Saturday, May 15, 2010

The dots some don't want to connect

Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
May 14, 2010

What with the Fort Hood mass murderer, the Christmas Pantybomber and now the Times Square Bomber, you may have noticed a little uptick in attempted terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland in the last few months.
Rep. Lamar Smith did, and, at the House Judiciary Committee, he was interested to see if the attorney general of the United States thought there might be any factor in common between these perplexingly diverse incidents.

Attorney General Eric Holder testifies before the House Judiciary Committee's oversight hearing on the Department of Justice, Thursday, May 13, 2010, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari)

"In the case of all three attempts in the last year, the terrorist attempts, one of which was successful, those individuals have had ties to radical Islam," said Congressman Smith. "Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?"

"Because of ... ?"

"Radical Islam," repeated Smith.

"There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions," replied Eric Holder noncommittally. "I think you have to look at each individual case."

The congressman tried again. "Yes, but radical Islam could have been one of the reasons?"

"There are a variety of reasons why people ... ."

"But was radical Islam one of them?"

"There are a variety of reasons why people do things," the attorney general said again. "Some of them are potentially religious ... ."

Stuff happens. Hard to say why.

"Okay," said Smith. "But all I'm asking is if you think among those variety of reasons radical Islam might have been one of the reasons that the individuals took the steps that they did."

"You see, you say 'radical Islam,'" objected Holder. "I mean, I think those people who espouse a – a version of Islam that is not ... ."

"Are you uncomfortable attributing any actions to radical Islam?" asked Smith. "It sounds like it."

And so on, and so forth. At Fort Hood, Maj. Hasan jumped on a table and gunned down his comrades while screaming, "Allahu Akbar!", which is Arabic for "Nothing to see here" and an early indicator of pre-Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Times Square Bomber, we are assured by The Washington Post, CNN and Newsweek, was upset by foreclosure proceedings on his house. Mortgage-related issues. Nothing to do with months of training at a Taliban camp in Waziristan.

Listening to Attorney General Holder, one is tempted to modify Trotsky:
You may not be interested in Islam but Islam is interested in you. Islam smells weakness at the heart of the West. The post-World War II order is dying: The European Union's decision to toss a trillion dollars to prop up a Greek economic model that guarantees terminal insolvency is merely the latest manifestation of the chronic combination of fiscal profligacy and demographic decline in the West at twilight. Islam is already the biggest supplier of new Europeans and new Canadians, and the fastest-growing demographic in the Western world.

Therefore, it thinks it not unreasonable to shape the character of those societies – not by blowing up buildings and airplanes, but by determining the nature of their relationship to Islam.

For example, the very same day that Eric Holder was doing his "Islam? What Islam?" routine at the Capitol, the Organization of the Islamic Conference was tightening its hold on the U.N. Human Rights Council – actually, make that the U.N. "Human Rights" Council. The OIC is the biggest voting bloc at the U.N., and it succeeded in getting its slate of candidates elected to the so-called "human rights" body – among them the Maldives, Qatar, Malaysia, Mauritania and Libya. The last, elected to the HRC by 80 percent of the U.N. membership, is, of course, a famous paragon of human rights, but the other, "moderate" Muslim nations share the view that Islam, in both its theological and political components, should be beyond discussion. And they will support the U.N.'s rapid progress toward, in effect, the imposition of a global apostasy law that removes Islam from public discourse.

Attorney General Holder seems to be operating an advance pilot program of his own, but he's not alone. Also last week, the head of Canada's intelligence service testified to the House of Commons about hundreds of "second- or third-generation Canadians" who are "relatively well integrated" "economically and socially" but who have become so "very very disenchanted" with "the way we want to structure our society" that they have developed "strong links to homelands" that are "in distress."
Homelands such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Hmm. If you're wondering what those countries might have in common, keep wondering. No words beginning with "I-" and ending with "-slam" passed the director's lips. If the head of the Crown's intelligence service has narrowed his concerns about "disenchanted" "second- and third-generations Canadians" to any demographic group in particular, evidently it's classified information and can't be disclosed in public.

The U.N. elections are a big victory for the Organization of the Islamic Conference. By the way, to my liberal friends who say, "Hey, what's the big deal about the Organization of the Islamic Conference? Lighten up, man," try rolling around your tongue the words "Organization of the Christian Conference." Would you be quite so cool with that? Fifty-seven Prime Ministers and Presidents who get together and vote as a bloc in international affairs? Or would that be a theocratic affront to secular sensibilities? The casual acceptance of the phrase "the Muslim world" – ("Mr. Obama's now-famous speech to the Muslim world" – The New York Times) – implicitly defers to the political ambitions of Islam. And, if there is a "Muslim world," what are its boundaries? Forty years ago, the OIC began with mainly Middle Eastern members plus Indonesia and a couple more. By the Nineties, former Soviet Central Asia had signed on, plus Albania, Mozambique, Guyana and various others. In 2005, Russia was admitted to "observer" membership.

But along with the big headline victories go smaller ones. These days, Islam doesn't even have to show up. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has quietly pulled representations of Mohammed from its Islamic collection.

With the Danish cartoons, violent mobs actually had to kill large numbers of people before Kurt Westegaard was sent into involuntary "retirement." Even with "South Park," the thugs still had to threaten murder. But the Metropolitan Museum caved pre-emptively – no murders, no threats but best to crawl into a fetal position, anyway.

Last week, the American Association of Pediatricians noted that certain, ahem, "immigrant communities" were shipping their daughters overseas to undergo "female genital mutilation." So, in a spirit of multicultural compromise, they decided to amend their previous opposition to the practice: They're not (for the moment) advocating full-scale clitoridectomies, but they are suggesting federal and state laws be changed to permit them to give a "ritual nick" to young girls.

A few years back, I thought even fainthearted Western liberals might draw the line at "FGM." After all, it's a key pillar of institutional misogyny in Islam: Its entire purpose is to deny women sexual pleasure.

True, many of us hapless Western men find we deny women sexual pleasure without even trying, but we don't demand genital mutilation to guarantee it. On such slender distinctions does civilization rest.

Der Spiegel, an impeccably liberal magazine, summed up the remorseless Islamization of Europe in a recent headline: "How Much Allah Can The Old Continent Bear?" Well, what's wrong with a little Allah-lite? The AAP thinks you can hop on the Sharia express and only ride a couple of stops. In such ostensibly minor concessions, the "ritual nick" we're performing is on ourselves. Further cuts will follow.


The Rolling Stones bring 'Exile' back home for new fans

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
May 14, 2010

When the Rolling Stones crafted Exile on Main Street, "we were hunkered down in an improvised bunker in a foreign country with a truck as a control room," Keith Richards says with a gruff laugh. "It was basically a last stand."

And a lasting one. Exile, a 1972 landmark considered a creative peak by a band on a hot streak, returns to stores Tuesday to launch a catalog reissue campaign.

Recorded mostly in France, the British group's fabled double album arrived on the heels of milestones Let It Bleed in 1969 and Sticky Fingers in 1971. Exile's murky, rhythmic thicket of seductive rock, blues, soul, gospel and country rejected '60s flower power and set the stage for '70s excess and decadence, encapsulating the turmoil of a generation while embodying a masterful density that would transcend the times.

"You hear the upheaval," Mick Jagger, 66, says of the sonic Polaroid captured in Exile's grooves. "The Vietnam War was going on. It was a fraught period and joyful in other ways, a time of change and turbulence and excitement in a lot of people's lives. It was very up and down, not just hype."

Multiple formats to choose from

The remastered set is available in multiple forms: a single CD, download or double vinyl with the original songs; a double CD or download, adding 10 previously unreleased tracks; and a $160 super deluxe edition that throws in the vinyl version, a hardbound book, postcards and a DVD including footage of Stones in Exile (a Stephen Kijak documentary about the making of the album, which arrives in stores June 22). Signed limited-edition box sets are priced $2,000 to $2,500.

In addition to "Good Time Women" (an early version of "Tumbling Dice") and alternate takes of "Soul Survivor" and "Loving Cup", the bonus cuts include newly unearthed tunes "Plundered My Soul", "Dancing in the Light", "Following the River", "I'm Not Signifying", "Pass the Wine (Sophia Loren)", "So Divine (Aladdin Story)" and brief instrumental jam "Title 5".

"At first we weren't aware there was anything left over, but there always is," says Richards, 66, who lobbied for light tweaking. "On one track with acoustic guitar, you hear a string break. I filled that gap. I wanted to keep it as much in place, in that era, as possible."

Varying amounts of guitar, vocals and percussion sealed other cracks, with results seamless enough to fool Jagger's friends.

The additions "are in the style of Exile and quite believable," he says. "Not that I was trying to fib about it, but when I played it for people and they said, 'Oh, you found it like that?,' I said, 'Uh, yeah, yeah.' It was a bit strange finishing songs 40 years later."

Bare-boned piano ballad River required lyrics and vocals. Both Jagger and former guitarist Mick Taylor made fresh contributions to the caustic midtempo Plundered.

"We were not on the original," Jagger says. "Obviously, we were off in a bar somewhere when it was recorded. I asked (Taylor) to come back and do overdubs. It really makes the track complete."

After recording at Jagger's country estate and Olympic Studios in London, the band fled England to avoid crippling income taxes, and Jagger and Richards spent a month roaming the French Riviera in search of a proper studio.

'People love drug stories'

"We went around Nice, Cannes, Marseilles, uh-uh, we couldn't find one," Richards says. "Suddenly, it was my basement. Fine with me. I didn't have to leave home to go to work."

Charlie Watts and Keith Richards, 1971

With a state-of-the-art mobile recording truck parked outside, the band set up at Nellcôte, his rented seaside villa near Nice, in mid-1971. "The history of the joint is a little murky," says Richards, theorizing it housed Nazi officers during World War II. "There were certain swastika things going up the staircase."

The basement, so humid that instruments went out of tune in the course of a single song, both hampered and enhanced Exile's ramshackle brilliance.
Nellcôte "had a certain denseness that imprinted itself on the record," Richards says. "It had a sound you couldn't ignore. The bulk of the tracks were cut in the basement, but it was fun to get above ground and finish recording in Los Angeles."

Three countries, expanding content and a revolving door of guests that included Dr. John, Billy Preston, Bobby Keys and Nicky Hopkins lend Exile a chaotic feel. It's mythologized as the band's drug-fueled effort.

"Which one wasn't?" Richard cracks. "That's a little overplayed. And the debauchery as well."

Chemical consumption aside, "the songs are not into that stuff at all," Jagger says. "People love drug stories, especially from that period."

After the Stones wrapped up Exile sessions, Atlantic balked at releasing a double album and demanded pruning. "We had a big fight," Richards recalls. "We were in a position to insist, so we did. A single album probably would have sold better initially, as the record company quite rightly expected."

Reviews ranged from positive to scornful, with Rolling Stone's Lenny Kaye finding the band "missing the mark ... the great Stones album of their mature period is yet to come."

Critics missed the mark, history suggests, since Exile has steadily gained stature over the decades.

"Critics are always proved wrong, even if they said it was the best," says Richards, who doesn't join the consensus that declares Exile the band's finest work. "Whoa! That's a hard one. If I had to put the babies against the wall and shoot one, I couldn't."

Listeners needed time "to catch on," Jagger says. "When it came out, it was on two LPs, so it had four sides. It took people a while to discover. The reaction the first week was a letdown. But here we are, almost 40 years later, and people like it."

NEW ALBUM: Just waiting on Jagger

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cinco to Midnight: The Great Mexican End Game

By Selwyn Duke
May 14, 2010

Recently, columnist Charles Krauthammer expressed support for amnesty for illegals, while Newt Gingrich advocated a path to what he called "legality." The two men stipulated that border control must come first, but, still, what makes two conservatives such weak sisters on this issue? Perhaps part of the answer was provided by Dick Morris, who said that immigration is a losing issue for Republicans.

Morris is no pillar of principle, but he knows political trends. What's his reasoning? Over the short term, a hard-line immigration stance benefits many politicians; as for the long term, however, there's something called demographic change.

Hispanics are most rapidly growing group in the nation. In fact, if current immigration and birthrate trends continue, Hispanics will become America's largest ethnic group during the next century. Fifteen percent of the population already, they're poised to become twenty-nine percent by 2050.

This is relevant because, while many rationalize away the reality, a majority of Hispanics oppose tighter border control. For example, one survey showed that 81 percent of Latinos in Arizona oppose their state's new immigration law, with 70 percent registering strong disapproval.

Because of this, many have warned Republicans against "alienating" this burgeoning voting bloc. For instance, Simon Rosenberg, the head of a group that studies such matters, said, "If the Republicans don't make their peace with Hispanic voters, they're not going to win presidential elections anymore. The math just isn't there."

People lie on a street with their hands linked together during a protest organized by "We Are All Arizona" against Arizona's new law SB 1070, near the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in downtown Los Angeles May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST)

Unfortunately, the common sense just isn't there, either. That is, while Republicans recognize this electoral reality, they don't seem to ask (honestly) what's necessary to avoid this alienation. Because if they did, they'd realize that the new immigrants' affinity for liberalism goes far beyond a love for porous borders.

Question: If we imported millions of Scandinavians -- who have created the most liberal governments on Earth -- would we expect them to magically change their ideology upon seeing American terra firma? If not, why would we expect otherwise with south-of-the-border socialists? If they choose Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales types below the Rio Grande, why wouldn't they above it? Geography doesn't change ideology.

Despite this, many Republicans claim they can "reach out" to Hispanic voters and woo them. This is fantasy. Today's immigrants, most of whom are Hispanic, vote Democrat approximately 70 to 80 percent of the time (Bush did better, but, surprise, surprise, he favored amnesty for illegals), and this won't change. Oh, there is one way woo them: Adopt Democrat policies across-the-board (you can remain pro-life and against faux marriage) -- favoring socialist measures and big government.
This is, of course, why leftist politicians love unfettered immigration so much: They are importing their voters -- socialist voters.

Now, some claim that, since socialism is quintessentially un-American, time, prosperity and acculturation will purge it from new populations. This is also fantasy. Would you expect this with the Scandinavians? As for prosperity, upper classes were more likely to vote for Barack Obama than lower ones. And acculturation? The pressure today is not to assimilate but, owing to multiculturalism, to cling to your ethnicity.

The symptoms of this abound. We have seen new arrivals protest in the streets wielding signs stating "Gringo Go Home" and the shocking video of California teacher Ron Gochez calling for a Mexican communist revolt in the U.S. Then there was the recent incident in which a girl was told that her drawing of an American Flag was offensive, and another where students were punished for wearing American-flag clothing. And both of these travesties were the handiwork of a teacher or administrator who reflects the anti-Americanism now permeating the establishment.

It also, sadly, reflects many on the ground. For instance, commenting on the second incident, student Annicia Nunez, opined, "I think they [the flag-clothing wearers] should apologize cause it is a Mexican Heritage Day. We don't deserve to be get [sic] disrespected like that. We wouldn't do that on Fourth of July." Like many, this girl draws an equivalence between American and foreign holidays. Don't ask if she considers herself American. The only question is if she views herself as Mexican or shows some deference to hyphenation.

And we have become a hyphened nation, less capable than ever of assimilating immigrants. Yet we now have more than ever to assimilate. While we admitted only around 250,000 immigrants annually during most of our history, that number has ballooned to approximately 1 million (85 percent of whom hail from the Third World and Asia). To paraphrase columnist Frosty Wooldridge, the rate of immigration long ago exceeded the rate of assimilation.

Then there is an even more troubling factor: the consequences of taking in so many immigrants from just one country.

In a relatively recent phenomenon, approximately 50 percent of legal immigrants have been coming from Mexico. And about 67 percent of American Hispanics have origins in that nation; this amounts to, including illegals, a population of approximately 20 to 30 million -- about 20 percent of Mexico's population. What are the consequences of such an unbalanced immigration policy? University of Edinburgh professor Stephen Tierney explains them very well in his book Multiculturalism and the Canadian Constitution, writing:

In a situation in which immigrants are divided into many different groups originating in distant countries, there is no feasible prospect of any particular immigrant group's challenging the hegemony of the national language [press one for English, folks?] and institutions. These groups may form an alliance among themselves to fight for better treatment and accommodations, but such an alliance can only be developed within the language and institutions of the host society and, hence, is integrative. In situations in which a single dominant immigrant group originates in a neighbouring country, the dynamics may be very different. The Arabs in Spain, and Mexicans in the United States, do not need allies among other immigrant groups. One could imagine claims for Arabic or Spanish to be declared a second official language, at least in regions where they are concentrated, and these immigrants could seek support from their neighbouring home country for such claims - in effect, establishing a kind of transnational extension of their original homeland in their new neighbouring country of residence.

Note that parts of the U.S. are already so heavily Mexican that their residents perceive no need to assimilate. Also note that these immigrants have in fact received support from Mexico, as its government has interfered in our domestic affairs and demanded they be accommodated.

Professor Tierney goes on to write, "This fear [of cultural genocide] is often compounded in situations where the immigrant group has historic claims against the receiving country . . . . For example, in the Mexican-United States case . . . ."

In this case . . . what? There is just such a claim. Sure, it's specious, but good luck convincing the Reconquistas of this. As pundit Dr. Jack Wheeler points out here, Mexico's rulers engender hatred toward the U.S. by, among other things, placing an enormous map depicting Greater Mexico -- which includes much of our land -- near the entrance of Mexico City's Museum of National History. Wheeler writes, "Every class of students on a field trip from their school to the museum is made to sit down and gaze up at the huge map, while the teacher explains how so much of Los Estados Unidos was stolen from Mexico and really belongs to them." The rationale is that all the land treaties the U.S. made with European powers, such as the Louisiana Purchase, were illegal and that the regions thus obtained rightfully belong to Mexico. States Wheeler, "Every Mexican national legally or illegally in the US is told by the Mexican government his or her allegiance is to Mexico -- not America."

Wheeler also claims that Mexico owes its independence to us, as we helped defeat its French overlords. But belaboring the point is fruitless, as reason plays less of a role in people's decisions and behavior than many of us like to think. You won't reason a person out of ethnic and national patriotism -- and citizenship tests certainly won't purge it from them. Possession is nine-tenths of the law, like it or not. The question is, who will possess the American lands in question -- and what will American culture be possessed of -- a generation or two hence?

So not all immigration is created equal, and Mexican immigration is unique. For it is not just the migration of individuals -- it is the transplantation of a foreign nation into the body of our nation.

This is just one reason (recently naturalized Times Square bomber types are another) I've long advocated at least a moratorium on all immigration. The people make the country and government, not the other way around.
Thus, a debate about immigration policy is nothing less than a discussion about what kind of nation we wish to be. Will it be Mexico North? Iran West? Right now we're looking more like the Balkans.

In fact, with a socialist voting bloc that threatens to give us a Hugo Chavez North sometime in the future -- that is, unless current trends can be reversed -- the realizing of Mexican nationalists' Aztlan dream may not be lamentable. A partitioning of the U.S. may offer the only hope of enjoying a land where the American dream lives on.

Don't like the sound of that? Then you'd better start reversing those trends and initiate that immigration discussion fast -- in approximately 20 years ago. Because it's later than you think -- about cinco to midnight for America.

Contact Selwyn Duke

Clueless L.A. Councilman Distorts the Arizona Law

[Heather Mac Donald]
May 13, 2010

Byron York usefully compiled the “Top 10 dumbest things said about the Arizona immigration law” two weeks ago. The list has undoubtedly grown significantly since then. Los Angeles city councilman Ed Reyes deserves top billing on any updated compendium of idiocy for the following statement, made in anticipation of the Los Angeles City Council’s resolution to boycott Arizona:

As an American, I cannot go to Arizona today without a passport. If I come across an officer who's having a bad day and feels that the picture on my ID is not me, I can be . . . deported, no questions asked. That is not American.

Such increasingly desperate lies reveal the truth about the Arizona law. The illegal-alien lobby won’t take on the law as written, because the lobby knows that the overwhelmingly majority of Americans would support the law as written. Even with media coverage that has been unrelentingly biased and inaccurate, 59 percent of adults surveyed by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press say they support the Arizona law, SB 1070. A greater number of adults approve specific provisions of the law, such as having to produce documents verifying one’s legal status if police ask for them (73 percent), even though the Pew survey presented those provisions without mentioning the narrow prerequisites for police action that are carefully written into the statute.

It should not be necessary to rebut Councilman Reyes’s hysterical fabrications, but for his fellow members of the L.A. City Council, who compared Arizona’s law to Nazi Germany and to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and for all those other grandstanding politicians who are busily denouncing Arizonans’ racism, a primer is apparently needed.

If Mr. Reyes was planning to fly to Arizona from L.A. (pre-boycott, of course), he would need either his driver’s license or his passport to get on a plane. So we had better add the TSA to the list of Holocaust-in-waiting perpetrators. The only way he could be “deported” is if he is in fact an illegal alien, and before that happens, there will be plenty of “questions asked” and other legal wrangling, thanks to decades of work from the immigration-law industry. The only way the police would have a chance to discover that he is an illegal alien is if he has given them lawful grounds to stop him, such as running a red light, driving drunk, or acting suspiciously enough to suggest imminent law-breaking — and then has given them further ground to suspect that he is in the country illegally, such as possessing no valid identification.

If, on the other hand, Mr. Reyes presents any form of valid government ID during the course of a lawful police stop, he will be presumed to be in the country legally, and there will be no inquiry into his immigration status. So if, after getting through the brownshirts at LAX, Mr. Reyes continued to carry his California driver’s license, he would have nothing to worry about in Arizona.

Since Mr. Reyes and all the other boycotters are so convinced that the Arizona police are itching to abuse their rights under SB 1070, they would make a much better case against the law by actually traveling to Arizona and demonstrating to the world their mistreatment at the hands of the police. Until then, their unhinged denunciations of the law reveal only one thing: They are terrified that it will work.

05/13 09:54 PM

Film Reviews: 'Robin Hood'

By Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
May 12, 2010

Here, at last, is Ridley Scott’s Russell Hood: Prince of Prequels, a dark and brawny version of the Robin Hood legend that anchors itself in English history and loses some of the merriment in the process.

Scott, his screenwriter (Brian Helgeland of Green Zone) and Russell Crowe take us back before men in tights, to the leather, blood, bows and arrows of Crusader’s England for a film that presents Robin Hood as a working class archer who becomes a freedom fighting nobleman. And for the most part, it’s a very entertaining history from The Third Crusade to the fight for the Magna Carta, which guaranteed civil liberties by limiting the power of the king.

Robin Longstride is a weary warrior riding with reckless Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) home from that crusade. When Richard is killed at a siege in France, the plainspoken Robin and a few “merry” men, make their way back to England on their own, but not before interrupting the attempted theft of the English crown by the Norman double-agent Godfrey (Mark Strong).

Robin impersonates the fallen knight entrusted with escorting the crown, Robert Loxley, and promises to return the man’s sword to his father in Nottingham. When he does, he meets not only the blind old nobleman (Max Von Sydow), but the “real” Robert Loxley’s wife, the feisty Marion (Cate Blanchett). They “meet cute” in the best Hollywood Robin Hood tradition.

“Girl!” he calls to her as she fills a horse trough.

“Girrrrrllll?” she mocks back, a grown woman every bit the match for this “yeoman.”

Robin impersonates Robert, sees the injustice of the church and King John’s taxes and starts to stir up trouble. The sacking, taxing and pillaging Godfrey stirs things up on the other side.

Helgeland’s script is a grab-bag of history and earlier films, from The Lion in Winter (Richard and John’s smart and scheming mom, Eleanor of Aquitaine, is here) to The Return of Martin Guerre (a returning soldier impersonates a dead man).

The touchstones of the Robin Hood legend are here – Little John (Kevin Durand) Will Scarlet (Scott Grimes), Alan A’Dayle ((Alan Doyle), and, as Friar Tuck, the perfectly-cast Mark Addy.

“I’m not a churchy friar,” he pleads as he shows off the bees that make the honey for his mead.

The Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen) is a cruel fop. Godfrey, played by that villain’s villain, Strong, is the real heavy.

Scott, who dabbled in Medieval history with Kingdom of Heaven, has given us Robin Hood as war film. And Crowe plays him as a gladiator, probably because Russell doesn’t do “jaunty.”

So for all the glorious detail, the sprinkles of wit and the thrilling action, what we have here is two hours of war and intrigue and historical and character clutter (William Hurt is here, why?) leading up to Robin’s taking to the woods with a gang of “Lost Boys” and becoming “Robin of the Hood.” It’s fun and rousing entertainment, up to a point.

But brush up on your Third Crusade, Magna Carta and The First Baron’s War if you want to follow this Robin all the way from Chalus-Chabrol to Sherwood.

Robin Hood

Cast: Russell Crowe, Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Max von Sydow, Mark Strong, Matthew Macfadyen

Director: Ridley Scott

Running time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

Industry rating: PG-13 for violence including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content

Robin Hood's early history gets a boost from CG, Crowe and Blanchett

By Michael Phillips
Chicago Tribune Movie critic
4:20 p.m. CDT, May 12, 2010

You can dress it up or throw mud in its eye, but the enduring appeal of the Robin Hood legend is simple: treachery bested by archery. The other night, Turner Classic Movies aired the evergreen 1938 classic "The Adventures of Robin Hood" ( Errol Flynn in staggering three-strip Technicolor, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley) and followed up with the first screen version of the Sherwood Forest legend I ever saw, as well as the sourest Robin Hood film yet made. I speak of "Robin and Marian" (1976), starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn, depicted in James Goldman's screenplay as uneasily reunited middle-age lovers striving for a graceful retreat from a ceaselessly cruel world.

What strikes me about the new "Robin Hood," directed by Ridley Scott, is how its preoccupations and sensibilities lie almost precisely halfway between the derring-do of the 1938 film and the harsh revisionism of the '70s edition.

The latest big-screen version of the outlaw myth marks the fifth collaboration between Scott and producer-star Russell Crowe. They made "Gladiator" a decade ago. If stylistic overlaps exist between that film and this one, well, no mystery: Crowe's fellow producer Brian Grazer is quoted by the film's production notes as saying, "If we were going to make this film, it had to be the 'Gladiator' version of 'Robin Hood.'"

I wonder if 15-year-olds who just came out of "Iron Man 2" will have much interest in the movie's paradoxically dour swagger, its recasting of Robin Hood as the linchpin to key Middle Ages historical events. Whatever. I liked it. It's on a par with Scott's "American Gangster": No revelations, but a satisfying, large-scale genre movie, toned up by its cast.

It's an origin myth, a prequel to the Robin of legend, commonly associated with merry men and robbing from the rich and such. The action begins after the Third Crusade led by Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston) has run its crimson course. Robin, named Robin Longstride, excels as an archer in King Richard's army, which hacks its way in retreat across France in the opening melee. For some, the big opening will work because it accomplishes what Scott and screenwriter Brian Helgeland intended: to give the movie a big opening. For others, it'll be pure chaos.

"Calm and careful," Crowe tells a fellow archer at one point. "Make it count." The advice seems at odds with the direction. At times you long for the man who made "The Duellists" and "Alien" a generation ago, when a director chose to establish a shot and actually hold it for a few seconds.

After the blur of the first half-hour, "Robin Hood's" rangy story begins to take shape. Assuming a dead nobleman's identity, Robin carries the crown of the late king to Eleanor of Aquitaine ( Eileen Atkins). Fulfilling his fallen comrade's last request, he then delivers the late nobleman's sword to his widow and father, played by Cate Blanchett and Max Von Sydow. Marion is nobody's maid or miss: She's tough as nails and quick with a zinger, and only reluctantly does Blanchett's Marion agree to a financially expedient plan in which Robin will pretend, "Martin Guerre"-style, to be her long-gone husband.

Crowe's performance, technically immaculate, is taciturn to the point of being a bit flat, yet there's really nobody else you'd want in the role. Like Crowe, Blanchett's acting has a natural period sense, though the love story gets some serious narrative competition in Helgeland's other concerns. He juggles scarcely fewer storylines and intrigues than he did in "L.A. Confidential."

Though Robin's band of outlaw brothers provides boisterous comic relief, there's not much merriment in the picture. When director Scott storms a castle, he wants you to feel the danger and the thwwwunnnch of the arrow entering flesh. The panoramic computer-generated landscapes are miles ahead of anything in "Gladiator." Robin's arrival in London on the late king's ship, for example, shows how CG can be used for cinematic-historical good as opposed to digital evil. The climactic battle with France's King Philip has Robin essentially waging war against all England's enemies, from within and without. As history, it's silly. As entertainment, it works.

3 stars

MPAA rating: PG-13 (for violence, including intense sequences of warfare, and some sexual content)

Cast: Russell Crowe (Robin Longstride); Marion Loxley (Cate Blanchett); Max Von Sydow (Sir Walter Loxley); William Hurt (William Marshal); Mark Strong (Godfrey); Oscar Isaac ( Prince John); Danny Huston (King Richard); Eileen Atkins (Eleanor of Aquitaine)

Credits: Directed by Ridley Scott; written by Brian Helgeland; produced by Brian Grazer, Scott and Russell Crowe. A Universal Pictures release. Running time: 2:19

Film Review: Robin Hood

by: Peter Travers

Just when you think there isn't enough left to say about Robin Hood to fill a tweet – there have been more than 30 Hollywood versions of his story – along comes Russell Crowe and his Gladiator director, Ridley Scott, with a heap of backstory. Are we not entertained? Any resemblance to the Oscar-winning Gladiator is purely not coincidental.

Robin Hood sprawls its rousing action over nearly two and a half hours, playing up the battles, the flaming arrows, the clashing swords, the battering rams and the burning pitch to the maximus. But Robin (Crowe), Marion (Cate Blanchett) and the Merry Men don't even shack up in Sherwood Forest till the last scene. Scott and Crowe, who also worked together on American Gangster, Body of Lies and A Good Year (not good), are hellbent on setting their origin story in the context of history. A tough job, considering that this 13th-century English outlaw is less fact than fantasy. Serious business means out with the tights, the feathers and the 1991 stoner-dude take from a very American Kevin Costner. What this Robin Hood lacks in fun it makes up for in epic sweep.

Scott throws us right into the muck as we meet Crowe's Robin Longstride, a soldier in the army of Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston). This king has bankrupted England in the Crusades and left his country vulnerable to attack from France, where he is killed on his way home. His successor, Prince John (Oscar Isaac), is a tyrant under the influence of Sir Godfrey (Mark Strong), a French ally who encourages John to alienate his barons, notably William Marshall (William Hurt), by taxing them harshly and leaving the king's subjects in abject poverty.

Robin's return to the homeland he hasn't seen since childhood brings back memories of his father, who was assassinated for writing a charter (a harbinger of the Magna Carta) that protected the rights of the common man. His father's friend, the nearly blind Sir Walter Loxley (a splendid, lively Max von Sydow), takes Robin in and concocts a plan: Robin will pretend he is Sir Walter's son, killed in battle, to protect the property rights of the son's widow, Marion. Romance blooms, hesitantly, then hotly. Blanchett is a fireball, going head-to-head with Crowe as lover and warrior.
Are you with me? Robin Hood, written by Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential, Mystic River) with an eye on the present as well as the past, is overstuffed with characters, including the Sheriff of Nottingham (Matthew Macfadyen), Friar Tuck (Mark Addy) and assorted Merry Men. But the soul of the film is in the fight against taxation without representation. Tea Party protesters will eat this up, making Robin Hood the de facto movie of the year for Sarah Palin. Luckily, Scott and Crowe are too canny to allow their film to be co-opted by a political sideshow. What sticks is the image of Robin Hood as a common man driven not by superpowers but by the force of an idea.

Robin Hood: A Fantastically Inept Film

Yes, this movie is about as exciting as a UPS run.

by John Boot
May 14, 2010

The good news for Russell Crowe and Robin Hood is that it does remind you of one of the great movies about the Middle Ages. The bad news is that that movie is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

This fantastically inept and bizarrely shapeless blob of a movie becomes laughable almost immediately, when Cate Blanchett’s Lady Marion steps up and fires an arrow hundreds of yards with blistering accuracy despite being approximately the weight of a longbow herself.

Russell Crowe’s Robin Longstride is a hazily defined figure who first finds himself fighting for a king he can’t stand, the crusader Richard the Lionheart (Danny Huston, whose Pippi Longstocking/Robert Plant hairdo makes it hard to imagine anyone would be happy to go to war on his behalf), then (in what is played as a heroic moment) robs a dead knight named Robert of Locksley of his equipment and valuables, deciding to pass himself off as the dead man for as long as he can get away with it. Fully an hour of the movie goes by in which the major challenge is whether or not Robin can make good on his promise to the dying Locksley — to deliver his sword to his family up in Nottingham. Yes, this movie is about as exciting as a UPS run.

Meanwhile, Prince John (a whiny Oscar Isaac) takes advantage of Richard’s death to seize the crown — but he is even more of a jerk than his dead brother. He bickers endlessly with his mother and his chancellor (William Hurt) about taxation, finally deciding to send the evil knight Godfrey (the perpetually scowling Mark Strong, who was also the bad guy in Kick-Ass and Sherlock Holmes) to shake down the country’s landowners with orders to pay up or pay with their lives. Godfrey is secretly working for the French king, but why should we care? It’s not as though we’re given any reason to hope things work out for the mincing, duplicitous John, who is so foolish he actually seem surprised that this marauding psychopath is a double agent. “My friend Godfrey is not the friend I thought he was,” he muses. No kidding.

Nothing else in the movie sparks any reaction other than disbelief. Not the dumb dialogue that veers wildly back and forth between prithee-milady type ye olde speeches, awkward japery, and gratingly contemporary chatter. “Leave no stone unscorched!” goes one typical would-be rousing line. Yep, burn some rocks. That’ll teach em. When Robin first meets Marion, she says, “Plain Robin Longstride? No ‘Sir’?” “No ‘Sir,’ no Ma’am,” he responds. Forsooth, ’tis not funny. When John fires his chancellor, he tells the court the man is leaving “to spend more time with his family.”

Equally ridiculous are the action scenes (it’s 1199 and no one seems to find it worth commenting upon that the finest soldier anyone has ever met is a woman aristocrat — I laughed during the climactic battle when a knight’s visor is raised and Blanchett is shown to be underneath. Could Cate Blanchett even wear a suit of armor without falling over, much less wield a longsword better than men who outweigh her by a hundred pounds?).
When Robin and his men attack a French castle by creating the kind of giant fireball you’d normally associate with a mid-80s Stallone flick, I was reminded of the equally unlikely tactics in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, in which men hurl cows at each other. Later in the movie, there is a direct quote from the John Cleese Black Knight scene in Holy Grail, when a highwayman stands in the path of a group of travelers and barks, “None shall pass!”

The utter lack of chemistry between Crowe and Blanchett — two classic hambones — is papered over by a script that demands Lady Marion immediately take a dislike to Robin (for no reason). When her father-in-law (Max von Sydow, playing a blind geezer who does the obligatory business in which he runs his hands all over the face of Robin to find out what he “looks like”– do blind people actually do this anywhere but in movies?) makes Marion and Robin share a room together, she threatens to cut off his manhood with a dagger if he comes near her. Then she goes behind a translucent curtain to put on a little show of taking off her nightie — the saucy-silhouette cliche. But the feuding couple go for a horseback ride together and — poof! — suddenly they’re in love. Even in 21st century England, you’d be hard-pressed to find an aristocratic lady falling for a mason’s son and common foot soldier.

Nearly 100 minutes of the film pass before there is an apparent point to Robin’s drifting life: He finds out his late father was a pioneer for democracy and vows to fight for a charter that will give individuals full rights. This is kind of inconvenient in that it means Robin is now fighting on behalf of the swinish John (against the French), but the movie think it’s being clever by tying Robin Hood to the Magna Carta that was signed in 1215. This is about as wobbly a concept in the political and historical senses as Cate-the-warrior is physically.

The Magna Carta was created by barons for barons, not for the underclass. They would have just laughed if a working-class slob like Robin Hood had suggested that he should be their political and military leader. “You build a country like you build a cathedral — from the ground up,” Robin tells the nobles. Er, thanks, Karl Marx, but no one in 1199 England is asking for a peasant-ocracy.

John Boot is the pen name of a conservative writer operating under deep cover in the liberal media.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why Karzai's doomed

America's Afghan follies

By Ralph Peters
New York Post
May 13, 2010

President Hamid Karzai is doomed. During his strate gic shopping trip to Wash ington this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pronounced his epitaph: "We will not abandon the Afghan people."

In DC doublespeak, that means we're searching desperately for the exit ramp.

Then we got the mandatory presidential press conference. If platitudes killed terrorists, "The Bam and Ham Show" would've exterminated the Taliban.

President Obama assured Karzai of his "commitment to an Afghanistan that is stable, strong and prosperous." We'll see a communist takeover of Texas before that goal's achieved.

Doublespeak: Karzai and Obama met in DC yesterday -- and exchanged empty platitudes. (Reuters)

The Afghan room has more than its share of corners, and we've painted ourselves into every single one of them. Setting aside the Taliban, we're suffering from plenty of self-inflicted wounds.

After a nasty duel-with-Kabul this spring, the administration about-faced and threw its weight back behind Karzai as the only Afghan president we've got. Too bad Afghans don't want him. They'll fight for the Taliban, but not for Karzai and his 40 thieves.

Even our most fervent engagement advocates admit that corruption's a cancer in Kabul. Elsewhere, Karzai's writ doesn't run beyond grabby governors in well-protected compounds. As in Vietnam, we kid ourselves that the locals can be won over to a government that couldn't care less about them.

Worse, we're determined that Afghanistan will have a strong central government at the expense of its tribes (after we spent years denying the importance of tribes in Iraq before coming around). Sorry, in a tribal society, you work with tribes.

But Karzai doesn't want us to do that. It would further undercut his illusory power. So we let him dictate our policy, then beg him to back a confused offensive in Kandahar (where his reputed-druglord brother's the local powerbroker). It's the counterinsurgency equivalent of Pickett's Charge.

Our obsession with creating a centralized, Westernized state extends to our efforts to build an Afghan military. Our model is the romanticized WWII squad in which every possible ethnic group's represented, all Americans.

But people fight for different things, and Afghans aren't interested in fighting for a foreign-backed government or for ethnic groups other than their own.

The Brits cracked the code on how to get tribesmen to fight for them: You give them a substitute tribe that's an extension of their hereditary tribe. The Indian Army's regimental system fit the bill perfectly: Recruited from an exclusive tribal network or ethnic group, the regiment could count on soldiers performing well to avoid shaming their families (think Gurkhas). Plus, the regiment offered its own tribal rituals.

If you want to succeed in a tribal society, you exploit tribal identities. Our officials insist that would undercut our goals. Well, perhaps our goals should be more realistic.

Then there's the continuing denial that Islam has anything to do with the Taliban's persistence or Afghan resistance to our goodwill gestures: This mullah's corrupt; that suicide bomber wasn't very religious(!); that local uprising's just a neighborhood feud. Religion has nothing to do with it.

As a kid, I built model ships. What was the most important component? The glue. Which, if I had done a good job, was invisible. That HMS Victory kit had hundreds of parts large and small -- but without the glue they wouldn't have held together.

Islam's the glue binding our enemies. Even when it isn't visible.

So we wind up supporting yet another disdained "president" because we insist that a tribal society must subject itself to a strong central government defended by an American-model army that refuses to be built. This is not a formula for success.

Another sign that Afghanistan's in "beaucoup deep kimchee" (as a former NCO of mine used to say) is that the pundits are already assigning blame.

On a TV panel on Tuesday, a prominent conservative voice insisted that the loss of Afghanistan would be Obama's fault for not sending enough troops (and this when barely half the surge forces have arrived). The speaker couldn't bear the thought that he had gotten the Afghan equation wrong.

If anything, our inexperienced president can be blamed for agreeing to send more forces to a country where the resistance grows in direct proportion to the visibility of foreign occupiers. Our problem all along in Afghanistan hasn't been the lack of troops, but a lack of understanding. We didn't just invade Afghanistan -- we invented it. The country we're struggling to save doesn't exist.

Of course, there is an Afghanistan of sorts -- a weird accident of where other borders ended. And the people who live there really don't want to become third-rate Americans.

As President Karzai wraps up his Washington visit, the acrimony's already breaking out over "Who lost Afghanistan?"

The answer is that it was never ours to lose.

Ralph Peters is the author of "Endless War."

Dancing with the Devil: David Cameron's Path to Power

By Chris Powell
May 13, 2010

We Brits have a new Prime Minister, but conservatives are muted in their celebrations. Over the last week we have watched our beloved party dance with the devil, and form a formal coalition with the Liberal Democrats -- the most left-wing party ever to approach government, and a party who will prevent the new coalition from doing anything remotely conservative.

Getty Images

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Prime Minister
David Cameron (L) and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg arrive for their first joint press conference in the Downing Street garden on May 12, 2010 in London, England. On his first full day as Prime Minister, David Cameron has made a series of cabinet appointments including Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister. The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have now agreed to lead the country with a fully inclusive coalition government.

The election should have been easy for the Conservative Party. Gordon Brown was one of the most unpopular Prime Ministers of all time, Labour had allowed and encouraged complete social meltdown, an unwieldy welfare state, out of control immigration, handed huge chunks of power to the socialist European Union, and has wrecked the economy.

There has been a British tradition since the rise of the Labour party during the war years, and it is unwritten and often unspoken -- much like our constitution. The tradition goes that Labour sweep into power on fantastical left-wing promises, such as compassionate policing and huge welfare programs, which, after drunken spending binges, results in a hangover of social breakdown, an exhausted Treasury, a stagnant economy and out of control unions. At which point Britain realises it is in trouble and hits the panic button. Then the Conservatives come in, cut spending, encourage business growth and increase social cohesion -- Britain starts to work again. It happened after Attlee's power cuts and food shortages of 1947, Wilson's strikes of the late 1960's, and Callaghan's Winter of Discontent in 1978-9.[1] It was supposed to happen in 2010 as well.

So, what happened? With the deficit at 12.6% of GDP (crisis stricken Greece's is currently 12.7%) and debt levels approaching an eye watering 80% of GDP (rocketing from under 30% in 2001 and around 20% under Thatcher) and forecast to be well over a £1 trillion by 2011, this election should have been child's play. A ‘Tory' government promising a tough stance on immigration, no nonsense on the European super-state, tough spending cuts, and a relief on business taxes in order to get the economy moving would have brought a sweeping majority unseen since the first Thatcher re-election of 1983.

But we had ‘Dave' -- as David Cameron has become known. His philosophy has become known by critics as "Daveism", "Cameronian" (as an adjective) or simply "Daveguff". Dave's changes to the party have been well documented already -- the rejection of Thatcher, strong environmentalist tint, vague on tax cuts, soft on crime, image heavy, and generally a rejection of anything specifically conservative.

Those of us who objected were told not to "quarrel' or ‘divide". With an initial burst in the polls that took the Tories to a twenty point leader shortly after Dave's ascension to the leadership, it was difficult to argue with - the right of the party were silenced.

This was made worse by the small Cameronian clique centralizing power and candidate selection. One hundred "A-listers" (known as ‘Cameron's cuties') - bright, young, fresh, liberal and (of course) "diverse" parliamentary candidates, often with no experience or knowledge of the area in which they were placed, were forced onto local communities by HQ as candidates for some of the safest seats, pushed ahead of other, true conservatives who had campaigned for years in local areas.

While the "Cuties" may have been ethnically "diverse", their views were not - they all sang from the same hymn sheet of Daveguff, with its "compassion", "progressivism" and the sickening enviro-slogan, "Go Green, Vote Blue!"

The head of the A-listers was Joanne Cash, parachuted into Westminster North -- arguably the cushiest winnable seat in the 2010 election -- who was especially notable for having no experience in politics. Some speculated that her marriage to Octavius Black, one of Cameron's oldest friends, may have been a factor. Cash was especially noticeable for being quite a nasty piece of work. A rather public bust up with her local party activists resulted in her calling Head office, getting Dave to sort the mess out, and then triumphantly tweeting "RIP Dinosaurs." and "Its official, DC has changed the party!!!!" after party heads scolded the local activists for speaking out.

Soon, Cameron's poll numbers started to drop. Cameron had turned the election into a popularity contest, not one based on principle. Yet the more the public found out about Dave, the more they didn't like. The high levels of spin and slick imagery put off a public still bored of it from the Blair years -- they detected the lack of principle that characterised Daveism as well. In addition, Dave's upper class Etonian background came across as condescending and out of touch to many people, especially in the North and in Scotland, where the Tories hoped to break through.

Then came the rise of golden boy Nick Clegg from the Liberal Democrats during the TV debates. Clegg's fresh face and ability to come across as the ‘anti-political' candidate meant he was able to challenge Dave for the ‘nice guy' badge, while hiding his own socialist agenda. With less than a month to go, the electorate seemed sure they didn't want Gordon Brown, but they weren't so keen on Dave either. Panic set in, but it was too late.

The morning after the election revealed the dreaded ‘hung parliament'. The Conservatives had won the most seats, but were nineteen seats short of the 326 needed for the majority, a damning indictment of the failed Cameronian revolution.

Analysis condemns Daveism even more. Tory candidates chosen locally actually did very well, winning seats they were not expected to win -- it was Cameron's Cuties that let the side down. Out of the 100 A-listers placed in some of the safest seats in the country, a stunning two thirds failed to get elected. The much-worshipped Joanne Cash was brutally defeated in Westminster North, sending shockwaves around Conservative Party HQ. Dave himself must have cringed when he saw her concession speech -- a bitter tantrum at the media that ended with the words "So for the record, press -- you are on notice. No more lies!"

Cameron's strategy of taking the "right-wing" vote for granted also backfired, as many chose to vote instead for the small UK Independence Party (UKIP.) In seats where Tories lost by slim margins, it was calculated that if 70-80% of UKIP voters (most of whom are disaffected Tories) voted Conservative in those seats instead of UKIP, the Tories would have won 21 more seats, which would have given the Tories an outright majority, and a proper government. Dave's snubbing of the right of the party had spectacularly backfired.

Britain's future is unstable. In typical Dave fashion, Cameron instantly jettisoned any remaining dignity, snuggled up with the hard-left Liberal Democrats in a coalition, and has given them a whole range of concessions and Cabinet seats. We now face the horror of a Tory government appointing anti-American Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, and rich-hating Vince Cable in the Treasury, and that's just for starters.

The value of pound sterling has taken a downward turn in the last week, and the markets are in panic. Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has stated very seriously that we are months, maybe weeks away from becoming Greece. Britain desperately needed a strong Conservative government, and has instead a bizarre soup of conservatives and socialists - the responsibility of such an outcome rests on the shoulders of the new Prime Minister.

Chris Powell is the pseudonym of a UK author.

[1] The notable exception to this is Edward Heath (1970-4) who infamously U-turned back into Keynesian economic policies after giving into left-wing pressure. As a result, he made the economy worse.

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Springsteen tape takes us back to ‘rock & roll future’

By Steven Rosen
Boston Globe Correspondent
May 9, 2010

A young Bruce Springsteen (shown here in 1975) rocketed to fame after a 1974 Harvard Square gig that can now be heard in a recording. (Tom Hill/Wireimage)

The evening of May 9, 1974, is legendary in the annals of rock ’n’ roll. It was the night the little-known Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band opened for Bonnie Raitt at Harvard Square Theater, dazzling the critic Jon Landau into writing “I saw rock & roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen’’ in the local alternative weekly The Real Paper. Now a tape from that night — one of the most revered in rock history — has emerged as a museum object 36 years after the storied event.

The tape, never available for public hearing, is included in the Springsteen exhibit “From Asbury Park to the Promised Land’’ at Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, on display through summer. It has been digitalized and streams to a single listening station, where two people at a time can listen to it on headphones. It is not available on the museum’s website, nor can a copy be purchased in the museum store.

The sound has some rough patches, and there are no seats for relaxing. But the radical effect of the music on the audience then (this writer was there and can attest to that) can still be felt. The band aims for the mystically transcendent one minute and party-hearty, sax-fueled retro-rock raucousness the next, keeping everyone off guard. Springsteen was in Cambridge to promote his second album, “The Wild, the Innocent and the E Street Shuffle.’’

The idea for an exhibit centering on Springsteen’s career came about because the Hall of Fame’s induction ceremonies were going to be in Cleveland last year and chief curator Jim Henke wanted a big show to accompany it. He approached Springsteen, who had been inducted in 1999. Springsteen agreed and provided items ranging from his “Born to Run’’ Fender Esquire guitar to his favorite songwriting table.

The exhibit drew so well in 2009 — 423,000 visitors — that it has been extended into this summer, with newer artifacts added, including the jacket he wore to President Obama’s inauguration, his 2009 Kennedy Center award, and the Golden Globe he won for “The Wrestler.’’ But it is the Harvard Square tape that remains one of the most fascinating parts of the exhibit, just as that night itself remains an enduring, pivotal moment in the Boss’s career.

“It was my idea to include it, because that show is so famous because of Landau’s review,’’ Henke says. “So we contacted [Springsteen’s organization], and they had a tape of the songs played there. He and the E Street Band were a great live band, and that does come through in those tracks.’’

Springsteen’s band at the time of the Harvard Square booking featured a pianist with strong jazz and classical leanings, David Sancious. (He left in August 1974.) It is Sancious who makes the band’s first impression so strong, opening with a long, melancholy, and ruminative solo on “New York City Serenade.’’ It slowly leads into Springsteen’s yearningly searching vocal, with the impressionistic, romanticized lyrics that seem part Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row’’ and part Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side.’’ The song was aiming for theatrical grandeur and also reverent intimacy, and the effect it has on hushing an audience can still be felt today.

But then he moves away from that territory on “Spirit in the Night,’’ a song that still has its cryptically spooky Dylanesque lyrics but also builds into a more traditional soul shout-out, thanks to Clarence Clemons’s saxophone solo. The band then goes into soul-oldies heaven with a cover of “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman,’’ which had been a 1962 girl-group hit. On these three songs and five others, it’s evident that Springsteen and his tightly rehearsed ensemble were trying simultaneously to draw from the music’s past and to create a future. This is the night they came to be forever recognized for it.

It took luck for Springsteen’s audio engineer, Toby Scott, to find the tape. He lives in northwest Montana and met a Boston emigre, musician/retired music teacher Michael Atherton, at an open-mike night at a bar in the town of Whitefish. Atherton, a resident of Trego, said he had a tape for him — Springsteen at Harvard Square Theatre, 1974. He had made it himself, lugging in a professional-model cassette recorder with external microphone and taping the show from a seat in the back. At the time, Atherton was a natural-foods baker (with his wife) as well as a musician. “I saw every concert we could afford to — of course, we were broke most of the time,’’ Atherton recalls. “I don’t even know how I knew who Bruce Springsteen was. When we baked, we listened to WBCN all the time and even took doughnuts over to them because we thought they were so cool. So maybe that was it.’’

Smuggling the bulky recorder into the show turned out to be easy, because he was prepared. “My father was a news photographer for 40 years and instilled in me a rule to always look like you know what you’re doing when confronted with any possible security situation,’’ he says. “So I put it under my peacoat, where it probably looked like I was pregnant. Then I put it in my lap and held the microphone up in the air.’’ He also recorded a bit of Raitt’s headlining act, before the batteries gave out.

Over the years — as Atherton and his wife moved to first New Hampshire and then Montana, he has made a few copies for friends — which may have something to do with the bootleg copies that some Internet sites say exist. But he has only played it once for himself. “It was every bit as good as I remembered it,’’ he says. “It was the greatest band concert I’ve ever seen — completely together, completely refined, the dramatic intent clear from beginning to end.’’

Actually, Landau — who went on to become Springsteen’s manager — didn’t see the performance that can now be heard at the hall of fame. He went to the second show that night, when the set list not only was somewhat changed — Springsteen opened with “The E Street Shuffle’’ — but showcased a new song, “Born to Run.’’ Landau had seen Springsteen at a Cambridge club called Charlie’s Place just a month earlier.

Landau declined comment for this story, but the music writer Dave Marsh — Landau’s editor at the time — recalls The Real Paper review well. “It was playing off ‘A Christmas Carol’ — it was Dickensian in the way he talks about rock ’n’ roll’s past, present, and future. It always gets quoted as being in a prophetic voice, but it wasn’t.’’

Marsh went on to write two Springsteen biographies and “Bruce Springsteen on Tour: 1968-2005.’’ While he and Landau had seen Springsteen earlier in a small Cambridge club, Marsh didn’t make the Harvard Square show. “This is a horrible thing to say,’’ he says. “I had a ticket but was sick.’’

© Copyright 2010 Globe Newspaper Company.

LeBron’s moment of truth awaits

By Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports
May 12, 4:05 am EDT

CLEVELAND – This isn’t important enough to LeBron James(notes). That’s the uncompromising, unconquerable truth. Everything has come too easy to him, and he still doesn’t believe that winning championships takes a consuming, obsessive desire that borders on the maniacal. He is chasing high school and college kids on recruiting trips for his fledgling marketing company, medicating his insecurities with unending and unfolding free-agent dramas.

James is chasing Warren Buffett and Jay-Z the way he should be chasing Russell and Jordan and Bryant. He wants CEOs to bow before him, engage him as though he is a contemporary on the frontlines of industry. Only, the truth of the matter is, he’s a singular talent who’s going to watch his playoff failures start to chip away at the thing that seems to matter most to him: his marketability and magnetism.

LeBron James is one loss from falling short of the NBA Finals for the third straight year.(NBAE/ Getty Images)

Most of all, James is forever selling something of himself – an ideal, an image, a possibility. Something nebulous, something promised. He’s chasing a global platform, the bright, blinking billion-dollar fortune, and he’s largely gotten the natural order of things backward.

Stop strutting, stop preening, stop stomping away as an ungracious winner, a sore loser, and win something, LeBron.

Win something now.

No more excuses. Not now, not after this biblical bottoming out that pushes the Cleveland Cavaliers to the brink of an unthinkable collapse. And yet, after Tuesday’s ferocious failure of his professional career, the encompassing embarrassment of a 120-88 Game 5 loss to the Boston Celtics, James dismissed his unthinkably poor performance with this colossal cop-out: “I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have three bad games in seven years, it’s easy to point them out.”

Who is he to be indignant after he gave a playoff game away? What’s he ever won to be so smug to the masses? That’s what drives the Celtics crazy about James. Eventually, he will understand his greatness isn’t measured on the hit-and-runs through NBA cities across a long season. It’s measured now, in the teeth of the battle, when a tiny guard, Rajon Rondo(notes), has stolen his stage and nearly a series.

Somewhere, the whispers of the game’s greatest talents became a murmur louder and louder: James still doesn’t understand part of the price of greatness is inviting the burden on yourself and sparing those around you. He missed 11 of 14 shots. James didn’t score a basket until the third quarter. He was terrible, just terrible, and yet James couldn’t bring himself to say the worst home playoff loss in franchise history began and ended with him.

For all of James’ unselfishness on the floor, he can still be so selfish off it. They could’ve lined up the greatest players in the game’s history Tuesday night in the primes of their championship lives, and there isn’t one of them who would’ve deflected and deferred like the self-proclaimed King James. They would’ve been livid and they would’ve put it on themselves. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant(notes). Tim Duncan(notes) and, yes, Shaquille O’Neal(notes).

They had titles, and they would’ve mutilated themselves for public consumption. James is too cool, too stubborn and maybe too self-unaware. This is on me, they would’ve told you, and, I’ll get us out of this. They would’ve made sure teammates and opponents, fans and enemies understood. They would’ve made sure the whole world understood: This isn’t how an MVP plays in the playoffs. This isn’t how he lets a legacy linger in limbo. What you heard out of James was self-righteous: “I put a lot of pressure on myself to go out and be great and the best player on the court. When I don’t, I feel bad for myself.”

This wasn’t the night to feel bad for himself. There’s been enough pity for him in this series. As much as anything these past two years, the Cavaliers have taken on James’ persona: Entitled, arrogant and expectant that the sheer divine right of his greatness will win them a ring. Only, the Celtics are proud, old champions arisen out of the rubble and on the brink of closing out the Cavaliers on Thursday night at the Boston Garden. No one saw this coming on Tuesday night, the surgical removal of the Cavaliers’ hearts surrounded with a stunned silence that devolved into the debris of boos.

James lorded over one of the most agonizing, humiliating losses a championship contender ever endured. So much comes with this collapse, bookended with decades of a city’s championship sports futility set against the free agency for the son it spawned in neighboring Akron.

This collapse will cost people jobs. This will change the course of the franchise. Where’s James going? And as job security goes, the CEO of British Petroleum has more going for him than Mike Brown right now. Forty feet away Tuesday night, Kentucky’s John Calipari was sitting under the basket with Leon Rose, the agent Cal shares with his buddy, LeBron.

James invites these storylines into the gymnasium, this drama, and leaves everyone else to live with the consequences. Owner Dan Gilbert has fostered a culture of permissiveness with James that hasn’t served him or the franchise.

The Cavs live in fear of him, his moods, his whims, and it’s the reason no one ever tells him the truth: Hey ’Bron, you looked childish for refusing to shake the Orlando Magic’s hands last season. You sounded small grumbling about criticism for your wildly up-and-down play in this series. James walked out of the Q on Tuesday night and there’s no guarantee he’ll ever return as a Cavalier here.

Yet make no mistake: James has enough around him. This team isn’t perfect, isn’t assured of beating the Los Angeles Lakers, but it has no business losing in the conference semifinals – never mind failing to even compete. And, yes, as much as ever, this is on James.

He invited all this drama about walking out on his hometown team this summer, and now free agency hung over the Q like an anvil. Here’s a city that’s waited 46 years for a championship, a town that reacts viciously to the sheer suggestion that James could leave for New York this summer. These fans have been much better to James than he’s been to them. It hasn’t been the media that’s built his role in the summer of 2010 to a crescendo, but James himself. He constantly manipulated it with suggestions and hints and wink-winks to New York.

James proclaimed July 1, 2010, as the biggest day in the history of basketball, ramping up suspense of his ultimate decision: Do I stay or do I go? What it has done is throw more palpable pressure in the air, more desperation, and it’s come back to haunt him now.

James says the Cavaliers know all about what it takes, but he knows about winning in the regular season. This is a different time, a different game. Three bad games in seven years? He’s kidding himself. Now, he has a championship cast around him. Now, he’ll be judged. No one gives a damn what he did in the regular season.

Perhaps sooner than later, he’s going to get his coach fired for losing this series. Or the next to Orlando. He’s mocked Brown for acting too angry with the Game 2 thrashing, but the coach understood what James refused to acknowledge until Tuesday night: The Cavs have been wildly inconsistent in these playoffs and they’re nowhere near playing championship ball.

Across the regular season, James can play hard, let his talent take over and embark on all the side gigs that gobble his time.

This isn’t a part-time thing. Winning everything takes a single-minded, obsessive devotion. Michael Jordan had it. Kobe Bryant does, too. They didn’t want to win championships, they had to win them. They needed them for validation and identity and, later, they became moguls. LeBron James is running around recruiting college kids to his marketing company. He picks up the phone, tells them, “This is the King,” and makes his pitch to be represented in his stable. Think Kobe would ever bother with this? Or Michael? Not a chance when they were on the climb, not when they still had a fist free of rings.

LeBron James is on the clock now, and Game 6 in Boston could be for his legacy in Cleveland. He has been prancing around the edges for too long now, angling for a transcendent existence he believed his brand could bring him. Only, it’s all a mirage. It’s all vapor until he does the heavy lifting that comes now, that comes in the shadows of Magic and Larry, Michael and Kobe. This isn’t about selling an image to Madison Avenue, about pushing product through all those dazzling plays across the winter months. This is an MVP’s time, his calling, and there was LeBron James standing in the middle of the Cavaliers’ locker room at 11:25 p.m., staring in a long mirror, fixing his shirt before the long walk down the corridor to the interview room.

James stood there for five seconds and 10 and maybe now 20, just staring into the mirror, just taking a long, long look at himself. For the first time in his career, the first time when it’s all truly on him, maybe the sport stood and stared with him. All hell breaking loose, all on the line now. Forget everything in his life, all the make-believe nonsense, Game 6 and maybe Game 7 will promise to serve as the most honest hours of his basketball life.

Adrian Wojnarowski is the NBA columnist for Yahoo! Sports. Send Adrian a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.


By Ann Coulter
May 12, 2010

Americans can thank the Supreme Court for the attempted car bombing of Times Square, as well as any future terrorist attacks that might be less "amateurish" and which our commander in chief will be unable to thwart unless the bomb fizzles.

Over blistering dissents by Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, John Roberts and Samuel Alito, five Supreme Court justices have repeatedly voted to treat jihadists like turnstile jumpers. (Thanks, Justice Kennedy!)

That's worked so well that Obama's own attorney general is now talking about making massive exceptions to the Miranda warnings -- exceptions that will apply to all criminal suspects, by the way -- in order to deal with terrorists having to be read their rights as a bomb is about to go off.

Let's be clear: When Eric Holder thinks we're being too easy on terrorists, we are being too easy on terrorists.

Either the five liberal justices demanding constitutional rights for terrorists are out of their minds, or the religious worship of President Franklin D. Roosevelt has got to stop. According to liberal logic in the war on terrorism, FDR was a bloodthirsty war criminal.

When six Germans and two Americans were suspected of plotting an attack on U.S. munitions plants during World War II, FDR immediately ordered them arrested and tried in a secret military tribunal held behind closed doors at the Department of Justice.

Within weeks, all were found guilty. Six of the eight, including one U.S. citizen, were given the electric chair. One German was sentenced to life in prison and the other American citizen -- who had turned himself in and revealed the plot to the FBI -- got 30 years.

The Supreme Court upheld the secret trial, but didn't get around to producing an opinion until after Old Sparky had rendered its own verdict.

Consider that the eight saboteurs never actually did anything other than enter the country illegally, which I gather is considered a constitutional right these days (except in my future home state of Arizona).

Still, FDR had them executed or imprisoned after trial in a secret military tribunal.

How many future car bombers would be discouraged if Faisal Shahzad were tried by military tribunal and executed by, say, the end of the month? What if Army doctor Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had already gotten the chair?

But we can't do that because, according to five Supreme Court justices who aren't "progressive" enough for American liberals, terrorists waging war on U.S. soil get full constitutional protections.

So, instead, we're left arguing about whether an exception should be made to Miranda rights in the case of a terrorist who plotted with foreign agents to plant a car bomb in Times Square. ("You have the right to remain violent ...")

We are at war. The Supreme Court has no right to stick its fat, unelected nose into the commander in chief's constitutional war powers, particularly in a war against savages whose only reason for not nuking us yet is that they don't have the technology. (The New York Times hasn't gotten around to printing it.)

The reason Democrats are obsessed with controlling the courts is that unelected judges issuing final edicts is the only way liberals can attain their insane policy agenda. No group of Americans outside of Nancy Pelosi's district would vote for politicians who enacted laws similar to the phony "constitutional rights" liberal justices proclaim from the Supreme Court.

President Obama would rather surrender his authority as commander in chief to the Supreme Court than get blamed for deciding to treat terrorists as if they're Paris Hilton facing a drunk driving charge. Let the court do it.

(Recall that Obama's decision to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 attack, in a civilian court in New York was even less popular with the American people than Jay Leno at 10 p.m.)

Meanwhile, elected Democrats in Congress are also happy to yield their law-making authority to the court, so they don't have to be the ones voting for laws mandating late-term abortions; hard-core pornography on the Internet; government-sanctioned race discrimination; forced cross-district busing; confiscatory property tax hikes to fund socially engineered school desegregation plans; bans on the public observation of religious traditions shared by most Americans; free education, health care and welfare benefits for illegal immigrants; and a redefinition of the 2,000-year-old institution of marriage against the express wishes of voters in every state to vote on it.

(Note: This is only a partial list.)

The Supreme Court has become a Blue Ribbon Commission for Lunatics, issuing binding edicts in 5-4 votes that Americans would never in a million years vote for. Distinguishing between Elena Kagan and any other Democratic nominee is like distinguishing between Hannibal Lecter and Vlad the Impaler.