed weighty and strong.
Strong enough, I pray, to speak to a culture that is desperately in need of the clarity, humility, beauty, and love of Christ that he preaches with such marvelous grace.
By BRUCE CRUMLEY/PARIS
Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2008
BRIGITTE BARDOT, SPAIN, 1971
She may be better remembered as the revolutionary sex kitten of 1960s French cinema, but these days Brigitte Bardot is better known as a standard-bearer of the anti-immigrant wing of France's political spectrum. Bardot went on trial Tuesday charged with "inciting racial hatred," and in view of her four previous convictions on similar charges, prosecutors sought exceptionally stiff penalties of $22,000 and a two month suspended sentence.
"I'm a bit tired of trying Madame Bardot," admitted assistant prosecutor Anne de Fonette, as she urged the court to impose "the most striking and remarkable" punishment in the case. A verdict is expected on June 3.
The current charge against Bardot was lodged by the Movement Against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP), citing a letter Bardot wrote to French officials in 2004 in which she alluded to Muslims as "this population that leads us around by the nose, [and] which destroys our country." The former actress-turned-animal rights crusader had written that letter to protest the ritual slaughter of sheep during the Muslim festival of Eid-al-Kabir. Her missive, whose contents were later leaked to the media, had been sent to then-Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, whose rising popularity was based in part on his hard line on immigration and tough stand against troublesome youths from immigrant backgrounds.
Lawyers for the 73 year-old Bardot, who did not attend the trial, argued the offending sections of the letter had been taken out of the context of her militant defense of animal rights over the years, a cause in support of which she has raised and spent millions of dollars. Her work in the area has been hailed by French political leaders and organizations around the world, although more recently French courts have interpreted some of her statements as Islamophobia.
Bardot's defense Tuesday was that her passionate denunciation of the ritual slaughter of Eid-al-Kabir had been misinterpreted as an attack on Islam in France. A similar defense had failed to spare her from conviction in four earlier trials. In 1997, for example, Bardot was first convicted on the charge of "inciting racial hatred" for her open letter to French daily Le Figaro, complaining of "foreign over-population", mostly by Muslim families.
The following year she was convicted anew for decrying the loss of French identity and tradition due to the multiplication of mosques "while our church bells fall silent for want of priests." Darkening Bardot's public image in both cases was her marriage to an active supporter and political ally of French National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.
In 2000, Bardot was again convicted — this time for comments in her book Pluto's Square, whose chapter "Open Letter to My Lost France" grieved for "...my country, France, my homeland, my land is again invaded by an overpopulation of foreigners, especially Muslims." And in 2004, another Bardot book, A Cry In the Silence, again took up the question of immigration and Islam — ultimately running afoul of anti-racism laws by generally associating Islam with the 9/11 terror attacks, and denouncing the "Islamization of France" by people she described as "invaders".
The prosecution has called for the harshest possible punishment in the hope of getting through to Bardot the seriousness of her transgressions of French law. MRAP implored the judge to "take note of this refusal by (Bardot) to learn the lessons of previous convictions and cease using racist language". The court will make its decision by June, although the repeat convictions on similar charges suggest that Bardot has not exactly been chastened by previous court rulings.
Brigitte Bardot in race hate row
By Henry Samuel in Paris
London Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 2:07am BST 16/04/2008
Brigitte Bardot, now an animal rights activist, has been convicted four times since 1997 on similar charges.
A Paris prosecutor yesterday called for French film legend Brigitte Bardot to receive a two-month suspended prison sentence and a £12,000 fine for inciting racial hatred in a letter.
In December 2006, Miss Bardot, 73, now an animal rights activist, wrote to President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, then the interior minister, criticising the Muslim practice of slaughtering sheep without first stunning them.
In the letter published by the magazine Info-Journal and handed out to members of the Brigitte Bardot Foundation, she wrote: "We're fed up with being led by the nose by this population that is destroying us, destroying our country by imposing its acts".
Several French anti-racism groups filed for charges of "inciting discrimination and racial hatred" against Muslims.
Miss Bardot was not in court, citing "difficulties in getting around", but her lawyer read out a note in which she said she was "appalled" at the "harassment" of anti-racism groups.
advertisement"I will never keep quiet" until animals are stunned before ritual slaughter, she added, saying she was "tired and weary".
"I too am tired and weary", said the prosecutor Anne de Fontette, pointing out that Miss Bardot had been convicted four times since 1997 on similar charges.
"She might as well write that Arabs should be thrown out of France", she said. "It is time to hand out heftier sentences".
The heaviest penalty to date was in 2004, when the star of "And God Created Woman" was fined £3,300 for inciting racial hatred in a book. In A Cry In The Silence, she "opposed the Islamisation of France" and racial mixing.
"You see racism and xenophobia, but I only see the expression of her fight" (against animal slaughter practices, said her lawyer, Francois(cedilla)-Xavier Kelidjian.
A lawyer for the French human rights league, a plaintiff, said that while Miss Bardot deserved respect as an actress and animal welfare campaigner, that did not give her "any special rights" to be racist, and called for the court to "put a stop" to such declarations.
The verdict is due on June 3.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, right, walks with members of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Honor guards, in order to lay a wreath at late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Tuesday, April 15, 2008.
(AP Photo/Muhammed Muheisen)
Jimmy Carter is an evil man. It is painful to label a past president of the United States as a force for darkness. But it is dangerous to let a man like Jimmy Carter stalk around the globe cloaked in the garb of American royalty, planting the seeds of Western civilization's destruction.
On Tuesday, former President Carter met with leaders of the terrorist group Hamas. He embraced Nasser al-Shaer, the man who has run the Palestinian education system, brainwashing children into believing Jews are the descendants of pigs and dogs. He laid a wreath at the grave of Yasser Arafat, the most notorious terrorist thug of the 20th century. Then, he had the audacity to offer to act as a conduit between the Palestinian Arabs and the Israeli and U.S. governments. This is somewhat like Lord Haw-Haw offering to broker peace between the German and British governments during World War II.
Carter is a notorious anti-Semite and an even more notorious terrorism- enabler. In particular, he is a huge supporter of Palestinian violence. He considered himself a friend to Arafat, as Jay Nordlinger of National Review wrote in his masterful 2002 piece, "Carterpalooza!": After the Gulf War, when Saudi Arabia was perturbed by Arafat's support for Saddam Hussein, Carter flew to the country at Arafat's behest to soothe the Saudis. In 1990, Carter told Arafat, "You should not be concerned that I am biased. I am much more harsh with the Israelis." He then proceeded to agree with Arafat that "the Reagan administration was not renowned as promise keepers," according to Douglas Brinkley.
Carter subsequently wrote one of Arafat's speeches, penning these vomit-inducing lines: "A good opening would be to outline the key points of the Save the Children report Then ask: 'What would you do, if these were your children and grandchildren? As the Palestinian leader, I share the responsibility for them. Our response has been to urge peace talks, but the Israeli leaders have refused, and our children continue to suffer. Our people, who face Israeli bullets, have no weapons: only a few stones remaining when our homes are destroyed by the Israeli bulldozers.' Then repeat: 'What would you do, if these were your children and grandchildren?' This exact litany should be repeated with a few other personal examples."
Not surprisingly, Carter's ardent hatred for Israel translates into a Jeremiah Wright-esque hatred for the United States -- the country he has never forgiven for throwing him out on his ear in 1980 in favor of Ronald Reagan.
Here's Carter on America's refusal to fund Hamas: "Innocent Palestinian people are being treated like animals, with the presumption that they are guilty of some crime. Because they voted for candidates who are members of Hamas, the United States government has become the driving force behind an apparently effective scheme of depriving the general public of income, access to the outside world and the necessities of life."
Jimmy Carter is all about Jimmy Carter. During his presidency, he gave up the Panama Canal and allowed the Ayatollahs to take power in Iran -- all for the praise of the international community. In 1980, he asked the Soviet Union to release Jewish emigrants, hoping that such action would soften American feeling against the USSR and thereby swing the presidential election to him. In 1984, he told the Russians that if Reagan were re-elected, there would not "be a single agreement on arms control, especially on nuclear arms, as long as Reagan remained in power." In 2002, Carter accepted the Nobel Peace Prize, despite a clear indication by Nobel Committee members that the prize was meant as a rebuke to President Bush.
Does all this make Carter evil, or just a useful idiot? By all accounts, Carter is highly intelligent -- perhaps the most intelligent president of the last 50 years. It would be foolish to write him off as simply naive. He is quite willing to be used by dictators from Venezuela to Cuba to North Korea, so long as helping them polishes his legacy. For almost three decades, Carter has pandered to enemies of Western civilization, shielding his treasonous behavior with the title of "ex-president." His Hamas-hugging is just the latest entry in a political diary that would make Osama Bin Laden proud.
Ben Shapiro is a regular guest on dozens of radio shows around the United States and Canada and author of Project President: Bad Hair and Botox on the Road to the White House.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Your entry to the Houston music scene with Sara Cress and Joey Guerra
April 14, 2008
Kevin Fujii: Houston Chronicle
Springsteen performs Monday at Toyota Center.
A fellow behind me in the restroom line following Bruce Springsteen's two-and-a-half hour show at the Toyota Center Monday night called the performance "up and down."
Another wanted fewer hits from Springsteen's latest, last year's very good Magic. Another (um, my wife -- though not in the men's room) was disappointed that Born in the U.S.A. wasn't represented. A friend I knew to be a big Patti Scialfa fan likely went home a little disappointed since she was, according to Springsteen, watching their three teenage kids at home. If there are any die-hard Danny Federici fans out there, there was also likely disappointment, as he continues to recover from cancer treatment.
But all this is really just quibbling. What really is there to say about a Springsteen concert? It's an experience that has been well documented for more than three decades. They're long, they're joyous, they're poignant and they're a shared experience in a sweatier way than, say, a Neil Diamond show. They have their own language.
Springsteen seems to play each one as though it could be his last. If he's ever sleepwalked through a concert, he's a master at disguising it. He's endured various subgenres of pop music that were supposed to render him yesterday's icon. But start assembling one of those I Love the [insert decade] shows and you'd be hard pressed to peg him to one. Sure, the '90s treated him a little worse than the '70s and '80s, but he's since rallied.
Eras of excess and irony have done little to change what he does. So maybe some of us wouldn't have tipped the fairly recent Lonesome Day so early in the show (it was third), the same way some of us wouldn't wear black jeans. Being Bruce Springsteen means being impervious to minor criticisms and "major" trends. It means no concessions to fashion, musical or otherwise. He sort of exists in a world of his own creation. Then he invites us over for his shindigs.
So were there down spots that justify an "up and down" critique? Sure. But they were few. I've brought this up before, but last time I saw Springsteen in Houston was more than a decade ago. During the encore he would fall back, only to be caught by a bandmate. "I'm too old," he kept repeating. This night he made a few jokes about his eyesight and the age of some grandkids in the audience, but he sells himself again with a youthful kick.
Maybe the shows have shrunk from three to 2.5 hours since the old days. But he stuffs that time like a smaller suitcase packed for a long trip. How else to explain an ability to drop an A-bomb like the incendiary Badlands -- a fairly reliable show stopper -- and still have a half hour of bangers at the ready?
Things started energetically with Cadillac Ranch and the great Radio Nowhere (though the latter galloped ahead of him on the first verse). The aforementioned Lonesome Day featured a great snippet with guitarist Nils Lofgren (on slide) and saxophonist Clarence Clemons twisting lines around each other. A rousing Atlantic City, fourth in the set, was the closest thing to a downtempo tune early on.
It was also a very rare concession to the '80s. Politics were on Springsteen's mind during that era, but for the most part he selected hot-button songs from more recent albums. A spare and lovely Magic was preceded by a comment about "the end of eight years of bad, bad magic."
He dipped back a little further for raging runs through Because the Night (featuring a marvelous and Sonny Sharrock-y solo by Lofgren) and Candy's Room, later letting loose another new one, the vintage-sounding Living in the Future.
The Promised Land and The E Street Shuffle (a request from a kid named Quentin inked sloppily on a red piece of paper) sandwiched Girls in Their Summer Clothes, another new one that seemed to go over fine with the crowd; a dark, air-conditioned venue at night struck me as an odd place to present it.
Terry's Song, The Rising, Last to Die and Long Walk Home might also be one of those "down" spots since they're all from the past six years. Rising was rousing (how can it not be) though it's li li li's seemed to leave Springsteen winded. But with that tune, he got a little greedy (in a good way) with guitar leads for the first time in the night. He's one of rock's underappreciated players, and it was a treat to hear him cut loose, ragged on Rising, precise on Last to Die.
He could've gone to bed after Badlands, but instead charged through Thunder Road and left the stage having been at it two hours, pulled largely from his old '70s bag of tricks and his new Magic.
The break was a couple of minutes at most, and Springsteen returned with two localish heroes. He and Alejandro Escovedo had a ball with a song I believe to be titled Wasn't I Always a Friend to You, from Escovedo's upcoming album. Joe Ely got a louder rally of recognition applause when he led the band through All Just to Get to You.
Then Springsteen got back to the business of emptying out some of his '70s trunk with Rosalita, 10th Avenue Freeze Out and Born to Run.
The response was, um, very positive.
Saxes go in and out over time. Keys go in and out over time. Black jeans go in and out over time. Anthems and political songs go in and out over time. But something about Springsteen's staples from this era endure and it's not just listener nostalgia. The melodies are undervalued; they hold up to his bullying voice, which it should be noted, sounds untamed by time. Call his sound the epitome of rockism, but it's pointless to wonder what Springsteen would sound like with hip-hop loops or electronic production.
Closing with the Pete Seeger staple American Land was either curious or genius; maybe both. There likely wasn't a soul in the venue who wouldn't have preferred something of Springsteen's own, but you gotta shut it down somehow. A cover It provided some strange punctuation to the evening, a celebratory way of letting everyone know he was done. If he'd unshelled Hungry Heart, folks would've just wanted more peanuts.
Again, it was his party.
Because the Night
She's the One
Out in the Street
Livin' in the Future
The Promised Land
Girls in Their Summer Clothes
The E Street Shuffle
Last to Die
Long Walk Home
* * *
Always a Friend (w/ Alejandro Escovedo)
All Just to Get to You (w/ Joe Ely)
Born to Run
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out