Saturday, May 24, 2008

UC Irvine Still Enforcing Sharia Law

Administrators are either clueless about radical Islam's foothold on campus or determined to create an environment in which supporters of terrorism can thrive. Take your pick.

May 22, 2008 - by Jonathan Constantine Movroydis and Reut Cohen

The University of California-Irvine is a sprawling campus in Orange County. The institution, located between the Santa Ana Mountains and the shore of the Pacific Ocean, is not only home to some of the best minds in science and engineering, but also to some of the most virulent supporters of radical Islam in America — and a school administration bent on capitulating to them.

The university’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) holds several annual events, at which members unashamedly voice support for terrorist groups and denounce Israel, America, and the Western world. Past events hosted during the group’s annual anti-Israel week have had titles such as “Hamas: the People’s Choice” and “Israel: The 4th Reich.” Speakers have included Norman Finkelstein, Ward Churchill, and Anna Balzter.

This year, from May 7-15, the MSU hosted a series of programs entitled “Never Again? The Palestinian Holocaust.” As they have done in the past, the MSU appropriated ideas of genocide in order to promote their radical ideology.

Amir Abdel Malik-Ali speaking at UC Irvine on May 15, 2008.

The featured speaker last Thursday, May 15, was Amir Abdel Malik-Ali, a radical imam from Oakland who is all too familiar to UCI students. Malik-Ali frequently engages in anti-Western rhetoric and is a vocal supporter of terrorist groups. Not only has he praised Hamas, Hezbollah, and the mujahadeen in Afghanistan as “Islamic resistance” movements struggling against Western “oppressors,” he has called any scrutiny of these terror groups mere “propaganda.” Following Ali’s speeches to UCI’s MSU, the audiences of keffiyah-wearing Muslim students always repetitively recite the battle cry “Takbir! Allahu Akbar!” This year’s audience was no different.

While his rhetoric is lurid and apocalyptic, Malik-Ali’s speech is protected under the First Amendment. What’s alarming is the administration’s willingness to enforce the MSU’s prerogatives on other students who attend their events — hence the application of Sharia law where the Bill of Rights is applicable. For example, while videotaping Malik-Ali’s speech, we were confronted by a school administrator. Dean of Student Services Sally Peterson told us that, on behalf of the male students, we would have to stop filming the female activists, or as she called them “the sisters.” Aware of our rights, we refused her orders and continued covering the event.

As we continued our coverage of the festivities, members of the MSU ultimately decided to enforce what appears to be their own principle of just retribution. After Thursday’s event, the MSU walked up and down the main campus road chanting anti-Israel slogans and blocking off the entire walkway for several minutes while police and administrators stood by idly.
A male individual, who was filming the hateful procession, had at least three Muslim males charge at him for daring to film as the females from the group walked past. One of the males, a student named Yasser Ahmed who purportedly threw a cinderblock at an FBI vehicle last year, said to the cameraman: “You wanna get jacked! We can go get jacked right now! C’mon Emanuel, we’ve learned a lot about you let’s go! Lets go get jacked, Lets go get jacked!”

The UCI police department treated this incident unprofessionally and took no action. The student journalist gave his statement to a UCI police officer and explained how he was assaulted. The officer then went to take statements from the males MSU members. The police would not, however, take statements from those who witnessed the assault against the student journalist. After the police officer took statements, he told the student journalist that one of the males who charged at him had apologized and that nothing more could be done.

A Christian preacher on campus, Michael Venyah, also had his rights violated last Thursday. This preacher, who believes that all people must accept Jesus in order to get into heaven, began preaching about the prophet Mohammad and his crimes. Evidently, MSU members didn’t like hearing what he had to say and opted for charging and running into him. This was clearly an incident of assault. The cops present did nothing, and Dean of Judicial Affairs Edgar Dormitorio suggested that Mr. Venyah should leave.

Another case of MSU’s vigilantism occurred when a young Jewish female was followed back to her car and surrounded by six members of the MSU. A community member who witnessed the harassment also had her civil rights violated when the Muslim students noticed her. As UC Irvine police offers stood idly by, the Muslim students proceeded to situate themselves on the hood of her car in order to photograph her face, her vehicle identification number, and her license plate. When she later called the police department for answers, they justified the criminal behavior as the culmination of a tit for tat ethnic squabble. Put simply, they justified the need for Muslim students to “vent,” as they were just getting back at the Jews.

One group at UC Irvine has monopolized freedom of speech and expression. MSU organizers have taken it upon themselves to restrict the freedoms of others on the university campus and have managed to avoid significant criticism from the administration. Conversely, those who voice concern over MSU’s actions are depicted as stirring up trouble.

UCI administrators have not been helpful. Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl of UC Berkeley signed a letter, published in the New York Times, warning against anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish activity on campus. UC Irvine’s then-chancellor, Ralph Cicerone, refused to sign this letter. The current chancellor at UCI has called hate speech “repugnant,” but has refused to specify which group was responsible for hate speech and has been unable to ensure a safe environment during the hateful events hosted by the MSU.
The administration at UC Irvine has sent a clear message to the MSU: incitement and harassment against Jews, Israel, and America is acceptable on campus and will not incur consequences.

- Jonathan Constantine Movroydis, a senior at UCI, is a staff writer for Reut Cohen recently graduated from UCI, where she ran a blog to document the ‘anti-Israel,’ anti-Semitic and anti-American incidents on campus.

Today's Tune: Live - Lightning Crashes

(Click on title to play video)

Mark Steyn: Your car can't run on Congress' hot air

Orange County Register
Saturday, May 24, 2008

I was watching the Big Oil execs testifying before Congress. That was my first mistake. If memory serves, there was lesbian mud wrestling over on Channel 137, and on the whole that's less rigged. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz knew the routine: "I can't say that there is evidence that you are manipulating the price, but I believe that you probably are. So prove to me that you are not."

Had I been in the hapless oil man's expensive shoes, I'd have answered, "Hey, you first. I can't say that there is evidence that you're sleeping with barnyard animals, but I believe that you probably are. So prove to me that you are not. Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence and prima facie evidence, lady? Do I have to file a U.N. complaint in Geneva that the House of Representatives is in breach of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?"

But that's why I don't get asked to testify before Congress. So instead the Big Oil guy oozed as oleaginous as his product before the grand panjandrums of the House Subcommittee on Televised Posturing, and then they went off and passed 324-82 the so-called NOPEC bill. The NOPEC bill is, in effect, a suit against OPEC, which, if I recall correctly, stands for the Oil Price-Exploiting Club. "No War For Oil!," as the bumper stickers say. But a massive suit for oil – now that's the American way.

"It shall be illegal and a violation of this Act," declared the House of Representatives, "to limit the production or distribution of oil, natural gas, or any other petroleum product ... or to otherwise take any action in restraint of trade for oil, natural gas or any petroleum product when such action, combination, or collective action has a direct, substantial, and reasonably foreseeable effect on the market, supply, price or distribution of oil, natural gas or other petroleum product in the United States."

Er, OK. But, before we start suing distant sheikhs in exotic lands for violating the NOPEC act, why don't we start by suing Congress? After all, who "limits the production or distribution of oil" right here in the United States by declaring that there'll be no drilling in the Gulf of Florida or the Arctic National Mosquito Refuge? As Rep. Wasserman Schultz herself told Neil Cavuto on Fox News, "We can't drill our way out of this problem."

Well, maybe not. But maybe we could drill our way back to $3.25 a gallon. More to the point, if the House of Representatives has now declared it "illegal" for the government of Saudi Arabia to restrict oil production, why is it still legal for the government of the United States to restrict oil production? In fact, the government of the United States restricts pretty much every form of energy production other than the bizarre fetish du jour of federally mandated ethanol production.

Nuclear energy?

Whoa, no, remember Three Mile Island? (OK, nobody does, but kids and anyone under late middle age, you can look it up in your grandparents' school books.)


Whoa, no, man, there go our carbon credits.

OK, how about if we all go back to the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe, and start criss-crossing the country on wood-fired trains?

Are you nuts? Think of the clear-cutting. We can't have logging in environmentally sensitive areas such as forests.

Rep. Wasserman Schultz believes in "alternative energy," which means not nuclear (like the French) but solar and wind power. At the moment, solar energy accounts for approximately 0.1 percent of U.S. electricity production, most of which is for devices that heat swimming pools. So if there was a tenfold increase in swimming pool construction you might be able to get it up to 1 percent, but the only way all those homeowners would be able to afford to build their new swimming pools is through the kinds of economic activity that depend on oil, gas and other forms of federally prohibited energy.

So, instead, Congress hauls Big Oil execs in for the dinner-theatre version of a Soviet show trial and then passes irrelevant poseur legislation like the NOPEC bill. The NOPEC bill is really the NO PECS bill – a waste of photocopier paper passed by what C.S. Lewis called "men without chests."

The New Yorker ran a big piece the other day called "The Fall Of Conservatism." Indeed. This November isn't going to be pleasant for those of us of a right-wing bent. Many conservative voices in the media say: This is the way it is, get used to it. Voters want the government to "fix" health care and "fix" gas prices and "fix" the environment and, if all you're offering is the virtues of small government, you too sound small – and mean and uncaring about the real issues in real people's real lives. Standing athwart history yelling "Stop!" was a cute line from William F. Buckley, but it's not a practical position for a political party that wishes to stay in business. "The fact of change is the great fact of human life," writes my National Review colleague David Frum in "Comeback," his thoughtful critique of the conservative movement.

Frum is right. Change is a constant. You're a big railroad baron,and things are going swell, and then someone invents the horseless carriage and a big metal bird that holds hundreds of people and you never saw it coming – because you thought you were in the train business rather than in the transportation business. That kind of change is the great exhilarating rhythm of American life.

But government "change," Obama change, NOPEC change is nothing to do with that. In fact, it obstructs real dynamic change. On energy, on environmentalism, on health care, government "change" generally does nothing more than set in motion the next crisis that the next change-peddling pol has to pledge to address.

So we complain about $4-a-gallon gas, and our leaders respond with showboating legislation like NOPEC and feel-good environmental regulatory overkill like putting the polar bear on the endangered-species list, while ensuring that we'll continue to bankroll every radical mosque and madrassah on the planet. In Britain, new "green taxes" do nothing to "save" the planet, but they are estimated to cost the average family about $6,000 a year. That's change you can believe in.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Patrick J. Buchanan: California's Gay Marriage Decision and Post-Christian America

May 22, 2008
Patrick J. Buchanan

Gay couple holding hands during their wedding ceremony. California's supreme court ruled that a ban on gay marriage was unlawful Thursday (5/15), effectively leaving same-sex couples in America's most populous state free to tie the knot in a landmark ruling.(AFP/File/Philippe Desmazes)

"A Victory for Equality and Justice," blared the headline above the editorial. "Momentous," "historic," "a major victory for civil rights," "a scrupulously fair ruling based on law, precedents and common sense."

This was the ecstatic reaction of the New York Times to the California Supreme Court's declaration that homosexuals have a right to marry and have their unions recognized as marriages.

Now there may be hugging around the newsroom at the Times, where one senior writer said, a few years back, three-fourths of the folks who make up the front page are gay. But this is just another streetlight on America's darkening path to perdition as a society and republic.

To declare that homosexuals can marry is patently absurd. The very definition of marriage is the union of a man and woman, first and foremost, for the procreation of children.

To say two men who live together and engage in sex can be married renders the idea and ideal of marriage meaningless. The court may declare it, but it cannot redefine an institution that nature and nature's God have already defined. As they say in Texas, you can put lipstick and earrings on a pig, and call her Peggy Sue, but it's still a pig.

"What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," Christ taught. Through the Old Testament and into the epistles of St. Paul, homosexual sodomy is an abomination leading to personal destruction and damnation, one of the five sins that cry out to heaven for vengeance.

How, then, can four judges declare it to be integral to the sacrament of marriage?

Well, we don't believe all that rot, comes the reply.

Fine, but Christianity is the cornerstone of Western Civilization. Since the fall of Rome to our own time, nations have believed and acted on the belief that marriage and traditional families are the cinderblocks on which a society must be built. When these cinderblocks crumble, the society collapses. The truth has been borne out in our own time.

With a third of all children born out of wedlock—50 percent of all Hispanic kids, 70 percent of black kids—and half of all marriages ending in divorce, the social indicators have recorded explosions—in crime, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, dropout rates, gang membership, and jail and prison populations.

The correlation between prison inmates and broken homes, or homes never created, is absolute. What armies of social scientists with six-figure salaries today tell us, 12-year-olds knew 50 years ago.

Setting aside the risibility of the court's conduct, consider what it says about us as a democratic republic.

We are supposed to be a self-governing people. "Here, sir, the people rule." Elected representatives write our laws.

Yet, no Congress or state legislature ever voted to declare homosexual unions a marriage. The idea has everywhere been rejected. Wherever it has been on the ballot, same-sex marriage has been voted down. In the 13 states where it was on the ballot in 2004, it was defeated by 58 percent to 85 percent—the last figure rolled up in Mississippi, where black Christian pastors told their flocks to go out and vote down the abomination.

Californians have consistently expressed their opposition and voted against recognizing the idea of homosexual marriages and granting the benefits of married couples to same-sex unions. What is bigotry at the Times is common sense to most Americans.

Homosexual marriage is not in the California constitution, else someone would have discovered it in 160 years. Where, then, did the state Supreme Court find this was a right?

Four of seven justices unearthed this right by consulting what Orwell called their "smelly little orthodoxies." They then decided to overturn the expressed will of the voters, declare their opinion law and order the state of California to begin recognizing homosexual unions as marriages. And they did it because they know the Times types will hail them as the newest Earl Warrens.

Not long ago, a governor of California would have laughed at the court and told the justices to go surfing, and ordered state officials not to issue the marriage licenses. The voters would have put the names of the four justices on the ballot in November and thrown them off the court, as they did Chief Justice Rose Bird, a generation ago.

We used to have executives and legislators like that.

Thomas Jefferson came into office and declared the Alien and Sedition Acts null and void, released all editors from jail, and refused to prosecute any more or to enforce the law. Andrew Jackson said of the great chief justice: "John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it."

In 2004, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom handed out marriage licenses to thousands of homosexuals. Today, conservative mayors in California, if there are any, might engage in similar civil disobedience against this latest judicial usurpation of the legislative power that belongs to elected representatives and the people.

What's sauce for the goose, etc.

- Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.

Charles Krauthammer: Obama's Growing Gaffe

The Washington Post
May 23, 2008

WASHINGTON -- When the House of Representatives takes up arms against $4 gas by voting 324-84 to sue OPEC, you know that election-year discourse has gone surreal. Another unmistakable sign is when a presidential candidate makes a gaffe, then, realizing it is too egregious to take back without suffering humiliation, decides to make it a centerpiece of his foreign policy.

Before the Democratic debate of July 23, Barack Obama had never expounded upon the wisdom of meeting, without precondition, with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bashar al-Assad, Hugo Chavez, Kim Jong Il or the Castro brothers. But in that debate, he was asked about doing exactly that. Unprepared, he said sure -- then got fancy, declaring the Bush administration's refusal to do so not just "ridiculous" but "a disgrace."

After that, there was no going back. So he doubled down. What started as a gaffe became policy. By now, it has become doctrine. Yet it remains today what it was on the day he blurted it out: an absurdity.

Should the president ever meet with enemies? Sometimes, but only after minimal American objectives -- i.e. preconditions -- have been met. The Shanghai communique was largely written long before Richard Nixon ever touched down in China. Yet Obama thinks Nixon to China confirms the wisdom of his willingness to undertake a worldwide freshman-year tyrants tour.

Most of the time you don't negotiate with enemy leaders because there is nothing to negotiate. Does Obama imagine that North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba and Venezuela are insufficiently informed about American requirements for improved relations?

There are always contacts through back channels or intermediaries. Iran, for example, has engaged in five years of talks with our closest European allies and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to say nothing of the hundreds of official U.S. statements outlining exactly what we would give them in return for suspending uranium enrichment.

Obama pretends that while he is for such "engagement," the cowboy Republicans oppose it. Another absurdity. No one is debating the need for contacts. The debate is over the stupidity of elevating rogue states and their tyrants, easing their isolation and increasing their leverage by granting them unconditional meetings with the president of the world's superpower.

Obama cited Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman as presidents who met with enemies. Does he know no history? Neither Roosevelt nor Truman ever met with any of the leaders of the Axis powers. Obama must be referring to the pictures he's seen of Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, and Truman and Stalin at Potsdam. Does he not know that at that time Stalin was a wartime ally?

During the subsequent Cold War, Truman never met with Stalin. Nor Mao. Nor Kim Il Sung. Truman was no fool.

Obama cites John Kennedy meeting Nikita Khrushchev as another example of what he wants to emulate. Really? That Vienna summit of a young, inexperienced, untested American president was disastrous, emboldening Khrushchev to push Kennedy on Berlin -- and then near fatally in Cuba, leading almost directly to the Cuban missile crisis. Is that the precedent Obama aspires to follow?

A meeting with Ahmadinejad would not just strengthen and vindicate him at home, it would instantly and powerfully ease the mullahs' isolation, inviting other world leaders to follow. And with that would come a flood of commercial contracts, oil deals, diplomatic agreements -- undermining precisely the very sanctions and isolation that Obama says he would employ against Iran.

As every seasoned diplomat knows, the danger of a summit is that it creates enormous pressure for results. And results require mutual concessions. That is why conditions and concessions are worked out in advance, not on the scene.

What concessions does Obama imagine Ahmadinejad will make to him on Iran's nuclear program? And what new concessions will Obama offer? To abandon Lebanon? To recognize Hamas? Or perhaps to squeeze Israel?

Having lashed himself to the ridiculous, unprecedented promise of unconditional presidential negotiations -- and then having compounded the problem by elevating it to a principle -- Obama keeps trying to explain. On Sunday, he declared in Pendleton, Ore., that by Soviet standards Iran and others "don't pose a serious threat to us." (On the contrary. Islamic Iran is dangerously apocalyptic. Soviet Russia was not.) The next day in Billings, Mont.: "I've made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave."

That's the very next day, mind you. Such rhetorical flailing has done more than create an intellectual mess. It has given rise to a new political phenomenon: the metastatic gaffe. The one begets another, begets another, begets ...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Film Review: "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull"

A Jones For Action

This Indiana's 'Crystal Skull' Is Empty -- But Awesome

By Stephen Hunter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 22, 2008; Page C01

The boy is back in town.

Indiana Jones, the macho-pop whip-flinging archaeologist with the granite fists? Well, yes, him. Or Harrison Ford, 65, still rangy, still cool in a '30s fedora, still believable snapping a lash across a chasm and riding it Tarzan-like from here to there while commies blast away? Yes, that one, too. Or what about Messrs. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, director and writer-producer, who reinvented American cinema in the '70s and '80s by infusing it with a high-octane squirt of energy from dead forms like '30s serials, swashbucklers, sci-fi and monster attacks combined with cutting-edge action and lacerating wit? Yes, they're back, too.

That's the true pleasure of "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull": Its stud hasn't a crystal jaw, much less a glass one. Hit him, he gets up and hits you back. He always figures out a way to win. He's the man who won the war (any number of them), a big, smart, tough guy with total belief in himself and his country and his culture. His message to complainers, whiners, doubters, sensitivos is clear: If you ain't a part of the solution, you're part of the problem, bud. He doesn't give a damn about your feelings or even his own.

And the movie celebrates all this, in loving iconic shots of the man, his hat, his whip, in shadowy profile, or as he soars through this or that obstacle course while John Williams's music, so full of the smell of popcorn and butter and Jujubes enameled to the ceilings of old movie palaces, instructs our respiratory systems to get with the program. It's romantic manliness at its purest, almost but not quite schmaltz, ideally calculated to please true believers and ironic snorters at once.

Igor Jijikine as Dovchenko, left, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, Cate Blanchett as Irina Spalko and Ray Winstone as Mac are among the stars in "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull."

The movie, like its three predecessors, follows Jones on a quest rooted in archaeological voodoo. Its plot is creakier than the door to my basement, simply a series of quest contests between good Yanks and bad Russkies, first for an alien corpse in America, then for a crystal skull in Peru and finally for the home site of the skull, a magic city in Central America. The joinery between the segments is mostly chewing gum, baling wire and spit, and even the crystal skull, said to contain paranormal powers, is bogus. Still, you don't visit a movie like this for ontological truth but for shots of adrenaline with oysters and raw eggs. So the Crystal Skull silliness is an adequate MacGuffin -- i.e., after Hitchcock, a phony story issue that gets the plot moving -- to sustain the movie's real business, which is jungle penetrations, waterfall rides, secret lost cities constructed by M.C. Escher after getting lost in Venice one too many times, reds with guns, swords, tunics, Cossack dancing and a very nice medium-megatonnage A-bomb blast.

In truth, I preferred the first third or so of the movie (who was looking at watches?); that chunk is set in a kind of dream landscape of cusp baby-boomer memory, an America at high noon of the Cold War, in which Soviet commando teams are on the hunt, wild kids on Triumph bikes are rebellin' against whatever you got, red-hunters are too blunt for their own good, and teens in jalopies are looking for ways to get in trouble. The eschatology of the piece seems to be derived from an old agitprop comic book called "Blackhawk" -- "Hawkaaaaa!" was the battle cry -- about a kind of paramilitary crew of multinationals in tunics and jackboots who zipped around the world in their delta-winged jet interceptors fighting red perfidy wherever it showed up. Indy is all seven of them in one. They were always opposed by tunic-wearing commie colonels or red femmes fatales in latex, spandex and lycrex. Both those figures are represented here, the colonel by an actor named Igor Jijikine, whose face seems hacked by imprisoned Kulaks from the steppes, and the ace villainess spy Irina Spalko (yes, that's the great Cate Blanchett with a sword, an AK-47 and vaguely Tartar eyes, leaping from truck to truck in the movie's best gag).

As the movie opens, Spalko's special-operations team has taken over what looks like a proto-Area 51 (the year is 1957) in search of an alien body evidently recovered at Roswell. The commies are looking for paranormal powers in their quest for world dominance. (The central comic device of the movie is to take all '50s paranoia seriously, though the filmmakers did miss water fluoridation.) The reds have kidnapped Indiana Jones to help them find it in the warehouse (it's the same warehouse where the Lost Ark is stored). All this sets up the first big action number, a warehouse escape that gives Spielberg a chance to show off his swing-through-the-air-through-gunfire chops, and Ford to show he's still got what it takes, even beyond meridian 60.

Of course, it doesn't take long before the action has moved to Spielberg's beloved suburbs, a primary-color Your Town, U.S.A., where everything's new and spanking, the houses in rows, the sprinklers sprinkling, the cars all shiny and finny. And the population is all dummies. We know -- those of us who remember that time and place and recall the fate of dummy Your Towns in the Nevada desert -- what happens next. Who knows what secret pleasure Spielberg took in supervising the nuclear destruction of a smug little town like the one he grew up in, but from the skill and care lavished on the detonation and the shingle-by-shingle disintegration of the little boxes, it must have been immense.

It's after this blissful interlude, about an hour in, that the movie actually starts. Spielberg clumsily transitions the action to South America, when Indy receives a message delivered by a bike-mounted Wild One named Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) that his old mentor, Dr. Oxley (John Hurt), has been kidnapped. But before we get lost in the jungle, Spielberg fulfills a fantasy to film a movie called "Marlon Brando's Johnny Strabler Lays Rubber in a Yale Library."

A secret map -- where would popular culture be without secret maps? -- takes them to Peru, where they discover the Crystal Skull. Without much in the way of sense, the movie then switches to another '30s-'50s pulp tradition, the exotic jungle thing. You know, with the birds all going OOOO-WEEECHIE-CAW-CAW and snakes and ants and tarantulas putting in cameos. It's the most expensive episode of "Ramar of the Jungle" ever filmed.

Their goal is that secret city where Indy aspires to return the Crystal Skull to its appropriate place while Irina and her team mean to deliver it to their KGB masters in exchange for tickets at the front of the Glorious Socialist Five-Year-Plan bread line. Hmmm, again a frail conceit upon which to mount a major movie, but you probably won't notice or care, because it's all really to set up the movie's last 40 minutes, which consists of a hellzapoppin' triple truck chase through the jungle with machine guns at the edge of a cliff. Is it the best Indy sequence? I still favor the fistfight with the German mechanic near the rotating propeller of the Flying Wing while the gasoline truck was about to explode from "Lost Ark," but then I'm old-fashioned. If it's not as good as that, then it's the second-best sequence, as "Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" is clearly superior to the two previous sequels.

Almost on the template of "Lost Ark," "Crystal Skull" ends with an invocation of awesome power even as it connects with another '50s theme of paranoia, in one of those grandiose special-effects sequences for which Lucas's Industrial Light & Magic shop is so well known. Does it pay off? Maybe not quite, but the movie sends you out as it should -- exhausted and happy -- and you won't begin to think about its flaws for hours.

When you do, you'll wonder what Ray Winstone was doing in the movie as a kind of Brit soldier of fortune, apt to swell a scene or two but not much else. You'll wonder why they didn't get more out of the great Hurt, who just plays cuckoo for a while, while at the other end of the movie, the great Jim Broadbent is wasted in a throwaway as Indy's dean. You probably won't pay much attention to LaBeouf, except to continue to ponder the amazing weirdness of his name. I suppose you'll be pleased to see Karen Allen again, still spunky after all these years. But the real show is the ballroom dance between the two couples, Ford and Blanchett and Spielberg and Lucas. These people seem to know what they are doing.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (126 minutes, at area theaters) is rated PG-13 for mild violence and scary images.

Today's Tune: Talking Heads - Psycho Killer

(Click on title to play video)

Cal Thomas: God Bless Ted Kennedy

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sen. Kennedy waves as he leaves Massachusetts General Hospital, 21 May 2008

These days, people on "one side" of the political spectrum are not supposed to cooperate, much less have a personal relationship with anyone on the "other side." Siding with "the enemy" can get you branded a compromiser, a sellout, or fool. While it is true that on too many occasions, conservatives have had their ideological pockets picked by liberals whose favor they curried, that is no excuse for hating people because of their political beliefs.

In the case of my 25-year relationship with Sen. Edward Kennedy, our ideological pockets have remained secure, but our friendship has been something I have treasured.

It began in 1983 when I received a call from a Washington Post reporter. I was working for the Moral Majority at the time and a computer had spit out a membership card for Sen. Kennedy and then inadvertently sent it to him. The reporter asked if I wanted the card back. "No," I said. "We don't believe anyone is beyond redemption. In fact, I hope Sen. Kennedy comes and speaks at Liberty Baptist College (now Liberty University)," the school founded by the late Jerry Falwell.

A few days later, I received a call from Kennedy's chief of staff. "The senator accepts your invitation." I was stunned and so was Falwell, but Kennedy came and was well received. He spoke on faith, truth and tolerance and his remarks are as relevant today as they were when he uttered them. (See and read them here).

While some might disagree on the way he applies such notions to the liberal policies in which he believes; few would contest most of the principles he articulated that night.

Kennedy said: "I am an American and a Catholic; I love my country and treasure my faith. But I do not assume that my conception of patriotism or policy is invariably correct, or that my convictions about religion should command any greater respect than any other faith in this pluralistic society."

What student or advocate of the First Amendment would disagree with that? Is that not what the Founders had in mind when they prohibited a federally established religion while simultaneously guaranteeing its free exercise? Kennedy continued, "When people agree on public policy, they ought to be able to work together, even while they worship in diverse ways. For truly, we are all yoked together as Americans, and the yoke is the happy one of individual freedom and mutual respect."

Again, not bad. He added: "Separation of church and state cannot mean an absolute separation between moral principles and political power. The challenge today is to recall the origin of the principle, to define its purpose, and refine its application to the politics of the present."
The issues outlined in Kennedy's speech still resonate today, except now it is the Democratic presidential candidates who are talking more about faith and public policy, not the Republican candidate.

Getting to know Sen. Kennedy that night and being with him on many subsequent occasions, helped me understand him on a level far different from TV images and direct-mail appeals that ask for $25 dollars to keep him from doing things that will "ruin" America (the Left sent out similar appeals for money to save America from my side).

I came to see Sen. Kennedy not as a symbol, but as a fellow human being who does not get up in the morning seeking ways to harm the country. I know of things he has done for the poor and homeless on his own time and in his own way without a press release or a desire for public approval. I know of other hurts and concerns about which I would never speak.

In our poisoned political atmosphere, there are few friendships like this, at least few anyone can speak of publicly for fear of political ruin. It ought to be a privilege (it is certainly a command) for my conservative Christian friends to pray for Sen. Kennedy that he might be healed and restored to health. It is certainly mine and I don't care who on "my side" knows it.

George Will: March of the Polar Bears

The Washington Post
May 22, 2008

Alaska Wilderness activists dressed as polar bears high-five as they attend a news conference in Washington, May 14, 2008.
(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

WASHINGTON -- A preventive war worked out so well in Iraq that Washington last week launched another. The new preventive war -- the government responding forcefully against a postulated future threat -- has been declared on behalf of polar bears, the first species whose supposed jeopardy has been ascribed to global warming.

The Interior Department, bound by the Endangered Species Act, has declared polar bears a "threatened" species because they might be endangered "in the foreseeable future," meaning 45 years. (Note: 45 years ago, the now-long-forgotten global cooling menace of 35 years ago was not yet foreseen.) The bears will be threatened if the current episode of warming, if there really is one, is, unlike all the previous episodes, irreversible, and if it intensifies, and if it continues to melt sea ice vital to the bears, and if the bears, unlike in many previous warming episodes, cannot adapt.

Because of restrictions on hunting, polar bears might be more numerous today than ever and might be twice as numerous as they were three decades ago -- when the media were fanning frenzy about global cooling. (Science magazine, March 1975, reported "the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age.") As Nigel Lawson, a former British Cabinet member, writes in his new book "An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming":

"Over the past two-and-a-half-million years, a period during which the planet's climate fluctuated substantially, remarkably few of the earth's millions of plant and animal species became extinct. This applies not least, incidentally, to polar bears, which have been around for millennia, during which there is ample evidence that polar temperatures have varied considerably."

But Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne says the "threatened" label is mandatory because sea ice has been melting and computer models postulate future melting caused by human activity. So, now that human activity is assumed to be the primary cause, or even a measurable cause, of warming, the decision to classify the bears as threatened has become a mighty lever.

Now that polar bears are wards of the government, and now that it is a legal doctrine that humans are responsible for global warming, the Endangered Species Act has acquired unlimited application. Anything that can be said to increase global warming can -- must -- be said to threaten bears already designated as threatened.

Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cell phone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities. Kempthorne says such uses of the act, unintended by those who wrote it in 1973, would be "wholly inappropriate." But in 1973, climate Cassandras were saying that "the world's climatologists are agreed" that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973). And no authors of the Constitution or the Fourteenth Amendment intended to create a "fundamental" right to abortion, but there it is.

No one can anticipate or control the implications that judges might discover in the polar bear designation. Give litigious environmentalists a compliant judge and the Endangered Species Act might become what New Dealers wanted the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 to be -- authority to regulate almost everything.

What Friedrich Hayek called the "fatal conceit" -- the idea that government can know the future's possibilities and can and should control the future's unfolding -- is the left's agenda. The left exists to enlarge the state's supervision of life, narrowing individual choices in the name of collective goods. Hence the left's hostility to markets. And to automobiles -- people going wherever they want whenever they want.

Today's "green left" is the old "red left" revised. Marx, a short-term pessimist but a long-term optimist, prophesied deepening class conflict, but thought that history's violent dialectic would culminate in a revolution that would usher in material abundance and such spontaneous cooperation that the state would wither away.

The green left preaches pessimism: Ineluctable scarcities (of energy, food, animal habitats, humans' living space) will require a perpetual regime of comprehensive rationing. The green left understands that the direct route to government control of almost everything is to stigmatize, as a planetary menace, something involved in almost everything -- carbon.

Environmentalism is, as Lawson writes, an unlimited "license to intrude." "Eco-fundamentalism," which is "the quasi-religion of green alarmism," promises "global salvationism." Onward, green soldiers, into preventive war on behalf of some bears who are simultaneously flourishing and "threatened."

Kennedy's Illness, and the Left's

By Ben Johnson

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Veteran US Senator Edward Kennedy waves as he leaves Massachusetts General Hospital with his son Patrick and daughter Kara. Kennedy was released ahead of schedule after suffering a seizure at the Kennedy family compound in Hyannis.(AFP/Getty Images/Darren Mccollester)

THE MEDIA KEEP REMINDING US OF THE ISSUES THAT DIVIDE us as a nation: Iraq, different approaches about reviving the economy, socialized medicine, the role of mankind in global warming, gay marriage, social issues, and many others. As Ted Kennedy’s recently diagnosed brain tumor demonstrated, Right and Left are also divided based on whether they display basic human decency when misfortunes befall a member of the other side. The American people seem to be fundamentally cleft about how they treat news of an opponent’s impending death in a conservative manner – with prayer – or a leftist one – with champagne and hate mail.

The Right Way to Greet Death

Immediately upon learning of the diagnosis, Kathryn Lopez posted a blog on National Review Online headlined “Oh No,” adding, “Our prayers obviously...” The May 19 edition of National Review Online carried an article entitled, “Praying for Senator Kennedy.” As of early yesterday morning, the post on Little Green Footballs announcing his illness had 1,036 comments. Here are a few representative samples:

“Well I wish him the best. If a cure is not possible, then as many quality months with his family as are possible.”

“I disagree with Senator Kennedy's politics, but he is a fellow American and a fellow human being so I sincerely pray for his recovery and wish his family well.”

“Prayers for the Ted and Kennedy family. Much strength and peace for them in the coming days.”

The Soros-funded Media Matters, try as it might to find evil right-wingers celebrating, found only a clip from Michael Savage. The average conservative, however much he disagreed with Ted Kennedy, wished him well.

Not "Rest In Peace": "Rot In Hell"

This could be contrasted to the hatred the Left has vented toward so many of those who opposed its agenda. One could begin with its reaction to the death of Kennedy – the Rev. Dr. D. James Kennedy. The late minister of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church was one of the least political of all national Christian spokesmen, but when he passed away last September, the DailyKos announced: “Another Hate Merchant Meets His Maker.” “This won't be a long diary, but another of the first wave of Mega-church hate peddlers has died,” the diarist stated. “He and Jerry [Falwell] and Ron [Reagan] should have plenty to talk about for enternity, [sic.] comparing notes and anecdotes. I won't even get into where, since I'm basically a Humanist.” Naturally, the Left had similar thoughts about the death of Jerry Falwell almost exactly one year ago. Amanda Marcotte, a former employee of the John Edwards presidential campaign, immediately blogged: “The gates of hell swing open and Satan welcomes his beloved son. Jerry Falwell's dead. Guess god [sic] — notice the small 'g' — liked the ACLU better after all.” Ms. Marcotte was far from alone.

Hating More Than “Religious Right Pharisees”

The humanists didn’t show much humanity at the passing of Charlton Heston last month, either. The loving Left at Democratic Underground wrote such epitaphs as:

"If “liberal” means giving every mean-spirited bastard in the world a break solely on the account that they are a fellow homo sapien?… feeling any sense of loss that some sorry piece of shithumanity such as C Heston has checked out? Then sign me out. I am glad that he is no longer breathing the same air that you and I share. Just tell me the address to where I need to mail my “Liberal” card."

"Can’t say I feel sorry for Charlton Heston. From all I heard he was as rightwing as they come."

"So glad to hear some good news for a change. - I hope that spreader of misery spends all his glory days around the eternal flames of hell with ol’ Raygun talkin’ ’bout how they really fucked this country - oh they probably won’t even remember, lol. How about we quit glorifying someone just because they had the good sense to DIE."

"NOW will somebody pry his cold, dead hands from that frickin’ penis substitute?"

"he had it coming. - I had no empathy for the aging Nazis, either."

One did not have to actually do anything offensive to the Left to incur its wrath. After 9/11, NFL star Pat Tillman gave up his salary to defend the United States in Afghanistan – the War on Terror that leftists claim to support. He was killed there. Learning this, the Urbana, Illinois, chapter of Indymedia wrote, “Pat Tillman is gone good riddance.” The Portland Indymedia site ran the headline, “Dumb Jock Killed in Afghanistan.”

Ted Rall: The Worst of the Worst

The execrable cartoonist Ted Rall has made a career of slurring the dead. Shortly after Reagan’s death, Rall told a reporter Reagan was in Hell “turning crispy brown right about now.” Rall called Pat Tillman an “idiot.” He also berated the victims of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and their families as Nazis, and portrayed the grieving wives left behind after 9/11 as money-grubbing media hounds in his cartoon “Terror Widows.”

We, the Living

Leftists are not always content to wait for the targets of their hatred to die. Often, they wish – and occasionally, pray – for it when conservatives take ill. (Undoubtedly, one of the few times leftists glance heavenward.) When Dick Cheney’s heart began acting up in November 2006, Huffington Post columnist Tony Hendra offered “A Thanksgiving Prayer for Dick Cheney’s Heart – and a Few Other Favorite Things.” The blasphemous entry begins:

"I give thanks O Lord for Dick Cheney's Heart, that brave organ which has done its darn-tootin' best on four separate occasions to do what we can only dream about. O Lord, give Dick Cheney's Heart, Our Sacred Secret Weapon, the strength to try one more time! For greater love hath no heart than that it lay down its life to rid the planet of its Number One Human Tumor."

Cheney had to have his heart electrically shocked to correct an abnormal rhythm days later.

Fun and Giggles About a Dying Pope

The New York Press published a cover story in March 2005 entitled, “The 52 Funniest Things About the Upcoming Death of the Pope,” which included such knee-slappers as, “In his last days, the Pope was in tremendous pain”; “Beetles eating Pope's dead brains”; and “Pope pisses himself just before the end; gets all over nurse.”

An Avalanche of Hatred for Snow

Left-wingers are aware of their limitless ill-will for others and have sometimes attempted to cover for themselves. When former White House Spokesman Tony Snow revealed the return of his cancer in last March, one DailyKoster announced the Left’s clean hands and put the shoe on the other foot:

"I know I don't have to tell you all this, but for the occassional [sic.] troller - We at Dailykos do not swim in the Rush Limbaugh pool of scum. We do not wish ill-health on our political opponents or their families. We at Dailykos give our whole-hearted best wishes and prayers to Tony Snow and his family."

His fellow bloggers quickly proved him a liar. The same day, another diarist argued that since Snow had opposed medical marijuana and euthanasia, his cancer was:

"not just coincidental. IRONIC. And, frankly, maybe just a little Karmic. Because Tony Snow didn't just wish suffering on terminally ill patients, he promoted policy positions that ACTUALLY CAUSED SUFFERING for those patients. Big difference."

A year later, after another downturn, the DK klan wrote: “Fuck Tony Snow. Not to wish ill of his cancer or anything, but perhaps it is Karma.” And again, “Tony Snow is a cancer upon our culture.” And yet more:

"He deserves whatever is in his future. Karma indicates that where he is going is not

"Perhaps as he dies he will consider the 4000 plus of our soldiers who have died needlessly in Iraq for a policy that he supported…Tony Snow is scum. It pains me and makes me feel a little guilty to say that about another being...I won't say human being...but he embodies evil as do those neocons he has supported."

Others, who could not gin up the courage to publicly wish him dead, declared their ambivalence. Another Kos diary entry asked, “Should I Care That Tony Snow Has Cancer?”

“John Hinckley Jr. – Where Are You Now That We Need You?”

…And often the Left cannot wait even for conservatives to get ill before wishing them pain, suffering, and death.

NPR’s Nina Totenberg, who covers politics at taxpayer expense, wished Jesse Helms would contract AIDS and publicly hoped Gen. Jerry Boykin “is not long for this world.” Columnist Julianne Malveaux publicly cast a pox on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, saying, “I hope his wife feeds him lots of eggs and butter, and he dies early, like many black men do, of heart disease.” Air America’s Randi Rhodes has repeatedly “joked” about doing in President Bush. A foreign leftist even produced the film “Death of a President” to bring this vision to life.
In October 2004, UK Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker asked, “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. - where are you now that we need you?” While protesting the War on Terror, some leftists carried signs proclaiming, “Bush is the disease. Death is the cure.”

Anonymous Anti-American Bloodlust

As the Pat Tillman episode demonstrated, the Left need not have any personal knowledge whatever of its subjects to wish them dead. U.S. soldiers – in leftist cant an “occupational force” waging an “illegal, immoral, and unjust war” – deserve to die for their role in oppressing the world’s poor. Columbia University anthropology professor Nicholas DeGenova openly pined for “a million Mogadishus.” And before and during the war, self-proclaimed peaceniks carried signs spouting such loving slogans as “We Support Our Troops, When They Shoot their Officers.”

Why They Hate

Few know the inner psychology of the Left like FrontPage Magazine’s contributors – and they have given away the secrets of the inner temple. Former NOW activist Tammy Bruce reminisced in her book The Death of Right and Wrong (and here on about a friend who, upon seeing Nancy Reagan’s heartbroken interview about her husband’s deteriorating mental state, called Tammy:

"cheering. “Woo hoo! It looks like we might be opening up that champagne sooner than later! I hope you were watching the Dragon Lady on ‘60 Minutes’ tonight. I suppose with Alzheimer’s, he’s not suffering anymore, but it sure looks like she is! There is a God after all.”

I had never thought of my friend as an indecent person, just as I never thought of myself as one. But he really hates those two people and wishes them awful things. He believes he’s in the right and they’re wrong. He also believes that the questions that divide them are moral issues about life and death. The difference, however, is that I think it’s safe to say neither Nancy nor Ronald Reagan ever had a bottle of champagne in the fridge waiting for a gay man or a feminist to die. The Reagans, I’ll bet, don’t hoot and holler at someone else’s pain.

Mrs. Reagan’s humanity illustrated by counterpoint the soullessness of the Left."

A Secular Demonology

Tammy’s last sentence points at the Left’s true problem: a defective cosmology. In his autobiography Radical Son, David Horowitz reproduces a letter he wrote to a one-time comrade, who took his political change-of-heart as a personal betrayal:

How could it be otherwise for people like us, for whom politics (despite our claim to be social realists) was less a matter of practical decisions than moral choices? We were partisans of a cause that confirmed our humanity, even as it denied humanity to those who opposed us. (Emphasis added.)

Although Tammy Bruce showed the Left to be soulless, in their eyes they alone possess the gift of humanity. Leftists lack the religious grounding to recognize everyone as a divine soul and a tradition that teaches them to “hate the sin but love the sinner.” The faith of the Left is a political faith, not a religious one, their politics The Politics of Bad Faith, their God The God that Failed. As they share a secular religion, they promote a secular demonology: those who fight for The Cause are not “on the side of the angels” – they are the angels. For all their charges that President Bush is a Manichean, it is they who stand at the Battle of Armageddon and fight for the Lord. Those who stand in their way are not good people misled; they are Beelzebub in gray suits. “Progressives” can no more offer quarter to such people in death than in life. Their opponents’ deaths are not a tragic diminishment of humanity; the bell only tolls to signal the end of a round. Their opponents’ deaths simply clear the battlefield of hostile infantrymen. This goes beyond a divide of “Red States” and “Blue States” but literally divides the soul from the spirit, human from inhuman or sub-human, cherub from gargoyle. Their fighting faith estranges them from that full portion of humanity (and it is not inconsequential) which does not share it as surely as Islam separates the righteous from the Dar al-Harb.

Ted Kennedy, for all his misguided beliefs and actions, will soon pass from one side of this mortal divide to another. As he goes, the prayers of those of goodwill go with him.

- Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and author of the book 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Today's Tune: Blue Öyster Cult - (Don't Fear) The Reaper

(Click on title to play video)

Sex Swap Driving Teacher Fury

[Another story that falls neatly into the "You Just Can't Make This Stuff Up" category. - jtf]

20 May 2008
By Gail Robinson
The Sheffield Telegraph

A SEX swap instructor at an all-female driving school was left devastated when the Sheffield husband of one of her pupils threatened to sue her firm - for sending a man to teach his Muslim wife.

Emma Sherdley

Emma Sherdley - formerly a married dad of two called Andrew but now legally a woman - has the full support of her boss Joanne Dixon who says she is a popular and respected instructor with 32 female pupils on her books who have no problem with her past.

Emma, aged 42, has a birth certificate and a "gender recognition certificate" to prove her legal status as a woman although she is still waiting for final surgery to make her transition from male to female physically complete.

She says she has never had a problem with any of her other pupils and says the complaints made by the man from the Meadowhall area of Sheffield, were: "hurtful, offensive and deeply upsetting".

She is being backed by her boss, Laugh n Pass owner Joanne Dixon, who
says the man had called her to accuse the firm of sending a man disguised as a woman because he was a Muslim.

Joanne, who set up Laugh n Pass with all-female teachers designed to put ladies learning to drive completely at their ease, told The Star: "Emma is a popular and very well-respected instructor.

"That man accused us of being racist, yet his attitude towards Emma showed prejudice of the very worst kind."

The problem began when the man booked a two hour driving lesson for his wife.

Emma travelled from her Holmfirth home to Meadowhall and collected the woman from her home and the lesson began.

But after the first hour of the lesson she told Emma she would have to cancel the remainder of the lesson because she had to go home to breast feed her baby.

Joanne said: "Then the husband rang me and said he was going to sue us.

"He was saying, 'You have sent me a man, send me a proper female, how dare you send a man with a deep voice'. Then he claimed we had deliberately sent a man disguised as a woman because he was a Muslim.

"His attitude and his behaviour was outrageous and has upset me and Emma and everyone else who works here. We are not racist, we are not sexist - if anyone was being so it was that man."

Emma says the outburst had made her seriously consider quitting her job.

But she says Joanne's support has made her determined to ride out the storm and carry on with her career.

She said: "I always knew as a child that I was a woman stuck in a man's body. I tried hard to be a man, getting married and having children, but it never worked and never would.

"For the past six years I have been what is correctly called
'transitioned'. I still have to undergo the final surgery, but legally I am a woman.

"That is what my birth certificate says, that is what the gender recognition certificate proves, and for that prejudiced and biased man to threaten to sue me and the driving school is totally and utterly wrong.

"I currently have 32 female pupils and not one of them has a problem, it is just this one man."

Joanne, who employs 20 female instructors who teach women throughout South and West Yorkshire, says her all female driving school is so popular she currently has 30 people on her waiting list.

She said: "Here at Laugh n Pass we says each of our female instructors promise to be friendly,professional and patient - that is exactly what Emma is and for her to be subjected to abuse and threats is simply intolerable."

Mark Steyn: Heel, Hipster, Loner, Loser

Steyn on Stage and Screen
Thursday, 15 May 2008

All this week at SteynOnline, we're marking the tenth anniversary of Frank Sinatra's death, beginning with this appreciation, plus Sinatra live, and Sinatra the voice. A few days after he died, I wrote this Spectator column about Sinatra's film career. He was a memorable actor - and, as Sammy Cahn liked to say, that isn't even what he does:

The Italians came out for Frank this last week. De Niro said not a day passed when he didn't listen to Sinatra, Scorsese that Sinatra made it possible for all the rest of them - the guys with vowels. In the early years of this century, when a scrappy cobbler's apprentice called Martin Sinatra was minded to try his hand at prize-fighting, he changed his name to 'Marty O'Brien', a reinvention that tells you everything about which ethnic identities were commercially viable back then. As late as the late Forties, Dino Crocetti and Anthony Benedetto felt obliged to follow Marty's example and anglicise themselves to Dean Martin and Tony Bennett. Even the one arena of American life where being Italian was an asset - the mob - was reserved on screen for fellows with handles like Cagney and Bogart. The real fighter in the Sinatra family turned out to be Marty O'Brien's only child, and his first act of defiance was his determination to keep his name. It's because of Sinatra that we now have stars called Pacino, Stallone and Travolta.

Beyond the vowel crowd, his prototypical non-pliant celebrity had a more pervasive influence on American screen acting than almost anyone else. He was the guy who disdained to fit in, no matter how much they wanted him to. After Sinatra sang at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, the Speaker of the House, Sam Rayburn, went up to him and put an embracing arm on his shoulder. Frank snarled, to the second most powerful man in the nation, 'Hands off the threads, creep.' Of course, such moments of cocksure virtuosity were more than matched by episodes of painfully exposed vulnerability. Without the vulnerability, you end up with Robert De Niro in New York, New York, a young Sinatra-like 1940s band musician high on his own genius, riddled with self-loathing: the result is a performance almost too obnoxious to watch.

The young Sinatra himself never got a chance to show that side of himself. In the Forties, he played characters called Glen Russell (Step Lively), Danny Miller (It Happened in Brooklyn) and Clarence Doolittle (Anchors Aweigh), but no matter the name Sinatra, a sunken-cheeked hipless cadaver, always played the same boyish, girl-shy naif seeking advice from worldlier types like Gene Kelly. The advice was mostly unnecessary since Frankie spent most of these pictures trying to out-run ravenous types like gal taxi-driver Betty Garrett. Even in those early days, it was a false and limiting persona. In film musicals, Sinatra could have done for song what Astaire did for dance. Instead, he left no personal stamp on the genre.

On the other hand, maybe MGM and co. did him a favour. Many of his greatest recordings are of songs he only did because he'd been deprived of the chance to do them on screen: Rodgers and Hart's 'It Never Entered My Mind', slung out of Higher and Higher; Leonard Bernstein's gorgeous 'Lonely Town', which Arthur Freed promised him he could sing in On the Town before changing his mind and getting Betty Comden and Adolph Green to write a standard-issue charm novelty - 'You're awful - awful nice to be with . . . You're boring - boring into my heart', and so on - which the authors tell me makes them cringe whenever they see the movie; and, above all of them, Frank Loesser's 'Luck Be A Lady'. Sinatra resented the way Brando got all the best songs in the film of Guys and Dolls and so turned 'Luck' into a dice-rolling crowd-pleaser that stayed in his act till the end.

It's weird to see Brando and Sinatra together. Sinatra was a two- take actor: it wasn't going to get any better. Brando liked to take all day. As Frank told Guys and Dolls' director Joe Mankiewicz, 'Don't put me in the game, Coach, until Mumbles is through rehearsing.' Forty years on, Brando's reading of Sky Masterson is a big bland nothing, whereas Sinatra's Nathan Detroit is about what you'd expect - and in its own shrugged-off way much closer to the spirit of Damon Runyon. Later, Sinatra turned down The Godfather, so the role went to Mumbles: I'm inclined to think it might have worked out twitchier, more dangerous with Frank. In 1955, Brando desperately wanted The Man with the Golden Arm, but Otto Preminger went with Sinatra: as Frankie Machine, a drummer hooked on heroine, he's one bitter, raw jolt of authenticity, the sort of performance Brando's too considered to give.

But by now Frank was frustrated by film. Sinatra was a true collaborator: he enjoyed pitching in on arrangements and orchestration, and liked the give and take of a recording session. But, in film, collaboration means leaving your reputation in the hands of directors, editors, producers, marketing men and studio heads whose ratchet of small betrayals begins long after the film's wrapped and you're a thousand miles away. It's no coincidence that Sinatra's most satisfying screen work comes in films that he initiated and presided over: Suddenly (1954), a taut little thriller in which he gives the most intense performance of his career as a presidential assassin; and The Manchurian Candidate (1962), a Cold War classic with Frank as a nightmare-haunted veteran. On both occasions, Sinatra invests his roles with the care he gives to a performance of 'Angel Eyes' or 'I've Got You Under My Skin'.

My favourite Sinatra movie line? Tony Rome, from 1967. Sinatra, a soured Chandleresque gumshoe, eyes the punks as they pour chloroform on a dish-rag obviously intended for him. He says: 'When.'

Heel, hipster, loner, loser: the complexities Frank Sinatra projected on album were too much for most films, which must, in the end, say something about the relative merits of each form. A few months ago, a friend alerted me to the casting on the upcoming Rat Pack movie: Sinatra? John Travolta. Dino? Tom Hanks. Sammy Davis? Denzil Washington. Peter Lawford? Hugh Grant...


from The Spectator, May 23rd 1998

Jonah Goldberg: Church of Green

May 21, 2008 12:00 AM

America's environmental mea maxima culpa.

I admit it: I’m no environmentalist. But I like to think I’m something of a conservationist.

No doubt for millions of Americans this is a distinction without a difference, as the two words are usually used interchangeably. But they’re different things, and the country would be better off if we sharpened the distinctions between both word and concept.

At its core, environmentalism is a kind of nature worship. It’s a holistic ideology, shot through with religious sentiment. “If you look carefully,” author Michael Crichton observed, “you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.”

Environmentalism’s most renewable resources are fear, guilt, and moral bullying. Its worldview casts man as a sinful creature who, through the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, abandoned our Edenic past. John Muir, who laid the philosophical foundations of modern environmentalism, described humans as “selfish, conceited creatures.” Salvation comes from shedding our sins, rejecting our addictions (to oil, consumerism, etc.) and demonstrating an all-encompassing love of Mother Earth. Quoth Al Gore: “The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”

I heard Gore on NPR recently. He was asked about evangelical pastor Joseph Hagee’s absurd comment that Hurricane Katrina was God’s wrath for New Orleans’s sexual depravity. Naturally, Gore chuckled at such backwardness. But then the Nobel laureate went on to blame Katrina on man’s energy sinfulness. It struck me that the two men are not so different. If only canoodling Big Easy residents had adhered to The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex.

Environmentalists insist that their movement is a secular one. But using the word “secular” no more makes you secular than using the word “Christian” automatically means you behave like a Christian. Pioneering green lawyer Joseph Sax describes environmentalists as “secular prophets, preaching a message of secular salvation.” Gore, too, has been dubbed a “prophet.” A green-themed California hotel provides Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” next to the Bible and a Buddhist tome.

Whether or not it’s adopted the trappings of religion, my biggest beef with environmentalism is how comfortably irrational it is. It touts ritual over reality, symbolism over substance, while claiming to be so much more rational and scientific than those silly sky-God worshipers and deranged oil addicts.

It often seems that displaying faith in the green cause is more important than advancing the green cause. The U.S. government just put polar bears on the threatened species list because climate change is shrinking the Arctic ice where they live. Never mind that polar bears are in fact thriving — their numbers have quadrupled in the last 50 years. Never mind that full implementation of the Kyoto protocols on greenhouse gases would save exactly one polar bear, according to Danish social scientist Bjørn Lomborg, author of the book Cool It!

Yet 300 to 500 polar bears could be saved every year, Lomborg says, if there were a ban on hunting them. What’s cheaper — trillions to trim carbon emissions, or a push for a ban on polar bear hunting?

Plastic grocery bags are being banned, even though they require less energy to make and recycle than paper ones. The country is being forced to subscribe to a modern version of transubstantiation, whereby corn is miraculously transformed into sinless energy even as it does worse damage than oil.

Conservation, which shares roots and meaning with conservatism, stands athwart this mass hysteria. Yes, conservationism can have a religious element as well, but that stems from the biblical injunction to be a good steward of the Earth, rather than a worshiper of it. But stewardship involves economics, not mysticism.

Economics is the study of choosing between competing goods.

Environmentalists view economics as the enemy because cost-benefit analysis is thoroughly unromantic. Lomborg is a heretic because he treats natural-world challenges like economic ones, seeking to spend money where it will maximize good, not just good feelings among environmentalists.

Many self-described environmentalists are in fact conservationists. But the environmental movement wins battles by blurring this distinction, arguing that all lovers of nature must follow their lead. At the same time, many people open to conservationist arguments, like hunters, are turned off by even reasonable efforts because they do not want to assist “wackos.”

In the broadest sense, the environmental movement has won. Americans are “green” in that they are willing to spend a lot to keep their country ecologically healthy, which it is. But now it’s time to save the environment from the environmentalists.

Jonah Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Summa cum loony

guest column
By: Kristin Butler

Issue date: 5/15/08 Section: Columns
Last update: 5/15/08 at 8:46 AM EST

Crystal Mangum

It seems anyone can get a college degree these days-especially if they go to North Carolina Central University.

Standards of integrity there have long been dismal: This is, after all, the school that gave violent felon Solomon Burnette a diploma in 2007. Burnette, you may recall, robbed two Duke students at gunpoint in 1997.

After finishing a 13-month prison sentence, he had the audacity not only to enroll in Arabic classes on our campus in April 2007; Burnette also penned a column I and many others interpreted as inciting physical violence against white Dukies in his student newspaper.

Unfortunately, however, 2008 marks a new low... even for NCCU.

Just this month, the university graduated Crystal Mangum, the drug-addled, mentally unstable prostitute who falsely accused three lacrosse players of raping her two years ago.

Mangum is an accomplished liar and criminal, and a credible school shouldn't have allowed her within 50 miles of its graduation ceremony.

Indeed, this is a woman who has maintained for more than two years that 20, five, and finally three Duke lacrosse players violated her orally, vaginally and anally in a bathroom the size of a broom closet. In her final version of the "assault," Mangum claimed this was possible because she was magically suspended in midair (by hooks and pulleys, perhaps?) as the three men attacked her.

In reality, Mangum-who arrived at the lacrosse players' party so drunk and high she could barely stand-may have feared another psychiatric commitment the morning of March 14, 2006, and so she accused three men of rape to garner sympathy.

As an aside, if anyone at NCCU still believes her story, I would invite them to review court records indicating Mangum had DNA from two unidentified men in her rectum; two more in her pubic region; one man in her vagina; and four to five men on her panties-none of whom were lacrosse players (a physical impossibility because Mangum said her attackers wore no condoms during the "rape").

And although her bold-faced lies ruined three young men's lives, they were a jackpot for Mangum: Within days, she was already using the "assault" to hustle pain meds from emergency room doctors, claiming "excruciating pain from the... beating." Sensing a lucrative civil settlement on the horizon, Mangum even bragged to a security guard at her strip club that she was "going to get paid by the white boys."

Unsurprisingly, those actions constitute flagrant violations of NCCU's honor code, which prohibits: "lewd, indecent or obscene conduct (whether public or private)"; "violation of the alcohol policy, including binge drinking, use or personal possession of alcoholic beverages by undergraduate students;" and the real doozie, "knowingly making in public a false [oral or] written or printed statement with the intent to deceive and/or mislead or injure the character or reputation of another."

NCCU also touts itself as a "drug-free academic community," a claim that's hard to take seriously when one of the college's own students admits to turning tricks and getting high four or five nights per week. In fact, Mangum had overdosed on flexeril and booze when she was first picked up by police the night of March 14.

And that's what makes Mangum's latest milestone so infuriating: It demeans the accomplishments of thousands of hard-working, law-abiding Eagles who also graduated this May.

A Duke student committing even a fraction of those crimes would have been summarily expelled; being accused of them would be enough for an emergency suspension.

Because of the university's blatant refusal to enforce its own rules, I will never again take an NCCU degree seriously, and neither should any other self-respecting Dukie. NCCU's "seal of approval" no longer guarantees good character, and it's just too hard to tell the thugs and liars (like Burnette and Mangum) apart from the high-performing majority.

Now to be fair, NCCU is hardly the first public institution to give Mangum a pass. Durham police, prosecutors and even Attorney General Roy Cooper all opted not to indict her for filing false police reports, reasoning that she was too crazy to stand trial. (No word yet on how many legally insane people maintain a 3.0 GPA at a nationally accredited university.)

Still, NCCU's actions are morally bankrupt and far eneath the dignity of a nationally recognzed university. The damage that NCCU has done to its reputation is very serious, and it insults thousands of upstanding alumni.

With three kids, a nasty drug habit and psychiatric and criminal histories longer than my arm, Crystal Mangum probably needs all the good fortune she can get. But until she owns up to her malicious lies, she deserves no special favors-least of all from a publicly funded university.

Crystal Mangum is not a victim, and her actions meant two other former members of the Class of 2008 (their names are Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, for the record) didn't graduate last weekend. Mangum's lies stole a year of their college careers, and it makes me sick to think of her celebrating her achievement while they (along with millions of legitimate rape victims harmed by her dishonesty) struggle to piece their lives back together.

Crystal Mangum may now have a signed and sealed police psychology degree, but she'll always be Public Enemy No. 1 in my book.

Kristin Butler, Trinity '08, is a former Chronicle columnist.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr.: To give America freedom

The Washington Times
May 20, 2008

What do the following recent events have in common? The president of the United States has prostrated himself for the second time in five months before the king of Saudi Arabia, pleading for more oil. Despite George Bush's inducements — an array of advanced, offensive arms; the promise of nuclear technology with which the Saudis can expect (like the North Koreans, Iranians, Pakistanis, etc.) to acquire the ultimate weapons; and U.S. help securing Saudi Arabia's borders (something the president has declined to do at home) — the American plea was spurned. The contempt felt by the House of Saud was captured in its oil minister's quip, "If you want more oil, buy it."

• The Senate rejected, by a vote of 56-42, an initiative offered by Republicans that called for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska and some offshore waters now closed to exploration and exploitation of their substantial oil reserves.

• In addition, that chamber's appropriations committee refused by a similar party-line vote to lift its moratorium on oil-shale production in Colorado. It seems that, if we want more oil, we will have to buy it at ever increasing prices from the Saudis and others even more unfriendly to this country's national security and economic interests — like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez or Russia's Vladimir Putin, perhaps even Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

• One thing the Senate and House did agree upon, by overwhelmingly bipartisan majorities, was suspending purchases of oil to fill the remaining 3 percent of the capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserves. This action will have negligible (if any) impact on energy prices. But it will ensure that less oil will be available to us than would otherwise have been the case in the event, for example, the next terrorist attack on the Saudi oil infrastructure succeeds where others have failed and seriously disrupts world supplies.

• Then there is the newly formed coalition, ostensibly spearheaded by the Grocery Manufacturers' Association, that has launched a multimillion-dollar lobbying effort aimed at discouraging development of one alternative to oil: domestically produced or imported ethanol. Wrongly asserting that producing this transportation fuel from corn is largely responsible for rising food prices and the attendant global shortages, this instant grass-roots (read, "astroturf") coalition appears to want America to remain essentially dependent on oil. Wonder where the money for this campaign is coming from?

Answer: These actions — given soaring energy prices and the attendant hemorrhage of U.S. petrodollars to, among others, people who wish us ill — represent the sort of behavior in which only a nation utterly unserious about energy security could indulge.

In truth, no matter what we do, we will need oil for the foreseeable future. As a result, we should do our utmost to find and exploit it in places either under our control (for example, near where the Cubans and Chinese are getting it off the coast of Florida) or at least friendly to us (notably, Canada, Mexico and Brazil).

It is equally axiomatic that, no matter what we do, we almost certainly will have less oil than we need, certainly at prices we can afford. The question is: Are we going to do something to meet the shortfall? Or are we simply going to allow the economy and security of the United States to bleed out at the hands of the Saudi-led OPEC cartel?

The Set America Free Coalition — an initiative launched several years ago by unlikely array of national security-, environmental- and energy-minded people and organizations from across the political spectrum — is advancing practical, near-term alternatives to that unappetizing and unacceptable prospect.

At the moment, the Coalition is mounting its own campaign aimed at achieving in the immediate future, a simple yet far-reaching goal: Ensuring each of the 17 million new cars added to America's highways each year is capable of being powered by ethanol (from whatever source), methanol (ditto) or gasoline (or some combination thereof).

There are already some 6 million of these Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) on our roads today. Most of these are American-made (name another technology in which Detroit has a competitive advantage?) It costs less than $100 per car to equip new cars with this feature.

Ask yourself, and your elected representatives and would-be presidents: As each of these cars will last, on average, roughly 17 years, do we want any more of them built the old way — namely able to use only gasoline. Can we responsibly continue for another generation to lock our transportation sector (the principal, and most profligate, consumer of imported oil) into dependence on oil substantially imported from unfriendly places?

Robert Zubrin — a leader of the Set America Free Coalition and author of the terrific new book, "Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil" — notes that, at today's oil prices, we are allowing the Saudis and their friends to impose the equivalent of a 40 percent income tax of about $3,300 on every man woman and child in this country. We cannot afford to allow such lunacy to continue.

Sooner or later, Congress will adopt an Open Fuel Standard requiring every new car sold in America to be an FFV. The effect will be, in short order, to create an immense and highly competitive market for alternative, "Freedom Fuels" that we can make here or buy from friends. That will, in turn, will set America free by beginning to end its cars' present addiction to oil. Why wait any longer?

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy, a columnist for The Washington Times and a founding member of the Set America Free Coalition.