Saturday, December 06, 2008

Today's Tune: Lindsey Buckingham - Love Runs Deeper (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

Appreciating the genius of Maddux

Posted: Saturday December 6, 2008 1:45AM; Updated: Saturday December 6, 2008 1:45AM

Baseball is much less interesting today. Greg Maddux, after all these years playing with house money and playing with hitters, took his ball and went home.

The magic show is over. I dislike absolutes, but of this I am sure: Greg Maddux is the most fascinating interview, the smartest baseball player and the most highly formed baseball player I have encountered in 27 years covering major league baseball. There is no one alive who ever practiced the craft of pitching better than Maddux.

Like a grand master in chess, Maddux saw the game on a higher plane than everybody else. Some of his tricks he shared with me, such as knowing how to attack a hitter after watching the hitter take his warmup swings. There was the time he was in the dugout decoding the body language of Jose Hernandez of the Dodgers during an at-bat when he deadpanned to a teammate, "Watch this. The first base coach may be going to the hospital." On the next pitch Hernandez drilled a line drive off the chest of the first-base coach. Well, Maddux was wrong about the hospital part, anyway.

Some of his tricks, of course, he did not share. I learned only this year, for instance, about one trick he used on the mound that just blew me away, a real giveaway to his genius that no one else could possibly think of. I hope someday he lets me share it with you.

Every time I talked with Maddux I learned something, and not always about pitching. He understood hitting as well as any position player I ever met.

Think about the genius of that. If you want to catch a crook, you must think like one rather than a law-abiding citizen.

He is baseball's beautiful mind, and yet Maddux kept his gift covered with a thick blanket of humility. Never in sports will you find this kind of greatness accompanied by such an utter lack of ego and entitlement. In 2004, when I asked him how much longer he might pitch, he told me, "I'm not worried about it. I'm already on extra credit." I replied, "Greg, you've been telling me that for years." He replied, "I've been meaning it for years, too."

I will miss watching him pitch. In his prime, Maddux never received enough credit for the quality of his stuff. Too many people equate power with stuff, but Maddux's fastball, at least back when he was throwing 90 mph, had ridiculous movement -- late, large movement. Think about this: he dominated hitters with no splitter and a curveball that was no better than high-school quality.

That's how good were his fastball and changeup. It wasn't just location.

1994 MLB Baseball All-Star Game in Pittsburgh

Moreover, he practically invented a pitch: that two-seam fastball that he aimed at a left-handed hitter's hips, only to have it jerk back over the inside corner just as the batter jackknifes out of the way. It is a standard pitch today only because Maddux popularized it.

More so, I'll miss our conversations, which sometimes picked up months or even a year apart as if only minutes passed between. Here is just a sampling of what I learned from him.

The key to pitching: "Make the strikes look like balls and the balls look like strikes."

• How to get out of a jam: "When you're in trouble, think softer. Take advantage of the hitter's eagerness. Don't throw harder. Locate better."

• Why he throws more warmup and bullpen pitches out of the stretch than the windup: "Think about it: when is it most important to execute a pitch? With runners on base."

• On radar guns: "I'd rather have movement and location than velocity any time."

• On getting to the majors: "In the minor leagues, it was always about getting better. I was never too worried about results."

• On out-thinking hitters: "You have to alter patterns. I don't surprise anybody with what I throw. You just have to mix your pitches up. Even if the hitter is guessing right, if you locate it you won't get hurt. You might give up a single or a double, but it's not the end of the world."

• On how long he wanted to pitch: "As long as I can do it. I don't want to embarrass myself by any means. But I'd rather pitch bad than not pitch."

• On winning with finesse: "It's more stressful, but it's a welcome kind of stress. If you didn't have that every fifth day, baseball wouldn't be fun. If it wasn't hard to win a game it wouldn't be fun."

Maddux pitched all those years and never hurt his arm. That's how perfect were his mechanics and how great was his athleticism that allowed him to repeat those mechanics. He honestly enjoyed every last thing about baseball.

Pitching? Sure, he loved the challenge of a fresh count and a fresh hitter, the way an artist welcomes the empty canvas. But even the mundane elements of the game gave him a charge. In his 40s, for instance, he shagged batting practice balls in the outfield with the zeal of a 12-year-old kid pulled out of the stands. (The only difference, though, was that Maddux never threw a baseball, not even after chashing them during BP, without getting his elbow above his shoulder and forming a perfect L with his throwing arm.)

Chicago Cubs Greg Maddux in dugout in game vs Chicago White Sox.
Chicago, IL 19-May-2006

What, I once asked him, was the best part about baseball?

"Everything," is what he said first. "Winning is an absolute blast.

Getting a hit is an absolute blast. Standing up there and getting a hit off somebody is one of the funnest things you can ever do."

He kept going.

"Watching a game every day. I don't mind watching a game every day. Talking baseball ..."

His "best part" list kept getting longer.

"It's what I know. It's what I do. I enjoy watching other guys ...

Talking on Monday and trying to do it on Tuesday ..."

Now he was at bedrock: the core of the master's joy.

"Some guys just show up on Tuesday. The best part is knowing you're going to do something on Monday and actually doing it on Tuesday. And executing it. You know what? It might be a strike. It might be a foul ball. You might think, If I throw this guy this pitch, he's going to hit it foul right over there, and then to go out there and do it, that's pretty cool. To me. That's fun.

"You're only talking about 10 pitches a game. The other 80 or 90 you're trusting what you see and what you feel. It's still fun playing the game. And strike three is still one of the funnest pitches in baseball."

Maddux was the genuine article, a ballplayer evolved to the highest form. It is fitting that he is the winningest pitcher alive, an honor he should keep up to his very last breath. This appreciation, not by accident, made no mention of any career statistic of Maddux, no more than you would cite records sold to describe the voice of Sinatra. Maddux is synonymous with the art of pitching. He was that good. Never again will we see, or hear, anyone quite like him.

Enduring Crisis for the Black Family

By Kay Hymowitz
The Washington Post
Saturday, December 6, 2008; A15

In the nearly half-century in which we have gone from George Wallace to Barack Obama, America has another, less hopeful story to tell about racial progress, one that may be even harder to reverse.

In 1965, a young assistant secretary of labor named Daniel Patrick Moynihan stumbled upon data that showed a rise in the number of black single mothers. As Moynihan wrote in a now-famous report for the Johnson administration, especially troubling was that the growth in illegitimacy, as it was universally called then, coincided with a decline in black male unemployment. Strangely, black men were joining the labor force more, but they were marrying -- and fathering -- less.

There were other puzzling facts. In 1950, at the height of the Jim Crow era and despite the shattering legacy of slavery, the great majority of black children -- an estimated 85 percent -- were born to their two married parents. Just 15 years later, there seemed to be no obvious reason that that would change. With the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, legal barriers to equality were falling. The black middle class had grown substantially, and the first five years of the 1960s had produced 7 million new jobs. Yet 24 percent of black mothers were then bypassing marriage. Moynihan wrote later that he, like everyone else in the policy business, had assumed that "economic conditions determine social conditions." Now it seemed, "what everyone knew was evidently not so."

President Lyndon Johnson was deeply shaken by Moynihan's findings. Neither man was driven by sentimentality or religious conviction, but both believed that fatherlessness undermined the "basic socializing unit." Intent on sounding a public alarm, Johnson declared during a commencement address at Howard University: "When the family collapses, it is the children that are usually damaged. When it happens on a massive scale, the community itself is crippled."

Unfortunately, those warnings were as prescient as they were reviled. Civil rights leaders, worried about reviving racist myths about black promiscuity, objected to what they viewed as blaming the victim. Feminists were inclined to look on the "strong black women" raising their children without men as a symbol of female autonomy. By the fall of 1965, when a White House conference on the black family was scheduled, the Moynihan report and the subject had disappeared.

But the silent treatment was the wrong medicine. Since 1965, through economic recessions and booms, the black family has unraveled in ways that have little parallel in human cultures. By 1980, black fatherlessness had doubled; 56 percent of black births were to single mothers. In inner-city neighborhoods, the number was closer to 66 percent. By the 1990s, even as the overall fertility of American women, including African Americans, was falling, the majority of black women who did bear children were unmarried. Today, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. In some neighborhoods, two-parent families have vanished. In parts of Newark and Philadelphia, for example, it is common to find children who are not only growing up without their fathers but don't know anyone who is living with his or her biological father.

And what has this meant for racial progress? Fifty years after Jim Crow, black U.S. households have the lowest median income of any racial or ethnic group. Close to a third of black children are poor, and their chances of moving out of poverty are considerably lower than those of their white peers. The fractured black family is not the sole explanation for these gaps, but it is central. While half of all black children born to single mothers are poor, that is the case for only 12 percent of those born to married parents. At least three simulation studies "marrying off" single mothers to either the fathers of their children or to potential husbands of similar demographic characteristics concluded that child poverty would be dramatically lower had marriage rates remained what they were in 1970.

Black married couples make a median household income of $62,000, which is more than 80 percent of what white households earn and represents a gain of 13 percentage points since the 1960s. Yet overall, black household median income is only 62 percent that of white households, a mere six-point increase over the same period.

Merely walking down the aisle can't explain these differences. Rather, the institution of marriage appears to promote ideals of stability, order and fidelity that benefit children and adults alike. Those who pin their hopes for black progress on education tend to forget this. Numerous studies, when controlled for income and race, show that, on average, children growing up with single mothers are less likely to graduate from high school and go to college. And Moynihan's discovery of a negligible relationship between "economic conditions and social conditions" suggests that even increases in black male employment are not a certain cure.

Through the power of his own example, Obama presents a chance to revive what Lyndon Johnson called "the next and the more profound stage of the battle for civil rights." Obama's memoir, "Dreams From My Father," conveys the economic, emotional and existential toll of growing up fatherless, and he has spoken movingly of his determination to ensure for his own children a different life. Yet tackling this issue won't be easy. When Obama gave a Father's Day speech lamenting "fathers . . . missing from too many lives and too many homes," Jesse Jackson was so incensed that he said he wanted to castrate Obama. Still, painful as the subject is, the alternative is far worse: racial inequality as far as the eye can see.

- Kay Hymowitz, a contributing editor of City Journal, is author of "Marriage and Caste in America."

Foggy Crystal Ball

China’s corrupt model produces toxic-baby formula but spic-and-span finances?

By Jonah Goldberg
December 05, 2008, 0:00 a.m.

These are humbling times for champions of the free market and American-style capitalism. The CEOs of the Big Three car companies are kneeling before Uncle Sam like Henry in the snows of Canossa. The stock market volatility these days is looking more and more like a death rattle. No one wants to check their 401(k) for fear of their face melting like that Gestapo guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he peeked inside the Ark of the Covenant.

But while we cheerleaders for economic liberty need to take our lumps and spend some time thinking about where things went wrong, it would be nice if the Chicken Littles spent a wee bit of time doing likewise.

Exhibit A: China. You can’t pick up a copy of Newsweek without reading something by Fareed Zakaria about how China will only get larger and larger in our rearview mirror. Five years ago, Goldman Sachs predicted that China’s GDP would overtake America’s by 2041. Now it thinks that China will reach us in 2027. (Of course, with a much bigger population, China’s per-capita wealth would be much lower than ours.) The National Intelligence Council’s new report, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” echoes these concerns.

Heck, maybe they’re all right. Maybe not. The simple fact is that no one knows.

But I’d bet against it.

First of all, there’s a long record of very smart people making very bad predictions. Just Google “bad predictions” and you’ll see what I mean. In 1943, the chairman of IBM said, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.” Legend has it the head of the U.S. Patent Office said in 1899, “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Neville Chamberlain prophesied “peace in our time.”

And roughly two decades ago, the best and brightest were telling us that “Japan Inc.” was going to overtake America any day now.

“Future historians,” warned Harvard’s Ezra Vogel in 1986, “may well mark the mid-1980s as the time when Japan surpassed the United States to become the world’s dominant economic power.” Yale’s Paul Kennedy wrote a blockbuster of a book concluding that American policies should be designed to manage our decline “so that the relative erosion of the United States’ position takes place slowly and smoothly.” When Jacques Attali was head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 1991, he observed that America was becoming akin to “Japan’s granary, like Poland was for Flanders in the seventeenth century.”

Journalist James Fallows, political scientist Chalmers Johnson, and economist Lester Thurow were fawned over for their supposedly incontrovertible conclusion that Japan was the future. “The Cold War is over,” Johnson wrote, “and Japan won.”

Then, as you may have heard, the Japanese economy went kablooey.

The Japan example not only demonstrates that smart people can be wrong and that the elite chattering classes are prone to groupthink, but it helps illuminate why they are so prone to this sort of thing.

For more than a century, countless American intellectuals and business leaders have looked enviously at how foreign countries “planned” and “managed” their economies. Woodrow Wilson and the Progressives drooled over Otto von Bismarck, and today every self-proclaimed “global strategist” gazes at China’s managed capitalism like a kid with his nose pressed against a candy-store window.

Of course, China has made enormous progress since it decided that markets are a more desirable means of improving the lot of its citizens than organized mass murder. But China’s fans still have an enormous blind spot.
Ask yourself this: Why are we in this financial crisis?

Any short list of reasons would include a lack of transparency in markets and regulatory rule-making; collusion between business and government; the politicization of lending practices (including the socialization of risk and the privatization of profit through giant governmental entities like Fannie Mae); and, of course, simple greed.

Does anyone honestly think China doesn’t have these problems ten times over? It has no free press, no democratic accountability, and no truly independent regulators.

After every Chinese earthquake, we discover that safety inspectors couldn’t be trusted to oversee the construction of schools and hospitals. And we’re supposed to believe that China’s corrupt model produces toxic baby formula but spic-and-span finances?

There’s an honest debate about how much blame institutions like Fannie Mae and laws like the Community Reinvestment Act deserve for the financial crisis, but few honest observers dispute that they played some kind of deleterious role. Well, China’s entire economy is one big Fannie Mae, its laws one big Community Reinvestment Act.

I’m willing to bet that the bill for that comes due long, long, long before China catches up with the United States of America.

— 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.

Mark Steyn: Jews get killed, but Muslims feel vulnerable

Orange County Register
Friday, December 5, 2008

Shortly after the London Tube bombings in 2005, a reader of Tim Blair, The Sydney Daily Telegraph's columnist wag, sent him a note-perfect parody of a typical newspaper headline:

"British Muslims Fear Repercussions Over Tomorrow's Train Bombing."

Indeed. And so it goes. This time round – Mumbai – it was the Associated Press that filed a story about how Muslims "found themselves on the defensive once again about bloodshed linked to their religion".

Oh, I don't know about that. In fact, you'd be hard pressed from most news reports to figure out the bloodshed was "linked" to any religion, least of all one beginning with "I-" and ending in "-slam." In the three years since those British bombings, the media have more or less entirely abandoned the offending formulations – "Islamic terrorists," "Muslim extremists" – and by the time of the assault on Mumbai found it easier just to call the alleged perpetrators "militants" or "gunmen" or "teenage gunmen," as in the opening line of this report in The Australian: "An Adelaide woman in India for her wedding is lucky to be alive after teenage gunmen ran amok."

Kids today, eh? Always running amok in an aimless fashion.

The veteran British TV anchor Jon Snow, on the other hand, opted for the more cryptic locution "practitioners." "Practitioners" of what, exactly?

Hard to say. And getting harder. For the Wall Street Journal, Tom Gross produced a jaw-dropping round-up of Mumbai media coverage: The discovery that, for the first time in an Indian terrorist atrocity, Jews had been attacked, tortured and killed produced from the New York Times a serene befuddlement: "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."

Hmm. Greater Mumbai forms one of the world's five biggest cities. It has a population of nearly 20 million. But only one Jewish center, located in a building that gives no external clue as to the bounty waiting therein. An "accidental hostage scene" that one of the "practitioners" just happened to stumble upon? "I must be the luckiest jihadist in town. What are the odds?"

Meanwhile, the New Age guru Deepak Chopra laid all the blame on American foreign policy for "going after the wrong people" and inflaming moderates, and "that inflammation then gets organized and appears as this disaster" in Mumbai.

Really? The inflammation just "appears"? Like a bad pimple? The "fairer" we get to the, ah, inflamed militant practitioners, the unfairer we get to everyone else. At the Chabad House, the murdered Jews were described in almost all the Western media as "ultra-Orthodox," "ultra-" in this instance being less a term of theological precision than a generalized code for "strange, weird people, nothing against them personally, but they probably shouldn't have been over there in the first place."

Are they stranger or weirder than their killers? Two "inflamed moderates" entered the Chabad House, shouted "Allahu Akbar!," tortured the Jews and murdered them, including the young rabbi's pregnant wife. Their 2-year-old child escaped because of a quick-witted (non-Jewish) nanny who hid in a closet and then, risking being mowed down by machine-gun fire, ran with him to safety.

The Times was being silly in suggesting this was just an "accidental" hostage opportunity – and not just because, when Muslim terrorists capture Jews, it's not a hostage situation, it's a mass murder-in-waiting. The sole surviving "militant" revealed that the Jewish center had been targeted a year in advance. The 28-year-old rabbi was Gavriel Holtzberg. His pregnant wife was Rivka Holtzberg. Their orphaned son is Moshe Holtzberg, and his brave nanny is Sandra Samuels. Remember their names, not because they're any more important than the Indians, Britons and Americans targeted in the attack, but because they are an especially revealing glimpse into the pathologies of the perpetrators.

In a well-planned attack on iconic Mumbai landmarks symbolizing great power and wealth, the "militants" nevertheless found time to divert 20 percent of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city's poor in a nondescript building. If they were just "teenage gunmen" or "militants" in the cause of Kashmir, engaged in a more or less conventional territorial dispute with India, why kill the only rabbi in Mumbai? Dennis Prager got to the absurdity of it when he invited his readers to imagine Basque separatists attacking Madrid: "Would the terrorists take time out to murder all those in the Madrid Chabad House? The idea is ludicrous."

And yet we take it for granted that Pakistani "militants" in a long-running border dispute with India would take time out of their hectic schedule to kill Jews. In going to ever more baroque lengths to avoid saying "Islamic" or "Muslim" or "terrorist," we have somehow managed to internalize the pathologies of these men.

We are enjoined to be "understanding," and we're doing our best. A Minnesotan suicide bomber (now there's a phrase) originally from Somalia returned to the old country and blew up himself and 29 other people last October. His family prevailed upon your government to have his parts (or as many of them as could be sifted from the debris) returned to the United States at taxpayer expense and buried in Burnsville Cemetery. Well, hey, in the current climate, what's the big deal about a federal bailout of jihad operational expenses? If that's not "too big to fail," what is?

Last week, a Canadian critic reprimanded me for failing to understand that Muslims feel "vulnerable." Au contraire, they project tremendous cultural confidence, as well they might: They're the world's fastest-growing population. A prominent British Muslim announced the other day that, when the United Kingdom becomes a Muslim state, non-Muslims will be required to wear insignia identifying them as infidels. If he's feeling "vulnerable," he's doing a terrific job of covering it up.

We are told that the "vast majority" of the 1.6 billion to 1.8 billion Muslims (in Deepak Chopra's estimate) are "moderate." Maybe so, but they're also quiet. And, as the AIDS activists used to say, "Silence=Acceptance." It equals acceptance of the things done in the name of their faith. Rabbi Holtzberg was not murdered because of a territorial dispute over Kashmir or because of Bush's foreign policy. He was murdered in the name of Islam – "Allahu Akbar."

I wrote in my book, "America Alone," that "reforming" Islam is something only Muslims can do. But they show very little sign of being interested in doing it, and the rest of us are inclined to accept that. Spread a rumor that a Quran got flushed down the can at Gitmo, and there'll be rioting throughout the Muslim world. Publish some dull cartoons in a minor Danish newspaper, and there'll be protests around the planet. But slaughter the young pregnant wife of a rabbi in Mumbai in the name of Allah, and that's just business as usual. And, if it is somehow "understandable" that for the first time in history it's no longer safe for a Jew to live in India, then we are greasing the skids for a very slippery slope. Muslims, the AP headline informs us, "worry about image." Not enough.


Friday, December 05, 2008

Film Reviews: "Cadillac Records"

Got Their Musical Mojo Working

The New York Times
Published: December 5, 2008

This movie has been designated a Critic's Pick by the film reviewers of The Times.

Eric Liebowitz/Sony TriStar Pictures

Jeffrey Wright as "Muddy Waters" in "Cadillac Records," directed by Darnell Martin.

In “Cadillac Records,” Darnell Martin’s rollicking and insightful celebration of Chicago blues in its hectic golden age, Jeffrey Wright plays the singer and guitarist Muddy Waters. This feat is made even more impressive and interesting when you reflect that in the same movie season Mr. Wright has portrayed another notable real-life African-American, the former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in Oliver Stone’s “W.” The man is equally credible as a statesman and a bluesman. If that’s not range, what is?

Much more than racial typecasting or clever mimicry is at work in these performances. Mr. Wright can hardly be said to bear a strong physical resemblance to Muddy Waters or Mr. Powell — or, for that matter, to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whom he played in the HBO film “Boycott,” or to the painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, so brilliantly impersonated in “Basquiat.”

Rather, Mr. Wright, as protean and serious an actor as any working in American movies, seems to be writing his own version of “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man,” the literary scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s collection of essays on various styles of African-American manhood.

In each case, whether playing a former soldier or a tormented artist, Mr. Wright directs our attention away from the familiar, public face of the character in question toward a private zone where ambition struggles with anxiety, and where what seems to be at stake is nothing less than the integrity and viability of the self. And so, in his Muddy Waters, we see pride, ambition and uncertainty cohabiting with musical genius, sexual appetite and stubborn professionalism.

“Cadillac Records” is by no means Mr. Wright’s film alone, and his work is enriched by the skill and verve of a prodigious ensemble. The film is not — thank goodness — another dutiful musical biopic, but rather the group portrait of a remarkable, volatile constellation of artists, including Little Walter (Columbus Short), Chuck Berry (Mos Def), Etta James (BeyoncĂ© Knowles), Howlin’ Wolf (Eamonn Walker) and Willie Dixon, the bassist and songwriter who narrates in the mellow, countrified voice of Cedric the Entertainer.

These musical innovators are gathered together — promoted, exploited and given shiny new Caddies with heavy strings attached — by Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody), a Jewish entrepreneur in postwar Chicago who sees “race music” as a potential gold mine. That it also turns out to be an agent of wholesale cultural transformation — an old song observes that the blues had a baby, and they called it rock ’n’ roll — does not faze him in the least.

Few subjects are as encrusted with legend, hyperbole and sheer bunk as the history of American popular music, and there will no doubt be pedants who will object to some of the liberties “Cadillac Records” has taken with the literal truth. At times Leonard Chess seems so stressed out by running the record company bearing his name that you wish he had, say, a brother to share the burden. The real Leonard Chess did, but for now Phil Chess will have to join Nesuhi Ertegun, brother of Ahmet, in the ranks of music industry siblings neglected by Hollywood.

In any case, Ms. Martin, who wrote as well as directed “Cadillac Records,” does not need to lean too heavily on the historical record, or on the dreary conventions of pop-culture hagiography, because she has a clear and complicated set of ideas about her characters and a deep appreciation of the music they made. It is, sadly, all too rare for a movie about important musicians to pay intelligent attention to the sounds and idioms that make their lives worth dramatizing in the first place.

But in “Cadillac Records” you hear most of the important advances and developments that defined urban blues in the 1940s and ’50s. When Muddy Waters, newly arrived in Chicago from Mississippi, plugs his guitar into an amplifier, a new sonic mutation occurs. Then Chuck Berry comes along, playing in a speedier, country-inflected style that makes him the first major star to cross from the R&B to the pop charts.

“Cadillac Records” would be worth seeing for the music alone. Mr. Wright’s renditions of Muddy Waters’s signature songs are more than respectable, while Ms. Knowles’s interpretations of Ms. James’s hits — “At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind,” in particular — are downright revelatory.

And so, it should be said, is Ms. Knowles’s performance. In her previous film roles she has seemed guarded and tentative, as if worried that her charisma would melt from too much emotional heat. Here, playing a needy, angry, ferociously talented and fantastically undisciplined woman, she is as volcanic and voluptuous as an Italian movie star. Or, more to the point, a real soul diva of the old school.

The music is also a window into history, and “Cadillac Records” is an uncommonly astute treatment of race in America at the end of the Jim Crow era. Its dense, anecdotal narrative is built around the sometimes uneasy friendship between Leonard Chess and Muddy Waters, his first big star. Chess is devoted to his artists, but he also profits from their art, and Mr. Brody shows him to be neither a paragon of racial enlightenment nor a predator.

“His job is to make money off you,” Howlin’ Wolf says to Muddy Waters, who is hurt by what he sees as Chess’s double-dealing. “You’re from Mississippi. I thought you would have known that.”
The rivalry between those two bluesmen is another source of intrigue in “Cadillac Records,” which sustains a remarkable number of dramatically important relationships, any one of which could have been a movie in its own right. Muddy Waters is also a mentor to Little Walter — a troubled, reckless, brilliant harmonica player — and a steadfast (if unfaithful) husband to Geneva (Gabrielle Union). Chess, meanwhile, though he is married (his wife, Revetta, is played by Emmanuelle Chriqui) is nearly undone by his passion for Etta James.

So much passion, so much pain, so much tenderness and violence. If you dig up an album from the heyday of Chess Records, you’ll find all that and more. And “Cadillac Records” is nearly as good as one of those albums, which is saying a lot. This movie is crowded and sprawling, and if it rambles sometimes, that’s just fine. Like those big, boxy Caddies (and like Howlin’ Wolf, if he did say so himself), it’s built for comfort, not for speed. It hums, it purrs and it roars.

“Cadillac Records” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has smoking, swearing, sex and mayhem in excess, which is just the right amount.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Written and directed by Darnell Martin; director of photography, Anastas Michos; edited by Peter C. Frank; music by Terence Blanchard; production designer, Linda Burton; produced by Andrew Lack and Sofia Sondervan; released by TriStar Pictures. Running time: 1 hour 48 minutes.

WITH: Adrien Brody (Leonard Chess), Jeffrey Wright (Muddy Waters), Gabrielle Union (Geneva Wade), Columbus Short (Little Walter), Cedric the Entertainer (Willie Dixon), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Revetta Chess), Eamonn Walker (Howlin’ Wolf), Eric Bogosian (Alan Freed), Mos Def (Chuck Berry) and BeyoncĂ© Knowles (Etta James).

Cadillac Records

The birthplace of the wang dang doodle

Release Date: 2008
Ebert Rating: ***
Dec 3, 2008
by Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

In the studio with Chess legends Willie Dixon (Cedric the Entertainer), Leonard Chess (Adrien Brody) and Muddy Waters (Jeffrey Wright).

An argument could be made that modern rock 'n' roll was launched not at Sun Records in Memphis, but at Chess Records, 2120 S. Michigan, and its earlier South Side locations since the early 1950s. The Rolling Stones even recorded a song named after the address. The great Chess roster included Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Etta James, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry and Little Walter. They first made Chicago the home of the blues, and then rhythm and blues, which, as Muddy said, had a baby, and they named it rock 'n' roll.

"Cadillac Records" is an account of the Chess story that depends more on music than history, which is perhaps as it should be. The film is a fascinating record of the evolution of a black musical style, and the tangled motives of the white men who had an instinct for it. The Chess brothers, Leonard and Phil, walked into neighborhoods that were dicey for white men after midnight, packed firearms, found or were found by the most gifted musicians of the emerging urban music, and recorded them in a studio so small it forced the sound out into the world.

This movie sidesteps the existence of Phil Chess, now living in Arizona, and focuses on the enigmatic, chain-smoking Leonard (Adrien Brody). Starting with an early liaison with Muddy Waters, who in effect became his creative partner, he visited "race music" radio stations in the South with his artists and payola, found and/or created a demand, and gave his musicians shiny new Cadillacs but never a good look at their royalties. Muddy (Jeffrey Wright) was probably paid only a share of the money he earned, but the more ferocious Howlin' Wolf (Eamonn Walker), seemingly less sophisticated, held onto his money, made his own deals and incredibly even paid health benefits for the members of his band.

It is part of the legend that Muddy was nice, Howlin' was scary, and they disliked each other. In the film, they are guarded but civil, and fierce competitors. Walker plays the 6-foot-4 Wolf as a scowler who somehow from that height looks up at people under hooded eyes and appears willing to slice you just for the convenience. The real Howlin' Wolf must have been more complex; he couldn't read or write until he was past 40, but then he earned his high school equivalency diploma and studied accounting, an excellent subject for an associate of Leonard Chess.

Did Chess love the music? Brody's performance and the script by director Darnell Martin leave that question a little cloudy. Certainly he had good taste and an aggressive business instinct, and he didn't sit in an office in Loop but was behind the bar at the Macomba Lounge on Saturday nights in the late 1940s, when some of his more alarming customers must have figured, hey, a white man that crazy, maybe it's not a good idea to mess with him.

Leonard was married but maintained a wall between his business and his family. "Cadillac Records" speculates that later in his career, he may have fallen in love with his new discovery Etta James (pop superstar Beyonce Knowles). If so, romance didn't blind him to her gifts, and in a movie where the actors do most of their own singing, her performances are inspired and persuasive.

Beyonce Knowles as Etta James.

The Chess artists had an influence in more than one way on white rock singers. The Beach Boys' "Surfin' USA" has the same melody as Chuck Berry's "Sweet Little Sixteen." Frank Zappa borrowed Wolf's favorite exclamation, "Great googley moogley!" The Rolling Stones, who acknowledged their Chicago influences, paid a pilgrimage to South Michigan Avenue and arranged a European tour for Chess stars; later, Keith Richards talked Chuck Berry into the concert shown in the great doc "Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll" and even played backup guitar to Berry.

Given the number of characters and the time covered, Martin does an effective job of sketching the backgrounds of some of her subjects and doesn't go out of her way to indict Leonard's business methods (did the singers know their Cadillacs were bought with their own money?). There is a poignant scene where Leonard arranges the first meeting between Etta James and her white father (who was -- are you ready for this -- Minnesota Fats). And a close look at the troubled but durable marriage of Muddy Waters and his wife Geneva Wade (Gabrielle Union).

The casting throughout is successful. Columbus Short suggests the building inner torments of Little Walter, and Cedric the Entertainer plays the singer-songwriter Willie Dixon as a creator and synthesizer. Nobody can really play Chuck Berry, but Mos Def does a great duck walk.

Eamonn Walker, at 6-foot-1, is three inches shy of the towering Howlin', but he evokes presence and intimidation. Sometimes I'm amazed at actors. Seeing Howlin' Wolf bring danger into the room in this film, you'd never guess Walker started as a dancer, was a social worker, acts in Shakespeare, is married to a novelist. Could any of the regulars at 2120 S. Michigan have guessed they would be instrumental in creating a music that would dominate the entire world for the next 50 years?

Milestone in Baghdad

By Charles Krauthammer
December 5, 2008; Page A25

WASHINGTON -- The barbarism in Mumbai and the economic crisis at home have largely overshadowed an otherwise singular event: the ratification of military and strategic cooperation agreements between Iraq and the United States.

They must not pass unnoted. They were certainly noted by Iran, which fought fiercely to undermine the agreements. Tehran understood how a formal U.S.-Iraqi alliance endorsed by a broad Iraqi consensus expressed in a freely elected parliament changes the strategic balance in the region.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Dustin Gillette with schoolchildren while on patrol in Iraq on Wednesday. (By Maya Alleruzzo -- Associated Press)

For the United States, it represents the single most important geopolitical advance in the region since Henry Kissinger turned Egypt from a Soviet client into an American ally. If we don't blow it with too hasty a withdrawal from Iraq, we will have turned a chronically destabilizing enemy state at the epicenter of the Arab Middle East into an ally.

Also largely overlooked at home was the sheer wonder of the procedure that produced Iraq's consent: classic legislative maneuvering with no more than a tussle or two -- tame by international standards (see YouTube: "Best Taiwanese Parliament Fights Of All Time!") -- over the most fundamental issues of national identity and direction.

The only significant opposition bloc was the Sadrists, a mere 30 seats out of 275. The ostensibly pro-Iranian religious Shiite parties resisted Tehran's pressure and championed the agreement. As did the Kurds. The Sunnis put up the greatest fight. But their concern was that America would be withdrawing too soon, leaving them subject to overbearing and perhaps even vengeful Shiite dominance.

The Sunnis, who only a few years ago had boycotted provincial elections, bargained with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, trying to exploit his personal stake in agreements he himself had negotiated. They did not achieve their maximum objectives. But they did get formal legislative commitments for future consideration of their grievances, from amnesty to further relaxation of the de-Baathification laws.

That any of this democratic give-and-take should be happening in a peaceful parliament just two years after Iraq's descent into sectarian hell is in itself astonishing. Nor is the setting of a withdrawal date terribly troubling. The deadline is almost entirely symbolic. U.S. troops must be out by Dec. 31, 2011 -- the weekend before the Iowa caucuses, which, because God is merciful, will arrive again only in the very fullness of time. Moreover, that date is not just distant but flexible. By treaty, it can be amended. If conditions on the ground warrant, it will be.

True, the war is not over. As Gen. David Petraeus repeatedly insists, our (belated) successes in Iraq are still fragile. There has already been an uptick in terror bombings, which will undoubtedly continue as what's left of al-Qaeda, the Sadrist militias and the Iranian-controlled "special groups" try to disrupt January's provincial elections.

The more long-term danger is that Iraq's reborn central government becomes too strong and, by military or parliamentary coup, the current democratic arrangements are dismantled by a renewed dictatorship that abrogates the alliance with the United States.

Such disasters are possible. But if our drawdown is conducted with the same acumen as was the surge, not probable. A self-sustaining, democratic and pro-American Iraq is within our reach. It would have two hugely important effects in the region.

First, it would constitute a major defeat for Tehran, the putative winner of the Iraq War according to the smart set. Iran's client, Moqtada al-Sadr, still hiding in Iran, was visibly marginalized in parliament -- after being militarily humiliated in Basra and Baghdad by the new Iraqi security forces. Moreover, the major religious Shiite parties were the ones who negotiated, promoted and assured passage of the strategic alliance with the U.S., against the most determined Iranian opposition.

Second is the regional effect of the new political entity on display in Baghdad -- a flawed yet functioning democratic polity with unprecedented free speech, free elections and freely competing parliamentary factions. For this to happen in the most important Arab country besides Egypt can, over time (over generational time, the timescale of the war on terror), alter the evolution of Arab society. It constitutes our best hope for the kind of fundamental political-cultural change in the Arab sphere that alone will bring about the defeat of Islamic extremism. After all, newly sovereign Iraq is today more engaged in the fight against Arab radicalism than any country on earth, save the United States -- with which, mirabile dictu, it has now thrown in its lot.

PSU women set it up

By Sam Ross Jr.
Friday, December 5, 2008

Christa Harmotto, Megan Hodge, Alisha Glass and Alyssa D'Errico.

The road to championships in Division I college volleyball -- women's and men's -- is a continuous loop that begins and ends at Penn State.

From the women winning a national championship in the winter of 2007, to the men claiming a national title the following spring, to the present -- the top-ranked women are poised to begin defense of their national crown Friday by hosting Long Island in Rec Hall -- Penn State is enjoying a continuous success of an historic nature.

In a sport where the power base is far west of the Mississippi River, Penn State joined Stanford's 1996-97 teams as the only schools in NCAA history to win women's and men's national championships in the same academic year.

"Certainly, the West Coast has won the majority of national championships on both the men's and women's sides," said Penn State women's coach Russ Rose, who's in his 30th season. "But, the fact that Penn State has found its way to the championship podium a few times in both sports is an indication that it can be done."

Men's coach Mark Pavlik, the Derry native in his 15th season running the program, deflected the credit.

"I wish it was something that was a secret, but I just think the women playing for Russ are some of the best players I've ever seen," he said. "The same is true of the guys on our team.

"It's like a perfect storm is brewing, and it seems like it's centered right over Rec Hall."

The net results

That storm of success is a source of pride for Salima Rockwell, the former Penn Hills High School player who earned All-America recognition playing for Rose from 1991-94. She now is in her third year back with the women's program -- as director of volleyball operations in 2006 and as an assistant coach the past two seasons.

"To have kind of the center of volleyball be here, certainly last (school) year with two national championships, I think it's easy for people to see that we know what we're doing," Rockwell said.

Penn State's volleyball success is all the more striking under closer examination. Consider:

• The Lions (32-0) are the first collegiate women's team to go an entire season without losing a single set.

• The women have won an NCAA-record 58 consecutive matches. Its Big Ten win streak stands at 45.

• The two women's national titles (1999 and 2007) are the only Division I championships won by a school east of Nebraska.

• The two men's national titles (1994 and 2008) are the only Division I championships won by a school east of Utah. (Lewis, Ill., had to vacate its 2003 title for using ineligible players.)

The success comes from within the Commonwealth, as both Penn State programs boast in-state players.

On the women's roster, three of the 14 players are from Pennsylvania, including Hopewell High's Christa Harmotto. The 17-player men's roster has seven Pennsylvania players, including Hempfield's Joe Sunder.

That success has not been lost on the school's student body, even in the midst of a Rose Bowl season for the football team.

"The athletes really do a good job of supporting each other," said Harmotto, a 6-foot-2 senior All-America middle hitter from Aliquippa. "We know a lot of the football guys and other athletes. It's just one, big athletic family, I suppose.

"We've had great crowds. We had close to 6,000 (Nov. 21 vs. Northwestern). Obviously, it helps that it was the Rally in the Valley for the football team, but we're definitely getting a larger student following."

The women's pursuit of a perfect season, both in terms of sets and matches, became a prominent subplot -- but not to Rose.

"It's special because everybody else talks about it," he said. "It's not special to me. This team's goal is to try to defend its national championship."

Some downplay the men's success because there are just 23 Division I programs nationwide, compared with 331 women's programs.

"In defense of that, when the men get to the final four, they've got to win two matches to win the national championship,(too)," Rose said. "It's just a lot easier for them to get to the final four."

Rose's world

Rose's volleyball teams have won two national championships, not that you'd notice.

"I don't wear any championship rings or anything that would give anybody an idea of any of those sort of things that I've been a part of," he said. "My job is to help the players have a chance to be successful."

Rose has done just that. He began the season as one of just three volleyball coaches with more than 900 career wins. His winning percentage of nearly 86 percent is tops among active coaches, and he is already in the American Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame.

While much has been made of the fact that Joe Paterno has been on the staff for more than half of the 800 all-time football wins for Penn State, Rose (957 wins) has been the head man for more than nine-tenths of the Nittany Lions' women's volleyball victories.

"I'm the guy that gets the publicity," Paterno said at a recent football pep rally, "but the best coach on this campus is Russ Rose."

Rose allowed himself a slight smile when he heard that.

"You appreciate it," Rose said, "when it comes from Joe Paterno."

Rose's reputation is that of a no-nonsense guy, which he attributes to his Chicago roots.

"Brutally honest," junior setter Alisha Glass said in describing her coach. "He knows what it takes to win, whether it's looking at statistics, whether its minimizing errors or just knowing how to push a player. Even when you don't necessarily want to hear it, he knows what he's talking about."

The Rose candor is what first attracted Rockwell to the program as a player and brought her back as an assistant.

"Brutally honest? That's probably fair," Rockwell said. "Someone's got to be, and I think that's his job. We always get the players that understand that and want that."

Rose makes no apologies for his style.

"I keep thinking it's my responsibility to treat these players the way I treated my players 30 years ago as well," he said. "I run into problems with that because this is a new era of soft, entitled kids that feel that everybody owes them the world, and I'm just too negative and not telling them how lovely they are.

"Every now and then, you get a throwback, and it's great. Salima was. I never had any problems with Salima. Christa Harmotto, the same. I've had a number of kids from Western Pennsylvania -- that's great stock.

"I was from Chicago. It was the same thing. The kids I recruited from the Midwest, their parents, they didn't own the companies. They worked. They worked the third shift. Those people understand what challenges are about. Their kids are a little tougher. They're not spoiled."

Attitude and talent

When Rose sees a combination of athletic ability and blue-collar work ethic, he knows he has something special.

Such is the case with Harmotto, who was recently named ESPN the Magazine's Academic All-American of the Year.

Harmotto is seen as the volleyball equivalent of former Penn State All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny, who won ESPN's Academic All-American of the Year honor in 2006 and now plays for the Buffalo Bills.

She and Posluszny even had to overcome knee injuries at almost the same time.

"Everybody was asking what was in the water in Hopewell Township," said Harmotto, whose family has socialized with the Poslusznys. "But we both recovered fine."

Rose ranks Harmotto among his all-time favorite players.

"I've been coaching for 34 years, and there's a few players that you would say, 'I would sign to coach them forever,' and she'd be right at the top of that list," he said. "She's so full of life. She's a giver. Everybody gets energy from her. Her academic success, her community involvement -- someone asked me if I knew she teaches Sunday school, I'm like, 'I didn't know, but I'm not surprised.' "

Harmotto's career is winding down, but it's already been all that she had hoped it could be.

"It's just an honor to play for (coach Rose)," she said. "And it's an honor to play for Penn State."

NCAA women's volleyball

Playoff pairings this weekend at Penn State's Rec Hall:


Yale vs Ohio, 3:30 p.m.

Long Island vs Penn State, 6


Friday winners, 4 p.m.

NOTE: Penn State also hosts an NCAA regional Dec. 12 and 13 at Rec Hall

Recent women's champions

2007: Penn State

2006: Nebraska

2005: Washington

2004: Stanford.

2003: Southern Cal

2002: Southern Cal

2001: Stanford

2000: Nebraska

Recent men's champions

2008: Penn State

2007: UC-Irvine

2006: UCLA

2005: Pepperdine

2004: Brigham Young

2003: Lewis (Ill.)*

2002: Hawaii*

2001: Brigham Young

2000: UCLA

* -- Those titles were later vacated

Sam Ross Jr. can be reached at or 724-838-5144.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Were There Muslims in Mumbai?

By Don Feder
Thursday, December 04, 2008

Islamist students burn Israeli, U.S. and Indian flags as they shout anti-U.S. and anti-Indian slogans during a demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari indicated Wednesday he would not hand over 20 terrorist suspects wanted by India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
(AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

Come on along and listen to the Lullaby of Mumbai, the hip hooray and politically correct coverage, and never say the “I” word. That doesn’t rhyme, does it?

In its coverage of a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai last week that left 172 dead, the New York Times – America’s newspaper that sounds like a broken record – scrupulously avoided any suggestion of possible sectarian motivation for the atrocities. The perpetrators were variously referred to as “terrorists,” “gunmen,” “militants” and “assailants.”

The only time “Islam,” “Muslims” or similar expressions were used was in reporting on statements of the terrorists themselves – as when they railed against the alleged mistreatment of Muslims in Kashmir and India or demanded that “mujahedeen” prisoners be released. Sky News reported that the terrorists called on the Indian government “to return stolen Muslim lands” – which, in the wide world of Islam, is all of India.

It’s not just the New York Times that engages in extreme reality-avoidance when it comes to the nastier aspects of the Prophet's creed.

At its annual convention in October 2001, the Society of Professional Journalists issued “Diversity Guidelines,” that instructed reporters and editors to, “Avoid using word combinations such as ‘Islamic terrorist’ or ‘Muslim extremist’ that are misleading because they link whole religions to criminal activity.”

Let’s see: In the past 30 years, the overwhelming majority of acts of terrorism were committed by Muslims. Most terrorist groups have names like jihad-this and Islamic-that. Terrorists regularly quote the Koran’s kill-the-infidels verses. (“O True Believers, when you encounter the unbeliever, strike off their heads!”) Al-Qaeda and company tell us that their goal is to advance the global jihad . Those inciting inter-religious violence have titles like sheikh, imam and mullah. But linking Islam to terrorism is “misleading”?

Since 1993, there have been at least 17 terror-bombings in India – 12 of them since 2005. In each, the death toll has ranged from a dozen to more than 200. That the victims were (almost exclusively) Hindus, and the perpetrators (when identified) Muslims, is happenstance, according to the mainstream media.

It’s also a coincidence that, along with the U.S. and Israel, India is one of the principal targets of international terrorism, and India has the second largest Muslim population in the world.

In an op-ed in the November 29, New York Times (“What They Hate About Mumbai”) Suketu Mehta – a professor of journalism at New York University – insists the terrorists were striking out at city’s cosmopolitanism, which they loath. “Religious extremists” (Mehta indicts both Muslims and Hindus) were enraged because “Mumbai stands for lucre (wealth), profane dreams and indiscriminate openness.”

Well, that explains why the terrorists invaded Mumbai’s Chabad House, a citadel of decadence run by Hasidic Jews. Among those murdered were Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg, his wife, Rivka, Rabbi Leibish Teitelbaum and three Israeli girls, all in their teens.

What debauchery was going on at the Mumbai Chabad House to make it a target of anti-cosmopolitan extremists? Eating gefilte fish and dancing the Hora?

The Chabad House was targeted because it was Mumbai’s center of Jewish activity. Muslims like killing Jews almost as much as they enjoy killing Hindus. Their religion commands it. A doctor who performed post-mortems on the Jewish victims said they were tortured before they were killed and "bore the maximum torture marks" of all who died in Mumbai (as quoted on the Indian news website

There must’ve been a whole lot of shaking going on in 8th century India, when the Muslim subjugation of the subcontinent began. Millions were murdered. In the city of Somnath alone, more than 50,000 were slaughtered.

The slave markets of the Middle East were glutted with Hindu women and children taken captive. An ancient civilization was nearly destroyed. (Libraries were leveled and manuscripts burned.)

In his book The Sword of the Prophet: Islam History, Theology, Impact on The World, Serge Trifkovic offers the following account: “Muslim invaders began entering India in the early eighth century, on the orders of Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq. Starting in 712, the raiders, commanded by Muhammad Qasim, demolished temples, shattered sculptures, plundered palaces, killed vast numbers of men – it took them three days to slaughter the inhabitants of the port city of Debal – and carried off their women and children to slavery.”

Strange how the plunderers of palaces and killers of vast numbers usually have names like Muhammad or Osama instead of Seymour or Sanjay.

In his multi-volume work, The Story of Civilization, Will Durant singled this out as among the bloodiest episodes in history. Durant characterized it as “a discouraging tale, for it’s evident that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex order and freedom can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without and multiplying from within.…”

Multiple-choice quiz: The barbarians Durant refers to are: 1. Episcopalians 2. Jehovah’s Witnesses 3. Scientologists or 4. Muslims? The correct answer is the religion of Muhammad.

Closed circuit television footage released on December 3, 2008 shows gunmen walking across a parking lot after a shooting spree at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus train station in Mumbai on November 26, 2008.
REUTERS/Investigating Team Video via Reuters TV (INDIA) QUALITY FROM SOURCE

Here’s another remarkable coincidence: When Muslim authorities, religious or secular, open their mouths, what issues there from is frequently abominable or absurd.

* On September 14, Sheikh Muhammed Al-Munajid told viewers of the Saudi religious station that Mickey Mouse was an agent of Satan (along with Zionists, Hindus, and Christian missionaries). The former diplomat attached to the Islamic Affairs Department of the Saudi embassy in Washington explained that mice are unclean. But the Disney character – like Warner’s Jerry – teaches children to revere rodents. Ergo, “Mickey Mouse has become an awesome character, even though, according to Islamic law, Mickey Mouse should be killed in all cases.” Try to imagine a rabbi putting out a contract on Porky Pig.

* On October 30, a thoroughly charming Egyptian lawyer, Ms. Nagla Al-Imam, suggested on the Arab TV channel Al-Arabiya that Palestinian men should threaten to rape Israeli women and girls as a form of “resistance” against the so-called occupation. Non-Muslim women in Europe are frequently the targets of gang-rape by Muslim men – but to link these crimes to Islam would be misleading.

* On November 28, the Associated Press reported that Al-Zawahiri – Al-Qaeda’s primo capo – released a video urging Americans to convert to Islam to avoid a financial meltdown. The U.S. economy had been destroyed by 9/11 “and usury (interest paid on loans)” Zawahiri declared. Americans should “embrace Islam to live a life free of greed, exploitation and forbidden wealth.” Islam’s aversion to what it calls greed (capitalism) is one reason that, absent oil, Muslim societies’ most important products are fleas, filth, fanaticism and poverty.

The naked emperor is nowhere more evident than in the way the West goes to absurd lengths to be sensitive to those who decapitate hostages and shoot 13-year-old American girls (one of the victims in the Mumbai massacre).

Jesse Nieto is a 25-year veteran of the Marine Corps whose youngest son was one of 17 killed in the 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.

Now a civilian employee of Camp LeJeune, Nieto was ordered to remove from his car decals with the slogans: “Islam = Terrorism” and “We Died, They Rejoiced!” In fact, the deaths of 3,000 Americans on 9/11 were celebrated from Indonesia to the shores of Tripoli.

Base police gave Nieto a ticket for displaying “offensive material” on his vehicle.

The Corps certainly wouldn’t want to offend the fine folks who murdered 241 Marines in the 1983 Beirut barracks bombing, or the non-denominational militants who’ve been killing leathernecks for the past six years, from Kabul to Fullujah.

Mumbai is the latest chapter in the millennial bestseller, Gone With The Jihad. Since the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, communities in the Negev have been under continuous bombardment.

On Friday, November 14, Sderot was hit by 11 Qassam rockets. Ashkelon – a city of 120,000 north of Gaza – got six incoming, courtesy of the Al-Quds Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad. If it bothered to report such attacks at all – which is doesn’t – the New York Times would assign blame to the Militants’, Assailants’ and Gunmen’s Group for Spiritual Struggle.

Naturally, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Amnesty International have condemned not the rocket attacks, but the Israeli response – a partial blockade of Gaza, which they called “collective punishment.” It’s irrelevant that Gazans collectively condone and abet the aggression.

If the U.N. has its way, soon, a commentary like the one you’re reading will be against the law – at least the international law.

Four days before the beginning of the Mumbai massacre, the United Nations General Assembly passed a measure called “Combating Defamation of Religions” – which seeks to root out “acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religion.”

Enactment of the Orwellian measure has been high on the agenda of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, which maintains that “Islam is frequently associated with human rights violations and terrorism.”

Imagine the infidel dogs implying that there’s a connection between Islam and honor killings, floggings for minor infractions of Shari'a law, flying planes into buildings, bombings, rocket attacks and the murder of rabbis and their wives. Infamous!

A Pakistani Islamist student wears headband reading: 'God is Great' as he shouts anti-U.S. and anti-Indian slogans during a demonstration in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari indicated Wednesday he would not hand over 20 terrorist suspects wanted by India in the wake of the Mumbai attacks.
(AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

My friend Robert Spencer – author of Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs and editor of the website Jihad Watch – warns that the U.N. enactment is “a veiled attempt to restrict speech that Islamic authorities find offensive or inconvenient, including honest discussion of the motives and goals of jihad terrorists and how they make use of Islamic texts to gain recruits and justify their actions.”

The measure will not be deployed against the imams who regularly call for the blood of Christians, Jews and Hindus, or the government of Egypt that condones church burnings, or the Saudi Religious Police who smash down doors in search of covert Christian services, or Holocaust-denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or Syrian President-for-life Bashar Assad, who told Pope John Paul II that Jews “try to kill the principle of religions,” or the producers of the 2002 Egyptian television multi-series, “Horseman Without A Horse,” a dramatization of the anti-Semitic canard “The Protocols of The Elders of Zion,” or the U.N., whose 2001 Anti-Racism Conference in Durban turned into a hate-Zionism fest.

It will be used to silence the likes of Geert Wilders (the Dutch parliamentarian who produced Fitna), Brigitte Gabriel (the Lebanese-American journalist and author of Because They Hate), Bob Spencer, Ann Coulter, and ex-Muslims who run websites like “Islam Watch.”

The United Nations was founded in response to the carnage of World War II. Considered by many to be the greatest statesman of the 20th century, Winston Churchill was one of the leaders of West in that titanic struggle.

Were he alive, Churchill would be among the defamers of religion targeted by the U.N. edict. Having encountered Islam as a young soldier in India and the Sudan, this is what the future British PM had to say about the subject over 100 years ago:

Several generations have elapsed since the nations of the West have drawn the sword in religious controversy and the evil memories of the gloomy past have soon faded in the strong, clear light of Rationalism and human sympathy…But the Mahommedan religion increases, instead of lessening, the fury of intolerance. It was originally propagated by the sword, and ever since its votaries have been subject, above the people of all other creeds, to this form of madness. In a moment, the fruits of patient toil, the prospects of material prosperity, the fear of death itself, are flung aside…Seizing their weapons, they become Ghazis (warriors for Islam) – as dangerous and as sensible as mad dogs: fit only to be treated as such…The forces of progress clash with those of reaction. The religion of blood and war is face to face with that of peace. Luckily the religion of peace is usually better armed. (from Churchill By Himself: The Definitive Collection of Quotations.)

Someone forgot to issue the Diversity Guidelines to Winnie. Then, too, Winston Spencer Churchill was part of a generation that confronted evil, instead of trying to make it go away by refusing to acknowledge its existence.

Don Feder is a former Boston Herald writer who is now a political/communications consultant. He also maintains his own website,

Today's Tune: Warren Zevon - Poor Poor Pitiful Me/Cadillac Ranch (Live 1982)

(Click on title to play video)

Lying at State

There'll be lots of it from the Tuzla survivor.

By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. on 12.4.08 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama campaigned intoning the mantra that Washington's political system is "broken." Now with most of his appointments either named or leaked he has proved it. There is indeed something broken in a political system whose electorate rejects Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primaries and nonetheless finds itself saddled with a third Clinton Administration at year's end.

Of all the Clintonistas that Mr. Obama has appointed, the most bizarre is the appointment of Senator Clinton as secretary of state. He himself during the campaign remarked on her lack of foreign policy credentials. "What exactly is [her] foreign policy expertise?" he asked. Mr. Obama's incoming White House counsel, Greg Craig, was blunter still. In a detailed memo last March, Craig explained why, as he put it, "There is no reason to believe… she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration." The memo led Oliver Willis, the progressive blogger, to note, "This malarkey about Sen. Clinton having all this foreign policy experience strikes me as a serial fabrication on the level of Stephen Glass and Jayson Blair" -- two infamous journalistic frauds.

Those words were chosen wisely. It was in March that at least two of Senator Clinton's claims to foreign policy credentials were exposed as the sheerest poppycock. She had been presenting herself as having been an indispensable instrument in effecting the Irish peace settlement during her husband's administration. "I was deeply involved in the Irish peace process," she would boast on the campaign trail. Unfortunately for her, Judicial Watch forced the Clintons to release Hillary's heavily redacted White House schedules, from which it was apparent that she had nothing to do with the peace process other than appearing in public with her husband sporting her famous forced smile.

The charge that Hillary was engaged in "serial fabrication" was validated again when one of the participants in the Irish peace negotiations, Noble Peace Prize winner David Trimble, exclaimed, "I don't know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill going around." Trimble characterized her empty boasts as a "wee bit silly." Two months earlier she had fibbed that "I actually went to Northern Ireland more often than my husband did," and on one occasion "pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall" Catholic and Protestant women whom she persuaded to bury the hatchet so "the hard work of peace-making could move forward." That whopper provoked London's Daily Telegraph to report, "There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs. Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on Christmas tree lights in November 1995."

It was in last March, too, that our next secretary of state was caught B.S.-ing that twelve years before while traveling through Bosnia as First Lady she had to dodge "sniper fire." This was a tall tale that she had been uttering repeatedly in her campaign to present herself as more experienced than Mr. Obama. According to it, the snipers attacked at a planned "greeting ceremony" in Tuzla, which had to be canceled as the sniper fire rained down and, said Hillary, "we just raan with our heads down to get into our vehicles to go to our base." Actually the ceremony was held at the base. It was not canceled and with scores of journalists and dignitaries standing by it was taped. CBS played the tape. Once again a brazen and artless lie by Hillary was her undoing. Said one member of the military, obviously peeved by Hillary's deprecation of the military's security measures, "Getting shot at by snipers is not something you forget -- or make light of."

Well, Hillary trivializes a lot of serious things and is often caught B.S.-ing. In fact, except for her husband I cannot think of another public figure of her stature caught so often in her own lies. About this time in the primary season she was also caught lying that "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo." She was caught in fibs about advice she offered her husband during the Rwanda genocide.

Now all of the above were lies deployed by Hillary to convince the electorate that she is vastly experienced in foreign policy. Apparently she failed to convince voters, but she seems to have convinced her erstwhile adversary, the President-elect. He should have taken note of her discrepancies and one other thing. He should by now be aware that both Clintons cause trouble for themselves and for others nearby when there is no apparent reason for the trouble other than the Clintons' bad character. Frankly, Mr. Obama, it is not wise to be too close to these two. You are going to be sitting with Mrs. Clinton in cabinet meetings. Watch out for sniper fire.

- R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute.

Got "Milk"?

Gus Van Sant’s new movie is well-cast, beautifully filmed, Oscar-bound, and mediocre.

By Mark Hemingway
December 04, 2008, 4:00 a.m.

Sean Penn as Harvey Milk

It doesn’t really matter what the general public thinks of Gus Van Sant’s new film Milk, chronicling the life of gay activist Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major public office in the U.S. It hits theaters guaranteed to clean up at Oscar time and the critical reception is . . . well, here’s Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post:

Once in a while, a movie arrives at such a perfect moment, its message and meaning so finely tuned to the current zeitgeist, that it seems less a cinematic event than a cosmic convergence, willed into being by a once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars.

Aside from the embarrassing hyperbole, the suggestion that the movie “arrives at such a perfect moment” is laughable, given that gay-rights activists and film-industry types complained about the movie being released after Election Day and the California decision on Proposition 8.

“[I] can’t help but wonder what Milk might have meant for today’s cause, if anything, had it landed in the marketplace last month,” wrote one blogger at popular film website In Contention. The Hollywood Reporter sparked furor with a story claiming that Focus Features, the studio releasing Milk, was “eschewing publicity for the gay-themed movie” because it was afraid the Prop 8 controversy would hurt the film’s chances — a claim that prompted an angry denial from Focus head James Schamus, the producer of Brokeback Mountain.

In other words, there was a lot of debate pre-release about whether the film had a sufficiently political agenda. Well, it does: the entire last act centers on Harvey Milk’s activism against Proposition 6, a 1978 initiative which would have banned gay teachers in California schools. The film is at pains to drive home parallels between Prop 6 and Prop 8, historically relevant or not. In reality, Proposition 6 was a poorly written law that that would have effectively legalized witch hunts, banning teachers who even supported other gay teachers. Both Jimmy Carter and sensible conservatives led by former governor Ronald Reagan opposed the law, which ultimately failed at the ballot. In terms of its legislative absurdity and popular support, Prop 6 and Prop 8 aren’t really comparable.

So Milk is a highly charged political film, which seems to have distracted people like Ann Hornaday from asking more relevant questions. Is it a good movie? Does it fairly represent Harvey Milk’s life and accomplishments? The answers to those questions are maybe and absolutely not, respectively.

Not all of the hype over the film is unjustified. The cinematography successfully evokes San Francisco in the 1970s, and the cast is uniformly excellent. Too often, actors play gay roles with overdone affectation; here, Penn disappears into the title role and turns in an incredible performance. Penn isn’t known for being a likable character on screen or off — but as Harvey Milk, he’s charismatic and disarming. He’s also buoyed by a series of excellent supporting performances from James Franco, Diego Luna, and Emile Hirsch, among others. Doubtless, you will hear more about the film’s performances as awards season nears.

But the strength of the film’s performances and the zeal that has greeted the film’s politics seems to have distracted everyone from noticing that the script is remarkably weak. Screenwriter Dustin Lance Black — a former Mormon missionary who’s now out and proud — is a hot Hollywood commodity on the strength of Milk, and it boggles the mind why.

The film borrows most of its structure — centering on the real-life, tape-recorded message Milk left behind in the event that he was killed — from the 1984 documentary, The Life and Times of Harvey Milk. The final scene, in which Milk is assassinated by one of his fellow San Francisco city supervisors is the hamfisted and melodramatic culmination of a lazy and obvious series of references to Milk’s love of opera that one can see coming a mile away. Telegraphed punches rarely land with force.

Further, the film repeatedly speculates, without any evidence whatsoever, that Milk’s financially ruined and mentally unstable assassin is a closeted homosexual. In ascribing motive, its plot resorts to a tiresome and baseless pop-culture meme that anyone opposed to homosexuality — or even to a story’s gay protagonist — must be a “closet case.” (Not that I expect the meme to die anytime soon; look for Haggard to land in theaters the next time a major gay-rights initiative is on a state ballot.)

The script sidesteps any and all moral dilemmas that might arise from examining, well, the life and times of the Harvey Milk — a man who was as polarizing as he was charismatic. Milk is less a biopic than a hagiography. Which is unfortunate.

Even a cursory examination of Harvey Milk’s life confirms that he was hardly a saint, and a film seeking to emphasize Milk’s positive achievements need not sacrifice its integrity in this regard. Whatever one thinks of the morality of homosexuality, the violence against gays that was once commonplace even in San Francisco was reprehensible, and Milk was an effective voice against it. Further, much of the criticism of homosexuality being lobbed at the time was uncharitable and unchristian, and as a national public figure, Milk put a sympathetic face on gay America.

On the other hand, the notion that this film — much less a more honest portrayal of Harvey Milk — would somehow have won votes for gay marriage is laughable. The film, probably accurately, doesn’t shy away from the promiscuity of the characters involved. Men hop into bed together literally at first sight. Indeed, one of Milk’s election promises noted in the film was his public announcement that he would no longer visit San Francisco’s famed bathhouses. Hmmm. No longer seeking out anonymous sex with multiple partners even while living with a longtime companion? What a concession to respectability.

Because the film is so myopically focused on justifying Milk’s political crusades, it doesn’t begin to get at who exactly Milk was as a person. The film doesn’t mention he was a Korean war veteran with a respectable military career, serving as a diver in the Navy a few years after the war ended. He was a Republican who worked on Barry Goldwater’s campaign — and initially decided to run for office not simply to advance gay rights but in a fit of pique over San Francisco’s business taxes on his camera store. In fact, the film barely even alludes to what he had done before he turned 40.

Even with the focus on Milk’s political accomplishments, the film still runs from the truth. One of Milk’s signature issues was encouraging gay men and women to come out — he felt that, if more Americans realized they had personal relationships with homosexuals, it would advance their cause. The film includes a tense scene where Milk pressures a friend into going into the next room to call his father and come out. (Later, Milk’s former lover chastises him for being a hypocrite, as he never came out to his mother while she was alive.) But the film passes over in silence an infamous “outing” episode in Milk’s life.

In 1975, while President Ford was visiting San Francisco, Sara Jane Moore attempted to shoot the president. A bystander, a former Marine named Oliver Sipple, grabbed her arm and her shot hit the pavement, possibly saving the president’s life. Milk knew Sipple — he was the former lover of one of Milk’s former lovers, Joe Campbell — and Milk wanted to out him, hoping that Sipple’s heroism would burnish the gay image. Sipple was openly gay, and he participated in gay-pride events — but he asked Milk not to out him in the wake of his heroic act. Milk did it anyway, and Sipple eventually sued the San Francisco Chronicle for invasion of privacy. The film barely acknowledges how questionable many of Milk’s tactics were — which is odd, considering that the ethics of outing are still hotly debated in the gay community today.

Instead, Milk portrays its protagonist as someone who did nothing but help people, with barely a nod to how abrasive and self-serving he could be. Every time Milk the man gets in the way of Milk the political message, moral ambiguities and inconvenient facts get steamrolled.

Which is why the film’s political message is effectively lost on those who aren’t pro–gay rights coming in. Milk presents one version of events for viewers to accept or reject. And since the film suggests that Harvey Milk was an angel and everyone opposed to him or to gay rights is a closet case or a crazy fundamentalist — well, good luck winning people over.

While Penn and his co-stars’ performances are exemplary, Milk isn’t nearly as good as its hype. Oh, it will collect its fair share of awards. The March Oscar ceremony will doubtless be an insufferable parade of moral superiority, as the movie-industry lets America know that it voted for Milk as a statement against the rubes who voted for Proposition 8. But in the end, Hollywood doesn’t speak for America. As much as it pains me to dampen Ann Hornaday’s expectations for the film, the only “once-in-a-lifetime alignment of the stars” Milk will array is within the ranks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

— Mark Hemingway is an NRO staff reporter.

Interview: Jonathan Brent on "Inside the Stalin Archives"
December 4, 2008

Between the Covers

Jonathan Brent on Inside the Stalin Archives

"We're learning exactly the degree of Stalin's own personal involvement in the masterminding and the execution of the terror fact [the terror] had been initiated and managed by Stalin for his own particular ends," says Jonathan Brent, author of Inside the Stalin Archives.

(Click on title to access audio)


By Ann Coulter
December 3, 2008

Until now, Minnesota was always famous for its clean elections. Indeed, Democratic consultant Bob Beckel recently attested to the honesty of Minnesota's elections, joking: "Believe me. I've tried. I've tried every way around the system out there, and it doesn't work."

But that was before Minnesota encountered the pushiest, most aggressive, most unscrupulous person who has ever sought public office, Al Franken.

On Election Day, Franken lost the U.S. Senate race in Minnesota to the Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman by 725 votes. But over the next week, Democratic counties kept discovering new votes for Franken and subtracting votes from Coleman, claiming to be correcting "typos."

In all, Franken picked up 459 votes and Coleman lost 60 votes from these alleged "corrections."

As the inestimable economist John Lott pointed out, the "corrections" in the Senate race generated more new votes for Franken than all the votes added by corrections in every race in the entire state -- presidential, congressional, state house, sanitation commissioner and dogcatcher -- combined.

And yet the left-wing, George Soros-backed Secretary of State, Mark Ritchie, stoutly defended the statistically impossible "corrected" votes. There's something fishy going on in Minnesota besides the annual bigmouth bass tournament.

Fortunately, the very outrageousness of the "corrections" scam brought national attention to the Minnesota recount, at which point it became more difficult to keep "finding" votes for Franken. Under the glare of the national media, the steady accretion of post-election ballots for Franken came to a screeching halt, rather like a child who, after being caught red-handed, tactfully removes his hand from the cookie jar.

As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant. (Although, having met Franken, I would add that actual disinfectant might not be a bad idea either.)

Since then, the state has been conducting a meticulous hand recount and, despite a suspicious delay from liberal Hennepin County and a suspicious late-vote discovery from liberal Ramsey County, Coleman has consistently held a lead of 200 to 300 votes. (That's not including the 519 votes that were stolen -- or "corrected" -- from Coleman immediately after the election when no one was paying attention.)

As of Wednesday, with 93 percent of the votes recounted, Coleman holds a 295-vote lead. At no point since the first count after the election has Franken been ahead.

The famously honest people of Minnesota probably think this means the recount is almost over. But like a bad Al Franken sketch on "Saturday Night Live," I predict this recount will keep going on and on and on for no apparent reason.

To understand what is happening in Minnesota, one must turn to the Washington state gubernatorial election of 2004.

As in Minnesota this year, the Republican candidate kept winning and winning, but the Democrats refused to concede, instead demanding endless recounts. Meanwhile, Democratic precincts kept "discovering" new ballots for the Democrat, Chris Gregoire.

Six days after the election on Nov. 10, 2004, Republican Dino Rossi was ahead by 3,492 votes. But five days later, heavily Democratic King County election officials actually claimed to "find" 10,000 uncounted ballots! And they favored Gregoire!

Nonetheless, after a full recount, Rossi was still ahead, but this time by only 42 votes.

So the Democrats demanded a third recount -- and King County continued its miraculous ballot-"finding" trick, which continued to favor Gregoire.

It's hard to avoid the conclusion that Democrat election officials were "finding" new votes as much as they needed to find new votes. Here are 10,000 new votes. You need more? OK, back to work!

Eventually, King County found enough provisional and absentee ballots to put Democrat Gregoire in the lead -- and this result was immediately certified by the weenie Republican secretary of state.

Republicans are always accused of being sharks; I wish they'd rise to the level of minnows.

According to Michael Barone, an examination of King County records showed that nearly 2,000 more mail-in ballots had been "cast" in King County than had been requested.

But Gregoire got to be governor -- having done unusually well among the imaginary voters of King County.

The head of the Washington State Democratic Party orchestrating this ballot theft was Paul Berendt. Guess who is advising Al Franken on the Minnesota recount right now? That's right: Paul Berendt.

Get ready, good people of Minnesota: You have no idea what is about to hit you. And, per usual, the Republicans clearly haven't the vaguest notion what is about to hit them.

Just this week, liberal Ramsey County "discovered" 171 new votes from a single voting machine in a single precinct. An analysis by John Lott shows that these newly "discovered" votes represent yet another statistical improbability that favors Franken: Despite the fact that Maplewood precinct No. 6 gave Franken only 45.4 percent of the original, untampered-with vote, the newly "discovered" votes gave Franken 53.2 percent of the vote.

Also, you will notice that Franken is obsessively fixated on the absentee ballots, a specialty of the vote fraud experts at ACORN. Inasmuch as only 5 percent of absentee ballots were rejected in Minnesota, Franken already has fraud baked into the cake. But he needs more.

He is demanding to be given the names of voters whose absentee ballots were rejected. Why would he need the names of the voters? Unless ... he plans to track them down, determine how they voted and then ferociously fight to qualify the absentee ballots only of known Franken voters.

Franken can pretend to be generous -- by not demanding that all rejected absentee ballots be counted -- while in fact being manipulative -- by requesting that only the ballots with votes for him be counted. That's exactly what the Democrats -- led by Franken adviser Berendt -- did to steal the 2004 election in Washington state.

But first, Franken will need the names. Then he can check voter registration lists, ask around or, in a really aggressive move, call the rejected voters directly and bully them into admitting who they voted for. If they say "Coleman," I promise you they won't get a call back to ensure that "every vote is counted."

There is absolutely no other reason to get the names of those whose ballots were rejected.

We'll find out in the next few weeks if Barack Obama's "new politics of hope and change" includes turning the cleanest state in the union into one of the dirtiest.