Saturday, August 16, 2008

Inside the war on drugs

By Regis Behe
Sunday, May 8, 2005

If a mere 10 percent of Don Winslow's new novel, "The Power of the Dog," were true, it would be horrifying.

"I would flip that ratio," Winslow says.

That 90 percent could be true is nearly unfathomable. "The Power of the Dog" chronicles the war on drugs waged by the United States from 1975 to present day in a most shocking manner. Winslow, the author of the novels "California Fire & Light" and "The Death and Life of Bobby Z," contends that:

Children and women have been targeted by drug cartels in ugly blood feuds.

Clandestine deals involving arms shipments to the cartels were undertaken by government agencies under the guise of thwarting communism.

Billions of dollars have been misspent in the war on drugs for programs that only increase the worth of drugs for buyers and sellers.

"I've fictionalized characters, obviously, and at times compressed events and things like that, but there's very little in the book that didn't actually happen," Winslow says. "That's the scary thing. My editor kept saying, 'Don, this is over the top.' And my response would be I would think so too, except it happened. Which was what was so horrifying about writing the book."

The impetus for "The Power of the Dog" came from a brutal, drug-related massacre of 18 people, including women and children, in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico, in 1998.

He wondered: "How do you get to that point? How does anybody get to that point?"

Winslow initially set the story, which took six years to research and write, in 1998. He quickly backtracked to 1993 and then 1985 before settling on 1975 to begin the book. That year marked the creation of the Drug Enforcement Agency, which undertook defoliation operations of Mexican poppy fields with the goal of putting drug dealers in the Mexican state of Sinaloa out of business.

Instead, a beast was created.

"It was the reinvention of the Mexican drug industry from a group of local, rural drug growers into a cartel that was centralized," Winslow says, "and then realized it could make a lot more money importing cocaine from Columbia and moving it than it could by growing the poppy.

"It was a very pivotal year. It was the law of unintended consequences. We thought we were destroying the home ground of heroin importation in the country. The real consequences were just metastasizing it, just spreading that cancer and forcing it, in a way, to become better organized and more efficient, which it did."

Don Winslow

While the background information in the novel is derived from Winslow's research; the interaction of the characters is a work of his imagination.

There's Arthur Keller, a DEA agent who risks losing his credibility and family when he becomes embroiled in a personal vendetta against Adan Barrera, an intelligent and ruthless drug dealer whose life is changed when his daughter is born with a terminal disease. There's Nora Hayden, a young girl who becomes a high-priced escort and then a confidante of Father Juan Parada, a Catholic priest, reformer and champion of the poor who is at odds with the hierarchy of his church.

No one in "The Power of the Dog" is without sin; nor is anyone without some measure of redemption.

"It can be too easy to create silhouette villains," Winslow says, "and just have these black cardboard figures. And the same with heroes, I suppose. What I wanted to show was some of the moral and emotional complexity of the war on drugs.

"I tried very hard, with the characters who are pretty villainous, pretty evil, really, to nevertheless see things through their eyes, to see things through their point of view."

Winslow traveled to Mexico and other locales in the book to interview people with similar experiences as his characters. He won't identify anyone he talked to, only admitting that all points of view are accounted for and represented accurately.

"You have to play by the rules," he says. "And as long as the rules are clear, people are more willing to be forthcoming. I would simply tell them if they weren't, I'm going to write this anyway -- and I want to include your point of view. If you want it included, then help me get it right. Tell me what was on your mind, what you were thinking. Tell me what your take is on it, and I'll do my best to include it."

This approach might irk some who see the drug problem as a black-and-white situation. And the book might infuriate and cause controversy, particularly with some of its contentions about the Iran-Contra affair and how the war on drugs addresses the symptoms but not the causes of drug abuse. Winslow particularly puts across the idea that the obsession with the war on drugs, as personified by Keller, increases the worth of the trade to the cartels.

As the character Adan Barrera says, "... that is what the Americans cannot seem to understand -- that all they do is drive up the price and make us rich."

"The product is not the drug," Winslow says. "The product for the cartels is never the drug, and for any smuggler of anything it's not the physical material -- it's the ability to move it across a fictional line, a nonexistent line, a symbolic line, i.e., a border. That's the product. The product costs you 36 cents on one side, then you step over one foot and it costs $1.75. It's the ability to move it across that line, that's what the Mexicans understood, and made huge profits because of it."

Capsule Review

Sometimes it is hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad guys in Don Winslow's "The Power of the Dog," an expansive, thought-provoking dramatization of the war on drugs.

Over three decades, a cast of drug enforcement agents and drug dealers, government officials and religious leaders, willing participants and innocent bystanders, are swept up in a dizzying tidal wave of events that horrify and shock. But while some of Winslow's scenarios and subtle -- and direct -- allegations may stir debate and cause controversy, he never strays from the essential point of fiction: to tell a story, and tell it well.

Regis Behe can be reached at or 412-320-7990.


By Alex Beam, Boston Globe Columnist
July 28, 2005

The critic raves . . .

I'm a bit more cynical about those advertising-driven "Hot Summer Reading Lists" one encounters in May and June now that I've read one of the best books of this or any summer, which has gone pretty much unnoticed. It's Don Winslow's "The Power of the Dog," a brutally violent, brilliantly plotted alternative history of the war on drugs, from the 1970s to the present.

Be forewarned: This is no Oprah pick. Many animals, children, campesinos, priests, narcs, and drug lords were harmed in the making of this novel. Winslow writes as well as James Ellroy before he started believing that GQ pap about him being America's greatest writer; as well as Alan Furst before Random House started milking him for small, plotless, unrealized "books" every two years or so. I would compare "Power" to Larry Beinhart's wonderful "American Hero," the novel that spawned the movie "Wag the Dog." George Bush pere figures in both books, as eminence noir.

Winslow should fire his literary agent, ditch his fancy publisher Alfred A. Knopf (which devoted far more resources to promoting Philip Caputo's ambitious overreach, "Acts of Faith"), and relaunch the book next summer. Here's the blurb: "The Power of the Dog" is the best read for the summer of 2006, or any season before and after.

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist.His e-dress is


Toronto Sun
September 19, 2005

Seldom has the story of America’s war on drugs been told more powerfully than in this novel by former private eye Don Winslow.

The novel covers four decades, from the rise of Mexican drug smuggling in the 1970s to the Iran-Contra business in the ’80s to the vicious drug wars of the ’90s and, finally, to the present when, despite billions of dollars spent on prevention, there are more drugs coming into America than ever.

The story involves the American Mafia, the U.S. government, communist insurgents in Latin America, and the drug cartels, particularly the Mexican ones as they struggle with one another for power.

The main characters include Drug Enforcement Agent (DEA) agent Art Keller, drug lords Tio Angel Barrera and his nephews Adan and Raul, a beautiful call girl who gets trapped in the action, a saintly priest who is murdered for his role trying to make peace, and a ruthless hit man who never loses his sense of mission.

In less skilled hands, the story’s wide scope and breakneck action could have proved unwieldy, but Winston’s powers of characterization, his keen ear for dialogue and his sheer storytelling abilities make it an unforgettable, Godfather-like read.

Today's Tune: Elvis Presley - Always on my Mind

(Click on title to play video)

Elvis fans ignore rain for graveside vigil

Associated Press Writer
Nashville Tennessean
Aug 16, 4:23 AM EDT

Jim Weber/The Memphis Commercial Appeal

This Elvis shrine created by artist Tommy Foster has traveled from Java Cabana to the Center for Southern Folklore and found a home at Goner Records in Cooper Young three years ago.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) -- Mary Lou Martell put it off as long as she could. But she finally had to head to Memphis for an anniversary vigil at Elvis Presley's grave.

"It's my first Elvis Week. I'm a little ashamed to say that, but it is," Martell, 60, said as she took part in a candlelight procession to Presley's grave at Graceland, his former Memphis residence. "We watched it on the computer last year and I finally said, `I have to be part of that.'"

The procession, called the "Candlelight Vigil," drew several thousand Elvis fans who lined up in the street in front of Graceland for a single-file procession up a long, winding driveway to his grave in a small garden.

Fans weren't scared away by an intermittent drizzle during the vigil, which began at 9:30 p.m. EDT.

"We're doing fine," Martell said, peeping out from the hood of a plastic parka. "It's just for Elvis we stay out doing this."

The vigil, which runs into the early morning, is the highlight of a weeklong series of fan-club meetings, dances and Elvis-impersonator contests to commemorate the anniversary of his death. He died of heart disease and drug abuse at Graceland on Aug. 16, 1977. He was 42.

Martell of Dunkirk, N.Y., said she visits Graceland often but avoided Elvis Week in the past because of the crowds. She came early for her first graveside vigil, though, setting up a lawn chair at 9 a.m. at Graceland's front gates.

Many Elvis pilgrims return each year, and the graveside vigil draws visitors from around the world. But it's largely ignored by Memphis residents.

Jennifer Hobson, 29, of Memphis and a group of hometown friends formed a "Blue Hawaii" club to try to change that and sent out vigil invitations to their friends.

The group set up a small canvas canopy in the street in front of Graceland and decorated it with inflatable palm trees, blue lights and an Elvis bust sporting a blue lei.

"This is part of our city," Hobson said, "but when we come down here, we rarely see people we know. Y'all need to come out."

Hobson said the group had to leave some decorations at home because of the rain.

"I have a velvet Elvis, but because of the rain we couldn't bring out all of our good stuff," Hobson said.

Graceland supports a sprawling complex of souvenir shops, and fans waiting for the procession packed the stores pouring over Viva Las Vegas bobble head dolls for $19.99, Burning Love scented candles for $14.99, Jailhouse Rock T-shirts for $24.99 and hundreds of other Elvis-flavored gifts and do-dads.

Nancy Rooks, a former Graceland cook, was set up at a souvenir shop table to sell her book, "Elvis' Maid Remembers," and talk with fans.

Generally, the 71-year-old Rooks said, the fans ask about Elvis' personal habits, when he went to bed, when he got up, what he liked to eat.

"I tell them he ate breakfast at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, but then he'd eat dinner at 1 o'clock at night," she said. "We always had a meat loaf cooked, just in case he wanted it. If he didn't want meat loaf, then we knew to give him roast beef. He liked soul food."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Today's Tune: Paul Simon - Graceland (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Documentary blames Clintons for 9/11 miniseries' DVD holdup

'Blocking the Path to 9/11,' produced by John Ziegler and Citizens United, claims that further showing of ABC's controversial project has been quashed.

By Lynn Smith,
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
August 15, 2008

In Hollywood docudramas, when the phrase "miscarriage of justice" is employed, it usually applies to the film's subject, not its creators.

But a new documentary called "Blocking the Path to 9/11," to be given a screening tonight, makes the case that former President Bill Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have pressured television and studio executives into quashing the DVD release of ABC's 2006 miniseries “The Path to 9/11." The privately financed documentary argues that the Clintons, who decried the original miniseries as a right-wing hatchet job, are out to salvage their political influence and legacy at the expense of free expression.


Harvey Keitel, Mike Realba and Patricia Heaton star in ABC's 2006 miniseries “The Path to 9/11."

The documentary, which will be shown to a sold-out audience at the Skirball Center, was produced by former KFI-AM talk show host John Ziegler and Citizens United, a Washington, D.C.-based conservative political group that emphasizes the importance of strong families, limited government and free enterprise.

Even before its network broadcast, "The Path to 9/11" sparked fierce opposition from Democratic leaders, who called on Disney, which owns ABC, to cancel the program. While those attempts eventually failed, ABC conceded to last-minute edits to the $40-million, five-hour miniseries, which aired over two nights.

The miniseries, written by Cyrus Nowrasteh, offered a fictionalized account of the government's bureaucratic missteps that led to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. The series, which earned seven Emmy nominations and drew a combined audience of about 25 million viewers, was seen as being especially critical of the Clinton administration for bungling efforts to capture or kill Osama bin Laden.

Jay Carson, a spokesman for the former president, said their camp pressed the network to edit the series but only to ensure historical accuracy. Even with the edits, the miniseries is still deeply flawed, he added.

"We felt it was too serious an issue to be put on television portrayed as fact what was in fact fiction," said Carson who was Bill Clinton's communications director at the time the miniseries aired. "We made clear that it would have been grossly irresponsible to air this movie in its original and ideologically driven form."

"Blocking the Path to 9/11" cost nearly $500,000 and is the seventh production of Citizens United, a 20-year-old nonprofit organization that has been making political films for the last four years to "offset the liberal bent of Hollywood," said David Bossie, the group's president.

Four other works are slated to premiere soon, including "Hype," an anti-Barack Obama film that will be shown in theaters near both the Democratic and Republican conventions.

Nowrasteh said he just wants "The Path to 9/11" to be shown -- on DVD or on air, but added, "I haven't gotten any indication this is ever going to be seen again."

In recent years, most popular television shows are typically released on DVD within months of their broadcast, but these decisions by networks are usually governed by the potential for profit.

Officials at ABC declined to comment about a DVD release of the original miniseries.

"They used to say money and profits dictated everything in Hollywood," said Nowrasteh, who has been working steadily on projects including an "on-again, off-again" pilot for Disney. " 'The Path to 9/11' had a huge viewership, yet it didn't mean a thing."

Nowrasteh has, however, dropped his membership in PEN, a worldwide organization of writers dedicated to fighting censorship. "You'd like to see an organization dedicated to the freedom of creative expression, right here in town, come forth," he said. "My film gets buried; they do nothing."

But PEN officials who discussed the issue internally don't see this as a censorship issue.

"From our standpoint, it had many hours of broadcast time, so it was exposed. It's not like it was stifled and no one heard it," said Adam Somers, executive director of PEN Center USA in Culver City. "In our opinion, it was a business decision by Disney. You have to assume if Disney thought they'd make money, they'd release it."

STORY: Is Clinton's candidacy blocking 'Path to 9/11'?

Vive la Reagan Revolution

By Andrew P. McIndoe

President Ronald Reagan signs the largest tax cut bill in U.S. history at his ranch near Santa Barbara, Calif. AP, 1981

Dressed in jeans, a denim jacket, and cowboy boots, President Ronald Reagan emerged from his humble, hacienda-style adobe ranch house located high in the mountains of Santa Barbara, Calif. With his dog “Millie” by his side, the president walked to the leather covered patio table, sat down in a chair and faced open pasture. Though this describes many of the 350 days the President spent at “Rancho del Cielo” during his 8 years in office, August 13, 1981 was different.

A large contingent of the press was gathered in front of the ranch house, barricaded by a single piece of rope, awaiting the president’s appearance. Misty fog crawled up the mountain from the Pacific Ocean, and, as Reagan walked towards the patio table and press corps, he joked that the foggy day was symbolic of the country’s soggy economic state. Positioned on the table in front of him were two stacks of paper that made War and Peace look like a children’s bedtime story.

On that foggy August morning at Rancho del Cielo, President Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 (ERTA), the largest tax-cut in United States history. David Broder of The Washington Post called the event, “one of the most remarkable demonstrations of presidential leadership in modern history.” Twenty-seven years later, there remains much to learn from Reagan’s economic policy.

His approach was different from his predecessors. During a time of high unemployment and inflation, not to mention relatively high gas prices (sounds familiar, right?), Reagan advocated radical economic reforms. Reducing the marginal tax rates on income, market deregulation, and sound monetary policies to reduce inflation were Reagan’s main goals. He rightly believed that slashing the marginal tax rates would create an incentive for people to work, ultimately stimulating the economy.

Over a three-year period, the ERTA reduced taxes across the board by 26 percent. Proving the success of free enterprise, the flow of resources into the market increased, which encouraged economic growth. Reagan’s policies resulted in the largest peacetime economic boom and second-largest period of sustained growth in U.S. history. Creating 35 million more jobs, this boom lasted 92 months without a recession. Ultimately, according to the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, the American economy grew by one-third in real inflation-adjusted terms -- the equivalent of adding the entire economies of East and West Germany to the U.S. economy.

There was a reason President Reagan signed this landmark legislation at his beloved “Ranch in the Sky” and not in Washington, DC. For him, the ranch represented freedom, opportunity, and the ideals of America’s founding. It was here he went to escape the nonsense of Washington politicians and bureaucrats. Reagan believed that letting the American people keep more of their own money went beyond being a Republican or Democrat issue; it was simply the right thing to do.

Visiting the ranch as a student with Young America’s Foundation, I am powerfully reminded of this historic day twenty-seven years ago this week. Gazing out at the ranch pasture, I cannot help but imagine a gaggle of reporters and photographers anxiously awaiting this historic signing, and the millions of Americans who would subsequently benefit. President Reagan’s economic policy was built upon hope, optimism, and trust in the American people. Reagan understood the essential connection between economic and individual freedom, and that a free America is a strong America. It is a lesson I hope and pray is not lost on the 21st century leaders currently seeking the same high office.

Andrew P. McIndoe is a 2008 Young Americans Foundation Sarah T. Hermann Intern Scholar at the Reagan Ranch Center and a junior at Grove City College in Pennsylvania

Roars About Russia, Bare Whispers About Islam

By Diana West
August 15, 2008

Muslim soldier holding the Koran (Source:

Amazing how quickly the punditocracy switches maps, time zones and histories, simultaneously mastering new combinations of consonants and vowels, to report and react to a "surprise" conflict in Georgia. It's almost hard to recall that, just a few days ago, the most urgent questions confounding most of the media had to do with just how narcissistic John Edwards really is, or what the ramifications of Barack Obama's plans to announce his vice presidential pick via text message might finally be.

Since the sight of tanks rolling usually has a way of concentrating the media mind, the question has become: Whither Russia?

In truth, the demise of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn earlier this month was a journalistic godsend. After all, who hadn't already dusted off their long-retired Soviet history books -- not to mention their long-retired Soviet history experts, all of whom have had the busiest couple of weeks in years -- by the time Vladimir Putin announced last week that "war has started" over South Ossetia and Abkhazia?

Historical memory somewhat refreshed, Western media were ready with the headlines -- "The evil empire is back"; "Welcome to the 19th century"; "The Russian bear's new teeth" -- to promote the main thrust of most stories: namely, that Russia is reverting to tsarist, expansionist, Soviet-style, empire-amassing type.

It's not that there's anything controversial in this journalistic approach, although I do tend to think there remain aspects of the Georgian story we haven't reconciled. What's noteworthy about this narrative consensus, however, is that the invocation of Russia's historical and cultural record is being made so frankly and without hedging. That is, no one's blaming "Russian extremists," "tsarismists," or "hijackers of a great history." On the contrary, the implication behind most Russia-versus-Georgia stories is that the Russians' world-stage behavior as they smash Georgia is something that this same historical and cultural record tells us that Russians do.

Certain political leaders in the West are saying much the same thing. British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the invasion was "a reversion to not just Cold War politics, it is a 19 century way of doing politics." At home, John McCain explained the Russian strike against Georgia as a part of the same historical continuum: "I think it's very clear that Russian ambitions are to restore the old Russian empire. Not the Soviet Union, but the Russian empire."

And why is this important? When I started seeing these stories and statements -- even making some of them myself -- I realized there was something free-wheeling about the style of expression that made it different from what has been the norm. I first wondered if there was a somewhat perverse trace of nostalgia in dealing again with the Russians. And then it hit me. In the nearly seven years since Islam has wholly dominated current events, neither our media nor our leaders have ever, not even once, looked at similarly characteristic behavior from the Islamic world and labeled it accordingly.

In other words, no pattern of avowedly Islam-inspired violence in the world has ever earned a headline nearly as straightforward as "Islamic jihad is back." Not even the Islamic success of Motoon Rage, which has severely repressed Western modes of expression regarding Muhammad in particular and Islam in general, inspired anything as descriptive as, for example, "Sharia's new teeth."

Ask yourself: Would any British foreign secretary of the postmodern age look at, say, last year's trial of a British teacher in Sudan for "blasphemy" in naming a teddy bear "Muhammad," and conclude: "It's a reversion to not just post-colonial politics. It is a seventh century way of doing politics"? Hah.

And what American presidential candidate would ever explain the Islamic push, financial and otherwise, in the West for mosque construction, Islamic schools (madrassas), campus Islamic studies (apologetics) departments, Sharia law-inspired legal challenges, lobbying for Sharia-compliant banking and the like as a matter of Islamic imperialism?

I quoted McCain above discussing, matter-of-fact, what he considers to be catchall "Russian" ambitions to restore the "old Russian empire." Would he, or any other American politician, ever say the same regarding catchall "Islamic" ambitions? While both Russia and Islam claim similarly long histories and cultures of conquest for reference, it's mighty tough to imagine any U.S. politician ever saying the following: "I think it's very clear that Islamic ambitions are to restore the old caliphate." (And that's despite a growing body of statements, even polling data, reflecting the persistence of Islamic caliphate dreams.)

I'm afraid all the radical, fasco-Russian tsarismists will have to abandon their quest for world domination before we hear anything like that.

Nightmare on Dem Street

The Clintons are back.

By Jonah Goldberg
National Review Online
August 15, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

For months now people have been saying to me, “Do you really think they’re gone?” “Is it finally over?” “Is the coast clear?”

The questions have been in response to Barack Obama’s supposedly yeoman service in putting an end to the Clintons in public life.

My response to those who believe our long national nightmare is over has always been: “Have you seen no monster movies?”

Freddy Krueger always comes back. Jason re-emerges from the pond one more time. Dracula had so many comebacks; nobody was surprised to see him hanging with Abbott and Costello.

Of course the Clintons will be back.

If the monster-movie thing is too offensive for you Clinton voluptuaries out there, think of it like this: They’re like Richard Gere in “An Officer and a Gentleman” (who, coincidentally, is hounded by a charismatic black dude but never gives up). They’ve got no place else to go.

And I was right. The Clintons are back. The coffin lid has sprung open, the seal of the crypt has been broken, the mutant virus has escaped the lab. Both Clintons will speak at the Democratic convention, and Hillary will get her I-told-you-so’s.

In the horror flicks, it’s not that the creatures are impervious to damage, it’s that no matter how much you hack them up, they seem to come back again. And again. And again. The Clintons have been horribly damaged, but they press on.

Bill Clinton is no supernatural serial killer — faint praise to most, too generous to a few. But he does have this juggernaut-like way of getting where he wants to be. One of his special powers is superhuman passive-aggressiveness. When recently asked if Obama was qualified to be president, Clinton responded, “You can argue that nobody is ready to be president.” Pressed again about Obama’s qualifications to be president, Clinton explained, “I never said he wasn’t qualified. The Constitution sets qualification for the president. And then the people decide who they think would be the better president.”

Bill could have really added some oomph to that endorsement if he’d only been willing to concede that Obama is a carbon-based life form meeting the minimal requirements defined by scientists for sentient life.

But that’s a lot to expect from the surrogate-in-chief for the Hillary Clinton campaign. At least that’s the impression one gets from the beautiful corpse, or rather beautiful autopsy of the corpse, on display over at The Atlantic. Like Richard Dreyfuss in “Jaws” (“This was no boating accident!”), reporter Joshua Green picks through the internal e-mail viscera of the Clinton campaign and finds that the destructive nature of the Clintons is not always aimed at their enemies.

Indeed, shocking as this may be to people naive enough to believe that a woman with no executive experience, no security clearance, no significant successes under her belt, who was catapulted to presidential prominence solely because her husband treated her like a cautionary tale in a country-music song, was nonetheless a co-president for eight years: It turns out that the Bride of Clintonstein was an awful chief executive. Infected by her husband’s passive-aggressiveness, she stood paralyzed as the HMS Hillary took on more and more water, until even the string quartet on the deck was leaping for the flotation devices.

As Green pulls memo after memo from the great white’s carcass like so many Florida license plates, we discover that the Clintons knew long, long ago that they couldn’t beat Barack Obama to the nomination. But winning was secondary, carnage was king. You might even say of her decision to stay in the race: This was no polling accident.

The Clintons adopted a deliberate strategy of diminishing Obama’s victories, and Mark Penn, Clinton’s trusted campaign manager, pushed for a strategy of ridiculing their black, funny-named opponent as insufficiently American. Such memos, if found in the underbelly of a Republican campaign, would be immortalized by the liberal establishment as permanent proof of conservative racism. When plucked from the bowels of a Democratic campaign, the response is some mild tsk-tsking.

But fixating on the plot is never a good idea with monster flicks. The point is that the story is always the same. And so it is this time as well. Bill and Hillary are back. And forever more, Barack Obama won’t be able to take a shower without fear of that curtain snapping back, as a woman — or is that a man? — prepares to plunge the knife into his back.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning and editor-at-large of National Review Online.

Blowback From Bear-Baiting

By Patrick J. Buchanan
Patrick J. Buchanan Archive
August 14, 2008

A Russian tank rolls in front of a Russian state emblem in the South Ossetian capital of Tshinvali August 14, 2008.
REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov (GEORGIA)

Mikheil Saakashvili's decision to use the opening of the Olympic Games to cover Georgia's invasion of its breakaway province of South Ossetia must rank in stupidity with Gamal Abdel-Nasser's decision to close the Straits of Tiran to Israeli ships.

Nasser's blunder cost him the Sinai in the Six-Day War. Saakashvili's blunder probably means permanent loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
After shelling and attacking what he claims is his own country, killing scores of his own Ossetian citizens and sending tens of thousands fleeing into Russia, Saakashvili's army was whipped back into Georgia in 48 hours.
Vladimir Putin took the opportunity to kick the Georgian army out of Abkhazia, as well, to bomb Tbilisi and to seize Gori, birthplace of Stalin.
Reveling in his status as an intimate of George Bush, Dick Cheney and John McCain, and America's lone democratic ally in the Caucasus, Saakashvili thought he could get away with a lightning coup and present the world with a fait accompli.

Mikheil did not reckon on the rage or resolve of the Bear.

American charges of Russian aggression ring hollow. Georgia started this fight—Russia finished it. People who start wars don't get to decide how and when they end.

Russia's response was "disproportionate" and "brutal," wailed Bush.
True. But did we not authorize Israel to bomb Lebanon for 35 days in response to a border skirmish where several Israel soldiers were killed and two captured? Was that not many times more "disproportionate"?

Russia has invaded a sovereign country, railed Bush. But did not the United States bomb Serbia for 78 days and invade to force it to surrender a province, Kosovo, to which Serbia had a far greater historic claim than Georgia had to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, both of which prefer Moscow to Tbilisi?

Is not Western hypocrisy astonishing?

When the Soviet Union broke into 15 nations, we celebrated. When Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo broke from Serbia, we rejoiced. Why, then, the indignation when two provinces, whose peoples are ethnically separate from Georgians and who fought for their independence, should succeed in breaking away?

Are secessions and the dissolution of nations laudable only when they advance the agenda of the neocons, many of who viscerally detest Russia?

That Putin took the occasion of Saakashvili's provocative and stupid stunt to administer an extra dose of punishment is undeniable. But is not Russian anger understandable? For years the West has rubbed Russia's nose in her Cold War defeat and treated her like Weimar Germany.

When Moscow pulled the Red Army out of Europe, closed its bases in Cuba, dissolved the evil empire, let the Soviet Union break up into 15 states, and sought friendship and alliance with the United States, what did we do?

American carpetbaggers colluded with Muscovite Scalawags to loot the Russian nation. Breaking a pledge to Mikhail Gorbachev, we moved our military alliance into Eastern Europe, then onto Russia's doorstep. Six Warsaw Pact nations and three former republics of the Soviet Union are now NATO members.

Bush, Cheney and McCain have pushed to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO. This would require the United States to go to war with Russia over Stalin's birthplace and who has sovereignty over the Crimean Peninsula and Sebastopol, traditional home of Russia's Black Sea fleet.

When did these become U.S. vital interests, justifying war with Russia?

The United States unilaterally abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty because our technology was superior, then planned to site anti-missile defenses in Poland and the Czech Republic to defend against Iranian missiles, though Iran has no ICBMs and no atomic bombs. A Russian counter-offer to have us together put an anti-missile system in Azerbaijan was rejected out of hand.

We built a Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey to cut Russia out. Then we helped dump over regimes friendly to Moscow with democratic "revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia, and tried to repeat it in Belarus.

Americans have many fine qualities. A capacity to see ourselves as others see us is not high among them.

Imagine a world that never knew Ronald Reagan, where Europe had opted out of the Cold War after Moscow installed those SS-20 missiles east of the Elbe. And Europe had abandoned NATO, told us to go home and become subservient to Moscow.

How would we have reacted if Moscow had brought Western Europe into the Warsaw Pact, established bases in Mexico and Panama, put missile defense radars and rockets in Cuba, and joined with China to build pipelines to transfer Mexican and Venezuelan oil to Pacific ports for shipment to Asia? And cut us out? If there were Russian and Chinese advisers training Latin American armies, the way we are in the former Soviet republics, how would we react? Would we look with bemusement on such Russian behavior?

For a decade, some of us have warned about the folly of getting into Russia's space and getting into Russia's face. The chickens of democratic imperialism have now come home to roost—in Tbilisi.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Why Do We Tolerate Mexican Troop Incursions?

By Rep. Duncan Hunter

The men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol guarding the Southern land border come into constant contact with drug and human smugglers, criminals and migrants. Every so often, they even encounter Mexican military personnel making unauthorized incursions across the border into the United States.

The most recent Mexican military incursion occurred last week on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation in Arizona. According to reports, the Mexican soldiers crossed the border in a military vehicle and held a Border Patrol agent at gunpoint before escaping back to Mexico.

While the agent who was temporarily detained by the Mexican soldiers was not injured, there is no question that this incident could have ended differently -- especially when the soldiers and agent were armed, and backup was on its way to assist the officer. Nonetheless, this incident raises serious questions about the presence and activities of the Mexican military on the border.

A State Department spokesman, responding to the incursion in Arizona, said the incident stemmed from a “momentary misunderstanding.” This statement is difficult to accept when there have been more than 40 incursions on the U.S-Mexico border since October of last year and over 200 similar encounters since 1996. Clearly, Mexican military incursions are far from a rare occurrence.

The Departments of State and Homeland Security, which have downplayed these encounters in the past, have an obligation to forcefully address this incident and the likelihood of future incursions. We must convey to Mexico that we will not tolerate their soldiers crossing into the U.S. without our knowledge or consent. More importantly, we must continue building fencing and other infrastructure in problematic areas of the border, including those prone to incursions.

In fact, the incursion in Arizona would not have occurred if the Department of Homeland Security adhered to the original border fence mandate included in the Secure Fence Act. The law -- until it was amended -- required that double-layered fencing extending 392 miles East of Calexico, California, to Douglas, Arizona, be completed by May 30, 2008. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security supported a revision in the law to allow for the construction of only 370 miles of fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border – not the 700 miles that was originally required.

If the Mexican military personnel are having difficulty identifying the exact location of the border, then security fencing will certainly make it clear to them. Fencing not only deters dangerous border traffic, but it also serves to delineate the border. The presence of fencing and related infrastructure would effectively limit future incursions and reduce the risk these encounters pose to the safety of Border Patrol agents on duty.

Building this infrastructure is an important step toward creating a secure and enforceable border. Indeed, the Department of Homeland Security’s current plan for 370 miles of fencing is a step in that direction. The agency should be commended as it works to reach its goal. However, there continues to be a significant need for reinforced fencing in other border areas. Given the proven success of border fencing in areas like San Diego and Yuma, The Department of Homeland Security should immediately expand fence construction to include the full 700 miles permissible under federal law.

The incursion in Arizona is just one more reason, amongst many others, to implement additional fencing and infrastructure on the border. With the right effort, we can build on the progress we have made so far and construct 700 miles of new fencing by the end of this year.

Mr. Hunter represents the 52nd District of California. He is a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. His website is:

Today's Tune: Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

'Meet Glen Campbell' a reintroduction to talent

Knoxville News Sentinel
Sunday, August 10, 2008

"Meet Glen Campbell," Glen Campbell (Capitol)

Considering his formidable talents, it's unfortunate that Glen Campbell became better known more for his fiery relationship with Tanya Tucker and substance-abuse problems than for being a musician. It's also a shame that Campbell himself seemed to forget where his talents lay for many years.

At his best, Campbell can be one of America's most distinctive song interpreters. In the 1960s and '70s, Campbell released definitive versions of songs by John Hartford ("Gentle On My Mind"), Allen Toussaint ("Southern Nights") and, most notably, Jimmy Webb ("Galveston," "Witicha Lineman," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and several others). However, as the 1970s wore on, Campbell became more of a celebrity than a musician. Instead of championing great songwriters, his music seemed churned out by a particularly uninspired committee.

At first glance, Campbell's new album, "Meet Glen Campbell," simply seems like a coldly calculated effort to sell Campbell to a young audience.
After Rick Rubin restored Johnny Cash to his deserved stature and Jack White introduced Loretta Lynn to a fresh audience, aging stars have clamored for the same. Even Porter Wagoner, who had been dismissed as a lowly purveyor of Opry kitsch, enjoyed a deserved re-evaluation shortly before his death.

While "Meet Glen Campbell" doesn't benefit from a celebrity producer, it succeeds by following the formula established by Rubin and White: Return the artist to what made him great in the first place.

On this new album, Campbell looks to some particularly unexpected sources for song material - Foo Fighters, the Velvet Underground, Travis, Tom Petty, U2, Green Day and the Replacements. But, hey, it was a devastating cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt" that sold Cash to a new generation.

None of Campbell's interpretations carries the heft of that number, but Campbell does make them sound like naturals for him. Campbell's style is marked by crisp enunciation and solid guitar work (he was once a member of the Los Angeles A-list session musicians the Wrecking Crew).

Producers Julian Raymond and Howard Willing surround Campbell with arrangements that would not have seemed out of place in Campell's classic work from the 1960s. A banjo, a steel guitar, bells and strings grace Travis' "Sing" (the disc's opener). Throughout the disc, though, the sound is subtle and tasteful. And Campbell gets some help from members of Cheap Trick, Jellyfish and his own sons and daughters.

Some songs might be expected. Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" is on the way to becoming a standard. Petty's style is really not that far from Campbell's. But Campbell particularly shines on the Replacements' "Sadly, Beautiful" and the cover of the Velvet Underground's little-known "Jesus." While Lou Reed's song was a sweet oddity on the Velvet's third album (released the same year that Campbell had a No. 1 with "Galveston"), Campbell turns the song into a plea from a believer who has, as the song says, "fallen out of grace."

"Meet Glen Campbell" might not restore Campbell's standing in the charts or in sales, but it restores the credibility he deserves.

Wayne Bledsoe may be reached at 865-342-6444 or He is also the alternating host of "All Over the Road" midnight Saturdays to 4 a.m. Sundays on WDVX-FM.

Glen Campbell has rock, religion on his mind

By Dean Goodman
Mon Aug 11, 6:02 PM ET

Recording artist Glen Campbell is photographed at his home in Malibu, California August 4, 2008. Country star Campbell will perform a rare club gig in Los Angeles on Aug. 19, the day his new CD of rock 'n' roll covers hits stores, his label said on August 6, 2008. Picture taken August 4, 2008.

MALIBU, California (Reuters) - Glen Campbell's new home in Malibu probably resembles the residences of many other successful musicians in the wealthy beach resort.

Grammys in a cabinet? Check.

Movie theater? Check.

Jewish artifacts? Check.

Back up. The Baptist-raised country star, who says he once confused "menorah" with "manure," displays a Jewish candelabrum on the mantel, and a Hebrew book sits on the coffee table.

Adding to the cross-cultural confusion, the Rhinestone Cowboy soon breaks into a plaintive cry, "Jeee-esus ... Help me find my special place." His German Shepherd joins in on the last bit.

It's not a hymn or a prayer. It's a line from an old song by the 1960s rock band the Velvet Underground. "Jesus" appears on the semi-retired singer's first album in 15 years for Capitol Records, the wryly titled "Meet Glen Campbell" (August 19), in which the 72-year-old singer covers tunes by the likes of U2, Green Day, John Lennon and the Foo Fighters.

Amid the jarring juxtapositions, Campbell reveals that he and his wife, Kim, attend the local synagogue every Saturday and celebrate Jewish holidays such as Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah, as well as Christmas. Kim cooks a mean brisket but is still working on her matzo balls. And grape juice subs for Manischewitz in the alcohol-free household.


For two decades, the Campbells have been adherents of Messianic Judaism, a religious movement whose members regard themselves as committed Jews but are rejected by mainstream Jewish denominations as following an essentially evangelical Christian theology.

"It's Jews who believe that Christ is the risen savior," Campbell said. "I think it will all come around to that."

It's a long way from the Church of Christ, the little Baptist church where his family worshipped in rural Arkansas.

Musical instruments were banned and the singing was awful, so young Glen and his pals would sneak over to the black church "and they'd let us look in through the window. They were incredible. I really miss that."

At his new house of worship, they sing all sorts of songs, even ones in Hebrew, which like the matzo balls pose a new kind of challenge for the Campbells.

Rocking out to Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life"), the Foo Fighters' "Times Likes These" and U2's "All I Want Is You" is much easier.

"This was a piece of cake," he said of the new album, which was recorded in just three weeks.

The heavy lifting was done by the album's producer, Julian Raymond, who came up with the concept at Capitol's behest, pitched it to Campbell and his manager, and chose the songs.

Campbell would come in after his golf game, smoke a cigar, record a song and go home, Raymond recalled.

"And that's the way it should be for a guy like that," Raymond said. "He doesn't need to do this, but I think his family was a big part of this. They really wanted him to make one more record that was part of his legacy."

Campbell's favorite is Lennon's posthumous release "Grow Old With Me," and he serenades his wife with its romantic sentiments.

"And late at night, I'll be singing Jerry (Lee) Lewis' 'C'mon baby, a whole lotta shakin' going on!"' he joked with a boyish twinkle in his eyes.

At first glance, the project smacks a little of Johnny Cash's resurrection in the 1990s. Producer Rick Rubin introduced the faded country icon to a hip, young audience with a series of dark albums featuring stripped-down versions of songs by rock bands like Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden.

Raymond, who has produced Cash's eldest daughter, Rosanne, says those acclaimed albums were at odds both with Cash's inherently upbeat personality and with the work that Cash did in the '1950s and '60s.

"With Glen, we didn't reinvent the wheel," Raymond said. "We paid homage to that style that he did in the '60s, and just brought it back in a more modern way with contemporary players."

At any rate, most of Campbell's signature hits, such as "Gentle on My Mind," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and "Rhinestone Cowboy," had been recorded by other artists before Campbell made them his own. So the new album isn't that much of a leap, Raymond said.

One song that did not make it past the demo stage was R.E.M.'s appropriately titled "Losing My Religion," because they could not reconstruct it to give it a '60s vibe, Raymond said.

Neither had any intention of pandering to the Abercrombie & Fitch crowd, and Campbell is not looking to make a comeback anyway. He is doing a handful of interviews, and maybe a few special shows. But God forbid anything gets in the way of his daily 8 a.m. tee-off at the Malibu Country Club.

As for making a new album? "Quite frankly, I don't even want to bug him to do anything else," Raymond said.

(Editing by Steve Gorman)

How to Stop Putin

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
August 14, 2008

WASHINGTON -- The Russia-Georgia cease-fire brokered by France's president is less than meets the eye. Its terms keep moving as the Russian army keeps moving. Russia has since occupied Gori (appropriately, Stalin's birthplace), effectively cutting Georgia in two. The road to the capital, Tbilisi, is open, but apparently Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has temporarily chosen to seek his objectives through military pressure and Western acquiescence rather than by naked occupation.

His objectives are clear. They go beyond detaching South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia and absorbing them into Russia. They go beyond destroying the Georgian army, leaving the country at Russia's mercy.

The real objective is the Finlandization of Georgia through the removal of President Mikheil Saakashvili and his replacement by a Russian puppet.

Which explains Putin stopping the Russian army (for now) short of Tbilisi. What everyone overlooks in the cease-fire terms is that all future steps -- troop withdrawals, territorial arrangements, peacekeeping forces -- will have to be negotiated between Russia and Georgia. But Russia says it will not talk to Saakashvili. Thus regime change becomes the first requirement for any movement on any front. This will be Putin's refrain in the coming days. He is counting on Europe to pressure Saakashvili to resign and/or flee to "give peace a chance."

The Finlandization of Georgia would give Russia control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which is the only significant European-bound route for Caspian Sea oil and gas that does not go through Russia. Pipelines are the economic lifelines of such former Soviet republics as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan that live off energy exports. Moscow would become master of the Caspian basin.

Subduing Georgia has an additional effect. It warns Russia's former Baltic and East European satellites what happens if you get too close to the West. It is the first step to re-establishing Russian hegemony in the region.

What is to be done? Let's be real. There's nothing to be done militarily. What we can do is alter Putin's cost-benefit calculations.

We are not without resources. There are a range of measures to be deployed if Russia does not live up to its cease-fire commitments:

1. Suspend the NATO-Russia Council established in 2002 to help bring Russia closer to the West. Make clear that dissolution will follow suspension. The council gives Russia a seat at the NATO table. Message: Invading neighboring democracies forfeits the seat.

2. Bar Russian entry to the World Trade Organization.

3. Dissolve the G-8. Putin's dictatorial presence long made it a farce but no one wanted to upset the bear by expelling it. No need to. The seven democracies simply withdraw. Then immediately announce the reconstitution of the original G-7.

4. Announce a U.S.-European boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Sochi. To do otherwise would be obscene. Sochi is 15 miles from Abkhazia, the other Georgian province just invaded by Russia. The Games will become a riveting contest between the Russian, Belarusian and Jamaican bobsled teams.

All of these steps (except dissolution of the G-8, which should be irreversible) would be subject to reconsideration depending upon Russian action -- most importantly and minimally, its withdrawal of troops from Georgia proper to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The most crucial and unconditional measure, however, is this: Reaffirm support for the Saakashvili government and declare that its removal by the Russians would lead to recognition of a government-in-exile. This would instantly be understood as providing us the legal basis for supplying and supporting a Georgian resistance to any Russian-installed regime.

President Bush could cash in on his close personal relationship with Putin by sending him a copy of the highly entertaining (and highly fictionalized) film "Charlie Wilson's War" to remind Vlad of our capacity to make Russia bleed. Putin would need no reminders of the Georgians' capacity and long history of doing likewise to invaders.

President Bush needs to make up for his mini-Katrina moment when he lingered in Beijing yukking it up with our beach volleyball team while Putin flew to North Ossetia to direct the invasion of a neighboring country. Bush is dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France and Georgia. Not a moment too soon. Her task must be to present these sanctions, get European agreement on as many as possible and begin imposing them, calibrated to Russian behavior. And most important of all, to prevent any Euro-wobbliness on the survival of Georgia's democratically elected government.

We have cards. We should play them. Much is at stake.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Energy's Viagra

Pelosi and the Big-Wind Boone-doggle.

By Michelle Malkin
National Review Online
August 13, 2008 12:00 AM

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi recently called congressional Republicans who want up-or-down drilling votes “hand maidens of the oil companies.” Let’s call Pelosi what she is: House girl of the Big Wind boondogglers.

Though she seemingly backtracked on labeling drilling a “hoax” this week, Pelosi refuses to consider GOP energy proposals that don’t include massive government subsidies for so-called eco-alternatives that have never panned out.

Which brings us to Madame Speaker’s 2007 financial disclosure form. Schedule III lists “Assets and ‘Unearned Income’” of between $100,001-$250,000 from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. — Public Common Stock. Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (CLNE) is a natural gas provider founded by T. Boone Pickens. Yep, that T. Boone Pickens — former oilman turned wind-power evangelist whose ads touting a national wind campaign are now as ubiquitous as Viagra promos.

Pickens and Pelosi share the same talking points downplaying the need to drill and open up more access to American oil. Instead, the Pickens pie-in-the-sky plan proposes to replace natural gas with wind power in power generation and theoretically free up natural gas for America’s transportation needs.

All well and good in la-la land, but let’s be real about the limitations and costs of wind power. Past and ongoing experience demonstrates the unreliability of wind and the miserably low operating capacity of wind power facilities here and around the world. Depending on wind requires supplemental fossil fuel plants as backup to be turned on and off to compensate for wind power supply shortfalls — nullifying any reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, which are miniscule, according to the National Academy of Sciences.

Not to mention the thousands of sliced-up birds and other wildlife that have become wind power casualties — a problem scientists say would be solved by “repowering” old turbines at a cost of untold billions.

Fittingly, the environmental mascot of the Democratic National Convention — the showcase of their alternative energy approach — is an eastern Colorado wind turbine propped up with Democratic carbon-credit funds that has never produced any substantial energy because of its chronic equipment malfunctions.

But I digress.

Naturally, the Pickens Big Wind plan is proudly endorsed by Do-Nothing Pelosi’s friends at the obstructionist Sierra Club. Through another company, Mesa Power, Pickens has committed upward of $12 billion in wind farms on the Texas panhandle. CLNE and Mesa Power are separate entities, but what benefits one piece of the Pickens puzzle benefits them all. The wind venture, as Pickens himself acknowledges, depends on permanent federal subsidies. Pickens is banking on ‘em. And Pelosi is banking on him.

As reported on, Speaker Pelosi bought between $50,000 and $100,000 worth of stock in Pickens’ CLNE Corp. in May 2007 on the day of the initial public offering: “She, and other investors, stand to gain a substantial return on their investment if gasoline prices stay high, and municipal, state and even the Federal governments start using natural gas as their primary fuel source. If gasoline prices fall? Alternative fuels and the cost to convert fleets over to them become less and less attractive.”

CLNE also happens to be the sponsor of Proposition 10, a ballot initiative in Pelosi’s home state of California to dole out a combined $10 billion in state and federal funds for renewable energy incentives — namely, natural gas and wind.

Follow the money. Or, to put it in economist’s terms as energy analyst Kenneth Medlock III did in an interview with the Dallas Morning News about the Pickens multibillion dollar wind farm investment: “A lot of what he’s trying to do is add value to a stranded asset … he’s obviously got millions of dollars on the line.”

And so, potentially, does the Democratic Speaker of the House — all the while wagging her finger at the financial motivation of others.


Life with Obama

Abortion champion.

By David Freddoso
National Review Online
August 13, 2008, 6:00 a.m.

The tiny newborn baby made very little noise as he struggled to breathe. He lacked the strength to cry. He had been born four months premature.

“At that age,” says nurse Jill Stanek, “their lungs haven’t matured.”

Stanek is the nurse who found herself cradling this baby in her hands for all of his 45-minute lifetime. He was close to ten inches long and weighed perhaps half a pound. It’s just a guess — no one had weighed or measured him at birth. No happy family had been there to welcome him into the world. No one was trying to save his life now, putting him into an incubator, giving him oxygen or nourishment. He had just been left to die.

Stanek had seen it all happen. That family had wanted a baby, but when they learned that theirs would be born with Down syndrome, they wanted an abortion. For that, they went to Christ Hospital in the southwestern suburbs of Chicago, which is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.

In “induced labor” or “prostaglandin” abortion — a common procedure at the hospital. The doctor administers drugs that dilate the mother’s cervix and induce contractions, forcing a small baby out of the mother’s uterus. Most of the time, the baby dies in utero, killed by the force of the violent contractions. But it does not always work. Such abortions sometimes result in a premature baby being born alive. Sometimes the survivors live for just a few minutes, but sometimes for several hours. No one tried to save or treat them — it is hard to save someone you just mauled while tried to kill. But something had to be done with them for the minutes and hours during which they struggled for air.

Stanek says her friend had been told to take this baby and leave him in a soiled utility closet. She offered to take him instead. “I couldn’t let him die alone,” she says. Stanek was horrified by this experience. This was not an abortion — it was something worse. Could it be legal to take a living and breathing person of any size, already born and outside his mother’s womb, and just leave him to die, without any thought of treatment?

Hospital officials dismissed Stanek’s concerns. She then approached the Republican attorney general of Illinois, Jim Ryan, who issued a finding several months later that Christ Hospital was doing nothing illegal under the laws of Illinois. Doctors had no ethical or legal obligation to treat these premature babies. They had passed the bright line of birth that had effectively limited the right to life since the Roe v. Wade decision, but under the law they were non-persons.

Stanek’s effort to right this wrong would lead her to testify before various committees. It would lead her to a state senator, Patrick O’Malley, who would propose a bill to stop what was going on at the hospital.

Her attempt to change a corrupt medical practice and bring hope to defenseless infants would put her on a collision course with a state senator named Barack Obama.

On March 30, 2001, Obama was the only senator to speak in opposition to a bill that would have banned the practice of leaving premature abortion survivors to die. The bill, SB 1095, was carefully limited, its language unambiguous. It applied only to premature babies, already born alive. It stated simply that under Illinois law, “the words ‘person,’ ‘human being,’ ‘child,’ and ‘individual’ include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.”

Two related bills introduced that day included slightly more controversial provisions about liability and medical procedure, but SB 1095 did not go nearly that far. This bill did not apply to those not born, nor did it grant born persons anything beyond recognition of their rights as persons.

Under this bill, SB 1095, babies born alive during an abortion would have to be treated just like every other baby that is born alive and prematurely — not left to die as at Christ Hospital, but given treatment according to an acting physician’s medical judgment as to what is necessary and what is possible — the same standard that applies to any other human being.

There was no legal conflict between this bill and the right to legal abortion, but Barack Obama was still uneasy with the idea. He and 11 other senators would vote “present” in a strategy worked out with Planned Parenthood lobbyists (“present” votes in the Illinois senate essentially count as “no” votes). The bill would pass the Senate easily with a bipartisan majority, only to die in a House committee.

Here is what Obama said on the Senate floor that day in opposition to the bill:

There was some suggestion that we might be able to craft something that might meet constitutional muster with respect to caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion. Unfortunately, this bill goes a little bit further, and so … this is probably not going to survive constitutional scrutiny. Number one, whenever we define a pre-viable fetus as a person that is protected by the equal protection clause or other elements in the Constitution, what we’re really saying is, in fact, that they are persons that are entitled to the kinds of protections that would be provided to a—a child, a nine-month-old—child that was delivered to term. That determination, then, essentially, if it was accepted by a court, would forbid abortions to take place. I mean, it—it would essentially bar abortions, because the equal protection clause does not allow somebody to kill a child, and if this is a child, then this would be an antiabortion statute.

The absurd conclusion of Obama’s argument is hard to miss. He implies that “pre-viable” babies born prematurely, even without abortions, are somehow less “persons” than are babies who undergo nine months’ gestation before birth.

But even this is not the most important part of his argument. That would be his first sentence — the one about “caring for fetuses or children who were delivered in this fashion.” He seems open to this idea. And he does not state explicitly that a pre-viable, premature baby is not a “person.” Rather, he is arguing that the question of their personhood is a moot point. Even if the state should perhaps provide care for these babies, any recognition of their personhood might threaten someone’s right to an abortion somewhere down the road. That made the bill unacceptable to him.

Most people, whatever their view on abortion, agree that the Constitution at least guarantees the rights of born and living human beings. Barack Obama does not agree. For him, the Constitution exists primarily in order to guarantee the right to abortion, and other rights of human persons — born and alive — are secondary. Beginning with abortion rights as his premise, he draws as his conclusion the unfortunate but necessary legality of infanticide.

Given Obama’s position on babies born alive, it should come as no surprise that he opposes and denounces all restrictions on every kind of abortion, including partial-birth abortions. He promised at a Planned Parenthood event in July 2007 that “the first thing” he will do as president — his top priority for the nation — is sign the Freedom of Choice Act, which would erase every federal and state restriction on abortion, no matter how modest. His top priority, again, is to re-legalize partial birth abortion under all circumstances, abolish all laws on informed consent and parental notification, and eliminate all state restrictions on taxpayer funding of abortions.

No humanitarian impulse or consideration of bipartisanship has ever swayed Barack Obama’s legislative mind on the issue of abortion. Pro-life voters who try to convince themselves otherwise engage in willful self-deception.

Obama would speak against the born-alive protection bill once again when it was proposed in 2002, and he would kill the bill when it came before the committee he chaired in 2003, after Democrats had taken control of the Illinois General Assembly. His is a radical position that most abortion-choice advocates do not share.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) does not share his position. In 2001, just three months after Obama inveighed against protecting premature babies in Illinois, the United States Senate voted on the language of the Born Alive Infants Protection Act. It contained no significant legal differences from the Illinois bill, but it did contain even more specific and redundant language stating that the bill did not apply to the unborn, only those already born.

But in case there is any ambiguity, the federal bill was identical, word for word, to the bill that Obama voted to kill two years later in the Illinois senate health committee, which he chaired. Obama’s work to kill the bill in 2003 has always been attested to by witnesses (committee records are poorly kept in Springfield), but yesterday the National Right to Life Committee found and revealed the document showing definitively that Obama had voted against it in committee — against the exact same bill he is now falsely claiming on his own campaign website that he would have supported.

On June 29, 2001, Boxer had spoken in favor of that same bill, federal Born-Alive Infants Protection Act, on the floor of the U.S. Senate: “Of course, we believe everyone born should deserve the protections of this bill,” she said. “Who could be more vulnerable than a newborn baby? So, of course, we agree with that.…We join with an ‘aye’ vote on this. I hope it will, in fact, be unanimous.” It was unanimous: 98–0. Even Hillary Clinton voted for it.

At the time Boxer spoke enthusiastically in favor of protecting premature babies, she had a 100-percent lifetime voting score from NARAL and a 100 percent score from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. She was also a leader on the abortion issue. She was the greatest ally that abortion-choice advocates had in the United States Senate.

At least she was until 2005, the year Barack Obama was sworn in.

— David Freddoso is a National Review Online staff reporter and author of The Case Against Barack Obama.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"The Jewel of Medina" and the Cowardly Surrender of Random House

A publisher hands another piece of our freedom to radical Muslims.

Pajamas Media
August 12, 2008

Something terrible is happening today. Sherry Jones’ first novel The Jewel of Medina is not being published. I haven’t read the book — a fictional recreation of the life of one of Mohammed’s wives — but I know for a fact that the history of literature and thought will be poorer for its absence.

Random House, having scheduled the book for an August 12 publication, canceled it after an American academic roused Muslims to protest. The publishers say they received “cautionary advice not only that the publication of this book might be offensive to some in the Muslim community, but also that it could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment.”

It goes without saying that Random House has behaved shamefully — as shamefully as the New York Times and much of the rest of the mainstream media acted when they refused to publish the Danish cartoons mocking Mohammed or when they attacked Pope Benedict for his civilized criticism of Islam instead of the Islamic mobs who murdered and rioted in response.
These almost casual capitulations are deeply disturbing. Decades of political correctness (the doctrine that there is virtue in speaking falsely) and multiculturalism (the doctrine that one set of values is as good as another) have weakened the confidence of the intellectual classes in the cultural inheritance of the West. They no longer even seem to understand what they’re supposed to be standing up for.

But equally disturbing to me is the defense of the novel mounted by the author and by Asra Q. Nomani in the Wall Street Journal. Now first, let me say that Ms. Nomani is a courageous journalist who has crusaded for the rights of women within Islam. I speak of her with respect, but I respectfully disagree with her point of view. Ms. Nomani writes that Random House’s cave-in “upsets me as a Muslim — and as a writer who believes that fiction can bring Islamic history to life in a uniquely captivating and humanizing way.” The understandably devastated Ms. Jones told Reuters, “I have deliberately and consciously written respectfully about Islam and Mohammed. … I envisioned that my book would be a bridge-builder.” Ms. Nomani further assures us that Islam permits historical fiction and that, according to the Koran, Mohammed is only mortal.

Well, that’s nice, but it’s all beside the point. It doesn’t matter a damn what the Koran says or whether the novel is offensive to Muslims or not. The very need for such apologias and the very fear felt by Random House condemn the violent principles of the gangsters they’re appeasing. No one defended Dan Brown’s massive bestseller The Da Vinci Code by saying, “Oh, Dan was trying to build bridges to the Christian community.” The Da Vinci Code spends its nearly five hundred pages trashing the central beliefs of the Christian community. But for all the hysteria in intellectual circles over fundamentalist Christians, no one had to cower before them or make mealy-mouthed excuses.

That’s exactly as it should be. Listen, Christianity is central to my life, but if you want to write a novel attacking it or dump a crucifix in urine and call it art, my feeling is: knock yourself out, you brave thing, you. I’ll argue with you here, and again at the gates of heaven, in perfect faith that the truth will win out in a free market of ideas.

Because I am not a citizen of the world. I’m a citizen of the United States of America. And one of the big advantages to that citizenship is the Constitution and its protections of free speech and freedom of the press. That Constitution and those protections did not waft down to earth on a shaft of light as a result of God’s special love for us. Men, in perilous mental fight, wrested them out of specific intellectual traditions, classical and Judeo-Christian both. Many have defended those rights on the battlefield and many have died in their name. Many are defending and dying for them this very day.

Publishers — whether of books, newspapers, blogs, or anything else — are among the chief protectors and exercisers of our free discourse. When they bow to bullying gangsters — whether those gangsters have some sort of religious motivation or not — they are ceding intellectual ground made sacred by the blood of patriots.

Random House and the New York Times and all the rest have every right to be afraid. I’m afraid too. How can we not be? We’re artists and intellectuals under threat from violent thugs. But in this ongoing jihad against our rights to publish and speak, it is the life of the mind that is the battleground. Unlikely soldiers though we are, we have to make a stand.

Andrew Klavan’s new novel is Empire of Lies.


By Ralph Peters
New York Post
August 12, 2008

IT'S impossible to overstate the importance of what's un folding as we watch. Russia's invasion of Georgia - a calculated, unprovoked aggression - is a crisis that may have more important strategic implications than Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

We're seeing the emergence of a rogue military power with a nuclear arsenal.

The response of our own government has been pathetic - and our media's uncritical acceptance of Moscow's version of events is infuriating.

This is the "new" Russia announcing - in blood - that it won't tolerate freedom and self-determination along its borders. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is putting it bluntly: Today, Georgia, tomorrow Ukraine (and the Baltic states had better pay attention).

Georgia's affiliation with the European Union, its status as a would-be NATO member, its working democracy - none of it deterred Putin.

Nor does Putin's ambition stop with the former Soviet territories. His air force has been trying (unsuccessfully) to hit the new gas pipeline running from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. The Kremlin is telling Europe: We not only have the power to turn off Siberian gas, we can turn off every tap in the region, any time we choose.

Let's be clear: For all that US commentators and diplomats are still chattering about Russia's "response" to Georgia's actions, the Kremlin spent months planning and preparing this operation. Any soldier above the grade of private can tell you that there's absolutely no way Moscow could've launched this huge ground, air and sea offensive in an instantaneous "response" to alleged Georgian actions.

As I pointed out Saturday, even to get one armored brigade over the Caucasus Mountains required extensive preparations. Since then, Russia has sent in the equivalent of almost two divisions - not only in South Ossetia, the scene of the original fighting, but also in separatist Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast.

The Russians also managed to arrange the instant appearance of a squadron of warships to blockade Georgia. And they launched hundreds of air strikes against preplanned targets.

Every one of these things required careful preparations. In the words of one US officer, "Just to line up the airlift sorties would've taken weeks."

Working through their mercenaries in South Ossetia, Russia staged brutal provocations against Georgia from late July onward. Last Thursday, Georgia's president finally had to act to defend his own people.

But when the mouse stirred, the cat pounced.

The Russians know that we know this was a setup. But Moscow's Big Lie propagandists still blame Georgia - even as Russian aircraft bomb Georgian homes and Russian troops seize the vital city of Gori in the country's heart. And Russian troops also grabbed the Georgian city of Zugdidi to the west - invading from Abkhazia on a second axis.

Make no mistake: Moscow intends to dismember Georgia.

This is the most cynical military operation by a "European" power since Moscow invaded Afghanistan in 1979. (Sad to say, President Bush seems as bewildered now as President Jimmy Carter did then.)

This attack's worse, though. Georgia is an independent, functioning democracy tied to the European Union and striving to join NATO. It also has backed our Iraq efforts with 2,000 troops. (We're airlifting them back home.)

This invasion recalls Hitler's march into Czechoslovakia - to protect ethnic Germans, he claimed, just as Putin claims to be protecting Russian citizens - complete BS.

It also resembles Hitler's invasion of Poland - with the difference that, in September '39, European democracies drew the line. (To France's credit, its leaders abandoned their August vacations to call Putin out - only Sen. Barack Obama remains on the beach.)

Yet our media give Putin the benefit of the doubt. Not one major news outlet even bothers to take issue with Putin's wild claim that the Georgians were engaged in genocide.

I lack sufficiently powerful words to express my outrage over Russia's bloody cynicism in attacking a small, free people, or to castigate our media for their inane coverage - or to condemn our own government's shameful flight from responsibility.

Just as Moscow has reverted to its old habit of sending in tanks to snuff out freedom, Washington has defaulted to form by abandoning Georgia to the invasion - after encouraging Georgia to stand up to the Kremlin.

Reminds me of 1956, when we encouraged the Hungarians to defy Moscow - then abandoned them. And of 1991, when we prodded Iraq's Shia to rise up against Saddam - then abandoned them. We've called Georgia a "friend and ally." Well, honorable men and states stand by their friends and allies. We haven't.

Oh, we sure are giving those Russians a tongue-lashing. I'll bet Putin's just shaking as he faces the awesome verbal rage of Condi Rice. President Bush? He went to a basketball game.

The only decent thing we've done was to reveal, at the UN, that the Russians tried to cut a deal with us to remove Georgia's president.

Shame on us.


RUSSIA's military is succeeding in its invasion of Georgia, but only because Moscow has applied overwhelming force.

This campaign was supposed to be the big debut for the Kremlin's revitalized armed forces (funded by the country's new petro-wealth). Well, the new Russian military looks a lot like the old Russian military: slovenly and not ready for prime time.

It can hammer tiny Georgia into submission - but this campaign unintentionally reveals plenty of enduring Russian weaknesses.

The most visible failings are those of the air force. Flying Moscow's latest ground-attack jets armed with the country's newest precision weapons, pilots are missing far more targets than they're hitting.

All those strikes on civilian apartment buildings and other non-military targets? Some may be intentional (the Russians aren't above terror-bombing), but most are just the result of ill-trained pilots flying scared.

They're missing pipelines, rail lines and oil-storage facilities - just dumping their bombs as quickly as they can and heading home.

Russia's also losing aircraft. The Kremlin admits two were shot down; the Georgians claimed they'd downed a dozen by Sunday. Split the difference, and you have seven or more Russian aircraft knocked out of the sky by a tiny enemy. Compare that to US Air Force losses - statistically zero - in combat in all of our wars since Desert Storm.

As one US officer observed to me, the Russian pilots are neither professionally nor emotionally toughened for their missions. Their equipment's pretty good (not as good as ours), but their training lags - and their pilots log far fewer flight hours than ours do.

Russia has been planning and organizing this invasion for months. And they're pulling it off - but the military's embarrassing blunders must be infuriating Prime Minister Putin.

Today's Tune: T. Rex - 20th Century Boy

(Click on title to play video)

Baltimore's Best Answers the Call

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Tuesday, August 12, 2008; E01

Michael Phelps of the U.S.swims in his men's 200 meters butterfly heat at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 11, 2008.
(David Gray/Reuters)

BEIJING- At this Olympics, China has everything. America has Michael Phelps. So far it looks like a fair fight.

Phelps knows the nature of the battle. The 23-year-old isn't just trying to surpass Mark Spitz's record of seven gold medals. During 17 days when China seeks every chance to upstage the United States, Phelps is carrying America's banner.

As he stood behind Lane 6 before the 200-meter freestyle on Tuesday, preparing for the only individual race he entered but didn't win in Athens, Phelps kept his robe around him, like a heavyweight boxer awaiting the instant of his introduction to drop his robe and reveal the body that is about to inflict defeat.

No sooner were the words, "world record holder" out of the announcer's month than Phelps, bouncing on his toes, dropped the veil. The race might as well have been over. Phelps won by nearly two seconds and set a world record of 1 minute 42.96 seconds.

In just the fourth day of this Olympics, Phelps is not merely America's best athlete, but the entire squad's leader. At the moment he hit the wall, he had three gold medals while the rest of the 596-person U.S. delegation had only one.

Within minutes two more Americans, Natalie Coughlin and Aaron Peirsol, collected backstroke golds. Word spreads fast at an Olympics. Soon, the U.S. men's gymnasts were hunting an unexpected prestigious medal, and eventually took bronze.

Michael Phelps of the U.S. prepares to swim in the men's 200 meters butterfly semi-final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 12, 2008.
(David Gray/Reuters)

America needs all the adrenaline it can muster from watching Phelps. Every moment here seems consumed by some visible testimonial to China -- its athletes, people or architecture, as well as the government orchestrating it all.

China's soaring futuristic buildings are everywhere. When your taxi driver gets lost, you hope he never finds the proper turn because every new vista looks more fresh and exciting than the last. True, Beijing has farmed out its design work to the most famous architects all over the world. We can mock their makeover as checkbook modernity. But they get to live in it.

At the Games themselves, the Chinese can swell their chests as they prance to the podium. They don't just want to claim the 21st century, they'd like to do it soon. They're gifted grim grinders. Identify a flaw and they'll erase it.

At government suggestion they've even stopped spitting in public. The litter that once defined Beijing has been replaced by a scary immaculateness. In 12 days I haven't spotted a speck of rubbish. Not a stray cigarette butt or soda bottle in a city of 15 million. When China makes up its mind, everybody marches. Now, the goal is hoarding commodities -- gold, silver and bronze.

In the face of this, restrain your alarm. In one corner, we've got 1.3 billion Chinese, many of them still standing ramrod straight at 3 a.m. guarding street lamps. In the other, we have one big, laid-back lunk of a swimmer from Bal'mer. And his quest for eight golds in an Olympics that began at 8:08 on 8/8/08 is now looking just fine, thanks.

Suddenly, his toughest individual event is behind him -- the 400-meter individual medley that he won on Sunday in world record time. Also, his most likely upset, in the 400-meter freestyle relay that the U.S. lost in the last Olympics, was surmounted on Monday. That gold was salvaged for him by .08 of a second by Jason Lezak who swam an anchor leg that Confucius couldn't match.

(L-R) Michael Phelps, Garrett Weber-Gale, Cullen Jones and Jason Lezak of the U.S. celebrate with their gold medals after winning the men's 4x100m freestyle relay swimming final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 11, 2008.
(David Gray/Reuters)

Phelps's dominance Tuesday fed off the karmic energy provided by Lezak. "I don't think I've ever celebrated that much after a race in my life," said Phelps on Monday night. "Five of the teams broke the world record. . . . We broke the world record by four seconds and won by eight one-hundredths of a second.

"Four guys [had to] swim the perfect race. We swam that perfect race," Phelps added. "They were showing the replay and I just started cracking up [at] mine and Garrett [Weber-Gale's] reaction. I let out a pretty fierce yell. . . . [Jason] swam an amazing race."

With the sense he's peaking at the proper time and has dodged a silver bullet in the relay, Phelps is just stroking and smoking. Like speedskater Eric Heiden when he won five individual golds (an Olympic record Phelps can match) at Lake Placid, he's going from strength to strength.

In 1980, you could hear Heiden's skates make an entirely different sound from others -- screeching as they crushed the ice in the turns. Here, the indelibly individual image may the sight of Phelps in the butterfly (his best event) that is indelibly different. In a 200-meter fly prelim Monday, Phelps entire upper body seemed to be out of the water, almost exposing his gills. Dolphins resent him.

When the final image, the world-wide snap shot of this Olympics is delivered, will it be of the 91,000-seat Bird's Nest with the 400-yard-long HDTV screen ringing the entire roof of the stadium? Will it be the $40 billion, a price tag no democracy could justify, that China paid for a can-we-rejoin-the-world-now infomercial?

Or will it be a picture of the rumple-haired not-quite-indecently exposed Phelps as he makes the most stunning Olympic venue -- the Water Cube -- his personal athletic property. Okay, China gets to keep it. But he owns it.

Michael Phelps of the U.S. celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men's 200m freestyle final at the National Aquatics Center during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games August 12, 2008.
REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay (CHINA)
Photo Tools

At the center of the storm, Phelps seems to be the calm eye. "I'm just here enjoying myself," he said. "I never experienced a campus dorm room [so] I enjoy the [Olympic] Village. . . . I stay in my room and watch movies or we sit around playing Spades all day."

Away from the Water Cube, China's grand Olympic plan -- Project 119 -- is showing its results. It's not a complex concept: 1.3 billion people realize the Olympics are full of arcane sports. So, let's storm 'em.

That "119" is the medal count in five sports in which China's done poorly, including kayak and canoe (12 gold medals), rowing (14) and sailing (10). Every day, China goes prospecting for that cheap gold. Meanwhile, soccer, basketball, tennis, hockey and baseball offer just nine golds.

Every hour, China seems to crow. The U.S. team, with track in drug-cheating disrepute and the Redeem Team still suspect, needs a hero to ignite 595 others. Luckily, there is one. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday: gold. With five more days of swimming, it's now plausible, not merely possible, that there will be five more to come.

China has thrown down the gauntlet to the world. Day after day, Michael Phelps waits till his name is called, then throws down his robe and answers.