Saturday, May 01, 2010
The Orange County Register
As I write, I have my papers on me – and not just because I'm in Arizona. I'm an immigrant, and it is a condition of my admission to this great land that I carry documentary proof of my residency status with me at all times and be prepared to produce it to law enforcement officials, whether on a business trip to Tucson or taking a stroll in the woods back at my pad in New Hampshire.
Who would impose such an outrageous Nazi fascist discriminatory law?
Er, well, that would be Franklin Roosevelt.
But don't let the fine print of the New Deal prevent you from going into full-scale meltdown. "Boycott Arizona-stan!" urges MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, surely a trifle Islamophobically: What has some blameless Central Asian basket case done to deserve being compared with a hellhole like Phoenix?
Boycott Arizona Iced Tea, jests Travis Nichols of Chicago. It is "the drink of fascists." Just as regular tea is the drink of racists, according to Newsweek's in-depth and apparently nonsatirical poll analysis of anti-Obama protests. At San Francisco's City Hall, where bottled water is banned as the drink of climate denialists, Mayor Gavin Newsom is boycotting for real: All official visits to Arizona have been canceled indefinitely. You couldn't get sanctions like these imposed at the U.N. Security Council, but then, unlike Arizona, Iran is not a universally reviled pariah.
Will a full-scale economic embargo devastate the Copper State? Who knows? It's not clear to me what San Francisco imports from Arizona. Chaps? But, like the bottled water ban, it sends a strong signal that this kind of hate will not be tolerated.
The same day that Mayor Newsom took his bold stand, I saw a phalanx of police officers doing the full Robocop – black body armor, helmets and visors – as they marched down the street. Naturally I assumed they were Arizona State Troopers performing a routine traffic stop. In fact, they were the police department of Quincy, Ill, facing down a group of genial Tea Party grandmas in sun hats and American-flag T-shirts.
If I were a member of the Quincy PD I'd wear a full-face visor, too, because I wouldn't be able to look myself in the mirror.
And yet the coastal frothers denouncing Arizona as the Third Reich or, at best, apartheid South Africa, seem entirely relaxed about the ludicrous and embarrassing sight of peaceful protesters being menaced by camp storm troopers from either a dinner-theatre space-opera or uniforms night at Mayor Newsom's re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, in Britain, the flailing Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on the stump and met an actual voter, one Gillian Duffy. Alas, she made the mistake of expressing very mild misgivings about immigration. And not the black, brown and yellow kind, but only the faintly swarthy Balkan blokes from Eastern Europe. And, actually, all she said about immigrants was that "you can't say anything about the immigrants." The Prime Minister got back in his limo, forgetting that he was still miked. "That was a disaster," he sighed. "Should never have put me with that woman. Whose idea was that? She's just this sort of bigoted woman."
After the broadcast of his "gaffe" and the sight of Brown slumped with his head in his hands as a radio interviewer replayed the remarks to him, most of the initial commentary focused on what the incident revealed about Gordon Brown's character. But the larger point is what it says about the governing elites and their own voters. Mrs. Duffy is a lifelong supporter of Mr. Brown's Labor Party, but she represents the old working class the party no longer has much time for.
Gillian Duffy lives in the world Gordon Brown has created. He, on the other hand, gets into his chauffeured limo and is whisked far away from it.
That's Arizona. To the coastal commentariat, "undocumented immigrants" are the people who mow your lawn while you're at work and clean your office while you're at home. (That, for the benefit of Linda Greenhouse, is the real apartheid: the acceptance of a permanent "undocumented" servant class by far too many "documented" Americans who assuage their guilt by pathetic sentimentalization of immigration.) But in border states illegal immigration is life and death. I spoke to a lady this week who has a camp of illegals on the edge of her land: She lies awake at night, fearful for her children and alert to strange noises in the yard.
President Obama, shooting from his lip, attacked the new law as an offense against "fairness." Where's the fairness for this woman's family? Because her home is in Arizona rather than Hyde Park, Chicago, she's just supposed to get used to living under siege? Like Gillian Duffy in northern England, this lady has to live there, while the political class that created this situation climbs back into the limo and gets driven far away.
Almost every claim made for the benefits of mass immigration is false. Europeans were told that they needed immigrants to help prop up their otherwise unaffordable social entitlements: In reality, Turks in Germany have three times the rate of welfare dependency as ethnic Germans, and their average retirement age is 50. Two-thirds of French imams are on the dole.
But wait: what about the broader economic benefits? The World Bank calculated that if rich countries increased their workforce by a mere 3 percent through admitting an extra 14 million people from developing countries, it would benefit the populations of those rich countries by $139 billion. Wow!
As Christopher Caldwell points out in his book "Reflections On The Revolution In Europe": "The aggregate gross domestic product of the advanced economies for the year 2008 is estimated by the International Monetary Fund at close to $40 trillion." So an extra $139 billion works out to a spectacular 0.0035 percent. "Sacrificing 0.0035 of your economy would be a pittance to pay for starting to get your country back." A dependence on mass immigration is not a goldmine nor an opportunity to flaunt your multicultural bona fides, but a structural weakness, and should be addressed as such.
The majority of Arizona's schoolchildren are already Hispanic. So, even if you sealed the border today, the state's future is as an Hispanic society: That's a given. Maybe it'll all work out swell. The citizenry never voted for it, but they got it anyway. Because all the smart guys in the limos bemoaning the bigots knew what was best for them.
Friday, April 30, 2010
By Jonah Goldberg
April 30, 2010
I’ve got a proposal for you. I’d call it a “modest proposal” but, thanks to Jonathan Swift, when writers say that, it means they’re about to propose something absolutely bonkers to make a satirical point along the lines of “Let’s eat Irish babies!” or “Joe Biden should be president!”
My proposal might still be crazy, but it’s not satire.
Okay, okay, I can tell you’re keen to hear it.
But wait. First, a peeve.
The president and his party jammed through health-care legislation that was objectively unpopular with the American people. It remains unpopular. It stipulates that it is essentially illegal not to have health insurance. A dozen or so states are suing on the grounds that the federal government doesn’t have the right to force people to buy health insurance.
The response from backers of Obamacare has been one of sanctimonious outrage and derision. To pick just one example, the current issue of The New Republic features an essay claiming this legal effrontery marks a return of the Confederacy’s hated and racist doctrine of nullification. The “new nullifiers,” exclaims the preening liberal historian Sean Wilentz, “would have us repudiate the sacrifices of American history — and subvert the constitutional pillars of American nationhood.”
Forget that when George W. Bush was in office, standing athwart the government was all the rage without conjuring any Confederate demons. Liberals talked about Blue State secession from “Jesusland” with condescending glee. The New York Times ran a love letter to the “states’ rights left” by contributor Jim Holt arguing that “states’ rights has not always been the intellectual property of reactionaries.”
But forget all that. Consider that even now there are more than 30 so-called “sanctuary cities” that formally ban their own police from enforcing federal immigration laws or even cooperating with federal officers trying to enforce them. But not a peep about “nullification” from the Wilentzers.
Ditto when it comes to the countless, constitutionally dubious, hippy-dippy “Nuclear Free Zones” that dot the American landscape in defiance of the federal government’s fundamental rights to provide for the common defense and ensure interstate commerce.
But — and you know where this is going — when the state of Arizona opts to pass a popular law requiring Arizonan officials to comply with and enforce federal law, suddenly all of the usual suspects come completely unglued. Police will be allowed to ask people for their “papers”! Gird your loins for Götterdämmerung!
Forget being a throwback to the Confederacy; the sanctimony choir cries out that Arizona has rematerialized as 1940 Berlin, albeit with a drier climate. Ironic, since the requirement that legal immigrants carry their “papers” at all times was signed into law by FDR that very year.
Linda Greenhouse, longtime Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times and currently a Yale law professor, penned an op-ed for the Times in which she emoted that Arizona has become a Nazi-esque “police state” where it is a crime to be “breathing while undocumented.”
Now, I don’t want to dwell on Greenhouse’s gas, since she not only misread the law, she literally read the wrong law (an earlier draft that was changed before passage, actually).
But that bit about “breathing while undocumented” strikes a chord. Because, you see, under Obamacare, it is now something of a crime to “breath while uninsured,” too. In fact, if you really want to hear the government say “Deine papieren, bitte!” just wait until that law is fully implemented, assuming the “new nullifiers” fail.
So here’s where that wacky proposal I mentioned earlier comes in. Let’s throw it all back to the states. Arizona can be an illegal-immigrant-free zone and New York can hold an open house for everyone. The same goes for health care. States that want universal health care can provide it, including to illegal immigrants (or should I just say “immigrants”?). Other states can let the market rule. The feds would save piles of money that can go to paying off our credit cards (or to antiterrorism, to deal with undocumented New Yorkers/terrorists).
If it were up to me, the feds would still enforce basic civil rights, provide for the common defense and protect interstate commerce (sorry, nuke-free zones!), but beyond that, let freedom reign.
Unfortunately, for progressives who must always have their way, that’s crazier than a “Biden 2016” bumper sticker.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.'
By Liam Lacey
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published on Wednesday, Apr. 21, 2010
Two armies of spider crabs face off on the ocean floor and then suddenly fall on one another, twisting pincers and legs in an undulating battle. Dozens of newly hatched sea turtles scamper for their lives to the ocean as birds dive-bomb and pick them off. A pair of polka-dotted garden eels stand upright to perform a swaying samba dance.
There are two recurrent reactions in watching the new documentary, Oceans: First, how on earth did they get that shot? Second, who knew we were sharing the planet with so many beautiful and bizarre creatures?
The answer to the first question is time, technology and patience. French team of Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud (the team behind the 2001 film, Winged Migration) spent seven years, four of them in gathering footage on more than 70 expeditions. They used cameras that allowed them to move intimately among the fish and animals in the ocean, sometimes taking months to capture a brief segment.
The movie opens with children scrambling across sand dunes, and one boy stopping to look at the ocean: “What is the ocean?” asks narrator Pierce Brosnan. The answer, he says, is that you have to immerse yourself in the ocean to understand it.
The film’s organization is dictated by emotional rhythms more than any pedagogical plan. We hop about from clownfish to sea lions, penguins and sharks, otters and an assortment of wonderful oddities: blanket octopus that appear to be trailing long silk scarves, or lionfish, spiked and striped like gaudy carnival dancers.
There are life-and-death dramas, moments of playfulness and tenderness, which create an ever-increasing sense of wonder. There is one scene of vast choreography – as dolphin herd sardines into a bait ball like a spinning top, while birds plunge down like spears through the water, picking off the surface fish. And then whales arrive to crash the party – shot from above, below and at the surface of the water, accompanied by an appropriately symphonic score from French composer Bruno Coulais.
The final third of the film focuses on the interconnectedness between humans and nature, in some respects a challenge here, given that these fish exist in a realm few human beings ever visit. One solution is to leave the planet entirely, in a satellite shot that shows the pollution oozing from the world’s rivers into the oceans. Another is to show a diver, swimming easily beside a nonchalant shark. The environmental message is deliberately low-key – a brief illustration of the massive collateral damage of trawling nets; a telling image of a seal swimming past a shopping cart on the ocean bottom – with the reasonable assumption that a few well-chosen images are going to mean more to the film’s young audience than a litany of dire facts.
Occasionally, Oceans indulges in hokiness in its efforts to make the message of environmental care seem both personally important and adventurous. One shot, no doubt created in post-production, defines the spirit of the film; it’s an image of a rocket blasting to space, but reflected in the eye of a marine iguana whose mournful expression seems to say: “But what about us?”
Disney has promised to make a contribution to The Nature Conservancy to save coral reefs “in honour of every guest who sees Oceans during opening week [tomorrow April 22 through April 28].” Somewhere a garden eel may be doing a dance of gratitude.
Directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud
Written by Christophe Cheysson, Jacques Perrin, Jacques Cluzaud, François Sarano, Stéphane Durand, Laurent Debas and Laurent Gaude
Narrated by Pierce Brosnan
Come on in, water's fine in 'Oceans'
By Kyle Smith
New York Post
April 22, 2010
It isn't just the marvelously rich photography that makes "Oceans" such a sensuous, invigorating documentary, one that begs for the invention of new adjectives (splendificent? sumptuoso?). Behold the detail of the sound mix: the drumroll of a vigorous surf. The ruthless clip of a bird of prey as it plucks a newborn sea turtle for a canapé. The scuttle of the wondrous and wee across the ocean floor like a hand rustling in a three-quarters empty bucket of popcorn.
As the film, from Disney, roams all of the world's oceans, underwater life seems like it was imagined by Martin Scorsese. Phalanxes of scarily determined spider crabs strut into battle as psychotically as if re-enacting "Gangs of New York."
A comic-looking fish disguised as a rock turns out to be, in the presence of an unsuspecting passerby, as quick to violence as any squat fiend Joe Pesci ever played.
The movie ends with the usual alarmism about how endangered all of this is by man, and it interrupts its own majesty with some bizarre images, such as a rocket taking off and a Cutty Sark-style sailing ship going by, but these interludes are brief.
What isn't is the blundering narration provided by Pierce Brosnan. "The ocean is an ancient place." Uh-huh. "The ocean is vast." Bland, James bland. Worse are the moments in which our host tries to be James Baudelaire: "All manner of creatures followed -- gazing toward the heavens with prehistoric eyes." "As far as the eye can see -- north and south and east and west -- the ocean smiles at the sky." "On a clear night, as the ocean draws her secrets near, the moonlight dances on the waves."
The movie could -- should -- be a symphony, and it frequently makes excellent use of spare classical music. When Brosnan pipes up, he is as welcome as a car alarm.
The (many) credited authors of this drivel are their own worst anemones. But the photographers effortlessly save them with their nonstop array of dazzling and hypnotic images. If you can't spare a few thousand hours to wander through the vasty deep yourself, "Oceans" will do nicely.
FOR all the hoo-hah over its visuals, there's not one moment in this week's biggest new movie - 2012 - that will leave you mouthing: "How the hell did they do that?
'Cos the answer's always obvious: They chucked £100 million at the special effects company.
But watch the opening to this bleakly brilliant British street drama starring Michael Caine and I defy you not to be blown away.
Grainy mobile phone footage shows a mob of thugs smoking crack and twirling pistols. Seconds later, two hoodies - maybe from the same gang, maybe not - rev a scooter past a young mum and threaten her with a handgun, for a laugh.
They shoot to miss her. But they don't miss.
So the pair panic, speed off and career headlong into a ten-ton lorry.
Three deaths, zero point. And it looks horrifically real.
It also sets the scene perfectly for a punishingly raw crime thriller that doesn't just hold a mirror up to Broken Britain but shoves a lit newspaper through its letterbox and spray-paints "A*SE" on its front door.
Harry Brown (Caine, currently on a three-film winning streak) is a widower caught on a London sink estate that's sinking ever further as he watches.
Local hoodies (chillingly played by Ben Drew, AKA rapper Plan B, and Jack O'Connell from Eden Lake) stab his elderly best friend but the police can't pin the crime on them.
So ex-Royal Marine Harry takes matters into his own hands, and finds himself pitted not only against the scumbags but the two honest cops (Emily Mortimer and Charlie Creed-Miles) doing things by the book.
On paper it sounds like Death Wish: OAP edition, which is clearly a risky prospect. But the film works so well because Caine DOESN'T play the pensioner as some daft vigilante granddad. Harry's just an ordinary old man pushed too far, and you'll be on board with him the whole way.
This is a blazingly confident movie from first-time director Daniel Barber, which is packed with strong performances. And the lawless mood is evoked so well, at times it feels like a Western. It's a disturbing, downbeat but vital British film. Pick of the week by far.
Reviewer: Mark Dinning
With his wife having recently passed away and his best friend bullied daily by the drug-peddling gangs on his estate, aged ex-Royal Marine Harry Brown (Caine) decides to come out of retirement to clean up the neighbourhood…
At a recent screening of Harry Brown, no less than Michael Caine’s 110th film, Empire witnessed one of his friends come up to him at the end and say, “Wow, Michael. That doesn’t pull any punches, does it?” Caine smiled back. “You bet it doesn’t. But I’ll be in trouble now,” he said, gesturing towards his wife, Shakira. “I told the missus it was a bit like Mary Poppins…”
And, let’s be clear, one thing Harry Brown is not, is anything like Mary Poppins.
Most obviously, it’s the UK’s answer to Gran Torino, with its disgruntled OAP putting the smackdown on the smackheads polluting the turf he’s called home for years. It also borders, alarmingly at points, on a fascist’s fantasy, Caine’s Harry shooting, barb-wiring and torturing his hoodie prey without much in the way of remorse and with much in the way of graphic close-up.
In lesser hands, frankly, it could have played like a tooled-up episode of Jeremy Kyle. But Daniel Barber’s economic direction — in, astonishingly, his first feature — gives his revenge flick a distinct identity of its own. From a truly scary, immediate and immersive pre-credits sequence, througha series of unbearably tense scenes (the standout being Caine’s visit to a drug dealer’s den) and to a wonderfully Western climax, Barber takes his time, giving Harry room to breathe. We’re there when his wife dies. We’re there when his friend is brutalised by the gangs on his estate. And, as a result, we’re there with him when he exacts his savage payback.
It’s unsettling, it’s not for the faint of heart and — to repeat — it’s no Mary Poppins. But it is a powerful and accessible movie that’s brave enough to ask uneasy questions amid its explosive set-pieces and witty one-liners. Not to mention one that reconfirms Caine as the unparalleled king of cool. His transformation from chess-playing old codger to gun-toting Dirty Harry is a masterclass in slow-build.
The same, sadly, can’t be said for a series of underwritten, sometimes nonsensical subplots (Emily Mortimer’s daft cop and Iain Glen’s moronic boss especially underdeveloped). Nevertheless, Caine’s mesmerising, tough-as-old-boots performance makes Harry Brown, if no Get Carter 2, somewhere not a million miles removed. Get some.
Essential stuff, even by the big man’s considerable standards.
By HOLLAND COTTER
The New York Times
April 29, 2010
Todd Heisler/The New York Times
Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a retrospective of the collection; above, a view of “Seated Harlequin,” 1901.
When in doubt, haul the Picassos out. There have already been several such haulings-out this year, and now comes the biggest of all, “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art,” a display of nearly every scrap in the Met’s scrappy Picasso collection: 34 paintings, 58 drawings, a dozen sculptures and ceramics, along with 200 of the museum’s 400 prints.
In terms of logistics, homegrown is great. Low overhead. No frets about loans held up by volcanoes. Even fairly ambitious shows can be short-order jobs. This one was just a year in the planning, which is nothing in museum time.
Also, the instant availability of all the art allows for concentrated study.
And the show’s curators — Gary Tinterow and Susan Alyson Stein of the Met’s department of 19th-century, Modern and contemporary art — took full advantage of this with a sweeping conservation campaign. Virtually every Picasso piece was given the equivalent of a complete physical, and the exams revealed fascinating things, detailed in the catalog: preparatory drawing, underpainting, compositional rethinking and material recycling invisible to the unassisted eye.
The problem is the collection itself, which, despite some knockout items, is stodgy and almost bizarrely lopsided.
The Met has a history of dragging its feet with new art. It began acquiring Picasso only late in the game, and even then it didn’t come up with the idea on its own. Out of the blue in 1947 Gertrude Stein got the ball rolling when she gave the museum its first Picasso, the portrait he had painted of her in Paris between 1905 and 1906.
What arrived thereafter, again largely as gifts, tended to be conservative. While the Museum of Modern Art was wolfing down audacious helpings of Cubism, the Met was content with a tasting menu of early Blue Period, Rose Period and neo-Classical fare. But at least it got good stuff in these areas. So the show, arranged chronologically, begins with some flair. It also introduces the basic metabolism of the career that would follow: tame high polish, followed by brain-rattling innovation, followed by a retreat to safety before the next revolution.
Picasso was well aware of his immense talent. He knew that he was equipped to be, and at some level longed to be, Ingres all over again; his hand and his eye were that fine, his love of the past that strong. But if there really is some stray molecule in the brain that produces a chronic rebel, he had it. So he spent a lifetime deliberately not being Ingres, or Cézanne, or Praxiteles, all the while casting a loving eye in their direction.
In 1900, at the age of 19 in Barcelona, he’s already a restless wizard of forms and lines, evident in a set of tiny ink portraits he did of artist friends. Most of the likenesses verge on caricature, though one sitter has a dark, brooding masher’s allure: it’s a self-portrait. Picasso, even in youth, wasn’t the cool dreamboat type. He was a jumpy 5-foot-4 blast furnace. Even during downtime the pilot light was on high.
But there was hardly any downtime. By 1901 he was in Madrid, then in Paris, adding pinches of Goya to Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec and his other gods of the moment. This wasn’t a happy time. Girlfriends came and went. A friend committed suicide. Money was scarce. The future looked bleak. He was reduced to painting pornography on commission, or that’s one possible explanation for the painting called “Erotic Scene,” which came to the Met in 1982 but has not been shown till now and for good reason. It’s lousy.
Metropolitan Museum of Art
“The Blind Man’s Meal,” painted in Barcelona in 1903.
Still, it’s a product of what is now an exceptionally popular phase in his work, the Blue Period, which lasted from 1901 to 1904, when his own just-scraping-by existence made him responsive to the plight of the poor. Beggars, laborers and prostitutes, famished and bent over as if under crushing weight, were his subjects. His version of social realism was, of course, Romantic and unspecific. With their subaqueous palette, these paintings seem to luxuriate in a kind of cosmic depression, the way we do in adolescence, when we’re living on caffeine, dreams and nerves. “Seated Harlequin,” painted when Picasso was 20, catches the mood. The androgynous, pensive theatrical figure sitting alone in a cafe, could be the artist himself.
Although Picasso began to replace blue with pink and beggars with clowns, the air of melancholy persisted until the summer of 1906 when, with his lover Fernande Olivier, he left Paris for a stay in the Spanish Pyrenees. His color changed again, to earthen browns and grays. His figures, now often nude, bulked up but with the kind of carved, compartmentalized naturalism that would lead to the Stein portrait and beyond it to Cubism.
Cubism was his mold-shattering rebel moment, and a collaborative one, shared with Georges Braque. The leap it represented, however assiduously trained for, is given to few artists to make. It basically redefined Western concepts of space, time, art, beauty, high, low, good, bad — the works. Too bad that it’s exactly at this point that the Met’s Picasso collection starts to break down, and the show to lose steam.
This is not to say there aren’t wonderful things; there are, from the 1910 charcoal drawing called “Standing Female Nude,” with its near-abstract stack of brackets and shelves, to the radically anti-virtuosic newsprint collages of 1912. Yet this intense, difficult moment of invention, when Picasso was fighting every grandstanding, people-pleasing instinct in him, is disconcertingly underrepresented at the Met and outweighed by the backward-looking neo-Classical work that he churned out after World War I.
A familiar example, “Woman in White,” got some press in the 1990s after scholars proposed that its sitter was not, as assumed, Picasso’s Russian wife, Olga Khokhlova, but the free-spirited American Sara Murphy. Intrigue! Hidden passions! An affair? The story of Picasso’s art and the explanation for what makes it tick is often told in terms of the women in his life. And although this simplistic approach has long since grown tired, it’s the one we are invited to pursue at the Met.
So we move from a 1927 portrait of the jealous, jilted Olga as an enormous screaming mouth, to another, from 1932, of the teenage Marie-Thérèse Walter as a slumberous, pinheaded blimp, to a third, dated 1939, of Dora Maar — “the only one of Picasso’s lovers who was his match in mind and temperament,” according to the catalog — as a grinning, pulled-apart doll. By contrast, Stein remains, in her portrait, recognizably, monumentally herself, possibly because Picasso — who had a hard time with the picture — couldn’t turn her into an extension of his own ego.
To his credit he was fully conscious of that ego and able to call the shots on it in a myriad of direct or oblique self-portraits, as heartthrob, harlequin, minotaur, big-deal artist, classical god and, in the years before his death in 1973, pint-size musketeer. Most of these characters turn up in the show’s final room, a salon-style hanging of prints as exhausting to take in as it must have been to install.
Massed together, the prints give a fair idea of why this artist is the awesome and exasperating presence he is and why his work can look exhaustibly inventive from one perspective and like occupational therapy from another. From the Met’s prints you can grasp both views, but from its Picasso collection as a whole, so off-kilter and mild, no.
In the long run the museum is doing a smart thing by going public with its deficiencies. The results make for a disappointing exhibition, but they also serve as an open call to collectors to pony up with gifts, fill in those blanks, be another Gertrude Stein. If the ploy works, maybe the next time the museum hauls out its Picassos, it will have not just a popular hit, which this show is sure to be, but also a great event.
“Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” remains on view through Aug. 1 at the Met; metmuseum.org.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
In the war against jihad it might seem that President Obama’s plan to remove all discussion of Islam and jihad from our national security document would rank higher as a threat to Western security than recent attempts to link the pope to 40 year-old sex crimes in Milwaukee. But the perfect storm that has hit the Catholic Church may turn out to be of greater consequence for the West’s survival. For that reason it’s important to sort out how much of the current indignation toward Rome represents justified anger, and how much of it represents a larger anti-Christian agenda.
VATICAN CITY, VATICAN - APRIL 28: A gull glides off the sculpture of the Christ on the top of the St. Peter's Basilica during the Pope Benedict XVI's weekly audience on April 28, 2010 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Getty Images)
Non-Catholic Christians who think the recent media blitz against the Catholic Church is mainly about sex abuse should think again. Likewise, Christians would be naïve to think that those who would like to discredit the Catholic Church will be content, should they succeed, to leave the rest of Christianity alone. The attack on the Catholic Church should be seen as part of a larger attack against Christianity itself. Of course, there have been attacks on Christianity before, but never before have the stakes been so high. From the standpoint of the West’s survival it would be difficult to imagine a worse time for the pundits to launch a campaign to undermine Christian belief.
There is much to suggest that media criticism of the Church is fueled less by outrage over pedophilia, and more by another agenda. There wasn’t much outrage over Roman Polanski’s rape of a 13 year-old girl a number of years ago. When attempts were made last year to bring Polanski back to the U.S. to serve his sentence, many of the same cultural elites who are now condemning the Church, leapt to his defense. Likewise, there has never been much media outrage over the apparent crimes of celebrated sex researcher Alfred Kinsey. The media continued to lionize Kinsey long after it was revealed that he had collaborated with pedophiles in order to gather data. “What did Kinsey know and when did he know it?” has never been a pressing question for CNN or The New York Times.
In 1996—several years before the priestly sex scandal broke—Mary Eberstadt wrote the first of two in-depth articles on “Pedophilia Chic” for the Weekly Standard. She made a convincing case that liberal elites were moving in the direction of tearing down the taboo against pedophilia. The only thing that stopped them, she suggests in a recent article, was the opportunity to use priestly pedophilia as a weapon to demonize the Church. Of course, there was no pause in the liberal media’s campaign to normalize homosexuality, and this may account for the fact that much of the media coverage conveniently ignored the homosexual nature of the abuse—something that should have been difficult to ignore, given that about 90 % of male abuse victims were teenage boys, not young children. While criticizing the Church for cover-ups, media pundits had no compunctions about their own calculated cover-up of a major aspect of the abuse.
Though sexual abuse remains a problem in the Catholic Church, enormous strides have been made in rooting it out, due in large part to a crackdown that originated with Cardinal Ratzinger in 2001. So, the venomous attacks on him and the church he represents, suggest that something else is afoot. When a major Canadian newspaper features a piece claiming that the pope’s “whole career has the stench of evil,” it’s time to reach for the decoding machine. That particular quote comes from Christopher Hitchens, who has made a career in recent years of questioning the legitimacy, not just of Catholicism, but of Christianity, itself. Hitchens aside, there is plenty of other evidence that Catholics are not the only ones being targeted for de-legitimization. In Canada and in Europe, Christian pastors have been fined or jailed for expressing their beliefs from the pulpit. In Birmingham, England, Christian evangelists were warned by police that distributing gospel leaflets in a Muslim section would be considered a hate crime. A survey of history textbooks for American schoolchildren reveals that they present Christianity as a purveyor of bigotry and violence. On college campuses, Christian clubs are routinely banned. Meanwhile, Christianity is often the butt of vulgar comedy routines, and of crude cartoons that make the infamous Muhammad cartoon look benign by comparison.
Why the outrage? Read between the lines of a typical assault column and you’ll find that what the columnist really hates about Catholicism and about Christianity in general is not the moral failings of Christian leaders, but the fact that Christianity still proposes moral absolutes. It is not sexual misbehavior that galls, but rather that the churches dare to put limits on sexual behavior. Christian churches are the main obstacle to the dominance of secular gods such as moral relativism and absolute sexual liberation. While Christians and non-Christians are rightly disturbed by the sex scandals in the Catholic Church, they also ought to be disturbed at the motives behind some of the criticism.
As Brendan O’Neill, himself an atheist, writes, “Many contemporary opinion-formers are not concerned with getting to the truth [of what happened]…rather they want to milk incidents of abuse and make them into an indictment of religion itself.” What draws militant secularists and atheists toward the Catholic-abuse story? O’Neill says it is “their belief that religion is itself a form of abuse.” As atheist Richard Dawkins writes, “Odious as the physical abuse of children by priests undoubtedly is, I suspect that it may do them less lasting damage than the mental abuse of bringing them up Catholic in the first place.” But, as O’Neill points out, if religious upbringing is a form of abuse, then “authorities must protect children not only from religious institutions but from their own religious parents, too.” The dismantling of Christianity can proceed that much more smoothly if enough people can be convinced that, “It’s for the children’s sake.”
There is, of course, a major exemption from media condemnation of child abuse. It appears that the abuse of children is much more acceptable to the opinion-makers when it is protected by the shield of multiculturalism. The media has been much less willing to criticize the widespread child abuse that occurs in Islamic cultures, or to note that, in the case of Islam, the abuse is religiously sanctioned. For example, although one can find plenty of criticism of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s political views, rarely does one see a condemnation of his views on sex. The one-time spiritual leader of Iran not only endorsed sex with children in his writings, but he also took to himself a 13 year-old bride.
This sobering image, showing a 40-year-old groom sitting beside his 11-year-old future bride in Afghanistan, brought Stephanie Sinclair top honors in 2007 in the annual Photo of the Year contest sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Here we come to the world-historical turning point of which the frenzied assaults on the Catholic Church are only a part. The drive to undermine the Church’s moral authority, and the threat posed by Islam are linked in an ironic way. For many centuries the Catholic faith was the main bulwark against the Islamization of Europe. Now that Christianity is in decline in Europe, Islam is on the move again. And with the growing presence of Islam has come an increase in child abuse—or what the West considers as child abuse. The sexual exploitation of children is considered a far less serious offense in Islamic societies, and is often protected by the force of sharia law. Muhammad, who consummated his marriage with Aisha when she was nine years-old, is considered by all Muslim authorities to have provided a “beautiful pattern of conduct.” That’s why, whenever a Muslim country tries to ban child marriages (as recently happened in Yemen), you can be sure that the imams will rise up to insist on their right to marry minors.
And the exploitation of girls is only half the story. There also appears to be some justification in the Koran for the culture of pederasty, which Phyllis Chesler points out is “epidemic in the Muslim world.” A recent edition of PBS Frontline reported on the phenomenon of the dancing boys of Afghanistan—youngsters who are recruited, usually at age nine or ten, to provide entertainment and sex for men. While Islam frowns on adult homosexuality, pederasty is a different matter. Perhaps this has to do with several passages in the Koran which promise men that in addition to the dark-eyed maidens that await them in paradise, “there shall wait on them young boys of their own as fair as virgin pearls” (52: 22). Since the boys are mentioned in conjunction with the maidens, and since they are described in the same way—“graced with eternal youth,” “fair as virgin pearls”—it seems likely that they are there for the same purpose.
The dancing boys haven’t yet been imported to Europe, but Europe’s waltz with the multicultural devil has already whirled it into unfamiliar territory. A United Nations NGO study estimates that there are now 10,000 cases of female genital mutilation in Switzerland, with hundreds of thousands of cases elsewhere in Europe. According to a National Police Chiefs report an estimated 17,000 girls and women in the UK are victims of honor crimes or forced marriages each year. In the British Midlands girls in their early teens are routinely flown to Pakistan to marry men they have never met.
Europe’s Muslim girls are being mutilated and forced into marriages… therefore, according to the twisted logic of the opinion molders, it must be time to go after the Vatican for possible cover-ups of long ago. It’s a strange juxtaposition. Not that the abuse scandals aren’t newsworthy stories. But there are two ways to frame them. You can angrily focus on what wasn’t done in the past, or you can point out how much the Church has done in recent years to root out the problem. Unlike the public schools (which have a much higher incidence of abuse) the Catholic Church has actually done something about its abuse problem. That’s why almost all the cases highlighted by the media took place decades ago.
Judging by the way the story has been handled, it’s difficult to avoid the impression that the Western elites want to do as much damage as possible to the Church—which, when you think about it, betrays an almost suicidal impulse. It really does seem that the fate of Europe is bound up with the fate of Christianity in Europe. Europe is in trouble in large part because it has rejected its Christian heritage and embraced moral and cultural relativism, instead. In the end, cultural relativism is a suicidal policy which is why Pope Benedict has frequently cautioned the West about the dangers inherent in a “culture of relativism.”
Relativism is the ultimate justification for never having to say you’re sorry. As the climate of opinion changes in a relativist society, so will the consensus about what’s right and wrong. And if Catholic Christianity is swept aside in Europe, the climate of opinion will increasingly be dictated by Islam. Some may think that once Europe is free of its Catholic/Christian influence, children in lederhosen will once again romp freely through the meadows. But don’t count on it. Instead, look for children in hijabs being hurried into the local government approved clitorectomy clinic.
A lot of people find it difficult to fathom the motives of suicide bombers. It may be time to also ponder the motives of the suicide pundits who have declared open season on the religion that built their civilization, while treating as a protected species the religion which aims to dismantle it.
- William Kilpatrick’s articles on Islam have appeared in Front Page Magazine, Jihad Watch, Catholic World Report, the National Catholic Register, World, and Investor’s Business Daily.
By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 29, 2010
In an inevitable state of ignorance of some of its major provisions, Pres. Barack Obama recently signed a 2,700-page health-care bill. Since then, the president has championed a 1,400-page financial-reform proposal, insisting that it does not provide a blank check for future multibillion-dollar corporate bailouts — but the bill would, in fact, provide a blank-check for future multibillion-dollar corporate bailouts.
The point of these geysers of legislation is to produce tsunamis of regulation. Tens of thousands of pages dense with code will shift control of previously private activity to swelling bureaucracies, unaccountable to any but the most wired insiders. In crony socialism as in crony capitalism, what matters is who you know. When it comes to the law, no one can really know what it is.
In his spare time, on April 8, President Obama signed an arms-reduction treaty with Russia. He urges swift ratification of the accord even though, as former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton observes, important provisions are still being negotiated. In the spirit of the times, though, the pact would become the law of the land before those details are finalized, while its authors either don’t know what it says or are lying about it. Administration officials told Arizona Republican Sens. Jon Kyl and John McCain — who will be central to the Senate’s ratification debate — that the treaty referred to missile defense only in the hortatory, non-binding preamble. Yet when the senators looked at the treaty’s binding terms, they found, right there in black and white, a provision (Art. V, para. 3) that would require the United States to refrain from placing “defense interceptors” in existing missile launchers — a severe compromise of American national security.
So when the president hastily pronounced Arizona’s new immigration bill “misguided” and “irresponsible,” Arizona residents — whom the federal government has abandoned to the siege of Mexican warlords, narco-peddlers, and squatters — may be forgiven for snickering. Come to think of it, snickering has become the default reaction to pronouncements on the law by our ex-law-prof-in-chief , particularly those prefaced by his most grating verbal tic, “Let me be clear . . . .”
Why “misguided” and “irresponsible”? The president elaborated that the Arizona law “threaten[s] to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans.” To be sure, Obama has notions of fairness, but they are his own, marinated in doctrinaire leftism. As for the American ideal that he ceaselessly invokes but clearly doesn’t get, our Constitution’s framers thought fundamental fairness would be fatally undermined by two things: the inability of the governed to consent to legal arrangements because it had become impossible to know what the law is, and the failure of central government to tend to its first responsibility: the nation’s security.
The consent of the governed, it is worth remembering, is the only just source of the power that government wields in a free society. One cannot consent to what one cannot know. Thus, there can be no legitimate government if, as Madison put it in Federalist No. 62, “the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes, that no man who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow.”
Our elected officials and judicial officers don’t rule us. They are there to govern, to implement our will. When they resort to impenetrable legislative monstrosities to implement their own will without our consent — indeed, over our objection — that is not governing. It is dictating.
Maybe that’s the Obama administration’s problem with Arizona’s new law: It is too short (16 pages), too clear, and too reflective of the popular will. Unlike the social scientists in Nancy Pelosi’s federal laboratory, state lawmakers didn’t need to pass the law first in order to find out what was in it. Essentially, it criminalizes (as a state misdemeanor) something that is already illegal (namely, being present in the United States in violation of federal law), and it directs law-enforcement officers to, yes, enforce the law. Democrats and their media echo-chamber regard this as radical; for most of us, it is what’s known as common sense.
And here’s another commonsense proposition: A government that abdicates our national defense against outside forces is no longer a government worth having.
In adopting the Constitution, in giving their consent to our social contract, the sovereign states agreed to cede some of their authority in exchange for one overriding benefit. It was not to have an overseer to monitor our salt intake, design our light bulbs, prepare for our retirement, manage our medical treatments, or mandate our purchases. It was to provide for our security. It was to repel invasion by aliens who challenged our sovereign authority to set the conditions of their presence on our soil.
For that reason, border security has always been the highest prerogative of sovereignty. Immune from judicial interference, it answers to no warrant requirement. At the border, the federal government does not need probable cause — or any cause at all — to inquire into a person’s citizenship, immigration status, or purpose for attempting to enter our country. Agents can detain immigrants and citizens alike. They can perform bodily searches. They can go through every inch of a would-be entrant’s belongings, read his mail, and scrutinize the contents of his computer. A person subjected to this treatment may find it degrading or unfair, but the courts have nothing to say about it. At stake, after all, is the irreducible core of a sovereign people’s power to protect themselves from intruders.
At the southern border, however, the federal government has forfeited its power. As a result, Arizonans are imperiled by Mexico’s brutally violent warring factions. They are crushed economically as the magnet effect of our unsustainable welfare state falls disproportionately on their schools, hospitals, jails, and pocketbooks, to the tune of nearly $2 billion per year.
Arizona is a sovereign state. Its citizens have a natural right to defend themselves, particularly when the federal government surrenders. The state’s new law does precisely that, in a measured way that comes nowhere close to invoking the necessary, draconian powers Leviathan has but refuses to use.
Demagogues are smearing Arizona’s immigration law as “racial profiling” because it endorses police inquiries into the validity of a person’s presence in the United States. The claim could not be more specious. The law does not give police any new basis to stop and detain someone. Police may not inquire into immigration status unless they have a “lawful” basis for stopping the person in the first place. And even then, the police officer must have “reasonable suspicion” before attempting to determine whether the person is lawfully present. And that suspicion must be generated by something beyond race and ethnicity — as Byron York notes, the law expressly says these may not be the sole factors.
The law is clearly constitutional. Yet the Obama administration, having buried unconsenting Americans under avalanches of debt and inscrutable, unconstitutional mega-statutes, is mulling a court challenge, casting its lot with lawless aliens against besieged Arizonans.
A government destructive of our citizens’ basic rights to know, to determine, and to have the protection of the law cannot endure. This one will not. The only question is how much more damage we will allow it to do.
By Clifford D. May
April 29, 2010 12:00 A.M.
What do Comedy Central and Yale University Press have in common? In the Islamist war against free speech, both have been on the front lines. And both have surrendered.
Last week, Comedy Central censored any depiction or even mention of the Prophet Mohammed from an episode of the adult cartoon series South Park. This capitulation followed a “warning” from a group calling itself “Revolution Muslim” that those responsible would “probably wind up like Theo van Gogh” — the Dutch filmmaker murdered by a Dutch-Moroccan Muslim for producing Submission, a documentary about the plight of women in Islamic societies.
Also censored by Comedy Central was a speech about intimidation and fear. Though the speech made no mention of Mohammed, the executives at Comedy Central evidently decided it might offend or anger someone — perhaps Islamists who make it their business to intimidate and frighten.
Kind of comedic when you think about it, no?
Similarly, Yale University Press last year published The Cartoons that Shook the World, a book on the controversy and violence — as many as 200 people were killed — incited by Islamists in response to the appearance of twelve satirical caricatures of Mohammed in Danish newspapers in 2005.
The publishers decided not to include the caricatures in the book about the caricatures. John Donatich, director of Yale University Press, candidly told the New York Times that he didn’t want to end up with “blood on my hands.”
As you might expect, when it comes to caving in to Islamist pressure, Europeans have been the trend-setters. All the way back in 1989, Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa calling for the murder — by any Muslim willing and able — of British author Salman Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses Khomeini declared offensive to Islam. The European response to this assault — not just on a European citizen but also on European values — was feckless.
Four years ago, the Deutsche Oper cancelled a production of Mozart’s Idomeneo, an opera in which the severed heads of Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammed appear onstage. The “moderate” head of Germany’s Islamic Council, Ali Kizilkaya, commended the opera house for respecting Muslim sensitivities. That’s kind of funny, too, when you think about it.
Sigmund Freud once said he regarded the burning of his books as a mark of progress. “In the Middle Ages,” he explained, “they would have burned me.” Wouldn’t he be surprised to learn that, a century later, we are apparently heading back to the Middle Ages — thanks to regimes, movements, and ideologies the names of which many of our cultural and political leaders dare not even pronounce.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, this month wrote a letter to John Brennan, who carries the hefty title of assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and deputy national security adviser. Lieberman expressed his concern over the deletion of “Islamic extremism” — or any term that might suggest a link between terrorism and either Islam or Islamism — from the U.S. National Security Strategy.
This omission — the product, no doubt, less of fear than of “political correctness” and bureaucrats playing at public relations — is, Lieberman noted, only “the most recent in a series of administration statements that refuse to acknowledge that we are engaged in a war with an enemy that has killed thousands of Americans based not on a vague policy of extremism but on a specific and violent ideology of Islamist extremism.” Among those administration statements: the report on the Fort Hood massacre, which was carried out by an assailant shouting “Allahu Akhbar” — “Allah is greatest” — as he shot dead as many American soldiers as he could manage.
The Committee on the Present Danger, an organization that in the 20th century was focused on the Communist threat and that now focuses on the Islamist threat, this week also sent a letter to Brennan — as well as to President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — supporting Lieberman’s concerns. Among the signatories: former secretary of state George Shultz, former CIA director Jim Woolsey, former national security adviser Robert McFarlane, former attorney general Ed Meese, and former presidential adviser Max Kampelman.
A reporter working on the Comedy Central story asked me whether those who object to books, cartoons, operas, films, and other materials that Muslims might find offensive were not being hypocritical, since they do not apply the same standard when it comes to Christians and Jews. His question reveals a common misunderstanding. Islamist groups such as Muslim Revolution are not demanding equality for Islam. They are demanding superior status. They are supremacists: They believe it has been divinely ordained that Islam must dominate; that Sharia, Islamic law, must prevail; that “unbelievers” must submit.
In this way, militant Islamists are akin to Nazis, who believed that Aryans were the master race; and to Communists, whose goal was to create a “dictatorship of the proletariat” that would lay down the law to the bourgeoisie and other classes.
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” Ronald Reagan warned us. He added: “It must be fought for.” Right now, however, the trend among Western elites is to wave the white flag. How encouraging that must be for Muslim Revolution and similar groups now proliferating around the world.
— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and Islamism.
By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 29, 2010; D01
Bruce Boudreau stood behind the bench, staring blankly out at the ice. Alex Ovechkin dropped to one knee, his head bowed.
Moments after the Montreal Canadiens had sealed a 2-1 victory in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, not the coach, not his star player, not the capacity crowd on hand at Verizon Center could believe that a season that began amid hopes of a ticker-tape parade down Pennsylvania Avenue had instead ended in ignominy.
The Washington Capitals, who finished the regular season with a franchise-record 54 wins and 121 points, became the ninth No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 8 seed, but the first to blow a three-games-to-one series lead in the process. The collapse also marked the eighth time the Capitals blew a two-game series lead and the fourth time they surrendered a 3-1 edge.
"I told them I felt exactly like they did," Boudreau said. "I thought we had a good chance to win the Stanley Cup this year. I would have bet my house that they wouldn't have beaten us three games in a row and that we wouldn't have scored only three goals [the past three games]."
WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Jaroslav Halak(notes) #41 of the Montreal Canadiens reaches to gove a puck against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Fittingly, the loss came to an end with the Capitals on a power play in which they enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage with goaltender Semyon Varlamov (14 saves) on the bench. But instead of Washington tying the game, Montreal goalie Jaroslav Halak (41 stops) clamped down and shut out the Capitals' power play for the third consecutive game. The top-ranked unit entering the playoffs, the Ovechkin-led power play finished an astonishing 1 for 33.
"I have nothing to say right now," said Ovechkin, who, like his teammates, is headed home for a long summer, one that begins with more questions than answers.
The Canadiens, meantime, are set to meet Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins in the semifinals starting Friday.
"It really hurts," Eric Fehr said. "We thought we had a really good chance to make a good run. It seemed like we had everything going heading into the playoffs . . . but come playoff time, we couldn't get it all going at the same time."
The Capitals' top-ranked offense, which racked up 313 goals in the regular season and 17 in Games 2-4, mustered a measly three -- total -- in the final three games of this series. Alexander Semin and Mike Green, two of the team's leaders on offense, finished with a combined total of five assists and no goals.
Brooks Laich scored his second goal of the series with 2 minutes 16 seconds left, cutting the Capitals' 2-0 deficit and giving them some semblance of hope. That hope, though, was fleeting.
They were unable to squeeze another puck past Halak, who stopped 131 of the 134 shots he faced in the series' final three games. And what shots he didn't stop found the stick blade or shin pad of one of the Montreal players, who blocked an absurd total of 41 shots (to the Capitals' 11).
"They blocked 41 shots, which I've never seen," Boudreau said.
The final game in a series marked by controversy did not end without one more.
The Capitals thought they had tied the game, 1-1, on a goal by Ovechkin just 24 seconds into the third period. But the apparent goal was immediately waved off by referee Brad Watson, who ruled that Mike Knuble had knocked over Halak in his crease before the shot entered the net.
"It feels like you're whining . . . but that's a pretty tough one to take," Boudreau said. "If Knuble's right foot touched his pad. It looked like it didn't. If it did, it was so light. I thought the puck was in the net before that anyway."
Knuble added: "That's a violation that hasn't been called all year. You haven't seen it all year, and now it comes out in Game 7."
WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Dominic Moore(notes) #42 of the Montreal Canadiens scores the game winning goal in the third period against the Washington Capitals in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. The Canadiens defeated the Capitals 2-1. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The end result, in many ways, seemed incongruous with the Capitals' effort. For long stretches, beginning early on, they seemed to control the game. In all, they outshot the Canadiens by a whopping 26 shots.
They came out strong, taking a 4-0 lead in shots before the game was three minutes old. A few minutes later, Semin hit the post. But the Capitals' fifth shot didn't arrive until the 16-minute mark. And by then, the Canadiens had established themselves as legitimate contenders for an historic upset.
Then the Habs took the lead on during a 4-on-3 advantage. With Brendan Morrison and Tomas Plekanec in the box for roughing, Green was assessed a cross-checking minor while on the attack in the offensive zone.
Only 12 seconds later, Marc-Andre Bergeron drilled a one-timer from Scott Gomez past Varlamov, sending the Canadiens into the second period with a 1-0 lead.
"It wasn't a smart play by Mike," Boudreau said of Green, who took two of the team's four minor infractions.
Gill and the Canadiens made sure the second period ended scoreless. After blocking 12 shots in the first period, the visitors, led by 6-foot-7, 250-pound Gill, blocked 14 more in the second.
"That's playoff hockey," Canadiens Coach Jacques Martin said. "It's a commitment from the players."
After Ovechkin's disallowed goal, the Capitals finished the third period with an 18-5 shot advantage.
Some of that was Halak. Some of that, though, was the inability of Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Semin and Green to finish, despite a total of 23 shots, led by Ovechkin's 10.
"We had some tremendous looks [and] Halak made some great saves," Boudreau said. "His positioning was fabulous. But we had some great looks that we should have been able to put some pucks in the net."
They didn't. And, as a result, these Capitals will be remembered for they failed to accomplish in the playoffs rather than the Presidents' Trophy they claimed for a stellar regular season.
"They are all noted goal scorers," Boudreau said of Ovechkin, Backstrom, Semin and Green. "All four of them were beyond remorse in the dressing room. They cared and they tried. Nobody tried as much as Alex and Nicky. Sometimes you just don't score goals. Sometimes the other team takes you away."
The Great Pretenders
By Mike Wise
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 29, 2010; D01
In the end, they teased everyone.
Their crowd, so emotionally invested after 54 victories and a gaudy 313 goals -- 45 more than any other NHL team between October and the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The hockey establishment, all the smartest and brightest who picked the Capitals to win it all because of how they almost sparkled when they scored, won big and had a penchant for coming back.
Their coach, who arrived from Hershey about 2 1/2 years ago in near disbelief that Alex Ovechkin was suddenly his to groom, along with three other young stars barely old enough to legally drink.
WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Jaroslav Halak(notes) #41 of the Montreal Canadiens celebrates as Alex Ovechkin(notes) #8 of the Washington Capitals skates away following the Canadiens 2-1 win in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The worst part is, the Capitals players had themselves believing they had the team, the talent and enough ornery players to tap in the puck when the supernovas couldn't.
They actually had convinced each other they could bring one of the four North American major team-sport championships to Washington for the first time since the Redskins last won the Super Bowl in 1992.
And they kept the façade going until the very end, managing to ignite a flickering, hope-against-hope crowd. Taking in the jeers and boos after Montreal made it 2-0 in the final three minutes, the Caps narrowed the lead by a goal, furiously trying to force an extra period.
Incredibly, after all of Jaroslav Halak's otherworldly play in net the past three games, they had their chances in the final seconds -- toying with the masses again.
Jason Chimera floated in on the right wing for the tie. Ovie fired away, one last time.
One and done? Implausibly, almost incomprehensibly, yes.
"If someone came to your work and stepped on your desk or punched you in the head, that's how I feel," said a rocked Chimera, who had overtime on his stick before he lifted the puck over the crossbar in the Caps' last, best chance. "You came for a long playoff run, and it doesn't happen. It's tough. Right now it's weird."
It's not weird; it's wrong.
A flammable goalie is going to get most of the credit for their sudden demise, the first time a No. 8 seed has ever rebounded from a three-games-to-one deficit to knock off a No. 1 seed. But on the night of their worst flameout of the Bruce Boudreau era, the Capitals need to be honest and look beyond the incomparable play of Halak.
Taken out by the team in the playoffs with the worst regular season record cannot just end with, "We ran into a hot goalie. It happens."
Nuh-uh. They don't get off that easy. Not after this series they just threw away.
All the numbers in the world to bolster that claim for the Caps -- how they outshot and outplayed the Canadiens in much of the last two games but just could not solve Halak, who amazingly stopped 131 of his last 134 shots in the series -- don't work Thursday morning.
Shockingly, this Cup-or-bust franchise is now dispersing to different parts of the globe to inexplicably watch the rest of the NHL playoffs.
They need instead to think hard about why such a talented offensive machine, with unquestionably the game's most dynamic player, has now lost three of four Game 7s on its home ice. They need to figure out how a better, stronger unit a year after the Penguins took them out in seven games could not even make it to the second round this season.
Ovechkin, as the captain, needs to call out his countryman, Alexander Semin, now scoreless in his last 14 playoff games. Semin has been mostly a downtrodden drag on and off the ice recently.
Ovie needs to have a real talk with Mike Green, language barrier or not, and say, in no uncertain terms, "You let us down this series. That penalty in the first period led to the first goal for Montreal. There is no excuse for not playing better the past two weeks. No wonder you didn't make the Canadian national team and some people think it's a crime you're a Norris Trophy finalist this season. Your play made them think that way."
They all need to look at the self-inflicted damage that led to this stunning exit in the first round.
Including Boudreau. Let's stop any talk that Gabby should be fired for his team's inability to close out the Canadiens. No one in their right mind should get rid of a savvy, hockey lifer who just guided the Caps to the Presidents' Trophy.
But the coach should ask himself this: Video-game stats and all, can an up-tempo, Disney-on-ice, offensive juggernaut really win in the postseason?
Or are the Caps merely that run-and-gun NBA team -- pick an era with Phoenix, Dallas or Golden State -- that gets clamped down by tougher, more physical teams when it matters?
And when Jacques Marten mucked up the game in the middle of the ice, using that neutral-zone trap to take away the usual choreography and the setting-up of Washington's scoring chances, was there really a Plan B for Boudreau other than "Go to the crease. Make something happen."
Or is that too much amateur Gabby psychology, and does General Manager George McPhee have to answer a few hard ones?
Such as, was this merely the unmasking of the Caps' Achilles' heel all season, its penalty-kill units? No longer able to compensate and hide their deficiencies with their own power-play goals -- the league's most lethal man-up team failed to convert 32 of 33 power-play chances in the series -- they were reduced to what they were: defensively flawed.
The acquisitions of Mike Knuble, Scott Walker, Eric Belanger and Jason Chimera brought depth and grit. But were they enough? Could one Bill Guerin-like player have been better than them all?
Those are hard questions to answer in hindsight, because the Caps had so many golden chances the past two games. If just one of those final shots goes in Wednesday night, they're forcing overtime and sending the Verizon into a tizzy again.
But the results are plain: Semin and Green, who came into the game 0 for their last 55 shots, were bottled up. Ovie was good and great at times, but too often, when he became the focal point of the Canadiens' scheme, no one but Nicklas Backstrom or someone in the crease seemed capable of creating a genuine scoring opportunity. If he doesn't hurry and hoist something besides another Hart Trophy, he's A-Rod or Wilt the Stilt in training, pre-championships.
The Caps were pressing from the beginning, trying anything -- almost in a hurry to get on the board. Until the frantic third period and the desperation that clearly showed, there almost seemed no sense of urgency in the middle of the game.
Midway through the second period, a sort of purgatory had almost set in -- the players trading shifts and sloppy puck-handling -- everyone in limbo, waiting for someone to change the course of the night.
The familiar chant, "Let's Go Caps," started at 10:48 of the second period in section 414. It caught fire momentarily, made its way around the arena once, and then died just as quickly.
The crowd came to life at the outset of the third, standing and hollering in a sustained ovation that was not even prompted by the Jumbotron or the team's marketing department. Authentic hope, finally.
They were ready to believe, for at least 20 more minutes of this once-stupendous season that now closes with such a whimper.
Now, 30 minutes after the end, all that is left is the sound of the Zamboni laboring up ice after the arena has been cleared -- and a teen-ager in Capitals gear cruising behind, stick-handling the puck after the pipes and netting have already been put away.
None of it seems real. This season of infinite hope has expired and it's not even May. As you watch that impressionable kid round the rink before the ice is put away for the summer, the only thought left is this:
They cruelly teased him too.
Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals come up short
By Tracee Hamilton
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 29, 2010; D01
Arguably the best hockey player in the world. That phrase is often used to describe Alex Ovechkin. I've used it myself.
But is it true? Can Ovechkin be the greatest player in the world but fail to drag his team out of the first round of the playoffs, against the worst of 16 teams to make the postseason, with the deciding Game 7 on home ice? Can you be the best hockey player in the world if your team underachieves to such a degree? Because Wednesday night's 2-1 loss in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals felt like one of the biggest failures in D.C. sports history.
WASHINGTON - APRIL 28: Jaroslav Halak(notes) #41 of the Montreal Canadiens shakes hands with Alex Ovechkin(notes) #8 of the Washington Capitals following the Canadiens 2-1 win in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2010 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Verizon Center on April 28, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Yes, another year, another Caps season that didn't live to see Memorial Day, Cinco de Mayo or even May Day. Unleash the "choking dogs" jokes; unholster your golf quips. A No. 1 seed had never blown a three-games-to-one lead to a No. 8 seed since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994 -- until Wednesday night.
Was this series a referendum on Ovechkin and his place in the hockey galaxy? The answer is probably yes. When you are so clearly the face of the franchise, and the franchise so clearly fails, what does that say about you?
It hasn't been a great year for the Russian superstar, measuring it with his own gaudy yardstick. He didn't win the scoring title. He had a controversial suspension. At the Olympics in Vancouver, he was a non-factor for the Russian team, which in turn was itself a non-factor.
And then came the playoffs. He led the team with postseason points (10) and assists (5) and tied for the lead in goals (5). But in three of the Caps' four losses of this series, he didn't have a goal -- although that statistic will be argued until the cows come home, or training camp opens, whichever comes first, because an apparent goal at the start of the third period Wednesday night, perhaps his prettiest of the postseason, was waved off because of interference.
But none of that changes the fact that the Caps lost to the Habs. Is that solely Ovechkin's fault? Of course not. But you can't help but notice that his nemesis -- by his own reckoning, not mine -- and the other guy who's often referred to as "arguably the best hockey player in the world," Sidney Crosby, has in the past year won the Stanley Cup, the Olympic gold medal (scoring the game winner in overtime, to boot) and tied for the league lead in goals.
That reads a lot like Ovechkin's to-do list coming into the season. Instead, his season ends with the Presidents' Trophy and little else. I've never seen a player hug the Presidents' Trophy in the back of a limo or bathe a baby in the Presidents' Trophy or take a swig of champagne out of the Presidents' Trophy.
Ovechkin played with fire against the Habs. He got no help from teammate Alexander Semin, who led the team in shots on goal but managed to find the net with nary a one. Mike Green was AWOL for much of the series, and his penalty at the end of the first period Wednesday led to the power-play goal by Marc-Andre Bergeron that all but ended the Caps' season.
I ran into former Detroit Red Wings coach Jacques Demers at Verizon Center on Wednesday night, and he reminded me of something I'd forgotten from my days in Detroit. During the Wings' close-but-no-cigar days, there was talk in Detroit that Steve Yzerman should be traded. The heresy went like this: The Wings would never win a Cup with Yzerman, who was (inarguably, in my opinion) the greatest team captain in sports history.
The Wings didn't listen. Demers made him the youngest captain (21) in team history and the front office surrounded him with talent. Yzerman went on to lead Detroit to three Stanley Cups on the ice -- after Demers was gone, of course -- and a fourth from the front office.
Can Ovechkin have similar success one day? Yzerman was drafted in 1983 and won his first Cup in 1997 -- not a time frame destined to cheer Washington fans, especially this morning. The Wings faced some of the same criticism the Caps are now hearing, specifically, that the team was built for the regular season, not the playoffs. Eventually, that changed.
Ovechkin is a polarizing player in ways Yzerman wasn't. He is brash and bold and would rather spend his $9 million on Dolce and Gabbana than, say, haircuts.
But Yzerman had one advantage over Ovechkin: From the start, he was the ultimate team player. Heck, his nickname was the Captain, a moniker usually reserved for yacht club blowhards and Tennille's musical partner.
Ovechkin, at 24, still has time to grow into the role. I've taken shots at Albert Haynesworth for failing to attend voluntary workouts at Redskins Park during the offseason, but the truth is, Ovechkin often skips the optional workouts as well.
In many ways the two situations are far from comparable. The Redskins' voluntary workouts are during the offseason; the Caps' come amid an 82-game season with grueling travel. The Redskins' season lasts six months, seven at the most. Hockey is eight months, miminum (and I hear it can last nearly 10 months in some places). Haynesworth is in no way regarded as a team leader; Ovechkin is wearing the "C" on his sweater. Ovechkin plays as hard as anyone on the ice; I've seen more knees since Haynesworth arrived in Washington than Flo Ziegfeld.
But the day before Game 7, Ovechkin skipped the optional skate. Nearly everyone else showed up. Semin was also a no-show. One might have thought he could use the practice. One might have thought his captain would tell him so. But it's hard to lead by example when you're not in the building. It's a small thing, but it's not, not in team sports.
Ovechkin is one of the most exciting players in the game today. That is inarguable. He is the future of this franchise, no question. He makes this team go, without a doubt. The question is, go where? For now, the answer is: home.
April 28, 2010
Democrats have decided that in order to prevent Wall Street from starting more financial meltdowns, wrecking the economy and leaving the American taxpayer holding the bag, we need to give more oversight authority to the same government employees who were busy surfing Internet porn as private investors frantically tried to warn them about Bernie Madoff.
The Democrats' financial "reform" bill also includes a $50 billion bailout fund -- that's million with a "B" -- that will save the Democrats from the unpleasant task of having to go on record voting for another Wall Street bailout.
Under the Democrats' bill, the FDIC will distribute the bailout money to Wall Street bankers without Congress having to take any action at all. (In the House version, the slush fund for the Democrats' Wall Street friends is $150 billion.)
True, the billions of dollars will be doled out to banks for the purpose of "dissolving" them. So what? They'll come back under a new name. But the guilty parties will lose no money for making bad bets -- although if the bets paid off, they'd take all the profits. That's what Democrats mean by "accountability."
Not surprisingly, the only politicians opposed to a permanent bailout fund for bankers are the politicians not owned by Wall Street -- that is, most Republicans, and one socialist, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
The Democrats' defense of Wall Street's golden parachute is to say Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell used a "talking point" formulated for him by pollster Frank Luntz in opposing the bailout fund.
As Frank Rich explained in The New York Times, the bailout fund is not a bailout fund because "Sen. Mitch McConnell went on CNN to flog his big lie that the Senate reform bill somehow guaranteed bank bailouts -- a talking point long ago concocted for the GOP by its favorite spin strategist, Frank Luntz."
In other words, it must be a lie because ... because Frank Luntz told McConnell what to say and then McConnell said it on CNN!
Yes, and Steve Jobs gets his best ideas from parishilton.com.
Sen. McConnell doesn't need Frank Luntz to explain anything to him, least of all the financial reform bill. A fifth-grader could find out about the permanent bailout fund simply by reading the bill.
You will notice that neither Rich nor any of Wall Street's defenders specifically deny the existence of a permanent bank bailout fund in the Democrats' bill. They just say McConnell used a "talking point" to denounce it. (You might say this has become a "talking point" for Democrats defending the bill.)
Wall Street's defenders also crow that the money in the bailout fund won't come from taxpayers! (There's a newfound sympathy.) No sir, it will come from "the banks."
That's like saying that the original bailout money didn't come from the taxpayers -- it came from the government! Where do Democrats imagine banks and the government get their money?
Banks, like the government, are entities that spend money they collect from human beings. We'll all be charged up front to cover Gordon Gekko's future bad bets.
In other words, the Wall Street slush fund will be paid for by a group of despicable fat cats recently discovered by the Democrats known as People Who Have Bank Accounts. Damn them!
Another idea, based on the ancient concept of personal responsibility, comes from financial writer James Grant. He proposes that the bankers -- are you sitting down? -- take their own losses.
Let them keep their humongous salaries, Grant writes, but if their bank fails, "let the bankers themselves fail. Let the value of their houses, cars, yachts, paintings, etc. be assigned to the firm's creditors."
There's nothing wrong with speculation, creating derivatives or selling them, especially to sophisticated investors. The problem is that when the bets go bad, the speculators keep being back-stopped by the government -- i.e., "by me and people like me."
Strangely enough -- for a bill that allegedly sticks it to Wall Street -- during the Senate Banking Committee hearing this week, Goldman Sachs chairman Lloyd Blankfein endorsed the Dodd bill. Someone should have asked him who from Goldman wrote it.
In 2008, Goldman employees gave a record-breaking $1,007,370 to the Obama campaign.
This year, the "securities and investment" industry has already given twice as much money to the Democrats as to the Republicans.
ABC News reports that "the five biggest hedge fund donors all gave almost all their donations to Democrats." Among the biggest recipients of hedge fund money were Senators Harry Reid (Democrat), Chris Dodd (Democrat) and Charles Schumer (Democrat).
Even with the evidence right in front of their eyes, people still believe that it's the Republicans who are in Wall Street's pocket.
How out of touch with reality would a comedy writer have to be to write the following joke for Jay Leno this week: "The head of Goldman Sachs was going through security and was asked to empty his pockets -- and five Republican senators fell out."
Why didn't Barack Obama or Chuck Schumer fall out? Why not Rahm Emanuel, who worked for Goldman? Or Greg Craig, who used to work for Obama but just took a job with Goldman?
The fact that anyone laughed at that joke proves that Republicans have a serious PR problem.
COPYRIGHT 2010 ANN COULTER
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
The Washington Post
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
"Misguided and irresponsible" is how Arizona's new law pertaining to illegal immigration is characterized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She represents San Francisco, which calls itself a "sanctuary city," an exercise in exhibitionism that means it will be essentially uncooperative regarding enforcement of immigration laws. Yet as many states go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the federal mandate to buy health insurance, scandalized liberals invoke 19th-century specters of "nullification" and "interposition," anarchy and disunion. Strange.
It is passing strange for federal officials, including the president, to accuse Arizona of irresponsibility while the federal government is refusing to fulfill its responsibility to control the nation's borders. Such control is an essential attribute of national sovereignty. America is the only developed nation that has a 2,000-mile border with a developing nation, and the government's refusal to control that border is why there are an estimated 460,000 illegal immigrants in Arizona and why the nation, sensibly insisting on first things first, resists "comprehensive" immigration reform.
Arizona's law makes what is already a federal offense -- being in the country illegally -- a state offense. Some critics seem not to understand Arizona's right to assert concurrent jurisdiction. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund attacks Gov. Jan Brewer's character and motives, saying she "caved to the radical fringe." This poses a semantic puzzle: Can the large majority of Arizonans who support the law be a "fringe" of their state?
Popularity makes no law invulnerable to invalidation. Americans accept judicial supervision of their democracy -- judicial review of popular but possibly unconstitutional statutes -- because they know that if the Constitution is truly to constitute the nation, it must trump some majority preferences. The Constitution, the Supreme Court has said, puts certain things "beyond the reach of majorities."
But Arizona's statute is not presumptively unconstitutional merely because it says that police officers are required to try to make "a reasonable attempt" to determine the status of a person "where reasonable suspicion exists" that the person is here illegally. The fact that the meaning of "reasonable" will not be obvious in many contexts does not make the law obviously too vague to stand. The Bill of Rights -- the Fourth Amendment -- proscribes "unreasonable searches and seizures." What "reasonable" means in practice is still being refined by case law -- as is that amendment's stipulation that no warrants shall be issued "but upon probable cause." There has also been careful case-by-case refinement of the familiar and indispensable concept of "reasonable suspicion."
Brewer says, "We must enforce the law evenly, and without regard to skin color, accent or social status." Because the nation thinks as Brewer does, airport passenger screeners wand Norwegian grandmothers. This is an acceptable, even admirable, homage to the virtue of "evenness" as we seek to deter violence by a few, mostly Middle Eastern, young men.
Some critics say Arizona's law is unconstitutional because the 14th Amendment's guarantee of "equal protection of the laws" prevents the government from taking action on the basis of race. Liberals, however, cannot comfortably make this argument because they support racial set-asides in government contracting, racial preferences in college admissions, racial gerrymandering of legislative districts and other aspects of a racial spoils system. Although liberals are appalled by racial profiling, some seem to think vocational profiling (police officers are insensitive incompetents) is merely intellectual efficiency, as is state profiling (Arizonans are xenophobic).
Probably 30 percent of Arizona's residents are Hispanic. Arizona police officers, like officers everywhere, have enough to do without being required to seek arrests by violating settled law with random stops of people who speak Spanish. In the practice of the complex and demanding craft of policing, good officers -- the vast majority -- routinely make nuanced judgments about when there is probable cause for acting on reasonable suspicions of illegality.
Arizona's law might give the nation information about whether judicious enforcement discourages illegality. If so, it is a worthwhile experiment in federalism.
Non-Hispanic Arizonans of all sorts live congenially with all sorts of persons of Hispanic descent. These include some whose ancestors got to Arizona before statehood -- some even before it was a territory. They were in America before most Americans' ancestors arrived. Arizonans should not be judged disdainfully and from a distance by people whose closest contacts with Hispanics are with fine men and women who trim their lawns and put plates in front of them at restaurants, not with illegal immigrants passing through their back yards at 3 a.m.