Thursday, September 18, 2008

Paying Taxes is Not Patriotism

By Jon Sanders
September 18, 2008

In a famous moment of American oratory, President John F. Kennedy during his inaugural address urged "my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."

Such a "country first" message resounded then, during the height of the Cold War, and it still echoes in civics classrooms across the nation. Meanwhile, the candidate looking to become the next revered Democratic president has been traveling the country sneering at the technological shortfalls of McCain (who answered what he could do for his country) and entreating his fellow Americans to ask, beg, organize and demand what their country under him could do for their groups.

Democratic vice presidential presidential candidate, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., speaks at a campaign rally in Akron, Ohio, Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008.(AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

That is one reason why Sen. Barack Obama needed an older, more experienced Democrat as his running mate: to try to smooth over the jarring incongruity between the Democratic Party during Kennedy's day and the unabashedly socialistic party of today trying to bargain away individual freedom on the basis of group privileges and favors. Biden recognized that the "ask what you can do for your country" part was being neglected while the Obama/Biden ticket was so enthusiastically overturning that inconvenient "ask not" part.

Kennedy's "ask" was open-ended, requiring an answer within each individual, befitting the times. Biden and the Democrats of today operate from the assumption that people today are too deplorably stupid to know what's best for them -- they buy the wrong cars, make the wrong energy choices, buy the wrong light bulbs, put their groceries in the wrong bags, don't know what amount of health insurance is proper and certainly don't know that socialized healthcare would cut that Gordian knot of individual decision-making altogether!

So Biden magnanimously answers Kennedy's question for them. He dubs paying taxes "patriotic." He did this on ABC's "Good Morning, America," saying that while Obama would increase taxes on the wealthy, "It's time to be patriotic." And has said it in it political rallies, telling a woman who said her friends are worried that under Obama they faced a tax increase, that she should say to them: "It's time to be patriotic."

So under Obama/Biden, Americans would demand what our country can do for our groups, and ask not what we can do for our country, because they'll tell us: pay more taxes. That's it. It's "time to be patriotic." (It's consistent in a perverse way: they can't "do for us" until they've taken from us, but hey, they'll take more from "them" so it's change you can believe in and stuff.)

Now this is a very strange definition of patriotism. True patriotism is not something that is demanded or coerced with the implicit threat of violence the way taxes are. Nations that demand acts of patriotism tend to be dictatorships. They also tend to be run by socialist blowhards, but that must be mere coincidence.

Biden is not discussing, after all, people giving more than they are required by way of taxation. He is most definitely talking about the government forcing people to pay more taxes, slapping it with the euphemism of patriotism.

Democrats are usually all about praising "dissent," but when someone dissents about paying higher taxes, they become fire-breathing jingoists of the first order.

Well, if it's "patriotism" to be quiet and allow the government to take even more of your family's livelihood and not even avail yourself of all the civic tools to fight a tax increase peacefully, would Biden consider a mugging "charitable giving"? If his home were burglarized, would Obama sigh gratefully that at last he's "given to the least of these my brethren"? Just how far would they go to redefine forceful taking as the cause of voluntary giving?

To return to Kennedy's inaugural address: his next phrase less well known. "My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man." That portion refers back to comments at the beginning of the speech, where Kennedy spoke of the "revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought ... the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution."

Obama and Biden dare.

Kennedy concluded in words that today would set the media hounds baying day and night about inferred religious extremism: "Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

But politicians don't go seeking God's blessing and help when they don't believe that the rights of man come from the hand of God as opposed to the generosity of the state.

Jon Sanders is a policy analyst and research editor at the John Locke Foundation in Raleigh, N.C.

Obama Camp Slimes David Freddoso

Special Report

By Matthew Vadum
The American Spectator
Published 9/18/2008 12:08:03 AM

With few exceptions, the mainstream media has fallen down on the job covering the meteoric rise of Senator Barack Obama, so when every once in a while a journalist takes an honest, critical look at Obama, people who believe in the democratic process should welcome the discussion. But instead of welcoming the opportunity, the Obama campaign tries to suppress legitimate debate by engaging in Leninist political theater.

If Obama has nothing to hide, what's he so afraid of?

The campaign's Obama Action Wire tried to drown out investigative journalist David Freddoso who wrote the New York Times bestseller, The Case Against Barack Obama, when he appeared September 15 on "Extension 720," a Chicago radio show.

The Obama campaign sent out an emergency "Obama Wire Alert" to supporters, urging them to stir up trouble for Freddoso, whose book is now number 5 on the Times' bestseller list (hardcover nonfiction), the Chicago Tribune's blog, The Swamp, reports. "The author of the latest anti-Barack hit book is appearing on WGN Radio in the Chicagoland market tonight, and your help is urgently needed to make sure his baseless lies don't gain credibility," the political all-points bulletin read.

"David Freddoso has made a career off dishonest, extreme hate mongering," the email claimed. "And WGN apparently thinks this card-carrying member of the right-wing smear machine needs a bigger platform for his lies and smears about Barack Obama -- on the public airwaves."

ANYONE WHO KNOWS David Freddoso knows this is a vicious libel. The hard-driving Freddoso, a veteran of the Evans-Novak Political Report, has great integrity. Instead of giving credibility to wild conspiracy theories about Obama (as some in-the-know conservatives say Jerome Corsi did in The Obama Nation), he has steadfastly refused to adopt the template that other critics of Obama have relied on. Specifically, he rejects the Corsi approach and has earned high praise from commentators such as the Heritage Foundation's Conn Carroll for taking the high road.

In his book, Freddoso writes that Obama is "the least experienced politician in at least one hundred years to obtain a major party nomination for President of the United States," and that throughout his accomplishment-free political career Obama has consistently backed the Chicago political machine over genuine reformers. "He is simply another liberal Democratic politician who will divide America along the same lines as it has been divided for decades," Freddoso writes.

Obama is on record supporting the gruesome medical procedure known as "partial-birth abortion," or as normal people call it, infanticide. As an Illinois state senator, he insisted that aborting babies alive and leaving them to die in a cold, dark closet was a physician's prerogative.

These are all easily verifiable facts, yet the Obama campaign accuses Freddoso of hate mongering.

Here is the campaign's lead example (from the recent Obama Action Wire):

Freddoso asks Barack, "How many unrepentant Communist terrorists do you have as friends?" [p. 126] This question is so ridiculous it refutes itself. Barack might as well ask Freddoso how many leprechauns he's friends with.

The campaign pretends it's like the classic loaded question, So when exactly, senator, did you stop beating your wife? But it's not a "ridiculous" question and it's telling that the campaign refuses to answer the question directly.

Evidence has established that Obama is friends with at least two people with a communist and terrorist past: William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, formerly of the Weather Underground. Ayers and Dohrn, the married couple that helped to launch Obama's political career in 1995, were both involved in terrorist bombings in the United States. Members of their cell killed people.

Obama, who has consistently downplayed his relationship with Ayers and Dohrn, has yet to give a satisfactory public accounting of why he thought it was no big deal to be friends with these unrepentant criminals. It is the media's job to keep pressing him, and that's exactly what Freddoso has been doing.

THE OBAMA CAMPAIGN had the same modus operandi August 27 when it attempted to mau-mau Freddoso's fellow National Review writer, Stanley Kurtz, during his appearance on "Extension 720." Kurtz had traveled to the University of Illinois at Chicago to research the education reform project known as the Chicago Annenberg Challenge because both Obama and his friend Ayers were involved in it.

Instead of putting on a campaign spokesman to challenge Kurtz's arguments, the campaign tried to shut down the show. Obama supporters inundated the show with telephone calls and picketed outside the studio. They also called other talk shows and regurgitated the talking points the campaign fed them.

Radio talk show host Mark Levin launched one of his famous "Levin surges" after tiring of the rote recitations from Obamabots on his show's call-in line. Levin read the campaign headquarters phone number on air and encouraged his listeners to swamp that line with complaints.

Will Obama Action Wire launch a vendetta against Levin now?

Freddoso has made it clear he thinks it's silly and counterproductive to wallow in conspiracy theories such as the one that claims Obama isn't a U.S. citizen, the one that claims he isn't a Christian, or the one that claims he is some kind of Manchurian candidate surreptitiously inserted into the presidential contest by America's enemies.

Without name-calling or innuendo, Freddoso makes the case that Obama is simply a liberal machine politician, and "not an agent of hope and change." (See my "Organization Watch" interview from August 26, partial transcript here.)

Freddoso a dishonest, extreme hate monger? Give me a break.

- Matthew Vadum is a senior editor at Capital Research Center, a Washington, D.C. think tank that studies the politics of philanthropy.


By Charles Hurt
New York Post
September 18, 2008

THIS was supposed to be the year Democrats could not lose.

But that was before House Speaker Nancy Pelosi - in a standoff with Charlie Rangel, one of her most powerful and scandal-scarred chairmen - blinked.

That was before Rangel launched his "Monument to Me - The Rangel Center at CUNY" - with your money and greedily grabbed four rent-stabilized apartments, using a system designed to help less fortunate New Yorkers from getting squeezed out onto the street.

TAX BURDEN: Charles Rangel, chairman of the House tax-writing committee, stared down Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

That was before the most powerful committee chairman in the country got caught hiding from Congress and the public the $75,000 in rental income from his Caribbean slice of beachside paradise.

And, of course, that was before the highest tax-writer in the land got caught cheating on his taxes on that income he now claims he didn't know about.

Try telling people in this economy that you just discovered a loose $75,000 you didn't know you'd made. For most people, that's called the lottery.

Is this "the most honest, most open and most ethical Congress in history" that Pelosi promised?

Pelosi ordered Rangel to Washington earlier this week, sending out signals that she would lower the boom on him.

At the very least, she would make him step aside until all his ethics inquisitions are finished.

Wrangling Rangel is no small order.

He's immensely popular on the Hill, even among many Republican lawmakers.

He's perhaps Pelosi's highest-profile committee chairman.

And he's one of her very top African-American lieutenants whom she simply cannot cross.

So, she folded like a cheap pantsuit.

And Rangel remains at large and in charge of extracting your hard-earned tax dollars.

After all, snatching $2 million from the Treasury for a temple to himself under the guise of an educational center passes for business as usual here.

Exploiting the city's rent-stabilization laws to make himself a palace worthy of a glossy photo spread in a coffee-table book is just how he rolls.

Lying and cheating on income and taxes? How do you think these people get elected to Congress in the first place?


Yankee Stadium is the House That Derek Jeter owns

By Mike Lupica
New York Daily News
Wednesday, September 17th 2008, 7:10 PM

This happened a long time ago at old Yankee Stadium, happened when Derek Jeter was much younger than he is now, happened in much better times than these for the Yankees.

It was a Sunday morning and there had been a game that ended late the night before, so nobody had to show up early for batting practice, because there wasn't any that day. I was having a cup of coffee with David Cone, and the clubhouse door opened, and here came Derek Jeter.


Cone's locker was around the corner from what was still Joe Torre's office. Jeter was on the other side, down near the trainer's room.

He walked to his locker and Cone watched him go, then said, "It's good being Derek Jeter."

It is good being Jeter even now, when he didn't start hitting until it was too late.

It is good being Jeter even with this kind of ending to the Yankee season, and to this version of Yankee Stadium; it's good being Jeter even as the Yankees will be out of the playoffs for the first time in 15 years and this will be eight years since Jeter and the Yankees last won it all.

He didn't do much more than anybody else on the team when the Yankees still had a chance to make it to another baseball October. But even now, on his way out of the only baseball home he has ever known, you see why he is one of the most popular Yankees in history, maybe the most popular since Mickey Mantle.

Even now, in a season when the Yankees have been such a disappointment, when they have seen both the Rays and the Red Sox run away in the American League East, Jeter's personal exit music are these tremendous cheers, night after night, win or lose.

On Tuesday, he passed Lou Gehrig, became the player with the most hits in the history of Yankee Stadium, and Wednesday night he played his 1,000th game at Yankee Stadium.

He remains the star he has been for such a long time at the Stadium even if he is not the hitter or the shortstop he once was. Mo Rivera also hears the kind of cheers that Jeter does at the Stadium. Jeter hears them more often, not just for the records he sets, but because he is still here.

He is not the hitter Alex Rodriguez is, or even close. Someday Rodriguez, if he stays healthy, could end up baseball's all-time home run champion.

But it is Jeter who remains the champion of Yankee fans, and you know that if you asked most Yankee fans to choose between him and A-Rod, they would choose Jeter hands down. At 34, not able to drive the ball the way he did or produce the numbers he did in his glory years or even show the range in the field, it is as if he is more a Yankee than ever.

'I'm always a little uncomfortable in those situations,' says Jeter, who adds another hit later.

Credits: Cataffo/News

And he still knows how Yankees are supposed to act. The night of the All-Star Game, you looked over in the 14th inning, long after A-Rod had disappeared into the night, there were two people on the top step of the American League dugout: Boston's Terry Francona, managing the game, and Jeter, who'd been out of the game for hours.

This has been stated before: He is not the Yankee that Joe DiMaggio was, but he has been the DiMaggio of this Yankee era. So he has been the face of the Yankees, not the voice. Never the voice. He has talked about his team, and sometimes quite eloquently. But Jeter has never, not for a single day, seen his job - even after becoming captain of the team, such a high Yankee honor - as being the team spokesman.

Of course there have been times when he spoke eloquently. There was the time when the Yankees were down two games to one to the Angels in the first round of the 2002 playoffs, and about to be eliminated. Before Game 4, somebody said something to Jeter about how the team had gotten out of worse spots than this before.

"Not this team," he said.

It was better than a speech, Jeter speaking to how the makeup and the character of the team had changed in just the two years since the Yankees had won their last World Series. Now it has changed a lot more than that. Now, in the last year for this Stadium, they won't even make the playoffs. And still he hears the cheers, from across all the years.

He does what he has always done, from the glory years until now: Shows up every day and plays hard. He never does anything to embarrass himself or his team. He knew who he was as a kid in '96 and he knows who he is now. Eventually he will play more games for the Yankees than anybody has ever played, honor the uniform as much as anybody who has ever worn it.

I asked him once how he sees himself, as a shortstop or a World Series champ or the captain of the team.

"I see myself as a Yankee," Jeter said.

He goes across the street with the rest of them next season. It will still be called Yankee Stadium. The new place won't be as good for Jeter, can't be, just because of everything he saw and everything he heard at the old place. Maybe that is why it is fitting the last loud roar on this side of the street is for him.

Britain Adopts Shari'a

Britain Adopts Shari’a
by Srdja Trifkovic
September 16, 2008

British papers are reporting that shari’a law has been officially adopted in Britain, with shari’a courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases, notably including wife beating. Gordon Brown’s Labour government “has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.” Particularly alarming is the fact that Islamic rulings are now enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court. Previously such rulings could not be enforced by the British state.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - 15.06.07. (Photo by Marc Vallée/ (c) Marc Vallée, 2007.

Shari’a courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network’s headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, with two more courts planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. A visibly pleased Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, explains that he had taken advantage of a clause in the British Arbitration Act of 1996, which classifies sharia courts as “arbitration tribunals” whose rulings are binding in law once both parties in a dispute agree to accept its authority. It goes without saying that battered Muslim wives and disinherited Muslim daughters will “freely choose” the authority of shari’a courts rather than face various unpleasant and potentially fatal consequences of not conforming to the “community’s” rules and preferences.

What this means in practice was evident from a recent inheritance dispute in the Midlands, when the Nuneaton shari’a court divided the estate of a Muslim father between three daughters and two sons. The “judges” gave the sons twice as much as the daughters—perfectly in accordance with sharia, of course, but contrary to any regular British court, which would have given the daughters equal shares. In six cases of domestic violence quoted by Siddiqi, the “judges” ordered the husbands to take “anger management” classes and “mentoring from community elders” (such as imams and shari’a judges). In each case, the battered women subsequently withdrew the complaints and the police stopped their investigations. It should be noted that under normal British law those six cases could have been prosecuted as criminal, rather than “family” cases.

UNDERSTANDING SHARI’A—Muslim activists point out that allegedly simiral Jewish family courts (Bet Din) and Catholic marriage tribunals have existed in Britain for many years, but there is a major difference: such courts explicitly claim jurisdiction only over their believers, whereas according to orthodox Islamic teaching shari’a is the only legitimate law in the world, with universal jurisdiction over Muslims and non-Muslims alike. To a devout Muslim the incorporation of shari’a into British law is by no means the end of the affair. It is merely a major milestone on the road that cannot stop short of subjecting all Britons, regardless of faith, to the stricutres of Allah’s commandment and Muhammad’s example.

The Islamic law, the Shari’a, is not a supplement to the “secular” legal code, it is the only such code and the only basis of obligation (Kuran 4:8). No mere human entity has the authority to enact laws: shari’a judges cannot do or enact anything contrary to the Kuran or Sunnah. The definition of what is just depends solely on Allah’s will and Muhammad’s acts, to which none of the usual moral criteria found among non-Muslims is applicable. “Just” and “unjust” are not regarded in Islam as intrinsic characteristics of human actions to be legally judged. A shari’a judgment requires extensive knowledge of the Kuran and the Hadith, of course, as well as of Islamic legal precedents. Nevertheless, the body of sources of the law is finite and only qiya, or analogical reasoning, can be applied in the judgment.

Contrary to the Christian concept of governmental legitimacy (Romans 13:1), Islam condemns as rebellion against Allah’s supremacy the submission to any other form of law (Kuran, 5:50). Muslims believe that Shari’a should be used as a standard test of validity of all positive laws. Christ recognized the realm of human government as legitimate when he said, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). In Islam there is no such distinction between church and state.

Shari’a is not at all a “religious law” but a blend of political theory and penal law that relies for the punishment of violators on the sword of the state. To be legitimate, all political and legal power must rest with those who obey Allah’s authority and his revealed will sent down through his prophet (Kuran 5:59). Shari’a applies to all humankind just as Kuran applies to all creation. Any law that is inconsistent with it is null and void, not only to the Muslims, but to all humanity. Jews, Christians, and pagans are subject to Shari’a, too, and from Muhammad’s standpoint they cannot invoke the judgments and moral principles of prior revelations (4:60). Resort to any other source of authority is not only unjustified, it is satanic. The non-Muslims are to be judged by the laws of Islam in everything, “whether they like it or not, whether they come to us or not.”

Shari’a stands above reason, conscience, or nature. Its lack of any pretense to moral basis is explicit: there is no “spirit of the law” in Islam, no discernment of the consequences of deeds. The revelation and tradition must not be questioned or any other standard of judgment—least of all any notion of “natural” justice inherent to men as such—can be invoked, let alone applied (5:45). Muhammad has stifled in his followers the proclivity to natural law, “this high and often ultrahuman motive enhanced by education and refinement” (C.S. Lewis). A shari’a judge, like any other good Muslim, knows that thing is right simply because Allah says so, or because the prophet has thus said or done. No other standard of good and evil can ever be invoked.

BRITANNIA DELENDA—The ruling elite in Great Britain is either ignorant of, or more likely indifferent to, the implications of shari’a’s incorporation into the country’s legal system. The pace of Islamification of Britain is impressive. Earlier this year Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, declared on BBC Radio 4 that the establishment of sharia “seems unavoidable” in Britain. Two months ago Britain’s top judge (“the lord chief justice”), Lord Phillips, said that Muslims in Britain should be able to live under sharia. Theirs is the mature form of appeasement and surrender that has a long and inglorious history.

In the immediate aftermath of 9-11, then-Prime Minister “Tony” Blair said, “What happened in America was not the work of Islamic terrorists, it was not the work of Muslim terrorists.” Speaking to Muslim “community leaders” he added: “It was the work of terrorists, pure and simple,” who must not be honored “with any misguided religious justification,” because they “contravened all the tenets of Islam” which “is a peace-loving, tolerant religion.”

Echoing the Prime Minnister, two weeks after 9-11 former Home Office Minister John Denham made a pledge to cut out the “cancer of Islamophobia” allegedly infecting Britain, and declared that “the real Islam is a religion of peace, tolerance and understanding.” He called on the media to avoid promoting “a distorted or caricatured or prejudiced” view of Muslims or the Islamic faith. Yet Dr. Richard Stone, chairman of the Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia, responded by criticizing the government for not addressing “in a deep way” the anti-Muslim prejudice and for failing to address “institutional Islamophobia.”

Exactly six months later, on July 7, 2005, London’s turn came. The suicide bombers were four young British citizens, Muslim by religion, three of them Pakistani by parentage, born and bred in England and educated in state schools. Yet the deputy assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, Brian Paddick, said that the culprits “certainly were not Islamic terrorists, because Islam and terrorism simply don’t go together.” He repeated, almost word for word, Tony Blair’s assurances given four years earlier. Blair himself declared it was hard to understand how those “born-and-bred Yorkshire lads” could turn on their fellow citizens. His reference to the morbid jihadist team as “lads”—an English term of endearment for the youthful male person, derived from Middle English ladde—was indicative of a seriously deranged mindset.

The adoption of shari’a is a logical outcome of the Blairite forma mentis, the size of Muslim immigration into Britain, and the dynamics of that growing community’s symbiotic interaction with the elite consensus. That consensus had started emerging even before the Rushdie affair (1988) allowed Muslims in Britain to flex their muscles in open opposition to the law of the land.

A generation later mosques and Islamic centers have multiplied all over Britain and provide the backbone to terrorist support network. The British security services have largely followed their political masters into a state of denial regarding the threat. The courts, for their part, routinely interpret the criminal, asylum, and terrorism laws in the manner damaging to the security of the Realm and favorable to the Jihadist underground. That underground thrives in mosques, state-supported Islamic educational institutions and community centers.

The new and supposedly improved Tory Party hardly offers an alternative. After a string of electoral defeats, under David Cameron it has joined the multiculturalist bandwagon. He now believes in racial, ethnic, and gender-based quotas. His colleague, the Conservative Party chairman Francis Maude, says immigration had been “fantastically good” for the United Kingdom.

Such inanities are light years away from another British Prime Minister and a far truer Tory, Winston Churchill, who warned over a century ago that “no stronger retrograde force exists in the world” than Islam: “Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

The science is still there, but the shelter has been eroded, perhaps fatally, in the realm of the soul. T.S. Eliot may yet be proven right in his warning that the West would end, “not with a bang but a whimper.”

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tom Jones to release retro-soul album, first in U.S. in 15 years

After 15 years without a new album in the U.S., Tom Jones will release a disc of almost entirely original material this fall.

By Jake Coyle
The Associated Press
September 17, 2008

In this July 12, 2008 file photo, singer Tom Jones performs at the Annual GRAMMY Foundation 'Starry Night' charity benefit in Los Angeles.
(AP Photo/Dan Steinberg, file)

NEW YORK — After 15 years without a new album in the U.S., Tom Jones will release a disc of almost entirely original material this fall.

The 68-year-old singer will release "24 Hours" on Nov. 25 on S-Curve Records. It's a retro-tinged album much in the style of Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black" that finds the Welshman's voice as strong as ever.

"The fire is still in me," Jones told The Associated Press in a recent interview, speaking by phone from his home in Los Angeles. "Not to be an oldie, but a goodie. I want to be a contender."

The disc was produced by British production duo Future Cat, who have cut tracks for Lily Allen, Kate Nash and others. With backing horns and an almost Stax Records kind of soul, the sound is distinctly retro.

"We've been thinking about this for a while, doing a retro sound but new," said Jones. "And Amy Winehouse, she cracked it. When that album came out, my son called me right away and said, 'You know what we've been talking about? Listen to this.' "

Since he released the hit "It's Not Unusual" in 1965, Jones has sold more than 100 million records worldwide. While his 2000 album "Reload" was a hit in Europe and elsewhere (buoyed by the club hit "Sex Bomb"), it was never released in the U.S. — which Jones calls "a shame."

"The hits that I've had recently have all been European," he said. "I've had a lot of success worldwide, which is a pain because I live here and I do most of my shows in America. ... Hopefully this will straighten that out."

Jones, who regularly performs in Las Vegas, believes his voice hasn't aged — thanks partly to his careful treatment of it; he takes a humidifier with him traveling to keep his throat from drying. Jones even believes his lower registers have gotten richer.

"I wanted my voice to sound as natural as possible," Jones said of the album. "The arrangements and the production needs to be modern, but the vocal needs to sound like me."

There are two covers on the album — Bruce Springsteen's "The Hitter" and "I'm Alive" by Tommy James and the Shondells — but the rest Jones either co-wrote or collaborated with the songwriters. Bono and the Edge of U2 guest on the song "Sugar Daddy."

"I love doing the songs that I've had success with and the audience keeps those alive," Jones said. "But I love moving on."


By Larry Brooks
New York Post
Posted: 2:36 am
September 17, 2008

FADING FAST: Andy Pettitte pitches against the White Sox during the Yankees' 6-2 loss last night. Pettitte allowed four runs in six innings and is 0-5 in his last five starts (Getty Images).

IN the Yankee Stadium of my youth, left-cen ter field was known as Death Valley. Right-handed batters such as Joe DiMaggio who looked out at the fence 457 feet away understood why.

Now, though, that description fits the entire plot of land on 161st St. and River Ave. With five days and five games remaining before the doors are padlocked and the New York Yankees move across the street from the House that George Ruth Built into The Palace Built for George Steinbrenner, Yankee Stadium has become a living graveyard.

Well, maybe not quite a graveyard, not with Derek Jeter breaking Lou Gehrig's record of hits at the old park with first- and fifth-inning singles in last night's 6-2 loss to the White Sox that leave him with two more than the Iron Horse's 1,269 and five games to add on to it.

Maybe not a graveyard, even though 2008 is on a ventilator whose plug is about to be pulled, and hey, while we're at it, only five more games for Alex Rodriguez to pass Roger Maris for most - and most nasty - boos heaped on a Yankee at this address.

Maybe not a graveyard, but a museum.

The people who have been coming forever - well, at least since this corner of The Bronx became safe again, and funny how that occurred just when the Yankees began winning championships in the mid-90s, isn't it? - came to the Stadium one more time last night to pay their final respects to an old friend they know so well.

They came for the ballpark, not for the game. They came early just as they did on Monday night, thousands filling seats in the upper deck for batting practice, thousands equipped with cameras to record history at this place - Jeter on first in the first inning with lights flashing like Pete Rose on first after 4,192 - one more time.

They came and they heard admonitions over the PA system not to deface the Stadium at risk of arrest. Maybe someone should have played that warning to Carl PavanoCarl Pavano a few winters ago before he embarked on defacing everything the Stadium ever meant.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 17: Yankee Stadium prior is shown prior to a game between the New York Yankees and the Chicago White Sox on September 17, 2008 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees are playing their final games in the fabled stadium this week, and are scheduled to move to the new Yankee Stadium next year. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

There will be two more against the White Sox and then the final three-game weekend series against the Orioles. The Yankees will play with one eye on the present, the other on the future and two more, as Yogi Berra might say, on the past.

Joe Girardi, whose picture isn't likely to appear in the dictionary to illustrate the meaning of the word "sentimental," betrayed some of what this week is all about in pledging last night to get the hobbled Hideki Matsui an at-bat in Sunday's finale after jiggering the rotation to ensure that Andy Pettitte would get the final start.

Girardi talked about his Stadium moment captured in time, the final out of the 1996 Series against the Braves that settled in Charlie Hayes' glove in foul territory off third base.

"For me, after Sunday, I'll go to where Charlie Hayes caught that ball and then I'll walk to the mound," said Girardi, whose RBI third-inning triple in that clinching Game 6 shook down thunder in The Bronx. "That will be my last memory."

We will all have lasting memories, whether from the original structure with the beautiful façade over the upper deck, the monuments in center field and auxiliary scoreboards on the outfield walls - the ballpark never looked grander than at those Old Timers' Days when the Yankee AL pennants and/or World Championship flags all hung from the façade - or this remodeled Stadium with Monument Park behind the left field fence and the faux frieze above the bleachers.

We all have lasting memories of this Yankee Stadium. This is the week where we'll all also have our last memories of the place. The museum is about to close.

Death Valley now and forevermore.

ACORN commits fraud in Michigan

posted at 7:28 am on September 15, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

The pattern of ACORN’s voter-registration fraud continues in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that the Secretary of State has supplied evidence to the US Attorney’s office for potential prosecution after getting complaints from registrars about duplicate registrations and obviously made-up names on others, almost all from ACORN’s paid staff:

Several municipal clerks across the state are reporting fraudulent and duplicate voter registration applications, most of them from a nationwide community activist group working to help low- and moderate-income families.

The majority of the problem applications are coming from the group ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which has a large voter registration program among its many social service programs. ACORN’s Michigan branch, based in Detroit, has enrolled 200,000 voters statewide in recent months, mostly with the use of paid, part-time employees.

“There appears to be a sizeable number of duplicate and fraudulent applications,” said Kelly Chesney, spokeswoman for the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office. “And it appears to be widespread.”

The spokesman for ACORN says that they’ll “do an investigation”, but after dozens of complaints in several states — most of them battleground states in presidential elections — the pattern certainly has established itself.

Either the leadership of ACORN encourages fraud, or it hasn’t the competence to keep it from happening. Given the convictions of some of its workers for fraud and the continuing instances of it, it doesn’t appear that ACORN has any desire to stop fraud, and indeed operates for the purpose of committing it.

The Department of Justice needs to open a RICO probe into ACORN. The RICO statutes make the leaders of a criminal enterprise personally responsible for the crimes committed by its members. If the DoJ can establish that ACORN management has encouraged fraudulent practices from the top down, that puts it within RICO territory. The repetition of their fraud in multiple jurisdictions make it clear that it’s not just coincidence at work here.

Once again, this calls into question why Barack Obama pays ACORN for his GOTV efforts. With criminal investigations underway in several states and now hopefully a federal investigation about to start, Obama shows extremely poor judgment in associating himself with such fraud — as well as paying $800,000 to fund it, unwittingly or not. As President, he would have the responsibility for enforcing voter-fraud laws. This doesn’t give much indication that he’d act to do so. So much for being a reformer.

Today's Tune: Chris Knight - Rural Route (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reaction to "Obsession" DVD distribution shows many Americans clueless about jihad

[I highly recommend this DVD...if you still have it, watch it...If you don't, find a copy and watch it. Link to the movie's official website below.- jtf]

By Robert Spencer
September 15, 2008

The DVD Obsession is being packaged with the morning paper all over the country, and millions upon millions of copies have been distributed. That's all to the good, but the reaction to it shows in numerous ways that many, if not most, Americans have no clue about what we're up against.

Of course, the distribution of the film is designed to fix that problem, and for many people it probably will, but in the Jihad Watch echo chamber it is easy to lose sight of the fact that we represent a very, very small percentage of people who realize the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat. Polls show that fewer Americans today believe that terrorism is a threat than at any time since before 9/11; several of the larger blogs that used to care about this issue have for various reasons lost interest; and the jihad threat is nowhere discussed fully and adequately in the mainstream.

A few of the news stories commenting on the Obsession distribution indicate the scope of the general ignorance. I had originally intended this as an elephantine post discussing several of these stories, but I went on so long about the first one here that I will save the others for future posts.
"Controversial film on Islam delivered nationwide," by Yonat Shimron for the Raleigh News & Observer, September 11 (see also Raymond's comments here):

Bundled in home-delivered editions of The News & Observer today is a paid insert featuring a controversial DVD on Islam that has stirred anger nationwide. [...]

Translation: "Readers, don't take this DVD seriously. It's "controversial." This is what passes for journalism these days, but just consider for a moment how different readers' reactions would have been if the story had started out this way: "Bundled in home-delivered editions of The News & Observer today is a paid insert featuring a DVD on Islam that attempts to alert people to the magnitude of the jihad threat." Which lead is more objective?

Jim McClure, vice president of display advertising for The N&O, declined to say what it is charging to deliver the DVD as part of today's newspaper. He dismissed allegations that it is inflammatory.

"In the beginning of the DVD it clearly states it's not about Islam. It's about radical Islam," McClure said.

That is a key weakness of an otherwise excellent film. Of course, it probably wouldn't be being distributed all over the country if it had spoken more forthrightly about the roots of the jihad ideology and Islamic supremacism in core Islamic texts and teachings. The problem is not so much with the use of the term "Radical Islam," which can refer to many things and doesn't necessarily assume that the violent and supremacist elements of jihadist teaching are corruptions of Islamic theology, but with the implication in the film that there is a benign, mainstream and standard version of Islam that does not teach warfare against and the subjugation of unbelievers. There isn't, and it is misleading in the extreme to suggest otherwise. There are many peaceful Muslims who have no interest in furthering the jihad and never will, but there is no peaceful Islam -- and that makes these peaceful Muslims always vulnerable to appeals to Islamic authenticity.

Despite the disclaimer, the film features prominent anti-Muslim pundits, including Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson and Walid Shoebat, who told the Springfield News-Leader -- a Missouri daily -- that "Islam is not the religion of God -- Islam is the devil."

To dismiss Pipes and Emerson as "anti-Muslim pundits" is to ignore the monumental work they have both done to expose the activities of jihadists in the United States and elsewhere, reducing this work to bigotry and trivia. Which was, no doubt, precisely the objective.

Film's aim in question

Muslims across the nation and in the Triangle said they are disappointed by the film.

"It adds fuel to the fire and devalues the work we do," said Khalilah Sabra, an organizer with the Raleigh chapter of the Muslim American Society, which lists "promoting understanding" as its mission.

While Pipes, Emerson, and Shoebat are tarred and dismissed as "anti-Muslim," Khalilah Sabra and the Muslim American Society are all about "promoting understanding." The N&O can't find any room for the fact that, according to a 2004 Chicago Tribune exposé, the Muslim American Society is the name under which the Muslim Brotherhood operates in the United States. Nor does it mention that according to a 1991 Brotherhood memorandum about its strategy in the U.S., it is embarked upon a “grand Jihad” aimed at “eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.”

The film features footage of elementary schoolchildren reciting mantras such as "When I wander into the entrance of Jerusalem, I'll turn into a suicide warrior."

Its aim is to liken radical Islam to Nazism and to promote the state of Israel, said Omid Safi, a professor of Islamic Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill, who has seen the film several times.

"One of the running themes is, 'We stand today as the world stood in 1938,' " said Safi, referring to the rise of Nazism. "It's fear mongering. It appeals to people's emotions."...

Not like Omid Safi, who propagandistically stacks the deck for his students by pre-emptively classifying a diverse list of people as "Islamopobes" and asking them to write a report on their evils. No emotionalism in that, oh no. Omid Safi is all dispassionate intellect -- as witness his fearmongering and emotionalism a bit farther on in the story:

In a statement, N&O Publisher Orage Quarles III wrote: "As a newspaper we tend to shy away from censorship. In cases of controversial topics, if we err, we tend to do so on the side of freedom of speech."

But some questioned whether this is a censorship issue.

"If there was a 30-minute DVD warning people against the danger of blacks or Jews, would the N&O distribute it?" asked Safi....

Safi, of course, ignores the distinction that the film makes between non-jihadist Muslims and jihadist Muslims -- however faulty the distinction is made in the film (as I explained above), it is certainly made, and made more than once. And there is no doubt that many Muslims are not on board with the jihadist program. Safi himself professes to be one of them. But in his comment here Safi would have you believe that the film lumps all Muslims together, and is thus comparable to a Klan piece on blacks or a Nazi piece on Jews.

Were Omid Safi at all interested in being fair-minded, he would acknowledge that the film makes this distinction, and would even perhaps explain why a film about an ideological threat does not fall into the same category as scaremongering about racial groups.

But it gets even worse: the story concludes with a Muslim playing the victim card -- and, of course, there is no mention made of how many Muslims-as-victim stories have been fabricated outright or greatly exaggerated:

One Muslim reader wrote the N&O to say that the film can only make local Muslims feel vulnerable.

"I must say that this video makes me fear for my safety and the safety of my family since people may not be able to differentiate between Muslims living here in Raleigh and the way Muslims are depicted in this scary film!" said Shadi Sadi, a data analyst in Raleigh.

To put this in perspective, consider the prospect of a German in 1943 writing angrily about an anti-Nazi presentation that it put Germans in fear for their safety. By contrast, German-Americans were anxious to prove their loyalty to the United States. Those days, it seems, are gone forever.

Posted by Robert at 5:34 PM Comments (36)

Jihad violence offends Muslims -- no, wait, scratch that -- Obsession DVD offends Muslims

Reaction to Obsession DVD distribution shows many Americans clueless about jihad, Part 5: "'Radical Islam' video angers South Florida Muslims," by Jaweed Kaleem for the Miami Herald, September 16 (thanks to J.H.):

A controversial DVD distributed to millions of Americans during the past week through direct mail and newspapers, including The Miami Herald and El Nuevo Herald, has angered many Muslims in South Florida.

Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West is being packaged as an advertising insert in 70 newspapers, including The Sun Sentinel and The Palm Beach Post....

The DVD includes montages of terrorist training camps and suicide bombers paired with narration by commentators such as Daniel Pipes, founder of the conservative Middle East Forum think tank. Many of the film's pundits are known for controversial views on Islam. In one part of the DVD, clips of Muslim children being recruited as suicide bombers are interspersed with images of Nazis.

Horror of horrors! Recruitment of Muslim children to be suicide bombers is compared to Nazism? When we all know that the recruitment of Muslim children to be suicide bombers is all sweetness and a blow for justice against wicked Zionism!

''My cellphone has been ringing off the hook . . . We feel that it's going to incite more hate and bigotry against our community,'' said Altaf Ali, Florida chapter director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The DVD does not do enough to differentiate between terrorists and mainstream Muslims, he said....

Neither, of course, does CAIR. CAIR is an unindicted co-conspirator in a jihad terror funding case. It is a spinoff of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which is listed in the 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum on strategy in the U.S. as part of its "grand jihad" aimed at "eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within." Several of its officials have been arrested and convicted on terror-related charges, and one of its founders has made Islamic supremacist statements, hoping that one day the Qur'an would be the only law of the land in America. But the Herald, of course, mentions none of this.

Syed Rahman, a Muslim pharmaceutical consultant from Weston, said he was shocked to see the film bundled with his Sunday Miami Herald. ''I could not believe my eyes,'' he said. Nidal Hussain, a Kendall computer consultant, was also taken aback. ''I watched it with my wife . . . it is vulgar material,'' he said. ``I'm sure good, wholesome Americans are going to see it and be able to decipher the truth.''

I'm sure they will.

At least one newspaper, The News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., decided not to distribute the DVD. The publisher ''said it was divisive and plays on people's fears and served no educational purpose,'' editor John Robinson wrote in his blog....

Robinson did not explain what exactly we should do with those jihadist preachers preaching death and destruction in the video.

Posted by Robert at 11:15 AM Comments (19)

Sharia Law Invades Britain

By Phyllis Chesler
Chesler Chronicles -
September 15th, 2008 9:11 am

Quietly, deftly, persistently, cunningly, Sharia law has become the law of the land in Britain in matters of divorce, finances, and domestic violence. Yes–domestic violence. Of course, both parties have to request this alternate dispute resolution model of justice but I bet the British-Muslim women who “choose” to inherit radically less than their brothers and who “choose” not to press criminal charges against their husband-batterers are not making a free choice. In order to remain within their faith and family communities they must submit to Sharia law or risk ostracism, isolation, or the possibility of being honor murdered.

Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi took advantage of a clause in the British Arbitration Act of 1996 and, as the head of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal has set up Sharia courts in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh. The Sheikhs are also comparing themselves to British Jews who “choose” to go to a Jewish court (a Bet Din). However, a Bet Din does not deal with domestic violence per se and has no enforcement powers.

Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Various “merchants of hatred” aka Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, (stripped of his British citizenship but preaching in London via satellite), and his next-in-command, Anjem Choudary, are predicting that the Islamic flag will soon be flying over 10 Downing Street and they may be right. They are banking on British Muslim population growth and conversions. I note that they are not yet talking about taking over Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School or Buckingham Palace but surely the flight of uncensored imagination as well as the British royal monarchy’s days might well be numbered.

Then, there is the fatwa just issued against Sir Paul McCartney of the Beatles if he dares perform in Tel Aviv as part of Israel’s 60th anniversary celebration. When the various anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups failed to persuade Sir Paul to cancel his engagement, they sent in the fatwas. I hope Sir Paul gets an entire unit of elite soldiers to guard him against this horrifying intimidation.

And, while all this is happening, (not to mention the burying alive of Muslim girls and women in the Pakistani Badlands, the violent closure of girls’ schools in Afghanistan, the kidnapping and forced conversions of Christian girls, also in Pakistan)–Hollywood delivers up unto us a religious Muslim hero, played by Don Cheadle who, at great risk, takes on the “bad” Islamist terrorists but in the name of Islam. I only wish. Perhaps such heroes will emerge; perhaps they already exist by the drove. But at this moment in history, Hollywood should try to be a little more even-handed. By the by: The Islamic terrorists in The Traitor are either presented as soulfully sympathetic or as too shadowy to really care about.

Does an Islamic flag already fly over Hollywood? I fear it does. It would be another matter if that flag, like the burqa, did not symbolize jihad and hatred of America–if, for example, it meant that Americans are super-trendy, even honorary Europeans. That is not the case. Hollywood seems to be the first kid on the block to assume a full Dhimmi position.

- Dr. Phyllis Chesler is the well known author of classic works, including the bestseller Women and Madness (1972) and The New Anti-Semitism (2003). She has just published The Death of Feminism: What’s Next in the Struggle for Women’s Freedom (Palgrave Macmillan), as well as an updated and revised edition of Women and Madness. She is an Emerita Professor of psychology and women's studies, the co-founder of the Association for Women in Psychology (1969) and the National Women's Health Network (1974). Her website is

Does France Have a Prayer?

Papal French.

By John F. Cullinan
National Review Online
September 16, 2008, 4:00 a.m.

‘France needs convinced Catholics who aren’t afraid to affirm who they are and what they believe in . . . Catholics who are fully Christian, and Christians who are fully active.”

These seem like perfectly fitting sentiments for Pope Benedict to express during his pastoral visit to France this weekend. But these are actually the words of his host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, spoken last December at the Vatican during an unusual — and unusually thoughtful — official reflection on French secularism.

No doubt Benedict agrees. But that hardly implies across-the-board papal endorsement of Sarkozy’s political views, much less direct papal intervention in French politics, as some careless observers suggest. Hence the London Times, for instance: “Pope Benedict XVI waded into French politics [Friday], throwing his weight behind a controversial drive by President Sarkozy to put religious faith back into the life of the strictly secular state.”

Pope Benedict XVI, left, and France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, gesture after their meeting at the Elysee Palace Friday, Sept. 12, 2008, as French first lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, center, looks on. Benedict XVI has arrived in France for a four-day trip that will take him from the presidential Elysee Palace in Paris to the shrine in Lourdes. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

That’s just plain wrong. There’s no such “drive” to alter France’s basic church-state arrangements, which everyone agrees are settled, apart from France’s substantial but poorly assimilated and poorly integrated Muslim minority (more on that another time). But it’s useful to compare Benedict’s more modest and focused agenda — and leadership style — with Sarkozy’s altogether more ambitious political program and regrettably scattershot approach.

The three-fold aims of Benedict’s pastoral visit were to (a) encourage the local church; (b) further dialogue with secular European cultures and institutions; and (c) remind the universal church, mainly through his own personal witness, that a highly intellectual faith is entirely compatible with traditional forms of devotion.

Benedict’s first and foremost aim was to encourage French Catholics, now emerging from a long period of decline and demoralization as a more compact, committed, and dynamic community. Roughly 75 percent of France’s 60 million citizens are baptized Catholics, though far fewer identify themselves as Catholics or practice their faith. Only 5 to 10 percent attend Mass on a weekly basis (versus perhaps one-third in the U.S.).

France’s trajectory from “eldest daughter of the church” (la fille aînée de l’Eglise) to “mission country” (pays de mission) — as one senior cleric acknowledged as early as the 1940s — has particularly French causes rooted in modern French history, culture, and politics. The upshot is that committed French Catholics are such by choice, rather than by tradition or convenience, and are therefore noticeably more forward-looking, hopeful, and “evangelical” than their immediate predecessors.

This “creative minority” — Benedict’s term for committed Catholics in an increasingly secular Europe — was the pope’s principal focus. In fact, Benedict’s presence brought more Catholics into the streets than any event in the past quarter century, recalling the spontaneous demonstrations that erupted against Francois Mitterand’s unsuccessful back-door attempt to close down Catholic schools.

In a revealing interview with the center-right daily Le Figaro, France’s new Catholic leader, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, the watchword is hope, a term long absent from ecclesial parlance: “To be sure, we’ve undergone hard times since the 1970s and I expect that the Pope will encourage us to tackle the situation with hope and confidence.” He spells out these objectives:

First of all, we must intensify our spiritual life. Christians can’t tackle the issues and conflicts in the life of our society without being profoundly rooted spiritually. It follows that our church should serve as a witness for hope. The church needs to say that humanity isn’t stuck in a fatalistic trap, be it economic, ecological, or political.

Nowadays hope is in especially short supply among the French, especially the young, who find the whole system rigged against those just getting started in life. France as a whole is sharply divided between haves and have-nots, the former consisting of comfortable retirees and secure middle-aged workers (impossible to dismiss without incurring confiscatory tax penalties), protected by the heavy hand of France’s massive unionized bureaucracy and a notably risk-averse culture.

Not surprisingly, young people in France rank at the bottom of a recent international poll measuring confidence in the future (Americans ranked at or near the top). One consequence is the “flight of the young” (la fuite des jeunes), whereby the most able and ambitious are emigrating, almost invariably to the same two destinations: London and New York.

Sarkozy acknowledged the phenomenon of widespread hopelessness in his Vatican speech, explicitly linking religious faith with hope. “A person who believes is one who hopes. And it’s in the interest of the Republic that there should be men and women who hope.”

In fact, Sarkozy’s Vatican speech (official text here, partial English translation here) is an excellent example of Benedict’s second aim, namely the dialogue between faith and secular European culture. In a nutshell, Sarkozy proposed a new understanding of French secularism (laïcité), traditionally marked not only by the strict separation of church and state and state neutrality regarding belief and non-belief, but also the strict exclusion from the public square of religious arguments or symbols (like Muslim headscarves). This was often carried to the point of excluding religious believers themselves — based on the simple fact of their belief — from advancing purely secular or philosophical arguments in matters of public policy. The upshot was a pervasive climate of mutual suspicion and hostility, often marked by exceptional pettiness on the state’s part (refusing to establish institutional links with the French bishops’ conference until 1992, for instance).

In his speech, Sarkozy in effect proposed a fresh start, beginning by acknowledging the historical reality of Christian contributions to France and French contributions to Christianity. The next step, he argues, is to identify common ground and common concerns for a long-overdue dialogue. That seems wholly unobjectionable in an American context, which is perhaps why the French Left — as reflexively anti-American and anti-religious as some of their ideological counterparts here — erupted in fury.

Dialogue with religious believers and religious groups was dismissed out of hand as utterly incompatible with republican ideals. But nothing enraged the French secular establishment (led, as always, by Le Monde) as Sarkozy’s pointed observation that religious faith may offer some distinctive — and otherwise unavailable — contributions to French society. “In transmitting values and teaching the difference between good and evil,” Sarkozy said, “the teacher will never replace the [Catholic] priest or [Protestant] pastor.”

These are fighting words in a culture where teaching is widely seen the exclusive monopoly of unionized government functionaries; and where good and evil are often dismissed as outdated and dangerous categories, ideally replaced by some utilitarian calculus informed by the latest intellectual fad. The Left’s reaction may be summed up by Le Monde’s especially nasty front-page editorial cartoon, which features Sarkozy dressed up as a bishop with George Bush lamenting to Benedict that Sarkozy has stolen his job as preacher-in-chief. But a sneer isn’t an argument, much less a rebuttal.

The upshot is that Sarkozy’s Vatican speech has in fact provoked the kind of dialogue that Benedict seeks. While fixing France’s malaise is well beyond the competence and capabilities of the local church, religious voices are engaging in the dialogue for the first time in years. As Cardinal Vingt-Trois observes, Sarkozy’s speech emphasizes that “one can be a Christian and a citizen without having to hide one’s Christian identity.” That may allow an explicitly Christian critique of “brotherhood” (fraternité) — one of the Republic’s three founding ideals — as practiced today, as well as other, more philosophical explorations of French society’s demonstrable lack of solidarity towards have-nots.

Finally, Benedict’s third aim during this visit was to encourage traditional devotions as pastor of the universal church. This is a subject mainly of interest to fellow Catholics and a characteristic theme. And it’s one Benedict emphasized by beginning and ending his visit in Lourdes, the famous Marian shrine, and spending twice as long there as in Paris.

Early indications are that Benedict’s visit was successful, at least according to initial press accounts (his dense prepared texts will take longer to digest). A typical headline (from Le Figaro) reads: “Benoît XVI: ‘Friend of France’ Seduces Paris.’ It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that the French are an easy audience, provided that one speaks elegant and impeccable French, as this pope does. But one immediate result is better communication between Paris and Rome than was the case for quite some time. It’s certainly better than when Cardinal Richelieu, France’s de facto 17th-century political leader, recommended dealing with the pope by kissing his feet and tying his hands.

— John F. Cullinan, a regular NRO contributor, is an expert in international religious freedom.

Monday, September 15, 2008


By Amir Taheri
New York Post
Last updated: 4:10 am
September 15, 2008
Posted: 4:02 am
September 15, 2008

WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

LONG VIEW: Barack Obama tours Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus in July, when he sought to stall any agreement for US troop withdrawal until President Bush left office.

Obama insisted that Congress should be involved in negotiations on the status of US troops - and that it was in the interests of both sides not to have an agreement negotiated by the Bush administration in its "state of weakness and political confusion."

"However, as an Iraqi, I prefer to have a security agreement that regulates the activities of foreign troops, rather than keeping the matter open." Zebari says.

Though Obama claims the US presence is "illegal," he suddenly remembered that Americans troops were in Iraq within the legal framework of a UN mandate. His advice was that, rather than reach an accord with the "weakened Bush administration," Iraq should seek an extension of the UN mandate.

While in Iraq, Obama also tried to persuade the US commanders, including Gen. David Petraeus, to suggest a "realistic withdrawal date." They declined.

Obama has made many contradictory statements with regard to Iraq. His latest position is that US combat troops should be out by 2010. Yet his effort to delay an agreement would make that withdrawal deadline impossible to meet.

Supposing he wins, Obama's administration wouldn't be fully operational before February - and naming a new ambassador to Baghdad and forming a new negotiation team might take longer still.

By then, Iraq will be in the throes of its own campaign season. Judging by the past two elections, forming a new coalition government may then take three months. So the Iraqi negotiating team might not be in place until next June.

Then, judging by how long the current talks have taken, restarting the process from scratch would leave the two sides needing at least six months to come up with a draft accord. That puts us at May 2010 for when the draft might be submitted to the Iraqi parliament - which might well need another six months to pass it into law.

Thus, the 2010 deadline fixed by Obama is a meaningless concept, thrown in as a sop to his anti-war base.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the Bush administration have a more flexible timetable in mind.

According to Zebari, the envisaged time span is two or three years - departure in 2011 or 2012. That would let Iraq hold its next general election, the third since liberation, and resolve a number of domestic political issues.

Even then, the dates mentioned are only "notional," making the timing and the cadence of withdrawal conditional on realities on the ground as appreciated by both sides.

Iraqi leaders are divided over the US election. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani (whose party is a member of the Socialist International) sees Obama as "a man of the Left" - who, once elected, might change his opposition to Iraq's liberation. Indeed, say Talabani's advisers, a President Obama might be tempted to appropriate the victory that America has already won in Iraq by claiming that his intervention transformed failure into success.

Maliki's advisers have persuaded him that Obama will win - but the prime minister worries about the senator's "political debt to the anti-war lobby" - which is determined to transform Iraq into a disaster to prove that toppling Saddam Hussein was "the biggest strategic blunder in US history."

Other prominent Iraqi leaders, such as Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi and Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani, believe that Sen. John McCain would show "a more realistic approach to Iraqi issues."

Obama has given Iraqis the impression that he doesn't want Iraq to appear anything like a success, let alone a victory, for America. The reason? He fears that the perception of US victory there might revive the Bush Doctrine of "pre-emptive" war - that is, removing a threat before it strikes at America.

Despite some usual equivocations on the subject, Obama rejects pre-emption as a legitimate form of self -defense. To be credible, his foreign-policy philosophy requires Iraq to be seen as a failure, a disaster, a quagmire, a pig with lipstick or any of the other apocalyptic adjectives used by the American defeat industry in the past five years.

Yet Iraq is doing much better than its friends hoped and its enemies feared. The UN mandate will be extended in December, and we may yet get an agreement on the status of forces before President Bush leaves the White House in January.

Derek Jeter makes history at Yankee Stadium, more to come

Sunday, September 14th 2008, 10:23 PM

Derek Jeter said he'd never heard cheers during an at-bat in which he hit into a double play, so maybe that says something about the record Jeter tied during Sunday's victory over the Rays. Heck, even Jeter, who doesn't get overly jazzed about milestones, seemed touched.

Jeter had three more hits - he was 9-for-11 in the series - and matched Lou Gehrig's mark for career hits at Yankee Stadium with 1,269. Before he came to the plate in the seventh with a chance to break the record, fans showered him with encouragement as he warmed up in the on-deck circle. When he went to hit, everyone in the crowd of 54,279 stood and hollered, and they kept it up even though he bounced into a 5-4-3 twin kill.


"That felt pretty good," Jeter said. "They've seen all of them (his hits). I've been fortunate enough to play my whole career here. They've seen me grow up. They've always been great and I think they appreciate people when they play hard. I'm happy.

"It feels good. I'd be lying if I said it didn't. They always say records are made to be broken, but this one, with the Stadium closing in a week, at least I know I'm tied for it."

Said Rays manager Joe Maddon: "Jeter is chasing the ghost and he's chasing it very well."

The tying hit was an opposite-field home run that capped a nine-pitch at-bat against Rays phenom David Price, the 2007 No. 1 pick who was making his major league debut. As Jeter neared home, Price stepped off the mound and Jason Giambi stepped out of the box as fans gave Jeter a standing ovation.

They convinced him to come out for a curtain call and he went to the top step and waved his helmet.

"It's pretty special," Jeter said. "You think of the history of this organization and mention names, Lou Gehrig is right up at the top. To be tied with him for anything is something I'll always remember."

Jeter got the milestone ball from a family of four who caught it. In exchange, he gave them an autographed bat and ball and the Yankees gave them four tickets to the Stadium finale. Jeter took copies of the lineup cards home with him, too, and might have made a new rival in Price.
"He used to be my favorite player. I don't know about anymore," Price joked. "That was fun. That was the first of many battles I hope me and him have."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Today's Tune: Jason & The Scorchers - Absolutely Sweet Marie

(Click on title to play video)

Today's Tune: Jason & The Scorchers - Shop It Around (Live 1993)

(Perry Baggs Benefit, Exit/In, Nashville, 6/2/07)

(Click on title to play video)

Nashville's greatest rock band, Scorchers get their due

Nashville Tennessean
September 14, 2008

Jimmy Guterman writes books and articles about rock 'n' roll. He's often called on for expert opinions. On just such a recent occasion, he pondered the inanity of the inquiry at hand.

"Are Jason and the Scorchers the greatest rock band ever to come out of Nashville?" he asked, repeating the question in the same childlike voice he might use to repeat nonsense queries such as "What color is the Jolly Green Giant?" Guterman chuckled, paused and replied, "Oh, of course."

Up to now, the prize for being Nashville's greatest rock band was a gift set that included day jobs and dissolution, quiet pride and considerable heartache and breathless reviews that cannot be redeemed for fame or fortune. Musicians know, and hard-core music fans know, and much of the record-buying nation yawns in collective disinterest.

But on Thursday night at the Ryman Auditorium, the Americana Music Association will bestow a lifetime achievement award on these Scorchers, and the band's most celebrated lineup — singer-songwriter Jason Ringenberg, guitarist Warner Hodges, drummer Perry Baggs and bass man Jeff Johnson — will gather onstage for the first time in 11 years.

Music historian and Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis will speak of the band as an electrifying, innovative force that fused punk rock energy and country roots in a manner never before attempted. Ringenberg will bounce around like, as Guterman once wrote, "Ed Norton on methamphetamines." Hodges will twirl around and unleash twang and distortion from his guitar. Johnson will stand solid and play simple and true. Baggs will fight past the diabetes that sends him to dialysis three days a week. Two songs, that's all they'll play.

"It could very well be the last thing we ever do together," said Baggs, whose day gig involves typing in nightclub listings at The Tennessean. Scorchers fans crowded the Exit/In in 2007 for a concert that raised money to defray Baggs' medical costs.

Lead guitarist Warner Hodges, left, Jason Ringenberg, bass guitar player Jeff Johnson, and drummer Perry Baggs, back, of Jason and the Scorchers. The band formed in the early 1980s and will perform together again Thursday, Sept. 18 at the Americana Music Awards at the Ryman Auditorium.

"It's great to get an award, but this goes further," he continued. "After last year's benefit show, for me, I cried on the way home. And I'm sure I'll cry about this, because I love these guys and I'm going to miss them. If I don't have kidneys, I can't tour. Once, I tried to walk away from this and say it doesn't matter, but it matters every day. We're going to play two songs at the Ryman, and I don't care if they take me away in an ambulance."

'It was an explosion'

"I looked at the band in 1992 as a complete failure," Ringenberg said. "At that time, people were saying, 'You guys had a big push, and it didn't happen.' They weren't saying, 'You guys revolutionized and changed music,' which is what some people say now."

Ringenberg was landscaping — mowing yards — in and around 1992. He'd take a job, and sometimes the property owner would recognize him. There would be the "You're Jason Ringenberg? You're mowing my yard?" moment, followed by a mumbled apology and an offer of, perhaps, a drink of water. In the early 1990s, that was the legacy of Jason and the Scorchers: a swing and a miss.

Ringenberg came to Nashville on July 4, 1981, driving south from Illinois with the notion of starting a band that would rev up some standard country songs into something more rock than hillbilly. Hodges and Johnson had already experimented with just such an idea, with Hodges' country-loving father telling him that if he got serious about that, then he'd really have something. Ringenberg was hanging out at the Springwater dive barwhen he met ambitious Vanderbilt student Jack Emerson and told Emerson of an idea to start a supercharged country band with a rock edge.

"Jack said, 'I'll help you do that, and I don't know how to play bass, but I'll play bass,' " Ringenberg remembered. Emerson managed to get Ringenberg gigs playing in front of buzzed-about alternative band REM and the legendary rocker Carl Perkins. Though the initial band didn't click, Ringenberg was a dynamo onstage, dancing as if he was somehow being pleasurably electrocuted. He had a 200-foot microphone cable, so "onstage" was often offstage, and he'd climb towers or venture into the audience while singing.

Johnson said Ringenberg's intensity was no less in evidence when he was singing in private settings.

"When I first met Jason, I could tell there was a magic there," Johnson said. "Jack Emerson brought him by, and I can remember the first time we jammed. He had a white shirt and a bolo tie. And he was electric, singing and just bouncing off the walls."

Johnson called his longtime friend Hodges and told him to go out and hear the thin, wild vocalist.

"Jeff told me, 'Dude, you've got to see this guy,' " Hodges said. "I did, and Jeff was right. Jeff always knew everything before the rest of us did."

In Hodges' childhood home, his music-making parents played traditional country in the living room, while the son often retreated to the bedroom to listen to AC/DC records. Bass player Johnson was into punk rock. They spoke with Ringenberg and decided to get together and play, and they quickly drove away the fellow who was playing drums. Hodges said he knew a guy who might be able to drum, and so they auditioned 20-year-old Baggs, who showed up at Ringenberg's West Nashville home with a sad little drum kit and two sticks.

"The four of us got together, and started with Carl Perkins' 'Gone, Gone, Gone' and it was an explosion of conflicting chemical components," Ringenberg said. "Right from the first verse, it was there."

Baggs quickly broke a drumstick, and he finished the audition with a tree branch he found in Ringenberg's yard. Weeks later, they recorded a four-song record called Reckless Country Soul, and then they played a New Year's Eve show in Murfreesboro at a club called K.O. Jams. The music was raw and furious, as "Jason and the Nashville Scorchers" whipped Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" until it bled. Patrons began hurling chairs and tables into walls, and the dance floor was littered with wood chunks. People threw beer mugs through windows. Rock 'n' roll, hoochie coo.

As 1982 began, the Scorchers sped as Nashville slumbered. Staid pop-country ruled Music Row, and the rock scene was less than notable. Promising talents went unfulfilled, and a few should-be stars (Dave Olney and Tim Krekel among them) failed to gain public mandate. The Scorchers, though, filled rooms and fueled talk, while Emerson greased the business wheels.

"I saw them first in 1982 in Atlanta," said DeCurtis, who was then a freelance writer. "Rock in the early '80s was very British-oriented, and REM and the Scorchers led this American counter-revolution. There was a neo-traditional aspect to the Scorchers, going back to the country sources that are the American grain. Putting that forward in the context of punk rock and upheaval and rebellion gave it a depth. And then seeing them live, there was a feeling that the whole stage was going to levitate."

Bass player Jeff Johnson, left, Jason Ringenberg, drummer Perry Baggs, and lead guitarist Warner Hodges.

In 1983, the six-song Fervor came out on Praxis Records, an indie label begun by Jack Emerson and Andy McLenon. Then there was a genuine major-label bidding war, and a contract with EMI, and the reissue of Fervor with the addition of new track "Absolutely Sweet Marie." The video for that song, a hyper-drive cover of Bob Dylan's original, aired repeatedly on MTV and featured plenty of Nashville scenery. Thousands of viewers saw Music City in a new light.

"Punk had turned into new wave, which had turned into synth pop," Guterman said. "Country was going through a time when Reba McEntire was considered a singer with edge. The Scorchers were a great punk band and a great rock band and a great country band, often in the same song. They invented what we're now calling 'Americana.' "

A hit, except on radio

The band's masterwork, Lost & Found, was released in 1985, to magnificent reviews. In The New York Times, the Scorchers were "one of the great rock bands of the 1980s," while the Los Angeles Times' Steve Hockman wrote, "The Nashville-based quartet doesn't just blend elements of rock 'n' roll and country, it rams them together with as much force as can be mustered." Ringenberg and Baggs also received notice for their songwriting, as the Scorchers' originals were as sharp as the cover songs they chose.

Trouble was, the band was connecting everywhere but at rock radio.

"It seemed like the crowds loved us, and the record company loved us and radio treated us like we had the flu," Baggs said. "You put a band like the Scorchers on the radio, and you're taking a chance. And they don't like to take chances."

The Scorchers and EMI expected 1986's Still Standing to be the commercial breakthrough. And … it wasn't. Miles and disagreements and rock 'n' roll habits had torn and frayed the Scorchers, and the burgeoning "hair metal" rock scene meant that the commercial marketplace was less friendly to roots-oriented music.

"A lot of stupid things were going on in the band, which were our fault," Hodges said. "And the harder we tried to be commercial, the less like ourselves we got."

EMI dropped the Scorchers, and Johnson exited. The group took on bass player Ken Fox and second guitarist Andy York and made Thunder and Fire for A&M Records, and then toured relentlessly. While the Scorchers opened a string of dates for Bob Dylan, Baggs was losing weight and energy. He wound up in a hospital, and discovered that he had diabetes. Wounded, reeling and exhausted, the band then found it had been dropped by A&M.

"Warner called me at my little farm in Kingston Springs and said, 'I can't do this anymore,' " Ringenberg said. "And the band broke up, for real. I didn't have any belief in going on. Everything was wrong."

Wanting to move toward country music, Ringenberg made a commercially forgettable solo album for Capitol Nashville. He lost the Capitol deal and got divorced, all in the same week. And he went to work, mowing yards.

In 1992, Guterman put together a Scorchers compilation for EMI called Are You Ready For The Country, collecting previously recorded tracks from a now-disbanded group and thereby bringing Fervor and Lost & Found into the compact disc era. Johnson, who had been out of touch with his former bandmates, purchased a copy of the disc, liked it and began calling Ringenberg and Hodges about getting back together. He'd tell Ringenberg that Hodges wanted to do it, which wasn't true. And he'd tell Hodges that Ringenberg wanted to do it, which wasn't true. Until, finally, it became true.

Lead guitarist Warner Hodges, left, drummer Perry Baggs and Jason Ringenberg of Jason and the Scorchers play to a full house at the Exit/In on as part of the Extravaganza '95.

The original Scorchers regrouped, and in 1995, Mammoth Records put out A Blazing Grace. Clear Impetuous Morning came the following year, and finally there was a live album called Midnight Roads & Stages Seen, recorded at Exit/In. By Midnight Roads, Johnson was gone again, replaced by Kenny Ames. In the new century there have been sporadic, often brilliant live shows, including last year's "Perry Fest." The Scorchers may well make another album, though no one dreams anymore of a radio takeover.

Why this band matters

What, then, is the big deal about a band that never had a gold record or a Top 20 hit?

Thursday's career achievement award isn't about sales figures, it's about energy, inspiration and influence. The Scorchers' American collision of punk, rock and country battered some doors, and if the band emerged with broken collarbones from all that banging, groups such as the Georgia Satellites, the Black Crowes, Wilco and Son Volt were free to walk right through. The band opened minds and ears in Nashville as well, as evidenced by a display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, where Ringenberg's red shirt, the one he wore for the Fervor cover shoot, hangs behind glass.

"Rock 'n' roll ain't nothing but blues and country, but when we started, if you came at it from a country perspective, they looked at you like you were from Mars," Hodges said. "Maybe we changed that."

"They delivered on the promise of what country-rock started out to be in the late 1960s," DeCurtis said. "They modernized it, and they're more important for what has come after. The quality of the work is impeccable, and the impulse has been a lasting one: that desire to take a vital element of the country tradition and connect it with rock. That still gets people excited."

Peter Cooper can be reached at or

If you go

What: Americana Music Association Honors & Awards featuring John Hiatt, Jim Lauderdale, Buddy Miller, Joan Baez, Jason and the Scorchers, and more.

Where: Ryman Auditorium

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $45

Contact: Ticketmaster at 255-9600 or,

The festival and conference

The ninth annual Americana Music Festival & Conference is expected to gather more than 1,000 performers and industry professionals in Music City from Wednesday through Saturday. Events take place at the Nashville Convention Center and other venues throughout Nashville, with up to 60 showcases and performances.


Jason and the Scorchers in the 1980s press:

“Wildly exciting. This is rock ’n’ roll, the real stuff.”
— The New York Times

“Their roots are country, their raw sound is rock ’n’ roll and their songs seem like a natural synthesis of the best of both.”
— Chicago Sun-Times

“Better to forget about labels and simply call (Lost & Found) a great record.
— Musician magazine

“A fabulous band.”
— London Times

“Jason Ringenberg with his nasal whine remains a Dixie-fried Joey Ramone, and the band’s guitars bash and twang like a demolition derby on tracks.”
— Entertainment Weekly

“A Scorchers show is not easy to describe. But it is certainly — on the right night — the nearest you’ll find today to that unspeakable rock ’n’ roll borderline where chaos is transformed magically into art, and art splinters into chaos. In other words, the edge.”
— Record magazine

“The band bashes on: Hodges raising great balls of hellfire on the guitar, bassist Jeff Johnson pumping eighth notes till you can feel the calluses, and drummer Perry Baggs banging away with muscular, unrestrained zeal.” — Rolling Stone