Saturday, July 25, 2009

Obama knows 'stupidly' when he doesn't see it

Encounter between cops and black professor suggests grievance-mongering will always be with us.

By Mark Steyn
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, July 24, 2009

By common consent, the most memorable moment of Barack Obama's otherwise listless press conference on "health care" were his robust remarks on the "racist" incident involving professor Henry Louis Gates and the Cambridge police. The latter "acted stupidly," pronounced the chief of state. The president of the United States may be reluctant to condemn Ayatollah Khamenei or Hugo Chávez or that guy in Honduras without examining all the nuances and footnotes, but sometimes there are outrages so heinous that even the famously nuanced must step up to the plate and speak truth to power. And thank God the leader of the free world had the guts to stand up and speak truth to municipal police Sgt. James Crowley.

For everyone other than the president, what happened at professor Gates' house is not entirely clear. The Harvard prof returned home without his keys and, as Obama put it, "jimmied his way into the house." A neighbor, witnessing the "break-in," called the cops, and things, ah, escalated from there. Professor Gates is now saying that, if Sgt. Crowley publicly apologizes for his racism, the prof will graciously agree to "educate him about the history of racism in America." Which is a helluva deal. I mean, Ivy League parents remortgage their homes to pay Gates for the privilege of lecturing their kids, and here he is offering to hector it away to some no-name lunkhead for free.

As to the differences between the professor's and the cops' version of events, I confess I've been wary of taking Henry Louis Gates at his word ever since, almost two decades back, the literary scholar compared the lyrics of the rap group 2 Live Crew to those of the Bard of Avon. "It's like Shakespeare's 'My love is like a red, red rose,'" he declared, authoritatively, to a court in Fort Lauderdale.

As it happens, "My luv's like a red, red rose" was written by Robbie Burns, a couple of centuries after Shakespeare. Oh, well. 16th century English playwright, 18th century Scottish poet: What's the diff? Evidently being within the same quarter-millennium and right general patch of the North-East Atlantic is close enough for a professor of English and Afro-American Studies appearing as an expert witness in a court case. Certainly no journalist reporting Gates' testimony was boorish enough to point out the misattribution.

I hasten to add I have nothing against the great man. He's always struck me as one of those faintly absurd figures in which the American academy appears to specialize, but relatively harmless by overall standards. And I certainly sympathize with the general proposition that not all encounters with the constabulary go as agreeably as one might wish. Last year I had a minor interaction with a Vermont state trooper, and, 60 seconds into the conversation, he called me a "liar." I considered my options:

Option a): I could get hot under the collar, yell at him, get tasered into submission and possibly shot while "resisting arrest";

Option b): I could politely tell the trooper I object to his characterization, and then write a letter to the commander of his barracks the following morning suggesting that such language is not appropriate to routine encounters with members of the public and betrays a profoundly defective understanding of the relationship between law enforcement officials and the citizenry in civilized societies.

I chose the latter course, and received a letter back offering partial satisfaction and explaining that the trooper would be receiving "supervisory performance-related issue-counseling," which, with any luck, is even more ghastly than it sounds and hopefully is still ongoing.

Professor Gates chose option a), which is just plain stupid. For one thing, these days they have dash-cams and two-way radios and a GPS gizmo in the sharp end of the billy club, so an awful lot of this stuff winds up being preserved on tape, and, if you're the one a-hootin' an' a-hollerin', it's not going to help. In the Sixties, the great English satirist Peter Simple invented the Prejudometer, which simply by being pointed at any individual could calculate degrees of racism to the nearest prejudon, "the internationally recognized scientific unit of racial prejudice." Professor Gates seems to go around with his Prejudometer permanently cranked up to 11: When Sgt. Crowley announced through the glass-paneled front door that he was here to investigate a break-in, Gates opened it up and roared back: "Why? Because I'm a black man in America?"

Gates then told him, "I'll speak with your mama outside." Outside, Sgt. Crowley's mama failed to show. But among his colleagues were a black officer and a Hispanic officer. Which is an odd kind of posse for what the Rev. Al Sharpton calls, inevitably, "the highest example of racial profiling I have seen." But what of our post-racial president? After noting that "'Skip' Gates is a friend" of his, President Obama said that "there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately." But, if they're being "disproportionately" stopped by African American and Latino cops, does that really fall under the category of systemic racism? Short of dispatching one of those Uighur Muslims from China recently liberated from Gitmo by Obama to frolic and gambol on the beaches of Bermuda, the assembled officers were a veritable rainbow coalition. The photograph of the arrest shows a bullet-headed black cop – Sgt. Leon Lashley, I believe – standing in front of the porch while behind him a handcuffed Gates yells accusations of racism. This is the pitiful state the Bull Connors of the 21st century are reduced to, forced to take along a squad recruited from the nearest Benetton ad when they go out to whup some uppity Negro boy.

As professor Gates jeered at the officers, "You don't know who you're messin' with." Did Sgt. Crowley have to arrest him? Probably not. Did he allow himself to be provoked by an obnoxious buffoon? Maybe. I dunno. I wasn't there. Neither was the president of the United States, or the governor of Massachusetts or the mayor of Cambridge. All of whom have declared themselves firmly on the side of the Ivy League bigshot. And all of whom, as it happens, are African American. A black president, a black governor and a black mayor all agree with a black Harvard professor that he was racially profiled by a white-Latino-black police team, headed by a cop who teaches courses in how to avoid racial profiling. The boundless elasticity of such endemic racism suggests that the "post-racial America" will be living with blowhard grievance-mongers like professor Gates unto the end of time.

In a fairly typical "he said/VIP said" incident, the VIP was the author of his own misfortune but, with characteristic arrogance, chose to ascribe it to systemic racism, Jim Crow, lynchings, the Klan, slavery, Jefferson impregnating Sally Hemmings, etc. And so it goes, now and forever. My advice to professor Gates for future incidents would be to establish his authority early. Quote Shakespeare, from his early days with Hallmark:

"Roses are red

Violets are blue

Victims are black

Like 2 Live Crew."

Friday, July 24, 2009

Promoting Racial Paranoia

In his comments Wednesday, Obama recycled long-discredited anti-cop fictions.

By Heather Mac Donald

July 24, 2009

Henry Louis Gates Jr. has threatened to make a documentary on “racial profiling” in the wake of his highly publicized arrest for disorderly conduct on July 16. It’s going to be a very long film, given the Harvard professor’s exceedingly expansive definition of what counts as biased policing. Unfortunately, Pres. Barack Obama’s take on police work is no more reality-based than Gates’s. Obama’s ill-considered lecture on the Gates arrest controversy during his Wednesday prime-time press conference was replete with ACLU misinformation about policing, misinformation that has been repeatedly refuted by the federal government itself.

But whereas Gates’s rantings about police bias might ultimately be dismissed as standard ivory-tower posturing, Obama has now put the presidential imprimatur on a set of untruths that will only fuel disrespect for the law and impede the police in their efforts to protect inner-city residents from crime. His belated recognition Thursday night that the arresting officer in the Cambridge incident was performing his duty hardly undoes the damage from his previous distortions.

Let’s acknowledge up front that Gates endured a bizarre and humiliating experience. Being escorted out of your home in handcuffs for what you perceive as no offense at all would feel like a grotesque invasion of privacy, due process, and property rights. Gates’s anger is therefore understandable. But just because an incident is — from one’s subjective perspective — unjustified does not make it racial. Gates was almost certainly not arrested because he was black, but quite possibly because he committed “contempt of cop,” an extralegal offense that can greatly affect the outcome of officer-civilian interactions.

Gates, however, sees race and racism in every aspect of this unfortunate episode, thus exemplifying the racial paranoia that can make police work so difficult. He accuses the witness who called in a possible burglary incident of “racial profiling” for merely describing what she saw. Here, in Gates’s own words, is what the caller observed: Gates and his “regular driver” from his “regular car service” were both on his front porch, “fiddl[ing] with the door.” (The New York Times recasts this delicious nugget from Gates’s limousine-liberal lifestyle as an interaction with a mere “taxi driver.”) Next, says Gates, “[m]y driver hit the door [which was jammed] with his shoulder and the door popped open.”

The caller’s 911 report, according to Gates, “said that that two big black men were trying to break in with backpacks on.” Such a description, provided undoubtedly under stress, is accurate enough under the circumstances. “My driver,” acknowledges Gates, “is a large black man.” But Gates calls it “the worst racial profiling I’ve ever heard of in my life.” Why? Simply because Gates himself is not “big.” But a rough description of individuals engaged in what to most observers would appear to be suspicious behavior, no matter the race of the individuals, is not “racial profiling,” it is simply ordinary crime reporting. Gates undoubtedly means to imply that the 911 caller, in her timorous white racism, sees every black man as “big,” but it is he who is engaged in racial stereotyping, not her.

Gates’s interpretation of the actions of the officer who answered the 911 call is just as narcissistic and deluded. As soon as the officer asked Gates to step onto the porch to speak with him, Gates started a long tirade against the officer’s racism, according to the police report. Nothing provides stronger corroboration of this allegation in the report than Gates’s own racially fevered account of the episode. There was nothing inappropriate, much less racist, in the officer’s request.

Confronting unknown suspects in dwellings and cars, where the officer cannot see the suspect’s full environment or hands, is the most dangerous activity that cops undertake. Six officers have been seriously wounded, two fatally, by suspects holed up in houses in Oakland and Jersey City this year; in 2007, an NYPD officer was shot dead by three thugs during a car stop. In the Cambridge burglary investigation, the officer was working by himself, without back-up. He had no idea whether he was confronting two armed suspects.

But Gates sees himself as the victim of police bias from the beginning of the interaction through its end. He shoehorns the incident into the standard racial-profiling narrative that the ACLU has honed to dishonest perfection over the years, in which the police allegedly grab any black man they can get their hands on just to make an arrest: “You can’t just presume I’m guilty and arrest me. . . . He just presumed that I was guilty and he presumed that I was guilty because I was black. There was no doubt about that. . . . I would hope that the police wouldn’t arrest the first black man that they saw.”

Gates seems not to understand that he was arrested for disorderly conduct, not for burglary. He was not “the first black man that [the officers] saw” committing what they viewed as disorderly conduct; he was the only man they saw committing disorderly conduct. If arresting a man for an offense committed in the officer’s presence constitutes “racial profiling,” then the most legally unimpeachable aspect of police work has been discredited.

It is certainly possible to debate whether Gates’s escalating verbal abuse of the investigating officer and refusal to cooperate with his requests rose to the level of criminal conduct. Most certainly, it lay within Sgt. James Crowley’s discretion not to make the arrest — and in retrospect, it would have been preferable if he had thanked Gates for his cooperation and walked away from the provocation. I would guess that Sergeant Crowley simply snapped under Gates’s taunts and chose to teach him a lesson for the informal offense of contempt of cop — an understandable, if less than ideal, reaction, but not a racist one. Crowley, even by Gates’s account, acted politely throughout the interaction.

Gates’s post-incident rantings were bad enough before President Obama made this otherwise trivial incident a matter of presidential attention. Obama does not seem to understand the power of his office. If he is going to weigh in on something as crucial to the health of cities as policing, he had better get his facts straight. But everything that he said about the Cambridge confrontation was untrue. He presents a highly telescoped version of the events that echoes Gates’s implication that he was arrested on the burglary charge: “The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home,” Obama intoned. But Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct; his being in his own home is irrelevant.

Obama then decided he was going to give us a history lesson: “What I think we know separate and apart from this incident is that there’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. That’s just a fact.”

This statement has many possible meanings, all of them untrue.

The ACLU and other anti-police activists have alleged for years that blacks are the victims of disproportionate and unjustified traffic stops, a charge that has become received wisdom among large swathes of the population. It happens to be contradicted by drivers themselves. The Bureau of Justice Statistics regularly polls tens of thousands of civilians about their contacts with the police. Virtually identical proportions of white, black, and Hispanic drivers — 9 percent — report being stopped by the police, though in 2005, the self-reported black stop rate — 8.1 percent — was nearly a percentage point lower than the self-reported white stop rate (8.9 percent). The stop rate for blacks is lower during the day, when officers can more readily see a driver’s race.

As for urban policing — where the police have victim identifications and contextual and behavioral cues to work with — blacks are stopped more, but only in comparison with their proportion of the entire population. Measured against their crime rate, they are understopped. New York City is perfectly typical of the black police-stop and crime rates. In the first three months of 2009, 52 percent of all people stopped for questioning by the police in New York City were black, though blacks are just 24 percent of the population. But according to the victims of and witnesses to crime, blacks commit about 68 percent of all violent crime in the city. Blacks commit 82 percent of all shootings and 72 percent of all robberies, whereas whites, who make up 35 percent of the city's population, commit about 5 percent of all violent crimes, 1 percent of shootings, and about 4 percent of robberies.

These figures are not police-generated; they come from the overwhelmingly minority victims of crime in their reports to the police. Such crime reports mean that when the police respond to community demands for protection against crime, information-based police deployment will send officers to minority neighborhoods where crime is highest. When the police respond to a call about a shooting, they will almost never be told that the shooter was white, and thus will not be searching for a white suspect.

National crime patterns are the same. Black males between the ages of 18 and 24 commit homicide at ten times the rate of whites and Hispanics combined. Such vastly disproportionate crime rates must lead, if the police are going after crime in a color-blind fashion, to disproportionate stop and arrest rates. To criticize the police for crime-determined enforcement activity is to blame the messenger.

Obama has no one around him who could disabuse him of his ignorance about the police. Attorney General Eric Holder enthusiastically participated in the reign of unjustified federal consent decrees that the Justice Department slapped on police departments during the Clinton administration. Worrisomely, Obama gestures towards those days when he says that “we’re working with local law enforcement to improve policing techniques so that we’re eliminating potential bias,” as if Justice Department lawyers know a thing about “policing techniques.”

Obama’s prime-time recycling of advocate-generated myths about policing will only make inner-city neighborhoods more dangerous for their many law-abiding residents. No one benefits more from proactive policing than the poor, who have as much of a right to public safety as Cambridge residents. Officer Crowley was only doing his job, without any manifestation of racial bias. Now, if an officer investigates a 911 call in good faith, who knows if the president will say he acted “stupidly?” Why bother putting your reputation on the line? The blow to police morale from Obama’s gratuitous remarks is enormous.

Worse, Obama has only increased the racial paranoia that Gates put so vividly on display. Officers of all races say that the first thing out of a black driver’s mouth during a traffic stop for speeding or running a red light is often: “You only stopped me because I’m black,” a reaction ginned up by decades of anti-cop agitating and now bolstered by Obama’s recycled fictions. The advocate-fueled resentment of the police in inner-city neighborhoods makes crime fighting more difficult and more dangerous. Obama’s hope for reviving urban economies rests on a crucial precondition: that cities stay safe. He has just put that precondition in jeopardy.

Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor at City Journal and the author of Are Cops Racist?

Ghoulish Science Plus Obamacare Equals Health Hazard

By Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin Archive
July 23, 2009

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius tried to reassure citizens in New Orleans this week that Obamacare bureaucrats will make sound medical decisions for all Americans. She failed. Under the government-run plan, she promised, a team of health care experts will recommend what should be covered: "I think it would be wise to let science guide what the best health care package is."

John Holdren

Gulp. It's the Obama administration's view of sound "science" that should send chills down patients' spines. Case in point: The president's prestigious science czar, John Holdren, refuses to answer questions about his radical published work on population control over the last 30 years.

Last week, I called the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to press Holdren on his views about forced abortions and mass sterilizations; his purported disavowal of "Ecoscience," the 1977 book he co-authored with population control zealots Paul and Anne Ehrlich; and his continued embrace of forced-abortion advocate and eugenics guru Harrison Brown, whom he credits with inspiring him to become a scientist.

After investigative bloggers and this column reprinted extensive excerpts from "Ecoscience," which mused openly about putting sterilants in the water supply to make women infertile and engineering society by taking away babies from undesirables and subjecting them to government-mandated abortions, the White House issued a statement from Holdren last week denying he embraced those proposals. The Ehrlichs challenged critics to read their and Holdren's more recent research and works.

Well, I did read one of Holdren's recent works. It revealed his clingy reverence for, and allegiance to, the gurus of population control authoritarianism. He's just gotten smarter about cloaking it behind global warming hysteria. In 2007, he addressed the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference. Holdren served as AAAS president; the organization posted his full slide presentation on its website.

In the opening slide, Holdren admitted that his "preoccupation" with apocalyptic matters such as "the rates at which people breed" was a lifelong obsession spurred by Harrison Brown's work. Holdren heaped praise on Brown's half-century-old book, "The Challenge of Man's Future," and then proceeded to paint doom-and-gloom scenarios requiring drastic government interventions to control climate change.

Who is Harrison Brown? He was a "distinguished member" of the International Eugenics Society whom Holdren later worked with on a book about—you guessed it—world population and fertility. Brown advocated the same population control-freak measures Holdren put forth in "Ecoscience."
In "The Challenge of Man's Future," Brown envisioned a regime in which the "number of abortions and artificial inseminations permitted in a given year would be determined completely by the difference between the number of deaths and the number of births in the year previous."

Brown exhorted readers to accept that "we must reconcile ourselves to the fact that artificial means must be applied to limit birth rates." If we don't, Brown warned, we will face a planet "with a writhing mass of human beings." He likened the global population to a "pulsating mass of maggots."

When I pressed Holdren's office specifically about his relationship with Brown, spokesman Rick Weiss told me he didn't know who Brown was and balked at drawing any conclusions about Holdren's views based on his homage just two years ago to his lifelong mentor, colleague and continued inspiration, Harrison Brown.

Weiss lectured me rather snippily about the need for responsible journalism (he was a Washington Post reporter for 15 years). He then told me not to expect any response from Holdren's office to my question on whether Holdren disavows his relationship with a eugenics enthusiast who referred to the world population as a "pulsating mass of maggots" and championed a scheme of abortion and artificial insemination quotas. To date the office has maintained radio silence.

If this is the kind of ghoulish "science" that guides the White House, we can only hope that Obamacare is dead on arrival.


Michelle Malkin [email her] is the author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin is also author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild and the recently released Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies.

The Folly of Obamacare

It’s a bait and switch.

By Jonah Goldberg
July 24, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Let us for a moment adopt the proposition that health care is in fact a “right,” as pretty much every liberal politician has told us for at least a generation.

Now let us consider how President Obama’s proposed health-care bill would work. Under his plan, an official body — staffed with government doctors, actuaries, economists, and other experts — will determine which health-care treatments, procedures, and remedies are cost-effective and which are not. Then it will decide which ones will get paid for and which won’t. Would a 70-year-old woman be able to get a hip replacement, or would that not be considered a wise allocation of resources? Would a 50-year-old man not be permitted an expensive test his doctor wants if the rules say the cheaper, less-thorough one is sufficient? The Democrats call this “cost-controls.” But for the patient and the doctor, it’s plain old rationing.

Now, imagine if the government had a body of experts charged with figuring out what your free-speech rights are, or your right to assemble, or worship. Mr. Jones, you can say X and Y, but not Z. Ms. Smith, you can freely assemble with Aleutians, Freemasons, and carpenters, but you may not meet in public with anyone from Cleveland or of Albanian descent. Mrs. Wilson, you may pray to Vishnu and Crom, but never to Allah or Buddha, and when you do pray, you cannot do so for longer than 20 minutes at a time, unless it is one of several designated holidays. Please see Extended Prayer Form 10–22B.

Of course, all of this would be ludicrous beyond words.

Which is the whole point. Health care cannot be a right, because rights cannot come from government. At best, they can be protected by government. The founders understood this, which is why our Bill of Rights is really a list of restrictions on the government in Washington. “Congress shall make no law . . . ” is how the First Amendment begins.

Now, this isn’t to say the government can’t or shouldn’t provide health care to everyone. You have no right to a highway or sewer system, but there’s nothing wrong with government providing such things. Indeed, the Constitution says that government should promote the “general welfare.” And people of good will can argue whether or how much government-provided or -subsidized health care fits under that mandate.

Historically, the American people are keen on any proposal that expands freedom and are skeptical about anything that constricts it. Generally, this means that advocates for every new program or policy — from welfare to gay marriage — try their darnedest to frame their case in terms of extending choice and freedom.

The interesting thing is that it seems Americans have discovered that talk of health care as a “right” doesn’t mean expanding their own freedom. It means, at best, expanding the options of others at the expense of the middle class and, naturally, “the rich.”

Polling by the centrist think tank Third Way finds that the pivotal question for Americans is, “What’s in it for me?” And it seems President Obama hasn’t answered that to their satisfaction. Sixty percent of Americans think Obama’s health care plan will help someone other than them.

Many liberals frequently confuse widespread support for “reform” with support for massive new government involvement in health care. But when concrete proposals come down the pike, the issue changes from hypothetical support for fixing the problem to, again, “What’s in it for me?”

That’s why in his press conference Wednesday night, President Obama used very conservative, even free-market language to sell a program that is actually still premised on the left-wing nostrum that health care is a “right.” His plan will create “a marketplace that promotes choice and competition.” He’s in this to “control costs” and bring down the deficit.

Now, Obama has come nowhere near meeting the burden of proof that the still inchoate and murky proposals in a still half-baked health-care bill will do anything of the sort. Indeed, so far the more persuasive argument — backed up by the Congressional Budget Office and others — is that Obamacare will cost a lot of money. And the only way it can actually “save” money is by rationing care. But Obama understands that he cannot sell his health-care reform in the language of the Left.

So, it’s a bait and switch. If anything, the overriding idea behind Obama’s approach seems to be to rush his “public plan” into law and expand its generosity over time. This is the tribute a center-left president must pay to a center-right country.

He’s in such a hurry because he senses Americans understand a bait and switch when they see one. On Monday he even proclaimed, “The time for talking is through.”

In fact, it almost sounds like he actually does want to ration free speech, too.

— 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.

Today's Tune: The Alarm - Rain in the Summertime

(Click on title to play video)

Under the anvil of the sun
Sweat, like a train
I come, I come,
My body to dust
Scorched by the might of the sun

Burning light, burning white heat
Like wildfire
I sweat a fever
My body screams
Disintegrates in the heat

Our love is the faith that keeps on burning

I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face
I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face

Burnt at the stake, on a bed of fire
My body rises
Taking me higher
My loves desire
Is pure ascension fire

And love is the faith that keeps on burning

I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face
I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face

And then I run til the breath tears my throat
til the pain hits my side
As if I run fast enough
I can leave all the pain and the sadness behind

I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face
I love to feel the rain in the summertime
I love to feel the rain on my face
(I love to feel the rain on my face)
(in the summertime)

Why Obamacare Is Sinking

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, July 24, 2009

What happened to Obamacare? Rhetoric met reality. As both candidate and president, the master rhetorician could conjure a world in which he bestows upon you health-care nirvana: more coverage, less cost.

But you can't fake it in legislation. Once you commit your fantasies to words and numbers, the Congressional Budget Office comes along and declares that the emperor has no clothes.

President Obama premised the need for reform on the claim that medical costs are destroying the economy. True. But now we learn -- surprise! -- that universal coverage increases costs. The congressional Democrats' health-care plans, says the CBO, increase costs on the order of $1 trillion plus.

In response, the president retreated to a demand that any bill he sign be revenue-neutral. But that's classic misdirection: If the fierce urgency of health-care reform is to radically reduce costs that are producing budget-destroying deficits, revenue neutrality (by definition) leaves us on precisely the same path to insolvency that Obama himself declares unsustainable.

The Democratic proposals are worse still. Because they do increase costs, revenue neutrality means countervailing tax increases. It's not just that it is crazily anti-stimulatory to saddle a deeply depressed economy with an income tax surcharge that falls squarely on small business and the investor class. It's that health-care reform ends up diverting for its own purposes a source of revenue that might otherwise be used to close the yawning structural budget deficit that is such a threat to the economy and to the dollar.

These blindingly obvious contradictions are why the Democratic health plans are collapsing under their own weight -- at the hands of Democrats. It's Max Baucus, Democratic chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, who called Obama unhelpful for ruling out taxing employer-provided health insurance as a way to pay for expanded coverage. It's the Blue Dog Democrats in the House who wince at skyrocketing health-reform costs just weeks after having swallowed hemlock for Obama on a ruinous cap-and-trade carbon tax.

The president is therefore understandably eager to make this a contest between progressive Democrats and reactionary Republicans. He seized on Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's comment that stopping Obama on health care would break his presidency to protest, with perfect disingenuousness, that "this isn't about me. This isn't about politics."

It's all about him. Health care is his signature reform. And he knows that if he produces nothing, he forfeits the mystique that both propelled him to the presidency and has sustained him through a difficult first six months.
Which is why Obama's red lines are constantly shifting. Universal coverage? Maybe not. No middle-class tax hit? Well, perhaps, but only if they don't "primarily" bear the burden. Because it's about him, Obama is quite prepared to sign anything as long as it is titled "health-care reform."

This is not about politics? Then why is it, to take but the most egregious example, that in this grand health-care debate we hear not a word about one of the worst sources of waste in American medicine: the insane cost and arbitrary rewards of our malpractice system?

When a neurosurgeon pays $200,000 a year for malpractice insurance before he even turns on the light in his office or hires his first nurse, who do you think pays? Patients, in higher doctor fees to cover the insurance.
And with jackpot justice that awards one claimant zillions while others get nothing -- and one-third of everything goes to the lawyers -- where do you think that money comes from? The insurance companies, which then pass it on to you in higher premiums.

But the greatest waste is the hidden cost of defensive medicine: tests and procedures that doctors order for no good reason other than to protect themselves from lawsuits. Every doctor knows, as I did when I practiced years ago, how much unnecessary medical cost is incurred with an eye not on medicine but on the law.

Tort reform would yield tens of billions in savings. Yet you cannot find it in the Democratic bills. And Obama breathed not a word about it in the full hour of his health-care news conference. Why? No mystery. The Democrats are parasitically dependent on huge donations from trial lawyers.

Didn't Obama promise a new politics that puts people over special interests? Sure. And now he promises expanded, portable, secure, higher-quality medical care -- at lower cost! The only thing he hasn't promised is to extirpate evil from the human heart. That legislation will be introduced next week.


Thursday, July 23, 2009

What’s Behind Russia’s Killing Spree?

The rate at which Russian journalists are being murdered suggests they are getting close to something big.

by Ryan Mauro
July 21, 2009

Natalia Estemirova, a top human rights activist, is the latest critic of the Russian government to have met an untimely demise. She was kidnapped and then killed in Ingushetia on July 15, the latest casualty in a long list of murders making Russia the third deadliest country for journalists.

As the Telegraph puts it, “there used to be three key people when it came to uncovering human rights abuses in Chechnya — the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and the human rights researcher Natalia Estemirova. In the space of less than three years, they’ve all now been murdered.”

This begs the question: what are they saying that the Russian government is trying to silence?

In 2007, Ivan Safronov “committed suicide” by jumping off a building after reporting on the failures of Russian military equipment. Politkovskaya was killed in an elevator after reporting on human rights abuses and warning of a return to dictatorship. A journalist named Magomed Yevloyev died in police custody after “resisting arrest” in August 2008. He was a critic of the pro-Russian leader of Ingushetia and reported on fraud in the election that brought President Medvedev to power.

The most high-profile assassination widely suspected to have been carried out by the Russian government is that of former high-level FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who served in a top position in the Directorate of Analysis and Suppression of Criminal Groups. He died on November 23, 2006, after being poisoned with a lethal dose of polonium-210. The Russians are refusing to extradite Andrey Lugovoy, a former KGB operative suspected in the murder, to the United Kingdom. Lugovoy is currently serving as a member of the Duma.

The lengths to which Russia went to assassinate Litvinenko should make the West ask what he was saying or doing that seemed to threatened Putin and the FSB so much. Like others, he alleged FSB involvement in the 1999 apartment bombings in Moscow that preceded the invasion of Chechnya, as well as other terrorist incidents on the soil of the former Soviet Union. He also accused Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy, of having worked for the KGB. At the time of his poisoning, he was investigating the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, who he said had been killed on orders from Putin.

Litvinenko earlier made some surprising statements about a Russian connection to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the number two man of al-Qaeda, which most found too unbelievable to be true. His assassination gives us reason to give his credibility and claims a second look.

He said that Zawahiri was trained by the FSB in Dagestan for six months, after which he linked up with bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan. Another former KGB agent, Col. Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy, says that Litvinenko was in charge of making sure Zawahiri’s visit was kept secret. The Russian FSB admits that they arrested Zawahiri and held him from December 1996 to May 1997. Litvinenko said that the training occurred in 1998, an error that can be attributed either to misspeaking or an inability to stick to one story. A fair analyst must note that Litvinenko could have constructed his story based on press accounts, assuming based on his experience that there was more to the arrest of Zawahiri by the Russians. At the same time, there are some anomalies in the conventional story.

J.R. Nyquist has made some interesting observations about Zawahiri’s detainment by the Russians, as detailed in a Wall Street Journal article. The story is that Zawahiri was held and given back all his belongings once released. The Russians, supposedly unaware of who he was, didn’t even go through his computer, a story that is hard to believe considering the nature of the Russian security services. At this time, Zawahiri was making contact with the Russians’ Chechen enemies and supporting terrorists in Bosnia. Either Russian intelligence was astoundingly incompetent and somehow didn’t know who he was — and didn’t look at his computer and find out — or they did know, supporting Litvinenko’s account.

Nyquist further notes that Zawahiri intentionally went to Dagestan, which was known to be controlled by the Russians, as opposed to Chechnya. After he was released, Zawahiri lied about going to Russia to his terrorist colleagues. The authors of the Journal article “admit that Zawahiri lied about his Russian adventure. He made up a story about being kidnapped by a criminal gang. Then Zawahiri ‘developed an ulcer,’” Nyquist notes.
Litvinenko said that his information came from top intelligence officials from Dagestan “who had directly worked with Ayman al-Zawahiri … [who] were called to Moscow and received high posts.”

Without more information, it’s difficult to know what this all means. Litvinenko could be lying or Zawahiri could have struck some sort of deal with the Russians, perhaps acting as an “agent of influence” or informant, although not necessarily under their control. It doesn’t mean Russia engineered 9/11 or directs Zawahiri’s actions, but if true, certainly means Russia is an expert chess player, willing to establish ties with those who are their enemies on the surface. Looking at Russia’s backing of Iran, this shouldn’t be surprising.

The international attention on Litvinenko’s assassination didn’t stop the Russians. Another high-ranking KGB defector named Oleg Gordievsky reported being poisoned on November 2, 2007, causing injuries which leave him partially paralyzed to this day. Although no link to the Russians has been found, the unsolved murder of Paul Joyal, a former security chief for the Senate Intelligence Committee, occurred shortly after he publicly accused Russia of killing Litvinenko.

The murder of Natalia Estemirova is an unfortunate reminder of the nature of the Russian government. Russia is allying with virtually every anti-American country on the planet and assassinating its critics. If Russia’s foreign and domestic policy is the same as that of the Soviet Union, then Russia should be treated as the Soviet Union.

Ryan Mauro is the founder of and the director of intelligence at the Asymmetrical Warfare and Intelligence Center (AWIC). He’s also the national security researcher for the Christian Action Network and a published author. He can be contacted at


By Ann Coulter
July 22, 2009

All the problems with the American health care system come from government intervention, so naturally the Democrats' idea for fixing it is more government intervention. This is like trying to sober up by having another drink.

The reason seeing a doctor is already more like going to the DMV, and less like going to the Apple "Genius Bar," is that the government decided health care was too important to be left to the free market. Yes -- the same free market that has produced such a cornucopia of inexpensive goods and services that, today, even poor people have cell phones and flat-screen TVs.

As a result, it's easier to get your computer fixed than your health. Thanks, government!

We already have near-universal health coverage in the form of Medicare, Medicaid, veterans' hospitals, emergency rooms and tax-deductible employer-provided health care -- all government creations.

So now, everyone expects doctors to be free. People who pay $200 for a haircut are indignant if it costs more than a $20 co-pay to see a doctor.

The government also "helped" us by mandating that insurance companies cover all sorts of medical services, both ordinary -- which you ought to pay for yourself -- and exotic, such as shrinks, in vitro fertilization and child-development assessments -- which no normal person would voluntarily pay to insure against.

This would be like requiring all car insurance to cover the cost of gasoline, oil and tire changes -- as well as professional car detailing, iPod docks, leather seats and those neon chaser lights I have all along the underbody of my chopped, lowrider '57 Chevy.

But politicians are more interested in pleasing lobbyists for acupuncturists, midwives and marriage counselors than they are in pleasing recent college graduates who only want to insure against the possibility that they'll be hit by a truck. So politicians at both the state and federal level keep passing boatloads of insurance mandates requiring that all insurance plans cover a raft of non-emergency conditions that are expensive to treat -- but whose practitioners have high-priced lobbyists.

As a result, a young, healthy person has a choice of buying artificially expensive health insurance that, by law, covers a smorgasbord of medical services of no interest to him ... or going uninsured. People who aren't planning on giving birth to a slew of children with restless leg syndrome in the near future forgo insurance -- and then politicians tell us we have a national emergency because some people don't have health insurance.

The whole idea of insurance is to insure against catastrophes: You buy insurance in case your house burns down -- not so you can force other people in your plan to pay for your maid. You buy car insurance in case you're in a major accident, not so everyone in the plan shares the cost of gas.

Just as people use vastly different amounts of gasoline, they also use vastly different amounts of medical care -- especially when an appointment with a highly trained physician costs less than a manicure.

Insurance plans that force everyone in the plan to pay for everyone else's Viagra and anti-anxiety pills are already completely unfair to people who rarely go to the doctor. It's like being forced to share gas bills with a long-haul trucker or a restaurant bill with Michael Moore. On the other hand, it's a great deal for any lonely hypochondriacs in the plan.

Now the Democrats want to force us all into one gigantic national health insurance plan that will cover every real and mythical ailment that has a powerful lobby. But if you have a rare medical condition without a lobbying arm, you'll be out of luck.

Even two decades after the collapse of liberals' beloved Soviet Union, they can't grasp that it's easier and cheaper to obtain any service provided by capitalism than any service provided under socialism.

You don't have to conjure up fantastic visions of how health care would be delivered in this country if we bought it ourselves. Just go to a grocery store or get a manicure. Or think back to when you bought your last muffler, personal trainer, computer and every other product and service available in inexpensive abundance in this capitalist paradise.

Third-party payer schemes are always a disaster -- less service for twice the price! If you want good service at a good price, be sure to be the one holding the credit card. Under "universal health care," no one but government bureaucrats will be allowed to hold the credit card.

Isn't food important? Why not "universal food coverage"? If politicians and employers had guaranteed us "free" food 50 years ago, today Democrats would be wailing about the "food crisis" in America, and you'd be on the phone with your food care provider arguing about whether or not a Reuben sandwich with fries was covered under your plan.

Instead of making health care more like the DMV, how about we make it more like grocery stores? Give the poor and tough cases health stamps and let the rest of us buy health care -- and health insurance -- on the free market.

Climate Fixers' Hard Sell

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, July 23, 2009

Unfortunately, China's president had to dash home to suppress ethnic riots. Had he stayed in Italy at the recent Group of Eight summit, he could have continued the Herculean task of disabusing Barack Obama of his amazingly durable belief, shared by the U.S. Congress, that China -- and India, Brazil, Mexico and other developing nations -- will sacrifice their modernization on the altar of climate change. China has a more pressing agenda, and not even suppressing riots tops the list.

China made this clear in June, when its vice premier said, opaquely, that China will "actively" participate in climate change talks on a basis of "common but differentiated responsibility." The meaning of that was made clear three days later, at a climate change conference in Bonn, where a Chinese spokesman reiterated that his country's priority is economic growth: "Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target." That was redundant: In January, China announced that its continuing reliance on coal as its primary source of energy will require increasing coal production 30 percent in the next six years.

In Bonn, even thoroughly developed Japan promised only a 2 percent increase of its emission-reduction obligations under the 1997 Kyoto agreement. Japan's decision left Yvo de Boer, the slow learner who is the U.N.'s climate change czar, nonplussed: "For the first time in my two and a half years in this job, I don't know what to say."

Others did. They said: On to Italy! The Financial Times reported, "Officials are now pinning their hopes" on the G-8 summit.

Which has come and gone, the eight having vowed to cut emissions of greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2050, which is 41 years distant. As is 1968, which seems as remote as the Punic Wars, considering that more than half of all living Americans were born after 1966. If you do not want to do anything today, promise to do everything tomorrow, which is always a day away.

Still, sternly declaring that they will brook no nonsense from nature, the eight made a commitment -- but a nonbinding one -- that Earth's temperature shall not rise by more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit over "preindustrial levels." That is the goal. Details to follow. Tomorrow.

Explaining such lethargy in the face of a supposed emergency, the G-8's host, Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said the eight should not burden themselves as long as "5 billion people continue to behave as they have always behaved." Actually, the problem, for people who think it is a problem, is that the 5 billion in the developing world are behaving in a new way. After centuries of exclusion from economic growth, they are enjoying it, which is tiresome to would-be climate fixers in already prosperous nations.

The fixers say: On to Copenhagen! There, in December, the moveable feast of climate confabulations will continue. By which time China, at its current pace, probably will have brought on line 14 more coal-fired generating plants, each of them capable of providing all the electricity needed for a city the size of San Diego. And last Sunday, India told visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that there is "no case" for U.S. pressure on India to reduce carbon emissions.

The costs of weaning the U.S. economy off much of its reliance on carbon are uncertain, but certainly large. The climatic benefits of doing so are uncertain but, given the behavior of those pesky 5 billion, almost certainly small, perhaps minuscule, even immeasurable. Fortunately, skepticism about the evidence that supposedly supports current alarmism about climate change is growing, as is evidence that, whatever the truth about the problem turns out to be, U.S. actions cannot be significantly ameliorative.

When New York Times columnist Tom Friedman called upon "young Americans" to "get a million people on the Washington Mall calling for a price on carbon," another columnist, Mark Steyn, responded: "If you're 29, there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you're graduating high school, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade."

Which could explain why the Mall does not reverberate with youthful clamors about carbon. And why, regarding climate change, the U.S. government, rushing to impose unilateral cap-and-trade burdens on the sagging U.S. economy, looks increasingly like someone who bought a closetful of platform shoes and bell-bottom slacks just as disco was dying.

What on Earth Is "Caritas"?

You can’t have veritas without caritas.

By Michael Novak
July 23, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

The Catholic sense of the world as a gift of God’s love is the central theme of the pontificate of Benedict XVI. For him, caritas means the love proper to God’s own inner life, dispersed throughout The City of God. Yet that City, St. Augustine stressed, is under constant siege by the self-centered, egoistic City of Man, characterized by lies and self-deceptions. That is why Benedict’s new encyclical tightly links caritas to veritas. You can’t have the one without the other.

Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI (R) and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone segretary of Vatican States bless pilgrims gathered for the Sunday Angelus prayer on July 19, 2009 in Romano Canavese, near Ivrea, in north-western Italy. The Pope celebrated mass yesterday with his broken wrist in plaster but bemoaned an inability to clasp his hands together in prayer, his closest officials said.

This approach touches on the American experience by its evocations of St. Augustine. No other religious writer so much influenced the realism about man expressed, say, in The Federalist, and in the choice of friendship expressed in the name of Philadelphia. Therein are foreshadowed both “the City on the hill” and the assertion that men are far from being angels. Indeed, men called to form “a Republic of Virtue” are deeply in need of checks and balances, divisions of power, and other practical methods for limiting the great evil of which humans are capable. To this point, Benedict prefers to stress God’s love, rather than the division of powers, open competition, and other checks and balances upon men’s destructive appetites.

Still, against the invisible gas of relativism Benedict does good work in showing the link between the pursuit of truth and a workable democracy. Civilization is conversation — that is, a close listening for the truth in the words of the other, and a bit of suspicion about one’s own undetected blindness. If such conversation in the pursuit of truth is blocked up by indifference, thugs will emerge to enforce consensus. Relativism was a prelude to tyranny in the century just passed. It can always return.

In its practical recommendations about political economy, however, this encyclical appears to be riding two horses — the russet horse of those who think the state is the main road to the common good, and the pale horse of those who think the strictly limited state should spur a thousand free initiatives and civic actions as a surer carrier toward the common good.

But as the pope takes pains to remind us, Catholic social thought does not provide technical solutions and does not prescribe specific programs and policies. On these, Catholics of left, center, and right can continue to disagree. Still, the pope’s own practical reflections on political economy and current perplexities help to sharpen the arguments. Here, too, the parts of the encyclical that most clearly bear the familiar marks of Benedict’s own caritas are the ones most likely to endure.

— Michael Novak’s latest book is No One Sees God. His website is

Overlords of World War II

Books in Review

By James Piereson from the July 2009 - August 2009 issue
The American Spectator

Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945
By Andrew Roberts
(HarperCollins, 674 pages, $35)

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt first met Winston Churchill at the hastily arranged Placentia Bay conference in August 1941, he took an immediate liking to the British prime minister. “He’s a tremendously vital person,” FDR reported afterward to a friend, adding that Churchill reminded him of Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City’s energetic and eccentric mayor. In thus translating Churchill into the familiar idiom of Amer ican politics, FDR was paying Churchill the highest compliment as a man with whom he could do business. The feeling was reciprocated by Churchill, whose expressions of admiration for the American president during the war went well beyond what was required by the interests of his country. As things turned out, the bond of trust and friendship between Roosevelt and Churchill played a critically important role in the formulation of Allied military strategy between 1941 and 1945. That “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States was personified in the bond between FDR and Churchill.

It was a good thing, too, because it neutralized and counterbalanced the stormy and often frosty relations between the military staffs of the two Allies. General Alan Brooke (later Viscount Alanbrooke), chairman of the Imperial General Staff from 1942 to the end of the war, disdained the strategic abilities of American military leaders, including General George C. Marshall, the Army’s chief of staff during the war and FDR’s trusted military adviser. At the same time, neither Marshall nor his colleagues among the ranking officers of the Army and Navy fully trusted the motives of their British counterparts, often suspecting that British strategic designs were formulated more to defend the empire in North Africa and the Middle East than to defeat Hitler as efficiently as possible.

The crucial interaction among and between these four men—Roosevelt, Churchill, Marshall, and Brooke—is the subject of Andrew Roberts’s superb new book, Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941–1945. Roberts, eminent historian and author of A History of the English Speaking Peoples Since 1900, Napoleon and Wellington, and Hitler and Churchill, along with a prize-winning biography of Lord Salisbury, has here assembled in a single detailed volume a comprehensive history of the making of Allied grand strategy in the western theater of Europe. The literature on this subject has grown to massive dimensions in recent decades and it is thus difficult to see how anyone could add much of value to the important works previously published by the likes of Sir Michael Howard, John Gaddis, B. H. Liddell Hart, and Churchill himself. Roberts, however, has succeeded in doing so, partly through his sheer skill as a historian, his penetrating judgment when presented with conflicts and contradictions in the documents, and a graceful writing style through which he assists the reader through one complex debate after another over wartime strategy.

Roberts has also drawn upon the private papers and diaries of more than 70 participants in the debates over Allied strategy, including previously unpublished verbatim reports of Churchill’s War Cabinet meetings that are here incorporated into the narrative for the first time. The keeping of notes and diaries was strictly forbidden in Great Britain under the Official Secrets Act of 1940, but this did not stop a number of Churchill’s colleagues and subordinates from doing so in the conviction that they were witnesses to history. As these documents have been gradually made available to the public, they have helped to fill out the story that Roberts is now able to tell.

Roberts is especially skilled in using this material to draw rounded biographical portraits of Marshall and Brooke, two figures not well known to the public today but whose contributions to the Allied effort were beyond measure. Marshall, modest, soft-spoken, and wary of publicity, frequently disagreed with his commander-in-chief about military strategy and always told him so, though he carried out FDR’s commands without hesitation. Roosevelt, somewhat like Churchill, was given to armchair strategizing about the war, a practice that annoyed Marshall because the plans were rarely thought through and often casually advanced with a wave in the air of the president’s ever-present cigarette. It was one of Marshall’s jobs to knock back or deflect as many of those designs as he could, which he generally succeeded in doing, albeit with some notable exceptions. Churchill would later describe Marshall as “the organizer of victory” for the operational genius he displayed in raising and supplying armies of unprecedented size.

Brooke, meanwhile, faced something of the same challenge in his relationship with Churchill, though magnified many times over due to the fertile imagination of his prime minister and Churchill’s self-regard as a military strategist. Churchill, after all, had written in The Great Crisis that in questions of military strategy during the First World War the generals usually got things wrong while the political leaders got them right. Brooke, while acknowledging that Churchill was a political “genius,” did not acknowledge his brilliance as a strategist. In his wartime diaries, which were published in the late 1950s and which challenged some of the themes developed in Churchill’s own prize-winning memoirs, Brooke wrote that “Winston never had the slightest doubt that he inherited all the military genius of his great ancestor Marlborough. His military plans and ideas varied from the most brilliant conceptions at the one end to the wildest and most dangerous ideas on the other.” There were times when Churchill and Brooke stood chin to chin in the War Cabinet rooms arguing about military plans. Brooke reported that more than once he snapped his pencil in half in frustration while listening to the prime minister advance another half-baked strategy that he and his military colleagues would be expected to implement. Brooke made certain, however, that in dealings with the outside world he and Churchill always presented a common front.

THE NUB OF THE STRATEGIC debate between U.S. and British planners had to do with the timing of the planned cross-Channel attack into France that would be required to mount a decisive invasion of Germany. American planners, following Clausewitz’s dictum of mounting overwhelming force to attack the enemy on the decisive front, pushed for an early invasion of the continent by late 1942 or early in 1943. This would require a massive buildup of troops and materiel in England in preparation for the invasion. Stalin also pushed for just such an attack to relieve German pressure on the eastern front. Churchill and Brooke, on the other hand, preferred an attack on the continent through a “peripheral” strategy that involved sending forces to northern Africa to clear out Rommel’s troops as a preliminary step for an attack across the Mediterranean Sea on what Churchill called “the soft underbelly of Europe.”

This was in keeping with Britain’s traditional maritime strategy by which she tried to deploy naval power against adversaries while avoiding direct military clashes on the continent. From the British point of view, the wisdom of this strategic precept had been confirmed by the lessons of the previous war when British forces were bogged down for four years in a stalemate on the continent. Churchill, moreover, recalling the evacuation at Dunkirk in 1940, feared that a premature clash with the experienced German army could lead to another disaster in France, which might then leave Britain defenseless against a reverse cross-Channel attack by the Germans. Roberts disputes the claims of some American generals and postwar historians that Churchill never wanted to mount the cross-Channel invasion. He shows convincingly that Churchill knew throughout the war that the cross-Channel attack would be necessary eventually in order to defeat Hitler, but he wished to put it off until he was sure that German forces had been weakened sufficiently to guarantee victory.

At the Arcadia conference held in Washington just weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor had brought the United States into the war, Churchill and Roosevelt agreed to a “Germany first” strategy that gave priority to the war in Europe over that in the Pacific. This meant that the bulk of American troops and supplies would be sent to the European theater of action. Once Germany was knocked out of the war, the Allies would turn their attention to an invasion of Japan. Marshall and his military colleagues left the conference in the belief that they had an agreement with Churchill and Brooke to give priority to an early cross-Channel invasion. Yet soon afterward, Churchill raised the issue of an attack on German forces in North Africa and by June 1942 he succeeded in selling his strategy to Roosevelt on the grounds that the lack of troops and landing craft made it impossible to carry out an invasion of France before mid-1943 at the earliest. Roosevelt, looking to the midterm elections that year, wanted an early engagement with the German army, even though it was understood by everyone that deployments to the Mediterranean needed to carry out Churchill’s plans would further delay Operation Bolero, as the buildup for the cross-Channel invasion was then called. Thus was launched Operation Torch, the attack on German forces in North Africa in November 1942, followed then by the bloody campaign in Italy that began in 1943.

By late 1943, as Roberts tells the story, pressure was building both from Stalin and from Marshall to carry out the invasion of France rather than to continue to expand operations in the Mediterranean as Churchill and Brooke wished to do. After the Allied successes in Italy, Churchill proposed new operations in Greece and the Balkans that would have further delayed Operation Overlord, the code name given for the invasion of France. By this time, Soviet forces had turned back the German army on the eastern front, presenting Roosevelt and Churchill with the prospect that Stalin might defeat Hitler before their forces could gain a foothold on the continent. It was at this point that Roosevelt swung his influence in the dir ection of the cross-Channel attack. At the Teheran conference in November 1943, Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt decided to curtail further operations in the Mediterranean and to begin plans in earnest for an invasion of France in May 1944.

Marshall could have had the operational command for Overlord if he had asked for it, which his sense of honor and rectitude forbade him to do. Roosevelt was prepared to offer it to him, but feared that he could not find a successor with Marshall’s immense operational skills and political support in Congress. Thus, on Marshall’s recommendation, the command of Overlord was given to General Eisenhower, who had distinguished himself in the campaign in Africa. Because of this, the military figure that emerged from the war with the highest public profile was neither Marshall nor Brooke but rather Eisenhower, who commanded the greatest amphibious assault in the history of warfare.

THE MASTERS AND COMMANDERS met seven times in all between 1942 and 1945—twice at Washington and Quebec, and once at Casa blanca, Teheran, and Yalta—and despite much disagreement they managed to hammer out a strategy that won the war for freedom and democracy in Europe. These conferences, as Roberts writes, “brought the British and American armies to Africa, Sicily, Rome, Normandy, Paris, and (as of early 1945) almost into the heart of Germany.” It was a stupendous achievement, and one that should not be taken for granted. In the beginning, when the British faced Hitler alone, and then later when the United States entered the con- flict, the odds against any success on this scale were daunting. Churchill, after seeing Roosevelt at Yalta, knew that he was not well. He would not live to see the end of the war, though by the time the Allied leaders finished their meeting at Yalta the eventual outcome was no longer in doubt.

Churchill and Roosevelt were criticized harshly after the war for the concessions they made to Stalin at Yalta. Roberts acknowledges that both men were naïve or optimistic about the prospect for postwar cooperation with Stalin. Roosevelt actually believed that Stalin liked him, which, even if it had been true, meant nothing to Stalin insofar as geopolitical calculations were concerned. Nevertheless, there was little Churchill or Roosevelt could have done in 1945 to prevent Soviet occupation and control of Eastern Europe. Soviet troops occupied the area by virtue of their hard-fought campaign against the Germans and there was nothing, short of continued warfare, that the Western allies could have done to dislodge them. A cross-Channel attack launched a year earlier—in mid-1943—might have brought U.S. and British troops much further east to meet advancing Soviet troops, but this would have been undertaken (as Churchill knew) against the great risks of a costly defeat on the beaches of France, which might have left the entire continent open to the Soviet advance.

Like all outstanding works of history, this one is written with a purpose to instruct the present through an understanding of the past. In this sense, Masters and Commanders is the best kind of history, faithful to the past yet relevant to the present. Democracies, as these wartime debates demonstrate, have the means of finding common ground by facing up to their internal conflicts and differences. Churchill and Roosevelt understood that they represented millions of their countrymen and were ultimately answerable to them, in contrast to Hitler and Stalin, who made decisions on their own, tolerated no opposition or debate, and brought ruin to their respective countries. As Roberts reminds us, more than 80 percent of the casualties in the European theater occurred on the eastern front. Most of all, Masters and Commanders reminds us that the survival of freedom in the first half of the 20th century was brought about by the indispensable alliance between Great Britain and the United States—and that this alliance, frayed though it now may be, remains the main and indispensable obstacle to the enemies of freedom in a new century.

- James Piereson is president of the William E. Simon Foundation and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is the author of Camelot and the Cultural Rev­olution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism (Encounter Books). A paperback edition will be released this fall with a new foreword by the author.

Today's Tune: Bob Dylan - I Want You

(Click on title to play video)

The guilty undertaker sighs,
The lonesome organ grinder cries,
The silver saxophones say I should refuse you.
The cracked bells and washed-out horns
Blow into my face with scorn,
But it's not that way,
I wasn't born to lose you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.

The drunken politician leaps
Upon the street where mothers weep
And the saviors who are fast asleep,
They wait for you.
And I wait for them to interrupt
Me drinkin' from my broken cup
And ask me to
Open up the gate for you.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.

Now all my fathers, they've gone down
True love they've been without it.
But all their daughters put me down
'Cause I don't think about it.

Well, I return to the Queen of Spades
And talk with my chambermaid.
She knows that I'm not afraid
To look at her.
She is good to me
And there's nothing she doesn't see.
She knows where I'd like to be
But it doesn't matter.
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.

Now your dancing child with his Chinese suit,
He spoke to me, I took his flute.
No, I wasn't very cute to him,
Was I?
But I did it, though, because he lied
Because he took you for a ride
And because time was on his side
And because I . . .
I want you, I want you,
I want you so bad,
Honey, I want you.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Interview: Cyrus Nowrasteh

The Stoning of Soraya M.

By: Jamie Glazov
Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Cyrus Nowrasteh, the director and co-writer of The Stoning of Soraya M., currently in release in select theaters across the country.

FP: Cyrus Nowrasteh, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Nowrasteh: Thanks for having me, Jamie.

FP: Tell us what your new film is about and what inspired you to direct and co-write it.

Nowrasteh: My wife Betsy (who is also a screenwriter) and I read the book by journalist Freidoune Sahebjam, portrayed by Jim Caviezel in the film, and immediately knew this was a story that had to be a movie. It is a true story that is as heartbreaking as it is inspiring. No one has ever done a story about stoning, which continues to happen in Iran, and is written into the Iranian Penal Code. So we felt it was too powerful and too important to ignore.

FP: This film is very much reflective of the turmoil and repression that caused demonstrators in Iran to recently risk their lives in opposition to the regime, yes?

Nowrasteh: When we witness the murder of Iranian women like Neda, and the murder of hundreds of demonstrators on the streets of Tehran, it’s not hard to realize that our story is quite relevant.

FP: Attending this movie is also a statement, yes?

Nowrasteh: Many Iranian-Americans have told me that they are going to see the movie as an act of defiance toward the Iranian regime which banned it in March of this year when the Iranian government heard the film was coming out. At some screenings groups of Iranians have risen once the lights come up and said in unison: “Down with the dictatorship!” Americans are also seeing this film as an act of defiance toward the Iranian government, and as an act of support for the demonstrators.

FP: What are some reactions you have received to the film? I’m sure they come from different quarters. What criticisms have surprised you? Which ones are unfair and wrong? Which ones upset you?

Nowrasteh: Although Amnesty International has supported the film and hosted a major screening in London, one member of their group named Elise Auerbach attacked the film. This is a woman who has failed repeatedly to effect any action in Iran, and she attacks a film that exposes the very human rights crimes she pretends to condemn. Especially when, within days of the film’s release, women were being battered and killed on the streets of Iran. It’s truly amazing. Some of the statements she released are word-and-phrase the same propaganda released by the government thugs and Ayatollahs who smashed the uprising.

By contrast, many Iranian women’s groups and scholars have stepped up. People like Dr. Simin Redjali and Manda Zand Ervin have spread the word to their databases and women’s organizations. Ms. Ervin wrote in the Washington Times an op-ed where she insisted that the US Congress, the White House, the United Nations, and the European Parliament must see this film. Coming from a woman who was a delegate to the UN Commission on the Status of Women, that’s very gratifying. Also, Irshad Manji, a Muslim activist for women’s rights and Muslim reform has come out on behalf of the film. Also, Nonie Darwish (author of Cruel and Usual Punishment) and Wafa Sultan (author of the upcoming A God Who Hates), have praised the film and urged people to see it.

FP: Why does stoning continue to happen in Iran? On what theology/teaching is this law in the Iranian Penal Code based?

Nowrasteh: The Iranian Penal Code is based on Islamic Law -- that is, 7th Century Law now being applied to the 21st Century. This law is imposed upon the Iranian people by the Islamic Clergy and the Supreme Council i.e. the theocratic dictatorship that rules Iran. The people are showing their dissatisfaction with this archaic system and it is cracking.

FP: Why is there so much silence in the West about this phenomenon? It is incredible that your film is the first to bring peoples’ attention to this reality. Where are the feminists in the West, all the Women’s Studies Departments in academia, etc., that should be morally outraged about this barbaric crime against women and vociferously protesting against it?

Nowrasteh: Feminists have seen the film and voiced their support. Gloria Steinem, Tina Brown, and organizations like Vital Voices have hosted screenings. I don’t know how this has translated to actually putting people in seats to watch the movie. We do know that religious groups have stepped up and bought-out screenings at various theaters. Either way, we appreciate support from all and hope that they continue to focus on the issues the film represents.

One area where we find resistance to the movie’s message is from those who trump women’s rights and human rights in the Middle East with their vision of “multiculturalism”. It’s too sticky an issue due to reasons of political correctness. They’re being polite by not interfering in “cultural” practices like stoning of women. I find this, in its own way, just as dehumanizing a vision of the Third World as the most extreme forms of Colonialism.

FP: What are your own thoughts about what is transpiring in Iran right now?

Nowrasteh: I support those calling for major reform in Iran. Something is boiling up and I hope it succeeds in creating a western-oriented democracy that separates religion and government. This is what so many on the streets of Iran are fighting for. The problem is that those presently in power in Iran will not leave quietly. They will have to be forced out.

FP: What do you hope your film will help achieve?

Nowrasteh: First and foremost I want people to respond to it as a work of art. I want them to never forget this experience as a moving and dramatic motion picture. The fact that it happens to be about an issue critical to what’s going on in Iran becomes secondary if the film doesn’t work as a movie. However, if the film works as drama then it shines the light on the issues even brighter, hence, effecting some action on the issues of stoning and women’s rights in the Middle East.

FP: Cyrus Nowrasteh, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at

Liberty Weekend

Ben Stein's Diary

By Ben Stein from the July 2009 - August 2009 issue
The American Spectator


Here I am riding through the lovely Virginia countryside in the back seat with my trusty driver, Bob Noah, at the wheel. You have to go out a long way actually before you get to the open spaces, but that’s progress, I guess. What were once verdant farms and trees are now hideous residential developments. For some reason, money, I am sure, builders now build homes that are quite tall but very narrow. I guess that’s to give the illusion of spaciousness. Specious spaciousness, as one might say. I don’t care for them, but then, tastes vary.

Liberty University

We stopped somewhere about 60 miles south of D.C. at a Super Target. Wow, what an immense store. Very clean and neat. Lots of friendly people. Just to my untrained eye, it did not seem as if the prices were a super steal. Frankly though, it was a pleasure just to be in such a clean store. It was almost like a museum of cleanliness. Plus it was very well lit. I love Wal- Mart but they could learn from this Super Target. How much trouble would it be to keep the Super Wal- Marts as shiny as this store? I am not an expert in retailing, so maybe I am missing something. Maybe Wal-Mart would not seem like a bargain if it were not a little untidy. Plus, no store has more helpful people than Wal-Mart. Not even Super Target, which has pleasant, friendly people indeed.

Anyway, back into the car and down southwest toward Lynchburg, Virginia, where I am giving the commencement speech at Liberty University. We passed through Charlottesville, home of Mister Jefferson’s University, and ran into colossal traffic. Then ever southwestward, until we passed the adorable town of Lovingston, Virginia.

There was a sign pointing out the “Historic District,” so we went over to the courthouse for Nel son County. It was a lovely old building, like a Holly wood set of a courthouse, only better. I kept thinking if I looked hard enough I would see Gregory Peck arguing for the life of a wrongly accused black man. But, no, it was empty in that courthouse. What would it be like to be a lawyer in Lovingston, Virginia? Actually, it sounds good to me. Near the courthouse, there was a statue of a Confederate soldier, that was, oddly, looking north. In my idiocy, I thought they always looked south. Maybe they always look north. There was a sign about a terrible hurricane, Camille, that caused immense loss of life and property damage in Lovingston. Many beautiful azaleas grew near the Confederate soldier statue.

As we looked for more historical mementos, we came upon a little knot of young girls, including one with neon pink hair. I went over and talked to them and to their boyfriends or brothers or whoever they were, sitting in a car and a truck. The girls were adorable. They said there wasn’t much to do there except hang out at the local coffee house. I took their pictures and then we went on our way. I sure hope they find something interesting to do.

We got to Lynchburg around nightfall. Wow. It is a confusing place. Very hilly, like Knoxville, Ten nessee, and many confusing intersections and interchanges. We found our hotel, a huge structure on the side of a mountain, and then went off to meet the chancellor of the university, Jerry Falwell, Jr., his wife, and their small party.

We met them at an aptly named restaurant called “Ham’s.” Everyone was super cheerful and friendly. Jerry is a handsome devil, movie-star quality, and his wife, Becki, is simply beautiful. Their son Trey, a college student, is also handsome, helpful, and amazingly strong. I had to ask him to ratchet his handshake down a bit lest he kill me.

Jerry and Becki have been together since they were teenagers. You can see how much in love they still are and it’s touching. Everyone was super pleasant and had a lot to say.

I contrast this with a faculty dinner or two I have had at colleges and universities in New England, where I felt as if I were caught in a spiderweb of suspicion and entrapment. These were really, really, open, friendly people. The owner of Ham’s came over and visited with us. He was super friendly, too. This is friendly countryside.

Liberty, it turns out, is the largest Evangelical Baptist university on earth. It was founded, of course, by Jerry Falwell. He was from Lynchburg, where his family had long owned a large dairy operation. The kids come from all over the nation and the world to study and learn to follow Christ.

They make no bones about it. This is a school for believers.

As far as I can tell, it’s working great. Jerry, Jr., took over after his father’s totally unexpected death recently. He had been a quiet fellow but learned to go on stage occasionally and now he’s a pro.

I also met Jerry’s brother, pastor of the Liberty Road Baptist Church, a huge enterprise of worship right next to the school. He is also handsome and friendly.

It all seems extremely cozy and I like it.

After dinner, Trey led Bob Noah and me to the nearby supermarket to buy some midnight snacks. He is a very friendly, capable young fellow. There is a lot to like about this school. I felt warm and cozy just being there.


I got up early to go off to Liberty. It was a perfect, sunny, slightly breezy day, which was a treat because the forecast had called for rain. We “dignitaries” all assembled in a room overlooking the stadium and watched thousands of graduates and parents and grandparents file in. I was told there were 23,000 in the audience, which would make it the largest group I ever spoke to in person.

Then they put a robe on me because they were giving me an honorary degree, and off we went to a large stage. Jerry, Jr. gave a speech. His brother gave an invocation. A fantastically gifted group of singers sang. Then a truly astonishingly good singer from the Liberty Road Baptist Church sang. I really felt the spirit of the Lord when he sang. Many people in the crowd lifted their hands to heaven to connect with the Holy Spirit as he sang. It was an amazing sight of faithfulness.

Then I spoke. My theme was that Americans—some Americans—had stopped believing that man had a spark of the divine in him. If man were just mud struck by lightning, as the neo-Darwinists say, then man could do terrible things to man and there would be no consequence. But if man really believed that all men were made by God and that to harm man was to harm God, man would act much better to one another. That, at least, was my theory as put forth in my speech.

I got a very good response and felt happy, happy, happy. This might have been one of the two or three best days of my life.

We had a fine lunch afterward at which we learned about many connections we all had. My driver and pal, Bob, is from the South and had some connection with people at Liberty and their friends. I signed autographs and posed for photos, but I was tired by then and wanted to go home.

But Jerry had other plans. He and Becki took me for a fabulous tour of the campus, including the house where Jerry Falwell had worked and died, and which had also been the manor house of Carter Glass, U.S. senator and co-author of the Glass-Steagall Act, which sensibly restrained finance in this country for many decades. I miss Jerry Falwell. He was absolutely unafraid and would debate anyone. When he was in a TV studio and the person he was debating would say a bunch of lies about Jerry or about Liberty or about conservatives, Jerry would interrupt him and say, very politely, “That’s a lie,” over and over again. I loved that.

We went to Jerry Falwell’s grave (deeply touching) and then up to a mountaintop to survey the city of Lynchburg. Jerry and Becki were holding hands the whole time.

Now, here comes the best part. When we got back to our hotel, a young woman graduate was struggling with a tub of clothes to load into her family van. Jerry, the Chancellor of Liberty U., simply asked her, “Can I help you with that?” Then he took the tub from her and carried it to her van.

I said, “I don’t think Kingman Brewster would have done that when I was a student at Yale and he was president of Yale.” I might have added that whatever eminence was head of Columbia when I graduated from there would absolutely without question not have even known of my existence, let alone helped with my luggage.

Jerry answered jovially, “This is the South, Ben. We take care of each other here.”

I love the South. My life is all about travel and I am in every part of the nation week by week. There is no part of the nation that I dislike. Not one. Not even New York City, although that’s my least favorite. But for a large region, the southeastern United States, which means the states of the former Confederacy, plus most of Maryland, especially around Baltimore, plus Kentucky. For reasons I do not know, the southeastern USA has the most polite and friendly people on this planet.

I am lucky to have married into the most polite family in the United States, the Denmans, originally of Mississippi and then moved to Arkansas, Oklahoma (which I should also have included), and Texas. If you want to see some amazingly polite people, the exact opposite of what you see in some other regions, Look Away, Look Away, Dixie Land.

Bob Noah and I got into our car and headed north. We stopped at a Chick-Fil-A, another of my favorite cafes. As always, the food was great but the young girl who served us looked extremely unhappy. I think she was having a fight with her boyfriend, but who knows? And who cares? I just know that I liked being at Liberty and in the South.


Here I am in my little home in glorious Beverly Hills. I spent the night at my much smaller home in Malibu. I was scared. The motion sensor lights in the back went on at about two in the morning and I had no gun, since it was stolen about a year ago. I tried to encourage the dogs to bark and scare off the intruder, whoever it was, but they just looked worried and went back to sleep. I figured that I really have no valuables at all in that home except my photos of Richard Nixon and his advisers and probably no one but me wanted them so I was safe. I guess it was a coyote or a poor homeless person.

Anyway, when I woke up, I lay in bed a long, long time trying to figure out what we learned from The Great Recession.

First, we learned that prudence in finance is never out of date. Prudence in the way we manage our finances as a nation and as families is simply never a bad idea. That means not overspending, not undersaving.

Second, we learned—again—that man is a greedy animal. If left to his own devices, he will steal. Man is also a hypocritical animal. If left to his own devices, he will steal and he will lie about it.

Jerry Falwell Jr.

What we really had in the period 2002–2006 was a time of colossal fraud about corporate earnings and values. If the true liabilities of banks and insurers had been known, if a truly appropriate reserve had been taken at financial entities for the likelihood of default, we would have had far lower stock prices and less for them to fall.

If the truth had been told to potential borrowers and lenders about the likelihood of defaults, we would have had far less risky borrowing and lending. This would have led to a far more modest housing boom and a far smaller bust.

Third, it’s very risky to create financial instruments that have the power to destroy the whole world. Warren E. Buffett called derivatives “financial instruments of mass destruction” and I think he’s given a good description.

But we also had a booby-trapped system in which if one small part, sub-prime mortgages, were detonated, they would set off a chain reaction that would blow up all matter.

It was only very timely work by Mr. Bernanke that saved us.

Finally, we learned the limits of selfishness. Laissez-faire is great. Individual initiative and ambition are great. But there has to be some force controlling them and countervailing them. We have cut back so much on regulation and on private securities law enforcement that the financiers basically were on the playground without supervision—with nuclear weapons. Not good.

Well, just a few thoughts. Of course, as always, the real stars are in Ramadi and Tikrit and Mosul and Baghdad and Fallujah and the Panjshir Valley and Kabul—and more real stars are taking care of their families and their wounds at Walter Reed and Bethesda and all over the world. There is a lot to be said for the ordinary people whose work is caring and not making money.

Oh, by the way, I got a chance to think about this for some time because coming in from Malibu to Beverly Hills, usually a journey of one hour, took more than two hours because Mr. Obama has brought himself and his entourage to my little neighborhood of Beverly Hills. To show his solidarity with the people here who have lost jobs and homes in the Recession, Mr. Obama is attending a Democratic Party fundraiser. The tickets are $30,000 a couple. Yes. That is not a misprint.

Mr. Obama’s motorcade is messing up traffic, but then that’s not his problem. Gods do not worry about traffic.

Ben Stein is a writer, actor, economist, and lawyer living in Beverly Hills and Malibu. He writes "Ben Stein's Diary" for every issue of The American Spectator.