Saturday, May 09, 2009

Dom DiMaggio Dies at 92; Played in His Brother’s Shadow

The New York Times
May 9, 2009

Dom DiMaggio, a perennial All-Star with the Boston Red Sox and one of the finest center fielders of his era though he played in the shadow of his brother Joe, the Yankee icon, died Friday at his home in Marion, Mass. He was 92.

His death was announced by the Red Sox.

Joe DiMaggio was the Yankee Clipper and Joltin’ Joe, the personification of power and grace. Dom DiMaggio was the Little Professor, slight of build and bespectacled at a time when ballplayers rarely wore eyeglasses.

Scott Martin/Associated Press

Boston’s Dom DiMaggio, in glasses, with his brother Joe and his teammate Ted Williams at the 1941 All-Star Game.

But Dom DiMaggio was an intense, aggressive player and a superb fielder, possessing great range and a powerful throwing arm. He led the American League twice in runs scored and once in triples, batted .300 four times and had a career average of .298 over 11 seasons, all with the Red Sox. He was a seven-time All-Star.

Bleacher fans at Fenway Park hyped their DiMaggio with a little tune:

“Oh, Dominic DiMaggio!

He’s better than his brother Joe.”

Ted Williams, playing left field at Fenway, got an earful from fans who marveled at Dom’s sparkling play in center.

“The wolves in left field were always yelling how he was playing his position and mine,” Williams recalled in his autobiography, “My Turn at Bat,” written with John Underwood. “He was a great outfielder.”

Dominic Paul DiMaggio was born on Feb. 12, 1917, in San Francisco, the youngest of nine children of Sicilian immigrants. His two oldest brothers, Mike and Tom, worked on fishing boats with their father, Giuseppe. But his brothers Vince and Joe starred in the outfield for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League.

Dom was signed by the Seals for the 1937 season, when Joe was in his second year with the Yankees and Vince was a rookie outfielder for the Boston Braves. The San Francisco newspapers ran a DiMaggio Digest, reporting daily how the brothers had fared. In his three seasons with the Seals, Dom became a local star in his own right. He hit .360 in 1939, when he was named most valuable player in the Pacific Coast League, having filled out to all of 5 feet 9 inches and 168 pounds.

Scott Martin/Associated Press

Dom DiMaggio, center, throws out the honorary first pitch surrounded by, from left, Frank Robinson, Bobby Thigpen, Earl Weaver and Rich 'Goose' Gossage before the game between the Chicago White Sox and Tampa Bay Devil Rays at Tropicana Field in 2000.

The Red Sox bought DiMaggio and he hit .301 as a rookie. Then came the epic 1941 season when Joe DiMaggio hit in 56 consecutive games and Williams batted .406. Dom finished third in the American League that year in runs scored, with 117, behind Williams and his brother Joe.

He enlisted in the Navy after the 1942 season, then returned to the Red Sox in 1946, hitting .316. Boston won the American League pennant by 12 games over the Detroit Tigers.

DiMaggio had a moment of exhilaration, but then intense disappointment in Game 7 of the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals at Sportsman’s Park.

In the eighth inning, he hit a two-run double that tied the game at 3-3, but he injured a hamstring rounding first base. The Cardinals scored the winning run of the Series in the bottom of the inning on Enos Slaughter’s “mad dash” from first base, when Leon Culberson, having replaced DiMaggio in center, made a weak relay to shortstop Johnny Pesky after fielding Harry Walker’s drive to left center. Pesky did not turn and get his throw home in time.

“Slaughter would never have scored if I’d been in center field,” DiMaggio maintained in “When the Boys Came Back,” a history of the 1946 season by Frederick Turner. “In fact, I might have had a play on him at third base because I’d have played that much farther over, and I’d have been charging the hell out of that ball.”

DiMaggio batted safely in 34 straight games in 1949, a Red Sox record, and had his best season in 1950, when he batted .328, led the American League in runs scored with 131 and in triples with 11.

He retired in May 1953 after Manager Lou Boudreau benched him in favor of a rookie, Tom Umphlett. He later owned a company that manufactured carpeting and upholstery for automobiles.

DiMaggio is survived by his wife, Emily; his sons Dominic Jr., of Atkinson, N.H., and Peter, of Westford, Mass.; his daughter, Emily DiMaggio of Wayland, Mass.; and six grandchildren.

Joe DiMaggio died in 1999. Vince DiMaggio, who played 10 seasons in the major leagues and was twice an All-Star, died in 1986.

Dom DiMaggio became estranged from the Red Sox after joining a group that sought unsuccessfully to buy the franchise in 1977 after the death of the longtime owner Tom Yawkey. But he appeared at Fenway Park with his ex-teammates Bobby Doerr and Pesky among a host of former Red Sox stars who helped unfurl a banner in honor of the team’s 2004 World Series championship, which ended an 86-year title drought.

When Joe DiMaggio played his last game, an exhibition in Tokyo on Nov. 10, 1951, between touring major leaguers and a Japanese squad, Dom was in the lineup with him. Joe homered in his last at-bat, in the eighth inning. Dom tripled in the ninth. It seemed another instance in which Dom performed superbly but was second best to Joe.

“It’s been a struggle all my life,” The Boston Globe quoted Dom DiMaggio as having said. “I was always Joe’s kid brother. I never encouraged my two sons to get into baseball. I knew it would be twice as hard on them as it was on me. The Joe DiMaggio legend was just too strong.”

Yet Dom DiMaggio remembered moments when he prevailed over Joe.

“I made two or three catches on Joe that were quite important to him,” he told The New York Times at an old-timers’ game at Yankee Stadium in August 1982 in which he appeared with brother Joe. “One year he was battling Hank Greenberg for the league lead in runs batted in and I caught a long one with the bases loaded for the third out.

“Coming in to the dugout after that catch, I half-glanced at Joe on his way to center field and I could feel the daggers flying my way. Joe always gave me terrible looks when I did something like that, but when he croaked me, he never apologized.”

'Underrated' Quiet Star DiMaggio Dies

Overshadowed by brother Joe, forged his own legacy

By Mark Feeney, Boston Globe Staff
May 9, 2009

Red Sox star Dom DiMaggio stood with brother Joe in July 1949. Dom hit safely in 34 consecutive games, a Red Sox record, that year. (Ray Howard/Associated Press /File)

Dom DiMaggio - who, despite having to share an outfield with Ted Williams and a name with his older brother Joe, became a diamond standout in his own right, earning All-Star status seven times in 11 seasons with the Red Sox - died yesterday of complications of pneumonia. He was 92.

The late author David Halberstam once described Mr. DiMaggio as "probably the most underrated player of his day."

Playing in the shadow of the era's two biggest superstars made that inevitable, perhaps. But neither of his great contemporaries failed to appreciate Mr. DiMaggio's talents. Williams considered him "the best leadoff man in the American League," and his older brother called him "the best defensive outfielder I've ever seen."

Mr. DiMaggio died in his Marion home while watching the replay of Thursday night's 13-3 Red Sox victory over the Cleveland Indians. "I was there, and we were watching it together," said his son Dominic Paul DiMaggio Jr. of Atkinson, N.H. "It was peaceful."

Elected to the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 1995, Mr. DiMaggio spent his major league career in Boston, playing for the Sox from 1940-42, then from 1946-53. He lost three seasons to wartime service in the US Navy.

"Dom DiMaggio was a beloved member of the Red Sox organization for almost 70 years," John Henry, principal owner of the Red Sox, said in a statement. "Even after his playing days, Dom's presence at Fenway Park, together with his teammates Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, and Johnny Pesky on numerous occasions reminded us all of a glorious Red Sox era of years past."

Pesky said he was in bed when the phone rang with news of Mr. DiMaggio's death.

"I'm very sad; I've been in tears all day," he said. "With Ted and Dom and Bob, we were like family. Dominic and I, we hit one-two in the lineup ahead of the great Ted. Dom and I would be on base for Ted, and Ted used to call us his pals. We had so many good times together."

Mr. DiMaggio, who stood 5-feet-9 and wore eyeglasses, was nicknamed "the Little Professor," a tribute to his intelligence on the field, as well as his scholarly mien and slight stature. Along with canniness, Mr. DiMaggio brought quickness and speed to the Red Sox lineup. He led the American League in stolen bases in 1950, with 15 (the lowest figure ever to lead either major league in that category). He also led the league that year in triples, with 11.

Mr. DiMaggio had a lifetime batting average of .298. He scored more than 100 runs seven times, twice leading the American League in that category. He hit safely in 34 consecutive games, a Red Sox record, in 1949. Two years later, he hit safely in 27 consecutive games.

His skill as a hitter inadvertently helped create one of the darkest moments in Red Sox history, their defeat at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals in the seventh and deciding game of the 1946 World Series. In the top of the eighth inning, he doubled home two runs to tie the game at 3-3, but pulled a hamstring on the way to second base.

Leon Culberson replaced him in center field. In the bottom of the eighth, with two outs, the Cardinals' Enos Slaughter tried to score from first on a single. Culberson was slow to field the ball, then made a mediocre throw to shortstop Pesky, whose throw home was too late. Slaughter was safe, giving the Cardinals the lead and, half an inning later, the championship.

"If they hadn't taken DiMaggio out of the game," Slaughter later said of his daring sprint, "I wouldn't have tried it."

Mr. DiMaggio, who had started in baseball as a shortstop, played the outfield like an infielder. He specialized in charging balls hit through the infield and using his powerful throwing arm to cut down advancing runners. (Slaughter had good reason to be leery of Mr. DiMaggio: He threw out three runners in the 1946 Series.) He was also celebrated for his range, using his quickness to get a good jump on the ball and positioning his body to face left field rather than home plate, which he felt saved him a step on balls hit in front of him.

"He was the easiest outfielder I ever played with," Williams said. "When he yelled, 'Mine!' you didn't have to worry about the rest of that play."

The slugger was uniquely qualified to comment on Mr. DiMaggio's fielding ability. It was often said that because of his teammate's slowness afoot Mr. DiMaggio had responsibility for both his own center field position and Williams's in left.

According to Halberstam, many of Mr. DiMaggio's teammates felt that batting leadoff for the Sox was "the hardest job in baseball," because that meant that back in the dugout he had to face a barrage of questions from Williams, who batted third: "What was he throwing, Dommy? Was he fast, was he tricky, was he getting the corners? Come on, Dommy, you saw him."

But the highly analytical and driven Williams found his match in the highly analytical and composed Mr. DiMaggio.

One of Williams's closest friends, Mr. DiMaggio begrudged the Splendid Splinter neither his interrogations nor his preeminence with the Red Sox. Relations with his brother were more charged.

Mr. DiMaggio never suggested he was the superior ballplayer. "I can do two things better than he can," he would say when asked to compare himself with Joe, "play pinochle and speak Italian."

He did, however, resent those who saw him only in terms of Joltin' Joe. "Yes, he's my brother - and I'm his brother," Mr. DiMaggio liked to say. "It's been a struggle all my life. . . . It followed me all through my major league career. I was always Joe's kid brother. . . . I never encouraged my two sons to get into baseball. I knew it would be twice as hard on them as it was on me. The Joe DiMaggio legend was just too strong."

The two DiMaggios played the same position (as did an older brother, Vince, who spent 10 seasons playing in the National League). They played for teams that were each other's fiercest rival.

Joe's most famous achievement was hitting safely in 56 consecutive games. Having hit safely in 34 straight games, Dom found his own streak ended when Joe made the put out on his final at-bat of what would have been the 35th game.

"Oh, Joe DiMaggio was a great player, but Dominic's got all the brains in the family," his wife, Emily (Frederick) DiMaggio, said in a 1971 interview.

Born in San Francisco Feb. 12, 1917, Dominic Paul DiMaggio was the son of Giuseppe Paola DiMaggio, a fisherman, and Rosalie (Mercurio) DiMaggio. He was the youngest of nine.

"I think Pop's pride and joy was Dom," Joe DiMaggio once said. "When Dominic was in short pants, Pop wanted him to become a lawyer, because 'he wears glasses.' "

Instead, Mr. DiMaggio wanted to be a chemical engineer. His athletic talents soon made him alter that ambition, though, and he followed in the footsteps of Joe and Vince.

Though Mr. DiMaggio started out as a shortstop, managers feared that a bad hop might break his glasses, so he was switched to the outfield.

Mr. DiMaggio's exploits with the minor league San Francisco Seals drew the attention of major league scouts, and the Red Sox signed him in 1939. Starting out in right field, he demonstrated such prowess with his glove that the team traded its All-Star center fielder, Doc Cramer, to open up that position for him. He finished the season with a .301 batting average.

Mr. DiMaggio enlisted in the Navy in 1942. Gathering no rust while in the service, he batted .316 in his first season back. He did, though, suffer an eye injury in 1943 while stationed on the West Coast that would develop into chorio-retinitis and force his retirement in 1953. The eye trouble led manager Lou Boudreau to bench Mr. DiMaggio. He retired two months into the season.

"I didn't want to hang around if I couldn't play regularly," he said in a 1987 interview about his decision to end his career.

Dom and his oldest brother, Vince DiMaggio, met as rivals in this undated photo. Vince started his Major League baseball career as a member of the Boston Bees.

In 1940, Hall of Famer Ty Cobb had said, "Dom's a throwback to the kind of players we used to have."

In many ways, though, Mr. DiMaggio was more a forerunner than throwback: the athlete as business professional. Toward the end of his playing career, he served as American League player representative in negotiations between players and owners. After retiring, he founded two highly successful manufacturing firms. One made carpeting for automobile interiors; the other made foam padding for automobile seats.

An example of Mr. DiMaggio's business success was his membership in the original ownership group of the Boston Patriots. He purchased 10 percent of the team in 1960 for $25,000 and sold it six years later for $300,000. That same year, he made unsuccessful overtures to Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey about buying the team. He also headed a syndicate that tried to purchase the team in 1977, after Yawkey's death.

Emily Colette DiMaggio of Wayland said her father "was such a great teacher of how to live a life and to love and pass it on."

She recalled that growing up in Wellesley, neighborhood children flocked to the DiMaggio house because there was always extra equipment for games. One day when the children couldn't find a ball, she said, they went into Mr. DiMaggio's study and borrowed one covered with signatures, a pennant ball, perhaps.

Upon arriving home in the evening, Mr. DiMaggio spied the ball, now sporting grass stains and smudged names, and asked, "What is this?"

"We told him we used it for the neighborhood ballgame with the kids," his daughter said. "We were waiting for the reaction, and he said, 'So, did you win?' That's who he was, an incredible dad."

In addition to his wife, son, and daughter, Mr. DiMaggio leaves another son, Peter Joseph of Westford, and six grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. Monday in St. Paul Church in Wellesley. Burial will be in Newton Cemetery in Newton.

Bryan Marquard of the Globe staff contributed to this obituary.

Conservatives always face uphill climb

The Left's devotion to government gives it a unity of purpose the Right can't match.

By Mark Steyn
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, May 8, 2009

Is conservatism over?

Well, of course it is. Everyone from James Carville to Colin Powell says so. "The Republican Party is in deep trouble," Gen. Powell told some group willing to pay him serious money to deliver this kind of incisive insight. "Americans do want to pay taxes for services. Americans want more government in their lives, not less."

Whether or not they want it, they're certainly going to get it. And, if you like big government now, just think how big it'll be once both parties are fully signed up to the concept. You'll recall that Gen. Powell voted for Barack Obama, coming out and publicly stiffing his "beloved friend" John McCain, after years of more discreetly stiffing (in leaks to Bob Woodward and others) his not so beloved colleagues in the Bush administration. But, in fairness to the former secretary of state, his breezy endorsement of more government and more taxes is as near as we've ever got to a coherent political philosophy from him. If the GOP refuses to take his advice, I would urge him to run a third-party campaign on this refreshingly candid platform.

One of Powell's more famous utterances was his rationale, after the 1991 Persian Gulf War, for declining to involve the U.S. military in the Balkans: "We do deserts, we don't do mountains." Actually, by that stage, the U.S. barely did deserts. The first President Bush's decision, at Powell's urging, not to topple Saddam but to halt the coalition forces at the gates of Baghdad sent the world a message about American purpose whose consequences we live with to this day. As for the Kurds and Shia to whom it never occurred that the world's superpower would assemble a mighty coalition for the purposes of fighting half a war to an inconclusive conclusion, Saddam quickly took a bloody revenge: that's an interesting glimpse of what it's like to be on the receiving end of Colin Powell's much-vaunted "moderation."

So I have no great regard for Powell's strategic thinking, at home or abroad. As the general sees it, the Republican Party ought to be a "big tent": Right now, the tent is empty, with only a few "mean-spirited" and "divisive" talk-radio hosts chewing the limbs off live kittens while gibbering to themselves. By comparison, over in the Democrat tent, they've got blacks, gays, unions, professors, Ben Affleck: diversity on parade.

In fact, the GOP's tent has many poles: It has social conservatives, libertarians, fiscal conservatives, national-security hawks. These groups do not always agree: The so-cons resent the libertarians' insouciance on gay marriage and abortion. The libertarians don't get the warhawks' obsession with thankless nation-building in Islamist hellholes. A lot of the hawks can't see why the fiscal cons are so hung up on footling matters like bloated government spending at a time of war. It requires a lot of effort to align these various poles sufficiently to hold up the big tent. And by the 2006 electoral cycle, between the money-no-object Congress at home and a war that seemed to have dwindled down to an endless half-hearted semicolonial policing operation, the GOP poles were tilting badly. The Republican coalition is like a permanent loveless marriage: There are bad times and worse times. And, while social conservatism and libertarianism can be principled to a fault, the vagaries of electoral politics mean they often wind up being represented in office by either unprincipled opportunists like Arlen Specter or unprincipled squishes like Lincoln Chafee.

Meanwhile, over in the other tent, they celebrate diversity with ruthless singlemindedness: in the Democrat parade, whatever your bugbear government is the answer. Government is the means, government is the end, government is the whole magilla. That gives them a unity of purpose the GOP can never match.

And yet and yet… Last November, even with the GOP's fiscal profligacy, even with the financial sector's "October surprise," even with a cranky old coot of a nominee unable to articulate any rationale for his candidacy or even string together a coherent thought on the economy, even with a running mate subjected to brutal character assassination in nothing flat, even running against a charming, charismatic media darling of historic significance, even facing the natural cycle of a two-party system the washed-up loser no-hoper side managed to get 46 percent of the vote.

OK, it's not 51 percent. But still: Obama's 53 percent isn't a big transformative landslide just because he behaves as if it is.

To put it in Powellite terms, the general thinks the Republican Party is in the desert, when, in fact, it's climbing a mountain. All things considered, the resilience of American conservatism is one of the most remarkable features of contemporary Western politics. It's up against significant members of its own party. It's up against a media for whom the Democrat positions are the default positions on almost anything that matters. Consider this cooing profile of Secretary Powell from Todd Purdum in The New York Times back in 2002:

"Mr. Powell's approach to almost all issues – foreign or domestic – is pragmatic and nonideological. He is internationalist, multilateralist and moderate. He has supported abortion rights and affirmative action."

So supporting "internationalism," "multilateralism," abortion and racial quotas means you're "moderate" and "nonideological"? And anyone who feels differently is an extreme ideologue? Absolutely. The aim of a large swath of the Left is not to win the debate but to get it canceled before it starts. You can do that in any number of ways – busting up campus appearances by conservatives, "hate speech" prohibitions, activist judges' more imaginative court decisions, or merely, as the Times does, by declaring your side of every issue to be the "moderate" and "nonideological" position – even when, in many cases, the "extreme" position is supported by a majority of voters. Likewise, to Colin Powell, it's Ann Coulter who's "vicious," not Michael Moore, who compares the jihadists who blow up Western troops in Iraq to America's Minutemen and gets rewarded with a seat next to Jimmy Carter in the presidential box at the Democratic Convention.

It's a mountain, and it's getting steeper. Promises of "free" government health care will make more voters susceptible to the blandishments of the nanny state. The Democrats have plans for talk radio and the Internet that will diminish conservative voices. Another retirement on the Supreme Court, and the First and Second Amendments will start getting nibbled away. Obama's buddies at ACORN, already under investigation in multiple states over fraudulent voter registration, will have a prominent say in the 2010 Census.

But, when the going gets tough, you don't, as Gen. Powell advises, "move toward the center." You move the center toward you, as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did. It's harder to do it that way, but if it's a choice between more government and more taxes, or more liberty and more opportunity, I'll stick with the latter, and so should the Republican Party – however difficult it is. Unlike Colin Powell, conservatism does do mountains.


Israel Today, the West Tomorrow

By Mark Steyn
Commentary Magazine
May 2009

On Holocaust Memorial Day 2008, a group of just under 100 people—Londoners and a few visitors —took a guided tour of the old Jewish East End. They visited, among other sites of interest, the birthplace of my old chum Lionel Bart, the author of Oliver! Three generations of schoolchildren have grown up singing Bart’s lyric:

Consider yourself

At ’ome!

Consider yourself

One of the family!

Those few dozen London Jews considered themselves at ’ome. But they weren’t. Not any more. The tour was abruptly terminated when the group was pelted with stones, thrown by “youths”—or to be slightly less evasive, in the current euphemism of Fleet Street, “Asian” youths. “If you go any further, you’ll die,” they shouted, in between the flying rubble.

A New Yorker who had just moved to Britain to start a job at the Metropolitan University had her head cut open and had to be taken to the Royal London Hospital at Whitechapel, causing her to miss the Holocaust Day “interfaith memorial service” at the East London Central Synagogue. Her friend, Eric Litwack from Canada, was also struck but did not require stitches. But if you hadn’t recently landed at Heathrow, it wasn’t that big a deal, not these days: Nobody was killed or permanently disfigured. And given the number of Jewish community events that now require security, perhaps Her Majesty’s Constabulary was right and these Londoners walking the streets of their own city would have been better advised to do so behind a police escort.


A European Holocaust Memorial Day on which Jews are stoned sounds like a parody of the old joke that the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz. According to a 2005 poll by the University of Bielefeld, 62 percent of Germans “are sick of all the harping on about German crimes against the Jews”—which is a cheerfully straightforward way of putting it. Nevertheless, when it comes to “harping on,” these days it’s the Jews who are mostly on the receiving end. While we’re reprising old gags, here’s one a reader reminded me of a couple of years ago, during Israel’s famously “disproportionate” incursion into Lebanon: One day the U.N. Secretary General proposes that, in the interest of global peace and harmony, the world’s soccer players should come together and form one United Nations global soccer team.

“Great idea,” says his deputy. “Er, but who would we play?”

“Israel, of course.”

Ha-ha. It always had a grain of truth, now it’s the whole loaf.

“Israel is unfashionable,” a Continental foreign minister said to me a decade back. “But maybe Israel will change, and then fashions will change.” Fashions do change. But however Israel changes, this fashion won’t. The shift of most (non-American) Western opinion against the Jewish state that began in the 1970s was, as my Continental politician had it, simply a reflection of casting: Israel was no longer the underdog but the overdog, and why would that appeal to a post-war polytechnic Euro Left unburdened by Holocaust guilt?

Fair enough. Fashions change. But the new Judenhass is not a fashion, simply a stark reality that will metastasize in the years ahead and leave Israel isolated in the international “community” in ways that will make the first decade of this century seem like the good old days.

A few months after the curtailed Holocaust Day tour, I found myself in that particular corner of Tower Hamlets for the first time in years. Specifically, on Cable Street—the scene of a famous battle in 1936, when Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists, in a crude exercise of political muscle, determined to march through the heart of Jewish East London. They were turned back by a mob of local Jews, Irish Catholic dockers, and Communist agitators, all standing under the Spanish Civil War slogan: “No Pasaran.” They shall not pass.

From “No Pasaran” to “If you go any further, you’ll die” is a story not primarily of anti-Semitism but of unprecedented demographic transformation. Beyond the fashionable “anti-Zionism” of the Euro Left is a starker reality: The demographic energy not just in Lionel Bart’s East End but in almost every Western European country is “Asian.” Which is to say, Muslim. A recent government statistical survey reported that the United Kingdom’s Muslim population is increasing ten times faster than the general population. Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Antwerp, and many other Continental cities from Scandinavia to the Côte d’Azur will reach majority Muslim status in the next few years.

Brussels has a Socialist mayor, which isn’t that surprising, but he presides over a caucus a majority of whose members are Muslim, which might yet surprise those who think we’re dealing with some slow, gradual, way-off-in-the-future process here. But so goes Christendom at the dawn of the third millennium: the ruling party of the capital city of the European Union is mostly Muslim.

There are generally two responses to this trend: The first is that it’s like a cast change in Cats or, perhaps more precisely, David Merrick’s all-black production of Hello, Dolly! Carol Channing and her pasty prancing waiters are replaced by Pearl Bailey and her ebony chorus, but otherwise the show is unchanged. Same set, same words, same arrangements: France will still be France, Germany Germany, Belgium Belgium.

The second response is that the Islamicization of Europe entails certain consequences, and it might be worth exploring what these might be. There are already many points of cultural friction—from British banks’ abolition of children’s “piggy banks” to the enjoining of public doughnut consumption by Brussels police during Ramadan. And yet on one issue there is remarkable comity between the aging ethnic Europeans and their young surging Muslim populations: A famous poll a couple of years back found that 59 percent of Europeans regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace.

Fifty-nine percent? What the hell’s wrong with the rest of you? Hey, relax: In Germany, it was 65 percent; Austria, 69 percent; the Netherlands, 74 percent. For purposes of comparison, in a recent poll of Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—i.e., the “moderate” Arab world—79 percent of respondents regard Israel as the greatest threat to world peace. As far as I know, in the last year or two, they haven’t re-tested that question in Europe, possibly in case Israel now scores as a higher threat level in the Netherlands than in Yemen.

To be sure, there are occasional arcane points of dispute: one recalls, in the wake of the July 7 bombings, the then London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s somewhat tortured attempts to explain why blowing up buses in Tel Aviv is entirely legitimate whereas blowing up buses in Bloomsbury is not. Yet these are minimal bumps on a smooth glide path: The more Europe’s Muslim population grows, the more restive and disassimilated it becomes, the more enthusiastically the establishment embraces “anti-Zionism,” as if the sinister Jewess is the last virgin left to toss in the volcano—which, given the 13-year old “chavs” and “slappers” face down in pools of their own vomit in most British shopping centers of a Friday afternoon, may indeed be the case. For today’s Jews, unlike on Cable Street in 1936, there are no Catholic dockworkers or Communist agitators to stand shoulder to shoulder. In post-Christian Europe, there aren’t a lot of the former (practicing Catholics or practicing dockers), and as for the intellectual Left, it’s more enthusiastic in its support of Hamas than many Gazans.

To which there are many Israelis who would brusquely reply: So what? Pity the poor Jew who has ever relied on European “friends.” Yet there is a difference of scale between the well-established faculty-lounge disdain for “Israeli apartheid” and a mass psychosis so universal it’s part of the air you breathe. For a glimpse of the future, consider the (for the moment) bizarre circumstances of the recent Davis Cup First Round matches in Sweden. They had been scheduled long ago to be played in the Baltiska Hallen stadium in Malmo. Who knew which team the Swedes would draw? Could have been Chile, could have been Serbia. Alas, it was Israel.

Malmo is Sweden’s most Muslim city, and citing security concerns, the local council ordered the three days of tennis to be played behind closed doors. Imagine being Amir Hadad and Andy Ram, the Israeli doubles players, or Simon Aspelin and Robert Lindstedt, the Swedes. This was supposed to be their big day. But the vast stadium is empty, except for a few sports reporters and team officials. And just outside the perimeter up to 10,000 demonstrators are chanting, “Stop the match!” and maybe, a little deeper into the throng, they’re shouting, “We want to kill all Jews worldwide” (as demonstrators in Copenhagen, just across the water, declared just a few weeks earlier). Did Aspelin and Lindstedt wonder why they couldn’t have drawn some less controversial team, like Zimbabwe or Sudan? By all accounts, it was a fine match, thrilling and graceful, with good sportsmanship on both sides. Surely, such splendid tennis could have won over the mob, and newspapers would have reported that by the end of the match the Israeli players had the crowd with them all the way. But they shook ’em off at Helsingborg.

Do you remember the “road map” summit held in Jordan just after the U.S. invasion of Iraq? It seemed a big deal at the time: The leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, the U.S. president, all the A-list dictators of the Arab League. Inside the swank resort, it was all very collegial, smiles and handshakes. Outside, flags fluttered—Jordan’s, America’s, Saudi Arabia’s, Egypt’s, Palestine’s. But not Israel’s. King Abdullah of Jordan had concluded it would be too provocative to advertise the Zionist Entity’s presence on Jordanian soil even at a summit supposedly boasting they were all on the same page. Malmo’s tennis match observed the same conventions: I’m sure the Swedish tennis wallahs were very gracious hosts behind the walls of the stockade, and the unmarked car to the airport was top of the line. How smoothly the furtive maneuvers of the Middle East transfer to the wider world.


When Western governments are as reluctant as King Abdullah to fly the Star of David, those among the citizenry who choose to do so have a hard time. In Britain in January, while “pro-Palestinian” demonstrators were permitted to dress up as hook-nosed Jews drinking the blood of Arab babies, the police ordered counter-protesters to put away their Israeli flags. In Alberta, in the heart of Calgary’s Jewish neighborhood, the flag of Hizballah (supposedly a proscribed terrorist organization) was proudly waved by demonstrators, but one solitary Israeli flag was deemed a threat to the Queen’s peace and officers told the brave fellow holding it to put it away or be arrested for “inciting public disorder.” In Germany, a student in Duisburg put the Star of David in the window of an upstairs apartment on the day of a march by the Islamist group Milli Görüs, only to have the cops smash his door down and remove the flag. He’s now trying to get the police to pay for a new door. Ah, those Jews. It’s always about money, isn’t it?

Peter, the student in Duisberg, says he likes to display the Israeli flag because anti-Semitism in Europe is worse than at any other time since the Second World War. Which is true. But, if you look at it from the authorities’ point of view, it’s not about Jew-hatred; it’s a simple numbers game. If a statistically insignificant Jewish population gets upset, big deal. If the far larger Muslim population—and, in some French cities, the youth population (i.e., the demographic that riots) is already pushing 50 percent—you have a serious public-order threat on your hands. We’re beyond the anti-Semitic and into the ad hoc utilitarian: The King Abdullah approach will seem like the sensible way to avoid trouble. To modify the UN joke: Whom won’t we play? Israel, of course. Not in public.

One Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, a group wearing “BOYCOTT ISRAEL” T-shirts entered a French branch of Carrefour, the world’s largest supermarket chain, and announced themselves. They then systematically advanced down every aisle examining every product, seizing all the items made in Israel and piling them into carts to take away and destroy. Judging from the video they made, the protesters were mostly Muslim immigrants and a few French leftists. But more relevant was the passivity of everyone else in the store, both staff and shoppers, all of whom stood idly by as private property was ransacked and smashed, and many of whom when invited to comment expressed support for the destruction. “South Africa started to shake once all countries started to boycott their products,” one elderly lady customer said. “So what you’re doing, I find it good.”

Others may find Germany in the ‘30s the more instructive comparison. “It isn’t silent majorities that drive things, but vocal minorities,” the Canadian public intellectual George Jonas recently wrote. “Don’t count heads; count decibels. All entities—the United States, the Western world, the Arab street—have prevailing moods, and it’s prevailing moods that define aggregates at any given time.” Last December, in a well-planned attack on iconic Bombay landmarks symbolizing power and wealth, Pakistani terrorists nevertheless found time to divert one-fifth of their manpower to torturing and killing a handful of obscure Jews helping the city’s poor in a nondescript building. If this was a territorial dispute over Kashmir, why kill the only rabbi in Bombay? Because Pakistani Islam has been in effect Arabized. Demographically, in Europe and elsewhere, Islam has the numbers. But ideologically, radical Islam has the decibels—in Turkey, in the Balkans, in Western Europe.

And the prevailing mood in much of the world makes Israel an easy sacrifice. Long before Muslims are a statistical majority, there will be three permanent members of the Security Council—Britain, France, Russia—for whom the accommodation of Islam is a domestic political imperative.


On the heels of his call for the incorporation of Sharia within British law, the Archbishop of Canterbury gave an interview to the Muslim News praising Islam for making “a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life.” Well, that’s one way of putting it. The urge to look on the bright side of its own remorseless cultural retreat will intensify: Once Europeans have accepted a not entirely voluntary biculturalism, they will see no reason why Israel should not do the same, and they will embrace a one-state, one-man, one-vote solution for the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

The Muslim world has spent decades peddling the notion that the reason a vast oil-rich region stretching thousands of miles is politically deformed and mired in grim psychoses is all because of a tiny strip of turf barely wider than my New Hampshire township. It will make an ever more convenient scapegoat for the problems of a far vaster territory from the mountains of Morne to the Urals. There was a fair bit of this in the days after 9/11. As Richard Ingrams wrote on the following weekend in the London Observer: “Who will dare to damn Israel?”

Well, take a number and get in line. The dust had barely settled on the London Tube bombings before a reader named Derrick Green sent me a congratulatory e-mail: “I bet you Jewish supremacists think it is Christmas come early, don’t you? Incredibly, you are now going to get your own way even more than you did before, and the British people are going to be dragged into more wars for Israel.”

So it will go. British, European, and even American troops will withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and a bomb will go off in Madrid or Hamburg or Manchester, and there will be nothing left to blame except Israeli “disproportion.” For the remnants of European Jewry, the already discernible migration of French Jews to Quebec, Florida, and elsewhere will accelerate. There are about 150,000 Jews in London today—it’s the thirteenth biggest Jewish city in the world. But there are approximately one million Muslims. The highest number of Jews is found in the 50-54 age group; the highest number of Muslims are found in the four-years-and-under category. By 2025, there will be Jews in Israel, and Jews in America, but not in many other places. Even as the legitimacy of a Jewish state is rejected, the Jewish diaspora—the Jewish presence in the wider world—will shrivel.

And then, to modify Richard Ingrams, who will dare not to damn Israel? There’ll still be a Holocaust Memorial Day, mainly for the pleasures it affords to chastise the new Nazis. As Anthony Lipmann, the Anglican son of an Auschwitz survivor, wrote in 2005: “When on 27 January I take my mother’s arm—tattoo number A-25466—I will think not just of the crematoria and the cattle trucks but of Darfur, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Jenin, Fallujah.” Jenin?

You can see why they’ll keep Holocaust Day on the calendar: In an age when politicians are indifferent or downright hostile to Israel’s “right to exist,” it’s useful to be able to say, “But some of my best photo-ops are Jewish.”

The joke about Mandatory Palestine was that it was the twice-promised land. But isn’t that Europe, too? And perhaps Russia and maybe Canada, a little ways down the line? Two cultures jostling within the same piece of real estate. Not long ago, I found myself watching the video of another “pro-Palestinian” protest in central London with the Metropolitan Police retreating up St. James’s Street to Piccadilly in the face of a mob hurling traffic cones and jeering, “Run, run, you cowards!” and “Allahu akbar!” You would think the deluded multi-culti progressives would understand: In the end, this isn’t about Gaza, this isn’t about the Middle East; it’s about them. It may be some consolation to an ever-lonelier Israel that, in one of history’s bleaker jests, in the coming Europe the Europeans will be the new Jews.

About the Author

Mark Steyn is the author of America Alone and a columnist for National Review. His piece on snark ran in our February issue.

© 2009 Commentary Inc.

Today's Tune: Keiran Kane and Kevin Welch - Something 'Bout You

(Click on title to play video)

Friday, May 08, 2009

We Need a Hero

My ideal platform may be right. But it is surely not popular.

By Jonah Goldberg
May 08, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

We conservatives are having one of our grand, knock-down, drag-out fights over the future of conservatism and the GOP. Should conservatives compromise on gay marriage or abortion rights? Should we jump on the environmental bandwagon? Are there ways to reform health care without abandoning our principles? What would Reagan do? What would William F. Buckley think? Would the Founding Fathers cry like that American Indian in the old anti-litter commercial?

Frankly, I love these arguments. I think they are healthy and good for conservatism and the country. One of the things I love about conservatives is that we have these internal debates more often than the Five Families went to war in The Godfather.

The mainstream perception that conservatives are close-minded and dogmatic while liberals are open-minded and free-thinking has it almost exactly backward. Liberal dogma is settled: The government should do good, where it can, whenever it can. That is President Obama’s idea of pragmatism and bipartisanship: He’s open to all ideas, from either side of the aisle, about how best to expand government and get the state more involved in our lives. Meanwhile, conservatism’s dogma remains forever in flux. We constantly debate the trade-offs between freedom and virtue, the conflicts between liberty and order.

See, I can’t stop myself from getting into this stuff.

But here’s the thing. One of the most important, yet most frequently violated, laws of punditry is that your own priorities and preferences aren’t always relevant. I would love it if the GOP dedicated itself to cutting government by two-thirds, leaving only a minimal social safety net, a big honking military, and a few other bells and whistles for promoting the general welfare. My ideal ticket in 2008 would have been Cheney-Gramm. That’s right, Dick Cheney and Phil Gramm: two old white guys who would crush our enemies and liberate our economy while shouting, “You kids get off my lawn!” at the filthy hippies who would inevitably accumulate outside the White House like so much bathroom fungus.

But you know what? It’s not about what I want. Gone are the days when a great but uncharismatic president like Calvin Coolidge could get elected because he promised to do as little as possible. (“Perhaps,” he observed, “one of the most important accomplishments of my administration has been minding my own business.”) My ideal platform may be right. (If I didn’t think it was, it wouldn’t be my ideal platform, now would it?) But it is surely not popular.

And that, I fear, may be the key word: “popular.” In my darker moods, I suspect that American politics, at least at the presidential level, is ultimately just a popularity contest. In the television age, the more personally charming guy wins — or, at minimum, has a monumental advantage.

Partisans on both sides tend to not like this argument for all sorts of reasons. For instance, they tend to like their candidates better than the other team’s. Of course, this is often just a rationalization. If you honestly believed that Michael Dukakis was a more likable guy than George H. W. Bush, or that Nixon would be a more entertaining drinking buddy than JFK, you should seek therapy, or a vigorous regimen of enemas, or both. The simple fact is that if John Kerry and Al Gore weren’t pompous human toothaches, they would have blown George W. Bush out of the water.

Also, partisans like to believe that whenever their guy wins, it’s because their ideas have been ratified by the American people, and whenever the other guy loses, they pronounce that the American people have resoundingly rejected this or that idea. Sometimes this is obviously true, but not nearly as often as we like to think. Obama, after all, promised over and over that his administration would provide a “net spending cut.” How’s that going?

Liberals bristled at — but didn’t really deny — the suggestion that voters preferred Bush because they’d rather “have a beer with him.” What they fail to fully appreciate is that many voters preferred Obama because they’d rather have a chardonnay with him than with that cranky John McCain. Obama’s winning personality and a widespread yearning for ill-defined “change” were probably more essential to Obama’s victory than his campaign proposals.

So what does this mean for conservatives? Well, it doesn’t mean that we should stop debating ideas. But it also probably means that we won’t have a chance to implement those ideas until the GOP finds a winning salesman or vessel for them, and that person doesn’t seem to exist right now. Again, I’m speaking to my fears, not my hopes.

On the bright side, nobody knew who the hell Barack Obama was the day before yesterday either.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

The Hamas 'Peace' Gambit

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, May 8, 2009

"Apart from the time restriction (a truce that lapses after 10 years) and the refusal to accept Israel's existence, Mr. Meshal's terms approximate the Arab League peace plan . . ."

-- Hamas peace plan, as explained by the New York Times

"Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?"

-- Tom Lehrer, satirist

The Times conducted a five-hour interview with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal at his Damascus headquarters. Mirabile dictu, they're offering a peace plan with a two-state solution. Except. The offer is not a peace but a truce that expires after 10 years. Meaning that after Israel has fatally weakened itself by settling millions of hostile Arab refugees in its midst, and after a decade of Hamas arming itself within a Palestinian state that narrows Israel to eight miles wide -- Hamas restarts the war against a country it remains pledged to eradicate.

There is a phrase for such a peace: the peace of the grave.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president (L) pledges funds to Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas.

Westerners may be stupid, but Hamas is not. It sees the new American administration making overtures to Iran and Syria. It sees Europe, led by Britain, beginning to accept Hezbollah. It sees itself as next in line. And it knows what to do. Yasser Arafat wrote the playbook.

With the 1993 Oslo accords, he showed what can be achieved with a fake peace treaty with Israel -- universal diplomatic recognition, billions of dollars of aid, and control of Gaza and the West Bank, which Arafat turned into an armed camp. In return for a signature, he created in the Palestinian territories the capacity to carry on the war against Israel that the Arab states had begun in 1948 but had given up after the bloody hell of the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Meshal sees the opportunity. Not only is the Obama administration reaching out to its erstwhile enemies in the region, but it begins its term by wagging an angry finger at Israel over the Netanyahu government's ostensible refusal to accept a two-state solution.

Of all the phony fights to pick with Israel. No Israeli government would turn down a two-state solution in which the Palestinians accepted territorial compromise and genuine peace with a Jewish state. (And any government that did would be voted out in a day.) Netanyahu's own defense minister, Ehud Barak, offered precisely such a deal in 2000. He even offered to divide Jerusalem and expel every Jew from every settlement remaining in the new Palestine.

The Palestinian response (for those who have forgotten) was: No. And no counteroffer. Instead, nine weeks later, Arafat unleashed a savage terror war that killed 1,000 Israelis.

Netanyahu is reluctant to agree to a Palestinian state before he knows what kind of state it will be. That elementary prudence should be shared by anyone who's been sentient the last three years. The Palestinians already have a state, an independent territory with not an Israeli settler or soldier living on it. It's called Gaza. And what is it? A terror base, Islamist in nature, Iranian-allied, militant and aggressive, that has fired more than 10,000 rockets and mortar rounds at Israeli civilians.

If this is what a West Bank state is going to be, it would be madness for Israel or America or Jordan or Egypt or any other moderate Arab country to accept such a two-state solution. Which is why Netanyahu insists that the Palestinian Authority first build institutions -- social, economic and military -- to anchor a state that could actually carry out its responsibilities to keep the peace.

Apart from being reasonable, Netanyahu's two-state skepticism is beside the point. His predecessor, Ehud Olmert, worshiped at the shrine of a two-state solution. He made endless offers of a two-state peace to the Palestinian Authority -- and got nowhere.

Why? Because the Palestinians -- going back to the U.N. partition resolution of 1947 -- have never accepted the idea of living side by side with a Jewish state. Those like Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who might want to entertain such a solution, have no authority to do it. And those like Hamas's Meshal, who have authority, have no intention of ever doing it.

Meshal's gambit to dress up perpetual war as a two-state peace is yet another iteration of the Palestinian rejectionist tragedy. In its previous incarnation, Arafat lulled Israel and the Clinton administration with talk of peace while he methodically prepared his people for war.

Arafat waited seven years to tear up his phony peace. Meshal's innovation? Ten -- then blood.

Russell Celebrates His Bond With Auerbach

Sports of The Times

The New York Times
May 8, 2009

Lighting a victory cigar with just enough time on the clock to infuriate his opponent would have been a problem for a famed Celtics patriarch during Boston’s recent overtime-laden N.B.A. playoff series with Chicago. But Red Auerbach would have enjoyed the instant seven-game classic because it was his kind of sport, parquet warfare start to finish, according to the man who co-originated the brand.

“I think he always enjoyed it more when we had to really work for it, when we won close games,” Bill Russell said. “He used to say, ‘Play hard, hard as you can, everything will take care of itself.’ ”

Russell was in New York on Wednesday promoting a new book, “Red and Me: My Coach, My Lifelong Friend,” before heading to Boston to watch the Celtics even their second-round series against Orlando with a 112-94 victory. Once upon a time, that kind of game would have had Auerbach floating smoke rings to the old Boston Garden rafters in garbage time.

Without the injured Kevin Garnett, the Celtics may not have enough length to squeeze past Dwight Howard and the Magic, much less LeBron Inc., in Cleveland in a potential conference finals. But the Celtics did win last season, ending a drought that must have seemed interminable to Auerbach, who lived through 20 of the 21 bannerless springs.

On the June night the Celtics claimed their 17th title by routing the Lakers inside the new Gahden with the bank name embellishment, at least Russell was around to give Garnett a hug.
Between titans from different centuries, Celtics pride was rekindled in a poignant moment captured by the network television cameras.

You couldn’t have blamed Russell that night for thinking, If only Red could have lived to see this. But Russell didn’t. Not his style to overdo the sentiment, or Auerbach’s, for that matter.

“You see, I never mourned Red’s death,” Russell said in an interview. “I always celebrated his life because I knew he wouldn’t have wanted any of that other stuff. He didn’t live that way, didn’t dwell on what he didn’t have, didn’t feel sorry for himself. One of the reasons we were friends is that we were so alike that way.

“So I knew he would have been proud of that team because contrary to popular belief, their talent was not overwhelming. But they played with an edge, to win, and that’s the kind of team Red loved.”

In the book, Russell writes that he and Auerbach hardly ever socialized or discussed personal matters but that their friendship endured through decades of telephone check-ins and the occasional Celtics game in Boston.

There is a photo in the book — one I had seen elsewhere — of Auerbach and Russell in the stands, Auerbach seated along a rail, holding a cane, with Russell behind him, leaning forward, hands folded under his chin. When I first saw that photo, I wondered why they wouldn’t sit alongside each other, so I asked Russell about it.

“That’s the way it always was, and I don’t even know how it started,” he said. In Russellesque fashion, he added, “It was like putting on a pair of shoes.”

He meant it was more comfortable that way, better not to have to turn a head to talk. Or better yet, just watch the game, which was the whole point of their association, which Russell said was launched during the 12th game he played as a rookie in the 1956-57 season.

Russell was upset because the offense consisted of clear-outs and post-ups for the others, while he watched from the perimeter. During a timeout huddle, he removed himself. When Auerbach asked why, he said, “I don’t need to be in the huddle to know how to get out of their way.”

In Russell’s opinion, most coaches would have convicted him right there of rookie insubordination. Gruff and confrontational as Auerbach often was, he was also a pragmatist. He knew the Celtics had never won anything because they had lacked an impact center. Now that they had one, what good was he as a tall traffic marker?

The kid had a point. After that, the paint belonged to Russell, who soon began to realize that in Auerbach he had found a co-worker, not a taskmaster.

Proud, fiercely independent and no doubt difficult in his day, Russell said he didn’t need many friends but he had one in Auerbach, right to the end in October 2006 when, he said, Auerbach was still coaching.

On the day Russell was ending his last visit with Auerbach, he was walking out the door when Auerbach called to him. “Listen, Russ,” he said. “This is something important. When you get old, don’t fall. Because that’s the start of the end. So remember: don’t fall.”

Simple, unsentimental, to the point — as was the 75-year-old Russell’s answer when asked why he had written the book now.

“I also have to be mindful of my own mortality,” he said with his trademark unabashed laugh.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pakistan on the Brink

By: Steve Schippert
Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The White House revealed last week that General David Petraeus had given a stark and urgent warning about Pakistan. The embattled and torn nation now finally finds itself upon the precipice and the next two weeks, the General assured, are critical for the very survival of Pakistan. And if the nuclear power fails to meet the challenge laid before it by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the dire consequences require little elaboration: Terrorists with direct or indirect control over nuclear weapons.

The situation is critical and the consequences both dire and realistic enough to command the American public’s greater attention. It is therefore important for us to understand the coming news cycles before they get here rather than being left to the mercy of a dizzying flurry of information when time is critical.

Pakistan has spent the better part of the past eight years denying the necessity to confront and eliminate the extremist elements within its borders and, especially in the case of its intelligence services, within its institutions.

The more moderate and democratic among Pakistanis have deferred the conflict sought actively by the Taliban and al-Qaeda by instead identifying the United States and former president Pervez Musharraf as the greater threats to a peaceful and democratic Pakistan. Pakistan’s military, which must do the dirty work of actually fighting the violent terrorists who have designs on the Pakistani state, has likewise deferred direct conflict by projecting greater ire and suspicion onto India. Unfortunately for this thinking of convenience, neither the United States nor India has designs of conquest within Pakistan. Such cannot be said of the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance, which is now barely 60 miles from Islamabad.

With the Pakistani surrender in February, where the Taliban and al-Qaeda were ceded the Swat district and permitted to enforce their strict Sharia law there, the terrorists were not eased by the Pakistani relenting nor impressed with favorable negotiations. They were, as terrorists in conquest are, emboldened by the clear display of fear and weakness. And instead of laying down their arms as the terms of the co-signed ‘peace’ agreement called for, they raised them and stormed into the neighboring Buner district and took it, too, by force.

This seems to have woken some in Pakistan from their fearful slumber of procrastination. Pakistan has fought back to re-take Buner. But thus far, the manner of its fight still leaves much room for doubt about their commitment to defeating the terrorists among them. Rather than employ its most professional military forces in what must now be recognized as a fight for its very survival, Pakistan has chosen instead to again rely on less capable paramilitary forces and imprecise area weapons such as field artillery barrages fired from miles away and helicopter gunships.

They have made gains, but the reluctance to fully employ its professional military is cause for concern. This is why General David Petraeus has said that the next two weeks are critical for Pakistan’s very survival. It is in a fight for its life, yet the military remains reluctant to commit fully while the fractured and divided civilian government teeters ever closer to outright collapse as the assault from the terrorists exacerbates internal chasms between the two leading political forces inside Pakistan.

The United States has confidence in the Pakistani military as an institution, with little doubt it could survive a Pakistani political collapse. It is the one institution within Pakistan that has remained relatively strong through all of Pakistan’s internal trials over the decades. While the military is divided into two camps, the religious and the secular, the decade under Musharraf has assured that the secular generals have ascended to many important positions of power. And it is lead by Chief of Army Staff, General Kiyani, who is an American-trained general. This is critical because America’s top priority is not the democratic functioning of Pakistan, but rather the security of its nuclear arsenal.

But while American officials are confident that the Pakistani military can survive an internal political collapse, the Pakistani generals are not confident it can survive an all-out putsch against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In fact, top Pakistani military officials stated last week that pushing the Army to forcefully into conflict with the Pakistani Taliban would likely lead to the disintegration of the military.

And there lies the rub. It appears that Pakistan seems doomed; damned if they do, damned if they don’t. If the Taliban are not confronted and defeated, they will succeed in bringing about the collapse of the Pakistani government and likely assume the reigns of control, directly or indirectly, over the government that – on paper – oversees the military tasked with the security of the nuclear arsenal. And, according to Pakistani top brass, if they do confront the Taliban in a headlong fight, the military itself will disintegrate with parts siding with the Taliban, parts remaining loyal and others just melting away with no stomach for the fight either way.

President Zardari is hapless and useless. He is president simply because his wife, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated by the Taliban and al-Qaeda during her campaign. He doesn’t even command the support of his entire party, with half of it despising him and supporting Bhutto’s son rather than her widower. His political opposition, Nawaz Sharif, comes with all the blessings and financial of Saudi Arabia and the support of many of the powerful lawyers. But he is a political snake and commands absolutely zero loyalty from – nor ascribes any to – the Pakistani military establishment. This is essentially the state of (and prospects for) the Pakistani civilian government.

In short, no one has confidence in the Pakistani civilian government as it regularly feeds and grows its own divisions. The Taliban have political assets in place to capitalize on a political vacuum should it collapse. The United States has confidence in the stability of the Pakistani military establishment and knows that it can provide security for the nuclear arsenal, which is priority #1. But it does not want to risk its possible direction to any extent under a government in whole or in part controlled by the Taliban. The Pakistani military lacks the confidence that it can survive a full-frontal assault on the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas or the North West Frontier Province.

That’s quite a stew. What seems to be brewing, considering all of these factors? If, with an American nod of approval, Kiyani can lead a coup and reinstall an at least stable and strong military atop the Pakistani government, the United States and the rest of the West can be assured of the security of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal. All other immediate priorities pale in comparison. Such a coup would pre-empt the natural collapse of the Pakistani civilian government, thus preventing a Taliban usurping.

This does not mean that the military will defeat the Taliban in the short term. In fact, for the military, it may mean that they can entertain procrastination for a bit longer, putting off the inevitable. Nor does it mean that the threat posed by the Taliban-al-Qaeda alliance will be abated or that the Pakistani people will react favorably. But it will mean that the nightmare scenario of terrorist access to and/or control of a nuclear arsenal will be at least forestalled for another day.

Welcome to Pakistan.


By Ann Coulter
May 6, 2009

The media wail about "torture," but are noticeably short on facts.

Liberals try to disguise the utter wussification of our interrogation techniques by constantly prattling on about "the banality of evil."

Um, no. In this case, it's actually the banality of the banal.

Start with the fact that the average Gitmo detainee has gained 20 pounds in captivity. There's even a medical term for it now: "the Gitmo gut." Some prisoners have been heard whispering, "If you think Allah is great, you should try these dinner rolls."

In terms of "torture," there was "the attention grasp," which you have seen in every department store you have ever been where a mother was trying to get her misbehaving child's attention. If "the attention grasp" doesn't work, the interrogators issue a stern warning: "Don't make me pull this car over."

Farther up the parade of horribles was "walling," which I will not describe except to say Elliot Spitzer paid extra for it.

And for the most hardened terrorists, CIA interrogators had "the caterpillar." Evidently, the terrorists have gotten so fat on the food at Guantanamo, now they can't even outrun a caterpillar.

Contrary to MSNBC hosts who are afraid of bugs, water and their own shadows, waterboarding was most definitely not a "war crime" for which the Japanese were prosecuted after World War II -- no matter how many times Mrs. Jonathan Turley, professor of cooking at George Washington University, says so.

All MSNBC hosts and guests were apparently reading "Little Women" rather than military books as children and therefore can be easily fooled about Japanese war crimes. (MSNBC: The Official Drama Queen Network of the 2012 Olympics.)

Given what the Japanese did to prisoners, waterboarding would be a reward for good behavior.

It might be: waterboarding PLUS amputating the prisoner's healthy arm, or waterboarding PLUS killing the prisoner. But waterboarding on the order of what we did at Guantanamo would be a reward in a Japanese POW camp.

To claim that the Japanese -- architects of the Bataan Death March -- were prosecuted for "waterboarding" would be like saying Ted Bundy was executed for engaging in sexual harassment.

What the Japanese did to their POWs made even the Nazis blanch. The Japanese routinely beheaded and bayoneted prisoners; forced prisoners to dig their own graves and then buried them alive; amputated prisoners' healthy arms and legs, one by one, for sport; force-fed prisoners dry rice and then filled their stomachs with water until their bowels exploded; and injected them with chemical weapons in order to observe, time and record their death throes before dumping them in mass graves.

While only 4 percent of British and American troops captured by German or Italian forces died in captivity, 27 percent of British and American POWs captured by the Japanese died in captivity. Japanese war crimes were so atrocious that even rape was treated as only a secondary war crime in the Tokyo trial, similar to what happens during an R. Kelly trial.

The Japanese "water cure" was to "waterboarding" as practiced at Guantanamo what rape at knifepoint is to calling your secretary "honey."

The Japanese version of "waterboarding" was to fill the prisoner's stomach with water until his stomach was distended -- and then pound on his stomach, causing the prisoner to vomit.

Or they would jam a stick into the prisoner's nose so he could breathe only through his mouth and then pour water in his mouth so he would choke to death.

Or they would "waterboard" the prisoner with saltwater, which would kill him.

Meanwhile, the alleged "torture" under the Bush administration consists of things like:

-- "failing to respect a Serbian national holiday"; or

-- "forgetting to wear plastic gloves while handling a Quran."

Finding out who started the tall tale about "waterboarding" being treated as a war crime after World War II would take the talents of a forensic historian, someone like Christina Hoff Sommers.

After years of hearing the feminist "fact" that emergency room admissions for women beaten by their husbands soared by 40 percent on Super Bowl Sundays, Sommers traced it back to an unsubstantiated rumination erupting from a feminist rap session.

But the lunatic claim was passed around with increasing credibility until it ended up being cited as hard fact in The New York Times, The Boston Globe and on "Good Morning America."

One of the earliest entries in the "waterboarding as war crimes" myth must be this October 2006 article in The Washington Post, citing a case raised by Sen. Teddy Kennedy -- and heaven knows Kennedy understands the horrors of a near-drowning:

"Twenty-one years earlier, in 1947, the United States charged a Japanese officer, Yukio Asano, with war crimes for carrying out another form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian. The subject was strapped on a stretcher that was tilted so that his feet were in the air and head near the floor, and small amounts of water were poured over his face, leaving him gasping for air until he agreed to talk."

Even if that description of what Asano did were true -- and it isn't -- the only relevant word in the entire paragraph is "civilian."

Any mistreatment of a civilian is a war crime. So every other part of that paragraph is utterly irrelevant to the treatment of prisoners of war, much less non-uniformed enemy combatants at Guantanamo, who could have been shot on sight under the laws of war.

What Americans need to understand is that under liberals' own "laws of war," they will invent apocryphal incidents from history in order to give aid and comfort to America's enemies and to undermine those who kept us safe for the past eight years.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Trickle-Down Corruption

The real scandal.

By Jonah Goldberg
May 06, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Some days you have to ask yourself: My God, what if these people were Republicans?

Democrats took back Congress in 2006 and the presidency in 2008 in no small part because of their ability to bang their spoons on their high chairs about what they called the Republican “culture of corruption.” Their choreographed outrage was coordinated with the precision of a North Korean missile-launch pageant. And, to be fair, they had a point. The GOP did have its legitimate embarrassments. California Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham and lobbyist Jack Abramoff were fair game, and so was Rep. Mark Foley, the twisted Florida congressman who allegedly wanted male congressional pages cleaned and perfumed and brought to his tent, as it were.

Of course, it wasn’t as if Democrats were without sin. Louisiana Rep. William Jefferson was indicted on fraud, bribery, and corruption charges in 2007, after an investigation unearthed, among other things, $90,000 in his freezer. Then–New York governor Eliot Spitzer was busted in a prostitution scandal.

But that’s all yesterday’s news. Let’s look at the here and now. Barack Obama, who vowed he’d provide a transparent administration staffed with disinterested public servants with the self-restraint of Roman castrati, appointed an admitted tax cheat to run the Treasury Department — and he’s hardly the only one in the administration.

New York representative Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is under investigation for, among other things, failing to report income from his Caribbean villa. Meanwhile, Sen. Christopher Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got sweetheart deals from subprime lender Countrywide and has yet to adequately explain his too-good-to-be-true deal on his million-dollar “cottage” in Ireland, which he may have gotten in exchange for finagling a pardon (from President Clinton) for a felon. Oh, Dodd also secretly protected those AIG bonuses that raised such a ruckus.

Rep. Jack Murtha of Pennsylvania, Nancy Pelosi’s moral authority on military matters during the Iraq war, has been revealed as a kleptomaniac of sorts, delivering as much of the federal budget as possible to various cronies and lobbyists.

Former senator John Edwards, who had an affair even as he was scoring Oprah-points as the supportive husband during his wife’s battle with breast cancer, is being investigated by the feds for the improper use of campaign funds. It looks like the silky-haired champion of the little guys may have used their donations to bribe the alleged “baby mama” into silence.

And it would be a shame to let it pass that Obama’s Senate seat was put up for sale by the then-governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. A congressional ethics board is investigating whether Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. tried to buy it.

But you know what? We ain’t seen nothing yet. For starters, the real corruption isn’t what the media are ignoring or downplaying as isolated incidents. It’s what the media are hailing as strokes of bold, inspirational leadership. The White House, as a matter of policy, is rewriting legal contracts, picking winners (mostly labor unions and mortgage defaulters) and singling out losers (evil “speculators”), while much of the media continue to ponder whether Obama is already a greater president than FDR.

If a Republican administration, staffed with cronies from Goldman Sachs and Citibank, were cutting special deals for its political allies, I suspect we’d be hearing fewer FDR analogies and more nouns ending with the suffix “gate.”

Take Obama’s “car czar,” Steven Rattner. According to ABC’s Jake Tapper, Rattner is accused of threatening to use the White House to smear a Chrysler creditor if it refused to back the administration’s Chrysler bankruptcy plan. He’s also connected to a massive pension-fund scandal involving the investment firm he used to run. It’s alleged that Rattner’s firm bought the less-than-worthless DVD distribution rights to the achingly awful film Chooch — produced by the brother of an official in the New York comptroller’s office — as a thinly veiled bribe to gain access to New York pensions funds. Chooch, by the way, is Italian slang for “jackass,” which just happens to be the Democrats’ mascot.

More to the point, political corruption is inevitable whenever you give hacks — of either party — too much discretion over public funds. Businesses look to Washington for profits instead of to the market. The thing is, this has become the governing philosophy of the Democratic party, from banking and cars to health care and now student loans. The federal government is taking over, and the culture of corruption inevitably trickles down. That in itself should be a scandal. Call it “Choochgate.”

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

‘Empathy’ vs. Law

When you buy words, you had better know what you are buying.

By Thomas Sowell
May 5, 2009 12:00 AM

Justice David Souter’s retirement from the Supreme Court presents Pres. Barack Obama with his first opportunity to appoint someone to the High Court. People who are speculating about whether the next nominee will be a woman, a Hispanic, or whatever, are missing the point. That we are discussing the next Supreme Court justice in terms of group “representation” is a sign of how far we have already strayed from the purpose of law and the weighty responsibility of appointing someone to sit for life on the highest court in the land.

That President Obama has made “empathy” with certain groups one of his criteria for choosing a Supreme Court nominee is a dangerous sign of how much farther the Supreme Court may be pushed away from the rule of law and toward even more arbitrary judicial edicts to advance the agenda of the Left and set it in legal concrete, immune from the democratic process.

Would you want to go into court to appear before a judge with “empathy” for groups A, B, and C, if you were a member of groups X, Y, or Z? Nothing could be farther from the rule of law. That would be bad news, even in a traffic court, much less in a court that has the last word on your rights under the Constitution of the United States.

Appoint enough Supreme Court justices with “empathy” for particular groups and you would have, for all practical purposes, repealed the 14th Amendment, which guarantees “equal protection of the laws” for all Americans. We would have entered a strange new world, where everybody is equal but some are more equal than others. The very idea of the rule of law becomes meaningless when it is replaced by the empathies of judges.

Barack Obama solves this contradiction, as he solves so many other problems, with rhetoric. If you believe in the rule of law, he will say the words “rule of law.” And if you are willing to buy it, he will keep on selling it.

Those people who just accept soothing words from politicians they like are gambling with the future of a nation. If you were German, would you be in favor of a law “to relieve the distress of the German people and nation”? That was the law that gave Hitler dictatorial power.

He was just another German chancellor at the time. He was not elected on a platform of war, dictatorship, or genocide. He got the power to do those things because of a law “to relieve the distress of the German people.”

When you buy words, you had better know what you are buying.

In the American system of government, presidential term limits restrict how long any given resident of the White House can damage this country directly. But that does not limit how long, or how much, the people he appoints to the Supreme Court can continue to damage this country, for decades after the president who appointed them is long gone.

Justice John Paul Stevens virtually destroyed the Constitution’s restrictions on government officials’ ability to confiscate private property in his 2005 decision in the case of Kelo v. New London — 30 years after President Ford appointed him.

The biggest danger in appointing the wrong people to the Supreme Court is not just in how they might vote on some particular issues — whether private property, abortion, or whatever. The biggest danger is that they will undermine or destroy the very concept of the rule of law — what has been called “a government of laws and not of men.”

Under the American system of government, this cannot be done overnight, or perhaps even during the terms in office of one president — but it can be done. And it can be done over time by the appointees of just one president, if he gets enough appointees.

Some people say that whomever Barack Obama appoints to replace Justice Souter doesn’t really matter, because Souter is a liberal who will probably be replaced by another liberal. But if no one sounds the alarm now, we can end up with a series of appointees with “empathy”— which is to say, with justices who think their job is to “relieve the distress” of particular groups, rather than to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

Review: 3-hour show rocks 'Steensboro'

By Parke Puterbaugh
Special to the Greensboro News & Record
Monday, May 4, 2009

For one night, Greensboro became “Steensboro,” according to a fan-made banner held aloft by Bruce Springsteen during his concert at the Greensboro Coliseum on Saturday.

It sure seemed that way, as Springsteen and the E Street Band were received like conquering heroes during an exhilarating three-hour show that repeatedly drove the adoring, near-sellout crowd into fist-thrusting, sing-along frenzies.

As he has in the past, Springsteen gave Greensboro a particularly energetic show partly because the audience accorded him such an enthusiastic reception.

During his encore, Springsteen made a comment I’ve heard echoed over the decades by other touring musicians: “Greensboro is consistently one of the best audiences in the United States.”

He performed nonstop for three hours in a show that mixed older classics (“Badlands,” “Growin’ Up,” “Promised Land”) with relative rarities (“Seeds,” “Johnny 99,” an electric “Ghost of Tom Joad”) and songs drawn from recent albums (“Radio Nowhere,” “Outlaw Pete,” “Working on a Dream.”)

One particularly moving section linked the inspirational “Lonesome Day” and “The Rising” — songs about dealing with and rising above the events of Sept. 11, 2001 — with the still-anthemic “Born to Run,” which brought the trilogy to a thrilling crescendo.

Springsteen and the E Street Band also paid homage to their roots in garage-rock and soul music of the 1960s with a three-song interlude of Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” Johnny Rivers’ “Seventh Son” (written by bluesman Willie Dixon) and the McCoys’ “Hang On Sloopy.”

The latter two were part of a “Stump the Band” section that elicited printed entries from audience members. Springsteen ventured into the crowd to collect a pile of banners and posters. Although he quickly handed back one that read “Helter Skelter,” he honored the request of a fan who flew down from New York hoping to hear him perform “I’m on Fire” (from “Born in the U.S.A.”)

Noticeably missing from the E Street Band was Springsteen’s wife, Patti Scialfa; he explained she was still sore after falling from a horse. But E Street was still plenty crowded, with two guitarists (Nils Lofgren and longtime Springsteen foil Steve Van Zandt), two keyboardists, and violinist Soozie Tyrell (who also doubled on mandolin and acoustic guitar).

Happily, saxophonist Clarence Clemons — who also played percussion and pennywhistle — appeared considerably more ambulatory and involved than on the previous tour.

There also was some new blood on hand, as drummer Max Weinberg’s 18-year-old son, Jay, pounded the skins for roughly half the concert, including the entire six-song encore.

He brought fresh energy to the E Street Band, loosening up and lighting a fire under the band. No disrespect to his dad, but Jay Weinberg was a phenomenal spark plug.

The encore was a miniconcert in itself, including an old lament by Stephen Foster (“Hard Times”), two chestnuts from “Born to Run” (“Thunder Road,” “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out”) and a rousing, topical Irish jig (“American Land”).

Springsteen exited with “Glory Days,” leaving fans satisfied and exhausted.

There’s not much more to say but, “Come back to Steensboro anytime, Bruce.”

Badlands (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Radio Nowhere (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Outlaw Pete (w/ Jay Weinberg)
No Surrender (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Working on a Dream (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Seeds (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Johnny 99 (w/ Jay Weinberg)
The Ghost of Tom Joad (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Raise Your Hand (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Seventh Son
Hang on Sloopy
Growin' Up
I'm on Fire
Waitin' on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
Human Touch
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
Cadillac Ranch
* * *
Hard Times (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Thunder Road (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Tenth Avenue Freeze-out (w/ Jay Weinberg)
Land of Hope and Dreams (w/ Jay Weinberg)
American Land (w/ Jay Weinberg and Frank Bruno, Jr.)
Glory Days (w/ Jay Weinberg)

May 2 / Greensboro, NC / Greensboro Coliseum


Notes: "We're in Steensboro now!" Bruce shouted at the end of the show, as the crowd roared. "We're in Steensboro now!" He and Steve had just finished dancing across the stage, each holding an end of a long STEENSBORO banner as a roisterous "Glory Days" brought this 27-song set to a close. "They must be putting something in the water," Springsteen said during the encore, "because Greensboro is consistently one of the best audiences in the United States. But I don't know why! Why?! Damn!" Who knows why, but he's absolutely right, the whole old-school building was rocking, and Bruce repaid in kind, loading the setlist with treats.

Things didn't begin so promisingly. Cool to get Jay Weinberg opening the show, playing from "Badlands" to "Raise Your Hand," but otherwise a slow start. Lots of air hankies from the Boss, suggesting he might have been under the weather, and he seemed to be working hard to get things in gear. After the sign collection, though, we achieved liftoff with the first request, an out-of-left field cover of Willie Dixon's "Seventh Son," a 1965 hit for Johnny Rivers. "I don't know where some of this stuff comes from!" Bruce laughed, paying special attention to the kid who had requested it via a small sign from way off on the side. "Is it hard?" he asked, conferring with Steve, "It is. Steve says it's hard." But they pulled it off, the backup singers walking out on the wire with the rest of the band, and followed it with a raucous "Hang on Sloopy," house lights up and the whole place going nuts. Encore-level nuts, mid-show. A "bar band special," Bruce called this one: "People come here asking for things they think we can't play... this is easy stuff!"

"Growin' Up" was followed by a third sign request, "Flew from NYC to hear 'I'm on Fire' with my Dad." Real nice, particularly Bruce's haunting, high-register vocals at the end as the crowd was bathed in red light. A few songs later, Springsteen finally remembered some records he made in the early '90s, giving "Human Touch" the rare E Street treatment. "We haven't played this one in a long time.... We'll see if we can get through it for you, we used to know it!" We can only hope songs like this, "Better Days," "Living Proof" and others from the era get more play, because it was a breath of fresh air tonight: a blistering lead from Bruce, lovely backing vocals from Soozie (alas, no Patti tonight), building to monster intensity at the end. More, please. (Hell, while we're at it, "The Long Goodbye"! "All or Nothing at All"!)

"Cadillac Ranch" was a surprise set-closer after "Born to Run," Bruce grabbing a cowboy hat from the crowd and singing about the "woods of Caroline" and driving "through the Carolina night." House lights up, the roof practically came off the place. It's no exaggeration to say that folks were swooning; by "Tenth Avenue" in the encore, Bruce had to bring some water down front, and Steven helped get a gal out of the pit who was clearly in danger of passing out. Good to see the Session Band's "Cousin" Frank Bruno, Jr. back in the fold for "American Land," sharing the mic with Soozie once again and not having forgotten a lick of it. And then the high-watt "Glory Days," Steve calling for "Steensboro Boss Time," with its "Louie, Louie" finale as the icing on the cake.

"I don't want to be sacrilegious," said an out-of-towner after the show, "But that crowd was better than Philly." And shucks, right here in Backstreets' backyard. Color us proud. Color us impressed. Color us all the moreso after such a middling start. An inspired turnaround, an inspiring show.

- Chris Phillips reporting - photographs by Guy Aceto