Saturday, November 15, 2008

Today's Tune: Lindsey Buckingham - Did You Miss Me (Live)

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What Obama Means For Black America


By John McWhorter 11.13.08, 1:32 PM ET

U.S. President George W. Bush and President-elect Barack Obama meet in the Oval Office of the White House, November 10, 2008. REUTERS/White House photo by Eric Draper

We have heard much about what the election of Barack Obama as president means for America, but less about what it means for black America specifically, beyond surprise and vague notions of hope.

The issue is not only the emergence of the new but the eclipse of the old. Here are some traits of pre-11/4 black America that are now history.

The studious black teen will no longer be tarred as "thinking he's white."

This has been a sad aspect of growing up nerdy for black students since the mid-'60s, when school integration left black students amid wary and often nasty white students. A natural response was a sense of school as the province of the other, i.e. "white."

Since then, black peers have passed this notion down the generations. For decades, there have been innumerable reports of black students faced with a choice between hitting the books and having black friends.

From now on, however, there is a ready riposte to being tarred as "acting white" for liking school: "Is Barack Obama white?"

It's the perfect smackdown--not even the most hardened black teen will disown the heroism of the first black president, in all of his nerdiness.

In the late '60s, black people who had been in middle school a few years before noticed that their siblings were suddenly being called "white" for liking school. Just watch: in 10 years, black people suffering this treatment now will notice that their younger siblings and cousins are not--and Barack Obama will be the reason.

The illusion that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are black America's leaders is now officially dispelled.

Potshots that Jackson's tears during Obama's acceptance speech were over his own eclipse are petty: Jackson was surely as touched as the rest of us. However, the fact remains that his most memorable moments of late have been calling Obama "white" for not protesting in Jena, La., and later suggesting that he be separated from his reproductive organs for warmly advising black men to help raise their kids. In both cases, Jackson looked decidedly un-leaderly, and with Obama having won the day, he now looks antiquarian.

Meanwhile, recall Sharpton during a Democratic debate in 2004, accusing Howard Dean of racism in not having black people in his administration as governor of Vermont. Never mind that only about 3,000 people lived in Vermont, many of them children. Dean had to accept this out of respect to Sharpton as a "leader."

Fast forward: This year, there was no routine with Obama seeking Sharpton's "endorsement." Sharpton's initial harrumphs about Obama's black bona fides, along with warnings that he had yet to "make up his mind," were passing news at best. And who can recall just when Sharpton decided to come around? It didn't matter--Obama is too beyond him.

Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton

Most black people have always considered Jackson and Sharpton celebrities rather than "leaders." Non-black observers will now have no reason to suppose otherwise--and as such, will give up the talk-radio misimpression that black America lives in thrall to two colorful preachers. Obama's greater gravitas is starkly apparent both in his office and in the substance of his intentions.

While we're at it, black America need no longer worry about the supposed absence of "black leaders"--code for "Where is today's King?" To the extent that we need one, we need only look toward 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., where someone will be ready to lead us into the roiling mainstream of this great nation rather than herding us into self-perpetuating aggrievement.

In that light, the idea that for black people, underdoggism is higher awareness is obsolete.

One of the strangest things about reading black writings of the old days is the ingrained optimism. W.E.B. DuBois in the aughts highlighted blacks making the best of themselves despite obstacles. Zora Neale Hurston bristled at being expected to write of lynchings rather than self-regard and triumph. Many black literati disowned Richard Wright's Native Son as too pessimistic.

But in the late '60s, just as segregation and bigotry began a rapid retreat, it became fashionable to treat black identity as plangent, wary of celebration where whites could hear it, glumly obsessed with tabulating ever-fraying strands of racism. No matter how successful many blacks are, no matter how many interracial couples there are, no matter how few "firsts" are left, we always have much longer to go than we have come. A shoe still hasn't dropped.

Well, it just did.

A black man is president, and black Americans seem to feel like it really means something. As such, we will expect a sea change in the tone of what is considered the authentic black voice. Pollyanna, no. But it will be positive and constructive--as Obama has been on the topic of race--in the way that anyone would assume of a group that truly seeks progress.

Many have supposed that what black America needs was a second revolution in how white people think. Barack Obama's election showed that white people's thoughts weren't so retrograde after all. White people voted with those thoughts--and now, even without a revolution, much of what black America needs to happen will be a reality.

- John McWhorter is the author of The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language, among other books, and has taught linguistics at Cornell and the University of California, Berkeley. He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

A Lemon of a Bailout

By Charles Krauthammer
November 14, 2008

WASHINGTON -- Finally, the outlines of a coherent debate on the federal bailout. This comes as welcome relief from a campaign season that gave us the House Republicans' know-nothing rejectionism, John McCain's mindless railing against "greed and corruption" and Barack Obama's detached enunciation of vacuous bailout "principles" that allowed him to be all things to all people.

Now clarity is emerging. The fault line is the auto industry bailout. The Democrats are pushing hard for it. The White House is resisting.

Underlying the policy differences is a philosophical divide. The Bush administration sees the $700 billion rescue as an emergency measure to save the financial sector on the grounds that finance is a utility. No government would let the electric companies go under and leave the country without power. By the same token, government must save the financial sector lest credit dry up and strangle the rest of the economy.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is willing to stretch the meaning of "bank" by extending protection to such entities as American Express. But fundamentally, he sees government as saving institutions that deal in money, not other stuff.

Democrats have a larger canvas, with government intervening in other sectors of the economy to prevent the cascade effect of mass unemployment leading to more mortgage defaults and business failures (as consumer spending plummets), in turn dragging down more businesses and financial institutions, producing more unemployment, etc. -- the death spiral of the 1930s.

Bush is trying to move the LIBOR or the TED spread, which measure credit flows. The Democrats' index is the unemployment rate.

With almost 5 million workers supported by the auto industry, Democrats are pressing for a federal rescue. But the problems are obvious.

First, the arbitrariness. Where do you stop? Once you've gone beyond the financial sector, every struggling industry will make a claim on the federal treasury. What are the grounds for saying yes or no?

The criteria will inevitably be arbitrary and political. The money will flow preferentially to industries with lines to Capitol Hill and the White House. To the companies heavily concentrated in the districts of committee chairmen. To clout. Is this not precisely the kind of lobby-driven policymaking that Obama ran against?

Second is the sheer inefficiency. Saving Detroit means saving it from bankruptcy. As we have seen with the airlines, bankruptcy can allow operations to continue while helping shed fatally unsupportable obligations. For Detroit, this means release from ruinous wage deals with their astronomical benefits (the hourly cost of a Big Three worker: $73; of an American worker for Toyota: $48), massive pension obligations, and unworkable work rules such as "job banks," a euphemism for paying vast numbers of employees not to work.

The point of the Democratic bailout is to protect the unions by preventing this kind of restructuring. Which will guarantee the continued failure of these companies, but now they will burn tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. It's the ultimate in lemon socialism.

Democrats are suggesting, however, an even more ambitious reason to nationalize. Once the government owns Detroit, it can remake it. The euphemism here is "retool" Detroit to make cars for the coming green economy.

Liberals have always wanted the auto companies to produce the kind of cars they insist everyone should drive: small, light, green and cute. Now they will have the power to do it.

In World War II, government had the auto companies turning out tanks. Now they would be made to turn out hybrids. The difference is that, in the middle of a world war, tanks have a buyer. Will hybrids? One of the reasons Detroit is in such difficulty is that consumers have been resisting the smaller, less powerful, less safe cars forced on the industry by fuel-efficiency mandates. Now Detroit would be forced to make even more of them.

If you think we have economic troubles today, consider the effects of nationalizing an industry of this size, but now run by bureaucrats issuing production quotas to fit five-year plans to meet politically mandated fuel-efficiency standards -- to lift us to the sunny uplands of the coming green utopia.

Republican minimalism -- saving the credit-issuing utilities -- certainly risks not doing enough. But the Democratic drift toward massive industrial policy threatens to grow into the guaranteed inefficiencies of command-economy maximalism.

In this crisis, we agree to suspend the invisible hand of Adam Smith -- but not in order to be crushed by the heavy hand of government.

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Would Santa Do?

The Nation's Pulse

By Faith J. H. McDonnell on 11.14.08 @ 6:04AM
The American Spectator

Here comes Santa Claus…with another attack on Christmas.

On November 12, the Associated Press revealed that ads demanding "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake?" will begin appearing on Washington, D.C. area Metro buses starting next week and running through December (naturally). The ads feature a strange Santa-garbed person with Rastafarian braids. They also include the admonition from the familiar Christmas song "Here Comes Santa Claus" to be "good for goodness' sake," rather than because any sort of Divine being provides the impetus and the power to be good.

The American Humanist Association, AHA for the sake of expediency, is responsible for the ad campaign. AHA purports to have two reasons for the seasonal siege.

First, "there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists, and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion," according to AHA spokesman Fred Edwards.

The "holidays," that vague, innocuous, politically correct and cojones-less term, has no association with traditional religion, Fred. The "holidays" are the perfect purview of that "awful lot" of agnostics, atheists, and other associated non-theists. In fact, they should be quite exhilarated in their celebration of the holidays, since it represents a stage in the victory over religious expression in the public square.

It is Christmas, the holiday that dares not speak its name (since it includes the name of the Christian Lord that seems to be so inexplicably offensive to some), that may alienate AHA and those for whom it is an advocate. But somehow, thousands upon thousands of ordinary citizens who are not Christians, and may or may not have their own exclusive holidays to celebrate, manage to slog through the Christmas season with their feelings unscathed.

AHA's second reason to deck the Metro buses with posters of apostasy is to declare that "humanists have always understood that you don't need a god to be good."

According to Roy Speckhardt, executive director of AHA, "Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."

Have to agree with you there, Roy. Morality definitely does not come from religion. In fact, sometimes immorality comes from religion. It all depends upon the object of worship. The Swiss philosopher/poet Henri Frederic Amiel confirmed this when he said, "The test of every religious, political, or educational system is the man which it forms. If a system injures the intelligence it is bad. If it injures the character it is vicious. If it injures the conscience it is criminal."

Oh yes, conscience! Mr. Speckhardt says that morality is a set of values based on empathy, fairness, and experience. But he doesn't explain from where the empathy and fairness originate. What is the source of that sense of fairness, the sense of right and wrong? Does it spring from nowhere like Athena from the head of Zeus? Perhaps some theist associated with traditional religion will provide Mr. Speckhardt with a copy of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. It begins with a brilliant exposition on "Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe."

So what would Santa think of AHA's attempt to identify him with their Advent attack? Even the Santa portrayed in the lyrics of Gene Autry, who is not exactly remembered for his theological prowess, is said to "know that we are all God's children."

But would the real Santa Claus have a stronger reaction to AHA? (Yes, Fred and Roy, there is a Santa Claus.) St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra, in 4th century Asia Minor, now Turkey. In addition to being remembered for his generosity and compassion to the poor and to children, Bishop Nicholas was the kind of "muscular Christian" that makes the folks at the National Council of Churches shudder. He was a staunch defender of Christian orthodoxy and would not be too pleased with the "Why believe in a god?" mentality.

During his tenure at bishop, he attended the first ecumenical council of the Church, which had been called to deal with the growing heresy of Arianism. Arianism, named after Arius, a North African priest who was its key proponent, denied the full deity of Jesus Christ and said that he was a created being. Nicholas struck a blow for orthodoxy, slapping Arius in the face after he spoke.

Nicholas might well deal with the American Humanist Association in the same manner in which he dispatched poor Arius, but probably, being older and wiser, and "good, for goodness sake," he would refrain from physical violence and just urge those who believe in God to assert their right to believe, and to flaunt their belief as publicly as AHA flaunts its unbelief.

Faith J. H. McDonnell is director of the Religious Liberty Program at the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C.

Film Reviews: “Quantum of Solace”

Soul Survivor

by Anthony Lane
The New Yorker
November 17, 2008

Olga Kurylenko and Daniel Craig in Marc Forster’s James Bond movie.


Who wants to be James Bond? Everyone of the male sex, pretty much, in the old days. Schoolboys dreamed of growing up to be 007, and middle-aged men lay awake, in the small hours, and wondered why they had grown into something else—how it was that their wristwatches merely told the time rather than spewing out metal ticker tape or magnetically unzipping the back of a woman’s dress. To sit and watch Bond’s recent adventures, however, is to witness that reverie in decline. In “Casino Royale” (2006), he had his private parts given a thorough dusting with a hank of rope. Now, in “Quantum of Solace,” we are taken on a journey into the even more private crannies of his soul—an item of specialist equipment with which he has only recently been fitted, and which may come as a shock to longtime fans of the franchise. Sean Connery smoldered like Troy, but that told us nothing about the fires within. As for Roger Moore, he didn’t need a soul. He had a safari suit. These days, though, the outer Bond gets such a rough ride that you have to ask whether anyone, man or boy, still yearns to get in touch with his inner 007. In short, who wants to be Daniel Craig?

Well, I could use his Aston Martin. There was a nasty moment, in the previous film, when Craig, in his début as Bond, drove a rented Ford Mondeo, in ladylike blue, and he rounds off this new installment at the wheel of a Ford hybrid sedan, like a dad on a fishing trip, but we begin, as we damn well should, at the wheel of an Aston Martin DBS. This our hero pilots around a series of stomach-dropping bends, with Alfa Romeos in pursuit and one car diving smartly off the side of a mountain: all in all, a charming snapshot of ordinary Italian traffic. Two details set the tone. First, Bond’s Aston has a door wrenched off in the mayhem, and, once at a standstill, he clambers out of the gap; filmed from the outside, this would look comic, but the director, Marc Forster, shoots it from inside the car, thus making clear that his own contribution to the genre will have the humor stripped from it like chrome. Second, one of the Alfas hits an oncoming truck, while another piles into a house. Quite right, too, except that both are head-on crunches, and you feel them in the judder of your spine. The same thing happens later, in Haiti, when Bond steals one boat and smacks it amidships into another. That sort of impact is what “Quantum of Solace” is about. The title is too frail by far. Someone should have called it “Total of Wreckage.” Or “Batter of Ram.”

There is a vein of masochism running through this carnage, as if Bond would deem it dishonorable to dish out what he couldn’t take. He dispatches people not for idle pleasure, as his more preening enemies have done, but as a way to beat himself up and stun his nerves out of the lethargy of grief. At the end of “Casino Royale,” he lost his lover, Vesper Lynd, who is paid a forlorn tribute here as he downs six of the cocktails named after her. (In the fog of alcohol, those frightening eyes of his mist over, but they still refuse to thaw.) The new movie gives us Bond in mourning—a condition that issues, according to Freud, in melancholy and a general indifference to life, but which causes this particular sufferer to stab people in the neck and toss them from tall buildings. He is no less indifferent to the lives of others, in other words, than he is to his own, and the casual, shrugging quality of his brutishness makes it especially wounding: watch him flip a guy off a motorbike, kick the splayed limbs of guards back into the elevator where he just laid them out cold, and, worst of all, heave the body of a trusted acquaintance into a Dumpster, as if all life ended in the trash. As M (Judi Dench) remarks, in one of her tarter moments, “If you could avoid killing every possible lead, it would be deeply appreciated.”

The leads matter, because they promise a solution to Vesper’s death. She was involved with a secret organization, and only by following a money trail does Bond sniff out its master: Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric), whose name suggests a trainee hair stylist—where are the Scaramangas and Oddjobs of yesteryear?—but whose favorite sport consists of toppling the governments of minor nations and pinching their natural resources. The plot follows the familiar, curious pattern that tends to affect every exploit of 007, with the romance of the peripatetic slowly shrinking to a squabble that feels both crazed and touchingly provincial. This time, having hopped lightly around the globe, paying his brief respects to Siena, London, Haiti, and Austria, our hero winds up fussing about with water supplies at the back end of Bolivia. Is Vesper truly avenged because her beloved James gets to butch it out with the flower-shirted Dominic in what looks like a Ramada Inn? The place is so isolated, and frankly so hideous, that there appear to be no other guests, or even room service. Collateral damage is minimal, the world is saved, and nobody even noticed.

The narrative of Forster’s film is certainly sketchy enough, and early viewers reported a dismaying sense of desiccation: no quips, no gadgets, no time to relax. For the aerial dogfight, both planes have propellers, as if Bond were just a throwback to Indiana Jones. He should wear Savile Row suits, but the costume designer puts him in a black blouson and flat-fronted cream chinos, like a slightly precious soccer fan. As for sex, you might as well stay home with a pair of bed socks and a DVD of “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” Bond finds a beauteous comrade-in-arms, Camille (Olga Kurylenko), but she, it turns out, has her own agenda of revenge, and their sole point of contact is the kind of kiss that tennis partners exchange when they win a mixed doubles. I was cheered by the arrival of Agent Fields (Gemma Arterton), an upstanding British redhead, but, after showing Bond her raincoat and her naked back, in that order, she makes an alarming exit. Why, then, days after seeing “Quantum of Solace,” do I find, against expectation, that I can’t shake it off? Given that it seems such a diminution of the Bond legend, boiling him down to the bare bones of aggression, what can it bring to the party?

The James Bond backlist is, like the history of cinema itself, a trade-off between the real and the fantastic. The best thing in Forster’s film is a fabulous sequence in which 007 takes out a few baddies during a lakeside performance of “Tosca”; the intercutting between his own violence and the melodrama onstage, meaner and less swooning than Coppola’s similar set piece in “The Godfather: Part III,” tells you everything about the melding of artifice and pain that has sustained the saga of Bond. I have lost count of the number of times in which we have been offered a darker or dirtier Bond; as M, worried about his sanity, relieves him of duty in the new film, I recalled the unsavory “Licence to Kill” (1989), whose working title had been “Licence Revoked.” The Bond films have nodded to geopolitics but genuflected toward exotica, and the hero is, in himself, a wild concoction—the free-range spy, roaming abroad in the service of a nonexistent empire back home. There may be intakes of breath, in audiences here, when Bond says that American intelligence services “will lie down with anybody,” and when even the temperate M blurts out, “I don’t give a shit about the C.I.A.,” but how can we seriously ascribe topicality to a thriller that pays no heed to actual foes, such as Al Qaeda, presumably for fear of denting the market overseas?

The truth is that one thing alone lends gravity to Bond, and tethers him down to our shared earth, and that is the actor who plays him. This is where Craig and Connery score, and where the others lag behind. “Quantum of Solace” is too savage for family entertainment, but, as a study in headlong desperation, it’s easier to believe in than many more ponderous films. “Everything he touches seems to wither and die,” Dominic Greene tells Camille, and Bond might well agree. “I don’t have any friends,” he says, more as a statement of fact than as a complaint, and Forster deliberately surrounds Craig with unmenacing beta males: pale and flabby types from MI6, plus a bad Boris Karloff impersonator as Greene’s henchman. Even the cocktail waiter looks weak and watery. None of them can match 007, let alone reach out to him, and I found myself relishing his rare flickers of companionship: with the ever more mothering M, for instance, and with Mathis (Giancarlo Giannini), his rumpled sidekick from “Casino Royale.” “Come with me,” Bond asks him, with a spectre of a smile, on his way to South America: a request echoed, when they get there, by Mathis’s own distress call—“Stay with me.” In the end, though, Bond’s closest encounter is with a traitor, whom he tracks across the roofs of Siena. They crash through a roof, into a building undergoing restoration, and tangle together on ropes—swaying in the void and grabbing for their guns. It is an airy, murderous parody of the scene in “The English Patient” in which Juliette Binoche, in the same part of the country, is hoisted high in a church to inspect the frescoes. Art gives life, and more than a quantum of solace; but James Bond, aloft and alone, is always the bringer of death. ♦



By Kyle Smith
New York Post
November 14, 2008

REVENGE is a dish best served with bullets, high explosives and giant rolling flameballs. In "Quantum of Solace," James Bond orders the revenge buffet, deluxe.

We begin just after "Casino Royale," with Bond's girlfriend Vesper dead and her (other, missing) boyfriend suspected in forcing the events that led to her death, which was perhaps the first suicide by drowning in an elevator yet recorded on-screen.

With Vesper gone, the only woman around who understands Bond (a well-scuffed Daniel Craig) is Judi Dench's M, and the way these two hurl flameball glances at each other re-creates the kind of raw sexual tension unseen since the early days of the Siskel and Ebert show. Who needs Moneypenny when you've got Wenchy Denchy?

M gets betrayed by her own bodyguard, who is linked to another assassin for whom 007 is mistaken in Haiti by a lynxlike cutie (Olga Kurylenko) who picks Bond up, tries to kill him and introduces him to this evening's villain: Greene (Mathieu Amalric of "Munich"). Greene, as you might guess from his name, is an enviro-goon (I've had my eye on those tree-huggers for just this kind of skullduggery) who, under the cover of his conservationist (i.e. destructionist) group, is fomenting a coup in Bolivia in a swap for a worthless piece of desert land.

You can never take a coup-fomenter at his word, though, and Amalric has the smirky menace to suggest the sleaze of Roman Polanski (both in "Chinatown" and real life). Greene turns out to be well-connected: Among his Facebook friends are the CIA, who share their private plane with Greene as they lead the cheers for his coup. In the background, you can see the favored reading material of these malefactors: The New Yorker and The New York Times.

Bond even manages to turn the Brits against him. The character has never been taken to such extremes, never before been such a cold, isolated bastard. He leaves a friend dead in a garbage bin, dispenses with all niceties (there is no "Bond, James Bond," no casino scene, no loyalty to anyone but himself). When he drinks, it isn't to be suave, it's to get drunk. He can't sleep. "I don't have any friends," he says. Possibly only the Dark Knight and Dick Cheney are as unpopular. The man has been worked as hard as his poor Aston Martin, the one that gets its driver's side door clipped off in the opening chase.

Which is the first of the many action scenes that turn up as regularly as Weather on the 1's. There's no use pretending that the story has any purpose except to link the chase-ems-and-shoot-ems, but director Marc Forster (previously associated with semi-arty films "Monster's Ball," "Finding Neverland") borrows heavily from the Bourne movies, racing through jagged close-ups that thrust you in the middle, gasping. Forster even turns a phone call into a blaze of graphics that suggests John King simultaneously charting the House, Senate and White House races. I personally would have a lot more confidence in our spy agencies if they could at least come up with a cool interface to explain why they can't find bin Laden.

The action geometry can be muddled. During a rooftop chase in Siena that involves breaking scaffolding, a flying girder, Tarzanish clinging to ropes and sheets of breaking glass, I wasn't sure whether it was Bond or the villain who yelled, "Aaaagh!" Nor could I figure out what was happening in the airplane chase, or how it is that a parachute that opens 6 inches before you hit the ground is going to keep you from shattering into subatomic fragments. But does it matter? Being equally thrilling and confusing certainly made the seventh-grade dance memorable, and it works for Forster.

Classic-yet-new is also tricky. With a script by Paul Haggis, Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, Forster manages. The wit is as dry as the rocky desert where Greene stores his nefarious dreams: "Don't bleed to death," "When they say, 'We've got people everywhere,' you expect it to be hyperbole." A surprise reference to "Goldfinger" is worked in beautifully, while "He just smiled at me - and set the house on fire" and "Yeah, you're right, we should just deal with nice people" bring a bitter hurt unknown to, say, Pierce Brosnan's Bond, the non-brute with the invisi-car.

Kurylenko, who looks like a cross between Am�lie and Thandie Newton, is a big Bond-aid, too: I'm not going to mention the names of any actress who failed on this score, but a Bond Girl must be not only beautiful but also interesting. Denise Richards.

Where "Quantum" falls well short of "Casino Royale" is in the ending. This one is bland, James Bland. Key characters meet their fates off-screen, and it's only because the Bond music blasts you out of your seat to hustle in the next crowd that you know the thing is done. We can only hope the next chapter will deliver something that would burn as hot as Keith Olbermann's temper: Bond vs. Bourne.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

De Incarnatione

St Athanasius (c. 296 – 373) from the eighteenth section of De Incarnatione

‘Our Lord took a body like to ours and lived as a man in order that those who had refused to recognize Him in his superintendence and captaincy of the whole universe might come to recognize from the works He did here below in the body that what dwelled in this body was the Word of God.’

Whose Speech is Hate Speech?

by Robert Spencer

“You must destroy the West” -- so said a speaker at a recent conference in London. The conference featured Islamic leaders openly calling for the overthrow of the British government and the establishment of an Islamic state in Britain -- under the noses of British authorities who, just days before the conference, had announced a new crackdown against “hate speech” and “extremist” preaching. The episode was instructive -- or should have been -- for proponents of the Fairness Doctrine and “hate speech” laws in the United States.

Anjem Choudary

The conference organizer, Anjem Choudary, declared at the conference that “as Muslims, we will not submit to any man-made law, any government, or any prime minister -- Bush or Brown -- or Jacqui Smith. We submit to Allah.” Instead of submitting, he called upon Muslims to rise up: “It is our religious obligation to prepare ourselves both physically and mentally and rise up against Muslim oppression and take what is rightfully ours. Jihad is a duty and a struggle and an obligation that lies upon the shoulders of us all. We will not rest until the flag of Allah and the flag of Islam is raised above 10 Downing Street.”

Choudary called on Muslims to dare to take the risks involved in participating in the violent overthrow of the British state. “There are three types of Muslims,” he said: “those in prison, those of us that are on our way [to prison] and non-practicing Muslims. Brothers and sisters, if you do not fear your home being raided by the Kufar [non-believer] police, you are not enforcing the Sharia [Islamic law].”

Speaking via a live feed from Lebanon, Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad, a jihadist leader formerly based in Britain but now barred from returning to that country, exhorted the conference attendees: “Do not obey the British law….We must fight and die for Islam -- this is the map and road to Jennah [Paradise].” He praised Osama bin Laden and asserted that Muslims had no obligation to obey secular laws rather than Islamic law.

Ironically, this conference came only two weeks after UK Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced that the British government was taking new steps to stop “preachers of hate from spreading extremism in our communities.” So would Choudary and the other conference organizers and speakers be arrested? Unlikely: a British Home Office official said that “the new measures…only prevent individuals from coming here and spreading their hate in person.” As such, they “do not cover” this jihadist conference.

Later, the Home Office and London’s Metropolitan Police played hot potato with the conference. A Home Office statement said that it wasn’t their responsibility to determine whether or not any laws had been broken; rather, “it is for the police and the Crown Prosecution Service to investigate any breach of the law,” to which a Police spokesman replied: “It’s the Home Office that makes the laws. If it doesn’t know whether something is against the law, then who does?”

Good question -- and one that goes to the heart of the problem with “hate speech laws” in general. Even in the face of the London jihadist conference’s open calls to destroy British society as it is currently constituted and impose Islamic law there, no one is quite sure what constitutes “hate speech” and why hate speech laws are so dangerous. “Hate speech,” like the “fairness” that the Fairness Doctrine promises to establish, is in the eye of the beholder. Hate speech laws, like the Fairness Doctrine, are so vague in their application that law enforcement officials can easily become genuinely befuddled (like the UK’s Home Office) as to what crosses the line and what doesn’t -- and that very vagueness can make them a tool in the hands of those in power to silence dissent.

As America welcomes a new President who counts among his supporters many who would like to see the U.S. enact laws like Britain’s hate speech codes and the Fairness Doctrine, this London jihadist conference illustrates anew that such laws create more problems than they solve. As jihadists in Britain speak openly about their intention to overthrow the British government, British officials would be better off dusting off and enforcing old laws about sedition rather than trying to figure out if some dangerously vague new laws have been broken.

- Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad" and the recently released "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).


By Ann Coulter
November 12, 2008

For the first time in 32 years, Democrats got more than 50 percent of the country to vote for their candidate in a national election, and now they want to lecture the Republican Party on how to win elections. Liberal Republicans have joined them, both groups hoping no one will notice that we just lost this election by running the candidate they chose for us.

For years, New York Times columnist David Brooks has been writing mash notes to John McCain. In November 2007, he quoted an allegedly "smart-alecky" political consultant who exclaimed, in private, "You know, there's really only one great man running for president this year, and that's McCain."

"My friend's remark," Brooks somberly intoned, "had the added weight of truth."

Brooks gushed, "I can tell you there is nobody in politics remotely like him," and even threw down the gauntlet, saying: "You will never persuade me that he is not among the finest of men."

That took guts at the Times, where McCain is constantly praised by the op-ed columnists and was endorsed by the paper in the Republican primary. Even Frank Rich has hailed McCain as the "most experienced and principled" of the Republicans and said no one in either party "has more experience in matters of war than the Arizona senator" -- the biggest rave issued by Rich since "Rent" opened on Broadway.

They adored McCain at the Times! Does anyone here not see a cluster of bright red flags?

In January this year, Brooks boasted of McCain's ability to attract "independents."

And then Election Day arrived, and all the liberals who had spent years praising McCain all voted for Obama. Independents voted for Palin or voted against Obama. No one outside of McCain's immediate family was specifically voting for McCain.

But now Brooks presumes to lecture Republicans about what to do next time. How about: "Don't take David Brooks' advice"?

According to Brooks, the reason McCain lost was -- naturally -- that he ran as a conservative. If only presidential candidates would spurn polls, modern political history, evidence from campaign rallies, facts on the ground and listen to the wishful thinking of Times columnists!

If McCain lost because he ran as a conservative, then how come I knew McCain was going to lose before Brooks did? About the same time Brooks was touting McCain's uncanny ability to attract independents, I was writing, accurately: "John McCain is Bob Dole minus the charm, conservatism and youth."

Using the latest euphemism for "liberal," Brooks complains that "reformist" Republicans like John McCain are forced to run for president as smelly old conservatives: "National candidates who begin with reformist records -- Giuliani, Romney or McCain -- immediately tack right to be acceptable to the power base." (Some "tack" so far to the right they almost adopt the positions in the GOP platform!)

In another sign of how popular liberalism is, liberals have to keep changing their name, like grifters moving from town to town. Liberal Republicans used to be known as "moderates," then "mavericks" or "centrists." I guess now they're "reformists." Why, liberals are so popular they have to disguise themselves for fear of being mobbed by an adoring public!

I gather by "reformist," Brooks means liberal only on the social issues like gay marriage and abortion because -- apart from abortion and gay marriage -- Rudy Giuliani was a right-wing lunatic. He engaged in aggressive policing, cut taxes and government bureaucracies, abolished New York's affirmative action office and was repeatedly denounced as a storm trooper by The New York Times.

The same thing goes for Romney, who also cut taxes and government regulations, but promised Massachusetts voters he would not tinker with their beloved abortion rights.

Ironically, McCain was a liberal on virtually every issue except abortion and gay marriage, but he bashed social conservatives to his friends in the press, so they excused his pro-life voting record as a cynical ploy to get votes in Arizona.

So "reformist" evidently means a Republican who is liberal on social issues. My term for that is "Joe Lieberman." Whatever the merit of being liberal on social issues, both Joe Lieberman and the Republican Party's history suggest that the winning formula is the exact opposite combination.

If liberals are going to use their first majority vote in a national election since Helen Thomas was spilling champagne on Liza at Studio 54 to lecture Republicans on how to win elections, I have a tip for them based on the exact same election: Constitutional amendments banning gay marriage passed in every state they were on the ballot -- Florida, Arizona, even in liberal California.

I'll accept the results of the presidential election, if you anti-Proposition 8 die-hards in California accept the results of that vote. Earth to protestors: Most Americans oppose gay marriage. On this, even blacks and Mormons are agreed! Why don't you people go find something useful to do?

Let's see, who was avidly pro-gay-marriage? Oh I remember: The guy who's once again lecturing Republicans on how to win elections: David Brooks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Today's Tune: Guy Clark - Desperados Waiting For A Train

(Click on title to play video)

Children As Human Bombs

By Brooke Goldstein & Danielle Goldstein on 11.12.08 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

On Monday, a 13-year-old female child blew herself up in central Baghdad, killing 28 and wounding 68. Among those killed were male and female students; a tragedy of immense proportions. Suicide-homicide attacks by female bombers, the handicapped, and children, the last often detonated by remote control, are an increasing trend this year. Sadly this latest example of perverse child abuse is a symptom of a much greater problem.

The incitement and recruitment of innocent Muslim children to become child soldiers, human bombs, and human shields is occurring in varying degrees throughout the Muslim and Western world. In Pakistan, Iran, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon, Syria and Saudi Arabia, children are being systematically targeted through school textbooks, television programs, music videos, cartoons, the Internet, by their teachers and Imams, with hate propaganda aimed at building the next generation of Jihadis. These children are being harvested by terrorist groups like ripe fruit, driven across borders and detonated by adults as deadly political pawns.

U.S. intelligence analysts recently reported that Islamic terrorist groups are enlisting growing numbers of teenagers for their most violent and deadliest of missions. The Taliban is recruiting children as young as seven for their suicide missions, while approximately 20% of all Palestinian suicide bombings since the second intifada have been aged 18 and younger. During his last visit to the United States, Afghan President Karzai's pardoned a six year old who was told his bomb-belt would explode flowers. A couple of months ago, England's MI5 Seized DVDs being marketed to London-born Muslim youth encouraging them to commit violent suicide attacks, while Al Manar, a Hezbollah-run network, continues to be broadcast throughout the EU, preaching hate and enlisting children to murder for the sake of jihad.

The Islamic Maghreb, an off-shoot of Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network (AQIM), has gone as far as formerly launching a group called the "Young People of Paradise," which has mobilized a collection of 14 to 16 year olds currently training for suicide assignments.

Islamic terrorist groups turning to children and the handicapped do so, in part, to thwart security checks, but the phenomenon may be a sign they are losing support among adult males, who may be realizing the futility of the act. Children also prove cheaper recruits than adults who demand significant payments for their surviving family members, and in the Palestinian context, for a house that may be demolished.

UNFORTUNATELY, THE SYSTEMATIC and intentional state-sponsored mass infanticide of Muslim children remains largely under-reported by the media and under-condemned by human rights groups. On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League hosted its annual conference, this time entitled "Is Peace Possible," at the Cardozo School of Law in New York City. Panelist, Shibley Telhami, an Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland and board member of Human Rights Watch (HRW), was asked by an audience member about the role education plays in determining the future of a peaceful greater Middle East.

Apprehensive of acknowledging the issue, Telhami shamefully blamed the questioner of accusing Palestinian parents of not loving their children and apologetically concluded that hate education wasn't as grave a problem as the questioner made it out to be.

Asked why HRW and other organizations have not consistently condemned or advocated against the use of Muslim children as human bombs, Telhami ignored the question. Such denial and refusal to condemn the practice unequivocally gives the green light to terrorists to continue this practice with impunity.

President-elect Obama has a moral duty to address the international problem of hate education aimed at Muslim children, a nonpartisan and central issue in this war on Islamist terror.

- Brooke Goldstein is a practicing attorney, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute, and serves as director of the Children's Rights Institute. She is also director of the Legal Project at the Middle East Forum and an award winning documentary film producer of The Making of a Martyr, a film that explores the incitement and recruitment of Palestinian children as suicide bombers. Danielle Goldstein is a second year law student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and is the co-founder and co-president of the Cardozo chapter of the Children's Rights Institute.

GOP Looking Glass

The Right future.

By Jonah Goldberg
November 12, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

President Bush walks with President-elect Barack Obama during a visit to the White House, November 10, 2008.
(Jim Young/Reuters)

Was George W. Bush a conservative president?

For liberals, this is a settled question. Bush is not merely a conservative, he is the conservative. He is the ur-right-winger, the Platonic ideal of all that is truly Republican.

For some liberals, this is clearly just a tactical pose. Bush is unpopular, so they hope to discredit conservatism by marrying it to Bush, just as Barack Obama succeeded by painting John McCain as a Bush clone. This is the moment, as Obama might say, to permanently block the right-hand fork in the road so the country can only move leftward.

The view on the Right is very different, and the debate about the Bush years will largely determine the future of the Republican party and the conservative movement.

Bush’s brand of conservatism was always a controversial innovation on the Right. Recall that in 2000 he promised to be a “different kind of Republican,” and he kept his word. His partner in passing the No Child Left Behind Act was liberal Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy. Bush’s prescription drug benefit — the largest expansion of entitlements since the Great Society — was hugely controversial on the right. He signed the McCain-Feingold bill to the dismay of many Republicans who’d spent years denouncing campaign-finance “reform” as an assault on freedom of speech. The fight over his immigration plan nearly tore the conservative movement apart.

This is not to suggest that Bush was in fact a liberal president. Politics is not binary like that. There were conservative triumphs — and failures — to the Bush presidency. He appointed two solid conservatives to the Supreme Court. He tried to privatize Social Security, though that failed for sundry reasons.

His much-touted “compassionate conservatism” was rejected by many on the right as a slap to traditional conservatives and an intellectual betrayal of Reaganite principles. It was a rhetorical capitulation to Bill Clinton’s feel-your-pain political posturing and an embrace of the assumptions that have been the undergirding of liberalism since the New Deal. That is, the measure of one’s compassion is directly proportionate to one’s support for large and costly government programs.

And Bush admitted as much. In an interview with The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes, Bush explained that he rejected William F. Buckley’s brand of anti-government conservatism. Conservatives had to “lead” and to be “activist,” he said. In 2003, Bush proclaimed that when “somebody hurts” government has to “move.” This wasn’t a philosophy of government as much as gooey marketing posing as principle. Ronald Reagan would have spontaneously burst into flames if he’d uttered such sentiments.

Dissent from Bush was muted for years, in large part because of 9/11 and the Iraq war. Conservatives, right or wrong, rallied to support their president, particularly in the face of shrill partisan attacks from Democrats who seemed more interested in tearing down the commander in chief than winning a war. But the Bush chapter is closing, and the fight to write the next one has begun.

In one corner, there are a large number of bright, mostly younger, self-styled reformers with a diverse — and often contradictory — set of proposals to win back middle-class voters and restore the GOP’s status as “the party of ideas” (as the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it).

In another corner are self-proclaimed traditional conservatives and Reaganites, led most notably by Rush Limbaugh, who believe that the party desperately needs to get back to the basics: limited government, low taxes, and strong defense.

What’s fascinating is that both camps seem implicitly to agree that the real challenge lurks in how to account for the Bush years. For the young Turks — my National Review colleagues Ramesh Ponnuru, Yuval Levin, and David Frum, the Atlantic’s Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, New York Times columnist David Brooks, et al. — the problem is that Bush botched the GOP’s shot at real reform. For the Limbaugh crowd, the issue seems to be that we’ve already tried this reform stuff — from both Bush and McCain — and look where it’s gotten us.

Neither camp has adequately explained where Bush figures in their vision for the future of the party. Is reform going to be a debugged compassionate conservatism 2.0 or a Reaganesque revival of conservative problem solving? Does back-to-basics mean breaking with the precedents of the last eight years or building on them?

The irony is that both camps agree on a lot more than they disagree. The reformers are committed to market principles and reducing the size and role of government, and so is the back-to-basics crowd. The problem is that an elephant named George in the room is blocking each side from seeing what the other is all about. But hopefully not for much longer.

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

© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Obama's Private School Shopping Goes Public

By Clarence Page
Chicago Tribune
November 12, 2008

Parenting humbles any of us who try it -- even new residents of the White House.

Choosing a new puppy? Ha! The Obamas face a much tougher public relations dilemma: Are they willing to put their school-aged daughters where daddy's political promises have been?

The education world is waiting to see whether Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, will be sent to private school while their father continues to oppose tax-supported programs that offer a similar choice to less-fortunate parents.

The question of vouchers as an alternative to public schools crosses color lines, but it is particularly appropriate for the nation's first African American president.

Black students disproportionately find themselves in under-performing schools. In fact, opinion polls by think tanks like the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies have found black parents favor vouchers by larger majorities than white parents do.

Yet teachers unions lead opposition to such alternatives, even though studies like a 2004 Thomas B. Fordham Institute report find big city public school teachers to be more likely than the general population they serve to have their own children in private schools.

In Obama's hometown, Chicago, for example, 38.7 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, the Fordham study found, compared to 22.6 percent of the general public.

In Washington, D.C., 26.8 percent of public school teachers sent their children to private schools, versus 19.8 percent of the public.

A voucher program Congress imposed on the District in 2004, which granted $7,500 a year for 1,903 students, emerged as an issue in Obama's third televised debate with Sen. John McCain.

McCain said the District's Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee supported vouchers. Obama argued that she didn't. Instead, Obama said, she supports publicly funded, privately run charter schools. "I doubled the number of charter schools in Illinois," Obama pointed out, "despite some reservations from teachers unions."

Actually, McCain was right, inasmuch as Rhee has favored "choice," although she's lukewarm at best on the voucher issue. "I would never, as long as I am in this role, do anything to limit another parent's ability to make a choice for their child," she told the Wall Street Journal this year. "Ever."

But after the debate, a spokesman said the chancellor, along with Mayor Adrian Fenty, "disagrees with the notion that vouchers are the remedy for repairing the city's school system."

That's true. No single remedy can fix challenges as complex as those posed by public education. Every child learns differently. But Rhee's defense of "choice" offers the right direction. Any program that expands educational choices also opens opportunities for more kids who don't have enough chances to move up the ladder to a better life -- maybe even to the White House.

As a parent who reluctantly moved my own child to private school after the fifth grade, I appreciate the value of school choice. But what about the kids left behind in failing schools?

Michelle Obama offered a clue to what her family's choice will be. She flew to Washington this week (Monday, Nov. 10) ahead of her husband and toured the private Georgetown Day School. Another clue: Their daughters currently attend a private school in Chicago.

Private school also was the choice of Bill and Hillary Clinton for their daughter Chelsea. The most recent presidential child to attend a District of Columbia public school was President Jimmy Carter's daughter, Amy, in the late 1970s.

Chancellor Rhee, by contrast, is a 38-year-old single Korean-American mother with two young daughters in her troubled 46,000-student system. With the backing of Mayor Fenty, she has closed 23 schools, restructured 27 others, fired more than 250 teachers and dumped about one-third of the system's principals. Still there's more work to be done.

She recently put the critical question to a principal who was defending a teacher, according to Washington Post columnist Fred Hiatt: "Would you put your grandchild in that class?"

"If that's the standard," the principal replied, "we don't have any effective teachers in my school."

Rhee's response: "That is the standard."

The public schools belong to all of us, whether we use them or not. We should treat the students as though they belong to all of us, too.

Clarence Page is a Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist specializing in urban issues. He is based in Washington, D.C. E-mail:

Copyright 2008, Tribune Media Services Inc.

Yes, They Can ... Impose Sharia Law

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama became president-elect on the uplifting, if inexact, slogan, "Yes, we can."

This week, there is growing evidence that people who have in mind doing away with the presidency of the United States - and all other aspects of our secular, democratic and constitutional form of government - are similarly convinced of their inevitable success. Judging by the sheer audacity of their agenda, "Yes, they can" would appear an apt description of the prospects for the Saudis and other champions of the totalitarian program they call Shariah.

In the run-up to an emergency summit outgoing President Bush has called to address the now-global financial crisis, the oil-rich Islamists of the Persian Gulf led by Saudi Arabia have not only established that their petrodollars are indispensable to any solution. They also seem to have secured the Bush administration's acquiescence to the sinister strings attached to any bailout of the West in which they might participate.

Specifically, the Saudis and their friends want the United States to join those, particularly in Europe, who have accommodated themselves to Shariah. No, we are assured, they aren't taking about the brutal theo-political-legal code that features such barbaric practices as beheadings, floggings, stonings, amputations, female genital mutilation and mysogeny more generally.

All they want, those in the know insist, is for Washington to encourage Wall Street - more and more of which is owned by the U.S. government - to embrace Shariah-Compliant Finance (SCF). A Treasury Department seminar convened last week depicted SCF as nothing more than a kind of socially responsible investing vehicle that respects Muslim religious beliefs by eschewing interest-bearing transactions and those involving pork and "sin" stocks. So, what's the big deal? The Catholics, Methodists and Jews have their funds, why not the Muslims?

What makes the Shariah-Compliant Finance gambit both a big and troublesome "deal" is that, unlike these other religious traditions, Shariah's adherents are pursuing a global theocracy. They believe they must impose their agenda on everybody else, religious and secular alike, using violence if necessary. And SCF is explicitly described by leading practitioners as a complement to violent holy war: "financial jihad" and "jihad with money."

In other words, there is no such thing as free-standing Shariah-Compliant Finance. According to all of the recognized authorities and institutions of Islam, Shariah is a unified, indivisible program to which all faithful Muslims must adhere comprehensively.

Not surprisingly, therefore, the Saudis & Co. are not simply seeking to insinuate Shariah-Compliant Finance into our capital markets. They are also advancing creation of a parallel Shariah-governed society through various other means.

One of these techniques will be in evidence when the Saudi monarch himself convenes a meeting in New York City in the hope of imposing Shariah blasphemy laws worldwide. In light of the stated, and seemingly benign, purpose of the so-called "Culture of Peace" event hosted by King Abdullah at the United Nations - namely, promoting interfaith understanding and tolerance, numerous world leaders, including President Bush, will be present. Never mind that Saudi Arabia is arguably the most intolerant nation on Earth, a fact even some in the Bush administration have acknowledged.

The real reason attendance at the king's seance will be impressive, of course, has more to do with the hope that petro-largess will flow to those who ingratiate themselves to the House of Saud. Abdullah appears confidently to have signaled that, if the West plays ball on the "Culture of Peace" agenda, the Saudis and their fellow Islamists will be constructive at what might be called the subsequent "Culture of Money" meeting in Washington.

What will the answer be when the Islamists insist that free speech must not allow the slander, libel or defamation of Shariah, or other aspects of their faith? If the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council have already accommodated themselves to this demand, why should we object? So what if, by so doing, we would effectively thereby be precluded from talking about - or even understanding - the Islamist threat we face, to say nothing of eviscerating the First Amendment? As the Treasury Department can attest, we need the money.

Unfortunately, this is no time for us to be diminishing awareness throughout the Free World of the various, grave dangers we face from adherents to Shariah's seditious program. London's Sunday Telegraph reported last weekend that a classified British government assessment has concluded there are "some thousands of extremists in the U.K. committed to supporting Jihadi activities, either in the U.K. or abroad."

Such extremists are said to be engaged in attack planning in the United Kingdom "either under the direction of al Qaeda, or inspired by al Qaeda's ideology of global Jihad" (read, Shariah). They may inflict "mass casualties" and constitute a "severe" threat to the Government Security Zone (including the Houses of Parliament and key executive offices) in the heart of London.

At such a moment, a federal judge in Oregon has held the law criminalizing material support for terror is unconstitutionally "vague." Taken together with the other manifestations of our capitulation, is it any wonder the champions of Shariah are convinced that "yes, they can" have their way with us? Who will disabuse them of this terrifying notion? We can, but will President-elect Obama lead the way?

- 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.

Honor Killings: The Islamic Connection

By Phyllis Chesler
Wednesday, November 12, 2008

She knew.

She told her friends that her father was going to kill her. She ran away, stayed at a shelter, stayed with friends. She was lured back home by honeyed sentences. Her family could not sleep without her. Late last year, on December 10th, in Toronto, sixteen year-old Aqsa Parvez's father. Mohammed, and her brother, Waqas, collaborated in her murder.

Aqsa's crime?

She refused to wear hijab, she was becoming too assimilated.

Mohammed and Waqas Parvez are currently in jail awaiting trial.

This seems to be an open-and-shut case of an honor killing. Islamists in Canada disagree and have launched a protest against a popular Canadian magazine, Toronto Life, for daring to describe Aqsa's murder as an honor killing. An announcement, ostensibly penned by went out over Facebook calling for people to barrage the magazine's editor, Sarah Fulford, with email and telephone criticism and to attend a Speak Out and press conference which was to have taken place last night. And to write to a new pro-Muslim magazine titled Aqsa-Zine.

Ironically, the new zine is open to Muslim women only. No Christians, Jews, or Hindus need apply.

This is the problem: Islamist separatism -- aka Islamic religious and gender apartheid. It is practiced in Muslim countries and transported by immigrations globally. Tradition and religion have a storng hold, especially on immigrants in a strange, new land. However, many religious and cultural groups have managed to both integrate and to retain their own religious identities. Muslim immigrants (and their third generation descendants) seem to have a much harder time with this balancing act.

If we understand Islam as an all-encompassing political, military, religious, social, and cultural entity (which it is), then things become clearer.

Known honor killings first arrived in North America in 1989, when Palestina Isa's father, an Abu Nidal Palestinian terrorist and his wife, her mother, both slaughtered their hard-working and much-abused 16 year old daughter Palestina. Her crime? She was becoming too "American," too independent, too academically ambitious--and she had a friend, a boy, who was an African-American. Her mother held her down and her father butchered her with tremendous animal ferocity.

On January 1st of this year, Yasser Said shot his daughters Sarah and Amina to death in Dallas and probably escaped back to Egypt. Like Palestina, they were teenagers (aged 17 and 18). Their mother collaborated in their murder by luring them back home to their deaths. The FBI has been hunting for Said and recently featured him on their Ten Most Wanted List. They described Said as having committed an "honor killing."

For reasons that remain unclear, within a week, the FBI removed that description. Some say that the Bureau caved into Islamist pressure. Others, myself included, suggest that it would not necessarily help them capture Said if he were seen as a "Muslim hero," who was being persecuted because he is a Muslim.

After Parvez was honor killed, Mohammed Elmasry, of the Canadian Islamic Congress, was quoted as saying: "I don't want the public to think that this is an Islamic issue or an immigrant issue. It is a teenager issue."

Islamists insist that honor killings have nothing to do with Islam. They say that it is a "cultural" but not an "Islamic" crime. They are wrong. Islamists also say that honor murders are the same as domestic violence. All men, all religions engage in it. Wrong. Most honor killings are committed by Muslims who believe that what they are doing is a sacred, religious act. They may misunderstand the Qu'ran but as yet, no mullah or imam has stood up in the global, public square to condemn such murders as dishonorable and anti-Islamic. No fatwa has ever been issued against a Muslim honor killer.

In terms of domestic violence, western-style domestic batterers rarely kill their daughters. That is a characteristic of an honor killing. And, western style domestic batterers act alone when they kill their adult partners. An honor killing is a collaborative act between several or many members of the same family.

It is unfortunate, even shameful, but not surprising that Islamists seek to cover up this sin against Muslim girls and women by attacking those who would dare expose it as "Islamophobes."
We cannot afford to fall for this deception. A crime is a crime. The shame resides in the criminal, not in his victim. The shame will become ours if we justify the brutal sacrifice of Muslim girls and women in order to remain multi-culturally and politically correct.

- 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 (1976). Her website is

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Today's Tune: Warren Zevon - Werewolves of London

(Click on title to play video)

China's Path to World Power

By Patrick J. Buchanan
November 10, 2008

For decades, before a heedless congregation, some of us have preached the old Hamiltonian gospel.

Great nations do not have trade partners. They have trade competitors and rivals. Trade surpluses are superior to trade deficits. Tariffs on foreign goods are preferable to taxes on U.S. producers. Manufacturing, not finance, is the muscle of the nation.

Economic independence is vital to political independence.

Chinese toy manufacturing plant

Following Hamiltonian precepts, the United States grew from 13 rural and agricultural colonies into the greatest industrial power in all history, producing 42 percent of the world's manufactured goods. We were the awe and envy of mankind, the self-sufficient republic, maker of half of the armaments produced by all the nations in World War II.

That is the America we grew up in—that has now vanished.

Chrysler, Ford, perhaps GM, may be dying. Manufacturing has sunk to 10 percent of U.S. employment, a level unseen since before the Civil War. Europeans and Asians are to assemble in Washington this week to impose upon the United States a New World Economic Order like the one we imposed on them at Bretton Woods in 1944.

Such are the fruits of free-trade ideology.

Across the Pacific, a nation that studied how America rose, and watched as America declined, chose a different path. China adopted and pursued a China First policy of economic nationalism.
In July, Charles McMillion of MBG Services testified to the U.S-China Economic and Security Review Commission on China's progress. [PDF]

Beijing began its astonishing rise by devaluing its currency 45 percent in 1994, slashing the prices of exports in half and making imports twice as expensive. As America threw open her market and invited China to come in and capture it, China had erected a Great Wall around her own.

Results: China's worldwide trade surplus in manufactures, $31 billion in 2001, hit $401 billion in 2007, a 1,300 percent increase, and may reach $500 billion in 2008. China has shoved Germany aside to become the world's greatest exporter and now leads the world in the export of manufactured goods to Japan and the European Union, as well as the United States.

While running trade deficits with Asian neighbors like Taiwan, to tie them politically to Beijing, China is running record trade surpluses with the European Union and the United States, making America and the West as dependent upon China for our manufactures as we are on OPEC for our oil.

Chinese auto production has quintupled since 2001. She now produces more cars than Germany and may exceed the United States in 2009. While Chinese auto exports are still heavily in parts, finished cars are coming soon to a dealer near you. The Chinese will likely run the sword through the last standing member of America's Big Three.

Before 2004, China's manufacturing trade surplus with America was largely in textiles and apparel. But, since then, China's rocketing trade surplus in electronics, computers and parts has far exceeded her surplus in textiles and apparel.

China's trade surplus in computers and components rose from $8.1 billion in 2001 to $73.5 billion in 2007. In cellular phones and parts, her worldwide trade surplus grew from $3 billion in 2003 to $50 billion in 2007, and may reach $60 billion by year's end.

China still imports commercial airliners. But she now has a large and growing trade surplus in airplane parts. This follows the pattern in textiles, computers and autos. First, the Chinese learn by assembling parts in factories in China. Then, China begins to produce the parts. Then, China produces the finished products and goes out to capture the world market, while protecting her own by keeping her currency cheap.

On items the Commerce Department categorizes as advanced technology products, America began running a trade deficit for the first time early in the George W. Bush years. China now exports to us four times as much, in dollar value, in ATP items as we sell to Beijing.

As America mothballs the shuttle, relying on Russian rockets to get our astronauts back up to a space station we built, China is putting men into space and heading for the moon.

Since America ushered China into the World Trade Organization in 2002, Beijing's growth rate has been four times that of the United States, accelerating from an average 10 percent of gross domestic product to 12 percent in 2007.

With her immense trade surpluses, China's reserves have surged from $200 billion in 2002 to $2 trillion. Awash in dollars, Beijing now waits patiently, writes McMillion, to cherry-pick the crown jewels of America's industrial empire—"patents, talents, natural resources, brands"—at fire-sale prices in the global crash.

As America plunges into recession and our industry hollows out, while China is still growing at 9 percent, as the 20th century's greatest creditor nation now borrows from Beijing to pay for booster shots for its sick economy, may we hear once again the Bush-Clinton refrain about how the terrible danger we all face is from "protectionism."

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


By Thomas Sowell
November 11, 2008

Among the many wonders to be expected from an Obama administration, if Nicholas D. Kristof of the New York Times is to be believed, is ending "the anti-intellectualism that has long been a strain in American life."

Adlai Stevenson (L) and Harry Truman

He cited Adlai Stevenson, the suave and debonair governor of Illinois, who twice ran for president against Eisenhower in the 1950s, as an example of an intellectual in politics.

Intellectuals, according to Mr. Kristof, are people who are "interested in ideas and comfortable with complexity," people who "read the classics."
It is hard to know whether to laugh or cry.

Adlai Stevenson was certainly regarded as an intellectual by intellectuals in the 1950s. But, half a century later, facts paint a very different picture.

Historian Michael Beschloss, among others, has noted that Stevenson "could go quite happily for months or years without picking up a book." But Stevenson had the airs of an intellectual -- the form, rather than the substance.

What is more telling, form was enough to impress the intellectuals, not only then but even now, years after the facts have been revealed, though apparently not to Mr. Kristof.

That is one of many reasons why intellectuals are not taken as seriously by others as they take themselves.

As for reading the classics, President Harry Truman, whom no one thought of as an intellectual, was a voracious reader of heavyweight stuff like Thucydides and read Cicero in the original Latin. When Chief Justice Carl Vinson quoted in Latin, Truman was able to correct him.

Yet intellectuals tended to think of the unpretentious and plain-spoken Truman as little more than a country bumpkin.

Similarly, no one ever thought of President Calvin Coolidge as an intellectual. Yet Coolidge also read the classics in the White House. He read both Latin and Greek, and read Dante in the original Italian, since he spoke several languages. It was said that the taciturn Coolidge could be silent in five different languages.

The intellectual levels of politicians are just one of the many things that intellectuals have grossly misjudged for years on end.

During the 1930s, some of the leading intellectuals in America condemned our economic system and pointed to the centrally planned Soviet economy as a model-- all this at a time when literally millions of people were starving to death in the Soviet Union, from a famine in a country with some of the richest farmland in Europe and historically a large exporter of food.

New York Times Moscow correspondent Walter Duranty won a Pulitzer Prize for telling the intelligentsia what they wanted to hear-- that claims of starvation in the Ukraine were false.

After British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge reported from the Ukraine on the massive deaths from starvation there, he was ostracized after returning to England and unable to find a job.

More than half a century later, when the archives of the Soviet Union were finally opened up under Mikhail Gorbachev, it turned out that about six million people had died in that famine-- about the same number as the people killed in Hitler's Holocaust.

In the 1930s, it was the intellectuals who pooh-poohed the dangers from the rise of Hitler and urged Western disarmament.

It would be no feat to fill a big book with all the things on which intellectuals were grossly mistaken, just in the 20th century-- far more so than ordinary people.

History fully vindicates the late William F. Buckley's view that he would rather be ruled by people represented by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.

How have intellectuals managed to be so wrong, so often? By thinking that because they are knowledgeable-- or even expert-- within some narrow band out of the vast spectrum of human concerns, that makes them wise guides to the masses and to the rulers of the nation.

But the ignorance of Ph.D.s is still ignorance and high-IQ groupthink is still groupthink, which is the antithesis of real thinking.

An Area of Darkness

By Jay Nordlinger
National Review Senior Editor
November 10, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

Dear friends: Now and then, I expand a magazine piece in this column — and would like to do so again. In the October 20 issue of National Review, I had a piece called “When Knowledge Is Critical: Brief reflections on Middle East studies.” I’d like to reflect a little more here. Shall we just wade in?

The Cold War stretched from 1945 to 1991 — and, somehow, the West ended up on top. (It wasn’t simple.) One fine day — or one fine week, or one fine year — Soviet Communism gave out and gave up. Then we had our “holiday from history”: ten years of almost no concerns. Sure, there was a Khobar Towers here, a U.S.S. Cole there. (Not to mention a Balkan bother.) But Muslim terrorists were always acting up, weren’t they? They were something to put up with, like the weather.

Then came 9/11, and a new cold war — a new cold war, according to some.

In the original one, America and the West built up many institutions, aimed at countering Communism, understanding the Eastern bloc, and communicating with people under the lash. Have we done the same in the War on Terror? Not even close, as George Shultz stressed with me in an interview last January. It is a failing of these recent years — and we should get busy.

Be clear about something, however (and this is me talking, not Shultz): To understand someone is not necessarily to like or approve him. Understanding, in fact, may make you recoil all the more. But understanding is the best friend of anyone who wishes to be alert.

Professors of Middle East studies would be very helpful right about now. But they are, unfortunately, among the worst of the lot: among the worst in the American professoriate. A range of departments, of course, is the province of radicals and ideologues, rather than genuine scholars. But departments of Middle East studies may take the cake. Those wanting to read chapter and verse can turn to Martin Kramer’s book Ivory Towers on Sand.

In the old days, “Sovietologists” tended to sympathize with the Kremlin (to put it crudely, and perhaps McCarthyitely, but not untruthfully). Middle East studies men are apt to sympathize with the PLO and worse. And the China people are just as frightful.

Recently, I met with Jian-li Yang, the great dissident and scholar. Last year, he was released from a PRC prison after five years’ confinement. Despite that nasty interlude, he has considerable experience with higher education, particularly in America. He has two Ph.D.s: one from Berkeley, in math; and another from Harvard, in political economy. He lives in the Harvard community.

In October 1998, Yang Jianli, representing the China's dissident movement, attended the "Third Global Human Rights Conference" held in Warsaw, Potland and introduced the current situation of dissident movement in China at the conference.

And I asked him, “Do you ever have contact with Sinologists there?” He answered, no way: They’re impossible, because they simply toe the PRC line. “They’re as bad as professors in Beijing University,” he said. “No, worse!”

These are all children of John K. Fairbank and Edgar Snow, men responsible for tremendous harm. The children — like their fathers — exist not so much to study and explain Communist China as to defend and justify it. And they are corrupt, said Yang: awash in PRC money. Yes, I replied, but they’d do it for free, being true believers. He conceded that this was so.

Whether China scholars have more money from Beijing or Middle East scholars have more money from Arab rulers is an open question — but the safe betting is on the Middle East men. Some critics regard this money as absolutely corrupting. Others say, “No, they’d do it for free” — which is my view, and also that of Daniel Pipes, a Middle East scholar who is decidedly not the type to win an emir’s favor. (That would have to be one enlightened emir.)

(And, incidentally: Many Arabs, elite and ordinary alike, are grateful for clear-minded scholarship and commentary about the Middle East. Often, they have to be quiet about their gratitude.)

On one thing, almost everybody can agree: Money must play some sort of role, if only at the margins. A scholar receiving money from a particular government will naturally pull punches about that government. If a scholar is hesitant about whether to say something — money may tip him in one direction. If he likes to travel to a particular country, he may want to watch what he says about that country’s government.

At the same time, you don’t have to be bought to be wrong.

There was never much money in “Sovietology,” according to Richard Pipes, the father of Daniel and the eminent historian of Russia. He remembered this crowd in a recent conversation: “They resented you if you criticized the Soviet Union, the Communist party, and I was regarded as really way out, because I was so critical.” Why were others so uncritical? Well, “for one reason, they simply identified with the Soviet Union. For another, they liked to go there” — and Moscow wasn’t real good about letting you in if you were critical (or letting you out if you were critical and a Soviet citizen).

Richard Pipes

One day, Pipes testified before Senator Jackson’s committee about SALT. He took a hard, and realistic, line. Opposing him was an Ivy League Sovietologist who took the soft and unrealistic. As they were leaving, the Sovietologist said to Pipes, “I really agree with you, but if I talked as you do, I wouldn’t be able to go to the Soviet Union. They wouldn’t give me a visa.”

Pipes says that, on balance, the Sovietologists did more harm than good — misleading the public on a hugely critical issue. “They maintained, vehemently, that the Soviet government was stable, and popular with the citizenry. They said that, like it or not, we had to come to terms with this government — which meant that the kind of policies Reagan was pursuing were counterproductive and futile. These policies would simply bring another Stalin to power.” And the Sovietologists were “utterly wrong.”

Yup — but they just glided on, with hardly a backward glance. Today, many of them have “fallen in line behind Putin,” says Pipes, traveling to Moscow to attend conferences hosted by him. Sure.

Pipes told me a couple of other interesting things. Of course, the Sovietologists never said they were sorry or repented or anything of the kind. But one of them “simply stopped writing.” Also, one resentful scholar said that “Pipes was right, but for the wrong reasons” (whatever that means). Pipes quips: “Better to have been wrong for the right reasons!”

Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum. And he has paid a price for being out of step in this field — for speaking bluntly about dictatorships, Islamism, and related matters. He would not be welcome in most faculty lounges; he has had to have something of an “alternative” career. Moreover, he has received his share of threats — and not of the light kind, either. When you write about the Middle East — certainly in an honest way — you play with fire.

Despite the difficulties, Pipes has had a full and useful career, pursued bravely. He knows Middle East scholars at universities who must keep their heads down — until they have tenure, at least. And he has this worthy point about money — the role of Middle Eastern money in scholarship on the Middle East: It may not buy people who have no need of being bought — but it gives them a much bigger megaphone.

Daniel Pipes

You may wish to know how Pipes became a Middle East scholar. He wanted to be a mathematician, but thought better of it. (This was at Harvard, as an undergrad.) Then he thought of going into “area studies.” One area, Russia, was taken by his illustrious father; another, China, was taken by his roommate. So he fastened onto the Middle East.

And who was that roommate? Arthur Waldron — one of the most clear-eyed, independent, and fearless of the China scholars. That was one gutsy room, let me tell you.

There is an organization for orthodox scholars of the Middle East — that is, for leftist and politicized ones. It is called the Middle East Studies Association, or MESA. It is led by such men as Rashid Khalidi, the FOB (Friend of Barack) and occupant of Columbia University’s Edward Said chair. You also may have heard of Juan Cole, of the University of Michigan; and of Georgetown’s John Esposito. Men like this are the face of today’s Middle East studies. To say it as briefly as possible: Arafat would consider himself lucky — and probably did.

The late Said is the father of this MESA crowd, or at least an influential big brother. So much has been written about him, I will not add a word here. But I’ll give Paul Johnson one. In September 2006, he was contemplating a book to be called “Monsters.” And he wrote that he would include Said, “this malevolent liar and propagandist, who has been responsible for more harm than any other intellectual of his generation.”

Before 9/11, MESA was pretty much a joke, a Marxoid playground whose significance to the larger world was slight. It was hard to get a decent Middle Eastern education in the United States, but that was okay: We all have to make sacrifices. After 9/11, however, the joke was not so funny. There was a real need for soundness on the Middle East. You couldn’t just say, “Israel evil. America evil. Palestinians good. Hamas, Hezbollah, and mullahs misunderstood. Colonialism bad — left enduring scars. West bad. Terrorists driven to their acts by oppression. Arabs must unite, eschew factions — created by a scheming West — and win.”

No, that falderal was suddenly intolerable. As the Iraqi-American scholar Nibras Kazimi put it, “America and the world cannot afford to lounge around in the blissful lethargy of intellectual shallowness now that the jihadists of the Middle East . . . have declared their war and delivered their bomb-laden calling cards.”

Edward Said

Last year, an encouraging event occurred: the founding of a new organization, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA). Their website is here. ASMEA was to be, in brief, what MESA should be, and almost certainly used to be. (The older group was founded in 1966, before the rot set in.) The new group’s chairman is Bernard Lewis, the great nonagenarian British-born scholar. On the academic council sits George Shultz — who, as I said at the outset, is so desirous of new and helpful institutions.Launching the institution, Lewis gave a typically learned, elegant address. Here are brief but potent excerpts:

I would like to begin with a quotation from the famous Dr. Johnson, one of his conversations recorded by Boswell. He says, “A generous and elevated mind is distinguished by nothing more certainly than an eminent degree of curiosity. Nor is that curiosity ever more agreeably or usefully employed than in examining the laws and customs of foreign nations.” A very interesting statement and . . . one uniquely Western — uniquely distinctive of this Western civilization of which we are the heirs at the present time. And I use the word “we” in the widest sense. . . .

Today we confront new obstacles in our study of the Middle East . . . One of them I have already mentioned: postmodernism. . . . The second is a combination of political correctness and multiculturalism — which combination established orthodoxies in the academic world, [instituting] a degree of thought control, of limitations on freedom of expression, without parallel in the Western world since the 18th century, and in some areas longer than that. I don’t need to tell you how careers can be furthered or destroyed by this kind of imposed orthodoxy. This, it seems to me, is a very dangerous situation. It has now made any kind of scholarly discussion of Islam, to say the least, dangerous. Islam and Islamic values now have a level of immunity from comment and criticism in the Western world that Christianity has lost and Judaism has never had.

Toward the end of his remarks, Professor Lewis said, “It seems to me that we are beset by difficulties” — this is understatement typical of him (and of his native country). And he spoke of “the deadly hand of political correctness.”

The MESA men have denounced the upstart organization — ASMEA — as, essentially, a neocon plot. Cinnamon Stillwell (have you ever heard a more delightful name?) recorded some of their comments at (here). For example, Juan Cole said that ASMEA was “exclusively ideological” and “for people on the right.”

Speaking of this word “right,” let me say this: I never cease to be amazed that, in our present period, to desire liberalization in the Arab world is conservative, or “neocon.” Even to make noises about freedom in the Middle East is to be “on the right.” Not so long ago, “conservatives” were happy to deal with the existing despotisms, or were at least perfectly resigned to them: What could one do? Besides, these despotisms represented stability. And to be a progressive was to talk about, or at least desire, liberalization.

Funny old world.

At any rate, many people — not with MESA — have been calling ASMEA “a breath of fresh air,” and so it is.

Recently, it was my pleasure to talk with Professor Lewis, as it always is — and I asked him a bit about his education. He was born in London in 1916. What set him on his course as a Middle East scholar? He studied Hebrew, in preparation for his bar mitzvah. “I was very fortunate in that my teacher was a real scholar, a man who was able to inspire and guide me.” Even after the bar mitzvah, Lewis studied Hebrew — “and that led on to Arabic, Turkish, Persian, and the rest.”

Lewis might be said to have been ideal material for Middle East studies: His two great loves were history and languages — and after he was done with common languages such as French and Latin (common, that is, to Westerners), he was ready for things a little more adventurous.

He went to the School for Oriental Studies — now the School for Oriental and African Studies, or SOAS — part of the University of London. He earned both a B.A. and a Ph.D. there. Among his professors was the famed (and not uncontroversial) Sir H. A. R. Gibb. Another professor was Norman H. Baynes, the historian of Byzantium.

Bernard Lewis

I asked Professor Lewis whether it was possible, in this day and age, to obtain the kind of education he was afforded. He said this was “very doubtful.” Just as the Maoists took over Chinese studies, a certain crowd has taken over Middle East studies: which “are now, to a very large extent — how should I put it? — one-sided. They take a certain view of things, an orthodox Arab view. It is difficult to make a career unless you conform.” Moreover, “vast sums of money are pouring in from Arab governments, Arab princes,” and that makes a difference.

As you might expect, there are scholars who tell Lewis, privately, that they are in agreement with him. “They explain that coming out openly would be destructive of their careers, and they’re right — it would be.” Well, are they cowardly or merely prudent? That was what I wanted to know. Lewis was not inclined to pass judgment.

About ASMEA, he said, “I hope to be able to accomplish something” — and “a lot of people in the Middle East are with us. We in the West complain about these odious tyrannies, but they are the first sufferers, the first victims.”

Professor Lewis then told me something about Sadat. I will paraphrase, but pretty faithfully, I think:

“Sadat did not decide to make peace with Israel because he suddenly converted to Zionism. His reason was quite different. He was aware that Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony. I saw that myself, on frequent visits to Egypt. The Soviet presence was palpable — more obtrusive than the British presence, and I’m old enough to remember that. The Soviets were taking over, there were places where no Arab was able to set foot.

“I remember talking with a shopkeeper in Upper Egypt. He said there were no tourists coming anymore, which was, of course, very bad for business. ‘But you have plenty of Russians,’ I said, whereupon he spat into the gutter and replied, ‘They won’t buy a package of cigarettes, and they won’t give you a cigarette.’

“Anyway, the Russians were taking over, and Sadat saw that. He realized that, on the worst estimate of Israel’s intentions, and on the most generous estimate of Israel’s power, they were less dangerous than the Soviets. And the Israelis were not going to take over Egypt, that was clear. That was why Sadat decided to make peace. Fortunately, he found someone on the other side who would respond.

“We are moving to a similar situation now. Many Arabs have concluded, ‘Israel is not our main danger, our main problem.’ If you look at the Hezbollah war, in 2006, Arabs silently hoped that Israel would finish the job, and were very disappointed when they failed to do so. That continues now. Obviously, they don’t come out strongly in support of Israel — they wouldn’t do that. But there is, shall we say, a readiness to accommodate which did not exist in the past.”

Some time ago, Professor Lewis was paid an extraordinary compliment. One of his books was published in Arabic translation (unauthorized). It was published by the Muslim Brotherhood. At the same time, the book was published in Hebrew by the Israeli defense ministry — and, as Professor Lewis says, that is an interesting pairing: the Muslim Brothers and the Israeli defense ministry.

In his preface to the Arabic version, the translator said, “I don’t know who this author is, but one thing about him is clear: He is either a candid friend or an honorable enemy, and in either case is one who has disdained to falsify the truth.”An extraordinary compliment indeed.

President Anwar Sadat of Egypt at a military review parade shortly before he was assassinated by soldiers in the parade. October 6, 1981 Cairo, Egypt

I myself once thought of being a Middle East man. May I give you something autobiographical? I published the following in Impromptus a few days after 9/11:

When I was young, I was quite the little Arabist — cocksure, arrogant, wholly misguided. I grew up in Ann Arbor, Mich., and there were many Arab students — most of them Palestinian — in my high school. I befriended them, loved them. Was intensely interested in them. Some wore keys around their necks, and they claimed that these were the keys to the homes back in Palestine their families had been forced to abandon. I was mightily impressed. Later on, I knew to doubt the authenticity of those keys.

I remember one girl, who liked me, asking, “Jay, you’re not Jewish, are you?” She had to be reassured before our friendship could continue.

I was taught to believe that the Arab-Israeli conflict was very much like the American South: a civil-rights struggle. The Arabs were the blacks — the victims, the oppressed. The Israelis were the whites, the oppressors. Menachem Begin was pretty much George Wallace; his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, was Bull Connor (they even looked alike). Arafat, of course, was Martin Luther King. It seemed very clear.

In due course, I grew up, but it took a while. I enrolled in the Near Eastern Studies Department at the University of Michigan, where I took several courses, including the Arabic language. The department was dominated by extremists. The graduate assistants, certainly, were Arabs to the “left” of the PLO, meaning, they took Arafat and Co. to be sell-outs, untrue to the cause. There was no discussion of the legitimacy of Israel: It wasn’t discussable; Israel was illegitimate, and every worthy person knew it.

One day, we trooped into an auditorium to see a documentary on the conflict. I can’t remember the name of the documentary or of the documentary-maker, but I can see her, and she was on hand to introduce her film and to take questions. The film featured mainly radical Palestinians talking about dismembering Israel.

During the Q&A, a middle-aged white woman — a little fat — raised her hand and asked the following question: “These were such extreme voices. You’ve made a wonderful film, but couldn’t you have found some softer, more moderate voices?”

In the row in which I was sitting were several Arab students — older ones, graduate students — and one of them, in front of everybody, stood up and said words I will never forget. I won’t forget the words, or his face, or his relatively quiet, determined tone. He said: “I will kill you.” (This was directed at the woman who had asked the question.) His buddies got him to sit down.But that’s not the important part — what he said is not the important part. The important part is, no one said a word. No one reacted. We all sort of coughed, and looked away, nervously. We all pretended that what had just occurred had not, in fact, occurred — or that it was normal, acceptable. We simply ignored it.

Eventually, I took another path, both at the university and in my own thought. I could never be convinced that America and its influence were evil. I could not be convinced that Israel was illegitimate. And I could not accept the “I will kill you” and our complete cowardice, or complicity, in the face of it.

I sort of vowed, inwardly, that I wouldn’t be afraid, wouldn’t be intimidated, by Arab extremism. We all dance delicately around it. We tend to sweep it under the rug. We look away, all politically correct, and cough. I further vowed that, unlike my fellow white liberals, I would pay Arabs the compliment of treating them as full human beings, accountable for their words and actions, capable of good or bad, like everyone else — morally responsible. I wouldn’t treat them as children, unable to help a certain savagery. I wouldn’t “understand” that savagery, in the sense my teachers intended. I wouldn’t have double, or triple, or quadruple standards. All men were equal.

My lessons were hard, but they have lasted, and I believe they are right ones.

You remember the expression “scared straight”? This referred to drug use — if you saw the horrific effects of it, you were scared straight. And something similar happened to me in Middle East studies: I saw true radicalism, zealotry, and belligerence, and recoiled from it.

Tell you something else, too: One afternoon, a young professor of ours gave a kind of beer-hall speech. This was at a forum dominated by Arabs — grad students and others. Shouting and pumping his fist, the professor admonished the audience to forget any negotiating with Israel and not to surrender an inch. Stay true, stay true, he said. The audience cheered like crazy. Later, an older professor said to this younger one, “No one gets Arabs riled up like you do.” (The young professor was not an Arab, by the way.)

In the fullness of time, my guy became president of MESA — a perfect fit.

May I add something on Jimmy Carter? In my “Carterpalooza!” of May 2002, I wrote,

You who read Impromptus have heard me say: When I was growing up, I perceived the Arab-Israeli conflict as a great civil-rights drama. The white oppressors were the Israelis, and the black sufferers and innocents were the Arabs, in particular the Palestinians. Menachem Begin, I thought, was George C. Wallace, and his defense minister, Ariel Sharon, was Bull Connor. (This was in the early ’80s.)

Well, blow me down. I had never heard anybody else — a soul — say anything like this. But here is Carter, to Douglas Brinkley, Carter’s biographer and analyst: “The intifada exposed the injustice Palestinians suffered, just like Bull Connor’s mad dogs in Birmingham.”

The Carter-Nordlinger axis rides again (but, hang on, I’ve changed my mind — had “an evolution of thought,” as we say).

In due course, I was able to educate myself, which is to say, find sources beyond those provided by my teachers. I found Lewis, of course, and David Pryce-Jones, and Fouad Ajami, and others. You can always find such people — piercers through the fog. But you have to work at it, and how many people have either the time or the drive?

I once heard DP-J say, “I emerged from Eton and Oxford a perfectly nasty little leftist — and Commentary was my university.” That invaluable magazine helped him, as it would help me — a lot. Norman Podhoretz, who for 35 years was the editor, was extremely important to me, and so were the writers he presented.

I have related a great compliment paid to Bernard Lewis. Would you like to hear a great compliment paid to DP-J? Once, Edward Said condemned the “unholy trinity of Lewis, Kedourie, and Pryce-Jones.” (Elie Kedourie was the great Baghdad-born scholar of the Middle East.) David says to be put in such company fills him with humility and joy.

It would be nice if today’s Middle East scholars, in general, were more helpful than they are. The same is true of the China guys — and was true of the Sovietologists. But somehow we make do. And we are lucky to have the Middle East Media Research Institute — They are a top-flight education all by themselves.

Besides which, if you have 10,000 MESA profs on one side, and Professor Lewis on the other — it’s still an unfair fight, favoring Lewis