Saturday, January 23, 2010

In Brash Coach, Jets Knew They Had a Winner

The New York Times
23 January 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The Jets’ improbable run to the verge of their first Super Bowl appearance in 41 years started last January in a hotel conference room near the Baltimore-Washington airport.

Al Bello/Getty Images

Rex Ryan, with rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, left, and veteran fullback Tony Richardson, has led the Jets to within one victory of the Super Bowl.

The sixth of seven candidates to interview for the team’s vacant head-coaching position, Rex Ryan, was 45 minutes late. He arrived sweaty, almost panting, in a pinstripe suit with a white dress shirt. He carried a binder filled with 60 pages of detailed plans.

For more than four hours, Ryan’s precision and oversize presence captivated the team’s owner, Woody Johnson, and three senior executives. When he left, the four men shot glances around the table. No one spoke at first.

“It became apparent that Rex was our guy,” Johnson said.

In Ryan’s first season as coach, he changed the Jets’ second-class existence through the sheer force of his bold and brash personality. He spoke loudly and often about the talent that surrounded him, until the players believed every word he said. At his first news conference, he even predicted they would meet President Obama as Super Bowl champions in his tenure, a prospect that seemed outrageous after the Jets fell to 4-6.

Still, it took the Jets’ reaching Sunday’s American Football Conference championship game against the Indianapolis Colts for the N.F.L. to realize what the four men in that conference room knew on Jan. 11, 2009 — that Ryan could transform their team.

They arrived that Sunday morning on Johnson’s private plane: Johnson; General Manager Mike Tannenbaum; Scott Cohen, the assistant general manager; and Joey Clinkscales, vice president for college scouting. Ryan, then the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator, was still meeting with the St. Louis Rams.

While they waited, Tannenbaum leafed through the overflowing binder labeled “Coaching Search.” He believed that candidates revealed character in the way they treated waiters, drivers, service staffers. To that end, he had everyone including the trainer and the groundskeeper call his Ravens counterpart.

Their reports ran for several pages, small font, single-spaced. Ravens employees described Ryan as “the nicest guy in the world” and said that players would follow him anywhere. One employee said he wanted to lie so that Ryan would not leave.

“What was unbelievable was the passion in which people believed in this guy and how much they rooted for him,” Tannenbaum said. “It was shocking.”

The Jets, with their tortured history of disappointment and bad bounces, had fired Eric Mangini, who was cut from the secretive, hooded-sweatshirt cloth of Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots. In Ryan, they found Mangini’s opposite.

Ryan turned one of the most clandestine operations in professional football into an open book. The Jets collapsed at the end of last season in part because of the tense atmosphere. Ryan changed that, changed a culture, changed the way people felt about coming to work. He never called his predecessor.

“This wasn’t about Eric,” Ryan, 47, said. “This was about me. I was going to be true to myself.”

Peter Foley for The New York Times

Rex Ryan, at left running a practice, showed he was more than a defensive-minded coach when he made the rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez his pet project.

So Ryan entered the conference room in a way that only Ryan can, Johnson said, balancing confidence with self-deprecating humor and sincerity. The Jets’ brass struggled to explain why Ryan had interviewed with four other teams and not landed a head-coaching job.

He had the pedigree. Ryan’s father, Buddy, was an assistant coach for the Jets when they won Super Bowl III in 1969 and won another championship with the Chicago Bears. Ryan had inherited his father’s defensive brilliance but not his cantankerous approach to public relations.

More than anything, Ryan’s engaging personality hooked the four Jets executives early, as it charmed the N.F.L. later on.
Clinkscales said that after five minutes, he felt he had known Ryan for 15 years.

But the Jets also needed to search beyond Ryan’s bluster, the jolly-fat-man routine. He described his philosophy in the interview, his plan to run the football and play harassing defense, ground and pound.

At the beginning of the interview, Ryan emphasized team building, insisting on taking the Jets away for training camp.

Ryan passed his binder around the table. He had planned the entire season.

The more he talked, the more layers he revealed. Ryan as motivation master, the king of pregame speeches. Ryan as guru of the N.F.L.’s best defenses in the past decade. Ryan as the meticulous, detail-oriented coach whose system was tailored for the current players.

Most everything Ryan proposed that day proved effective. He held training camp in Cortland, N.Y., and the bonds forged there in August began the team’s recent run. He built unity on accountability, made football fun again, grounded and pounded into the playoffs.

Ryan showed uncommon football acumen and a soft touch. The Jets responded one year ahead of schedule, winning seven of their last eight games.

Midseason, when the rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez threatened the Jets’ playoff chances with an avalanche of interceptions, Ryan took on greater offensive responsibilities. He made Sanchez his pet project, even devising a color-coded system to aid Sanchez’s decision-making.
Predictably, he turned the Jets’ defense into the league’s top-ranked unit.

Ryan also preached discipline. The Jets respected what Ryan stood for as much as what he said.

“You see Rex, and you see John Candy,” Tannenbaum said. “Like sometimes people get the impression of Rex that it’s just recess. But it’s not. The guy is coaching in the A.F.C. title game two years in a row. You don’t stumble into that.”

The rest of what makes up Ryan has been on display this season, but more quietly, behind the scenes. Instead of operating from a tower like a dictator, Ryan walks the hallways, massaging egos, cooking up defensive plans.

Alex Gallardo/Reuters

Ryan said at his first news conference that the Jets would win a Super Bowl during his tenure.

Mike Pettine, who followed Ryan from Baltimore and became defensive coordinator, likes to call him the country bumpkin from Oklahoma, the unshaven everyman dressed in sweats, pizza grease stains on his shirt.

“Beneath it all, he’s super, super intelligent,” Pettine said. “Like the guy in the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind.’ The things that come out of his mouth are not being shot from the hip. There’s a plan behind all of it.”

Shortly after Ryan’s hiring, a four-man Jets contingent was in Manhattan, Kan., working out a college quarterback and tooling around in a two-door pickup. Tannenbaum estimated that they consumed at least 40,000 calories of hamburgers and cheese fries at a fast-food restaurant. Ryan ordered the largest soda on the menu, and it punctured, spilling everywhere.

“Oh, no, not my dress sweats,” he said.

At that moment, Tannenbaum knew his instincts had been correct last January. The Jets had found their coach.


A Chemistry Forged Over Cigars and Defense (January 23, 2010)

Times Topics: New York Jets

For Lady Gaga, Every Concert Is a Drama


The New York Times
January 23, 2010

Adam Roth

At Radio City Music Hall, Lady Gaga urged her audience to “Take my picture!,” and here are some results.

In her stunningly gruesome extravaganza at Radio City Music Hall, Lady Gaga scowls more than she smiles, muses about dying and appears on vast video screens vomiting, being slapped and generally being abused. “Fame is killing me,” she says. Death becomes her.

The difference between big-budget musicals and blockbuster pop concerts has shrunk over the years, since shows like “Mamma Mia!” can seem like a loosely connected collection of songs, while music tours regularly package carefully constructed star personas inside elaborate stagecraft and a narrative frame. In her slick and seamlessly executed concert, Lady Gaga blurs the line even more, turning the conventions of pop stardom into a fully realized gothic musical that aims for the commercial sweet spot at the intersection of horror and romance. When done well, that mashup can produce blockbusters like “Twilight,” “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Thriller.”

Melding multimedia images with old-fashioned razzle-dazzle, Lady Gaga’s show (which runs through Sunday) manages to integrate theme, image and even some narrative seamlessly into one of the most engrossing dramatic spectacles in town. As a theater critic who has suffered through too many stale, pop-infused musicals, I suggest that Broadway would be smart to follow her lead.

Lady Gaga, a New York native who attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University before dropping out to pursue music full time, calls her fans her “little monsters.” At first it seems to be a term of affection, especially when she contorts her hand into a claw in a show of solidarity with her army of devotees, decked out in mirror-ball earrings and wielding glowing disco sticks. But when she flirts with her fans, expressing her love for them, the standard pop star clich├ęs clash with the macabre story of the show, which acts out more of a dysfunctional relationship.

Her visual vocabulary marries high fashion to a fantasy fan’s aesthetic: Lady Gaga walking like a zombie, wearing scissorhands and even a suit of hair that looks as if it were stolen from the closet of Cousin Itt. In pairing spunky dance music with spooky images, Lady Gaga hints at pop music’s greatest exploitation of scary movies: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” But while the monsters in that classic video are symbols of liberation, Lady Gaga projects something darker than girl power.

Janaki Purushe

A fan picture of Lady Gaga.

She casts fame (and her audience) as the looming threat in this story and herself as the scream queen, the perpetual victim. Her elaborate set pieces make a show of helplessness and vulnerability, boxing her slight, blond figure inside a glass cube in her propulsive hit “Just Dance”; encasing it in a rotating series of orbs during the brooding “Bad Romance”; and in her most twisted image, chaining her hair to a black pole controlled by two men in “Paparazzi.”

Despite a large cast of goth dancers, whose stiff legs and pale visages evoke a flailing army of the undead, Lady Gaga is frequently alone onstage, surrounded by ominous videos of giant red trees or wild animals. Wearing a suit of Christmas lights, her feet jammed into teetering heels, she first appears moving mechanically behind a pulsating green video grid that blankets the front of the stage.

It’s an unusual entrance for a pop star, since Lady Gaga doesn’t show up in a blinding spotlight, but indistinctly and lost in an electric maze. The effect extravagantly juxtaposes the flights of fancy of a wandering mind with the physical limits of the body.

Midway through the show, the emotional narrative shifts when this flamboyant star, alone onstage, pauses to deliver a short monologue. Skillfully transforming into an insecure teenager racked with angst, she bashfully flops on the ground and, in the plaintive voice of a performer hooked on applause, asks the audience if she looks sexy. Quickly shifting back to her superstar persona, she underlines the artifice of this plea, adding self-consciously, “I hate the truth.”

In her next few songs Lady Gaga becomes increasingly aggressive and defiant, illustrating something of a love-hate relationship with her little monsters. Hunched over in an animalistic crouch, surrounded by a predatory-looking pack of dancers, she performs an angry version of her pounding song “Teeth,” as images of a ferocious wolf loom behind her. This driving song leads to a more downbeat, soulful spin on “Poker Face,” while she plays what could be described as a post-apocalyptic piano, a rusty jumble of seemingly collapsing parts that emits a purple fog.

Only a few songs after begging for approval, her mood darkens. The moment has come, as it does at the end of most slasher movies, when the scantily clad victim stops running and takes on the monster, fighting for survival.

Lady Gaga hoists a tommy gun out of the piano and swings it toward the crowd. Smiling maniacally, she sprays her fans with “bullets,” the weapon flashing like a strobe light.


Music Review Lady Gaga: Lavish Worlds, and the Headwear to Match (January 22, 2010)
ArtsBeat: Send Us Your Lady Gaga Photos
Slide Show: The Year in Style Lady Gaga

Killing Muslims

New York Post
January 23, 2010

Al Qaeda does one thing ex tremely well: killing Muslims. Between 2006 and 2008, only 2 percent of the terror multinational's victims were Westerners.

The rest were citizens of Muslim countries. Even as al Qaeda claims to be their defender.

I've long complained that we fail to capitalize on al Qaeda's blood thirst in our information operations. Al Qaeda (as well as the Taliban and other insurgent groups) slaughters Muslims -- yet we let the media flip the blame to us.

Last weekend, a Pentagon insider passed me a no-nonsense study recently released by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. "Deadly Vanguards: A Study of al Qaeda's Violence Against Muslims" is exactly the kind of work our analysts should produce -- but rarely do.

Using exclusively Arabic-language media reports and including only those incidents for which al Qaeda proudly claimed responsibility, this scrupulously documented study explodes the myth of al Qaeda as a champion of Muslims:

* Between 2004 and 2008, only 15 percent of al Qaeda's victims were Westerners, and that number skewed upward because of the Madrid and London attacks.

* Between 2006 and 2008, a non-Westerner was 54 times likelier to die in an al Qaeda attack than a Westerner.

* "Outside of the war zones of Afghanistan and Iraq, 99 percent of al Qaeda's victims were non-Western in 2007 and 96 percent were non-Western in 2008."

Bravo to Scott Helfstein, Nassir Abdullah and Muhammad al-Obaidi for producing this supremely useful report. Now the question is: Will we use it?

The propaganda skills of our enemies eclipse our timid, lawyer-ridden information operations. In the Muslim world, we get blamed even for al Qaeda's proudest massacres of Muslims -- while Pakistanis blame us for Taliban suicide bombings.

As this report documents, we possess facts that could be wielded as weapons. But we're no more willing to fight an aggressive information war than we are to wage a serious ground war against our enemies.

Personally, I was astonished -- and delighted -- that this hard-headed report came out of West Point, the most politically correct major institution in the US Army, now dedicated to the proposition that killing our nation's enemies is so yesterday. Is there new hope for the stumbling Long Gray Line?

Back to al Qaeda: Our porcine intelligence system doesn't bother to ask the basic question of why al Qaeda kills Muslims so avidly. (Even conservative Muslim scholars are questioning al Qaeda's practices.)

The answer's as clear as a sunny day in the desert: Al Qaeda fully reflects its Saudi parentage. Neither the Saudis nor al Qaeda cares a whit about individual Muslims. They only care about Islam.

I've seen, in country after country, how the Saudis sacrifice the well-being and human potential of countless Muslims in order to prevent them from integrating into local societies and to promote the dour Wahhabi cult that has deformed Islam so horribly: purity matters, people don't.

Likewise, al Qaeda is happy to sacrifice any number of Muslims to promote its neo-Wahhabi death cult. The al Qaeda serpent may have turned on the Saudi royals, but their differences are a matter of degree.

Meanwhile, we imagine that our passivity and "tolerance" are virtues. We fail to capitalize on al Qaeda's horrendous record, while our government protects the Saudi-funded extremists who poison American mosques.

(Our leaders blather about "freedom of religion," ignoring the fact that there's no freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. Can't we prohibit religious funding from states that don't themselves exercise tolerance? We're being idiotic, not virtuous.)

We continue to hear endless nonsense from Washington about how "soft power" is so much more effective than military force. OK, show us. Three good men at West Point have given us a powerful information weapon against al Qaeda.

Will our leaders have the sense to use it?

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

Major Hasan and the Ideological Blinders

By Walid Phares
Jamuary 23, 2010

Major Nidal Hasan was not flagged because Washington has disarmed its own analysts with ideological blinders. The Pentagon's review of the act of terrorism committed at Fort Hood deserves national attention regarding not only its important conclusions, but also what it missed in terms of analysis.

Jihadi Penetration: Part of a War

As announced by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the report "reveals serious 'shortcomings' in the military's ability to stop foreign extremists from trying to use America's own soldiers against the United States." The Pentagon's review of the Fort Hood massacre stated that "serious shortcomings" were found in "the military's ability to stop foreign extremists from trying to use its own soldiers against the United States." The first question that comes to mind is whether the issue is about "shortcomings," as described by the Pentagon, or about "systemic failures," as announced by President Obama in his evaluation of the Christmas Day terror act. For as underlined by the Department of Defense in the case of Major Hasan, these failures were about the military's ability to "stop foreign terrorists from using American soldiers against the United States."

Ft. Hood gunman Major Nidal Hasan

Such a statement is extremely important, as it finally informs the public that the U.S. personnel roster is indeed being infiltrated and recruited by foreign jihadists, who are described politically by the administration as "extremists." Hence, the first logical conclusion from that finding is that jihadi networks are performing acts of war (and thus of terrorism) against U.S. defense assets and personnel in the homeland. This warrants the reevaluation of the conflict and a re-upgrading of it to a state of war, even though it would still need to be determined "with whom."


Secretary Gates said that "military supervisors are not properly focused on the threat posed by self-radicalization and need to better understand the behavioral warning signs." He added that "extremists are changing their tactics in an attempt to hit the United States." He then concluded that the Fort Hood massacre "reveals shortcomings in the way the department is prepared to defend against threats posed by external influences operating on members of our military community. ... We have not done enough to adapt to the evolving domestic internal security threat to American troops and military facilities."

The bottom line of the Department of Defense report is, as I relentlessly argued before and since Hasan's shootings, that the U.S. military and intelligence lack the capability of detecting radicalization, should it be "self"-developed or activated from overseas. American analysts are not able to "detect" radicalization from where it is generated. In my last three books and dozens of briefings and testimonies to legislative and executive forums, I underlined the crucial importance of identifying the ideology behind radicalization. The latter is produced by a set of ideas assembled in a doctrinal package.

Unfortunately, the Bush and Obama administrations were both poorly advised by their experts. They were told, wrongly, that if they try to identify a "doctrine," then they will be meddling with a religion. Academic and cultural advisers of the various U.S. agencies and offices (the majority of them, at least) failed their government by triggering a fear of theological entanglement. To the surprise of our Arab and Muslim allies in the region, who know how to detect the jihadist narrative, Washington disarmed its own analysts when bureaucrats of the last two years banned references to the very ideological indicators that could enable our analysts to detect the radicalization threat.

And it is not about "extreme religious views" as much as it is about an ideology. If Arabs and Muslims can identify it in the Middle East, why can't Americans also? It is simply because jihadi propaganda has already penetrated our advising body and fooled many of our decision-makers into dropping the ideological parameters.

Hence, stunningly, Major Hasan, who fully displayed the narrative of jihadism, was not spotted as a jihadist. The report tried to blame his colleagues and other superiors for failing to find him "suspicious enough" and thus for causing a shortcoming. I disagree: What allowed Hasan to move undetected was a bureaucratic memo issued under both administrations, and made into policy last summer, ordering the members of the public service not to look at ideology or refer to words that can detect it. We did it to ourselves.

The Strategic Threat Ahead

The report raises "serious questions" about whether the military is prepared for similar attacks, particularly "multiple, simultaneous incidents." In my book, Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America, published half a decade ago, I sternly warned about the strategic determination of jihadists, al-Qaeda and beyond, to target the U.S. homeland -- not just in terms of terrorizing the public, but in the framework of a chain of strikes widening gradually until it would evolve to coordinated, simultaneous attacks. In 2006-2007, I served on the then Task Force on Future Terrorism of the Department of Homeland Security and developed an analysis clearly showing the path to come. My briefings to several entities and agencies in the defense sector clearly argued that implanting, growing, and triggering homegrown jihadists to strike at U.S. national security is at the heart of the enemy's strategy. I even projected the existence of a "war room" that directs these operations; Imam al-Awlaki's example of multiple operatives' coordination is only a small fragment of what it would be like.

In facing this mushrooming threat, not only do we lack a detection capacity to counter it, but we have been induced in error to adopt policies opposite to those suitable to our national defense. The misleading advice that the U.S. government relied on is deeply responsible for the failure to stop and counter radicalization. The report, although a step in the right direction, has troubling shortcomings:

A. It claims that "fixation on religion" is a missing indicator. This means that if Muslims insist on praying or Catholics refrain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, this could be a lead to radicalization. Obviously, it is a dead end, for the indicator is the substance of the fixation, not the mere fact of religiosity. One statement of commitment to jihad is by far more important than fasting during the whole month of Ramadan. It is not theology but ideology, even though many writers in town insist on merging both based on their readings of text. I offer our government an easier way to detect the threat without venturing into unnavigable religious debates or unnecessarily apologizing for one or another particular faith.

B. The report describes Hasan as "an odd duck and a loner who was passed along from office to office and job to job despite professional failings that included missed or failed exams and physical fitness requirements." Nice shot, but it leads nowhere, for the other potential Hasans amongst us aren't all necessarily odd, failed students, and physically unfit. The next jihadists could be sharp, professional, and extremely social. It all depends on what the "War Room" is going to surprise us with. Medical doctors in Britain, rich young men from Nigeria, or converted farmers from North Carolina aren't all in one profile basket. So let's stop looking for framing "profiles" and start detecting ideology.

C. The report calls on the Defense Department "to fully staff those teams of investigators, analysts, linguists and others so the Pentagon can quickly see information collected across government agencies about potential links between troops and terrorist or extremist groups." This is a long-awaited initiative, short of creating further catastrophes by staffing our bureaucracies with more cultural advisers who would further mislead our leaders and worsen the fledgling counter-ideology sectors already in place. I am making the bold statement that our problem is precisely that the expertise we sought over the past eight years is the reason for our inability to detect radicalization. Hence I would recommend an additional inquiry into our own specialization body before we re-contract it to lead the war of ideas.

The beef is there. Everything else is dressing.

- Dr. Walid Phares is Director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) in Washington, D.C. He is the author of the recently released book, The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.

Brown's truckin', Obama shifts into reverse

Syndicated columnist
The Orange County Register
January 22, 2010

So what went wrong? According to Barack Obama, the problem is that he overestimated you dumb rubes' ability to appreciate what he's been doing for you. "That I do think is a mistake of mine," the president told ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we're making a good rational decision here, then people will get it."

But you schlubs aren't that smart. You didn't get it. And Barack Obama is determined to see that you do. So the president has decided that he needs to start "speaking directly to the American people."

Wait, wait! Come back! Don't all stampede for the hills! He gave only (according to CBS News' Mark Knoller) 158 interviews and 411 speeches in his first year. That's more than any previous president – and maybe more than all of them put together. But there may still be some show out there that didn't get its exclusive Obama interview – I believe the top-rated "Grain & Livestock Prices Report – 4 a.m. Update with Herb Torpormeister" on WZZZ-AM Dead Buzzard Gulch Junction's Newstalk Leader is still waiting to hear back from the White House.

But what will the president be saying in all these extra interviews? In that interview about how he hadn't given enough interviews, he also explained to George Stephanopoulos what that wacky Massachusetts election was all about:

"The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office," said Obama. "People are angry, and they're frustrated, not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years but what's happened over the last eight years."

Got it. People are so angry and frustrated at George W. Bush that they're voting for Republicans. In Massachusetts. Boy, I can't wait for that 159th interview.

Presumably, the president isn't stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it's dispiriting to discover he's stupid enough to think we're stupid enough to believe it.

So who's panting for that 412th speech? Not the American Left. As Paul Krugman, The New York Times' "Conscience of a Liberal," put it: "He Wasn't The One We've Been Waiting For."

Not the once-delirious Europeans, either. As the headline in Der Spiegel put it: "The World Bids Farewell To Obama."

And not any beleaguered Democratic candidates trying to turn things around in volatile swing states like, er, Massachusetts. The Barack Obama who showed up last Sunday to help out Martha Coakley was a sad and diminished figure from the colossus of a year ago. He had nothing to say, but he said it anyway. As he did with his Copenhagen pitch for the Olympics, he put his personal prestige on the line, raised the stakes, and then failed to deliver. All those cool kids on his speechwriting team bogged him down in the usual leaden sludge. He went to the trouble of flying in to phone it in.

The most striking aspect of his performance was how unhappy he looked, as if he doesn't enjoy the job. You can understand why. He ran as something he's not, and never has been: A post-partisan centrist transformative healer. That'd be a difficult trick to pull off even for somebody with any prior executive experience, someone who'd actually run something, like a state, or even a town, or even a commercial fishing operation, like that poor chillbilly boob Sarah Palin. At one point late in the 2008 campaign, when someone suggested that if Gov. Palin was "unqualified" then surely he was, too, Obama pointed to as evidence to the contrary his ability to run such an effective campaign. In other words, running for president was his main qualification for being president.

That was the story of his life: Wow! Look at this guy! Wouldn't it be great to have him community organizer, as state representative, as state senator, as United States senator. He was wafted ever upwards, staying just long enough in each "job" to get another notch on the escutcheon, but never long enough to leave any trace.

The defining moment of his doomed attempt to prop up Martha Coakley was his peculiar obsession with Scott Brown's five-year-old pickup:

"Forget the ads. Everybody can run slick ads," the president told an audience of out-of-state students at a private school. "Forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck."

How they laughed! But what was striking was the thinking behind Obama's line: that anyone can buy a truck for a slick ad, that Brown's pickup was a prop – like the herd of cows Al Gore rented for a pastoral backdrop when he launched his first presidential campaign. Or the "Iron Chef" TV episode featuring delicious healthy recipes made with produce direct from Michelle Obama's "kitchen garden": The cameras filmed the various chefs meeting the first lady and then picking choice organic delicacies from the White House crop, and then, for the actual cooking, the show sent out for stunt-double vegetables from a grocery back in New York. Viewed from Obama's perspective, why wouldn't you assume the truck's just part of the set? "In his world," wrote The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes, "everything is political, and everything is about appearances."

Howard Fineman, the increasingly loopy editor of the increasingly doomed Newsweek, took it a step further. The truck wasn't just any old prop but a very particular kind: "In some places, there are codes, there are images," he told MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. "You know, there are pickup trucks, you could say there was a racial aspect to it one way or another."

Ah, yes. Scott Brown has over 200,000 miles on his odometer. Man, he's racked up a lot of coded racism on that rig. But that's easy to do in notorious cross-burning KKK swamps like suburban Massachusetts.

Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I usually tell 'em this:

Don't just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don't do anything, you wind up like Obama and Fineman – men for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real.

America is becoming a bilingual society, divided between those who think a pickup is a rugged vehicle useful for transporting heavy-duty items from A to B, and those who think a pickup is coded racism.

Unfortunately, the latter group forms most of the Democratic-media one-party state currently running the country. Can you imagine Bill Clinton being so stupid as to put down pickup trucks while standing next to John Kerry? And what's even more extraordinary is that those lines were written for Obama by paid professionals.

But fine, have it your way. Tuesday's vote was really a plea by a desperate people for even more Obama. We're going to need even more Obama teleprompters, even more Obama speeches, even more sonorous banalities unrelated to action, even more "Let me be clears..." prefacing even more tinny generalities, on even more reams of even more double-spaced paper. And we're gonna need a really heavy duty rig to carry all that verbiage.

Maybe Scott Brown can sell 'em his truck.


Geert Wilders: ‘Freedom Is Threatened in the Netherlands’

The Freedom Party leader states his case at a pre-trial hearing in the Netherlands.

January 21, 2010 - by Evelyn Markus

On January 20, the pre-trial hearing of Geert Wilders’ free speech trial took place in the Netherlands. Wilders is a member of the Dutch Parliament, and his Freedom Party is at the top of the polls.

Police stand guard as demonstrators are seen next to a poster of Anti-Islam Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders, center, a poster reading 'Freedom Yes, Islamisation No', left, and a poster reading 'Geert Akbar' or 'Geert is Great', right, during a rally in support of Wilders outside the court building in Amsterdam, Netherlands, Wednesday Jan. 20, 2010, where Wilders was scheduled to appear for preliminary hearing in his trial on charges of inciting racial hatred.(AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

Wilders is charged with “slandering a group,” “discrimination,” and “sowing hatred.” According to the Dutch public prosecutors, Wilders broke the law by comparing Islam to Nazism, by calling for a stop to all immigration of Muslims into the Netherlands, and by presenting his movie Fitna. (Fitna pictures Islam as a brutal totalitarian ideology that aggressively seeks world domination in democratic and non-democratic ways.) Wilders has no positive words for Islam: “There is no moderate Islam. It doesn’t exist, because there is no distinction between good Islam and bad Islam. There is Islam and that’s it.” “Islam is the Koran, and nothing but the Koran. … I’m fed up by the Koran in Holland: Ban that fascist book!” “Close the borders, no more Muslims into Holland.”

Wilders could be sentenced to 1 to 2 years in prison or fined up to $14,000.

At the center of this trial lies the clash between two Dutch constitutional rights: freedom of speech and non-discrimination. Both rights have equal weight in the Dutch constitution. Both rights resonate with people’s memories of living under the Nazi regime during WWII. The left establishment typically leans towards non-discrimination at the cost of free speech, and the political right typically sees jihadist organizations in the Netherlands as exploiting that.

Wilders made an ardent closing statement yesterday:

Of all our achievements, freedom is the most precious and vulnerable. It is for freedom that people gave their lives. … I believe with all my heart that these days freedom is threatened in the Netherlands. … I dedicate my life to the defense of freedom. I know the risks and I pay the price every day [Wilders lives with constant security because of Islamists’ threats]. I won’t complain about that; it is my own decision. … It is not only the right, but also the duty of free people to speak out against every ideology that threatens freedom. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was right: The price for freedom is eternal vigilance. …

I don’t intend to offend people. I have nothing against Muslims. I have a problem with Islam and the islamization of our country, because Islam is the opposite of freedom. …

Future generations will ask how we served our most precious achievement in 2010 in this courtroom. If there is freedom for both parties in this debate, and therefore also for critics of Islam, or if in the Netherlands only one side in this debate may be heard? If freedom of speech in the Netherlands is for everybody, or only for some? The answer to this is also the answer to the question if freedom does still have a home in this country.

Wilders requested to have 17 experts and witnesses testify in this trial, among them. These include American critics of Islam like Wafa Sultan, Robert Spencer, and Andrew Bostom, as well as Islamists like Mohammed Bouyeri (who murdered film director Theo van Gogh) and Yussuf al-Qaradawi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

On February 3, the Amsterdam District Court will announce how many of these witnesses are allowed to testify in the trial. The court will also announce the trial’s timetable.

Evelyn Markus is co-founder and vice president of Network on Antisemitism (NOA) (, a nonprofit based in the Netherlands against anti-Semitism.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Roe v. Wade at 37: Still Wrong

Special Report

By Ken Blackwell on 1.22.10 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

Tens of thousands of pro-lifers will descend upon the streets of Washington, D.C. today. They will come this year -- as they have come every year since 1974. It won't matter if there's a "wintry mix." In 1985, the Inauguration of a President was forced indoors for the first time in history. An arctic blast forced cancellation of the Inaugural Parade. But two days later, with frigid winds unabated in their fury, the March for Life went on as scheduled.

They come to bear witness. They come to protest a grave injustice. Some young people have grown up coming every year to this March for Life. Thousands of young people will camp out Thursday night at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and attend Mass early on Friday morning. Thousands of others will attend worship services at area Evangelical and Lutheran churches.

No cause since the great Civil Rights movement of the 1960s has brought together such a diverse group of supporters. Every race of mankind is represented. Every continent has sent its representatives.

The pro-life movement has battered down the walls of ancient prejudice separating Catholic from Protestant, and Protestants from other Protestants. Marchers will also hear the sounds of an ancient Hebrew shofar -- the ceremonial ram's horn that alerted God's people as far back as the Exodus.

You might think that the 2008 elections would have put an end to right-to-lifers' incessant agitation. You would be wrong. Only when America herself is adjourned will you hear the end of outcry against this most un-American of rulings.

What does Roe mean? It means that an abortionist can kill an unborn child and we have no right to object. "If you don't like abortion, don't have one," says a morally bankrupt bumper sticker from the other side. How about: "If you don't like slavery, don't own one?"

We've heard a lot about "the Kennedy seat" in the Massachusetts Senate race this week.

I'd like to talk about the Kennedys' friend. Archibald Cox was certainly a liberal. He was certainly an intellectual. You can't be a Harvard Professor without being an intellectual.

But when it came to grading the work of that Harvard Law School graduate, Justice Harry Blackmun, Prof. Cox gave the striving jurist a failing grade:

[Blackmun's opinion] fails even to consider what I would suppose to be the most important compelling interest of the State in prohibiting abortion: the interest in maintaining that respect for the paramount sanctity of human life which has always been at the centre of Western civilization, not merely by guarding life itself, however defined, but by safeguarding the penumbra, whether at the beginning, through some overwhelming disability of mind or body, or at death.…

The failure to confront the issue in principled terms leaves the opinion to read like a set of hospital rules and regulations, whose validity is good enough this week but will be destroyed with new statistics upon the medical risks of child-birth and abortion or new advances in providing for the separate existence of a fetus.… Neither historian, nor layman, nor lawyer will be persuaded that all the prescriptions of Justice Blackmun are part of the Constitution.

Even a liberal, even a Harvard Law Professor, even a friend of the Kennedy family like Archibald Cox knew why Roe is wrong. And the marchers know it, too. From the little children holding their moms' hands to the eighty-somethings being wheeled up to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court: they all know Roe is wrong.

I am proud to stand with the protesters. I am proud to live in a country where we can still peaceably assemble and petition our government for redress of wrongs. We are marching in Dr. King's footsteps when we do so.

Lincoln said it well: Nothing stamped in the divine image was sent into the world to be trod upon. We believe unborn children are so stamped. We believe every child should be welcomed in life -- and protected in law. May God bless the United States and this honorable court. Especially, may He bless the court with the wisdom at long last to do justice.

Ken Blackwell is a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Commission and a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.

The War Against the Infidels

Terrorism is only one of the weapons.

By Clifford D. May
January 21, 2010 12:00 AM

In 2001, the monumental 6th-century buddhas of Bamiyan were dynamited on orders from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar. The United States and other Western governments issued protests. Afghanistan’s Islamist rulers shrugged them off.

In 2010, Al-Kifl, the tomb of the Prophet Ezekiel, near Baghdad, is being desecrated. On the tomb are inscriptions in Hebrew and an ark in which a Torah was displayed centuries ago. Iraq’s Antiquities and Heritage Authority, under pressure from Islamists, is erasing the Hebrew words, removing the Hebrew ornaments, and planning to build a mosque on top of the grave.

The tomb of the prophet Ezekiel

So far, we’re hearing protests from almost no one. But this is not just another “Where is the outrage?” story. The larger and more alarming trend is that, in a growing number of Muslim-majority countries, a war is being waged against non-Muslim minorities.

Where non-Muslim minorities already have been “cleansed” — as in Afghanistan and Iraq — the attacks are against their memory. Ethnic minorities also are being targeted: The genocidal conflict against the black Muslims of Darfur is only the most infamous example.

Connect these dots: In Nigeria this week, Muslim youths set fire to a church, killing more than two dozen Christian worshippers. In Egypt, Coptic Christians have been suffering increased persecution including, this month, a drive-by shooting outside a church in which seven people were murdered. In Pakistan, Christian churches were bombed over Christmas. In Turkey, authorities have been closing Christian churches, monasteries, and schools, and seizing Christian properties. Recently, churches in Malaysia have been attacked, too, provoked by this grievance: Christians inside the churches were referring to God as “Allah.” How dare infidels use the same name for the Almighty as do Muslims!

In response to all this, Western journalists, academics, diplomats, and politicians mainly avert their eyes and hold their tongues. They pretend there are no stories to be written, no social pathologies to be documented, no actions to be taken. They focus instead on Switzerland’s vote against minarets and anything Israel might be doing to prevent terrorists from claiming additional victims.

Many Muslims, no doubt, disapprove of the persecution of non-Muslims. But in most Muslim-majority countries, any Muslim openly opposing the Islamists and their projects risks being branded an apostate. And under the Islamist interpretation of Sharia, Islamic law, apostates deserve death.

Not so long ago, the Broader Middle East was a diverse region. Lebanon had a Christian majority for centuries but that ended around 1990 — the result of years of civil war among the country’s religious and ethnic communities. The Christian population of Turkey has diminished substantially in recent years. Islamists have driven Christians out of Bethlehem and other parts of the West Bank; almost all Christians have fled Gaza since Hamas’s takeover.

There were Jewish communities throughout the Middle East for millennia. The Jews of Iran trace their history back more than 2,700 years, but about eight out of ten Iranian Jews have emigrated since the 1979 Islamist Revolution; only about 40,000 remain.

The Jews of what is now Saudi Arabia were wiped out as Muhammad and his followers established a new religion and began to build a new empire in the 7th century A.D. But Jewish communities survived elsewhere until after World War II, when Jews were forced to abandon their homes in Iraq (more than a fourth of Baghdad’s population was Jewish), Libya, Algeria, Egypt, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, Yemen, and other countries.

In many cases, they were driven out by Muslims furious over the establishment of the modern state of Israel. But how odd is it to protest the creation of a safe haven and homeland for Jews by making your own Jewish citizens homeless and stateless?

In 1947, Pakistan also was founded as a safe haven — for Indian Muslims who did not want to be ruled by Hindus once the British left the subcontinent. The country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, was determined that while Pakistan would have an Islamic identity, it would be tolerant of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, and others — as much as 20 percent of the population at independence. It hasn’t worked out that way and, as a result, non-Muslim minorities today constitute only about 3 percent of Pakistan’s population. By contrast, non-Hindus constitute almost 20 percent of India’s population, with Muslims the largest minority at 13 percent.

When the dots are connected, the picture that emerges is not pretty: An “Islamic world” in which terrorists are regarded often with lenience, sometimes with respect, and occasionally with reverence, while minority groups face increasing intolerance, persecution, and “cleansing,” and where even their histories are erased. And we in the West are too polite, too “politically correct,” and perhaps too cowardly to say much about it.

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.

© Scripps Howard News Service

What Scott Brown's win means for the Democrats

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, January 22, 2010; A21

On Jan. 14, five days before the Massachusetts special election, President Obama was in full bring-it-on mode as he rallied House Democrats behind his health-care reform. "If Republicans want to campaign against what we've done by standing up for the status quo and for insurance companies over American families and businesses, that is a fight I want to have."

The bravado lasted three days. When Obama campaigned in Boston on Jan. 17 for Obamacare supporter Martha Coakley, not once did he mention the health-care bill. When your candidate is sinking, you don't throw her a millstone.

After Coakley's defeat, Obama pretended that the real cause was a generalized anger and frustration "not just because of what's happened in the last year or two years, but what's happened over the last eight years."

Let's get this straight: The antipathy to George W. Bush is so enduring and powerful that . . . it just elected a Republican senator in Massachusetts? Why, the man is omnipotent.

And the Democrats are delusional: Scott Brown won by running against Obama, not Bush. He won by brilliantly nationalizing the race, running hard against the Obama agenda, most notably Obamacare. Killing it was his No. 1 campaign promise.

Bull's-eye. An astonishing 56 percent of Massachusetts voters, according to a Rasmussen poll, called health care their top issue. In a Fabrizio, McLaughlin & Associates poll, 78 percent of Brown voters said their vote was intended to stop Obamacare. Only a quarter of all voters in the Rasmussen poll cited the economy as their top issue, nicely refuting the Democratic view that Massachusetts was just the usual anti-incumbent resentment you expect in bad economic times.

Brown ran on a very specific, very clear agenda. Stop health care. Don't Mirandize terrorists. Don't raise taxes; cut them. And no more secret backroom deals with special interests.

These deals -- the Louisiana purchase, the Cornhusker kickback -- had engendered a national disgust with the corruption and arrogance of one-party rule. The final straw was the union payoff -- in which labor bosses smugly walked out of the White House with a five-year exemption from a ("Cadillac") health insurance tax Democrats were imposing on the 92 percent of private-sector workers who are not unionized.

The reason both wings of American liberalism -- congressional and mainstream media -- were so surprised at the force of anti-Democratic sentiment is that they'd spent Obama's first year either ignoring or disdaining the clear early signs of resistance: the tea-party movement of the spring and the town-hall meetings of the summer. With characteristic condescension, they contemptuously dismissed the protests as the mere excrescences of a redneck, retrograde, probably racist rabble.

You would think lefties could discern a proletarian vanguard when they see one. Yet they kept denying the reality of the rising opposition to Obama's social democratic agenda when summer turned to fall and Virginia and New Jersey turned Republican in the year's two gubernatorial elections.

The evidence was unmistakable. Independents, who in 2008 had elected Obama, swung massively against the Democrats: dropping 16 points in Virginia, 21 in New Jersey. On Tuesday, it was even worse: Independents, who had gone 2-to-1 Republican in Virginia and New Jersey, now went 3-to-1 Republican in hyper-blue Massachusetts. Nor was this an expression of the more agitated elements who vote in obscure low-turnout elections. The turnout on Tuesday was the highest for any nonpresidential Massachusetts election in 20 years.

Democratic cocooners will tell themselves that Coakley was a terrible candidate who even managed to diss Curt Schilling. True, Brown had Schilling. But Coakley had Obama. When the bloody sock beats the presidential seal -- of a man who had them swooning only a year ago -- something is going on beyond personality.

That something is substance -- political ideas and legislative agendas. Democrats, if they wish, can write off their Massachusetts humiliation to high unemployment, to Coakley or, the current favorite among sophisticates, to generalized anger. That implies an inchoate, unthinking lashing-out at whoever happens to be in power -- even at your liberal betters who are forcing on you an agenda that you can't even see is in your own interest.

Democrats must so rationalize, otherwise they must take democracy seriously, and ask themselves: If the people really don't want it, could they possibly have a point?

"If you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call," said moderate -- and sentient -- Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana, "there's no hope of waking up."

I say: Let them sleep.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Democrats on the precipice of failure

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Thursday, January 21, 2010; A21

"We are on the precipice of an achievement that's eluded Congresses and presidents for generations."

-- President Barack Obama, Dec. 15, on health-care legislation

Precipice, 1. a headlong fall or descent, esp. to a great depth.
-- Oxford English Dictionary

Trying to guarantee Americans the thrill of the precipice, the president dashed to Massachusetts on Sunday, thereby conceding that he had already lost Tuesday's Senate election, which had become a referendum on his signature program. By promising to cast the decisive 41st vote against the president's health-care legislation, the Republican candidate forced all congressional Democrats to contemplate this: Not even frenzied national mobilization of Democratic manpower and millions of dollars could rescue one of the safest Democratic seats in the national legislature from national dismay about the incontinent government expansion, of which that legislation is symptomatic.

Because the legislation is frightening and unpopular, Democrats have had to resort to serial bribery to advance it. Massachusetts voted immediately after the corruption of exempting, until 2018, union members from the tax on high-value health insurance plans. This tax was supposedly the crucial component of what supposedly was reform's primary goal: reducing costs.

The late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) thought Bill Clinton's presidency was crippled by the 1993 decision to pursue health-care reform rather than welfare reform. So slight was public enthusiasm for the former that Clinton's program never even came to a vote in the House or Senate, both controlled by Democrats. There was such fervor for welfare reform that in 1996, after two Clinton vetoes, he finally signed the decade's most important legislation.

In their joyless, tawdry slog toward passage of their increasingly ludicrous bill, Democrats now cling grimly to Robert Frost's axiom that "the best way out is always through." Their sole remaining reason for completing the damn thing is that they started it. The Democrats seem to have convinced themselves that they lost control of Congress in 1994 because they did not pass an unpopular health bill in 1993. Actually, their 1994 debacle had more to do with the arrogance and malfeasance arising from 40 years of control of the House of Representatives (e.g., the House banking scandal), a provocative crime bill (gun control, federal subsidies for midnight basketball) and other matters.

With one piece of legislation, President Obama and his congressional allies have done in one year what it took President Lyndon Johnson and his allies two years to do in 1965 and 1966 -- revive conservatism. Today, conservatism is rising on the steppingstones of liberal excesses.

Between FDR's reprimand by voters in the 1938 midterm congressional elections (partly because of his anti-constitutional plan to enlarge and pack the Supreme Court) and LBJ's 1964 trouncing of Barry Goldwater, there was no liberal legislating majority in Congress: Republicans and conservative Democrats combined to temper liberalism's itch to overreach.
In 1965 and 1966, however, liberalism was rampant. Today, Democrats worrying about a reprise of 1994 should worry more about a rerun of the 1966 midterm elections, which began a Republican resurgence that presaged victories in seven of the next 10 presidential elections.

The 2008 elections gave liberals the curse of opportunity, and they have used it to reveal themselves ruinously. The protracted health-care debacle has highlighted this fact: Some liberals consider the legislation's unpopularity a reason to redouble their efforts to inflict it on Americans who, such liberals think, are too benighted to understand that their betters know best. The essence of contemporary liberalism is the illiberal conviction that Americans, in their comprehensive incompetence, need minute supervision by government, which liberals believe exists to spare citizens the torture of thinking and choosing.

Last week, trying to buttress the bovine obedience of most House Democrats, Obama assured them that if the bill becomes law, "the American people will suddenly learn that this bill does things they like." Suddenly?

If the Democrats' congressional leaders are determined to continue their kamikaze flight to incineration, they will ignore Massachusetts's redundant evidence of public disgust. They will leaven their strategy of briberies with procedural cynicism -- delaying certification of Massachusetts's Senate choice, or misusing "reconciliation" to evade Senate rules, or forcing the House to swallow its last shred of pride in order to rush the Senate bill to the president's desk. Surely any such trickery would be one brick over a load for some hitherto servile members of the Democratic House and Senate caucuses, giving them an excuse to halt their party's Gadarene rush toward the precipice.

The Lost Liberals

The Current Crisis

By R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. on 1.21.10 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

WASHINGTON -- With Scott Brown's election to the senatorial seat held by Edward Kennedy for 47 years, a few things are suddenly clear. Americans in large numbers fear a further government encroachment on our private healthcare system. There are other means of reforming it. Americans do not want to bear higher tax burdens, more profligate government spending, and crushing deficits to be borne by future generations. One other thing is clear. For the most part, the American press is not very informative.

When Bill Clinton went up to Massachusetts to campaign for the Democratic candidate, not one mainstream news organization reported what is a matter of cold fact, to wit, when Bill Clinton campaigns for others they lose. In fact when Clinton was president the Democratic Party mostly lost. In 2004, as I reported in my 2007 book on Clinton in retirement, of the 14 Democrats Clinton campaigned for 12 lost. He was not even able to campaign successfully for his pal, Terry McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid in Virginia last year. Equally unhelpful is outside campaigning from the Prophet Obama. He was no help for Democratic candidates in the recent midterm elections in New Jersey and Virginia. Right now Obama's presidency is a failed presidency. Nowhere in the mainstream media is that reported in their one-year assessments of his presidency. Yet it is now thunderously clear.

There are still wisenheimers out there who will say that this very clever president will now recalculate and change course. He will steal to the center. His Democrats will follow. Truth be known, the Democrats led by Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid, are no more likely to change course than the artistes of the Grateful Dead were ever likely to take up aerobics, join Alcoholics Anonymous, and resort to golf before they all died years short of the average longevity for an adult American male. The Democrats vote the way they do because they are captives of a culture, the youth culture of the 1960s, a culture that has endured, aged, but never smartened up.

This week in a very funny segment of his radio show Rush Limbaugh made a very pertinent point. He did so after playing what he called "patriotic music," in this case the Venezuelan national anthem, which sounded as though it were being performed by a large orchestra of kazoos. Then Rush referred to the "1960s hippies who govern us." Given to amusing hyperbole as he is, El Rushbo was not far off. Most of the real 1960s hippies are either doddering around in early retirement (retirement from life spent on a park bench) or long ago they served as crepe suzettes for the worms. Sure one or two of the left-wing Democrats in Congress might have once been hippies -- one can envisage a long-haired Henry Waxman shuffling through Haight Ashbury in bell bottoms and Jesus sandals -- but today's dominant Democrats in Congress, for a certitude, were hippie fellow-travelers since their troubled youths in the 1960s and early 1970s. They have ever since lived in a closed society, closed to the realities of the Reagan and post-Reagan years.

The Prophet Obama may be a bit too young to have joined what in the late 1960s and early 1970s was called the New Left, but his mentors, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and the late Saul Alinsky, were true believers. They saw America as a failed state years ago, and the president agrees. Remember his extraordinary statement last April to 2,000 Europeans at his Strasbourg Town Hall: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." This is vintage 1960s left-wingery. Just as Jimmy Carter was the first former president to speak ill of a sitting president while on foreign soil. Obama has now surpassed him. He is the first sitting president to speak ill of America while on foreign soil, and he has done so repeatedly.

Most probably the president sees nothing wrong with this sort of diminishment of his country. Most probably the Democratic leadership sees nothing wrong with it either. Liberals like them get elected not because they understand Americans but because they understand American journalists, who also are part of their 1960s culture. Yet it is a culture from an America of long ago. As even Massachusetts demonstrated this week, most Americans believe Americans know how to solve their problems through initiative, limited government, and hard work, not through the nanny state.

- Bob Tyrrell is founder and editor in chief of The American Spectator. His books include the New York Times bestseller Boy Clinton: the Political Biography; The Impeachment of William Jefferson Clinton; The Liberal Crack-Up; The Conservative Crack-Up; Public Nuisances; The Future that Doesn't Work: Social Democracy's Failure in Britain; Madame Hillary: The Dark Road to the White House; and The Clinton Crack-Up.

He makes frequent appearance on national television and is a nationally syndicated columnist, whose articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun, Washington Times, National Review, Harper's, Commentary, The (London) Spectator, Le Figaro (Paris), and elsewhere.

Tough Love Needed for Haiti

Emergency relief won’t cure Haiti’s poverty culture.

By Jonah Goldberg
January 20, 2010, 0:00 a.m.

The images from Haiti are, if anything, only getting worse. What was left of an already fragile society is starting to break down, as violence and chaos take over. Despite the heroic efforts of aid workers and the battered Haitian government, it looks as if Haiti’s problems will persist well into the 21st century, long after the debris is cleared and the houses are rebuilt.

While the scope of the tragedy in Haiti is nearly impossible to exaggerate, it’s important to remember that last week’s earthquake was so deadly because Haiti is Haiti.

US troops patrol the streets of the Haiti capital Port-au-Prince. Search teams in Haiti are refusing to abandon hope of finding more survivors of the massive 7.0-magnitude quake after two children were pulled alive from the rubble in 24 hours.
(AFP/Juan Barreto)

If a similarly powerful earthquake were to hit much more densely populated San Francisco or Los Angeles, the death toll would be much lower. That’s an amazing thing when you consider that American cities are crammed with skyscrapers while Port-au-Prince’s skyline was, for the most part, one story high. Indeed, as others have noted, when a 7.1 earthquake hit the Bay Area two decades ago, 67 people were killed. Meanwhile, the Haitian death toll is almost unknowable, but almost certainly over 100,000 and climbing.

It’s hardly news that poverty makes people vulnerable to the full arsenal of Mother Nature’s fury. The closer you are to living in a state of nature, the crueler nature will be — which is one reason why people who romanticize tribal or pre-capitalist life (that would be you, James Cameron) tend to do so from a safe, air-conditioned distance and with easy access to flushing toilets, antibiotics, dentistry, and Chinese takeout.

The sad truth about Haiti isn’t simply that it is poor, but that it has a poverty culture. Yes, it has had awful luck. Absolutely, it has been exploited, abused, and betrayed ever since its days as a slave colony. So, if it alleviates Western guilt to say that Haiti’s poverty stems entirely from a legacy of racism and colonialism, fine. But Haiti has been independent and the poorest country in the hemisphere for a long time.

Even if blame lies everywhere except among the victims themselves, it doesn’t change the fact that Haiti will never get out of grinding poverty until it abandons much of its culture.

When Haitians leave Haiti for the U.S. they get richer almost overnight. This isn’t simply because wages are higher here or welfare payments more generous. Coming to America is a cultural leap of faith, physically and psychologically. Arnold Kling and Nick Schulz note in their phenomenal new book, From Poverty to Prosperity, that low-skilled Mexican laborers become 10 to 20 times more productive simply by crossing the border into the United States. William Lewis, former director of the McKinsey Global Institute, found that illiterate, non-English-speaking Mexican agricultural laborers in the U.S. were four times more productive than the same sorts of laborers in Brazil.

Why? Because American culture not only expects hard work, but teaches the unskilled how to work hard.

It’s true that Haiti has few natural resources, but neither does Japan or Switzerland. What those countries do have are what Kling and Schulz call valuable “intangible assets” — the skills, rules, laws, education, knowledge, customs, expectations, etc. that drive a prosperous society to generate prosperity. That is where the real wealth of nations is to be found — not in factories, oil deposits, and gold mines, but in our heads and in the habits of our hearts. Indeed, a recent World Bank study found that 82 percent of America’s wealth could be found in our intangible assets.

Haiti’s poverty stems from its lack of intangible capital. It shares the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic, and yet the Dominicans have six times the GDP (and are far better stewards of their environment).

Collectively, Haiti depends on the kindness of strangers much more than on itself. Before the earthquake, Haiti had 10,000 non-governmental organizations working there, the highest rate per capita in the world. In 2007, notes Bret Stephens of the Wall Street Journal, it had ten times as much foreign aid as investment. If people are determined to blame Haiti’s problems on someone other than the Haitians, perhaps they could start by looking at the damage done by the foreign-aid industry.

I admit that I have a soft spot for Haiti, in part because the country is such an incredible underdog, and because I’ve always admired the Haitian-Americans I’ve known. I also have Haitians in my family — my brother is married to a Haitian immigrant.

So I say this with the best of intentions. Once the dead are buried, the wounded and sick healed, and the rubble cleared, it’s time for some tough love. Otherwise, Americans will just be back to clear the debris after the next disaster.

— 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.


By Ann Coulter
January 20, 2010

Once again, the people have spoken, and this time they quoted what Dick Cheney said to Pat Leahy.

Less than two weeks ago, The New York Times said that so much as a "tighter-than-expected" victory for Massachusetts Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley would incite "soul-searching among Democrats nationally," which sent Times readers scurrying to their dictionaries to look up this strange new word, "soul."

A close win for Coakley, the Times said, would constitute "the first real barometer of whether problems facing the party" will affect the 2010 elections.

But when Coakley actually lost the election by an astounding 5 points, the Chicago boys in the White House decided it was the chick's fault.

Democratic candidate Martha Coakley may be a moral monster, but it's ridiculous to blame her for losing the election. She lost because of the Democrats' obsession with forcing national health care down the nation's throat.

Coakley campaigned exactly the way she should have.

As a Democrat running in a special election for a seat that had been held by a Democratic icon (and another moral monster) for the past 46 years in a state with only 12 percent registered Republicans, Coakley's objective was to have voters reading the paper on Friday, saying: "Hey, honey, did you know there was a special election four days ago? Yeah, apparently Coakley won, though it was a pretty low turnout."

Ideally, no one except members of government unions and Coakley's immediate family would have even been aware of the election.

And until Matt Drudge began covering it like a presidential election a week ago, it might have turned out that way.

Coakley had already won two statewide elections, while her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, had only won elections in his district. She had endorsements from the Kennedy family and the current appointed Democratic senator, Paul Kirk -- as well as endless glowing profiles in The Boston Globe.

And by the way, as of Jan. 1, Brown had spent $642,000 on the race, while Coakley had spent $2 million.

On Jan. 8, just 11 days before the election, The New York Times reported: "A Brown win remains improbable, given that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 3 to 1 in the state and that Ms. Coakley, the state's attorney general, has far more name recognition, money and organizational support."

It was in that article that the Times said a narrow Coakley win would be an augury for the entire Democratic Party. But now she's being hung out to dry so that Democrats don't have to face the possibility that Obama's left-wing policies are to blame.

Alternatively, Democrats are trying to write off Brown's colossal victory as the standard seesawing of public sentiment that hits both Republicans and Democrats from time to time. As MSNBC's Chris Matthews explained, it was just the voters saying "no" generally, but not to anything in particular.

Except when Republicans win political power, they hold onto it long enough to govern. The Democrats keep being smacked down by the voters immediately after being elected and revealing their heinous agenda.

As a result, for the past four decades, American politics has consisted of Republicans controlling Washington for eight to 14 years -- either from the White House or Capitol Hill -- thus allowing Americans to forget what it was they didn't like about Democrats, whom they then carelessly vote back in. The Democrats immediately remind Americans what they didn't like about Democrats, and their power is revoked at the voters' first possible opportunity.

Obama has cut the remembering-what-we-don't-like-about-Democrats stage of this process down from two to four years to about 10 months. Folks, I'm convinced that if we all work really hard, we can get it down to three months.

Four years of Jimmy Carter gave us two titanic Reagan landslides, peace and prosperity for eight blessed years -- and even a third term for his feckless vice president, George H.W. Bush.

Two years of Bill Clinton gave us a historic Republican sweep of Congress, which killed the entire Clinton agenda (with the exception of partial-birth abortion and felony obstruction of justice) -- and also gave us two terms for George W. Bush.

And now, merely one year of Obama and a Democratic Congress has given us the first Republican senator from Massachusetts in 31 years.

In other recent news, last November, New Jersey voters, who haven't voted for a Republican for president since 1988, threw out their incumbent Democratic governor, Jon Corzine. In Virginia, which Obama carried by 6 points a year earlier, a religious-right Republican won the governor's office by 17 points.

Sen. Ben Nelson, Democrat of Nebraska, won his last election in 2006 by 28 points -- the largest margin for a Democratic Senate candidate in that state in a quarter-century.

Since voting for the Senate health care bill last Christmas, the once-bulletproof Sen. Nelson not only gets booed out of Omaha pizzerias, but he has also seen his job approval rating fall to 42 percent and his disapproval rating soar to 48 percent. (Meanwhile, the junior senator from Nebraska, Mike Johanns, who voted against the bill, has a job approval rating of 63 percent.)

The Democrats have no natural majority because they have no fundamental principles -- at least none that they are willing to state out loud. They are like a drunken vagrant who emerges from the alley to cause havoc every few years. They are the perpetual toothache of American politics.

To be sure, the fact that 52 percent of Massachusetts voters are racist, sexist tea-baggers -- i.e., voted for a Republican -- means only that the Democrats just went from having the largest congressional majority in a generation to the second largest. But this was "Teddy Kennedy's seat." And it was in Massachusetts.

Now, no Democrat is safe.

But the country just got a lot safer.


Wednesday, January 20, 2010

10 Questions with Russ Rose
20 January 2010 By: Chase

Yesterday, I had an opportunity to sit down for a few minutes with Women’s Volleyball Coach Russ Rose. Having grown up in a volleyball family, Coach Rose has always been somewhat of an idol for me. Being able to ask him some questions was pretty awesome. But enough of me waxing poetic here, let’s get down to the good stuff.

Penn State head coach Russ Rose talks to his team during a time-out in the NCAA college volleyball national semifinal match against Hawaii Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009, in Tampa, Fla. Penn State won 3-1 giving Rose his 1000th career win and earn a spot in the national championship against Texas Saturday, Dec. 19. (AP)

Onward State: How did you first become involved in volleyball?

Russ Rose: I became involved in volleyball when I went to college with the intention of being a basketball coach and happened to go to a school called George Williams College, doesn’t exist any longer, and it happened to be a school that was very good in volleyball. Just randomly got involved in volleyball because of that. I never took a volleyball class before I got to college, so I transitioned from basketball to volleyball while I was there. I just took a couple classes and learned how to play and was on the team and had terrific mentors that were open to sharing their passion for the game with people who knew nothing about the game. That’s really how I got into volleyball.

OS: You took over the Head Coaching position at Penn State in 1979, only 3 years into the team’s existence. What made you pick Penn State?

RR: You know, when I first graduated from college I applied for jobs and had difficulty getting a job because you needed to have a master’s degree. I didn’t have a master’s degree. And at that point in time everybody said you needed a master’s degree so from my point of view I needed to get a master’s degree. So I contacted a few schools that talked about getting a teaching assistantship or a coaching assistantship to alleviate the cost of graduate school. So I went to Nebraska and coached and I had a teaching assistantship, part time coached, and after a year and a half, I completed my master’s degree in the first year, I stayed the second year and taught classes, was a volleyball coach for the fall.

After that I was looking for job opportunities, and I interviewed at a couple of places and Penn State was one of those places. I liked the idea of being at a school that was, at that time, the number one phys ed school in the country and I was a phys ed guy. I had two degrees in physical education and some of the books I had used as an undergrad or used in grad school and some of them were authored by professors here. So I thought going to Penn State was going to be a great thing professionally, not coaching-wise, just having the chance to talk with leaders in the field. Exercise physiology, we have some of the top guys in exercise physiology. Biomechanics, Pete Cavanagh and Dick Nelson were the top names in Biomechanics at that time. Dorothy Harris in Sports Psychology was one of the leading people in Sports Psychology, Bob Chirstina and Dan Landers in Motor Learning, I mean these guys were writing the books and I though, wow it’d be a cool place to go.

But I was 25 years old, I didn’t have any idea what was necessary to be a volleyball coach, I mean I knew volleyball, but I didn’t know all of the things that in the end were going to be really important for me to pick up for sure. So I looked around and came to Penn State, and it wasn’t that the program was funded that well, or that there was anything. It was Penn State, it was a job, I mean, a little more money than I was getting paid doing the things I was doing. That’s how I came to Penn State.

OS: You’ve become known for “the look” that you give your players when they make a mistake. Is that something you do consciously?

RR: I think I have multiple looks for multiple things they do. I think that when they do things that are great I probably have a welcoming look, that they’re doing the things they’re supposed to be doing and they should feel great about doing that. It’s nice to share that with them. When they do something stupid, I’m probably shaking my head wondering what are you thinking when you do things like that. When they do things that are bad for the culture of the team I have a totally different look, and then when things are really bad I don’t have to look at them at all because I let them go do something else.

OS: You’ve essentially built a powerhouse on the East Coast when volleyball is viewed more as a west coast sport. How were you able to recruit players to a school in the northeast in the middle of a valley when they could have gone to a school with sunshine and beaches?

RR: Well certainly 31 years later, we’ve really established a great tradition, a long term successful program, and that’s a great question, how do you get people to go to a school? Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the best kids really did want to go to California and most of them did. In the middle 80s and 90s and now, the kids want to go where they’re going to play, they want to go to good schools, they want to go to programs that are going to help them professionally, have a future in their academic area, give them some sort of opportunity for greatness through the sport.

The West Coast teams are still very strong, but there are strong schools all over the country, and we happen to be one of them. I’m proud that we’ve been able to attract and have the success we’ve had at Penn State in volleyball because the state of women’s volleyball in Pennsylvania is not great. It’s certainly better in the boy’s side than it is on the girls side. So that has been what I’ve been most proud of because I don’t have the luxury of just saying, I’m just going to get the best kids in the state every year and we’re going to be really good. It’s hard to do that. But I mean there’s still a lot of kids that would like to go to the sunshine and the beaches, but they can do that during break, they all do.

OS: The undertone towards the end of this season was the winning streak, how were you able to keep the team focused on each individual game, as opposed to the streak as a whole?

RR: The group was very mature about this season, they didn’t look at the streak. When we had interviews and people would ask about the streak we would have to answer about the streak but we were never talking about the streak. We were never saying, we’ve got this great streak going, let’s keep it going forever, because nothing’s forever. I think that they recognized, at least how I identified as it was 3 streaks. We had a streak 3 years ago after we lost at Stanford we won the rest of our matches and won the National Championship in 2007. The team we had in 2008 was a juggernaut of a team, we had an entire season without losing a game during the regular season. We ran into a very good Nebraska team at Nebraska that stretched us and tested us and then we won that match and beat Stanford again for the National Championship.

Then this year was a team that was kind of coming back after losing 2 players to the national team. I mean Nicole Fawcett was the National Player of the Year and Christa Harmotto easily could have been the Player of the Year. So we lost two of the top kids in the country, but we had a good core in Alisha Glass and Megan Hodge, two of the finest players at their position in the country and they stepped up in the main role and were able to get it done. So we didn’t really talk about the streak because the goal is to win the National Championship, the goal is not to have a long streak. I would rather win the National Championship than go undefeated and lose in the finals.

So this group was fortunate that they kept their heads on straight and were fortunate to stay healthy and that they were at least willing to do the bare minimum to play well as a group. There were some bumpy sports there for sure but they hung in there well.

OS: These past three seasons have been filled with unparalleled successes, what do you think made those successes possible?

RR: The players. It’s all about the players. You can’t win without the talent and we had great players. The 2008 team I thought we were better at every position against every team we played, except there were a couple matches where maybe there was a tie [laughs]. So we were really just a strong team that had great energy. Christa Harmotto was just an energizer that kept things going for her 4 years.

But I think that it’s about players, you can’t have a successful program without support from the University, the school itself. We’re fortunate that they support the program, support the staff. We’ve got a great staff, and again, if you stay healthy, you’ve got a shot. Christa’s freshman year she blew out her ACL and that ended the season’s prospects for greatness, and we could have been great too. We could have had a little better run, but injuries are part of the game and we were unable to overcome that injury. The other teams we lost to were better than us.

OS: The Men’s volleyball team has also been very successful in recent years, what’s the relationship like between the two teams?

RR: Well, I think it’s a relationship that’s very positive with all of the sports. We have dinner tonight with the women’s basketball team where we’ll share some of our voyage for them. On Saturday we’re doing something with women’s gymnastics. I look at it as it’s Penn State, and I want all of the teams to be successful.

One of the relationships that exist that’s good because of the two volleyball teams is that when we’re out of season they’re in season and the girls have a little more motivation to work because they see how athletic the guys are. The guys play a different game than the women play, but our women play a game much different than a lot of other women’s teams, because I’m more aligned towards the men’s game with them. But I had the luxury of having great athletes that were bigger and stronger and it made it a little different. We’ll see how it goes over the next couple of years as we transition in new players.

But it’s a good relationship. A number of players married members of the men’s team and a couple of the players are now dating members of the men’s team and maybe some of the other teams too, but for sure a couple of the men’s players.

OS: The NCAA recently voted to add Beach Volleyball to their list of “emerging sports” setting up the possibility for schools to add teams. Do you think that Penn State will field a team and how do you think that will affect recruiting for the indoor team?

RR: That’s a great question about beach volleyball, sand volleyball. I wasn’t in favor of it, not that I’m not in favor of sand volleyball, I think beach volleyball is great, you know Misty May and Kerri Walsh, the light they shine so bright winning the last two gold medals, and the men winning gold medals in beach volleyball and indoor volleyball has provided some of the greatest excitement for a sport out there. Sand volleyball in Pennsylvania in the Winter/Spring doesn’t have a great lure, that doesn’t even sound great, doesn’t make me think that it’s something I can run, that I really want to be a part of and spend a lot of energy on. It’ll be interesting, will it hurt recruiting? We’ll see. I think they’re going to table it for a year and it may come to pass in 2011.

I’d like to think that, as I’ve felt all along, it’s a great choice for Southern California. Why doesn’t SC (USC) and UCLA have men’s hockey and women’s hockey? Maybe they don’t have the interest, maybe they don’t have the facilities, although the Kings, the LA hockey team, they have good followership [sic]. But fandom is different than participation. For us to have beach volleyball here doesn’t make a lot of sense, but I think it’d be great if the schools in California had it and they can increase the pool of players if there were 10 schools that had 8 kids and there’s 80 kids playing it all the time that’s an incredibly large pool for future olympic participation and national team things. We’ll see how it spreads out across the country.

The Big 10 wasn’t really in favor of it. If I was at Northwestern I might be more in favor of it because at least we’re on the lakefront and Lake Michigan, although it’s probably negative 30 degrees a good bit of the time. So we’ll see. How will it affect recruiting? I think we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve talked to some players and they’ve asked if we’re going to have a team and I’ve tap danced around my position on it, that I’m in favor of it, but maybe not at Penn State.

OS: During the games, it’s hard to really get a sense of who the players are. They’re so athletically gifted, it’s easy to forget that they all have unique personalities and interest. Who comes to mind as a goofball? Who lightens the mood?

RR: We’ve got some very very funny girls and I would say all of them share in lightening the mood. All of them are comfortable being who they are and I am a big advocate of that. I think people should be who they are, you shouldn’t change for anybody, if they don’t like who you are then find somebody who does. That doesn’t mean that they have free reign to do what ever they want, but certainly when they are amongst each other I think so.

The girls that seem to make everybody laugh, I think Katie Kabbes seems to have that impact on people, as does Heather Tice who seems to be a very funny girl and Marika [Racibarskas] as a freshman, but I think all of them in their own special ways. Some of them are serious and get a real feel for them being real funny and crazy, where the kids on the end of the bench are real crazy and that’s because they’re on the sideline and they have the opportunity to do that.

I think that all of them are terrific young people all with bright futures and they’re fun and not that practices are always fun and enjoyable, but off the court I think they’re great kids that are fun to be around and people who watch them should embrace them because they’re fun, and I think that each and every one of them are special in their own way. Some of them are more comfortable in certain settings, Alicia Glass probably could walk into any group and sit down and be a part of it better than some people, but in their own way I think they’re all good kids.

OS: Last question, if you could be any dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

RR: Well you know, people refer to me as a dinosaur, so I don’t know enough about dinosaurs to answer that question without some sort of education. Some people, if I answered that, would go, “the guy doesn’t know anything about dinosaurs!” Obviously, I don’t know anything about dinosaurs. I have 4 sons, and I think they liked dinosaurs and could answer that question probably better than I could. I like being a dinosaur in the sport of volleyball. I do it my way and I respect the new people and I respect certain things but I’m holding tough on the things that I believe are critical to being a good volleyball team. I’ve been fortunate that they players respond to that.