Saturday, January 02, 2010

Film Reviews: 'Sherlock Holmes'

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird!
It's a plane! It's Sherlock Holmes!

By Roger Ebert
Dec 23, 2009

Ebert Rating: ***

The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes, the more I liked "Sherlock Holmes." Yet another classic hero has been fed into the f/x mill, emerging as a modern superman. Guy Ritchie's film is filled with sensational sights, over-the-top characters and a desperate struggle atop Tower Bridge, which is still under construction. It's likely to be enjoyed by today's action fans. But block bookings are not likely from the Baker Street Irregulars.

One of the comforts of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories is their almost staid adherence to form. Villains and cases come and go up the staircase at 221B Baker Street, but within that refuge, life stays the same: Holmes all-knowing and calm, Watson fretful and frightened, clues orderly, victims distraught, never a problem not seemingly insoluble. Outside is the fabled Victorian London, a city we all know in our imaginations. I think I became an Anglophile on those winter nights when I sat curled up in my dad's big chair, a single lamp creating shadows in the corners of the room, reading the Modern Library edition of the stories while in the basement I heard the comforting sounds of my parents doing the laundry.

Every Holmes story is different and each one is the same, just as every day has its own saint but the Mass is eternal. "Sherlock Holmes" enacts the strange new rites of hyperkinetic action and impossible CGI, and Holmes and Watson do their best to upgrade themselves. Holmes tosses aside the deerstalker hat and meerschaum calabash, and Watson has decided for once and all to abandon the intimacy of 221B for the hazards of married life. Both of them now seem more than a little gay; it's no longer a case of "oh, the British all talk like that." Jude Law even seemed to be wearing lipstick when he promoted the movie on Letterman.

Well, Holmes, like Hamlet, has survived countless interpretations. The character has been played memorably by Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Frank Langella, Peter Cushing, John Barrymore, James D'Arcy, Michael Caine, John Cleese, Peter Cook, Rupert Everett, William Gillette, Stewart Granger, Charlton Heston, Anthony Higgins, Raymond Massey, Roger Moore, John Neville, Leonard Nimoy, Christopher Plummer, Jonathan Pryce, Nicol Williamson -- and now Robert Downey Jr., who is not the least of these.

Downey's Holmes is at once more dissolute and more fit than previous incarnations. Holmes' canonical devotion to cocaine is here augmented by other drugs and a great deal of booze. Yet Holmes has the body of a lithe athlete, the skills of a gymnast and the pugilism of a world champion. He and Watson (who is, you recall, only a doctor, although one with clients who must be puzzled about his office hours) spring readily into action like Batman and Robin.

In a really very good opening sequence, the two burst in upon the fiendish satanist Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) in the act of committing a dastardly act. Blackwood is sent to the gallows and sealed in his tomb, only to reappear (to Holmes' undeniable satisfaction) seemingly still alive. This sets off a series of action set pieces in the streets of London, which have never seemed more looming, dark and ominous; I had the impression Jack the Ripper had just darted out of view.

After the initial apprehension of Blackwood, Holmes retreats to his digs. In Conan Doyle, this is often explained as "a period of study" and implied drug reveries. In Ritchie's version, he trashes his rooms like a drunken undergraduate; they lack only empty pizza boxes. This will not do. My Sherlock is above all fastidious. But never mind. Blackwood's resurrection gives him a new reason for living.

There is also interest from two women: Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), of course, said to be the only woman to ever touch Holmes' heart, and Mary Morstan (Kelly Reilly), Watson's intended, who may be in for more than she knows. The advent of Mary on the scene sends Holmes into fits of petulance; how dare the doctor prefer a woman to his own fascinating company? Watson has always maintained quarters elsewhere, but in this film, the cozy confines of 221B make his other rooms seem more than ever like a beard.

The Conan Doyle stories are still read, and probably always will be. Most readers get to at least a few. But among moviegoers on Christmas night (traditionally one of the busiest movie nights of the year), probably not so many. They will be unaware that this "Sherlock Holmes" is cheerfully revisionist. They will be entertained, and so was I. The great detective, who has survived so much, can certainly shrug off a few special effects.

Cast & Credits

Holmes- Robert Downey Jr.
Watson- Jude Law
Lord Blackwood- Mark Strong
Irene Adler- Rachel McAdams
Mary- Kelly Reilly

Warner Bros. presents a film directed by Guy Ritchie. Written by Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham and Simon Kinberg. Based on the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle. Running time: 128 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, some startling images and a scene of suggestive material).

copyright 2005,

Sherlock Holmes

By David Denby
The New Yorker
January 4, 2010

Guy Ritchie’s hyperbolic “Sherlock Holmes” isn’t a movie; it’s a franchise. Or, at least, a would-be franchise. Arthur Conan Doyle’s material has been grabbed by its velvet collar and thrown into twenty-first-century media culture. Such a turn was inevitable. The subdued charm of Conan Doyle’s hansom cabs, enveloping fogs, and courteous manners, in which the façade of gentility is broken up so delightfully by devilish conspiracies, is not of our age. In Ritchie’s version, the façade doesn’t even exist: his London is rubbled and mucky, with beggars underfoot, and fouled by half-finished industrial monstrosities. Ritchie’s visual style, aided by the cinematographer Philippe Rousselot, is graphic-novel Victoriana: there are steampunk interiors—ironworks and infernal machines with a retrofuturistic look—and dim laboratories in which everything looks rank. The movie is grimly overproduced and exhausting, an irritating, preposterous, but fitfully enjoyable work, in which every element has been inflated. The task that faces Holmes here isn’t merely to solve a murder mystery but to prevent a massacre led by a black-hearted villain who wants to tyrannize England and then take back the American colonies (the bounder!). The plot is perfervid hokum pumped up to justify the movie’s portentous look, and, for extra juice, it has squeezed pop elements from martial-arts movies, “Fight Club,” and “The Da Vinci Code.” There are secret rituals, unspeakable practices, symbols, codes, and many, many fights. Holmes (Robert Downey, Jr.), bare-chested, engages in Victorian extreme boxing before a howling arena of Englishmen with bad teeth. Dr. Watson (Jude Law) is a fighter, too, wielding cane and sabre, palm and foot. The two heroes take on a variety of bruisers with karate, jujitsu, and, for all I know, Musti-Yuddha and GongKwon Yusul. Total fighting machines, those Baker Street boys.

The excess and the extravagance extend even to Holmes and Watson’s quarters, which are so cluttered that you can’t pick out a single item in the chaos. But you see the two men clearly enough, and Downey and Law are terrific together. For me, watching them act is the movie’s principal pleasure. Holmes, in this interpretation, is an intellectual with a vast knowledge of arcane matters, but he’s also a brawler and a prankster, and he’s formidably street-smart. Downey, like Johnny Depp, has found a way of remaining hip in the most grossly frivolous and commercial projects—a quick wiggle of the eyes, a half smile, a beat or two of silence, and he conveys that he realizes it’s all nonsense. His attitude is: Yes, I know, but why not come along for the ride? The screenwriters, Michael Robert Johnson, Anthony Peckham, and Simon Kinberg, have helped create a bond between Downey and the audience with neat little jokes. Holmes’s famous ratiocination is now at the service of a man of action. In slow motion, we see the fighting techniques he plans to use against an opponent (he narrates the blows for us, insisting on the logical rightness of each one); then we see his attack again, in lightning-quick flashes.

Challenged by Downey’s energy, Jude Law, who often seems aimless in his movies, comes fully up to speed. He’s virile and quick-witted, and his Watson, if not Holmes’s equal in brainpower, comes close to him in daring. Their repartee evokes the banter of lovers in a screwball comedy; they flirt outrageously but chastely. Watson, it seems, wants to get married (to Kelly Reilly, of the freckled cheek and bosom), and Holmes tries to break up the engagement. He can’t bear to let Watson go, and Watson has some doubts, too—they have always had so much fun getting into scrapes together. But Holmes, eunuch-cold for years, also feels the allure of a woman: Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), his long-lost inamorata, turns up as a criminal. At the end, the principals live to fight again, and Professor Moriarty, who is present but mostly unseen throughout the movie, waits patiently in the dark for the inevitable sequel that will reveal his face.

Far From Holmes

New York Post
December 24, 2009

Who the deuce decided to filter Sherlock Holmes through “Batman & Robin”? “Sherlock Holmes” dumbs down a century-old synonym for intelligence with S&M gags, witless sarcasm, murky bombast and twirling action-hero moves that belong in a ninja flick.

Guy Ritchie and Robert Downey Jr on the set of "Sherlock Holmes"

Directed to do frantic American-buddy-movie shtick by Guy Ritchie, who has never before ruled a big-budget production, the normally brainy Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law compete rather than complement, each spewing his deductions like “Rain Man” meets “Good Will Hunting” instead of leading the audience through the elegant process of solving a mystery. Somebodytellthesedirectorsthattalkingfastdoesnotmakeyousoundsmart.

Holmes (Downey) and Watson (Law) are on the trail of Lord Blackwood (an unremarkable Mark Strong), a satanic serial killer who, just before getting his neck stretched on the gallows, warns Sherlock that from beyond the grave the mayhem will continue, with three further deaths to be laid at the door of 221b Baker St.

Holmes — a slovenly fly-catching weirdo instead of a detached don — charges through several fight scenes that are more Stallone than Sherlock, and the frenzied chop of the editing blurs the brawls.

A megabudget franchise movie has to have more action than a public-TV mystery, but in seeking a big American audience, Ritchie is like one of those Londoners who, when imitating a Yank, affects an exaggerated drawl supposed to connote "Texan" that lands closer to "lobotomy ward." And what's with his never-been-to-London staging? One minute the characters are tumbling out of the Houses of Parliament, the next they're miles away, at the under-construction Tower Bridge.

For Holmes to be Holmes, he has to figure out solutions, not kick them in the teeth. Assuming Edwardian London was crawling with personal trainers and fully equipped with Nautilus machines, how would the world's most devoted bookworm acquire stone-slab abs? Are there steroids in his Darjeeling?

Watson, a problem character — a straight man, a whiteboard for the answer to be sketched upon — here loses his (limited) everyman appeal and becomes a sort of knockoff Holmes, occasionally beating the master to the answer while equaling him in fisticuffery and woefulness of badinage: "Relax, I'm a doctor."

They argue about whether a little fellow is a dwarf or a midget, swap hoary one-liners ("they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity") and discuss whether Sherlock's "depravity know[s] no bounds." They agree that it does, and are proved correct when Sherlock finds himself lashed, naked and contented, to a bed.

Rachel McAdams, as Sherlock's canny but devious ex, adds no spark as she asks for help with a case that involves a shadowy professor who is trying to trap Holmes. If you're going to cast waify little sparrows like McAdams, don't expect us to buy it when she clocks a trained assassin and he collapses as if he's been Michael Strahan'd. (If Kathy Bates turned up, though, the average hired killer would put in for a hardship bonus, or maybe just call in sick.)

The best parts are in the third act, during a semi-satisfying decoding of Lord Blackwood's nefarious schemes, but the rush to disentangle everything (together with an equally crazed bit of place-setting for the sequel — invariably a sign that even the filmmakers know they didn't get it right this time) arrived after I'd lost interest.

Anyway, the payoff is the one section of the script that is too Victorian — reeking of far-fetched potions and antidotes. The rest of the movie could scarcely have been more off-base if Sherlock had worn a backwards Yankee cap instead of a deerstalker and Watson had inquired of him, "What up, Holmes?"

Pantybomber exposes naked bureaucracy

The Orange County Register
2010-01-01 09:50:55

On Christmas Day, a gentleman from Nigeria succeeded (effortlessly) in boarding a flight to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Pretty funny, huh?

But the Pantybomber wasn't the big joke. The real laugh was the United States government. The global hyperpower spent the next week making itself a laughingstock to the entire planet. First, the bureaucrats at the TSA swung into action with a whole new range of restrictions.

Against radical Yemen-trained Muslims wearing weaponized briefs? Of course not. That would be too obvious. So instead they imposed a slew of constraints against you. At Heathrow last week, they were permitting only one item of carry-on on U.S. flights. In Toronto, no large purses.

Passengers wait in line for screening at Pittsburgh International Airport Dec. 28, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Penn. New security measures at the nation's airports are in effect after a thwarted attempted terrorist attack over the holiday weekend. (Getty Images)

Um, the Pantybomber didn't have a purse. He brought the bomb on board under his private parts, and his private parts weren't part of his carry-on (although, if reports of injuries sustained in his failed mission are correct, they may well have been part of his carry-off). But no matter. If in doubt, blame the victim. The TSA announced that for the last hour of the flight no passenger can use the toilets or have anything on his lap – not a laptop, not a blanket, not a stewardess, not even a paperback book. I can't wait for the first lawsuit after an infidel flight attendant confiscates a litigious imam's Koran as they're coming into LAX.

You're still free to read a paperback if you're flying from Paris to Sydney, or Stockholm to Beijing, or Kuala Lumpur to Heathrow. But not to LAX or JFK. The TSA were responding as bonehead bureaucracies do: Don't just stand there, do something. And every time the TSA does something, you'll have to stand there, longer and longer, suffering ever more pointless indignities. Last week, guest-hosting "The Rush Limbaugh Show," I took a call from a lady who said that, if it helps keep her safe, she's happy to get to the airport "four, five, whatever hours" before the flight. Try to put a figure on "whatever" and you'll get a sense of where America's transportation system is headed. Ten years ago, you got to the airport 45 minutes, an hour before the flight. Now, thanks to the ever more demanding choreographers of the homeland security kabuki, it's two, three, four, whatever. Look at O'Hare and imagine the size of airport we'll need. And by then the Pantybomber won't even need to get on the plane; he can kill more people blowing up the check-in line.

And remember, this was a bombing mission that "failed." With failures like this, who needs victories?

Joke, joke, joke. The only good news was that the derision was so universal that the TSA promptly reined in some of their wackier impositions a couple of days later. But by then Janet Incompetano, the Homeland Security secretary, had gone on TV and declared to the world that there was nothing to worry about: "The system worked."

Indeed, it worked "smoothly." The al-Qaida trainee on a terrorist watch list, a man banned from the United Kingdom and reported to the CIA by his own father, got on board the plane, assembled the bomb, and attempted to detonate it. But don't worry 'bout a thing; the system worked.

Twenty-four hours later, Secretary Incompetano was back on TV to protest that her words had been taken "out of context." No doubt, the al Qaida-trained CIA-reported cash-paying crotch-stuffed watch-list member's smooth progress through check-in was also taken "out of context."

But by then the president of the United States had also taken to the airwaves. For three days, he had remained silent – which I believed is a world record for the 44th president. Since Jan. 20, 2009, it's been difficult to switch on the TV and not find him yakking – accepting an award in Oslo for not being George W Bush, doing Special Olympics gags with Jay Leno, apologizing for America to some dictator or other... but across the electric wires an eerie still had descended. And when the president finally spoke, even making allowances for his usual detached cool, he sounded less like a commander-in-chief addressing the nation after an attempted attack than an assistant DA at a Cook County press conference announcing a drugs bust: "Here's what we know so far... As the plane made its final approach to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, a passenger allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device... The suspect was immediately subdued... The suspect is now in custody and has been charged..."

Etc., etc., piling up one desiccated legalism on another: "Allegedly..."

"suspect..." "charged..." The president can't tell an allegedly alleged suspect (which is what he is in Obama fantasy land) from an enemy combatant (which is what he is in cold, hard reality). But worse than the complacent cop-show jargonizing was a phrase it's hard to read as anything other than a deliberate attempt to mislead the public: the president referred to the Knickerbomber as an "isolated extremist." By this time, it was already clear that young Umar had been radicalized by jihadist networks in London and fast-tracked to training in Yemen by terror operatives who understood the potentially high value of a westernized Muslim with excellent English from a respectable family. Yet President Obama tried to pass him off as some sort of lone misfit who wakes up one morning and goes bananas. Could happen to anyone.

But, if it takes the White House three days to react to an attack on the United States, their rapid-response unit can fire back in nothing flat when Dick Cheney speaks. "It is telling," huffed the president's Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, "that Vice President Cheney and others seem to be more focused on criticizing the administration than condemning the attackers."

"Condemning the attackers"? What happened to all the allegedly alleged stuff? Shouldn't that be "condemning the alleged isolated attacker"? The communications director seems to be wandering a bit off-message here, whatever the message is: The system worked, so we're inconveniencing you even more. The system failed, but the alleged suspect is an isolated extremist, so why won't that cowardly squish Cheney have the guts to condemn the attacker and his vast network of associates?

The real message was conveyed by Fouad Ajami, discussing the new administration's foreign policy in The Wall Street Journal: "No despot fears Mr. Obama, and no blogger in Cairo or Damascus or Tehran, no demonstrator in those cruel Iranian streets, expects Mr. Obama to ride to the rescue." True. Another Iranian deadline passed on New Year's Eve, but the United States will set a new one for Groundhog Day or whenever.

And, just as the thug states understand they now have the run of the planet, so do the terror cells. A thwarted terror attack at Christmas is bad enough. Spending the following week making yourself a global joke is worse. Every A-list despot and dime store jihadist got that message loud and clear – and so did American allies already feeling semi-abandoned by this most parochial of presidents. Expect a bumpy 12 months ahead. Happy New Year.


Friday, January 01, 2010

Capitalism Fingered as Fiend of the Past Decade

Reducing “capitalism” to its alleged sins.

By Jonah Goldberg
January 01, 2010, 0:00 a.m.

On the last day of 2009, that awful year, I was listening to a report on National Public Radio (yes, I’m a listener). Reporter Tamara Keith presented a by-now-familiar recap of the worst financial and corporate scandals of the decade, from Enron and Martha Stewart to Tyco and Bernie Madoff. It was a depressing slog of greed, venality, and theft. When the report was over, Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep summarized the report with a tart: “The decade in capitalism.”

I don’t want to single out Inskeep, since he was doing what pretty much the entire media establishment has done, particularly of late: reducing “capitalism” to its alleged sins.

And that’s the point. There are few areas of life where a thing responsible for so much good gets so little credit for it.

Imagine if I were to collect the most infamous deeds of African Americans over the last decade — say, Michael Vick’s dog-fighting scandal and O. J. Simpson’s most recent criminal exploit — and then put a bow on it with the phrase “the decade in black America.” What if I did the same thing with Jews? Bernie Madoff, the face of Jewish America! Do the scandals of Rod Blagojevich, Charlie Rangel, and John Edwards define the Democratic party from 2000 to 2010? Do Abu Ghraib and the balloon boy sum up America?

Consider NPR. As a brand, it claims to be standing athwart capitalism because it’s “public.” What that means exactly is a bit unclear, since it still allows corporations to fund its programming in exchange for audio endorsements none dare call commercials and relies on the kindness of listeners to keep it afloat — listeners who, one way or another, make their money from you-know-what.

Indeed, speaking of the decade in capitalism, National Public Radio failed to mention that Joan Kroc, widow of Ray Kroc, the founder of McDonald’s, left more than $200 million to NPR in 2003. Mrs. Kroc’s generosity of spirit was her own, but the wampum is all capitalism’s, baby.

In a similar vein, the decade of capitalism saw one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffett, pledge more than $30 billion to a foundation created by another offspring of capitalism, Bill Gates, for the purpose of aiding the world’s poor. Surely capitalism should get some of the credit, since the book on philanthropy in non-capitalist systems is shorter than the guide to cities without Starbucks.

Capitalism doesn’t just create generous wealthy people, but generous poor people, too. Americans give twice as much to charity as the most generous European nations, and the most generous Americans are, in fact, poor Americans.

But forget philanthropy. Since 2000, hundreds of millions of people in China and India — home to a plurality of the world’s poor — have lifted themselves out of poverty and illiteracy thanks to capitalism.

China started to embrace markets as a last resort in the late 1970s. And by last resort, I mean last resort. First they tried murdering tens of millions of their own people through collectivism and oppression. When that didn’t work, they embraced markets, and the poverty rate dropped from 64 percent to around 8 percent today.

As it always does, capitalism drove innovation over the last decade. The BlackBerry was introduced in 1999, but the iPhone didn’t exist in 2000, nor did the iPod. YouTube was a fantasy, and no one could even imagine why you’d ever need something like Facebook or Twitter (in fairness, some people still ask that question). iTunes was launched in 2003, and five years later it was outselling Wal-Mart as the No. 1 music retailer. Government-funded basic research in medical science deserves some credit for breakthroughs, but it’s worth remembering that lots of countries invest in basic research. America, with its markets, stands alone as the leading, arguably sole, source of medical innovation. Breakthrough drugs are as American as apple pie.

Every good thing capitalism helps produce — from singing careers to cures for diseases to staggering charity — is credited to some other sphere of our lives. Every problem with capitalism, meanwhile, is laid at her feet. Except the problems with capitalism — greed, theft, etc. — aren’t capitalism’s fault, they’re humanity’s. Socialist countries have greedy thieves, too.

Free markets are in disrepute these days, particularly by the people running Washington. For them, government is the solution and capitalism is the problem. If they have their way over the next decade, they won’t cure what allegedly ails capitalism — people will still steal and lie — but they will impede everything that makes capitalism great. And that will be bad for everyone, even NPR.

— 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. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

A terrorist war Obama has denied

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, January 1, 2010; A17

Janet Napolitano -- former Arizona governor, now overmatched secretary of homeland security -- will forever be remembered for having said of the attempt to bring down an airliner over Detroit: "The system worked." The attacker's concerned father had warned U.S. authorities about his son's jihadist tendencies. The would-be bomber paid cash and checked no luggage on a transoceanic flight. He was nonetheless allowed to fly, and would have killed 288 people in the air alone, save for a faulty detonator and quick actions by a few passengers.

Heck of a job, Brownie.

The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration's response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. Napolitano renames terrorism "man-caused disasters." Obama goes abroad and pledges to cleanse America of its post-9/11 counterterrorist sins. Hence, Guantanamo will close, CIA interrogators will face a special prosecutor, and Khalid Sheik Mohammed will bask in a civilian trial in New York -- a trifecta of political correctness and image management.

And just to make sure even the dimmest understand, Obama banishes the term "war on terror." It's over -- that is, if it ever existed.

Obama may have declared the war over. Unfortunately, al-Qaeda has not. Which gives new meaning to the term "asymmetric warfare."

And produces linguistic -- and logical -- oddities that littered Obama's public pronouncements following the Christmas Day attack. In his first statement, Obama referred to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as "an isolated extremist." This is the same president who, after the Fort Hood, Tex., shooting, warned us "against jumping to conclusions" -- code for daring to associate the mass murder there with Nidal Hasan's Islamist ideology. Yet, with Abdulmutallab, Obama jumped immediately to the conclusion, against all existing evidence, that the would-be bomber acted alone.

More jarring still were Obama's references to the terrorist as a "suspect" who "allegedly tried to ignite an explosive device." You can hear the echo of FDR: "Yesterday, December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- Japanese naval and air force suspects allegedly bombed Pearl Harbor."

Obama reassured the nation that this "suspect" had been charged. Reassurance? The president should be saying: We have captured an enemy combatant -- an illegal combatant under the laws of war: no uniform, direct attack on civilians -- and now to prevent future attacks, he is being interrogated regarding information he may have about al-Qaeda in Yemen.

Instead, Abdulmutallab is dispatched to some Detroit-area jail and immediately lawyered up. At which point -- surprise! -- he stops talking.

This absurdity renders hollow Obama's declaration that "we will not rest until we find all who were involved." Once we've given Abdulmutallab the right to remain silent, we have gratuitously forfeited our right to find out from him precisely who else was involved, namely those who trained, instructed, armed and sent him.

This is all quite mad even in Obama's terms. He sends 30,000 troops to fight terror overseas, yet if any terrorists come to attack us here, they are magically transformed from enemy into defendant.

The logic is perverse. If we find Abdulmutallab in an al-Qaeda training camp in Yemen, where he is merely preparing for a terror attack, we snuff him out with a Predator -- no judge, no jury, no qualms. But if we catch him in the United States in the very act of mass murder, he instantly acquires protection not just from execution by drone but even from interrogation.

The president said that this incident highlights "the nature of those who threaten our homeland." But the president is constantly denying the nature of those who threaten our homeland. On Tuesday, he referred five times to Abdulmutallab (and his terrorist ilk) as "extremist[s]."

A man who shoots abortion doctors is an extremist. An eco-fanatic who torches logging sites is an extremist. Abdulmutallab is not one of these. He is a jihadist. And unlike the guys who shoot abortion doctors, jihadists have cells all over the world; they blow up trains in London, nightclubs in Bali and airplanes over Detroit (if they can); and are openly pledged to war on America.

Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy -- jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon -- turns laxity into a governing philosophy.

Farewell to Oral Roberts

In Memoriam

By Mark Tooley on 12.31.09 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

Oral Roberts died peacefully at age 91 earlier this month, with most Americans having forgotten the Pentecostal preacher from Oklahoma who arguably became the nation's first prominent televangelist. Billy Graham was his contemporary, though Graham never relied as exclusively on television. And where Baptist Graham was stolid, Pentecostal Roberts was flamboyant. Often clad in silk suits and gold jewelry, Robert conducted faith healings, promoted an early version of the prosperity Gospel, founded a university, briefly founded a hospital, and ran an over $100 million education and ministry empire whose television broadcast went globally to millions.

As a child in the early 1970s, I often viewed his flashy Sunday morning broadcast when nothing else was on but cooking shows and art programs. The music, and preaching, were schmaltzy and often spectacular, far more so than the tame Methodist Sunday school to which I was dispatched later in the morning. The program's theme song, performed by a team of swaying, white-suited entertainers, was the wonderfully upbeat "Greater Is He," whose refrain was:

God is greater than the wisest man;
Greater than the power of sin;
Greater than the gates of Hell;
Greater than any drunk can tell;
Greater than the richest king;
Greater than anything!
Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.

My younger brother sang the song as "God is greater than Adam 12," referring to the popular police program. You can watch one version of it here, with lead singers Richard Roberts, Oral's son, and Richard's wife Patti, who later divorced Richard and wrote an embittered tell-all book about the family. Unsurprisingly sharing the stage in this version are Johnny and June Cash, as well as Oral himself. Amid all the 1970s era gloom, apparent even to children, the Roberts' blast of upbeat Christian showmanship, however garish, was much welcome.

Always controversial, Roberts was for decades a sort of cultural icon. He represented the mainstreaming of rising Pentecostalism, which previously was often relegated to the south side of the tracks. Pentecostalism, along with charismatic Christianity, is now by some estimates the fastest growing religious movement in the world, perhaps involving 500 million. Its appeal to the passions, adamant faith in the supernatural, and unapologetic boisterousness were shocking in the mid-20th century, when staid, and mostly liberal, Mainline Protestants still dominated America's religious life.
Starting his broadcasts in the 1950s, Roberts opened the way to other televangelists of varying degrees of integrity and effectiveness. Roberts' ministry had peaked by the early 1980s, if not before, when he became overshadowed by Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and others. The energy and populism behind televangelism helped feed conservative Christian political activism, which Falwell helped coalesce in the late 1970s with the Moral Majority. Robertson's run for the presidency in 1988 was perhaps the zenith of televangelism, or perhaps the initial afterglow.

Televangelism's implosion began partly with Roberts the year before Robertson's run, when Roberts told his television audience that God would "take him home" if $8 million were not raised for Roberts' ministry. Roberts isolated himself in the prayer tower of Oral Roberts University pending the fundraising's conclusion. The appeal was successful, with $9 million raised, but widely mocked and discrediting to Roberts. Swaggart referred to Roberts as a "dear brother" who was claiming God was going to "kill him" if enough checks did not clear.

Almost concurrent with Roberts' prayer tower spectacle was the self-immolation of Jim Bakker, another Pentecostal televangelist who founded a spectacularly absurd Christian theme park in North Carolina. Exposure of Bakker's pre-broadcast tryst with a young secretary compelled Bakker to temporarily turn his ministry over to Falwell, himself an arch Baptist not accustomed to Pentecostal drama. Falwell assembled a new board for Bakker's Praise the Lord (PTL) empire that included former Reagan Energy Secretary James Watt and former actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. But upon discovering Bakker's widespread financial fraud and allegedly numerous sexual infidelities, Falwell denounced Bakker as the "greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history."

Swaggart had long denounced Bakker's theme park and cheesy PTL Club program, where wife Tammy Faye was infamous for her copious tears and melting mascara. Himself a spell-binding entertainer who could fill stadiums around the world, Swaggart was hailed by no less than Dan Rather as America's best orator. A cousin and close friend to both rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis and country music star Mickey Gilley, Swaggart had a rich singing voice no less compelling, and he deservedly sold millions of Gospel albums. He also had an unfortunate addiction to pornography and to unconsummated visits with prostitutes, with whom he publicly was exposed not once but twice, first in 1988, and later in 1991. Swaggart's ministry, which included a global television broadcast that purportedly had reached 500 million, shriveled.

Initially Swaggart had criticized Robertson's run for the presidency but later was persuaded by Robertson's personal visit. Bakker and Roberts had also been supportive. But after controversies neutralized all three televangelists within months, Robertson lost some of his political momentum. He performed well in the Iowa caucuses but afterwards never really threatened Vice President George Bush, whom Jerry Falwell supported. Falwell's own Moral Majority had largely ebbed by then, soon to be overshadowed by Robertson's new Christian Coalition, which itself barely survived the 1990s.

Falwell and Roberts are now gone, Swaggart and Bakker now quietly run smaller ministries, and Robertson, nearly age 80, still helps to host his daily 700 Club broadcast. Roberts was perhaps the progenitor of their movement, and he embodied many of televangelism's colorful strengths and foibles. Though he sometimes lived lavishly, Roberts avoided Swaggart or Bakker style moral collapses. He also largely shunned the political temptations to which Robertson and Falwell succumbed. Maybe he is again singing "Greater is He" with Johnny and June Cash, but now on a more exalted stage.

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

O's day of reckoning

New York Post
December 31, 2009

It's showtime, folks! Today's the deadline President Obama imposed on Iran's leaders to give up their nuclear ambitions and be nice.

Not sure if the deadline expires at midnight in Tehran or on Washington time, but the mullahs and President Mahmoud "Mighty Mouse" Ahmadinejad aren't scrambling to give Obama a New Year's Eve smooch.

Rather than cave in to our president's mighty rhetoric, the Tehran tyrants took a break from killing protesters in the streets to attempt to import more than 1,300 tons of make-a-nuke uranium ore from Kazakhstan.

They've also increased their nuke-cooker centrifuge count, tested new long-range missiles and lied like Persian rugs about hidden nuke sites. In response, our president threatened to huff and puff and blow their house down.

Iran's retort? "Love the cool breeze, Barack."

This is another debacle of Obama's own making. It's a fundamental rule of playgrounds and security policy that you shouldn't make threats you can't or won't back up. But Obama's in love with the sound of his own voice. The fanatics in Tehran are more interested in the sound of a nuclear blast.

Desperate leftists in our country still compare Obama to Bush, insisting that, well, Obama's not doing so badly, not really, not if you really think about it.

Bush, for all his faults, worried our enemies. Obama amuses them.

Obama's primary threat against the Tehran thugs has been sanctions. OK, let's see if he can get internationally recognized sanctions that actually bite. I'm offering 100-to-1 odds in Tehran's favor.

China won't play. Beijing wants Iran's oil and values Tehran as a regional cat's paw.

Dubai won't halt its massive illicit trade with Iran. Local ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum's desert playground is $80 billion in the hole. And smuggling's Dubai's only growth industry these days.

And Russia will cheat on any paper agreements. As will the 'stans of Central Asia. And Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait. Iraq, too. And Pakistan.

Obama's threatened sanctions get even more laughable, since they'd target only Iran's power elite. Insiders in any dictatorship are those best able to duck the pain of sanctions. So Ahmadinejad can't get a visa for a Vegas vacation. That'll teach him a lesson.

Only comprehensive sanctions backed by a military blockade have any chance of working. Otherwise, as we've seen in North Korea, the well-connected continue to feast while the commoners faint from hunger. And there won't be a blockade, folks.

If sanctions weren't enough of a joke, we also have Obama's all-too-obvious reluctance to back the millions of Iranians struggling for freedom and democracy. Our president's empty remarks this week checked the block for nervous American leftists, but provided no useful support to Iranians risking their lives for basic rights.

What should this inept administration do? Provide clandestine, covert and overt support to Iran's freedom crusaders. And funnel money and arms to Baluchi, Kurdish, Azeri and Arab separatists willing to take on the Revolutionary Guard jihadis.

Meanwhile, a paradox arises from those courageous demonstrations in Iran: They really do threaten the monstrous regime of the mullahs -- and that makes Iran's bully-boys even more likely to use nukes as soon as they get them.

If Ahmadinejad and the turbaned tyrants sense that time's running out, they'll launch any nukes they have against Israel in a frantic attempt to kick-start Armageddon and entice the Hidden Imam to return.

These are not rational actors by our standards. They're authentic fanatics. And the (shrinking) civilized world is racing against the clock to change the Tehran regime before the regime can change the world.

President Obama's answer? Make it harder for Iran's rulers to acquire foreign luxury goods. Guess Ahmadinejad and the Ayatollah Khamenei won't be drinking Chateau Margaux or Cheval Blanc at their we-popped-a-nuke celebration.

While Obama dithers, Israel may have to act. The Gulf will explode. Oil will be a bargain at $400 a barrel. The global economy will freeze. And we'll be in the fight anyway.

And then? Obama will interrupt another vacation to explain that those wicked Israelis didn't give his sanctions time to work. And it'll be Bush's fault, too. And America's. And Islam will have nothing to do with religious madmen murdering their own people in the streets and begging Allah to help them nuke their neighbors.

Happy New Year!


By Ann Coulter
December 30, 2009

In response to a Nigerian Muslim trying to blow up a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day, the government will now prohibit international travelers from going to the bathroom in the last hour before the plane lands.

Terrorists who plan to bomb planes during the first seven hours of the eight-hour flight, however, should face no difficulties, provided they wait until after the complimentary beverage service has been concluded.

How do they know Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab didn't wait until the end of the flight to try to detonate explosives because he heard the stewardess announce that the food service was over and seats would have to be placed in their upright position? I can't finish my snack? This plane is going down!
Also prohibited in the last hour of international flights will be: blankets, pillows, computers and in-flight entertainment. Another triumph in Janet Napolitano's "Let's stay one step behind the terrorists" policy!

For the past eight years, approximately 2 million Americans a day have been subjected to humiliating searches at airport security checkpoints, forced to remove their shoes and jackets, to open their computers, and to remove all liquids from their carry-on bags, except minuscule amounts in marked 3-ounce containers placed in Ziploc plastic bags -- folding sandwich bags are verboten -- among other indignities.

This, allegedly, was the price we had to pay for safe airplanes. The one security precaution the government refused to consider was to require extra screening for passengers who looked like the last three-dozen terrorists to attack airplanes.

Since Muslims took down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, every attack on a commercial airliner has been committed by foreign-born Muslim men with the same hair color, eye color and skin color. Half of them have been named Mohammed.

An alien from the planet "Not Politically Correct" would have surveyed the situation after 9/11 and said: "You are at war with an enemy without uniforms, without morals, without a country and without a leader -- but the one advantage you have is they all look alike. ... What? ... What did I say?"

The only advantage we have in a war with stateless terrorists was ruled out of order ab initio by political correctness.

And so, despite 5 trillion Americans opening laptops, surrendering lip gloss and drinking breast milk in airports day after day for the past eight years, the government still couldn't stop a Nigerian Muslim from nearly blowing up a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day.

The "warning signs" exhibited by this particular passenger included the following:

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He's Nigerian.

He's a Muslim.

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

He boarded a plane in Lagos, Nigeria.

He paid nearly $3,000 in cash for his ticket.

He had no luggage.

His name was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.

Two months ago, his father warned the U.S. that he was a radical Muslim and possibly dangerous.

If our security procedures can't stop this guy, can't we just dispense with those procedures altogether? What's the point exactly?

(To be fair, the father's warning might have been taken more seriously if he had not simultaneously asked for the U.S. Embassy's Social Security number and bank routing number in order to convey a $28 million inheritance that was trapped in a Nigerian bank account.)

The warning from Abdulmutallab's father put his son on some list, but not the "no fly" list. Apparently, it's tougher to get on the "no fly" list than it was to get into Studio 54 in the '70s. Currently, the only people on the "no fly" list" are the Blind Sheik and Sean Penn.

The government is like the drunk looking for his keys under a lamppost. Someone stops to help, and asks, "Is this where you lost them?" No, the drunk answers, but the light's better here.

The government refuses to perform the only possibly effective security check -- search Muslims -- so instead it harasses infinitely compliant Americans. Will that help avert a terrorist attack? No, but the Americans don't complain.

The only reason Abdulmutallab didn't succeed in bringing down an airplane with 278 passengers was that: (1) A brave Dutchman leapt from his seat and extinguished the smoldering Nigerian; and (2) the Nigerian apparently didn't have enough detonating fluid to cause a powerful explosion.

In addition to the no blanket, no computer, no bathroom rule, perhaps the airlines could add this to their preflight announcement about seat belts and emergency exits: "Should a passenger sitting near you attempt to detonate an explosive device, you may be called upon to render emergency assistance. Would you be willing to do so under those circumstances? If not we will assign you another seat ..."


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Muslim Guerilla Training in New York

30 December 2009

The Christian Action Network has been provided with two tapes never before seen by the public. The first shows female Muslim recruits receiving paramilitary training at a 70-acre isolated compound in New York called “Islamberg.” The second shows members of the Muslims of the Americas organization declaring the U.S. a Muslim state and avowing that they will fight the enemies targeting American-Muslims and pledging allegiance to their Pakistan-based leader. To watch a highlight of the footage, click here.

More Guns, Less Crime in '09

By Joe Gimenez
30 December 2009

Americans went on binges buying guns and ammunition in early 2009, worried that a radical leftist president and Democrat-dominated Congress would violate their Second-Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. The effects? Less murder, robbery, rape, and property crime, according to an FBI report released Monday. This gives the young president and Democrat Congress at least one proud but unintended accomplishment for which they'll never claim credit.

Indeed, gun buyers were out in droves in late 2008 and early 2009. While it's easy to infer that increased gun ownership figures align precisely with the drop in crime in the same calendar period, you won't see that headline in the New York Times, despite their penchant for such inferences about increases in crime coinciding with increasing "guns on the street."

The gun-buying started shortly before, and then took off after, Obama's election. The Toronto Star reported a 15% increase of 108,000 more FBI background checks in October 2008 than during the same month in 2007. People were already anticipating the dire consequences of an Obama victory. Then, in November 2008, the number of FBI background checks on applicants buying guns spiked 42% from the previous year. The FBI performed 12.7 million background checks in 2008, compared to 11.2 million in 2007, a 13% increase.

More evidence of rampant gun-buying loads up in the states. Through June 2009, the Texas Department of Public Safety received a monthly average of 12,700 applications for concealed handgun licenses, up 46% from the average in 2007. Even the New York Times noted how gun sales were up in 2009; in a June story, it focused on its less sophisticated neighbors in New Jersey. Even in liberal Massachusetts, gun permits surged 15% over the last two years (after falling several years before that).

While background checks and applications for concealed handgun licenses don't directly equate to the number of new guns on the street -- some applicants are refused, and applications can include multiple guns at the same time of purchase -- the numbers do indicate that more law-abiding Americans had new or enhanced arms in the first six months of 2009. Most criminals don't subject themselves to background checks.

(This is a good place to note that "new guns on the street" is just a liberal scare cliché we should not carelessly adopt. These statistics indicate the real dynamic: gun purchases and concealed licenses acquisitions are made predominantly by law-abiding citizens taking their guns home with them from the store, for self-defense, hunting, and target-shooting purposes.)
But shouldn't more guns equate to more murders and other violent crime?
Only if you live in liberal never-never land.

That certainly has not been the case in early 2009. Guns are purchased so that good people can protect themselves against bad people. And moreover, self-protection is a basic human right, despite the fact that our new wise Latina Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor couldn't bring herself to acknowledge that this summer.

The newspapers west of the Hudson River are chock full of stories in which law-abiding citizens protected themselves by using guns. And these are just the incidents that are reported. The Armed Citizen blog does a great job of capturing these stories in their raw form, and every thinking American needs to make his own inferences about the value of guns in these situations: They prevent people from becoming statistics. Go through the news reports compiled on the Armed Citizen blog and make your own count of people who refused to become statistics.

For instance, in May, eleven students in Atlanta avoided becoming murder statistics thanks to the bravery of one among them who had a gun in his backpack. He used it to kill one robber and injure another. Chillingly, the news reports describe how the robbers were counting their bullets to make sure they had enough to kill their victims. One of the robbers was about to rape a woman as well. That's at least thirteen fewer violent crimes (murder, rape, robbery) that did not need to be included in the FBI's crime report for the first half of 2009.

As 2009 winds down, the Democratic Party deserves an off-handed "thank you" for inspiring more law-abiding citizens to purchase weapons and protect themselves from bad people, at least in the first half of the year.

But even while giving them that tribute, it's important to reflect that the only direct result of their gun control efforts in the past -- the Clinton administration's regulation forbidding U.S. military personnel from carrying personal firearms -- resulted in the deaths of thirteen people and an unborn infant in Fort Hood.

Sadly, those deaths will add to an increase in the second half of 2009's statistics -- and renewed calls for gun control legislation, to be sure.

13 Comments on "More Guns, Less Crime in '09"

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Why climate change is hot hot hot

Blame a combination of corrupted science, ersatz religion and Third World opportunism

by Mark Steyn on Thursday, December 24, 2009

According to the CIA’s analysis, “detrimental global climatic change” threatens “the stability of most nations.” And, alas, for a global phenomenon, Canada will be hardest hit. The entire Dominion from the Arctic to the 49th parallel will be under 150 feet of ice.

Oh, wait. That was the last “scientific consensus” on “climate change,” early seventies version, as reflected in a CIA report from August 1974, which the enterprising author Maurizio Morabito stumbled upon in the British Library the other day. If only the impending ice age had struck as scheduled and Scandinavia was now under a solid block of ice. Instead, the streets of Copenhagen are filled with “activists” protesting global warming, some of whom torch automobiles in the traditional manner of concerned idealists. As long as it’s not my car, I can just about live with these chaps, preferring on balance thuggish street politics to the spaced-out cultish stupor in which many of their confreres wander glassy-eyed from event to event. On the Internet, there is a telling clip of Christopher Monckton interacting with a young Norwegian from Greenpeace who has come along to protest the former’s “denialism.” Monckton is a viscount—i.e., a lord, like his fellow denialist, the former British chancellor Lord Lawson. Now that’s what I call peer review! (House of Lords joke.) Lord Monckton has the faintly parodic mien of many aristocrats, whereas the Greenpeace gal was a Nordic blond. If there were empty stools adjoining both parties at the Climate Conference bar, you’d head for hers before some carbon-credit travelling salesman swiped it. Big mistake. Monckton was the soul of affability, gently suggesting places where she could check out the data. She, by contrast, seemed barely sentient, clinging to rote emotionalism and impervious to reason, data, facts, inquiry.

As I always say, if you’re 30 there has been no global warming for your entire adult life. If you’re graduating high school after a lifetime of eco-brainwashing, there has been no global warming since you entered first grade. None. After the leaked data from East Anglia revealed that Dr. Phil Jones (privately) conceded this point, Tim Flannery, one of the A-list warm-mongers in Copenhagen, owned up to it on Aussie TV, too. Yet, when I reprised the line in this space a couple of weeks back, thinking it was now safe for polite society, I was besieged by the usual “YOU LIE!!!!!!!” emails angrily denouncing me for failing to explain that the cooling trend of the oughts is in fact merely a blip in the long-term warming trend of the nineties.

Well, maybe. Then again, perhaps the warming trend of the nineties is merely a blip in the long-term ice age trend of the early seventies. I doubt many of my caps-lock emailers are aware of the formerly imminent ice age. It was in Newsweek and the New York Times, and it produced the occasional bestseller. But, unlike today’s carbon panic, it wasn’t everywhere; it wasn’t, in every sense, the air that we breathe. Unlike Al Gore’s wretched movie, it wasn’t taught in schools. TV networks did not broadcast during children’s time apocalyptic public service announcements that in any other circumstance would constitute child abuse. Unlike today, where incoming mayors announce that as their first act in office they’re banning bottled water from council meetings, ostentatious displays of piety were not ubiquitous. It was not a universal pretext for recoiling from progress: back in the seventies, upscale municipalities that now obsess about emissions standards of hot-air dryers were busy banning garden clotheslines on aesthetic grounds. There were no fortunes to be made from government grants for bogus “renewable energy” projects. Unlike Al Gore, carbon billionaire, nobody got rich peddling ice offsets.

The man with the sandwich board announcing the end of the world on Jan. 7 is usually unfazed when he wakes up on the morning of Jan. 8. He realigns the runes, repaints the sign, and reschedules Armageddon for May 23. The rest of us, on the other hand, scoff.

But not with this crowd. First it was the new ice age. Then it became global warming. Now it’s “climate change.” If it’s hot, that’s climate change. If it’s cold, that’s climate change. If it’s 12° C and partly sunny with a 30 per cent chance of mild precipitation in the afternoon, you should probably pack emergency supplies and head for higher ground because global milding is rampaging out of control, and lack of climate change is, as every scientist knows, the defining proof of climate change.

Indeed, our response to climate change can itself cause climate change that manifests itself in lack of climate change. A couple of days back, the Guardian ran the following story:

“The hole in the earth’s ozone layer has shielded Antarctica from the worst effects of global warming until now.”

Remember the ozone layer? It was all the rage back in the old days. It was caused by spray-on deodorants, apparently. So we packed ’em in, and switched over to roll-on deodorants. And, because we forswore the sinful spraying of armpits, the hole began to heal. Which is tough on the Antarctic ice cap. Because the only reason it isn’t melting is because the ozone hole isn’t fully closed up. Once it is, more hot air will remain trapped and melt the ice. It may be time to start spraying your armpit hair again.

Why did “climate change” remain the boutique scare-story of a few specialists last time round, and gain global traction this time round? In the Spectator, Maurizio Morabito puts it this way:

“Is the problem with the general public, who cannot talk about climate except in doom-laden terms, and for whom the sky is the last animist god?”
That last part explains a lot. Forty years ago conventional religious belief was certainly in decline in what we once knew as Christendom, but the hole was not yet ozone-layer sized. Once the sea of faith had receded far from shore, the post-Christian West looked at what remained and found “Gaia.” Not long ago, in Burlington, Vt., I got into a somewhat heated discussion about global warming with a lady who accused me of ignoring “science.” She then drove away in a car with the bumper sticker “THE EARTH IS YOUR MOTHER.” In Quebec City for the Summit of the Americas in 2001, I sought a breather from the heady scent of Sûreté du Québec tear gas and idled away half an hour among a display of brassieres promoting “sustainable development.” One (a 54D, as I recall) read “THE EARTH IS MA MÈRE.” In flagrant breach of Quebec’s Bill 101, the francophone right cup was not twice the size of the anglophone left cup. If the earth is our mother, who are we to dictate to the goddess? As Lord Monckton pointed out to that Norwegian CO2-head, we’ve had climate change for four billion years. But now apparently there is an ideal state that Ma Mère has to be maintained in. A belief in a garden of Eden which man through sin has despoiled sounds familiar. But this time we get to pick. Not the Medieval Warm Period that causes the “scientific consensus” such problems, and not presumably the bucolic state the planet was in when Canada was 150 feet under, but some pristine condition somewhere in between.

When man was made in the image of God, he was fallen but redeemable. Gaia’s psychologically unhealthy progeny are merely irredeemable. Anti-humanism is everywhere, not least in the barely concealed admiration for China’s (demographically disastrous) “One Child” policy advanced by everyone from the National Post’s Diane Francis to Sir David Attenborough, the world’s leading telly naturalist but also a BBC exec who once long ago commissioned the great series The Ascent of Man. If Sir David’s any guide, the great thing about man’s ascent is it gives him a higher cliff to nosedive off.

Very few sciences could survive being embraced as a religion. Imagine the kind of engineering or math you’d get if it also had to function as a “faith tradition.” What’s also changed since the seventies is the nature of the UN and the transnational bureaucracies. Once it became obvious that “climate change” represents an almost boundless shakedown of functioning jurisdictions by dysfunctional basket cases, the die was cast. “Aid” is a discredited word these days and comes with too many strings attached. But eco-credits sluiced through an oil-for-food program on steroids offers splendid new opportunities for bulking up an ambitious dictator’s Swiss bank accounts.

And, because of this malign combination—corrupted science, ersatz religion, Third World opportunism—global warming took off in a way the old ice age never did. It would perhaps be too much to expect a generation of brainwashed schoolkids to shake off their brain-dead conformism. And so, between the anti-human left and an alliance of rapacious dictatorships, it now falls to a handful of economically expansive emerging nations—India, China, Brazil, a couple of others—to save the developed world from itself.

Lying to ourselves

Blindness to Islam ties helps terrorists

By Ralph Peters
New York Post
December 29, 2009

On Christmas Day, an Islamist fanatic tried to blow up an airplane whose passengers were mostly Christians. And we helped.

Our government gets no thanks for preventing a tragedy. Only the bomber's ineptitude preserved the lives of nearly 300 innocents.

How did we help Umar Abdulmutallab, a wealthy Muslim university graduate who decided that Allah wanted him to slaughter Christians on their most joyous holiday?

By continuing to lie to ourselves. Although willing -- at last -- to briefly use the word "terror," yesterday President Obama still refused to make a connection between the action, the date and Islam.

Abdulmuttalab: Chose Christmas for a reason.(AP)

Was it just a ticketing accident that led to a bombing attempt on Christmas?
Was it all about blackout dates and frequent-flyer miles?

It wasn't. You know it. And I know it. But our government refuses to know it. Despite vast databases crammed with evidence, our leaders -- of both parties -- still refuse to connect Islamist terrorism with Islam.

Our insistence that "Islam's a religion of peace" would have been cold comfort to the family members of those passengers had the bomb detonated as planned.

Abdulmutallab's own father warned our diplomats that his son had been infected by Islamist extremism. Our diplomats did nothing. Why? Because (despite a series of embassy bombings) the State Department dreads linking terrorism to Islam.

Contrast our political correctness with Abdulmutallab's choice of Christmas for his intended massacre. Our troops stand down on Muslim holidays. A captive terrorist merely has to claim that a soldier dog-eared a Koran, and it's courts-martial all around.

We proclaim that the terrorists "don't represent Islam." OK, whom do they represent? The Franciscans? We don't get to decide what's Islam and what isn't. Muslims do. And far too many of them approve of violent jihad.

It gets worse. Instead of focusing on the religious zeal and inspiration of our enemies and how such motivations change the game, our "terrorism experts" agonize over whether such beasts as Abdulmutallab or Maj. Hasan, the Fort Hood assassin for Allah, are really members of al Qaeda or not.

As a Sunday Post editorial pointed out, al Qaeda's far more than a formal organization; it's an idea, a cause. If a terrorist says he's al Qaeda, he is, even if he doesn't have a union card from Jihadi Local 632.

We're dealing with a global Muslim movement, not a Masons' lodge.

And that "global" aspect is especially worrying. Despite limited Special Operations strikes beyond our recognized combat zones, we still don't accept the nature of the threat from jet-set jihadis. Our leaders and our military are obsessed with holding ground in Afghanistan -- even though al Qaeda's growth areas are in Yemen and Africa.

We voluntarily tie ourselves down, while our enemies focus on mobility. Worse, we've convinced ourselves that development aid (the left's all-purpose medicine) is the key to defeating al Qaeda.

That's utter nonsense. Abdulmutallab's a rich kid. He didn't come from a deprived background, bearing the grievances of the slum. He's a graduate of a top English university. And Osama bin Laden's from a super-rich family. How does building a footbridge in Afghanistan deter them?

Most of our home-grown Islamist terrorists hail from middle-class families -- such monsters as Maj. Hasan or the Virginia virgin-chasers under arrest in Pakistan (where jail conditions are a lot worse than at Guantanamo -- can't we just leave 'em there?).

This isn't a revolt of the wretched of the earth. These terrorists are the Muslim-fanatic versions of Bill Ayers and the Weathermen, pampered kids unhappy with the world. Al Qaeda's big guns are re- belling against privilege. There's a lot of Freud in this fundamentalism.

Spoiled brats remade their god in their own vengeful image. And we have to kill them. This one really is a zero-sum game.

We're not just fighting men but a plague of faith. Until Washington accepts that, we'll continue to reap a low return on our investments of blood and treasure.

On Christmas Day, a Muslim fanatic attempted to butcher hundreds of Christians (dead Jews would've been a bonus). Our response? Have airport security analyze the contents of grandma's mini-bottle of shampoo -- we don't want to "discriminate."

With our lies, self-deception and self-flagellation, we're terror's little helpers.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."

Chistmas Airliner Attack — the al Qaeda Connection

[Andy McCarthy]
December 28, 2009

Naturally, the hapless Janet Napolitano resorted to the now-standard pronouncement — before any meaningful investigation can be done — that there is no indication the terrorist who tried to bring down the flight is part of a larger terrorist plot. On this occasion, there was even less basis for this idiocy than usual: The Nigerian jihadist, Umar Farouk Abdul Mudallad, reportedly told the FBI he was trained by al Qaeda in Yemen. Even if he were ultimately proven to be lying about that, it is at least an indication of a larger plot — as is the similarity between this incident and Richard Reid's al Qaeda-backed attack in 2001.

Janet Napolitano admitted on Monday that America's aviation security system "did not work" in the failed Christmas Day terrorist attack Photo: AFP/GETTY

That is to say, indications of a larger plot abound. The prudent course is thus to say, "We are aggressively investigating all possibilities" and leave it at that. At this premature stage, no sensible person would be surprised to hear that; but saying it suggests we might be open to the possibility that there's a massive international Islamic terror conspiracy — can't have that.

In any event, ABC News is now reporting not only that al Qaeda has taken credit for the foiled attack (and is promising more of the same) but that former Gitmo detainees released in 2007 may be behind it. The ABC report is probably right in its conclusion, but it is flawed in some important details. For example, one of the former detainees it cites, Muhammad Attik al-Harbi, is probably not in Yemen right now — having recently surrendered to Saudi Arabia for re-immersion in its laughing-stock re-education program. But ABC fails to mention another Gitmo alum, Ibrahim Rubaish, who is a major al Qaeda player in Yemen, as is Said al-Shihri, who is mentioned in the ABC report — though they call him "Said Ali Shari." They may very well be complicit.

For a better sense of the potentially involved Yemeni players, check out this Tom Joscelyn post at the Standard's blog. Aside from the fact that Tom knows more than anyone in America about the Gitmo detainees (at least anyone who only has access to public information), the remarkable thing about his analysis is that it was done two days ago — when our Homeland Security Secretary was spouting her "no indication of a larger terrorist plot" nonsense while celebrating that "the system worked."

12/28 06:15 PM

Monday, December 28, 2009

By pulling Manning, Colts forsake chance at perfection

By Bob Kravitz
The Indianapolis Star
28 December 2009

They tossed perfection away like a Christmas leftover. They treated it with a casual shrug of the shoulders, disdain even, as if they were beyond such a trivial pursuit. Standing on the precipice of NFL history, the Indianapolis Colts' brain trust arrogantly, foolishly, treated Sunday's second half like a preseason game.

Peyton Manning and Jim Caldwell during yesterday's 29-15 loss to the New York Jets (Matt Dietrich/The Star)

The Colts rested many starters, particularly quarterback Peyton Manning, for most of the second half in Sunday's 29-15 loss to the New York Jets at Lucas Oil Stadium -- the Colts' first loss of the season after a 14-0 start.

What happens now? Does this guarantee the Colts will reach the Super Bowl? Is that how it works?

At least the New England Patriots (2007) and the New Orleans Saints ('09) tried to do something special and noble, tried to do something that had been done just once in NFL history. At least they tried to put a scare into the 1972 Miami Dolphins, who really should be sending a case of champagne up to Colts President Bill Polian and coach Jim Caldwell first thing this morning.

The Colts, though, couldn't have been bothered. They treated the second half as if it were gum on the bottom of a shoe. They sent in backup quarterback Curtis Painter to hold on to a 15-10 lead, and it was like having Mel's Detailing put the finishing touches on the Sistine Chapel.

It felt wrong. It was wrong. Cheap, really.

The players? They wanted this. At least a fair shot at it.

"Who wouldn't?" Reggie Wayne said. "I mean . . . who wouldn't? Doesn't everybody want to be a part of history? Not a season goes by that you don't hear about the '72 Dolphins."

He paused.

"I guess there's a bigger picture," Wayne said. "We all wanted to play, but the big dog (Caldwell) made a decision and we have to roll with that decision. We came out after halftime and felt like we were starting to roll and could score some points, but the manager took us off the mound."

On a day when the locker room cleared out more quickly than usual, virtually every Colt was parroting the company line, Manning included. And that's no surprise. This team doesn't do controversy, at least not in public. During most of the second half, Manning just stood silently and helplessly, watching as the perfect season circled the drain.

"We are followers of our head coach and the people in the organization to lead us and give us direction," Manning said. "That's the way we've always done around here. Our job is to take instructions from our superiors and follow those instructions."

At least in 2005, the San Diego Chargers came to the RCA Dome and took the perfect season away from the Colts' front-liners. This time, the Colts flat-out gave it away.

Perhaps they are above all of that. Maybe Polian and Caldwell are smarter than everybody else. Or maybe they're just too smart for their own good.

"The perfect season has never been one of our goals," Caldwell said after becoming the first 14-1 head coach ever booed by his team's fans. "It's never been anything we focused on or anything we talked about. Obviously, we were placed in this situation, but you still have to look at your objective and keep an eye on what's most important."

There was no grousing about the decisions to sit several players, all of whom were dealing with injuries of some sort. That's the luxury you enjoy when you clinch the top seed in 13 games.

Ultimately, this was about one player -- Manning. The moment poor Painter came into the game in the third quarter, you could sense the deflation, in the offense, in the defense and in the crowd. The Colts had waved the figurative white flag, and everybody knew it.

"Jim was going to make that call whenever he felt it was appropriate," Polian said. Asked about the fans' angry response -- and remember now, they're still 14-1 -- he said, "I understand that. . . . I can."

In the end, this doesn't make the Colts any more or less well-equipped to handle the coming postseason. The truth is, they could win the whole thing (in which case Polian and Caldwell will accept the mantle of genius) or they could lose their first playoff game (in which case, we will mention this game a couple thousand times). This wasn't about that, and really, nothing changes in terms of the team's Super Bowl aspirations.

What mattered -- or at least mattered to some of us, including the players -- was the chance to become one of football's forever teams. The Jets? At home? With that offense? And then a game at Buffalo next week? It was right there. Right there.

The Colts casually gave away this thing, spitting on football history along the way. Maybe an organization that has lost its first-round playoff game four times in seven years knows a better way, but we've seen what happens when this team stops trying to do its best to win. Saw it in 2005. Saw it in '07.

"Nobody said anything (to Caldwell)," Wayne said. "What could we say? This was his decision. We've got to live with it."

The Colts are no less a Super Bowl contender today than they were two days ago. But they had a chance, a rare opportunity to chase the ghosts of '72. And they acted like none of it mattered.

Someday, they will look back at this game, this moment in history, and decry the fact that they weren't allowed to chase the ultimate greatness.

What the Near-Tragedy in Detroit Revealed

By Daniel Pipes
28 December 2009

The near-success of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, to set off an explosive on Christmas Day should open the American public’s eyes to the sad state of counterterrorism eight years after 9/11.

The incident involved a Nigerian in Seat 19A – ideally placed over the fuel tanks, atop the wing, and next to the exterior of the aircraft – of Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. As summarized by the Wall Street Journal, it

happened as the Airbus 330-300 carrying 289 people was approaching Detroit. Mr. Abdulmutallab went to the plane’s restroom for about 20 minutes, and upon returning to his seat he stated that his stomach was upset, and he pulled a blanket over himself, according to the Justice Department complaint. As the flight was heading for a landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport before noon, the complaint alleges, Mr. Abdulmutallab set off the device. Passengers heard popping noises similar to firecrackers, smelled an odor, and some observed Mr. Abdulmutallab’s pants leg and the wall of the airplane on fire.

Subsequent investigations learned that the plot was organized and launched by Al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen, who arranged for 80 grams of PETN (pentaerythritol) to be sewed into Abdulmutallab’s underwear. Investigators concluded that only a chance malfunction prevented the explosives from bringing down the Northwest plane.

Umar Farouk’s father, Umaru Abdulmutallab, former chairman of the First Bank of Nigeria and one of his country’s most prominent businessmen, recently went to the U.S. embassy in Abuja to warn about his son’s “radicalization and associations,” prompting American officialdom to place the son on a terror watch list of about 550,000 names, the Terrorist Screening Data Base. But they did not place him on the list of about 15,000 individuals who must go through additional screening, much less the list of about 4,000 people on the “no-fly” list, who are not allowed to fly to or in the United States. Nor did they revoke Abdulmutallab’s two-year, multi-entry tourist visa. Nor did an air marshal accompany his flight.

Despite these multiple failures, Janet Napolitano, the Department of Homeland Security secretary, astonishingly claimed that the system “worked really very, very smoothly” in Detroit. This myopia increases my worries about U.S. law enforcement. In fact, had the system worked, Abdulmutallab would never have entered the airplane, much less set off an explosive device.

Looking ahead, the Transportation Security Administration has issued an emergency order requiring travelers headed for the United States to undergo a “thorough pat-down” at the boarding gate, with a focus on the upper legs and torso and an inspection of carry-on baggage, with a focus on syringes. During the final hour on all U.S. flights, passengers must remain seated, may not access carry-on baggage or keep personal item in their laps.

More delights may follow, reports the New York Times: “Overseas passengers will be restricted to only one carry-on item aboard the plane. … On one flight, from Newark Airport, flight attendants kept cabin lights on for the entire trip instead of dimming them for takeoff and landing. … All carry-on items would be screened at security checkpoints and again at boarding. … In effect, the restrictions mean that passengers on flights of 90 minutes or less would most likely not be able to leave their seats at all.”

As Phyllis Chesler plaintively asks, “Are we all going to be subjected to underwear checks before boarding our flights? If so, Al-Qaeda will soon secrete explosives in body cavities. Will we all be searched there as well?”

In other words, because U.S. security agencies refuse to take the sensible precaution of concentrating their resources on the small target pool of suspects, namely Muslims, about 1 percent of the population, hundreds of millions of passengers must bear the burden of extra cost, inconvenience, and loss of privacy.

The Detroit abruptly renders invalid several aphorisms I honed over recent years:

* Had U.S. law enforcement devoted the attention to the 9/11 plotters that it has since given to counterterrorism, 9/11 would never have taken place.

* While Sudden Jihad Syndrome by isolated individuals remains beyond the abilities of American institutions to stop (viz., the Ft. Hood shooter last month), terrorists linked to Al-Qaeda are well under surveillance.

* Government authorities have terrorism under control, so we private analysts can focus instead on the non-violent forms of radical Islam known variously as “stealth jihad,” “creeping Shari‘a,” “lawful Islamism,” or “Islamism 2.0.”

The Northwest incident takes me back to 9/11 itself, when I wrote a bitter analysis how the U.S. government had “grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm.” That failure continues.

What size disaster must occur to inspire a serious approach to counterterrorism?

Flight 253 and Counterterror’s Epic Failure

By Robert Spencer
28 December 2009

An attempted jihad attack on Christmas Day has revealed that Americans are much more vulnerable to such attacks than most have believed – while government officials whistle in the dark. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the 23-year-old son of a wealthy Nigerian banker, tried to blow up Northwest Airlines Flight 253 just before it landed in Detroit. In response, Barack Obama chose not to cut short his golfing vacation in Hawaii; the White House announced that he would “likely” have something to say about this latest attempted jihad attack on U.S. soil “in the next few days.” Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was ebullient, maintaining that “the system worked” and “everything happened that should have.”

Unless the “system” was consisted of relying on passengers to tackle jihadists (as Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch passenger on Flight 253, subdued Abdulmutallab), and trusting that jihadis’ detonators will malfunction (as did Abdulmutallab’s), Napolitano’s statement couldn’t possibly be farther from the truth. In reality, nothing worked. Nothing at all, both in terms of security procedures for individual air passengers, and in terms of the larger strategy for dealing with jihad terrorism.

All the stupid and humiliating airport security procedures, all the little baggies for toothpaste and shampoo, all the padding through the security scanner in stocking feet, didn’t work. Abdulmutallab was able to board the plane with the makings of a bomb that would have destroyed the aircraft and killed everyone in it. The Transportation Security Administration has scrambled since Christmas Day to stiffen security procedures, but its effort is foredoomed: jihadis study these procedures carefully, always searching for ways to circumvent them. And such ways exist, even if every passenger were subjected to a full body cavity search – bomb ingredients can be separated and combined mid-flight, or spirited onboard in ways as yet unimagined by the most visionary TSA official.

Abdulmutallib was also on a terror watch list, although that fact, and the fact that he had been known to anti-terror officials for several years, did not prevent him from boarding Flight 253 – showing that such lists and even official scrutiny are as useless as taking off your shoes in the airport security line. What’s more, the jihadi’s father warned American officials about his son, who was being watched already. And still nothing was done to keep him from boarding the plane.

Abdulmutallab likewise demonstrates the failure of long-term anti-terror strategies. Educated at the British International School in Lome, Togo, he was a classic recipient of Western largesse designed to win over the loyalties of Muslims. Yet his encounter with kindly non-Muslim Westerners spending their lives to educate him and his peers did not blunt the fervor of his jihadist fanaticism. And as a rich man’s son, he once again gives the lie to the firmly and widely held assumption that poverty causes terrorism. All the aid programs based on the assumption that poverty does cause terrorism and that money for schools and roads and hospitals would win over Muslim hearts and minds have not worked, and will not work.

All the concerted efforts by the State Department and DHS to ignore the jihad doctrine and reach out to people they deemed to be “moderate Muslims” have likewise not worked. According to the Nigerian newspaper This Day, when Abdulmutallab was at the British International School, “he was known for preaching about Islam to his schoolmates and he was popularly called ‘Alfa,’ a local coinage for Islamic scholar.” This illustrates yet again that, contrary to the popular view, Islamic jihadists present themselves among their fellow Muslims as the exponents of authentic Islam, making their case from the Qur’an and Sunnah — and those Muslims who oppose jihadist violence and Islamic supremacism have never successfully refuted their arguments. Outreach to moderate Muslims has not aided in this effort, and has deceived the general public into thinking that the influence of peaceful Muslims over jihadists is much larger than it actually is.

As far as the DHS and Janet Napolitano are concerned, the Flight 253 incident is a massive and unmitigated disaster, showing the complete and abject failure of their anti-terror policies across the board. The Flight 253 attempted jihad attack shows that the American response to jihad terrorism has failed not just in one detail or a single area. Rather, the failure is massive, comprehensive, all-encompassing. The anti-terror approach adopted since 9/11 is not working, and is never going to work. Until it is scrapped, there will be many, many more incidents like the one on Flight 253. But rather than have the decency to admit the truth, the DHS chief is putting on a brave face and pretending that up is down and down is up. And the President keeps golfing.

- Robert Spencer is a scholar of Islamic history, theology, and law and the director of Jihad Watch. He is the author of ten 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, The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran, is available now from Regnery Publishing, and he is coauthor (with Pamela Geller) of the forthcoming book The Post-American Presidency: The Obama Administration’s War on America (Simon and Schuster).