Saturday, September 12, 2009

Obama won't surrender in his war of choice

He'll get some form of health care plan rammed through because it's key to permanently shifting America left.

By Mark Steyn
Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, September 11, 2009

So why can't the silver-tongued post-partisan healer seal the deal on this health care business? Surely it should be the work of moments for the greatest orator in American history to whip up a little medicinal Gettysburg, a touch of Henry V-in-the-Agincourt-casualty-tent, and put this thing away. Yet there he was the other night with the usual leaden medley of tinny grandiosity (all the this-is-the-moment, now-is-the-hour stuff), slippery reassurances (don't worry, you won't be "required" to change your present health arrangements), imputations of bad faith to anyone who takes a different view (they're playing "games"), and the copper-bottomed guarantee that you can have it all for no money down, no interest, no monthly payments, no nuthin' ("I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit").

This would barely have passed muster four months back. After a summer of seething town halls and sliding approval numbers, it was a joke. Or, rather, it would be a joke if the president's intention was to persuade an increasingly skeptical, if not downright hostile, electorate. On the other hand, if the intention is to ram it down America's throat whatever the citizenry thinks, then the joke's on us.

If it was about "health care," it would be easier. It was assumed, for example, that the president's sly revision of "47 million people without health insurance" in his summer speeches to the substantially lower 30 million was a concession to those who said that his "plan" (he hasn't actually produced one, but why get hung up on details?) will cover gazillions of illegal immigrants.

If so, it's a rhetorical feint that's otherwise meaningless. The minute a first-world country has "free" health care, it becomes the provider of choice to anyone who can get there, particularly for any long-term ailments requiring state-of-the-art medications. In 2004, Britain's Health Protection Agency revealed that 44 percent of HIV patients being treated by the National Health Service were not residents of the United Kingdom at all but from southern Africa. In essence, a huge number of AIDS patients in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho have decided to outsource their health care needs to British taxpayers. Similar trends will manifest themselves here in nothing flat.

But, for the sake of argument, let us concede the president's current number of 30 million uninsured. In order to do something for the 10 percent of the population outside the current system, why is it necessary to destabilize the arrangements of the 90 percent within it?

Well, says the president, not so fast. Lots of people with insurance run into problems when they change jobs or move to another state. OK, In that case, why not ease the obstacles to health care portability?

Well, says the president, shuffling his cups and moving the pea under another shell, we're spending too much on health care. By "we're," he means you and you and you and you and millions of other Americans making individual choices over which he casually claims collective jurisdiction.

And that, ultimately, gets closer than anything else he says to giving the game away. For most of the previous presidency, the Left accused George W. Bush of using 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq. Since January, his successor has used the economic slump as a pretext to "reform" health care. Most voters don't buy it: They see it as Obama's "war of choice," and the more frantically he talks about it as a matter of urgency the weirder it seems. If he's having difficulty selling it, that's because it's not about "health." As I've written before, the appeal of this issue to him and to Nancy Pelosi, Barney Frank et al is that governmentalization of health care is the fastest way to a permanent left-of-center political culture – one in which elections are always fought on the Left's issues and on the Left's terms, and in which "conservative" parties no longer talk about small government and individual liberty but find themselves retreating to one last pitiful rationale: that they can run the left-wing state more effectively than the Left can. Listen to your average British Tory or French Gaullist on the campaign trail, pledging to "deliver" government services more "efficiently."

Three stories bubbled up in the past week, although if you read The New York Times and the administration's other airbrushers you'll be blissfully unaware of them: The resignation of Van Jones, former (?) communist and current 9/11 "truther," from his post as Obama's "Green Jobs Czar." The reassignment" of Yosi Sergant at the National Endowment for the Arts after he was found to be urging government-funded arts groups to produce "art" in support of Obama policy positions. And, finally, the extraordinary undercover tape from Andrew Breitbart's Big Government Web site in which officials from ACORN (the Obama chums who'll be "helping" with the next census) offer advice on how pimps can get government housing loans for brothels employing underage girls from El Salvador.

What do all these Obama associates have in common? I mean, aside from the fact that Glenn Beck played a key role in exposing them. We are assured by the airbrushing media and "moderate" conservatives that Beck is crazy, a frothing spokesnut for the lunatic fringe. By contrast, Van Jones, Yosi Sergant and ACORN are all members of the lunatic mainstream, embedded philosophically and actually in the heart of Obamaland.

What all these individuals share is a supersized view of the state, from a make-work gig coordinating the invention of phony-baloney "green jobs" to Soviet-style government-licensed art in support of heroic government programs to government-funded "community organizers" organizing government funding for jailbait bordellos. OK, government-funded child prostitution's a bit of an outlier even for this crowd – for the moment. But you get the general idea.

The New York Times' in-house conservative, David Brooks, was an early champion of Obama and is profiled in the current edition of The New Republic cooing paeans to the then-senator"s "pant leg and perfectly creased pant." Alas, for David Brooks, the bottom has dropped out of Obama's perfectly creased pants. The other day he was tutting that the Obama administration is in trouble because "it joined itself at the hip to the liberal leadership in Congress." My National Review colleague Jay Nordlinger was reminded of an old observation by the great Theodore Dalrymple. During his time as an English prison doctor, Dalrymple frequently met ne'er-do-wells who said they'd "fallen in with the wrong crowd," but, oddly enough, in all those years, he never met the wrong crowd.

Likewise, Obama didn't "join" himself to the liberal leadership; he is the liberal leadership. The administration didn't fall in with the wrong crowd; they are the wrong crowd. Van Jones, Yosi Sergant and ACORN are where Barack Obama's chosen to live all his adult life. Even if he wanted to be the bipartisan centrist of David Brooks' fantasies, look at his Rolodex and then figure out just where such a man would estimate the "center" to be.

My sense from Wednesday's speech is that the president's gonna shove this through in some form or other. It may cause a little temporary pain in Blue Dog districts in 2010, but the long-term gains will be transformative and irreversible.


Applause Is Appropriate Response

Sports of The Times

The New York Times
September 12, 2009

Clap hands for Derek Jeter.

Clap hands, the way he does when he pulls into second base in the bottom of the ninth, staring into the dugout with that grin of his.

Clap hands for Derek Jeter, breaking the record of Lou Gehrig for most hits by a Yankee. Not just any franchise. The Yankees.

Clap hands for Jeter, who is having the year of his life, swatting base hits and fielding his position, not that he will talk much about himself.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees celebrates with teammate Alex Rodriguez(notes) #13 after hitting a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722nd, passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Raised right, the other day he said his parents gave him permission to put aside his captain persona and, for a second or two, enjoy approaching Gehrig’s record.

The record is important because the Yankees are — and recognize that this is coming from an old Brooklyn Dodgers fan — the great sports franchise of America, in terms of championships and legends, never mind the Steelers and the Celtics and so on.

Jeter now has more hits as a Yankee than Ruth or Gehrig or DiMaggio or Mantle or Mattingly or Williams, all those grand Yankees who need no introduction. He has surpassed them in the summer he turned 35, still metaphorically diving into the stands, chin-first.

Clap hands for the name itself. Bob Sheppard is home on Long Island — doing fine, thank you for asking — but his recorded voice resonates in the Bronx, introducing “Number Two, Derek Jee-tah.”

Women of all ages love Derek Jee-tah. Ruth Taxerman of New Jersey, who died Aug. 28, saw Gehrig play when she was young, and said he was very handsome, and she thought the same about Jeter. In her final days, the radio was on in her room, so she could follow her surrogate sons. She told her actual son, Alan Taxerman, that Jeter was the perfect Yankee to break Gehrig’s record.

Jeter has accomplished this feat in his prime, not backing into it, some grand old man playing a few days a week, designated hitter, backup first baseman, the stuff of old age, way down the pike. He breaks the record lean and spry and relatively healthy, although how would anybody know? Joe Torre — Mr. Torre — would ask how he felt, and Jeter would say, “I’m fine.” Tells that to the trainers, too.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees hits a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722nd, passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The captain breaks the record at home in what figures to be another pleasant Yankee autumn. The World Series ends in November this year. Ever since a few minutes past midnight in 2001, Jeter’s nom de baseball has been Mr. November.

The postseason is usually a crapshoot. Records involve a certain amount of luck, too. The other great Yankees had their asterisks, so to speak. Ruth was mostly a pitcher until he came to the Yankees. Gehrig was felled by a merciless disease. DiMaggio missed three seasons in the service and burned out before his time. Mantle was hurt, and sometimes was not at his best for other reasons. Mattingly hurt his back and then retired young to try to hold his family together. Williams had a slow start before Torre arrived in 1996 and figured out the sensitive young man could play.

For that matter, Jeter could have more hits than he does. He played 15 games in 1995, filling in for the injured Tony Fernandez, and everybody could see he was a winner, but the organization had its game plan. If it had played Jeter, the Yankees might have beaten the Mariners — unless the Mariners had intuitively used their own marvelous kid, Alex Rodriguez.

Clap hands for Derek Jeter’s four subsequent rings. Clap hands for the fluke home run in 1996 that a young fan misdirected from the right-fielder’s glove. Clap hands for Jeter’s home run in Shea Stadium in the 2000 Series. Clap hands for 2001, when Jeter materialized near the first-base on-deck circle to corral a wayward ball and flip it home to get Jeremy Giambi, who never bothered to slide, Jeremy, slide. Clap hands for Jeter’s dive into the third-base stands in 2004, bloodying his chin. Clap hands for the double off Pedro Martinez in 2003 and the green-eyed stare into the Yankee dugout, as if to say, You, too, guys!

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722 passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Jeter leads by example. When prodded by reporters about some temporary flareup, Jeter fixes those green eyes on the interrogator and says, how do you know what goes on behind the closed doors?

Only rarely does he send a message. In 2002, the team was missing Tino and Scotty and Paulie, had too many transients, yet writers suggested the Yankees had championship experience. “Some of us have,” Jeter said. He sizzled slightly when one Yankee or another was connected to drugs. Not all of us do that, Jeter would say.

For all this, we really do not know Derek Jeter, except by the respectful way he refers to his father and mother and sister. He is single and appears to go out with lovely women, but he seems to be discreet, and amen to that.

We don’t know what he thinks about politics or religion or current events. He sells cars on television — including the commercial in which he insists he is just a salesman, not a shortstop, but the kid susses him out.

He has set the tone for the Yankees, on the field and off. And in the summer he turned 35, he has broken the franchise record for hits, and we all get to watch him play. Clap hands for that.


At new Stadium, Yankee captain Derek Jeter hears that old roar from the crowd

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
Saturday, September 12th 2009, 4:00 AM

He had more hits than Lou Gehrig now and that meant more hits than any Yankee ever had. But this wasn't about the number, 2,722. This was about No. 2 of the Yankees, who is what they still want the Yankees to mean, what they still want the Yankees to be.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees acknowledges the crowd after hitting a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722nd, passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

The Yankees came for Jeter now. First they were up on the top of the dugout steps and then on the field when the ball was past Scott and into right. Now they were slowly walking toward first base. Mo Rivera was there, and Jorge Posada, and Andy .Pettitte, who have done so much winning with Jeter. And you imagined Paul O'Neill with them, and Bernie, and Tino Martinez, too.

They hugged him, one by one. Mo said something to him, so did Posada. The ovation would not stop. Above it all, they were chanting Jeter's name, the way the bleachers do in the top of the first, only it wasn't just the bleachers now, it was the whole place. There have been so many comebacks this season, and so many times when the crowd over here tried to sound like sellouts used to sound on the other side of 161st St. But the place had never sounded like this. This sound for Jeter.

The Yankees finally left the field. The people would not stop cheering, would not stop chanting Jeter's name. Now he took off his helmet and waved it at the crowd, and then he pointed into the crowd. It only made the place louder.

"You are going to hear something tonight," Mo Rivera had said before the game. "From all the years."

Now here it was, bottom of the third, Yankees ahead 3-1, Jeter with the hit that put him past Gehrig. So much of this over the last week has been silly, out of proportion to the record. This was not. This wasn't marketing or hype now. This was real now at the Stadium.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees hits a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722 passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

This wasn't about Jeter now being alone in 53rd place on baseball's list of all-time hit leaders, about to pass Roberto Alomar and Tony Perez, the next two guys ahead of him. This wasn't about a media-generated - and newspaper-generated - hysteria about 2,722, as though somehow it were the same as Jeter trying to hit in 57 consecutive games. That is just the way it goes now. Any record with the Yankees has to be bigger than anybody else's.

"I remember looking at the media guide a bunch of years ago," Jeter said in front of his locker Friday afternoon. "And that's when I realized that the Yankees never had anybody who had 3,000 hits."

You know all this. Ruth started out as a pitcher. Gehrig died young. DiMaggio gave up part of his prime to World War II, and retired after 13 seasons. Mantle's body betrayed him. None got to 3,000. Jeter just keeps going. In the bottom of the fourth, he got another single to right, and got himself an RBI.

"It's never been easy lasting a long time in New York," he said Friday afternoon.

He showed up for good in 1996 and the Yankees won it all and won three more times through October of 2000 and he became the face of the franchise as much as any player ever has. Friday night was about that. You can only imagine what it will be like around here when he does get closer to 3,000.

None of this was Jeter's doing. Or the Yankees' doing. The media lost its head over this one. There is no big game for the Yankees until October. The Gehrig record gave everybody a chance to have a party. It ended Friday night, after a long rain delay, in the third against the Orioles, a single to right by the biggest sports star in town.

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 11: Derek Jeter(notes) #2 of the New York Yankees is congratulated by Mariano Rivera(notes) after hitting a single to right field in the third inning during a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium on September 11, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Jeter's hit was his 2,722 passing Lou Gehrig's all-time club record of 2,721. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

He did not show up a star across the street, or a phenom. He became a star, on a Yankee team that did win four times in five seasons, won 12 playoff series in those years, and took its place with the greatest Yankee teams of all time. Through it all, you could see Jeter on any of those other teams, all the way back to Ruth and Gehrig.

He is not the player Ruth was, or Gehrig, or Mantle, or even Mo Rivera. A-Rod's numbers will all be bigger someday. Jeter isn't Joe DiMaggio. But in so many ways, the way he has carried himself, what he has meant, he has been this era's DiMaggio. He has handled the attention, the Yankee-ness of it all, better than DiMaggio could have if he played now, with this kind of coverage, with this much media, with the Yankees this big. DiMaggio wasn't built for it, even as an old man. Jeter always has been, from the time he was a kid.

The Yankees have tried too hard this season to move history and tradition across the street. People sure tried hard this week to make it seem like Jeter was trying to break DiMaggio's 56. But it was all real enough Friday night in the bottom of the third, when the Stadium cheered Jeter the way it did. And when he pointed back at them, it was as if the captain of the Yankees was cheering them back.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Opponents Agree: Jeter Plays the Right Way

The New York Times
September 11, 2009

Somebody made the point recently — I wish I remembered who — that if you think the news media fawns over Derek Jeter, just listen to his fellow players. There is nobody in baseball more respected than Jeter. He plays the game extraordinarily well, as evidenced by his 2,721 hits, tied with Lou Gehrig for the Yankees’ record. But he also plays it right.

When the All-Star Game lasted 15 innings in July 2008 at Yankee Stadium, who stayed until the end, hugging Justin Morneau and Michael Young and all his other teammates-for-a-day? Other players left the ballpark; Jeter stayed. When Major League Baseball needed one player to show up for a World Baseball Classic news conference at the winter meetings last December, representing the United States, whom did they ask? Jeter.

There are countless other examples, including one Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. After tying Gehrig’s record, Jeter wanted to respond to the fans’ standing ovation. But he was acutely aware that the Rays, not the Yankees, were winning the game. He took his cue from the opposing bench.

“I did not want to disrespect them when I was at first base,” Jeter said. “I appreciated what the fans did and I wanted to acknowledge them. I still felt kind of awkward because I didn’t want to do anything that would upset them. When I saw them giving me an ovation, that is something I will definitely appreciate for a long time.”

Joe Maddon, the manager of the Rays, admitted in defeat that he was “very happy” for Jeter.
“I got a chance to know him a little bit at the All-Star Game, and he is a nice man,” Maddon said. “He carries himself in a manner that’s worthy of passing Gehrig. One thing that I especially love about him is that if he hits a ground ball to short, it’s always a bang-bang play at first, no matter what. He is always hustling.”

An article about Jeter’s feat on closes with an anecdote from the Angels’ Howie Kendrick, reflecting on an encounter with Jeter early in Kendrick’s career:

“I remember facing Mike Mussina in New York. I stayed on a cutter and hit it to right field for a base hit. He said: ‘Nice swing. Not a lot of hitters would have stayed that long on that one.’ Coming from him, something like that means a lot to a guy.

“I can’t tell you how much I admire Derek Jeter, everything about him. He’s a symbol of everything that’s right about the game, as far as I’m concerned. He’s a great role model for other players. When I tell my kids or grandkids about the great players from my time, I’ll be proud to say I was on the same field with Derek Jeter.”

Our National 9/11 Schizophrenia

The great debate over 9/11 and the American response — is it coming to an end?

By Victor Davis Hanson
September 11, 2009, 4:00 a.m.

Ninety-six months ago, 19 Islamic terrorists — led by Mohamed Atta, organized by Khalid Sheik Mohammed, and ordered by Osama bin Laden — hijacked four American airliners. They destroyed the World Trade Center, damaged the Pentagon, and murdered 2,974 people. The al-Qaeda–planned attack was the most lethal on the American homeland in our history.

In response, the United States quickly attacked and removed the Taliban government that had offered sanctuary to the killers. About 15 months later, in March 2003, America successfully invaded Iraq, deposed the dictator Saddam Hussein, and fostered a constitutional government in his place.

At home, a new Department of Homeland Security oversaw fresh counterterrorism measures. The government stepped up wiretaps and email intercepts of suspected terrorists. It established military tribunals, continued renditions of jihadists abroad, and inaugurated Predator-drone assassinations of terrorists along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The Bush administration ordered the creation of the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

All of these post-9/11 measures were debated in the congressional election campaigns of 2002, and during the presidential campaign of 2004. Incumbents responsible for such a muscular response to al-Qaeda were mostly reelected — given that, despite the steep human costs, the Taliban regime and Saddam Hussein were gone, democracies were in their places, and the United States had not suffered another attack when most experts had affirmed that such an event was inevitable.

In addition, almost immediately after the removal from power and later capture of Saddam Hussein, Pakistan put its nuclear proliferator, A. Q. Khan, under house arrest. Libya voluntarily surrendered its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction and its facilities for manufacturing more. A peaceful “cedar revolution” in Lebanon led to the removal of long-standing Syrian occupation troops.

None of this was easy. Almost 5,000 Americans died in the two wars; over $1 trillion was spent. At home the country was torn apart in domestic acrimony. The last eight years have seen a resistance culture spring up, let by such as Ward Churchill, Michael Moore, Code Pink, Cindy Sheehan, and Joe Wilson — coupled with congressional fury in which senators have characterized our own troops as analogous to Pol Pot, Nazis, Communists, terrorists, and Saddam Hussein’s Baathists.

Today one-third of Democrats believe that President Bush was involved in the planning of September 11. Best-selling books have alleged that 9/11 was a planned government operation. Novels were published and movies screened envisioning the assassination of George W. Bush. Politicians as diverse as Robert Byrd, Al Gore, and John Glenn all compared the president or his policies to Nazis or Brownshirts. All that was in response to the losses in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, in addition to the partisan advantage sought by discrediting the Bush presidency.

Now, on the eighth anniversary of the assault, the world has changed almost beyond belief — even if many circumstances that led to the attack on America have not. The Taliban regime and Saddam are still gone. Democracies still function in their place. America remains safe from attack. Yet rarely do we credit anyone for such facts.

Indeed, we are now in a post-9/11 sort of limbo. On the one hand, popular culture, the Democratic Party, the Democratic-led Congress, and Barack Obama have at various times denied the utility or morality of Guantanamo, elements of the Patriot Act, rendition, military tribunals, Predator attacks, or the conduct and very necessity of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. The new post-9/11 narrative is not so much that a radical fringe of fundamentalist Muslims had established nefarious relationships of mutual interest and benefit with Middle Eastern dictatorships in order to terrorize Western targets, but that an insensitivity and chauvinism on the part of the United States had driven proud Muslims through desperation and angst into Islam’s radical fringes.

This narrative proved to be a winner in 2006 and 2008 for both congressional Democrats and Barack Obama. In varying ways, during the luxury of quiet from terrorism at home, they promised a respite from Bush’s costly optional wars, his unnecessary and largely unconstitutional “war on terror,” and the general notion of an us/them dichotomy between the West and radical Islam. Candidate Obama at one time called for all American combat brigades out of Iraq by March 2008, repeal of much of the anti-terrorism protocols, and a rapid closing of Guantanamo.

But reality was far different from rhetoric. America, after all, was still safe in a manner that no one envisioned after the 9/11 attacks — and perhaps for a reason as well. So if Barack Obama and his supporters once damned tribunals, wiretaps and email surveillance, renditions, and Predator assassinations, now in power they strangely began to approve of, or at least tolerate, most of them.

The detention facility at Guantanamo is deemed abhorrent, but its continued presence suggests that even its critics acknowledge a certain utility. Iraq was written off as “lost” by opponents, but over 130,000 Americans still shepherd its fragile democracy. The “good” and older war in Afghanistan is now more violent and more controversial than the relatively quiet “bad” conflict in Iraq. Apparently, eight years of the Bush policies in reaction to 9/11 are as silently ratified as they are publicly condemned — an Orwellian moment in which “Bush did it” has become a public slur, while a privately appreciated fact.

What lies ahead? The present schizophrenia, I think, is untenable. The public is happy that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mass murderer of September 11, was waterboarded and thereafter expounded on his terrorist network; the Obama administration, in contrast, believes that all those who extracted that information in the bleak months following 9/11 should themselves be investigated and, if need be, tried and punished.

For the last two years, polls in the Middle East have shown a radical drop in support for both bin Laden and the tactic of suicide bombing. We in response have apologized to the Muslim world and magnified its glories at the precise moment when, of its own accord, it has turned on its radicals, who have brought death, destruction — and defeat — to all in their midst.

Few Americans now support our continued presence in Afghanistan and Iraq. And yet even fewer ever thought that the Taliban and Saddam would be quickly dispatched, and two constitutional governments would still be surviving in their absence.

In short, we are reaching a critical moment of clarity. We continue practices that we say are either futile or wrong, and we demonize their architects in speech even as we ratify them through action. At some date, the Democrats and Obama may well close Guantanamo, try our own CIA interrogators, cease tribunals and renditions, ground the Predators, pull out of Afghanistan and Iraq, reach out to Iran and Syria, and distance the United States from Israel.

At that point, when liberal deeds at last match liberal rhetoric, the great 9/11 debate of the last eight years — are we still in lethal danger from radical elements of Islam or not? — will finally be decided by either our continued safety or another September 11.

— NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution

Betraying our dead

The New York Post
September 11, 2009

Eight years ago today, our homeland was attacked by fanatical Muslims inspired by Saudi Arabian bigotry. Three thousand American citizens and residents died.

We resolved that we, the People, would never forget. Then we forgot.

We've learned nothing.

Our enemies' work: Ground Zero a week after the terrorist attack. AP

Instead of cracking down on Islamist extremism, we've excused it.

Instead of killing terrorists, we free them.

Instead of relentlessly hunting Islamist madmen, we seek to appease them.

Instead of acknowledging that radical Islam is the problem, we elected a president who blames America, whose idea of freedom is the right for women to suffer in silence behind a veil -- and who counts among his mentors and friends those who damn our country or believe that our own government staged the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

Instead of insisting that freedom will not be infringed by terrorist threats, we censor works that might offend mass murderers. Radical Muslims around the world can indulge in viral lies about us, but we dare not even publish cartoons mocking them.

Instead of protecting law-abiding Americans, we reject profiling to avoid offending terrorists. So we confiscate granny's shampoo at the airport because the half-empty container could hold 3.5 ounces of liquid.

Instead of insisting that Islamist hatred and religious apartheid have no place in our country, we permit the Saudis to continue funding mosques and madrassahs where hating Jews and Christians is preached as essential to Islam.

Instead of confronting Saudi hate-mongers, our president bows down to the Saudi king.

Instead of recognizing the Saudi-sponsored Wahhabi cult as the core of the problem, our president blames Israel.

Instead of asking why Middle Eastern civilization has failed so abjectly, our president suggests that we're the failures.

Instead of taking every effective measure to cull information from terrorists, the current administration threatens CIA agents with prosecution for keeping us safe.

Instead of proudly and promptly rebuilding on the site of the Twin Towers, we've committed ourselves to the hopeless, useless task of rebuilding Afghanistan. (Perhaps we should have built a mosque at Ground Zero -- the Saudis would've funded it.)

Instead of taking a firm stand against Islamist fanaticism, we've made a cult of negotiations -- as our enemies pursue nuclear weapons; sponsor terrorism; torture, imprison, rape and murder their own citizens -- and laugh at us.

Instead of insisting that Islam must become a religion of responsibility, our leaders in both parties continue to bleat that "Islam's a religion of peace," ignoring the curious absence of Baptist suicide bombers.

Instead of requiring new immigrants to integrate into our society and conform to its public values, we encourage and subsidize anti-American, woman-hating, freedom-denying bigotry in the name of toleration.

Instead of pursuing our enemies to the ends of the earth, we help them sue us.

We've dishonored our dead and whitewashed our enemies. A distinctly unholy alliance between fanatical Islamists abroad and a politically correct "elite" in the US has reduced 9/11 to the status of a non-event, a day for politicians to preen about how little they've done.

We've forgotten the shock and the patriotic fury Americans felt on that bright September morning eight years ago. We've forgotten our identification with fellow citizens leaping from doomed skyscrapers. We've forgotten the courage of airline passengers who would not surrender to terror.

We've forgotten the men and women who burned to death or suffocated in the Pentagon. We've forgotten our promises, our vows, our commitments.

We've forgotten what we owe our dead and what we owe our children. We've even forgotten who attacked us.

We have betrayed the memory of our dead. In doing so, we betrayed ourselves and our country. Our troops continue to fight -- when they're allowed to do so -- but our politicians have surrendered.

Are we willing to let the terrorists win?

Ralph Peters' new thriller, "The War After Armageddon," goes on sale next Tuesday.

Today's Tune: Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge Over Troubled Water (Live)

(Click on title to play video)

When you're weary
Feeling small
When tears are in your eyes
I will dry them all

I'm on your side
When times get rough
And friends just can't be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you're down and out
When you're on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you

I'll take your part
When darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on Silver Girl,
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way

See how they shine
If you need a friend
I'm sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

The Children of 9/11 Grow Up

College students talk about how the attack shaped their lives.

By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
September 11, 2009

It is eight years since 9/11, and here is an unexpected stage of grief: fear that the ache will go away. I don't suppose it ever will, but grieving has gradations, and "horror" becomes "absorbed sadness." Life moves on, and wants to move on, which is painful for those who will not forget and cannot be comforted. Part of the spookiness of life, part of its power to disorient us, is not only that people die, that they slip below the waves, but that the waves close above them so quickly, the sea so quickly looks the same.

I've been thinking about those who were children on 9/11, not little ones who were shielded but those who were 10 and 12, old enough to understand that something dreadful had happened but young enough still to be in childhood. A young man who was 14 the day of the attacks told me recently that there's an unspoken taboo among the young people of New York: They don't talk about it, ever. They don't want to say, "Oh boo hoo, it was awful." They don't want to dwell. They shrug it off when it comes up. They change the subject.

This week, in a conversation with college students at an eastern university, I brought it up. Seven students politely shared some of their memories. I invited them to tell me more the next morning, and was surprised when six of the seven showed up. This is what I learned:

They've been marked by 9/11 more than they know. It was their first moment of historical consciousness. Before that day, they didn't know what history was; after that day, they knew they were in it.

It was a life-splitting event. Before it they were carefree, after they were careful. A 20-year-old junior told me that after 9/11, "a backpack on a subway was no longer a backpack," and a crowded theater was "a source for concern." Every one of them used the word "bubble": the protected bubble of their childhood "popped." And all of them said they spent 9/11 and the days after glued to the television, watching over and over again the footage—the north tower being hit by the plane, the fireball. The video of 9/11 has firmly and ineradicably entered their brains. Which is to say their first visual memory of America, or their first media memory, was of its towers falling down.

I'd never fully realized this: 9/11 was for America's kids exactly what Nov. 22, 1963, was for their parents and uncles and aunts. They were at school. Suddenly there were rumors in the hall and teachers speaking in hushed tones. You passed an open classroom and saw a teacher sobbing. Then the principal came on the public-address system and said something very bad had happened. Shocked parents began to pick kids up. Everyone went home and watched TV all day, and the next.


Simon, a 20-year-old college junior, was a 12-year-old seventh-grader at a public school in Baltimore. He said: "It's first-period science, and the teacher next door, who was known to play jokes on other teachers, comes in completely stone-faced and says a plane has hit the World Trade Center, and no one believes him." Simon didn't know what to believe but remembered reading that in 1945 a plane had struck the Empire State Building, and "the building stayed up," so he didn't worry too much.

"At lunch time the vice principal comes up and he explains that two planes had hit the World Trade Center and one had hit the Pentagon and the World Trade Center was gone, and I never—when you have your mouth agape it's never for anything important, but I remember having my mouth agape for a minute or two in complete and utter shock. I went to my art period and I remember my art teacher sitting there with her hands on her face just bawling, she was so frightened. My mom picked me up, and I remember walking with her, and I'm saying 'This is Pearl Harbor.'"

Nine-eleven, he felt, changed everything for his generation. "It completely destroyed our sense of invincibility—maybe that's not the right word. I would say it made everything real to a 12-year-old. It showed the world could be a dangerous place when for my generation that was never the case. My generation had no Soviet Union, no war against fascism, we never had any threats. I was born when the Berlin Wall came down. It destroyed the sense of carefree innocence that we had."


Juliette, also 20 and a junior, was in eighth grade in Great Falls, Va. "I think the kids were shocked," she said. "The major question was how could this happen, who would do that—like, how does something so crazy happen? What I had is a sense that it was going to be one of those days of which 30 years down the road, people would ask me, What were you doing on that day, where were you on 9/11?—that my children would ask me. And so I set myself to remembering the details."

I told her that it is interesting to me that no great art has yet come from 9/11. The reason may be that adults absorbed what had happened, and because we had absorbed it, we did not have to transmute it into art. Maybe when you are still absorbing, or cannot absorb, that's when art happens. Maybe your generation will do it, I said.

She considered this. "There's always the odds that something much more horrible will happen that will really shake us out of our torpor, that will wake us up," she said.


The attack was not only an American event. Robbie, an 18-year-old freshman, was 10 and in primary school in England. "We were near the end of school. There were murmurs from teachers about something happening. I remember going back home, and my mum had both televisions on with different news channels. I remember the tower and the pillar of smoke. The big pillar of smoke was very vivid to me, and my mother trying to explain the seriousness of it. I think 9/11 brought us bang slap into the 21st century. I remember when the millennium came people said 'new time, new world,' but 9/11 was the 'new time, new world.' I understood it was something big, something that changed the world."

Then he told me that after we had talked the previous evening, he'd had a dream. "I was back in my old school in England, and in front of me I could see the city of Bristol, nothing distinct, but big towers, big buildings. And I could see them crumbling and falling. There was a collective fear, not just from myself but amongst everyone in the dream. I remember calling in the dream my mum, and saying 'Are you safe, are you safe?' I think this perhaps shows that after 9/11 . . . as a small child you felt safe, but after 9/11, I don't think I personally will ever feel 100% safe. . . . I think the dream demonstrates—I think the dream contained my hidden feelings, my consciousness."

He remembered after 9/11 those who rose up to fight terrorism. Even as a child he was moved by them. There are always in history so many such people, he said. It is always the great reason for hope.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


By Mark Steyn
Tuesday, 08 September 2009

from September 7, 2009 issue of National Review

Whenever I write about Europe and demography, I get a lot of mail on the general line of, “Oh, yeah, Steyn? When will Muslims be 50.01 per cent of the population then? 2020? 2030? C’mon, you scaremonger…”

Salvador Dali, The Divine Comedy Suite (Inferno): Mohammed, wood cut, 1952-1964

And I usually reply that it’s not about hitting 50 per cent. It’s about the point at which mediating between the Muslim population and the broader population becomes a central and then the dominant feature of the culture. In Northern Ireland, the Loyalists outnumbered the Republicans by two to one more or less, but an arithmetical majority didn’t prevent 30 years of, to put it at its mildest, profound destabilization. And once you’re in that situation the question becomes: What are you prepared to trade away in an attempt to re-stabilize?

Ezra Levant, my comrade in Canada’s free speech wars, was hauled in for interrogation by the Alberta “Human Rights” Commission for publishing the famous Danish cartoons of Mohammed. After three years of harassment by a malign alliance of radical Islamists and the multicultural state, he’s come to the conclusion that the cartoon crisis has done more damage to North America’s “culture of liberty” than 9/11. You can see what he means. In the long run, the ostensibly trivial matter of some undistinguished drawings in an obscure provincial newspaper in a nation way out on the periphery of the horizon may yet prove to be more significant than a direct violent assault on the citadels of American power. September 11th was a bloody provocation that was met with a vigorous display of will: Within a few weeks al-Qaeda’s training camps were smashed to smithereens, and its patrons in Kabul had hitched up their robes and fled. The cartoon crisis was a minor, albeit murderous, affair that rippled across the globe to be met by a dismal lack of will by almost every panjandrum of western civilization, from European Union commissioners to Canada’s ghastly “human rights” regime. As the years go by, that seems the more relevant template.

Nevertheless, notwithstanding the damage done by Euro-Canadian appeasers, an American institution has now effortlessly outpaced them. Having commissioned a book on the subject, Yale University Press has decided that it will appear without any illustration of said subject matter. The author is not a scaremongering blowhard like Ezra and me but a respected Brandeis University professor, Jytte Klausen. Insofar as I understand the thesis of The Cartoons That Shook The World, Professor Klausen argues that the crisis was artificially whipped up for political purposes and that, therefore, one should draw no broader conclusions about Muslim culture and its relationship with the west. You could hardly ask for a more telling comment on that thesis than the publishers’ decision to yank the illustrations, including not only the cartoons but other representations of Mohammed, such as Gustave Dore’s depiction of the Prophet being disemboweled in Hell. This scene from Dante’s Inferno has also been visually rendered by, among others, Botticelli, William Blake, Salvador Dali and Rodin, all of whose images have been reproduced in hundreds of book. Yet, with nary a thought, Yale has extended the de facto prohibition on new Mohammedan depictions into a retrospective airbrushing of the historical record. This is an astonishing thing for a scholarly institution to do, especially one whose motto is Lux et veritas. In nixing Gustave Dore, they have, in effect, said the entire western inheritance is up for grabs. Not all of it, not immediately. The lux will be dimmed incrementally, bulb by bulb, and, after a while, as what would once have “shook the world” ceases even to be reported, you won’t even notice it.

The official explanation was the threat of violence. Not any actual violence, and, as it turns out, not even any actual threats. After Roger Kimball poked around a bit, it emerged that the decision to ban both the Danes and Dore was driven not by editors or publishers at YUP but by the very biggest bigwigs of the University itself. The experts were contacted by “the Office of the President”, no less. On its face, the decision to gut its own reputation for editorial and scholarly integrity seems to owe less to unspecified fears of jihadist nuts blowing up a university bookstore than to a cooler calculation of its strategic interests, including (so Mr Kimball suggests) continued access to wealthy Muslim benefactors.

Yale has thus provided us with a perfect snapshot of where we’re headed. When I fought back against attempts by the Canadian Islamic Congress to get my writing criminalized north of the border, various American readers wrote to say: “Why bother? Who cares about Canada? We’ve got the First Amendment, and nobody’s going to ban you here.” That’s not how the world works, no matter the fond isolationist illusions of Ron Paul types. Restive European Muslims and unlimited Saudi money can put pressure on American publishers, institutions and media that will eventually render the First Amendment moot. In Denmark and other countries, craven accommodationists can at least plead that they have incendiary majority-Muslim suburbs with 50 per cent youth unemployment. That’s not true of New Haven, where the honchos seem to be using fear of violence as a cover for the appetites of their endowment. In other words, they’re merely posing as contemptible Euroweenies. Which, when you think about it, is even more contemptible.

In 2006, during the original cartoon jihad, a Muslim demonstrator in Toronto spelled it out: “We won’t stop the protests until the world obeys Islamic law.”

It sounded vaguely ridiculous at the time. And yet, without the demographic pressures of Europe, a scholarly publisher in Connecticut now “obeys Islamic law”. Who’s next?


By Ann Coulter
September 9, 2009

(12) Only national health care can provide "coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job" -- as Obama said in a New York Times op-ed.

This is obviously a matter of great importance to all Americans, because, with Obama's economic policies, none of us may have jobs by year's end.

The only reason you can't keep -- or often obtain -- health insurance if you move or lose your job now is because of ... government intrusion into the free market.

You will notice that if you move or lose your job, you can obtain car and home insurance, hairdressers, baby sitters, dog walkers, computer technicians, cars, houses, food and every other product and service not heavily regulated by the government. (Although it does become a bit harder to obtain free office supplies.)

Federal tax incentives have created a world in which the vast majority of people get health insurance through their employers. Then to really screw ordinary Americans, the tax code actually punishes people who don't get their health insurance through an employer by denying individuals the tax deduction for health insurance that their employers get.

Meanwhile, state governments must approve the insurers allowed to operate in their states, while mandating a list of services -- i.e. every "medical" service with a powerful lobby -- which is why Joe and Ruth Zelinsky, both 88, of Paterson, N.J., are both covered in case either one of them ever needs a boob job.

If Democrats really wanted people to be able to purchase health insurance when they move or lose a job as easily as they purchase car insurance and home insurance (or haircuts, dog walkers, cars, food, computers), they could do it in a one-page bill lifting the government controls and allowing interstate commerce in health insurance. This is known as "allowing the free market to operate."

Plus, think of all the paper a one-page bill would save! Don't Democrats care about saving the planet anymore? Go green!

(13) The "public option" trigger is something other than a national takeover of health care.

Why does the government get to decide when the "trigger" has been met, allowing it to do something terrible to us? Either the government is better at providing goods and services or the free market is -- and I believe the historical record is clear on that. Why do liberals get to avoid having that argument simply by invoking "triggers"?

Why not have a "trigger" allowing people to buy medical insurance on the free market when a trigger is met, such as consumers deciding their health insurance is too expensive? Or how about a trigger allowing us to buy health insurance from Utah-based insurers -- but only when triggered by our own states requiring all insurance companies to cover marriage counseling, drug rehab and shrinks?

Thinking more broadly, how about triggers for paying taxes? Under my "public option" plan, citizens would not have to pay taxes until a trigger kicks in. For example, 95 percent of the Department of Education's output is useful, or -- in the spirit of compromise -- at least not actively pernicious.

Also, I think we need triggers for taking over our neighbors' houses. If they don't keep up 95 percent of their lawn -- on the basis of our lawn commission's calculations -- we get to move in. As with Obama's public option trigger, we (in the role of "government") pay nothing. All expenses with the house would continue to be paid by the neighbor (playing "taxpayer").

To make our housing "public option" even more analogous to Obama's health care "public option," we'll have surly government employees bossing around the neighbors after we evict them and a Web site for people to report any negative comments the neighbors make about us.

Another great trigger idea: We get to pull Keith Olbermann's hair to see if it's a toupee -- but only when triggered by his laughably claiming to have gone to an Ivy League university, rather than the bovine management school he actually attended.

(14) National health care will not cover abortions or illegal immigrants.

This appeared in an earlier installment of "Liberal Lies About Health Care," but I keep seeing Democrats like Howard Dean and Rep. Jan Schakowsky on TV angrily shouting that these are despicable lies -- which, in itself, constitutes proof that it's all true.

Then why did Democrats vote down amendments that would prohibit coverage for illegals and abortion? (Also, why is Planned Parenthood collecting petition signatures in Manhattan -- where they think they have no reason to be sneaky -- in support of national health care?)

On July 30 of this year, a House committee voted against a Republican amendment offered by Rep. Nathan Deal that would have required health care providers to use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program to prevent illegal aliens from receiving government health care services. All Republicans and five Democrats voted for it, but 29 Democrats voted against it, killing the amendment.

On the same day, the committee voted 30-29 against an amendment offered by Republican Joe Pitts explicitly stating that government health care would not cover abortions. Zealous abortion supporter Henry Waxman -- a walking, breathing argument for abortion if ever there was one -- originally voted in favor of the Pitts amendment because that allowed him, in a sleazy parliamentary trick, to bring the amendment up for reconsideration later. Which he did -- as soon as he had enough Democrats in the hearing room to safely reject it.

If any liberal sincerely believes that national health care will not cover illegals and abortion, how do they explain the Democrats frantically opposing amendments that would make this explicit?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Green: The New Red

The New York Post
September 9, 2009

VAN Jones spent the 1990s as an avowed communist. He is an unabashed political hater. He traffics in poisonous "truther" conspiracy theories about 9/11 as an inside job. Yet he is a mainstream figure in environmentalism. The real Jones scandal is less his wince- inducingly sophomoric radicalism than how comfortably he fits within the broader world of contemporary liberalism.

Even as Jones was forced from his position as the White House's special adviser for green jobs, the left had his back. It sputtered at conservatives who publicized his former words. Have they no decency? Howard Dean pronounced Jones "a star," and called his defenestration "too bad for the country."

For liberals and the media, there's never a "left-wing extremist." The day before yesterday, they were tarring all of conservatism with the rantings of a few "birther" loons. The mere existence of this fringe supposedly constituted a damning statement of conservatism's rancid irrelevance. But here was Van Jones, who thought the US government possibly engineered 9/11, and he had a hand in disbursing tens of billions of dollars of Obama's "green" stimulus funds.

All the major media ignored the Jones controversy as it built. As his work with a Marxist group called Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement came to light, nothing. As he apologized twice -- for signing a "truther" petition and using a vulgarity to describe Republicans in a January speech -- barely anything.

Imagine if a right-winger who had worked with a neo-Nazi group in the '90s occupied a position of any consequence in a GOP administration. Entire news departments would be assigned the story. The New York Times managed not to mention the Jones controversy until he quit. Times readers learned that he was dead without ever hearing that he was sick. It must have been a little like waking up in Stalin-era Russia to find that a commissar in good standing had unaccountably been erased from history. (Charles Freeman, a rabidly anti-Israel Obama appointee for a top intelligence job, suffered the same strange fate -- undone by a controversy the Times didn't deign to notice until it ended.)

How did a radical agitator like Jones arrive in the Obama administration? He's just part of the fraternity. "We were so delighted to be able to recruit him into the White House," Valerie Jarrett said a few weeks ago. "We were watching him." In its story about his ouster, The Washington Post called him a "towering figure" in the environmental movement.

Jones has been the Great Black Hope of environmentalism. The movement is only slightly less white than the Daughters of the American Revolution. So it naturally took to Jones with his racially charged rhetoric about "greening the ghetto." He offered street cred the average vanilla-latte environmentalist lacked.

For Jones, the environmental movement is a perfect vehicle. In today's America, it is the most natural place for someone with Marxist sensibilities and aspirations outside a college English department. A frontal assault on capitalism on behalf of the working people of the world is passé; a stealth assault on capitalism in the name of saving the planet is chic. In this sense, green is the new red.

After visiting the Soviet Union in the 1920s, New Deal brain-truster Stuart Chase asked, "Why should Russians have all the fun remaking the world?" In the same spirit, Jones enthuses in his book "The Green Collar Economy" that Americans today "get to retrofit, reboot, and reenergize a nation." Jones calls his vision a "Green New Deal," but it's more of an American Great Leap Forward, giving "an honored place for labor and social activists" so they can "change the direction of our society." The effort "will require a World War II level of mobilization."

Lunacy? Not for enviros. As Gus Speth, a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, told The New Yorker, "We in the environmental movement cannot fail Van Jones."

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Wolf Howls

By: Robert Spencer
Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Leftist feminist Naomi Wolf, like other Leftist feminists, have in their overriding multiculturalist relativism a soft spot for Islam and its oppression of women. Phyllis Chesler, Jamie Glazov and David Horowitz have noticed, and the sparks are flying. This article is written by a defender of Wolf. "Feminists face off over the veil," by Tracy Clark-Flory at Salon, September 5:

Pull up a chair and grab some popcorn, because there's another battle royal raging over the veil. In one corner, we have Naomi Wolf, third-wave feminist heavyweight and author of "The Beauty Myth," defending Muslim garb. In the other, we have Phyllis Chesler, second-waver and author of "The Death of Feminism," attacking both the veil and Wolf for daring to defend it.

The first shot was fired with the Sydney Morning Herald's publication of an article by Wolf headlined "Behind the veil lives a thriving Muslim sexuality." She recounts her travels in Morocco, Jordan and Egypt, and the time she spent with women in "typical Muslim households." She observes, "It is not that Islam suppresses sexuality, but that it embodies a strongly developed sense of its appropriate channelling -- toward marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home." There was "demureness and propriety" outside of the home, "but inside, women were as interested in allure, seduction and pleasure as women anywhere in the world."

How interesting that the same things that Western feminists have scoffed at for decades -- "marriage, the bonds that sustain family life, and the attachment that secures a home" -- become warmly appealing when they see them in the Islamic world.

Then, Wolf turns to the inevitable comparison with Western styles of dress. Many of the Muslim women she spoke with said that revealing get-ups cause men to stare at and objectify them. Wearing a headscarf or chador, however, leads people to "relate to me as an individual, not an object," they told her. When Wolf went to the local bazaar wearing a shalwar kameez and a headscarf, which hid her womanly curves and wild hair, she "felt a novel sense of calm and serenity" and even, "in certain ways, free."

She ends the essay, however, with a colossal caveat:

I do not mean to dismiss the many women leaders in the Muslim world who regard veiling as a means of controlling women. Choice is everything. But Westerners should recognise that when a woman in France or Britain chooses a veil, it is not necessarily a sign of her repression. And, more importantly, when you choose your own miniskirt and halter top -- in a Western culture in which women are not so free to age, to be respected as mothers, workers or spiritual beings, and to disregard Madison Avenue -- it's worth thinking in a more nuanced way about what female freedom really means.

Wolf isn't defending forced veiling or even the veil itself. She's arguing in defense of women's individual experiences of veiling. Much like any decent anthropology 101 professor, Wolf is trying to force a shift in the perspective of her Western readers so that we might seriously consider the possibility that some Muslim women truly and legitimately see dressing scantily in public as repressive and experience covering up outside of their home as freeing....

To this Jamie Glazov replies trenchantly: "Ms. Clark-Flory, do you really still not get it? Muslim women don’t get to 'truly and legitimately see' anything in an environment where seeing something the way they want to, and acting on it, will get them stigmatized at best and executed at worst."

Clark-Flory goes on to excoriate Chesler, Horowitz and Glazov for their assorted sins against multiculturalist orthodoxy, and then concludes:

You might notice that as this conflagration spreads, more and more conservatives -- many of whom do not identify as feminists -- are rushing in to stoke the fire. As they do, the discussion becomes less about defending women's rights and more about supporting their ongoing culture war. That reminds me of a line from Wolf's essay: "Ideological battles are often waged with women's bodies as their emblems, and Western Islamophobia is no exception."

Yep. That's what it's all about: "Islamophobia." This calls for a Thought Experiment!

Imagine a book of the Bible. Let's call it the Book of Naomi. And imagine that the Book of Naomi likened a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: "Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will" (Naomi 2:223).

Imagine also that the Book of Naomi declared that a woman's testimony was worth half that of a man: "Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her" (Naomi 2:282).

The Book of Naomi also allows men to marry up to four wives, and to have sex with slave girls also: "If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice" (Naomi 4:3).

It rules that a son's inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: "Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children's (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females" (Naomi 4:11).

Worst of all, the Book of Naomi tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: "Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them" (Naomi 4:34). It allows for marriage to pre-pubescent girls, stipulating that Naomian divorce procedures “shall apply to those who have not yet menstruated” (Naomi 65:4).

If such a book of the Bible existed, do you think Naomi Wolf would be wringing her hands about "Christianophobia"? Of course she wouldn't. She would be on the front lines denouncing this terrible misogynist book and calling upon those who believe in it to reform.

But of course the quotations above are all from the Qur'an. And that changes everything for Naomi Wolf.

See also Hugh Fitzgerald's take on Wolf's writing on Islam and women here.

- Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of eight books, eleven monographs, and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, including the New York Times Bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book, Stealth Jihad: How Radical Islam is Subverting America without Guns or Bombs, is available now from Regnery Publishing.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Exclusive: John Lennon, the lost interviews

By Ray Connolly
From The Sunday Times
September 6, 2009

John Lennon did many brilliant things in his life, but arguably one of his most inspired acts was his deliberate destruction of the Beatles in 1969 — just 40 years ago this month. It didn’t seem that way then, not to tens of millions of devastated Beatles fans around the world, and not to Paul McCartney, who, feeling abandoned, went off to his farm in Scotland and into a deep depression.

But if Lennon, who’d started the group that evolved into the Beatles, hadn’t murdered his creation at that moment, if the band had somehow struggled on through their rows into the 1970s,

I doubt that you’d be reading this article today.

By killing the Beatles before they could disappoint us, as they inevitably would have done when music fashions changed and the band’s later albums didn’t quite live up to the ones we still love, Lennon froze them for ever at their peak.

John Lennon illustration by Erika Simmons

At the time of their break-up in 1969, I was an interviewer on London’s Evening Standard with the special task of covering rock music. Today, journalists are kept at arm’s length from stars by legions of publicists, but it was different then, for me anyway. Only now, looking back, do I fully appreciate the astonishing access to the Beatles

I had, from 1967, that Sgt Pepper high water of their careers, until 1972, when their dissolution was making its way through the High Court.

So I was at the Abbey Road studios in October 1968 to hear Yoko Ono be happily indiscreet about her affairs during her first two marriages, before ending the evening being given a personal concert by McCartney at the piano as he worked on a new song called "Let It Be" — while from down the corridor I could hear John Lennon and the producer George Martin mixing "Cry Baby Cry" for the White Album.

Almost every conversation I had during those final febrile Beatle days ended up in my new little Sony recorder, where intimacies and opinions were caught on cassettes, and then stored away, forgotten and uncatalogued in an old Pickfords packing case. And it’s those tapes, unplayed in decades (if ever, in some cases), that I recently unearthed — recordings that in some cases challenge views of the Lennon-McCartney relationship that have been held for 40 years.

Not all the interviews have survived. Cassettes were expensive then, and I’m mortified to admit that I have one on which the names McCartney, Jagger and Hendrix have each been successively crossed out as the interviews were recorded over. Nor was everything that was recorded published. Much was off the record. Time heals. Now it doesn’t matter that I write some of it here.

By 1969 there were rumours of strife in the Beatles camp, but on the surface it still seemed jolly enough. Then, while I was hanging around their Apple headquarters in Mayfair one day in September, I realised something was seriously wrong. There was a Beatles meeting in the boardroom that suddenly ended in a row, followed by much running up and down the stairs. But nobody was saying what it was about.

A few weeks later I got a call from John telling me he’d just sent his MBE back to the Queen. He was in a giddy mood,

I reflected, as I typed out my story. But he was also acting so separately from the other Beatles that two days later I wrote a piece headlined "The Day the Beatles Died".

At the time I was half-afraid I’d overstated my case, because to the outside world they were still very much alive. But no sooner was the article published than a white rose wrapped in Cellophane was delivered to my desk with the message "To Ray with love from John and Yoko".

From then on, when it came to covering Beatles affairs, my tape recorder and I would have the best possible source. And, just before Christmas that year, I would listen in astonishment (and some despair) as John, who’d flown me out to join him and Yoko in Toronto, gleefully let me in on the secret of how he’d destroyed the band.

"At the meeting Paul just kept mithering on about what we were going to do, so in the end

I just said, ‘I think you’re daft. I want a divorce.’"

He hadn’t planned to say that, but once spoken, and although news of the split wasn’t going to be announced until the Let It Be album came out the following May, the words were never withdrawn.

Of course, there are McCartney interviews on tape, too. While John was busy pulling the walls of the Beatles temple down around him, Paul eventually recovered from the setback enough to make his first solo album, McCartney. Usually astute with publicity, at this point he slipped up, putting out an ambiguous press statement along with his record in April 1970 that was interpreted as saying that he’d broken up the band. Headlines of blame ran around the world. "How could he?" distressed fans wanted to know. "It was all a misunderstanding," he told me a few days later. "I thought, ‘Christ, what have I done now?’ and my stomach started churning up.

I never intended the statement to mean ‘Paul McCartney quits Beatles’."

It was ironic. The Beatle who had most wanted the group to stay together, the biggest Beatles fan of all, was being blamed for its dissolution.

"Why didn’t you write it when I told you in Canada?" John demanded when he realised that Paul had accidentally got the dubious honour of ending the world’s favourite group. As he’d started it, he thought he should be the one to end it. "You asked me not to," I said. He was scornful. "You’re the journalist, Connolly, not me," he snapped.

What strikes me most, though, listening again to the tapes, is how prescient John was, how closely his ear was tuned to the changing mood of the times. As once he’d instinctively known which songs to write and what pithy comments would grab a headline, somehow, while in the middle of the whirlpool that was the Beatles, he’d seen the end approaching.

"The whole thing died in my mind long before all the rumpus started," he said in 1971 when I was spending a few days with him and Yoko in New York. "We used to believe the Beatles myth just as much as the public, and we were in love with them in just the same way. But basically we were four individuals who eventually recovered our own individualities after being submerged in a myth.

"I know a lot of people were upset when we finished, but every circus has to come to an end. The Beatles were a monument that had to be either changed or scrapped. As it happens, it was scrapped. The Beatles were supposed to be this and supposed to be that, but really all we were was a band that got very big.

"Actually, our best days were before we got that big, when we used to play for hours in clubs. My favourite number was always Elvis’s "Baby Let’s Play House". We’d make it last about 10 minutes, singing the same verse over and over.

I pinched one of the lines from it later to put in one of my own songs called "Run for Your Life" — something about ‘I’d rather see you dead, little girl, than to see you with another man’.

"Mick Jagger said we weren’t a good band as performers. But he never saw us at our best in Liverpool and Hamburg. We were the best bloody band there was. I know all the early rock songs much better than most of those I’ve written myself."

July 1968

This photograph was taken by the photographer Tom Murray of the Beatles whilst recording the Sgt Pepper album. They are part of a new exhibition The Beatles’ 11 Million Dollar Picture Show, at the Saint Giles Street Gallery in Norwich, opening on Thursday 10th September.

Tom Murray

During most of that time, however, John was in iconoclastic mode. It was as though, having made his decision, he couldn’t smash his Beatle persona quickly, or outrageously, enough. He didn’t want to be "one of four gods on the stage", he told me, so instead he invited the world’s press to his honeymoon bedside for a week "in aid of world peace". Then, not minding that he was being widely ridiculed, not to mention chastised by his formidable Aunt Mimi for "making an exhibition of himself", he appeared naked with Yoko on an album of electronic music called Two Virgins, before really chasing controversy with a series of erotic lithographs featuring Yoko, and sometimes himself too.

"Why do you draw so much cunnilingus?" I asked him during the trip to Canada, as I passed the lithographs for him to sign. "Because I like it," the one-time moptop grinned merrily. London’s Metropolitan Police would later close down his exhibition in a West End gallery. They didn’t like it.

At the time, Yoko was much publicly blamed for the Beatles’ demise, and she certainly might have played her part more tactfully. But she was only one of several catalysts. And John, as I’ve been hearing again on my tapes, was absolutely besotted by her, this sexy, mysterious artist who matched the zany dottiness in him.

"It was Yoko that changed me," he teases her during one conversation in 1970. "She forced me to become avant-garde and take me clothes off when all I wanted to do was become Tom Jones. And now look at me! Did you know avant-garde is French for bullshit?" Then, referring to how she’d begun to join him on stage, he goes on: "We’ve only got to play four bars and she grabs the microphone and she’s off? Aggghhh! Take her anywhere and she does her number for you." In the background, Yoko giggles. She was his pal.

The John Lennon I recorded was a very funny man who liked to paint himself ironically as the indignant butt of his own stories. "Did you see that Time magazine is saying that George is a philosopher?" he asked me one day. "And there’s an article in The Times, that I’ve actually thought about sending to Pseuds Corner [in Private Eye] — anonymously, of course — saying how Paul is this great musician. One a philosopher, another a great musician. Where does that leave me?"

"The nutter?" I hear myself suggest.

"Yes. I’m the nutter. F*** ’em all."

Today he would have been a star as a stand-up comedian with a line in self-mockery. And, having returned from a session of primal therapy in California in 1970, he was more loquacious than ever. He could have done a whole act on the subject of what made people like him want to become famous. "There you are up on the stage like an Aunt Sally waiting to have things thrown at you. It’s like always putting yourself on trial to see if you’re good enough for Mummy and Daddy. You know, ‘Now will you love me if I stand on my head and fart and play guitar and dance and blow balloons and get an MBE and sing "She Loves You" — now will you love me?’" It was a typical Lennon rant, but he was smiling all the time.

On another occasion, talking about his song "Not a Second Time" from the Beatles’ second LP, in a conversation devoted to his music, he says: "That was the one where that f***ing idiot Thomas Mann (he meant William Mann, the Times music critic) talked about the aeolian cadence at the end being like Mahler’s "Song of the Earth". They were just chords like any other chords. It was the first intellectual bullshit written about us." Then the knowing pause. "Still, I know it helps to have bullshit written about you."

Later, saying how a favourite of his songs, "You Can’t Do That", was his attempt at being Wilson Pickett, he becomes mock-anguished when admitting it was "a flip side because "Can’t Buy Me Love" [Paul’s song] was so f***ing good".

He was competitive with Paul, yes, and, when relations between the two were really bad, vituperative, as evidenced in a line in a song about his former partner on his Imagine album: "The sound you make is Muzak to my ears."

Paul had to have been hurt, and a few months later in New York even John would admit slightly ruefully: "I suppose it was a bit hard on him?" But, as he would so often say, "They were just the words that came out of my mouth at the time."

In truth, he always knew how good Paul was, without necessarily liking everything he did.

"I only ever asked two people to work with me as a partner," he would boast of his talent-spotting abilities. "One was Paul McCartney and the other Yoko Ono. That’s not bad, is it?" Indeed, I recall a writer from an underground magazine being snide about Paul’s song "Let It Be", presumably assuming John would agree. He didn’t.

"Paul and me were the Beatles," he would emphasise to me privately. "We wrote the songs." And on the subject of his debt to the young McCartney, he was actually generous. "I didn’t write much material early on, less than Paul, because he was quite competent on guitar.

Paul taught me quite a lot of guitar, really."

Those who see John as the towering greatest of the great should reflect on that: John Lennon quietly, happily admitting how much he owed to Paul McCartney. And while he could be flattering about some of Paul’s songs — he liked "For No One" particularly ("that was one of his good ones. All his semi-classical ones are best, actually") — he was disarmingly dismissive about several of his own. " 'I Am the Walrus' didn’t mean anything," he says, consigning to the pointless bin the work of a generation of Beatles anoraks who’d tried to interpret its lyrics, while he always hated "Yes It Is", didn’t think he sang "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" very well ("I was so nervous I couldn’t sing, but I like the lyrics"), and admits that he and Paul would give the lousy songs they wrote to George and Ringo to sing.

John Lennon and Paul McCartney

But "It’s Only Love" from the Help! album was the one that earned his greatest ire. "It’s the most embarrassing song I ever wrote. Everything rhymed. Disgusting lyrics. Even then I was so ashamed of the lyrics, I could hardly sing them. That was one song I really wished I’d never written," he says. Then, after another comic pause: "Well, you can say that about quite a few." And the ones he liked? " 'Across the Universe' was one of my favourites. I gave it at first to the World Wildlife Fund, but they didn’t do much with it, and then we put it on the Let It Be album. It missed it as a record but maybe the lyrics will survive. And "Strawberry Fields Forever" meant a lot. "Come Together" is another favourite. It started off as a slogan song for Timothy Leary’s wife, but I never got around to finishing it. Everyone takes it as meaning ‘come together in peace’, but there’s the other meaning too!" Actually, he was proud of quite a few — "In My Life", "I’m a Loser", "Girl?"

"When I was in therapy I was asked to go through a book of all the songs I’d written, line by line. I just couldn’t believe I’d written so many."

Interestingly, and it’s something I’ve only realised listening again to the tapes, no matter how much John publicly criticised Paul, in none of my interviews with Paul did he ever criticise John. Quite the contrary. "On Abbey Road I would like to have sung harmony with John, like we used to. And I think he would have liked me to. But I was too embarrassed to ask him."

I always wished I’d been involved in the Beatles’ early happier days, but my role was to cover the final act of their career, and to observe the fallout, mostly, though not totally, with John. There were some bizarre and revealing moments during those days. Visiting a Native American village in upstate New York the day after his

30th birthday, he showed that even he, in his enthusiasm, could get it wrong. "When I used to see cowboys-and-Indians films when I was a kid in Liverpool, I was always on the side of the Indians," he told the assembled group, not realising how patronising he sounded.

I’m sure when he said he wanted a divorce from the Beatles he never imagined how complicated, or expensive for all of them, it would be. But by October 1971, when he was living in New York, he was beginning to get a good idea. Asking me to be a go-between, he gave me a message to take to Paul suggesting that perhaps the two of them could solve at least one of their differences without either Allen Klein, his manager, or Lee Eastman, Paul’s manager and also Linda McCartney’s father, becoming involved. Back in London I delivered the message, but in the end it was inevitably lawyers who sorted out their problems.

Listening to the tapes, and hearing John’s singsong voice again after all these years, has led to some poignant memories. But what has stayed with me most from all the interviews is the vitality of the man, and that straight-faced, British, tongue-in-cheek delivery he had. A very generous person, he would say: "I can’t think about money. It rains in and rains out.

"I always wanted to be an eccentric millionaire, and now I am." John on his education made me laugh: "If I’d had a better education, I wouldn’t have been me. When I was at grammar school I thought I’d go to university, but I didn’t get any GCEs. Then I went to art school and thought I’d go to the Slade and become a wonder. But I never fitted in. I was always a freak, I was never lovable. I was always Lennon!"

Then there’s John, as forthright as ever when I suggested he might like to write a musical. "No. No musicals. I loathe musicals. I never did have a plan for doing one. My cousin made me sit through some f***ing musical twice. I just hate them. They bore me stiff. I think they’re just horrible. Even Hair. And they’re always lousy music." What he would have made of Cirque du Soleil’s Las Vegas show Love, an interpretation of the Beatles’ records, would have been interesting to know.

John, talking about a Hare Krishna group who’d been painting a little temple in the grounds of Tittenhurst Park near Ascot, which was briefly his home, was typical. "I had to sack them. They were very nice and gentle, but they kept going around saying ‘peace’ all the time. It was driving me mad. I couldn’t get any f***ing peace."

And finally there’s John in 1970 being ominously prophetic. "I’m not going to waste my life as I have been, which was running at 20,000 miles an hour. I have to learn not to do that, because I don’t want to die at 40."

He was 40 and two months when he was murdered by a mad fan in New York in 1980.

I was due to interview him for The Sunday Times the following day