Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Hostess With the Moosest

[Mark Steyn]
August 30, 2008

Republican vice presidential candidate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, addresses the crowd at a campaign stop in Washington, Pa. Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008.
(AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Over in the Frumistan province of the NR caliphate, our pal David is not happy about the Palin pick. I am - for several reasons.

First, Governor Palin is not merely, as Jay describes her, "all-American", but hyper-American. What other country in the developed world produces beauty queens who hunt caribou and serve up a terrific moose stew? As an immigrant, I'm not saying I came to the United States purely to meet chicks like that, but it was certainly high on my list of priorities. And for the gun-totin' Miss Wasilla then to go on to become Governor while having five kids makes it an even more uniquely American story. Next to her resume, a guy who's done nothing but serve in the phony-baloney job of "community organizer" and write multiple autobiographies looks like just another creepily self-absorbed lifelong member of the full-time political class that infests every advanced democracy.

Second, it can't be in Senator Obama's interest for the punditocracy to spends its time arguing about whether the Republicans' vice-presidential pick is "even more" inexperienced than the Democrats' presidential one.

Third, real people don't define "experience" as appearing on unwatched Sunday-morning talk shows every week for 35 years and having been around long enough to have got both the War on Terror and the Cold War wrong. (On the first point, at the Gun Owners of New Hampshire dinner in the 2000 campaign, I remember Orrin Hatch telling me sadly that he was stunned to discover how few Granite State voters knew who he was.) Sarah Palin and Barack Obama are more or less the same age, but Governor Palin has run a state and a town and a commercial fishing operation, whereas (to reprise a famous line on the Rev Jackson) Senator Obama ain't run nothin' but his mouth. She's done the stuff he's merely a poseur about. Post-partisan? She took on her own party's corrupt political culture directly while Obama was sucking up to Wright and Ayers and being just another get-along Chicago machine pol (see his campaign's thuggish attempt to throttle Stanley Kurtz and Milt Rosenberg on WGN the other night).

Fourth, Governor Palin has what the British Labour Party politician Denis Healy likes to call a "hinterland" - a life beyond politics. Whenever Senator Obama attempts anything non-political (such as bowling), he comes over like a visiting dignitary to a foreign country getting shanghaied into some impenetrable local folk ritual. Sarah Palin isn't just on the right side of the issues intellectually. She won't need the usual stage-managed "hunting" trip to reassure gun owners: she's lived the Second Amendment all her life. Likewise, on abortion, we're often told it's easy to be against it in principle but what if you were a woman facing a difficult birth or a handicapped child? Been there, done that.

Fifth, she complicates all the laziest Democrat pieties. Energy? Unlike Biden and Obama, she's been to ANWR and, like most Alaskans, supports drilling there.

Sixth (see Kathleen's link to Craig Ferguson below), I kinda like the whole naughty librarian vibe.
08/30 03:53 AM

So It Begins [Kathleen Parker]
Naughty Alaskan librarian. (Craig Ferguson video link)
08/29 12:20 PM

Let Palin Be Palin

Why the left is scared to death of McCain's running mate.

by William Kristol
The Weekly Standard
09/08/2008, Volume 013, Issue 48

A spectre is haunting the liberal elites of New York and Washington--the spectre of a young, attractive, unapologetic conservatism, rising out of the American countryside, free of the taint (fair or unfair) of the Bush administration and the recent Republican Congress, able to invigorate a McCain administration and to govern beyond it.

That spectre has a name--Sarah Palin, the 44-year-old governor of Alaska chosen by John McCain on Friday to be his running mate. There she is: a working woman who's a proud wife and mother; a traditionalist in important matters who's broken through all kinds of barriers; a reformer who's a Republican; a challenger of a corrupt good-old-boy establishment who's a conservative; a successful woman whose life is unapologetically grounded in religious belief; a lady who's a leader.

So what we will see in the next days and weeks--what we have already seen in the hours after her nomination--is an effort by all the powers of the old liberalism, both in the Democratic party and the mainstream media, to exorcise this spectre. They will ridicule her and patronize her. They will distort her words and caricature her biography. They will appeal, sometimes explicitly, to anti-small town and anti-religious prejudice. All of this will be in the cause of trying to prevent the American people from arriving at their own judgment of Sarah Palin.

That's why Palin's spectacular performance in her introduction in Dayton was so important. Her remarks were cogent and compelling. Her presentation of herself was shrewd and savvy. I heard from many who watched Palin--many of them not predisposed to support her--about how moved they were by her remarks, her composure, and her story. She will have a chance to shine again Wednesday night at the Republican convention.

But before and after that, she'll be swimming in political waters infested with sharks. Her nickname when she was the starting point guard on an Alaska high school championship basketball team was "Sarah Barracuda." I suspect she'll take care of herself better than many expect.

But the McCain campaign can help. The choice of Palin was McCain's own. Many of his staff expected, and favored, other more conventional candidates. The campaign may be tempted to overreact when one rash sentence or foolish comment by Palin from 10 or 15 years ago is dragged up by Democratic opposition research and magnified by a credulous and complicit media.

The McCain campaign will have to keep its cool. It will have to provide facts and context, and to hit back where appropriate. But it cannot become obsessed with playing defense. It should allow Palin to deal with the charges directly and resist the temptation to try to shield her from the media. Palin is potentially a huge asset to McCain. He took the gamble--wisely, we think--of putting her on the ticket. McCain's choice of Palin was McCain being McCain. Now his campaign will have to let Palin be Palin.

There will be rocky moments. But they will fade if the McCain campaign lets Palin's journey take its natural course over the next two months. Millions of Americans--mostly but not only women, mostly but not only Republicans and conservatives--seemed to get a sense of energy and enjoyment and pride, not just from her nomination, but especially from her smashing opening performance. Palin will be a compelling and mold-breaking example for lots of Americans who are told every day that to be even a bit conservative or Christian or old-fashioned is bad form. In this respect, Palin can become an inspirational figure and powerful symbol. The left senses this, which is why they want to discredit her quickly.

A key moment for Palin will be the vice presidential debate, to be held at Washington University in St. Louis on October 2. One liberal commentator--a former U.S. ambassador and not normally an unabashed vulgarian--licked his chops Friday afternoon: "To steal an old adage of former Secretary of State James Baker .  .  . putting Sarah Palin into a debate with Joe Biden is going to be like throwing Howdy Doody into a knife fight!"

Charming. And if Palin holds her own against Biden, as she is fully capable of doing? McCain will then have succeeded in combining with his own huge advantage in experience and judgment, a politician of great promise in his vice presidential slot who will make Joe Biden look like a tiresome relic. McCain's willingness to take a chance on Palin could turn what looked, after Obama's impressive speech Thursday night in Denver, like a long two months for Republicans and conservatives, into a campaign of excitement and--dare we say it?--hope, which will culminate on November 4 in victory.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Today's Tune: U2 - Love is Blindness (Live 1992)

(Click title to play video)

Jay the Rat

Chicago Sun-Times
August 28, 2008

Jay Mariotti

An open letter to sports columnist Jay Mariotti, who resigned from the Sun-Times and lashed out during a TV interview announcing that newspapers were dead:

Dear Jay,

What an ugly way to leave the Sun-Times. It does not speak well for you. Your timing was exquisite. You signed a new contract, waited until days after the newspaper had paid for your trip to Beijing at great cost, and then resigned with only an email. You saved your explanation for a local television station.

As someone who was working here for 24 years before you arrived, I think you owed us more than that. You owed us decency. The fact that you saved your attack for TV only completes our portrait of you as a rat.

Newspapers are not dead, Jay, although you predicted the death of the Sun-Times and the Tribune. Neither paper will die any time soon. Job-hunting tip: It is imprudent to go on TV and predict the collapse of a newspaper you might hope would hire you. Times are hard in the newspaper business, and for the economy as a whole. Did you only sign on for the luxury cruise? There's an old saying that you might have come across once or twice on the sports beat: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going."

Newspapers are not dead, Jay, because there are still readers who want the whole story, not a sound bite. If you only work on television, viewers may get a little weary of you shouting at them. You were a great shouter in print, that's for sure, stomping your feet when owners, coaches, players and fans didn't agree with you. It was an entertaining show. Good luck getting one of your 1,000-word rants on the air.

The rest of us are still at work, still putting out the best paper we can. We believe in our profession, and in the future. And we believe in our Internet site, which you also whacked as you slithered out the door. I don't know how your column was doing, but we have the most popular sports section in Chicago. The reports and blog entries by our Washington editor Lynn Sweet have become a must-stop for millions of Americans in this election year.

After a recent blog entry I wrote about the Beijing Olympics, I woke up at 5 a.m. one morning, when North America was asleep, and found that 40 percent of my 100 most recent visitors had been from China. I don't have any complaints about our Web site. So far this month my Web page page has been visited from virtually every country on earth, including one visit from the Vatican City. The Pope, no doubt. Hope you were doing as well.

You have left us, Jay, at a time when the newspaper is once again in the hands of people who love newspapers and love producing them. You managed to stay here through the dark days of the thieves Conrad Black and David Radler. The paper lost millions. Incredibly, we are still paying Black's legal fees.

I started here when Marshall Field and Jim Hoge were running the paper. I stayed through the Rupert Murdoch regime. I was asked, "How can you work for a Murdoch paper?" My reply was: "It's not his paper. It's my paper. He only owns it." That's the way I've always felt about the Sun-Times, and I still do. On your way out, don't let the door bang you on the ass.

Your former colleague,

Roger Ebert

The Sarah Sensation

By Martin Sieff

Sen. John McCain has gone crazy as a fox in picking Sarah Palin, bold as a lioness, for his vice presidential running mate.

The move was brave and brilliant, and it puts McCain right back in contention just when Barack Obama thought he was poised to open up a wide and perhaps insurmountable lead. Instead he and his team will be reeling from the straight right McCain has just landed on his forehead.

Palin is an even newer figure on the national U.S. political scene than Obama. She was the first female governor of Alaska and the youngest in the state’s history. She will now be only the second woman to run on the national ticket of one of the two main parties in U.S. history, almost a quarter century after Rep. Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY) crashed and burned as former Vice President Walter Mondale’s running mate in 1984.

Palin is a very strong conservative who is adamantly anti-choice. But she still has the potential to attract a significant number of female voters away from the Democrats and to embarrass Obama. Many of the supporters of Sen. Hillary Clinton.(D-NY) remain riled at Obama not just for beating her out for the presidential nomination, but for denying her the vice presidential slot, too. You don’t have to be a conservative to know that. When Maureen Dowd in the New York Times admitted this week that most of the Hillary Dems she met in Denver were still seething with rage, you don’t have to be Ronald Reagan to work out that putting an attractive, young, hard-driving lady with outstanding executive experience on the GOP ticket will pull a lot of their votes away from the Dems.

Over the past two years, Palin has been a success story even while she has imposed financial probity and the highest ethical standards on what is no longer Ted Stevens’ Winter Wonderland.

Despite axing pork barrel jokes like Stevens’ legendary Bridge to Nowhere -- or, rather, of course, because of such actions -- Palin's approval ratings still soar in the 80-percentile group.

By contrast, neither of the Democratic duo has ever run even a fast food outlet -- a much more demanding job than anything on either of their resumes -- let alone a State of the Union in their lives. The idea that either of them could actually do so successfully is risible.

Obama doesn’t even dare to pledge to balance the budget while promising ever more social spending out of every orifice of his body. Palin actually has met real budget demands up there in the Far North.

Palin, in fact, gives McCain a potentially crucial boost on a wide range of fronts: She is a devout Christian who took the decision not to have an abortion when she discovered an unborn son would suffer from Down‘s Syndrome. She is a strong fiscal conservative who has not hesitated to make powerful enemies in her home state by shutting down pork barrel projects. And she is fearlessly and passionately honest. She took on the Alaska Republican establishment and threw a bunch of them in jail to be successfully convicted.

With Sarah Palin on the national ticket, McCain's pledge to transform Washington surpasses that of Obama in the credibility department. And it takes on real teeth. Sarah Palin will really matter. Every vice president in the past 32 years with the unfortunate exception of the decent and shamelessly treated Dan Quayle has packed real power. And Palin is likely to prove that in spades.

McCain’s gutsy move in picking Palin contrasts dramatically with Obama’s decision to play safe and select six-term Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del) as his running mate. Biden’s “real world” boast of taking the train home from Washington, DC every night is an anemic joke when set against Palin's favorite hobbies of hunting moose, racing snowmobiles and hiking through the Alaskan wilderness.

An avid hunter and fisher, Palin -- to use the terms the Democrats would -- is far more of an outdoorsperson than famed goose hunter John Kerry.

Most of all, Palin is poised to rip Obama and Biden apart on the energy issue that has proved central in this election. She is passionate and blistering in her arguments that drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- ANWR -- is no threat to the wildlife there, especially as the area for drilling under question is only the size of LAX -- Los Angeles International Airport.

Some Conventional Wisdom pundits opined that McCain would not dare pick Palin because she would be no match for the supposedly “experienced” Biden in the vice presidential debate. Though a risk, that “match” is most likely to go Palins’ way.

Gaffe-O-Matic Biden is no doubt skillful in Senate debates, and has a good sense of humor. But Palin is tough and poised. All it will take is for Biden the Gasbag to appear, and the debate will go hands down for Palin.

After Paris Hilton produced her great You-Tube political message, I noted that it was bad news for Obama, because when Paris H could express a far more coherent and intelligent energy policy than the Democratic presidential candidate, he had problems. Then Obama went off and picked an old white-haired geezer as his own potential successor. Now McCain has closed the circle by picking a more stunning lady than Paris, with brains and character to boot, as his running mate.

Just when the Democrats were ponderously gearing up all their heavy artillery to assail McCain for supposedly being so sexist, look what the old Top Gun's gone and done. Obama’s misogynist record towards Hillary, not to mention Democratic Govs. Kathleen Sibelius of Kansas and Janet Napolitano of Arizona, provides an unflattering contrast between him and McCain.

The young Palin -- who once was runner up for Miss Alaska -- will make a stunning contrast to Biden in the vice presidential debate and neutralize Obama’s argument for youth and vigor compared to McCain. She’ll tie “Don’t Say It So” Joe up in knots.

The Palin pick also hammers home in the public perception, the old image of John McCain as a fearless fighter pilot Top Gun, leading from the front while Obama, after trailblazing as the first African-American to win the presidential nomination of a major party, chose a 36-year Senate veteran and high-profile member of the Democrats’ gerontocracy as his running mate.

Finally, McCain's choice of Palin looks to be an especially shrewd decision because she will serve as his attack dog against Obama. And as Obama showed repeatedly against Clinton, he is astonishingly thin-skinned and ill-natured in reacting to criticism, especially when it comes from a lady. Expect Palin to focus her fire on Obama and watch closely how he will react to it.

Obviously, McCain's choice of Palin does not decide this presidential election any more than Obama’s good but far from soaring speech to close the Democratic National Convention in Denver Thursday night did. But this choice is by far and away the best one John McCain could have made, and it proved perfectly timed to blunt the otherwise insurmountable lead Obama was poised to gain for the nomination. It was a perfect preemptive political strike.

This presidential contest is far from a done deal: But John McCain's courage and decisiveness in picking Sarah Palin as his running mate displays his no-holds-barred resolve to go-for-broke. Now, at last, the real race is on. And conservatives appear to have a champion of their own in it.

- Martin Sieff is defense industry editor for United Press International. He has been nominated three times for the Pultizer Prize for international reporting. His latest book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East, was published in January by Regnery.

Lofgren riffs on Harley gig

Springsteen guitarist admits he was born to rock, not ride

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Posted: Aug. 28, 2008

Nils Lofgren (left) joined the Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band when Steve Van Zandt (right) took a leave of absence. Van Zandt is back and Lofgren is still with the band, too. They'll play here Saturday.

Saturday night at Veterans Park may be a little different from the last time the E Street Band’s Nils Lofgren played a biker show.

"I have not played a Harley event," the Springsteen guitarist recalled, "but I had a power trio back in the '90s, and we did go play something called the Bulldog Bash in the countryside in England, which was like a three-day biker festival for thousands and thousands of the hard-core biker gangs all the way to yuppie London bikers and everything in between. . . .

"It was pretty bizarre. They said, 'You've got to wait for your opening act,' and I said, 'Who's our opening act?' I thought it might be some band that I'd like to listen to. They said, 'Oh, the bikers hired a bunch of strippers to open for you.' In true biker fashion, not only were they the opening act, but they went on after us. At that point, the bikers had a bit of booze in them, and I'm sure they thought, 'Yeah, that power trio stuff was all right, but what happened to the strippers?'

"So, yeah, it's not my first biker event."

Biker Bruce

Unlike booking a certain English piano player who will remain nameless, there is a clear logic to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band playing the 105th Harley-Davidson Anniversary Celebration. Not only has Springsteen written as many road songs as anyone in the business, but he's a two-wheel Milwaukee iron man himself.

"Bruce is a big Harley rider," Lofgren said. "He has a collection of beautiful motorcycles, and he goes out and he's ridden all over the country."
Lawrence Kirsch, author of "For You," a new coffee-table book of fan photographs and memories, says Harley has found a man who walks the walk and rides the ride.

"It's just a great fit," Kirsch said. "I have shots of Bruce riding to clubs in New Jersey on his Harley-Davidson. He rides a Harley. That's a fact. They couldn't have done better. I don't believe there will be a single person leaving that show unsatisfied." ("For You" is available at

Summerfest Entertainment Director Bob Babisch, who helped book some of the other Harley entertainment shows, shares Kirsch's optimism.
"His music is about the open road and freedom," Babisch said. "It's just a perfect fit for Harley-Davidson. It fits that demographic, and I think it'll be a great show. I just wish I could be there, but I can't."

Lofgren admires Harleys himself, and is coming to town a day early so he and his wife can make the rounds. Don't expect to see him on a bike, however.

"I personally got on a couple when I was younger and put them right down into the pavement, so I decided I'm a little too spaced out and there's too many notes running around in my brain for me to safely drive a Harley," he said.

Springsteen could do an entire set of road songs. Lofgren doesn't anticipate that, but he predicted Springsteen will come up with a set list tailored to the occasion.

Harley 105th
Theresa Schiffer

Big crowds, big energy

The crowd for Saturday's Harley show could max out at 70,000 people, which would put it in contention for the largest rock concert in Milwaukee history. It would be nothing new for Springsteen and the E Street Band; they recently played for a couple of 70,000-plus crowds in Barcelona, Spain.

Lofgren finds such huge shows both exhausting and energizing.

"Mainly, the stages are so much bigger, more for Bruce," Lofgren said. "He runs out to the wings. He puts up podiums out there and goes down and literally just throws himself into the audience. . . . No one does it better than Bruce. When I see him hoofing it out there to each side, I'm glad it's him and not me.

"The band's in fabulous shape. Offstage, we're like a M.A.S.H. unit now, with the heating pads and pain shots and ice packs. It's hilarious how beat up we are, but once we hit the stage, we're roaring."

These have been trying times - both emotionally and physically for the E Street Band. In April, keyboardist and accordionist Danny Federici, who had played with Springsteen since his first high school band, died after a three-year struggle with cancer.

"It's been a brutal loss, a brutal chapter," Lofgren acknowledged. "We loved Danny. I spent 25 years up on his drum riser playing with him. I couldn't think of a better way to navigate a really depressing loss other than to have music to play."

Charlie Giordano, who played with Pat Benatar in the '80s, has been filling in for Federici.

Lofgren first joined the E Street Band as a replacement for Steve Van Zandt when Little Stevie took a temporary leave of absence back in 1984.

Aside from the stretch during the '90s when the group disbanded, Lofgren has been with Springsteen's band ever since.

A native of Chicago, Lofgren has the distinction of playing for two of rock's most storied supporting casts: E Street and Neil Young's Crazy Horse.

Young start

Lofgren was just 17 when he joined Young as a guitarist and pianist just in time to play on one of rock's landmark albums, "After the Gold Rush." Lofgren toured with Young and backed him again on "Tonight's the Night" before going solo with his own band, Grin.

Lofgren recalls his apprenticeship with Young on his new solo album "The Loner: Nils Sings Neil." The project was suggested by Lofgren's longtime manager, but the guitarist was skeptical at first.

For a couple of weeks, he just practiced singing the songs in the morning for his dogs and cats. That seemed to go fairly well, so he decided to proceed with the album, but only in a very stripped-down format, just Nils singing and playing the Martin D18 acoustic guitar that Young had given as a present after the "Gold Rush" sessions.

An expert musician himself, Lofgren nonetheless has an appreciation for those who are less accomplished. Recently on his Web site (, he started offering a series of guitar lessons geared to beginners. Lofgren is hoping to make music fun for new players with busy lives and little free time to practice.

"For 40 years, people have been coming up and telling me they want to play rock guitar for fun but they have no talent and they have no rhythm so they're not allowed to," he said. "I say, 'Look. I don't know who told you that, but it's not true. If you love music, and you want to play for fun you just need a good teacher and a little time.'

"They're hour downloads, and you can buy them every three weeks or whenever you need them. Every lesson, I'm trying to show people something they can do with one finger, that takes no practice, that feels and sounds like music and they can play along with me on the video and have some fun."

Alaska’s Shame

GOP voters nominate an indicted senator.

By David Freddoso

August 27, 2008

Denver — Democrats here are preparing to anoint Barack Obama as their nominee. Despite his long record of alliances with Chicago’s political machine and his use of government positions to help his friends and donors — and possibly himself — they are still fooling themselves with the idea that he stands for “hope,” “change,” and a “new politics.”

But on Tuesday, two time zones to the west of here, Republican voters did not even have the option of fooling themselves. They knew exactly what they were doing, and they did it anyway. Their senator had recently been indicted on seven federal charges, and they re-nominated him. He won an embarrassing 63 percent majority in a crowded field in last night’s primary election.

Federal prosecutors accuse seven-term senator Ted Stevens (R., Alaska) of taking gifts from parties interested in legislation and concealing them on his financial disclosure forms for seven years in a row. But a large majority of voters in Alaska’s Republican primary just did not care. They love pork — something Stevens has proven expert in providing — and evidently they don’t mind self-dealing in their politics.

Stevens was indicted in July in connection with various gifts, including $250,000 in free home renovations, from Bill Allen, CEO of the now-defunct oil services firm VECO. Allen pleaded guilty last spring to spending more than $400,000 bribing Alaska state legislators.

Stevens’s indictment livened up his Senate primary in late July, but evidently not enough for Alaska Republicans to care.

One new wrinkle since then is the revelation that the Senator involved Vice President Dick Cheney in an issue that was dear to VECO’s heart — the route of a controversial natural-gas pipeline. The choice of whether the pipeline would run through Alaska or through Canada was a huge issue in the state. Whatever the merits of each route, Allen and VECO were willing to do just about anything to get the Canadian route.

As Newsweek reported on Saturday, Stevens was taped by law enforcement discussing the pipeline route with Allen on June 25, 2006. “I’m gonna try to see if I can get some bigwigs from back here and say, ‘Look . . . you gotta get this done,’ ” Stevens said. He wasn’t kidding, either, because two days later he delivered one of the biggest wigs of all. Cheney sent a letter to Alaska’s state legislature, requesting that they act quickly and begin building the pipeline through Canada to connect with pipelines in the lower 48 states. Even if the request is perfectly consistent with administration policy, it is another clear sign of Stevens’s influence. He had the Vice President’s ear, a connection he was prepared to use if it meant helping his alleged benefactors.

VECO’s corruption (and existence) ended with a bang, as company executives, legislators, and the former governor’s chief of staff were convicted of crimes. But Alaska’s corruption continues.

Stevens may well be toast in a general election. I spoke to three Republican sources, each of whom speculated, without prompting, that Stevens may step aside rather than run for re-election while facing trial. This would allow the state party to choose a new nominee, probably someone who will not rock the boat. Stevens would likely play a role in choosing his successor under such a scenario. Whoever it is, he will have a formidable opponent in Anchorage’s Democratic mayor, Mark Begich.

There was another Republican primary last night, whose ending might turn out to be happier. U.S. Rep. Don Young (R.), another VECO-tied legislator under federal investigation, is best known in Washington for naming a bridge after himself and for other prolific pork practices. He once berated a fellow member of Congress on the House floor — “my money,” he shouted, defending his earmark from elimination. Young may not survive the primary challenge mounted against him by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, one of Alaska’s new breed of conservative reformers. At press time, Parnell leads by 367 votes, with 70 percent of precincts counted. It will be ten days before some 9,000 absentee ballots are counted.

Young may lose, but it is incredible that it could have ever been so close. Reform appears to be pulling back from its high tide in Alaska, two years after Republican voters installed Gov. Sarah Palin (R.), throwing out an incumbent plagued with ethical problems.

Barack Obama is a smooth-talker who has made a career by accommodating himself to corrupt political systems, but at least his supporters have excuses for the false hopes they place in him. They have their discontent with the current situation, their own naivete, the heightened emotions he inspires, and the complete failure of the news media to tell Obama’s story as it really is.

Alaskans, on the other hand, apparently approach crooked incumbent politicians with full knowledge and vote for them anyway. It is much the same way Stevens approached the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. His words, recorded in David Schippers’s 2000 book Sellout, were: “I don’t care if you proved he raped a woman and then stood up and shot her dead — you are not going to get sixty-seven votes.”

Do all Republicans in Alaska think this way? At least 63 percent of them appear to.

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

Barack "The Silencer" Obama's Gangland Assault on Free Speech

By Michelle Malkin
August 29, 2008

Where are all the free speech absolutists when you need them? Over the past month, left-wing partisans and Democratic lawyers have waged a brass-knuckled intimidation campaign against GOP donors, TV and radio stations, and even an investigative journalist because they have all dared to question the radical cult of Barack Obama. A chill wind blows, but where the valiant protectors of political dissent are, nobody knows.

On August 11, I called the American Civil Liberties Union national headquarters in New York for comment about the Chicago gangland tactics of one of these groups—a nonprofit called "Accountable America" that is spearheaded by a former operative of the Obama-endorsing MoveOn outfit.

"Accountable America" is trolling campaign finance databases and targeting conservative donors with "warning" letters in a thuggish attempt to depress Republican fundraising. (You'll be interested to know that the official registered agent of Accountable America is Laurence Gold, a high-powered attorney for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) who has testified before the Senate complaining about the use of campaign finance laws to stifle the speech of union workers—a pet cause of the ACLU.)

The ACLU press office failed to respond to my initial call. On August 13, I followed up through e-mail:

"I called on Monday requesting a statement from the ACLU about Accountable America's intimidation campaign against GOP donors. What is the ACLU's position with regard to such efforts? Waiting for your statement..."

ACLU press officer Pamela Bradshaw e-mailed back:

"Michelle, My apologies that I cannot be of more assistance, but we don't have anyone available. Thanks, Pam."

My reply: "Pam—Does this mean you don't have anyone available today, this week, or for the foreseeable future?"

On August 20, after a week of silence, I forwarded the message again to the ACLU press office. No response.

So, I won't bother asking the ACLU's opinion of the latest wave of speech-squelching moves by the Obama campaign:

On Monday, Obama demanded that the Justice Department stop TV stations from airing a documented, accurate independent ad spotlighting Obama's longtime working relationship with unrepentant Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Obama summoned his followers to bombard stations, many of them owned by conservative-leaning Sinclair Communications, with 93,000 e-mails to squelch the commercial.

On Tuesday, the Obama campaign sent another letter to the Justice Department demanding investigation and prosecution of American Issues Project, the group that produced the Ayers ad, [Youtube] as well as Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons, who funded it.

And on Wednesday, Obama exhorted his followers to sabotage the WGN radio show of veteran Chicago host and University of Chicago Professor Milt Rosenberg. Why? Because he invited National Review writer Stanley Kurtz to discuss his investigative findings about Obama's ties to Ayers and the underwhelming results of their collaboration on a left-wing educational project sponsored by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. [Listen to Milt Rosenberg here.]The "Obama Action Wire" supplied Rosenberg's call-in line and talking points like this:

"Tell WGN that by providing Kurtz with airtime, they are legitimizing baseless attacks from a smear-merchant and lowering the standards of political discourse. ... It is absolutely unacceptable that WGN would give a slimy character assassin like Kurtz time for his divisive, destructive ranting on our public airwaves."

Behind the glowing, peaceful facade lies Barack "The Silencer" Obama and his silent enablers on the left. While mainstream journalists schmoozed with liberal celebrities in Denver, practiced yoga with left-wing bloggers and received massages at the Google convention tent near touchy-feely Barackopolis, Team Obama was on an ugly, aggressive warpath sanctioned by Mr. Civility. While compassionate Obama prepared to stand before thousands of worshipers at Invesco Field, purporting to give voice to the voiceless, his Chicago-schooled campaign machine was working overtime to muzzle conservative critics. "We want it to stop," ordered one pro-Obama caller to WGN.

Welcome to the future: the politics of Hope and Change enforced by the missionaries of Search and Destroy.

Michelle Malkin [email her] is author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin's latest book is Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild.

The Perfect Stranger

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, August 29, 2008; Page A15

WASHINGTON -- Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.

Nothing wrong or even terribly odd about that, except that he is laying claim to the job of crafting the coming history of the United States. A leap of such audacity is odd. The air of unease at the Democratic convention this week was not just a result of the Clinton psychodrama. The deeper anxiety was that the party was nominating a man of many gifts but precious few accomplishments -- bearing even fewer witnesses.

When John Kerry was introduced at his convention four years ago, an honor guard of a dozen mates from his Vietnam days surrounded him on the podium attesting to his character and readiness to lead. Such personal testimonials are the norm. The roster of fellow soldiers or fellow senators who could from personal experience vouch for John McCain is rather long. At a less partisan date in the calendar, that roster might even include Democrats Russ Feingold and Edward Kennedy, with whom John McCain has worked to fashion important legislation.

Eerily missing at the Democratic convention this year were people of stature who were seriously involved at some point in Obama's life standing up to say: I know Barack Obama. I've been with Barack Obama. We've toiled/endured together. You can trust him. I do.

Hillary Clinton could have said something like that. She and Obama had, after all, engaged in a historic, utterly compelling contest for the nomination. During her convention speech, you kept waiting for her to offer just one line of testimony: I have come to know this man, to admire this man, to see his character, his courage, his wisdom, his judgment. Whatever. Anything.

Instead, nothing. She of course endorsed him. But the endorsement was entirely programmatic: We're all Democrats. He's a Democrat. He believes what you believe. So we must elect him -- I am currently unavailable -- to get Democratic things done. God bless America.

Clinton's withholding the "I've come to know this man" was vindictive and supremely self-serving -- but jarring, too, because you realize that if she didn't do it, no one else would. Not because of any inherent deficiency in Obama's character. But simply as a reflection of a young life with a biography remarkably thin by the standard of presidential candidates.

Who was there to speak about the real Barack Obama? His wife. She could tell you about Barack the father, the husband, the family man in a winning and perfectly sincere way. But that only takes you so far. It doesn't take you to the public man, the national leader.

Who is to testify to that? Hillary's husband on night three did aver that Obama is "ready to lead." However, he offered not a shred of evidence, let alone personal experience with Obama. And although he pulled it off charmingly, everyone knew that, having been suggesting precisely the opposite for months, he meant not a word of it.

Obama's vice presidential selection, Joe Biden, naturally advertised his patron's virtues, such as the fact that he had "reached across party lines to ... keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists." But securing loose nukes is as bipartisan as motherhood and as uncontroversial as apple pie. The measure was so minimal that it passed by voice vote and received near zero media coverage.

Thought experiment. Assume John McCain had retired from politics. Would he have testified to Obama's political courage in reaching across the aisle to work with him on ethics reform, a collaboration Obama boasted about in the Saddleback debate? "In fact," reports the Annenberg Political Fact Check, "the two worked together for barely a week, after which McCain accused Obama of 'partisan posturing'" -- and launched a volcanic missive charging him with double cross.

So where are the colleagues? The buddies? The political or spiritual soul mates? His most important spiritual adviser and mentor was Jeremiah Wright. But he's out. Then there's William Ayers, with whom he served on a board. He's out. Where are the others?

The oddity of this convention is that its central figure is the ultimate self-made man, a dazzling mysterious Gatsby. The palpable apprehension is that the anointed is a stranger -- a deeply engaging, elegant, brilliant stranger with whom the Democrats had a torrid affair. Having slowly woken up, they see the ring and wonder who exactly they married last night.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Book Review: "The New Case Against Immigration"

By David Forsmark
Thursday, August 28, 2008

The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal
By Mark Krikorian
Sentinel, $25.95, 284 pp.

With The New Case Against Immigration, National Review's Mark Krikorian has written one of the year's bravest books. In a political atmosphere where proposing to crack down on even illegal immigration can get one labeled a "nativist" or "xenophobe" in polite circles – and a racist in others – Krikorian dares to question the level of legal immigration, a topic most fear to explore.

For openers. it boggles the mind that an axis of political, media and business elites favors illegal immigration. Nonetheless, stopping illegal immigration is popular among voters. It's so popular, in fact, that presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain forsook his mainstream media constituency and its citizen-of-the-world mentality to give lip service to what American citizens want — at least while the Republican primaries lasted.

If Krikorian's name were Mark Running Bear, he'd probably get less flack for questioning the practical effects of legal immigration. I'd bet a dollar that the author hears retorts that Krikorian sure sounds like an immigrant name, as he receives cheap shots about the Armenian Mob.

Everyone should have learned in grade school that one of the minimum standards for being considered a real life nation-state is having a definable border and the means to control it (though, no doubt, that's a controversial topic in many public schools today).

Krikorian's premise is that America has a right to decide who comes here — legally or not —and set a limit on newcomers. Period.

In fact, The New Case Against Immigration spends surprisingly little time on illegal immigration; instead, Krikorian focuses on the effects of mass immigration upon a modern welfare state infected by political correctness.

Unlike many who dare to broach this topic, Krikorian does not contend that today's immigrants refuse to assimilate with American culture or have little interest in it. Rather, he turns the argument on its head.

It's not that immigrants are much different than they were a hundred years ago – it's that America is different in several important ways:

- The nation no longer is set up for mass assimilation. In recent decades, we have set up a racial spoils system that is supposed to make up for past American sins, but it applies to newcomers as well. The public schools – the main engine of assimilation in past generations — don't even try to make proud Americans out of Americans anymore.

- Those who come to the United States from many countries often encounter a seismic shift in technology, traditions and mores. A century ago, the main differences an immigrant faced when coming to America were life under liberty and vastly improved opportunities.

- America no longer is a frontier country looking to populate vast empty territories with a growing need to entice sturdy laborers to our shores.

- Most importantly, the U.S. is now a welfare state -- and minimum income, health care and schooling are guaranteed for anyone who crosses our border. This alone makes mass immigration impractical.

Perhaps the most compelling chapter in The New Case Against Immigration is entitled "Mass Immigration vs. American Sovereignty." One expects the basic argument about borders, but Krikorian makes a compelling case that the U.S. legal system now makes mass immigration problematic — another way in which we have changed more than the immigrants have.

Krikorian documents how the Mexican government, because of the huge numbers of its citizens who live in the U.S., has claimed the right to lobby for and against American legislation at the federal, state and even local levels — and to involve itself in American elections.

Krikorian makes the compelling case that not only does the U.S. legal system currently grant the Mexican government that right, but the egalitarian impulse of American jurisprudence also apparently grants every other country with citizens here the very same rights.

On the other hand, his assertion that mass immigration distorts labor markets is less compelling. Such arguments always have a subjective base of where the "true" market should be and rely on economic projections of conditions that have never existed in real life – namely what wages would be in a restrictive immigration environment.

It does, however, give one pause that in agricultural fields, where harvests depend on cheap and often illegal labor, technical innovations have not progressed for decades.

Krikorian also effectively argues that the large numbers of immigrants makes security impossible, and terrorist watch lists a bad joke. That might be true, but defensive security should always be a last resort, a screen to catch those we have not been able to kill before they get here. It's hard to see a time when so few people would ever be coming into the U.S. that monitoring people and activities would be our primary security activity.

While libertarian-types who look at the world in purely economic terms tend to support open borders, even they admit economist Milton Friedman was right when he stated, "It's just obvious that you can't have free immigration and a welfare state."

Libertarians – never the most practical of people politically – make this an argument to dismantle the welfare state. While I tend to agree, Krikorian is right when he says it is far more likely that U.S. politicians can be persuaded to control our borders than to severely restrict the social safety net, which most Americans support to one degree or another.

In this context, though, Krikorian makes another startling argument: There is little difference, cost-wise, to the American taxpayer between an unskilled legal immigrant and an illegal one. And the statistics he presents are compelling.

Krikorian reveals the provisions of the 1994 Republican congressional candidates' Contract with America that restricted government payouts to immigrants have largely been ineffective. Since children's welfare was involved in many cases (people who immigrate naturally tend to be of child bearing age), cutting off benefits became problematic on the ground.

There is, however, one thing illegal immigration has definitely overwhelmed — and that's the discussion. With an estimated 12 million illegal aliens in the United States, most people think the discussion should start there — and, for spineless politicians, it's a convenient place for the discussion to end.

Ultimately, Krikorian proposes what he calls a "Pro-Immigrant Policy of Low Immigration," which would include English instruction and other programs to support assimilation.

Some careful conservative reviewers are tempering their reviews with a backhanded compliment of "Agree or disagree, you have to give Krikorian credit for starting the debate." Krikorian deserves much more credit than that.

The New Case Against Immigration is a carefully written and intellectually rigorous book capable of redefining the debate. At the very least, Krikorian's arguments deserve real answers from those on the other side.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Methodists for "Justice"

By Mark D. Tooley
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A pregnant, illegal immigrant in Nashville was arrested for “careless” driving without a driver’s license or car insurance. Incarcerated after records showed she had been deported in Mexico over 10 years ago, the woman gave birth in a Nashville hospital while still in custody.

Eventually she was released into her family’s care. But Juana Villegas’ saga has aroused nationwide media attention, including a New York Times article. And local United Methodist Church activists rallied at her trial, asserting that the laws that incarcerated her were at fault.

"As Christians, we bear responsibility for what happened to Juana if we stand back and do and say nothing," declared a concerned Methodist lay woman, one of several dozen supporters of Villegas who filled the courtroom during the August hearing, which the United Methodist News Service (UMNS) monitored. Open Border advocates have tried to transform Villegas into an icon for their political cause. “Jesus sided with those who were marginalized,” insisted local Methodist clergywoman Barbara Garcia, who lamented to the UMNS that there is a “lot of fear in the community.”

Another local Methodist clergywoman at the trial expressed hope that Villegas’ story “will make people think about our laws” and that society would “not criminalize the immigrants.” To not “criminalize” any immigrants of course would require granting automatic legal status to all persons who successfully cross the U.S. border. Does Christian compassion really urge such a radical remedy?

Open border advocates on the Religious Left mystically describe illegal immigrants as “sojourners” seeking respite, like the Holy Family’s escape to Egypt from the angry King Herod who sought to kill the Baby Jesus. Whether it actually is compassionate or not, romanticizing illegal immigrants suits the purpose of radical multiculturalism and the erasure of national borders.

Activists for open borders prefer not to consider that many illegal immigrants are simply people who understandably take advantage of economic opportunities in regrettable violation of the law. Villegas was stopped for “careless” driving in a Nashville suburb. Having no driver’s license or care insurance, she was arrested, and a night court commissioner sent her to jail upon learning she had previously been deported in 1996. Villegas has had three children in the U.S. since returning illegally again from Mexico. And at the time of her arrest, she was about to give birth to a fourth.

Villegas was taken to Nashville hospital for the child birth and then was returned to jail several days later, eventually being released after a week’s captivity, which had been prolonged by the court’s closure over a holiday weekend. She was guarded during his hospital stay and kept handcuffed to her bed, except during the child birth. The baby was released to her husband. After Villegas was released from the hospital, the jail did not allow her to take a breast pump into her cell. “I was treated like a criminal, and I didn't understand why I was being treated like that,” she later complained.

Local law enforcement insisted they followed proper procedure and that Villegas was treated the same as any other medium-security inmate accused of violating federal law. "An important factor in this case is that this woman had been previously deported from this country and she ignored that order and came back,” the sheriff’s department explained. “Federal immigration authorities don't look lightly on this."

At her August hearing, the judge dismissed the careless driving charge against Villegas because of a technicality but gave her a token fine for lacking a driver’s license and car insurance. Immigration officials agreed to her temporary release so as not to separate her from her newborn child. Her lawyers are considering civil lawsuits against local enforcement or a federal human rights lawsuit. A local United Methodist social justice group intoned about the perceived outrage against Villegas: “We are outraged and heartbroken for the treatment of Juana at the hands of the officers who were involved. … We urge our communities across the state to grieve with us and respond in prayer and political action to work towards repair and reform of the immigration laws of our state and nation.”

The United Methodist Church’s missions agency funds “Justice for Our Neighbors (JFON),” an immigration advocacy group that organized on behalf of Villegas. “We must step forward and shout to the rooftops a wrong has been committed," said a JFON spokesperson. "The suffering for her, her newborn, her husband and her family was unnecessary and cruel."

The indignant clergywomen and others who gathered at the court house for Villegas doubtless felt virtuous about rallying to the cause of the “marginalized.” But they did not explain how local law enforcement could have better served justice. Villegas, pregnant and with her three children, was allegedly driving carelessly, unlicensed and uninsured. Undoubtedly, Villegas’ advocates would insist that drivers licenses and insurance be granted by right to all illegal immigrants.

Open border advocates do not consider the human costs of unrestricted immigration, both on immigrants and on the host country, in terms of crime, social disarray, economic exploitation, and cultural ghettos. Can any nation anywhere, even if wealthy, long function without enforceable borders? And what about the social impact on originating nations, such as Mexico, who lose incentive economically to empower their poor, with the U.S. as a perpetual safety valve?

Like an unrestricted welfare state, unrestricted immigration carries the veneer of easy compassion. But the unintended consequences of both are often socially and spiritually destructive, especially for the intended beneficiaries, often across generations. Sadly, expressing sustained compassion, beyond the cycle of a news release or a quick rally, is often difficult for the Religious Left, which believes its own indignation can sweep away all temporal injustice.

Mark D. Tooley directs the United Methodist committee at the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

The Election From Hell

I won’t be watching either of the party conventions.

By John Derbyshire
National Review Online
August 25, 2008 12:00 AM

How quickly time passes! It has been a mere year and a half since the first candidate debates, and the party conventions are upon us already. Next week, the Democratic-party convention in Denver — “Most Diverse in Party History” boasts the website. The following week, the Republicans in Minneapolis-St. Paul — “Twin Cities Promise Double Fun for GOP.”

Fun? Melancholy spectacles both, in this writer’s opinion, for this is the most disastrously awful choice Americans have ever been offered for the post of chief executive.

It is true that no election season reaches this point without much grumbling from commentators about the poverty of choice on offer. “Who else have you got?” asks pollee of poller in the famous Paul Conrad cartoon … which dates from the 1964 campaign. There are grounds to believe that this election’s choice is quite exceptionally bad, though.

I can’t say that I ever felt much warmth for either John McCain or Barack Obama. The first struck me as a burned-out Senate seat-warmer (term limits! oh please, term limits!) who had shown outstanding courage as a young warrior but considerable wrong-headedness as a politician — a category of persons with which history has, after all, been well supplied. Obama I have never seen as anything but a bag of wind, possessed of great political guile, but steeped in the faddy, solipsistic notions of post-1960s college leftism.

That these two men are much worse than I thought only became apparent to me at the Saddleback interviews conducted by Baptist minister Rick Warren in front of 5,000 of his parishioners. Here the truth came out. These are not merely two different specimens of mediocrity, as is usual in presidential campaigns; they are two different specimens of love-the-world romantic fantasist.

Perhaps there is at least — I am clutching at straws, dear reader — some tiny element of choice in the fact that McCain and Obama are methodologically different in their desires to spend as much of America’s resources as they can get their hands on to lift up foreign peoples in foreign places. In accordance with their youthful experiences, McCain sees the task in warlike terms: “evil must be defeated.” To Obama it’s more a matter of community organizing: “building public health infrastructure around the world.”

Both men are determined to set this planet to rights, though, and hang the cost. Doesn’t the United States have infinite resources? Of course it does. Eliminator of All Evil, or Welfare Agency to the World; Brig. Gen. Jack D. Ripper or Albert Schweizer; you just have to choose. Can we afford it? Yes, we can! (That faint sound you hear? That’s the clink-clink of devaluing dollars — just ignore it.)

One hardly knows where to start with this gibberish. With eliminating evil, perhaps.

Warren: How about the issue of evil? … Does evil exist and if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it or defeat it?

McCain: Defeat it. … Of course evil must be defeated …

Warren didn’t raise a peep. This is a Christian church? Hasn’t anybody present heard of original sin? The only way to eliminate evil is to eliminate the human race. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that McCain’s policies will have that result, but if it’s the result he intends, he ought to tell us.

Warren: There are 148 million orphans in the world, 148 million kids growing up without Mommies and Dads. … Would you be willing to consider and even commit to doing some kind of emergency plan for orphans like President Bush did with AIDS?

Obama: I think it’s a great idea. … I think that part of our plan though has to be how do we prevent more orphans in the first place and that means that we’re helping to build the public health infrastructure around the world …

Heaven forbid that people in Nigeria, Nauru, Norway, or Nicaragua should build their own clinics and hospitals, without any help from Uncle Sam and his limitless bounty! Heaven forbid they should take care of their own orphans, and we of ours!

But then, as John McCain says: “America’s greatest moral failure has been, throughout our existence, perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest.” Except, of course, that nations are supposed to devote themselves to their self-interest, and to nothing else. That’s what sane people want their nation to do. That’s what all the other nations of the world do do.

As individual human beings, of course, all but a small minority of us routinely devote ourselves to “causes greater than our self-interest.” We gladly yield up our time, our money, and occasionally our very lives, on behalf of such causes — family, union, professional association, church, political party, neighborhood softball league, nation. Those of us who have deep religious convictions often go way beyond the norm, helping strangers in foreign lands. All good acts, all noble acts … by individual human beings.

A government, however, is not a human being. This rather elementary point of ontology seems to have escaped all three principals in Saturday’s gathering. Governments don’t go to the bathroom; governments don’t date; governments don’t catch cold. As a human being, John McCain is free to give up time and money to causes above his personal self-interest, and would be right to feel pleased with himself for having done so. As chief executive of our federal government, however, during his working hours he should attend to America’s national self-interest, AND TO NOTHING ELSE AT ALL.

Rick Warren didn’t even ask the two men about the Census Bureau report, released two days before, a a topic of much commentary. (Though not by me. I had already said what I had to say when the previous report came out in May 2007.) Possibly this omission was in deference to Saddleback’s location down there in southern California. Perhaps Pastor Warren feared that if he mentioned demographics, viewers might find themselves wondering if the 5,000 people present at this forum are the last 5,000 left in Orange County who can understand English. More likely Warren just believes, in common with most genteel Americans, including for a certainty both candidates, that only wicked people talk about demographics.

So I won’t be watching either of the party conventions. Both parties’ choices of nominee are appalling to me. I contemplate the next four years with dread.

I don’t want either of these men in charge of the federal government, neither the crazy old fool nor the simpering sophomore. I don’t want either the moralistic imperialism of John McCain or the welfare-state-to-the world sentimentalism of Barack Obama. I don’t want my country represented by either a Compassionate Crusader or by Oprah Winfrey in drag. (Possibly in person, too, if the rumors we’re hearing about Obama’s plans for Ms. Winfrey are true.)

Even if I wanted either of them, I do not believe, as both candidates apparently do, that our country has the nigh-infinite fiscal resources required to fund their lunatic world-saving schemes. The effort to rid Iraq of evil has cost us working stiffs a trillion dollars so far; say $7,000 a head. Population-wise, the world has 260 Iraqs. So I’m in for two million bucks? John, hate to tell ya, but I don’t have that kind of money. And this is the “conservative” candidate!

What a disaster! What on earth has happened to us? Nothing yet as bad as what will surely happen if either of these two gibbering numbskulls gets his hands on the levers of supreme executive power.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Today's Tune: Katrina and the Waves - Do You Want Crying (Live 1983)

(Click on title to play video)



By Rich Lowry
New York Post
Posted: 4:23 am
August 26, 2008

Barack Obama has deni grated Washington experi ence, pooh-poohed tradi tional foreign-policy credentials and rued negative tit-for-tat exchanges in campaigns - in fact, these things were close to the core of Obama's message during the past year. Note the past tense.

When it came time to choose a running mate, Obama went with a senator who has been in Washington for 35 years, who earned his foreign-policy chops in years of Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings and Council on Foreign Relations meetings, and who is known for rhetorical belligerency. Plus, he voted for the Iraq War, the very lapse in judgment that is supposed to disqualify John McCain from the presidency.

Joe Biden's selection means the Obama phenomenon has definitely experienced its Thermidor, hints of which we'd already seen in his decision - despite all his good-government professions - to opt out of public financing and in his centerward policy adjustments since the primaries.

It turns out you've got to break a few eggs to make change. If it means disregarding central contentions of your candidacy, well, maybe that was all boob bait for impressionable young people and highly educated voters fond of lovely abstractions.

Obama surely would have loved to have picked a Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, a fresh leader from outside Washington who would have made the ticket all about change and a new generation of Democratic leadership. Alas, somewhere between Berlin and Georgia - as his polls numbers sagged and Democrats got nervous - Obama was brought face to face with his weaknesses and made a defensive choice to try to fill them.

The dream of waltzing to election on a rhetorical symphony of audacity and hope has been mothballed.

As Biden said of Obama in Springfield, Ill., in a new kind of testimonial, "This man is a clear-eyed pragmatist who will get the job done." That depiction of Obama would have set fewer hearts aflutter back in Iowa, but, as Democrats make their case in Denver, proving it to be so is imperative if Obama is going to win middle-class voters more concerned about their cost of living than inspirational flights of oratory in their next president.

The theme of Obama's introduction of Biden in Springfield could have been "all the things I'm not": a man who "has stared down dictators and spoken out for America's cops and firefighters," who is "one of America's leading voices on national security," who has "decades of steady work across the aisle," and "who is ready to step in and be president."

Listening to Obama tick off Biden's accomplishments, one could wonder how it was logically possible for both these men to be ready to be president - the elder statesman and the neophyte who's been in the Senate less than four years, most of them spent campaigning for president.

Obama also - in another defensive move - emphasized Biden's lunch-bucket roots. As the scrappy kid from Oahu, Hawaii ("the most removed population center on the planet," says The Washington Post), Obama wants to squeeze every ounce of working-class street cred he can from Biden, the scrappy kid from Scranton, Pa.

In this sense, the ticket is balanced. Otherwise, it isn't - not in terms of ideology, job description or geography. The Democrat with the most liberal voting record in the Senate picked the Democrat with the third-most liberal voting record; a senator picked a senator; blue-state Illinois was joined by blue-state Delaware.

If we've learned anything about presidential politics during the past 40 years, it's that America elects Democrats who are moderates from the South. If Obama's going to buck that truism, he has to descend from the clouds and make a connection with average voters - not as the messianic figure of the Democratic primaries or his Berlin speech, but as the "cleareyed pragmatist" of Biden's Springfield remarks. Obama's ultimate task in the Mile High City is to come down to Earth.

The Democrats' 'Soft' Jihadist

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On Sunday, Democratic delegates convening in Denver were prayed over by representatives of various faiths. One stood out: Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America. With this choice, Barak Obama's campaign has committed a strategic error of the first order.

After all, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) has been identified by the Department of Justice not only as a front for the Muslim Brotherhood - a global Islamist movement with the stated mission in America of "destroying Western civilization from within." Worse yet, it has also been named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the United States' largest alleged terrorism financing conspiracy.

Ingid Mattson speaking at the 2007 World Economic Forum

Like other Brotherhood operations, ISNA's purpose is to promote what might be called "soft jihad" - the task of steadily insinuating the brutally repressive and subversive program the Islamists call Shariah through da'wa, proselytizing and social networking.

The more one learns about Dr. Mattson and her organization, the more questions will be raised about Barak Obama's judgment and that of his party in affording them a prominent role in the 2008 Democratic convention. For example:

Ingrid Mattson is director of the Macdonald Center for the Study of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at the Hartford Seminary in Connecticut . Her program is used to credential Muslim chaplains for U.S. prisons and our military. (The armed forces require its chaplain candidates to take 72 credit hours from Dr. Mattson's program.) This credentialing was previously performed by organizations founded by Abdurahman Alamoudi, once among the most prominent Muslim Brotherhood operatives in America. Today, Alamoudi is serving a 23-year prison sentence for his involvement in terrorism-related crimes.

A course taught by Mattson at the Hartford Seminary entitled "The Koran and Its Place in Muslim Life and Society" featured readings from texts by two of the Islamofascist ideology's most revered figures: Syed Abul A'la Mawdudi and Sayyid Qutb. She has publicly credited the former with producing "probably the best work of [Koranic commentary] in English." As Robert Spencer has observed in his invaluable Jihad Watch blog, Maududi succinctly described the Islamists' Shariah agenda as follows:

"Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of its own ideology and program, regardless of which nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State....Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution."

As to Qutb, an amicus brief filed last week by the Center for Security Policy before the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals noted that his "writings expand on [Maududi's] theme of Jihad against wayward Muslim regimes and the infidel West and the establishment of a hegemonic Shariah-based political order. His work has been credited as a central doctrinal source for al Qaeda's doctrine of Jihad, as well." According to the brief prepared for the Center by two of the West's foremost scholars of Shariah, attorneys David Yerushalmi and Stephen Coughlin (resident expert on the subject for the Joint Chiefs of Staff until he was purged by an ISNA admirer in the office of Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England), "Da'wa is used to prepare the battle space for violent Jihad."

Unbeknownst to most Americans, such Da'wa is being systematically advanced through the Islamists' take-over of the vast majority of U.S. mosques, Islamic centers and madrassas (Muslim parochial schools). This onslaught is being accomplished as Saudi money flows through another Muslim Brotherhood front spun off by ISNA, the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), which acquires the mortgages of existing religious facilities or creates new ones. Along with titles to these properties comes Saudi Wahhabi influence in the form of virulently Shariah-adherent clerics, textbooks and other materials. In her capacity as president of ISNA, Mattson also is an ex officio member of NAIT's board.

Insofar as the Muslim Brotherhood explicitly seeks and is working for the destruction of our government and Western civilization more generally, it is engaged in a criminal conspiracy that constitutes treasonous sedition. That reality has two critical implications:

First, the Brotherhood must be formally designated a terrorist organization, putting an end to the reckless notion - promoted by, among others, the U.S. State Department - that practitioners of soft jihad are less dangerous and an effective antidote to co-religionists who are prepared to use violence immediately, rather than later on.

Second, under 18 US Code 2382: " Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States and having knowledge of the commission of any treason against them, conceals and does not, as soon as may be, disclose and make known the same to [appropriate officials] is guilty of misprision of treason and shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than seven years, or both."

Senator Obama, his party, Bush administration officials and, for that matter, ordinary citizens of the United States are obliged to take steps to counteract seditious Muslim Brotherhood activities in our midst. To do otherwise is not just suicidal. It is a crime.

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - It's Hard to be a Saint in the City (Live in Greensboro 2008)

Photograph by Guy Aceto

(Click on title to play video)

Bruce Springsteen proves it all night

The Boss is headed to town, and still has 'Magic'

The Kansas City Star
Posted on Thu, Aug. 21, 2008

Bruce Springsteen performs in a concert Sunday night, July 27, 2008, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

Six days after I say goodbye to my 40s, Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band will come to town. It’s reassuring, even a little comforting.

The 50s don’t kid around when it comes to reminding a guy what life stage he’s about to enter. The body starts playing serious tricks on him: Hair stops growing where it should and starts flourishing where it shouldn’t. (What’s the George Costanza line: “It’s like puberty that never stops. Ear puberty. Nose puberty.”) Parts that aren’t supposed to enlarge begin to, and one that’s supposed to may begin not to. And there’s the annual “digital exam,” an undignified ritual that has nothing to do with the hard drive on your laptop. On top of all that, the AARP starts knocking on your door, reminding you cheerily that you’re entering the twilight of whatever career you’ve chosen.

The mind, though, won’t surrender; it wants to sustain its youth. And other than sports, few things signify youth more than rock ’n’ roll. At some point a guy may decide he’ll do his hips or knees a favor and give up racquetball or running, but the mind can’t let go of the music of its youth. What’s the option? Start listening to light jazz?

Springsteen, who will turn 60 next year, has always believed in rock’s redemptive spirit, its powers of salvation and rebellion. Last year he released his 15th studio album — 35 years after he issued his first. “Magic” isn’t his best album, but it’s a good one. Not many guys his age can say they’ve made such a respectable rock record so far into their careers.

July 27, 2008, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

A lot of its charm comes from the music, which is mostly meat-and-potatoes rock. But lyrically Springsteen writes from a place that feels more complicated: from the perspective of a guy who has taken stock in his life, who knows where he is and what he has become.

The best example of that on “Magic” is “Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” the album’s prettiest song. It sounds like something Stephin Merritt might have written with Brian Wilson: a wistful story cast in a sweet, sunny melody.

The song is written from the perspective of a guy trying to mend a broken heart. The scene is nostalgic: Kids play games in the street. Bank clock chimes. And though it’s a cool night, the streets are busy with young girls dressed for summer. The singer is broken but determined to find love again: “Love’s a fool’s dance/I ain’t got much sense but I still got my feet …”

The deeper message, though, goes beyond a guy’s determination to find another girl. It comes in the chorus, and it brings to mind the line from Matthew McConaughey in “Dazed and Confused”: “That’s what I love about these high school girls. I get older; they stay the same age.”

July 27, 2008, at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
(AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

The singer in “Summer Clothes” notices the pretty girls, too, but he implicitly acknowledges that they aren’t dressed that way for guys like him, that they look past him or through him — that he’s too old for them: “The girls in their summer clothes/Pass me by.”

If rock ’n’ roll is about youth, it is also about sex and then love. That terrain can get hard to navigate when a guy is old enough to bounce grandchildren off his knee. I’ve never seen a bad Aerosmith show, but the thought of seeing Steven Tyler sing “Love in an Elevator” again makes me want to take the stairs. God bless the Stones, but every year it gets a little harder to watch Mick and Keith go through those motions. There comes a time when a guy has to stop thrusting his pelvis and dance his age.

No one has written a handbook on aging gracefully in rock ’n’ roll. Lots of performers navigate that evolution by changing styles, like Dylan (at least on his records) or, more recently, Robert Plant. Springsteen seems to have negotiated a compromise on “Magic” and especially in “Summer Clothes.”

Thirty-plus years ago, he/his characters mingled and mixed with the barefoot girls drinking beer in the rain. These days, his characters notice them, and they still give him a sexual jolt — the libido is the last thing to go. But he also acknowledges they are no longer there for his taking. Instead he’s out to find something more realistic and with someone his own age.

The song doesn’t necessarily make a guy in his 50s feel young again, but it does sustain the notion that growing older comes with as much promise as it does acceptance that things aren’t what they used to be.

Review: Bruce Springsteen

By Timothy Finn
The Kansas City Star
August 25, 2008

Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt at Sprint Center on Sunday. Photo by Allison Long/The Star

About a dozen songs into a show that would go on for hours, Bruce Springsteen advised his crowd: "This is the last night of the tour. Anything can happen."

What happened was pretty typical, though. He played nearly 30 songs and delivered many moments of joy and transcendence, including an encore for the ages, during a show that lasted about three hours and 10 minutes without a significant pause. His endurance is still amazing.

By the time he finally hit the stage at the Sprint Center -- 8:50 p.m. -- the crowd of about 16,000 was on the verge of ravenous impatience. He gave them two relatively obscure openers, "Ricky Wants a Man of Her Own" and "Cynthia," which got warm responses.

Then he raised the heat dramatically by pulling out material everyone knew: "Radio Nowhere," "No Surrender" and "Out in the Street," which prompted the first big sing-along. Then he and the band played the intro to "Hungry Heart" and stood back and listened to the crowd roar back the first verse and chorus.

From where I was standing (by the mixing board) the sound was bad for the first several songs -- trebly and muddy. It seemed to improve gradually as the show went on. Either that or I adjusted to the muddy vocals.
As he has done in other stops on this tour, Springsteen took a few requests via signs brought in by his fans: "Cadillac Ranch" was one (great to hear that one); so was "Working on the Highway."

The oddest request produced one of the lighter moments of the night. Someone brought in a sign that said, "Let Max sing." So Springsteen turned the microphone over to his drummer, Max Weinberg, who gamely sang a few bars of the Shirelles' hit "Boys."

After that, Springsteen gave his violinist, Soozie Tyrell, some spotlight. She joined him for a cover of the Stones' version of Bobby & Shirley Womack's "It's All Over Now." [tks. Mike Webber] Then came one of the evening's best moments (for me): a hellacious version of "Candy's Room."

I liked most of the setlist, even (or especially) the songs that seemed to disinterest some of the people around me, like the grimy-blues version of "Youngstown" and the solo/acoustic reading of "Devils & Dust" (though I'll admit neither is a great arena song). But he has no trouble rejuvenating the place from a perceived lull, so he played "The Promised Land" after "Youngstown" and it got a huge response. And he played "The Rising" after after "Devils" and the place went nuts all over again.

He ended his first set with a bristling version of "Badlands" that the crowd would not let him finish. It was the perfect setup for a mind-blowing encore that started with a dedication to the late Danny Federici and a lovely version of "Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy)."

Then he hauled out the heavy artillery. The Sprint Center isn't even a year old, but it has seen its fair share of roof-rattling moments. None has matched his one-two-three punch -- with the lights turned up -- of "10th Avenue Freeze-Out," "Born to Run" and "Rosalita." He could have ended there, but he had more ammo to unleash. After warming the crowd up for this weekend's Irish Fest with "American Land," he took another request, of sorts.

He segued from a cover of "Save the Last Dance" into "Dancing in the Dark." He relived the video's Courtney Cox moment by pulling a girl who looked like she was about 9 years old (and who had been holding a "Save the Last Dance" sign) on stage. She and he did this funky little shuffle together, then she sprang into a perfect cartwheel. Bruce responded by doing some kind of goofy somer-flop. Then he carried her in his arms back to the edge of the stage, kissed her cheek and returned her to the crowd. It was pretty adorable.

He ended with "Rockin' All Over the World," another song that celebrates rock and roll as a diversion or a means of escape: "We're goin' crazy and we're goin' today." By the time he was done, though, Sunday night was about to become Monday morning, and it was time to return from his wild world to reality, sanity and another work week. The escape sure was fun while it lasted.

Ricky Wants A Man of Her Own
Radio Nowhere
No Surrender
Out In the Street
Hungry Heart
Spirit in the Night
Boys (Max)
Cadillac Ranch
Working on the Highway
It's All Over Now
Candy's Room
Gypsy Biker
The Promised Land
Living in the Future
Mary's Place
Devils and Dust
The Rising
Last to Die
Long Walk Home

Fourth of July Asbury Park (Sandy)
10th Avenue Freeze-Out
Born to Run
American Land
Save the Last Dance/Dancing in the Dark
Rockin' All Over the World