Saturday, July 10, 2010

See You Next Tyranny Day!

The experts don’t know as much as they think they do.

By Jonah Goldberg
July 9, 2010 12:00 A.M.

According to New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman in his mega-best-selling book Hot, Flat, and Crowded, China banned plastic bags a few years ago. “Bam! Just like that — 1.3 billion people, theoretically, will stop using thin plastic bags,” he gushed. “Millions of barrels of petroleum will be saved, and mountains of garbage avoided.”

China’s got us beat, suggests Friedman (pictured at right), because its leaders aren’t hung up on democracy, checks and balances, or any of the other dusty old impediments found in the American system. Friedman has proclaimed his envy for China’s authoritarian system countless times. It’s why he titled one of the chapters in his book “China for a Day.” The idea — he calls it his “fantasy” — is that if we could just be China for a day, the experts could impose by diktat what they cannot win through democratic debate.

If only the Founding Fathers had included an annual “Tyranny Day” in the Constitution. Every 364 days America could debate and scheme, pitting faction against faction, government branch against government branch, and on the 365th day the Supreme Soviet of the United States could simply “do things that are tough” and shove ten pounds of policy awesomeness into democracy’s five-pound bag.

Now, just for the record, China hasn’t banned plastic bags. Just ask anybody who’s been to China recently. But what a strange thing to sell your soul for. What was it Thomas More said — “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world . . . but to ban plastic bags”?

Now, I bring all of this up for a couple reasons. The first is that I am mildly obsessed with Tom Friedman. He’s easily one of the most influential columnists in America, and he routinely and blithely expresses his envy for a barbaric police state that has killed tens of millions of its own people. I think pointing that out is worth a little repetition.

But it’s also worth noting that Friedman is hardly alone. He may stretch his argument to the point of parody, but he shares a widespread view that the “experts” have all the answers and the “system” is holding them back.

Such arguments are as old as they are dangerous. And they are arrogant beyond description. People like Friedman automatically assume that their preferred policies are so obviously right, so objectively enlightened, that there’s no need to debate them or vote on them.

Such arguments are usually deployed to avoid valid criticisms, not because there are none. Indeed, the Obama White House virtually lives by such claims. All of the experts agreed that their stimulus would work, that Obama’s version of health-care reform was both necessary and popular, and that weaning the U.S. from fossil fuels would create “green jobs.” The evidence on all of these fronts is mixed or weak, yet the president constantly insists that he doesn’t want to hear from people who disagree with him on these issues because all the facts are in.

Such arrogance is dangerous. The literature on the unintended consequences of policies crafted by experts is at least as old as the field of economics. Frédéric Bastiat, the great 19th-century economist, noted all that separated the good economist from the bad is the ability to appreciate the possibility of the unforeseen. Nobel Prize–winning economist Friedrich Hayek demonstrated that healthy economies couldn’t be controlled by experts, because the experts will always have a “knowledge problem.” They can never know all of the variables and never fully predict how their theories will play out in reality.

Right now, Congress is debating a financial-reform bill that simply commands that regulators predict when an unforeseen crisis will occur. This is like demanding that regulators know when stocks will go up or down. If they knew that, they wouldn’t be regulators — they’d be billionaires.

But forget all that. Let’s get back to those evil plastic bags. A new study from the University of Arizona reveals that reusable shopping bags, the enlightened replacement for plastic ones, are breeding grounds for E. coli and other dangerous bacteria. Roughly 50 percent of the bags inspected were found to contain dangerous, potentially lethal, bacteria.

No, this doesn’t mean we should abandon reusable bags, let alone ban them on next year’s Tyranny Day. People can clean the bags and solve the problem. That’s a hassle, to be sure. But that’s the point. There’s always going to be a downside to even the best policies, because the experts don’t know as much as they think they do. Sometimes, they don’t even know they’re not experts at all.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Whitewashing Black Racism

Team Obama and its media water-carriers are exhibiting the very racial cowardice they once purported to condemn.

By Michelle Malkin
July 9, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Why haven’t national media outlets reported on the vile and violent rants of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) thugs whose 2008 voter-intimidation tactics got a pass from the Obama administration? Simple: Radical black racism doesn’t fit the Hope and Change narrative. There’s no way to shoehorn Bush-bashing into the story. And, let’s face it, exposing the inflammatory rhetoric of the Left does nothing to help liberal editors and reporters fulfill their true calling — embarrassing the Right.

This week, Justice Department whistleblower J. Christian Adams came forward with damning public testimony about how Obama officials believe “civil-rights law should not be enforced in a race-neutral manner, and should never be enforced against blacks or other national minorities.” In the wake of Adams’s exposé on how the Obama Justice Department abandoned default judgments against the NBPP bullies for the sake of politically correct racial politics, a shocking video clip of one of the lead defendants in the Philadelphia voter-intimidation case resurfaced on the Internet. It shows bloodthirsty King Samir Shabazz during a 2009 National Geographic documentary interview spewing: “You want freedom? You’re gonna have to kill some crackers! You’re gonna have to kill some of their babies!”

These NBPP death threats and white-bashing diatribes are nothing new to those who have tracked the black-supremacy movement. In August 2009, nearly a year ago, I reported on a sign on display outside NBPP defendant (and elected member of Philadelphia’s 14th Ward Democratic Committee) Jerry Jackson’s home. It reads: “COLORED ONLY: No Whites Allowed.” In July 2009, I interviewed poll watcher/witness Christopher Hill, whom Shabazz and Jackson called “cracker” several times while Shabazz brandished his baton.

“They physically attempted to block me,” Hill recounted. He also saw a group of elderly ladies walk away from the polling site without voting while the duo preened in front of the entrance. “If you’re a poll watcher, you shouldn’t be dressed in paramilitary garb,” Hill said, as he wondered aloud at what would have happened if he had shown up in the same sort of costume.

In May 2009, I reported on the affidavit of civil-rights attorney and poll watcher Bartle Bull, who witnessed the NBPP thuggery in Philadelphia and reported on billy-club-wielding Shabazz’s Election Day boast: “You’re about to be ruled by the black man, cracker.”

In the fall of 2008, just days before he showed up to hector white poll workers, Shabazz told the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“I’m about the total destruction of white people. I’m about the total liberation of black people. I hate white people. I hate my enemy. . . . The only thing the cracker understands is violence. . . . The only thing the cracker understands is gunpowder. You got to take violence to violence.”

The desire to kill, subordinate, and demonize white people is a staple of NBPP propaganda. An NBPP Trenton, N.J., chapter “block party” music video posted on YouTube calls on black followers to “bang for freedom,” “put the bang right into a cracker’s face,” and “if you’re going to bang, bang for black power . . . hang a cracker. . . . If you’re going to bang, bang on the white devil . . . burying him near the river bank with the right shovel. . . . Community revolution in progress . . . banging for crackers to go to hell, we don’t need ’em.”

Chanting “Black Power,” Minister Najee Muhammad, national field marshal for the New Black Panther Party, and Uhuru Shakur, local chairman of the Atlanta NBPP chapter, issued a pre–Election Day 2008 threat to “racists and other angry whites who are upset over an impending Barack Obama presidential victory.” Said Muhammad: “Most certainly, we cannot allow these racist forces to slaughter our babies or commit other acts of violence against the black population, nor our black president.”

That’s rich, given that the only racists talking about slaughtering babies are the ones with New Black Panther Party patches on their puffed chests.

If a tea-party activist threatened to kill the babies of his political opponents, it wouldn’t just be front-page news. It would be the subject of Democrat-led congressional investigations, a series of terrified New York Times columns about the perilous “climate of hate,” a Justice Department probe by Attorney General Eric Holder, a domestic terror alert from Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and another Important Teachable Moment Speech/Summit from Healer-in-Chief Barack Obama.

But with the racism shoe on the other foot, Team Obama and its media water-carriers are exhibiting the very racial cowardice Holder once purported to condemn. Thanks to Obama’s feckless Department of Injustice, these black-supremacist brutes are free to show up on the next national Election Day at polling places in full paramilitary regalia with nightsticks, hurling racist, anti-American epithets at those exercising their right to vote and at those protecting the integrity of the electoral process.

The reaction of our national media watchdogs: Shhhhhhhh.

— Michelle Malkin is the author of Culture of Corruption: Obama and His Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies (Regnery 2010). © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Friday, July 09, 2010

LeBron James Took The Easy Way Out With Star-Laden Heat

By Michael Rosenberg
July 8, 2010

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08: LeBron James and ESPN's Jim Gray speak at the LeBron James announcement of his future NBA plans at the Boys & Girls Club of America on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. James announced during a live broadcast on ESPN that he will play for the Miami Heat next season. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)

GREENWICH, Conn., July 8, 1990 -- Michael Jordan announced on national television he's leaving Chicago to join the Detroit Pistons. Jordan said it was tough to bolt Chicago, where he was the most popular athlete in many years, because he thinks he has a better chance to win a championship if he plays with Pistons star Isiah Thomas. Jordan said by playing together, he and Thomas "won't have the pressure of going out and scoring 30 every night."

That would have sounded absurd, right? Well, it is no more absurd than what LeBron James is doing. Jordan was 27 years old in 1990, slightly older than James is now. He had never been to the NBA Finals. He had been beaten up by the Celtics and Pistons for years. He doubted his supporting cast was good enough.

But he never doubted himself.

And it became very clear Thursday night that LeBron James does doubt himself. James will be a champion in Miami -- if not next year, then sometime after that. If you put James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together and give Pat Riley five years to find the complementary pieces, that team will win a championship.

But James does not have the heart of a champion. He does not have the competitive fire of Jordan, the bull-headed determination of Kobe Bryant, the quiet self-confidence of Tim Duncan, the willful defiance of Isiah or the winning-is-everything hunger of Magic Johnson.

He is an extremely gifted player who wants the easy way out.

And how do we know this?

James said so himself.

Oh, not in so many words. But once ESPN was done ESPN-izing its LeBron coverage -- filling it with babbling experts, needless hype and Jim Gray submitting his top six entries in the Stupidest Question Ever contest -- the self-proclaimed King said everything you need to know about him.

1. "You have to do what's best for you, and what's going to make you happy."

This is what's going to make him happy? Sharing a stage with two other stars? Really?

I guess that's all LeBron is: A complementary player with superstar talent. We should have figured this out before: He got that giant CHOSEN 1 tattoo on his back and calls himself King James because he is desperate for reassurance.

There is no greater challenge in sports getting drafted by a godawful team, planting your flag in a city and working like crazy until you have turned that team into a champion.

LeBron James didn't want the challenge. He wanted to play with his buddies.

2. "We don't have the pressure of going out and scoring 30 every night or shooting a high percentage."

Whoa. Hold on there. Scoring 30 a night is too much pressure for one of the five most talented players ever?

Find me another all-time NBA great who would utter those words. Jordan would rather do an adidas commercial than say that. Bryant must have laughed as he heard the so-called "King" say that. Larry Bird? The next time he complains about pressure will be the first. Magic was the greatest team player of the last 40 years, but he was also so competitive that he wanted to play Jordan one-on-one in a promotional event -- and this was when Magic had won titles and Jordan had not, so Magic had more to lose.

3. "I know how loyal I am."

The man just dumped his hometown(s) on national television. Cleveland (and, by extension, Akron) happens to be the most tortured sports city in America. To do that, then say "I know how loyal I am" ... wow, wow, wow.

I wish I could sit in on one of LeBron's meetings with his advisers. Does he make them all wear mirrored sunglasses, so that when he looks at them he sees himself?

We really don't ask that much of our sports stars. Try not to get arrested for anything big. Don't curse at the fans. You know, small stuff. We even understand that 95 percent of the time, they will make career decisions based on money -- we might not love it, but we understand it.

But see, the biggest thing that we ask of our sports stars is this: Take the competition as seriously as we do.

When LeBron James loses to Boston in the playoffs, we want him to take the heat, not take the Heat's offer. We want him to spend the summer adding to his game, calling and texting his teammates, plotting to do better next season.

Instead, well ...

4. "It's about joining forces with the other two guys."

He sounds like a nine-year-old playing Star Wars games with his buddies at a sleepover. And again: I do believe this Miami team will win a title. But it won't be as easy as he wants it to be. Miami will have the weakest bench of any contender next season After that, the NBA will have a lockout, and the league could eliminate the mid-level exception, which would be Miami's best tool for adding talent.

So this is a cop-out, but it's not as easy of a cop-out as it appears. And that brings us to ...

5. "This is the greatest challenge for me."

LeBron James just jumped into an elevator and wants us to think he can fly. Sorry, but we know better. We know that he did something Michael, Magic, Bird and Bill Russell never would have done. We know he ditched Cleveland for an All-Star team.

But you know what? In Miami, anything short of a title will be a failure. Nobody outside of Miami will root for this team, and nobody in Miami roots for anybody. They're too busy enjoying the weather.

I thought he would stay in Cleveland, because I thought all he cared about was adoration. I was wrong about Cleveland, but he is wrong about adoration. He thinks he'll get it by winning a title. He has insulated himself from the world, surrounded himself with yes men. He has no idea how much backlash he is about to get.

That's one of the great ironies of this -- James is trying to flee pressure, but he will just face more of it. He is trying to maximize his "brand," but he just damaged it.

The first time I watched LeBron James live, I thought he could be the greatest player ever. The sad truth for us, for him, and for the NBA is that he never really believed it himself.

LeBron James looks neither royal nor loyal

On an ESPN show, the King shows up a supportive community.

Bill Plaschke
The Los Angeles Times
11:27 PM PDT, July 8, 2010

LeBron James' decision to go on national television and announce he would be leaving his hometown team has made him a target for criticism. (Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images / July 9, 2010)

LeBron James is the King, all right.

The King of Crass. The King of Callous. The King of Cowardice.

What kind of man arranges and stars in a nationally televised infomercial during which he kicks his hometown to the curb? What kind of man summons a crowd of millions to watch him break up with a city that has loved and supported him for 25 years?

LeBron James dragged the Cleveland Cavaliers to the center table of the most crowded, well-lighted joint on the sports landscape Thursday night, then loudly dumped them on the spot.

The basketball news is that two-time defending most valuable player James has announced he will be joining stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the Miami Heat.

The human news is that, almost overnight, one of basketball's most likable figures has turned into a complete jerk.

James has every right to use free agency to leave a place where he didn't feel he could win a championship. But he had no right to publicly humiliate his neighbors in the process.

That hourlong ESPN program produced and directed by the 25-year-old James and his team of young sycophants Thursday was called "The Decision." It turns out the biggest decision was by James to strip himself of the most basic human decency, and he will again never look the same.

If you are going to leave the team where you've spent all seven seasons, leave the area where you've spent all 25 years, doesn't decorum dictate that you do it quietly, gently, gracefully? Given that this town hasn't enjoyed a major sports championship in 46 years, and given that your departure could keep them from winning anything for many more years, don't you think of them first? Did no part of last season's $15.8-million salary mandate, you know, manners?

You want to leave this place where you are so beloved, fine. Leave it like a man. Issue a news release announcing your decision and thanking Cleveland for its support. Hold a local news conference with the Cleveland media to reiterate those thanks. Then, and only then, do you appear on a national ESPN show to talk about your decision.

But no, years of coddling have filled James with such narcissism that he no longer sees anyone but himself. While reaping financial rewards as this country's most successful basketball prodigy, James has paid the price in a failure to develop integrity or character. Hey, if you can dunk on someone, why do you have to be sensitive to them?

(I interrupt this rant to remind the dear reader of another notion that James has conveniently ignored in his quest for fame. He. Has. Won. Zero. Championships.)

So anyway, the hell with Cleveland. James stepped on the makeshift ESPN stage at a youth gym in Greenwich, Conn., on Thursday wearing a tight shirt and a weird grin. He stretched the suspense for 30 full minutes, then finally announced he was "taking my talents to South Beach" while admitting that the Cavaliers were also hearing this for the first time.

That was why this show was so wrong. It wasn't about a lack of journalistic ethics, but human ethics. James used his awesome power not to inform or entertain, but to belittle. After his announcement, there appeared video of Cleveland fans screaming at a bar television, then burning a James shirt in the street. Maybe this would have happened if James had been a little more discerning, but I doubt it. Cleveland had been nationally embarrassed, and reacted in the small way that James made it feel.

I thought he would never arrange the show if he wasn't going to Cleveland. I thought wrong. It turns out, when it comes to LeBron James, I thought wrong about a lot of things.

I thought he was a leader. But by going to a team that already has an established superstar who has already won one NBA title, he showed he is a follower. He doesn't want the ball in the final minute. He doesn't want the pressure in the final month. The way he crumbled against Boston in this year's postseason was not a blip. The King doesn't have the stomach to be the Man.

Don't buy the spin that, because he could have made a guaranteed $30 million more on a potential Cavaliers contract, James is leaving Cleveland only because he wants to win. Cleveland did win while he was there, making it to the NBA Finals once and finishing with basketball's best record twice. He left because he didn't have the innards to take the final step with complementary players that the Cavaliers continued to acquire.

At the end of his infomercial Thursday, while pumping the Boys & Girls clubs who benefited from the commercials sold for this mess, James talked about helping the children and kindly noted, "One day we might have another LeBron."

Lord, I hope not.

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

LeBron James’ circus ends; Miami’s now begins

July 8, 2010

GREENWICH, CT - JULY 08: LeBron James and ESPN's Jim Gray speak at the LeBron James announcement of his future NBA plans at the Boys & Girls Club of America on July 8, 2010 in Greenwich, Connecticut. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Estabrook Group)

The most upsetting part of this ridiculous night came at 9:18 p.m., when the cameras first showed LeBron James sitting across from his chosen interviewer, Jim Gray, and in the background were rows of … children?

I wanted to throw up. Bad enough that we adults have to watch the decline of grace to where a guy who calls himself The King gets a prime-time TV special to announce where he’ll play basketball (an hour-long special at that!), but the fact that an audience of children was put around him, effectively being told, “Aren’t you lucky, kids, to be part of this? This is what MATTERS in life!” Lord, send me a bucket.

Look. I had to watch this. It’s my job to comment on big sports stories, and LeBron James switching teams to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami is a big sports story whether I like the process or not. But why anyone else would waste time is beyond me. And milking the drama for nearly 20 minutes (“Coming up, The King chooses his next court!” ESPN’s Stuart Scott cooed), followed by a maddening series of inane queries by Gray designed to further wring out the process (“Where’s the tie?” “So what’s new?” “Did you enjoy the recruiting process?” “Do you want more time to sleep on it?” were all questions Gray actually spit out), was not only irresponsible journalism, it was bad theater.

The only real insight was when Jon Barry, looking at LeBron, blurted out, “He doesn’t look happy.”

He was right. For all that, The King looked blah. And he hasn’t seen Miami traffic yet.

Miami still needs to win

Of course, many folks were less than thrilled Thursday night. How about the Knicks, who have all but promised fans His Highness for two years? You think Amare Stoudemire will suffice? Come on. That guy couldn’t win when he had Steve Nash, Shaq and Grant Hill as teammates.

How about Cleveland, divorced at the altar? LeBron kept reminding viewers of “the great things” he has done for his home team and state. Are you kidding? He just dashed their hopes, bolted to his personal all-star team, and traded the Midwest for a South Beach party. Guess where they’d like to throw his powder now?

The only solace the Cavaliers, Knicks, Bulls, Nets and Clippers can take from LeBron’s new hookup is that James-Wade-Bosh is no sure champion. Sorry, but you can’t just add their scoring averages last year (29.7, 26.6, 24.0 respectively) and figure that’s 80 points right there. The big number is one. As in one ball.

LeBron will have to pull back. So will Wade. The parts are greater than the sum. And let’s say this right now: Bosh is milking more of out the company he’s keeping than anyone on the planet, or at least since Ringo said OK to Paul, John, and George.

If Bosh were such a superstar, how come most of the country never heard of him before last month? He’s wiry. He has played 11 playoff games. And his ego is such that he has had a reality TV crew following him this summer, while continually expecting Toronto to do a sign-and-trade so that he could make more money, even though he wiped his sneakers with the franchise.

Take pity on Cleveland and Toronto

Which brings us to one of two huge questions for the now three-headed Miami Heat roster (is it the three-person Miami Heat roster?). First: ego. Sure, they love one another now. But Kobe and Shaq once did, too. Eventually they exploded their team over differences. And they WON! Today’s love is tomorrow’s complaint. Ask older players. Or married people. LeBron said this when asked about sharing the spotlight in Miami:

“For me it’s not about sharing, it’s about everybody having their own spotlight and then doing what’s best for the team.”

Lombardi just rolled over.

Question two: Role players. Nobody wins a title without them. Robert Horry. Dennis Rodman. Vinnie Johnson. Where do the role players come from? What money is left for them? Are they even allowed to shower with the Big Three?

(By the way, David Stern, this summer just proved your salary cap — designed for parity — is a joke; it can be manipulated like something from Goldman Sachs. You now have several decimated rosters. Nobody wants to go to the Clevelands or Torontos — despite winning records — and the new hip team is in a city where the players can party until sunrise, all winter long.)

About the only good news is the pathetic LeBron circus is finally over. He’s a basketball player, not a king. It’s a contract, not a life. And it’s show biz, not school. So can we get the kids out of there?

Or at least cover their eyes?

Contact MITCH ALBOM: 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760). Also catch “Monday Sports Albom” 7-8 p.m. Mondays on WJR. To read his recent columns, go to

By rejecting his hometown team, LeBron James earns his slot on the Modell list of shame

By Bill Livingston, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
July 8, 2010

CLEVELAND - JULY 8: Police stand guard near a larger than life photograph of LeBron James(notes) after the announcement that James will play next season for the Miami Heat July 8, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. The two-time Most Valuable Player made the choice to play for Miami next season. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Chosen One left the money and ran.

Until 9:28 Thursday night, there was still the thought in Cleveland that reports LeBron James would go to Miami as a free agent were a vast smoke screen, like the volcano in Iceland. But they were not.

Defecting players usually say sports are a business. But while James' decision certainly crushes businesses around The Q, for Cleveland, this was personal. How could it possibly be business when the Cavaliers could pay $30 million more over a long-term contract than any of his suitors?

James is the local legend who severed his ties with the area and now becomes as reviled as any sports figure other than Art Modell. He is the great player who left unfinished business after quitting on his team on the court and left unanswered questions by quitting on his city off it.

The medium for the bad news was ESPN, which figured. The network represents much of what is loud, obnoxious and empty in sports today.

The smiley face that Miami will put on this will be that James placed a chance to solidify one of the NBA's potentially great teams ahead of his ego. But as the dog-and-pony show of James' free agency shows, it was always all about him.

There is no doubt, however, that Cleveland enabled him with the huge billboard-sized banner across from The Q; with the "Witness" signs, as if he were able to perform miracles; with the sing-along by city and state officials, pleading for him to stay. There was a clear indication from the moment he wore a Yankees cap to a New York-Indians playoff game in what was then called Jacobs Field that he felt he could do anything he pleased. No one in the Cavaliers' organization would ever tell him no.

What a surprise that he became monstrously self-centered.

In the end, he proved not good enough to win it all, even with a good supporting cast.

By waiting to leave until after his high-profile basketball camp in his hometown of Akron, by surrounding himself there with current and former Cavs teammates, and by scheduling a one-hour national cable "event" just to exploit this city's suffering, he hit the trifecta in deplorable behavior.

He had before invoked all the connotations of home, only to leave it. He had before summoned an image of family, only to reject it. He had before cherished loyalty, only to betray it. He wears "Family" and "Loyalty" tattoos on his torso. Dermabrasion, please. The sooner, the better.

By contrast, Tim Duncan could have left the Spurs for Orlando, almost did, then stayed and won three of his four championships afterward. Kobe Bryant almost forced his way out of Los Angeles, then stayed and won two championships among his five overall, in just the last two years.

With James, there was always a childish, self-aggrandizing aspect to his game and a divided focus on the importance of winning. He was caught up in hosting the ESPYs and "Saturday Night Live" or making a proposed movie. Such perks once followed winning, but in his case, they preceded it.

He always wanted everyone to look at him. He valued trick shots, attempting looping, underhanded efforts from halfcourt before the game. He indulged in showy, copycat gestures like the pre-game powder throw. (Kevin Garnett did it first). He was not the winner we thought, not by a long shot in the Boston series. He was the fabulous curiosity, the bearded lady, the dancing bear.

He rubbed it in, dancing and preening, when the Cavs won and, at least twice, against Boston in 2008 and Orlando in 2009, he left without shaking hands after they lost. By joining the stocked-with-superstars Miami Heat, he becomes on the court what his rooting interests in the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys made him off it -- a front-runner.

As far as the "multiple" championships go that the abdicated "King" thinks will ratify greatness, is that really so? Until the rise of Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson in the 1980s and '90s, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson were commonly considered the best guards in NBA history. They won two championships between them. Years of excellence established their reputations, despite the obstacles the Bill Russell dynasty presented.

James will be compared to Modell, although NBA basketball, of sorts, will continue here, and NFL football, the biggest thing in town by far, did not for three years. Of course Modell should have sold to a local buyer, but he was down to his last resort in order to stay in the game when he moved the Browns to ease his financial burdens. James had plenty of time, at age 25, to redeem his feeble efforts against Boston. Garnett, for example, stayed a decade in a less competitive situation in Minnesota and left more honorably.

Modell's move meant he sacrificed his chance for his sport's Hall of Fame.

James -- despite the problems he and Dwyane Wade will have in sharing the ball, despite the need to keep the third mercenary, Chris Bosh, happy too -- probably thinks he has won the world.

Everywhere but home, although he said he will still live in Akron.

Because home is gone. Because it's personal here too.

© 2010 All rights reserved.

LeBron's unsavory 'Decision' spectacle

He chose the Heat for justifiable reasons, but the way he announced it wasn't pretty

By Gene Wojciechowski
July 8, 2010

BOSTON - MAY 07: (FILE PHOTO) LeBron James rests against the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2010 NBA Playoffs at TD Banknorth Garden on May 7, 2010 in Boston, Massachusetts. James announced July 8, 2010 that he will play for the Miami Heat during a live broadcast on ESPN. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

And now I'd like to present … The Column on The Decision, which was announced by The Egotist, who has lost The Respect of The Columnist for jacking around The Cavs, The Bulls, The Knicks, The Nets and The Clippers (yes, even The Clippers) before deciding on The Heat and milking it for every Favre-like minute as he talked about The King in The Third Person.

Please tell me it's over, or is LeBron James still blabbering away about the agony of free agency?

If nothing else, the James Team's manufactured saga makes you yearn for simpler times, like when Michael Jordan, who actually won things such as championships, announced one of his monumental career decisions in a concise "I'm back" fax.

But no, we got 27 minutes of TV appetizers, followed by eight seconds of LeBron steak ("This fall -- man, this is very tough -- um, this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat"), followed by 33-plus minutes of Worcestershire sauce. The whole thing was semi-ridiculous, although it did reveal a vain, self-absorbed side of James that's as attractive as braided nose hair.

Anyway, he's going to Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh! Whooee!

Duh. Where else did you think he'd sign once Wade re-upped with Team Riley and Bosh followed? To Cleveland? Sure, because everyone wants to play for a team with little cap space and Mo Williams as your point guard. To the Bulls and a rookie head coach and a sometimes dysfunctional front office? To New York and the countdown to Amare Stoudamire's next injury? To New Jersey and more questions marks than in this paragraph? To Los Angeles and Donald Sterling and the shadow of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant?

The minute Wade and Bosh chose Miami is the minute The Decision was made. James can (and did) frame it any way he wants; but if winning a championship was his No. 1 priority -- and he said weeks and weeks ago that it was -- then the Heat made the most sense, followed closely by the Bulls.

Nearly five months ago, I wrote a column outlining how and why a James-Wade-Bosh signing could happen. At the time, the Knicks were the team best positioned to pull off the audacious move. But that was before Heat president (and eventual coach?) Pat Riley started dumping salaries into Biscayne Bay. Then he kept Wade, recruited Bosh and that was that.

I don't have a problem with James' choice. Had he selected anyone but the Heat or the Bulls, he would have backtracked on his free agency campaign promise of caring only about wins, not money. By signing with the Heat, he'll get both -- maybe not as much money had he stayed in Cleveland; but in the short and long run, he'll have a better chance at an NBA title.

What bothers me isn't so much the contrived nature of the announcement, but that James was such a willing participant, if not the creator, of the spectacle. He is an immensely gifted player -- the best in the NBA -- but he has won nothing. Zilch. Goose eggs. At least Wade has a championship ring. Whatever James won in high school doesn't count.

Can you imagine what Kobe was thinking as he watched Thursday evening's announcement? He must have been seething. He's probably already counting the months, weeks and days until the Lakers play the Heat during the regular season. Knowing how Bryant uses such things as motivation, he's almost surely hoping the Heat win the Eastern Conference and face the Lakers in the Finals.

James did the Heat, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (a reported $2.5 million in donated revenue from the telecast of The Decision) and the Lakers a huge favor Thursday night. As for the Cavs, Bulls, Knicks, Nets and Clippers, those franchises deserve better than the dog and LeBron show.

If, as James said Thursday night, he made up his mind that morning, then he owed those franchises the courtesy of a phone call. If it leaked before the TV show, then it leaked. It's not like it was a secret. ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard reported ALL day and night that James was a virtual lock to join the Heat.

Not much doubt about LeBron's clout outside the Boys & Girls Club on Thursday, at least in this fan's mind.

And is it just me, or is anyone else stunned that James informed the Heat of the decision minutes before the broadcast, but didn't do the same for the franchise that had been his only professional home?

This was a James production, filled with James-endorsed products, coordinated by James employees. Was it news? Absolutely. Was it narcissistic? Absolutely. Was ESPN a partner of sorts? Absolutely.

I don't think less of James' basketball skills, but I do think less of his instincts. He didn't grow his brand Thursday night, he grew his ego. It was clumsy, ill-conceived and unnecessary. I watched and winced.

In Cleveland, there was footage of Cavs fans burning his jersey. Dumb. Northeast Ohio ought to thank him for his seven years of loyal, blue-collar service, just as James thanked Northeast Ohio for its support. It is, as James has reminded us repeatedly, a business.

But the business of James has become a little less pure and a lot more mercenary. It wasn't who he chose, but how he chose them.

Maybe a championship, if he wins one, will make it all worthwhile. Maybe James will learn a lesson from this botched exercise in marketing. Until then, the way he handled his free agency announcement will be known by two words.

The Mistake.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for You can contact him at

Book review: 'You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup' by Peter Doggett

John, Paul, George and Ringo split in 1970, but they were still in business together. It wasn't harmonious.

By David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times Book Critic
July 4, 2010

You Never Give Me Your Money

The Beatles After the Breakup

Peter Doggett

HarperStudio: 390 pp., $24.99

When exactly did the Beatles break up? For many years, conventional wisdom has offered two options: September 1969, when, on the way to his solo set at the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival festival, John Lennon told fellow performers Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann that he was planning to leave the Beatles, and April 1970, when, shortly before the release of what would become their final album, "Let It Be," Paul McCartney went public (after a fashion) with his decision to leave the band. Whichever date you accept, both have an air of the definitive about them. Yet the truth, suggests Peter Doggett in his elegant and deeply researched "You Never Give Me Your Money: The Beatles After the Breakup," is more difficult to pin down.

"Imagine an alternative script," he writes of McCartney's announcement, which, coming in a promotional Q & A accompanying the release of his first solo album, was elliptical at best. (Asked if his break with the Beatles was "temporary or permanent," he responded, "Temporary or permanent? I don't know.") "The 'McCartney' album is released," Doggett continues, "and its creator merely issues a cryptic comment about the Beatles, along the lines of 'Who knows what will happen?' … Later in 1970, with the 'split' still not made public, Lennon undertakes one of the frequent changes of heart that litter his career and invites the Beatles to help him record the songs inspired by his experience with [psychologist Arthur] Janov. The Beatles stumble, or stride into a new decade, and then … ?"

"You Never Give Me Your Money" posits a nuanced afterlife for the Beatles, if "afterlife" is the right word. For Doggett, their breakup was a process, beginning in late 1967, after the death of longtime manager Brian Epstein, and dragging on in some form or another to the present day. His book is remarkable for many reasons, not least that 48 years after the release of "Love Me Do," he has found a new lens (and much new information) through which to consider the band. Yet even more striking is his sense of the textures, the delicate interplay of individual and collective history, that continued to define the members of the Beatles long after they had ceased to function as a cohesive entity.

For every fan who ever longed for them to reunite, it's tantalizing just how close that prospect often was. As early as December 1970, Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr booked studio time in an attempt to manipulate McCartney in a management dispute, but the bassist would not take the bait. Over the next few years, the former bandmates performed together in various configurations, live and in the studio. Perhaps the most famous of these near reunions were for Starr's 1973 album, "Ringo," on which all four Beatles played. Lesser known was the studio session Lennon and McCartney played together in Los Angeles in 1974.

There's a reason for that; Lennon was on his so-called lost weekend, estranged from Yoko Ono and living an excessive life. What they produced — a sloppy jam session revealing "no hint of the Beatles' magic, no rapport between the two men, merely a cocaine-driven Lennon berating and bullying the engineer before floundering through fragments of half-forgotten rock 'n' roll hits" — suggests the futility of looking back. Still, Doggett writes, this did not dissuade the pair from seeking other ways to collaborate, including a plan to write and record together in New Orleans at the beginning of 1975, which was scuttled after Lennon found his way back to Ono, who presumably frowned on the idea.

Of course, for all he has to tell us about the music, Doggett's main focus is on the money, and he deftly explicates the complexities of the Beatles' finances, which both bound them inextricably together and drove them irrevocably apart. The first part of the book deals with the rise and fall of Apple, the band's anti-corporate media corporation, which foundered on its own idealism. "Basically it was chaos," Doggett quotes Harrison. "We just gave away huge quantities of money. It was a lesson to anybody not to have a partnership."

It was precisely this partnership that trapped the Beatles in a series of claustrophobic legal battles, as Doggett documents. First, there was the 1969 fight over management, with Lennon, Harrison and Starr opting to be represented by New York music promoter Allen Klein, long regarded as a villain in the Beatles' saga, while Paul opted in favor of Park Avenue lawyer Lee Eastman, his new father-in-law. It's no stretch to suggest that this dispute is what destroyed the Beatles, alienating Paul from the others in ways that could never be repaired.

But equally disruptive was the group's partnership agreement, dismantled only at the end of 1974. Until then, all four Beatles shared equally in the proceeds of one another's albums, guaranteeing resentment from the bigger sellers (Harrison and McCartney, primarily) as well as an abiding feeling of being trapped. How could they be considered to have broken up, "You Never Give Me Your Money" asks, when for years after their final recording sessions, they were regularly brought together for lawsuits and contractual negotiations and maintained a financial stake in one another's work? It was only in October 1996, after McCartney, Harrison and Starr finished work on the final "Anthology" CD set of unreleased outtakes and alternative versions from the Beatles archive, that Apple released a statement declaring, "The end has finally arrived."

That's a long time for a breakup to go on, even longer when you consider that the Beatles have continued to authorize projects, including the Cirque du Soleil show "Love." As such, it's hardly surprising that "You Never Give Me Your Money" catalogs a lot of bad behavior, on the part of both the band and their entourage. Worst of all are Lennon and McCartney, who whine and snarl through these pages like a couple of spoiled brats. And yet, to Doggett's credit, we never lose our sympathy for complicated people hurt by what's gone on.

Certainly, as he writes, "[t]hese four men created music of such joy and inventiveness that it captured the imagination of the world," but it's equally true that they paid an enormous price. "I had so much in me that I couldn't express, and it was just very nervy times, very very difficult," McCartney said about his decision to leave the band. "One night I'd been asleep and awoke and couldn't lift my head off the pillow. My head was down in the pillow and I thought, Jesus, if I don't do this I'll suffocate."

Copyright © 2010, The Los Angeles Times

Thursday, July 08, 2010

When New-Wave Drug Dealers Run Afoul of an Old-Wave Cartel

Books of The Times
July 7, 2010


By Don Winslow

302 pages. Simon & Schuster. $25.

“Don Winslow is an author currently living in the United States, most recognized for his crime and mystery novels.” That’s the one-sentence entirety of the biographical notice Mr. Winslow has attracted on Wikipedia, though he has a dozen novels, a couple of movie deals, a slew of ardent reviews, a whip-cracking way with words and a whole lot of Southern California surfer baditude to his credit.

Those earlier books (11 published here, one available in England with no set American publication date) have much sparkle to recommend them. But they aren’t “Savages,” the one that will jolt Mr. Winslow into a different league. “Savages” is his 13th and most boisterously stylish crime book, his gutsiest and most startling bid for attention.

It’s clear that “Savages” has no dearth of nerve from the snow-white, one-page opening chapter, which consists of exactly two words. The first one isn’t “thank.” The second one is “you.” As opening gambits go, this one is pure kamikaze, and it could have backfired accordingly. But Mr. Winslow has written the killer book to back it up.

“Savages” is full of wild-card moves. And it’s not afraid to risk missing its mark. But its wisecracks are so sharp, its characters so mega-cool and its storytelling so ferocious that the risks pay off, thanks especially to Mr. Winslow’s no-prisoners sense of humor. About a Latino neighborhood: “You hear English here it’s the mailman talking to himself.” About skewering the bourgeoisie: “Every great wine-tasting should end with arsenic.” About an Iraq war veteran who feels overlooked in Orange County’s smug atmosphere: “Without men like me, the clubhouse whores would be wearing burqas, my friend.”

The Iraq vet, a former member of the Navy Seals, is the ostensible reason for that note of hostility on the book’s first page. He calls himself Chon (though his given name is John), and he’s half of a pragmatic new-wave drug-dealing partnership in Laguna Beach. Chon and his partner, Ben, aren’t tired old “Scarface” types. They represent a more creative kind of illicit entrepreneurship. Chon’s case of what this acronym-filled book calls “PTLOSD” (“Post-Traumatic Lack of Stress Disorder”) has empowered him to sign on as a private-security mercenary in Afghanistan and to come home carrying the most potent marijuana seeds he could find.

When Chon entrusted these seeds to the wonkier Ben, the book says, it was “like giving Michelangelo some paintbrushes and a blank ceiling and saying—

“Go for it, dude.”

(The occasional free-verse
layout is another of Mr.
potentially dangerous tricks.)

Ben bred the seeds until they were even stronger. He created “a plant that could almost get up, walk around, find a lighter, and fire itself up.” But Ben and Chon have grown this crop too successfully for their own good, attracting the extreme interest of a Mexican cartel in Baja, a group not friendly to competition.

Now Ben wants out of the drug business. He’s become interested in philanthropy in third world nations. He certainly doesn’t want to grow crops for the Mexican cartel. “He appreciates the irony, though, that the Mexicans basically want to turn them into field workers,” Mr. Winslow writes. And: “He digs the reverse colonialism of it, but it just isn’t his thing.”

So “Savages” is a battle of wills. And that battle, for all the book’s throwaway humor, turns as vicious as the title implies. As the story begins, Chon is with Ophelia. Ophelia is called O for short, and nicknamed Multiple O. She enjoys her life in Laguna Beach as a part-time dysfunctional daughter (her mother is known as P.A.Q.U., for “Passive Aggressive Queen of the Universe”) and full-time slacker.

When Ophelia sees Chon staring intensely at his computer screen, she thinks he’s looking at pornography. He is. But it’s not the type she imagines. It’s a monstrous snuff scene sent by the Baja cartel as a warning, showing what can happen to rogue dealers. And it strikes not just fear but also curiosity into Chon. He’s just enough of an etymologist to notice that “beheading” is both a noun and a verb.

“You want my advice, boys? And girl?” asks the D.E.A. agent whom Ben, Chon and O regularly bribe. “I’ll miss you, I’ll miss your money, but run.” Chon is old-school enough to think that if you start running you can never stop. (Ben insists irrelevantly that running is fun and good for the cardiovascular system.) The point is they’re ready to fight the cartel in a war of nerves.

Since the video wasn’t enough to scare Ben and Chon, the cartel has a second idea: kidnap O. So she becomes a hostage, a role that allows her to fulfill a dream. (“I’m actually forced at gunpoint to lie around my room and do nothing but watch bad TV.”) While in captivity she starts demanding her rights, like the rights to Internet access and salad. Soon she is half-trying to fool P.A.Q.U. about her whereabouts with bogus messages. As in: “It’s very nice here, with the Eiffel Tower and all that.” And: “Okay, it’s off to Trafalgar Square and later to the West End to see a play. I might even give Shakespeare a try! Who’d a thunk, huh?”

As the peril in “Savages” escalates, Chon finds himself forced back into military mode. Ben finds himself prodded toward behavior that he can justify but not condone. And what began in the tone of Elmore Leonard moves into the darker realm of Oliver Stone, who plans to film “Savages” but will have to walk a tightrope when he takes it on.

The Winslow effect is to fuse the grave and the playful, the body blow and the joke, the nightmare and the pipe dream. It’s flippant and dead serious simultaneously. “Whatever happened to morality?” somebody asks in “Savages.” Mr. Winslow answer: “Replaced by a newer, faster, easier technology.”

LeBron needs to look in the mirror

By Ian O'Connor
Updated: July 8, 3:21 AM ET

Without kissing a single trophy or feeling one drop of ticker tape fall on his comic book arms, LeBron James has changed the conversation in sports. How do I know this?

I don't believe I'd ever uttered the expression "global icon" until the past two weeks.

No matter which rabbit James pulls out of his hat Thursday night on ESPN -- Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, New York Knicks or Fort Wayne Mad Ants -- he should understand something about becoming a global icon, whatever that means.

You don't find it. It finds you.

AP Photo/Phil Long

LeBron always looks good. He will look even better with a championship.

Maybe we've unearthed the reason James hasn't claimed an NBA championship, other than the fact that his Cleveland roster wasn't built to win one. He's poured way too much blood, sweat and tears into his pursuit of an entirely different title.

Lord and Master of the Free Agent Universe.

LeBron is chasing the kind of fame and stature attained by no American athlete before him, Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali included. It reminds of another breathless free-agent drama nearly a decade ago, when Alex Rodriguez entered the marketplace fixing to conquer the world, not the World Series.

Somehow A-Rod persuaded Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks to give him $252 million over 10 years. Not $250 million over 10 for a nice and tidy quarter-billion-dollar layout. That wasn't going to cut it. A-Rod and agent Scott Boras needed the extra 2 million bucks for this absurd reason:

They wanted to double Kevin Garnett's record $126 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Now you know why Rodriguez won his first championship 15 years deep into his career, and only after the New York Yankees paid nearly a half-billion dollars in one offseason to help him. A-Rod had spent too much time and energy on being A-Rod. He needed to be humiliated by his steroids confession -- left a shattered Humpty Dumpty, in the words of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman -- before remembering why he chose baseball as a profession in the first place.

LeBron James has suffered no such public emasculation. He was widely criticized for his performance in Cleveland's second-round loss to the Boston Celtics, but his career has gone untouched by scandal. James remains a made-for-Madison Avenue pitchman, a likable and approachable figure with superhero skill.

Only on the day Kevin Durant quietly revealed that he had agreed to a five-year extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder, almost whispering it as if he were sitting in the back pew of a packed church, James did himself no favors by confirming a report from ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard that he's going to pull a Geraldo and reopen Al Capone's vault.

No, ESPN isn't to blame here. The network is in the business of providing programming that sports fans want to watch (yes, it's a business that allows ESPN to sign my paycheck), and nobody doubts that sports fans sure as hell want to watch this programming.

If James had planned to make a large donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the cause booked to receive sponsorship proceeds from the hourlong ESPN show, he would've been better off writing that organization a check.

It's too late to turn back now. James announced on his website that the show will be called "The Decision," and he's doing his best to keep the Cavaliers, Heat, Knicks, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets in the dark.

Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are lobbying James to join them in Miami, and Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony -- scheduled to be a free agent next summer -- are selling James on the possibilities in New York, according to a source close to the situation.

James should follow his heart, wherever it takes him, then schedule his next meeting with the man in his bathroom glass. LeBron doesn't need another sitdown with desperate owners, executives and coaches trying to fulfill their own dreams. He needs a face-to-face with himself.

The Chosen One should choose a different path than the one he's on and use his favorite ballclub, the Yankees, as a road map. Instead of being basketball's A-Rod, it's much better to be basketball's Jeter.

Don't chase attention and stature as though it's a loose ball in the fourth quarter of a big game. Let the attention and stature chase you.

Derek Jeter became Derek Jeter by racking up championships. He won four in his first five years before signing a 10-year, $189 million contract, a deal announced in a 15-minute conference call on a slow Friday afternoon.

All these years later, LeBron wanted the prime-time sizzle, and the prime-time sizzle he'll get. Lights, camera, action for the King and his court.

Given James' title-free run in Cleveland, this can't be called a three-ring circus -- a no-ring circus is more to the point. Either way, when it's all over and LeBron replaces his team of business advisers with, you know, a team of actual basketball players, he needs to rearrange his priorities.

He's a tremendous athlete, a wonder to watch. But in the end, the victor's spoils go to only the on-the-court victor.

Let's face it: Nobody's ever sprayed champagne on a global icon.

Ian O'Connor is a columnist for You can follow him on Twitter.


By Ann Coulter
July 7, 2010

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele was absolutely right. Afghanistan is Obama's war and, judging by other recent Democratic ventures in military affairs, isn't likely to turn out well.

It has been idiotically claimed that Steele's statement about Afghanistan being Obama's war is "inaccurate" -- as if Steele is unaware Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. (No one can forget that -- even liberals pretended to support that war for three whole weeks.)

FILE - In this July 15, 2008, file photo Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., then a Republican presidential candidate, laughs with Michael Steele, former Maryland Lt. Gov. who now heads the Republican National Committee, during a campaign stop in St. Louis. On a morning talk show Sunday July 4, 2010, McCain strongly criticized Steele's comments on the war in Afghanistan, saying they are 'wildly inaccurate' and inexcusable. At a recent GOP fundraiser, Steele called the U.S. commitment of troops in Afghanistan a mistaken 'war of Obama's choosing.'
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Yes, Bush invaded Afghanistan soon after 9/11. Within the first few months we had toppled the Taliban, killed or captured hundreds of al-Qaida fighters and arranged for democratic elections, resulting in an American-friendly government.

Then Bush declared success and turned his attention to Iraq, leaving minimal troops behind in Afghanistan to prevent Osama bin Laden from regrouping, swat down al-Qaida fighters and gather intelligence.

Having some vague concept of America's national interest -- unlike liberals -- the Bush administration could see that a country of illiterate peasants living in caves ruled by "warlords" was not a primo target for "nation-building."

By contrast, Iraq had a young, educated, pro-Western populace that was ideal for regime change.

If Saddam Hussein had been a peach, it would still be a major victory in the war on terrorism to have a Muslim Israel in that part of the globe, and it sure wasn't going to be Afghanistan (literacy rate, 19 percent; life expectancy, 44 years; working toilets, 7).

But Iraq also was a state sponsor of terrorism; was attempting to build nuclear weapons (according to endless bipartisan investigations in this country and in Britain -- thanks, liberals!); nurtured and gave refuge to Islamic terrorists -- including the 1993 World Trade Center bombers; was led by a mass murderer who had used weapons of mass destruction; paid bonuses to the families of suicide bombers; had vast oil reserves; and is situated at the heart of a critical region.

Having absolutely no interest in America's national security, the entire Democratic Party (save Joe Lieberman) wailed about the war in Iraq for five years, pretending they really wanted to go great-guns in Afghanistan. What the heck: They had already voted for the war in Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 when they would have been hanged as traitors had they objected.

The obsession with Afghanistan was pure rhetoric. Democrats have no interest in fighting any war that would serve America's interests. (They're too jammed with their wars against Evangelicals, Wal-Mart, the Pledge of Allegiance, SUVs and the middle class.) Absent Iraq, they'd have been bad-mouthing Afghanistan, too.

So for the entire course of the magnificently successful war in Iraq, all we heard from these useless Democrats was that Iraq was a "war of choice," while Afghanistan -- the good war! -- was a "war of necessity." "Bush took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan!" "He got distracted by war in Iraq!" "WHERE'S OSAMA?" and -- my favorite -- "Iraq didn't attack us on 9/11!"

Of course, neither did Afghanistan. But Democrats were in a lather and couldn't be bothered with the facts.

The above complaints about Iraq come -- nearly verbatim -- from speeches and press conferences by Obama, Joe Biden, and Obama's national security advisers Susan Rice and Richard Clarke. Also, the entire gutless Democratic Party. Some liberals began including them in their wedding vows.

(By the way, Democrats: WHERE'S OSAMA?)

Obama hasn't ramped up the war in Afghanistan based on a careful calculation of America's strategic objectives. He did it because he was trapped by his own rhetorical game of bashing the Iraq war while pretending to be a hawk on Afghanistan.

At this point, Afghanistan is every bit as much Obama's war as Vietnam was Lyndon Johnson's war. True, President Kennedy was the first to send troops to Vietnam. We had 16,000 troops in Vietnam when JFK was assassinated. Within four years, LBJ had sent 400,000 troops there.

In the entire seven-year course of the Afghanistan war under Bush, from October 2001 to January 2009, 625 American soldiers were killed. In 18 short months, Obama has nearly doubled that number to 1,124 Americans killed.

Republicans used to think seriously about deploying the military. President Eisenhower sent aid to South Vietnam, but said he could not "conceive of a greater tragedy" for America than getting heavily involved there.

As Michael Steele correctly noted, every great power that's tried to stage an all-out war in Afghanistan has gotten its ass handed to it. Everyone knows it's not worth the trouble and resources to take a nation of rocks and brigands.

Based on Obama's rules of engagement for our troops in Afghanistan, we're apparently not even fighting a war. The greatest fighting force in the world is building vocational schools and distributing cheese crackers to children.

There's even talk of giving soldiers medals for NOT shooting people, which I gather will be awarded posthumously. Naomi Campbell is rougher with her assistants than our troops are allowed to be with Taliban fighters.

But now I hear it is the official policy of the Republican Party to be for all wars, irrespective of our national interest.

What if Obama decides to invade England because he's still ticked off about that Churchill bust? Can Michael Steele and I object to that? Or would that demoralize the troops?

Our troops are the most magnificent in the world, but they're not the ones setting military policy. The president is -- and he's basing his war strategy on the chants of cretins.

Nonetheless, Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney have demanded that Steele resign as head of the RNC for saying Afghanistan is now Obama's war -- and a badly thought-out one at that. (Didn't liberals warn us that neoconservatives want permanent war?)

I thought the irreducible requirements of Republicanism were being for life, small government and a strong national defense, but I guess permanent war is on the platter now, too.

Of course, if Kristol is writing the rules for being a Republican, we're all going to have to get on board for amnesty and a "National Greatness Project," too – other Kristol ideas for the Republican Party. Also, John McCain. Kristol was an early backer of McCain for president -- and look how great that turned out!

Inasmuch as demanding resignations is another new Republican position, here's mine: Bill Kristol and Liz Cheney must resign immediately.


Elena Kagan’s ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ Sharia Policy

Political willfulness is not the judicial temperament.

By Andrew C.McCarthy
July 8, 2010 4:00 A.M.

I wonder if Elena Kagan knows about Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani.

Ms. Ashtiani is about to be stoned. That’s where they bury you up to your chest and hurl rocks at you until you die. The rocks can’t be too big. You see, this is real torture, religion-of-peace torture. It’s the kind that happens every day but that Democrats prefer not to talk about. With stoning (or “lapidation” as the press gently call it on those rare occasions when it is mentioned at all), the ordeal must not end too quickly. Otherwise, it might not make the right impression, as it were, on the victim — the sinner — and the community at large.

Had the solicitor general heard about Ms. Ashtiani’s plight, one imagines, she’d have told her to get herself to the nearest courthouse and seek the protection of the law. Alas, it is pursuant to the law that this barbarity will take place. The stoning of this 43-year-old mother of two has been ordered by a court in her native Iran, where the only legal code is Allah’s law, sharia. It is the Islamic sentence for adultery, the crime to which Ashtiani confessed after serial beatings by her interrogators.

During her a stint at the Clinton White House, we now know, Ms. Kagan struck the pose of a champion of women’s rights — at least if you weren’t an unborn girl. So fierce was her devotion to the cause of “reproductive freedom” that she subverted science in the service of abortion on demand — specifically, to preserve the partial-birth abortion procedure, which exceeds even stoning in its ghastliness[1]. She then went on to Harvard Law School where, as dean, she became the champion of sharia.

Not of stoning and other grotesque penalties, of course — nothing so obviously offensive. To hear progressives tell it, we can do nice, clean, friendly sharia, just like we do nice, clean, friendly Islam. “Lapidations,” they will tell you, are no different from jihadist suicide bombings: outmoded vestiges of a long-forgotten time. Except they’re not. They are undeniably rooted in Islamic scripture, and they are happening today, with frequency, wherever sharia reigns. That is because the “moderate Islam” progressives like to banter about is a mirage in search of a cogent set of principles. There is no moderate Islam that can compete with the mainstream, sharia Islam. Thus the crimes and punishments, in all their ghoulishness, endure.


At Harvard, Dean Kagan’s gay-rights activism was as limitless as her pro-abortion activism had been. She banned on-campus military recruitment. Doing so was a flagrant violation of federal law, but she rationalized it by her moral outrage over the armed forces’ “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Once again striking the leftist’s brave “speaking truth to power” pose, she lambasted DADT as “a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.” [2]

It was a phony courage, the kind where you rattle your “social justice” saber in front of a pretend dragon, knowing your friends will cheer. The kind where you know it won’t cost you anything. The military wasn’t going to do anything to Kagan, and DADT wasn’t a mere military standard. It was a statute enacted by a solidly Democratic Congress with the approval of President Clinton. Shortly after he signed DADT, President Clinton offered Kagan a position on the White House staff. Did she grandstand? Did she speak truth to power with a scoffing denunciation about the profound moral injustice Clinton had endorsed? Not exactly. She accepted the gig in a heartbeat, ditching a coveted tenured professorship at the University of Chicago’s law school, one of America’s finest.

Real courage at Harvard would have called for condemning the university’s profoundly immoral, gluttonous promotion of sharia. While Kagan was at the law school, her patron, Harvard’s president Larry Summers, accepted a stunning $20 million donation for the creation of a program of studies to lionize Islam’s history and jurisprudence. The cash came from the Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the billionaire investor whose attempted $10 million contribution to the Twin Towers fund had been refused by New York mayor Rudy Giuliani when bin Talal blamed the 9/11 atrocities on American foreign policy. Summers, the anti-Giuliani, not only took the money but named the program [3] and an endowed professorship [4] in the prince’s honor. And why not? By then, as Ben Shapiro reported, Harvard’s law school already had three Saudi-funded institutions devoted to the study of sharia.

Stonings are common in Saudi Arabia, where, as in Iran, sharia is the only law of the land. Beheadings are common, too. A vice patrol, the mutaween, monitors the population, especially the women, to ensure compliance with sharia standards of dress, prayer observance, and segregation of the sexes. Sanctions are draconian, as a 19-year-old woman learned in 2007, when she was sentenced to 200 lashes with a rattan cane after being gang-raped. Saudi Arabia’s crown jewels, Mecca and Medina, are closed to non-Muslims; forget about building a church or synagogue in those cities — non-Muslims are deemed unfit to set foot on the ground. The slave trade was still officially carried on in the kingdom until 1961 and has been indulged unofficially ever since. Slavery, after all, is expressly endorsed by the Koran (see, e.g., Sura 47:4, 23:5-6, and 4:24) and was practiced by Mohammed himself. The Koran and the prophet’s legends are the prime sources of sharia.

Yet there were no condemnations from Dean Kagan over the prince’s lavish gift. To the contrary, she proceeded to forge the law school’s “Islamic Finance Project.” Its purpose is to promote sharia compliance in the U.S. financial sector.

To be sure, American law discriminates against homosexuals in the narrow area of military service. But it does not persecute them. Indeed, it tacitly permits them to serve as long as they keep their sexual orientation private. Were that not the case, President Clinton would not have signed DADT. In contrast, sharia brands homosexuals enemies of the Muslim state. They must be “punished, in fact, killed,” instructs grand ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s highest jurisprudential authority, one who is widely reputed to be a “moderate” and who, relatively speaking, probably is. He added in his fatwa that people who engaged in gay sex “should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”

While sharia societies are backward, they do get quite creative, as Ms. Ashtiani can attest, when their legal authorities green-light severe methods of killing. It is no surprise, then, that homosexuals are brutally abused in post-Saddam Iraq. The same is true in post-Taliban Afghanistan. That is because in Afghanistan, just as in Iraq, the majority Muslim population adopted an American-brokered constitution that established Islam as the state religion, installed sharia as part of the fundamental law, and expressly stipulated that “no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam.”

Besides gruesome deaths for homosexuals and adulteresses, these “beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam” hold that apostasy (the renunciation of Islam) is a death-penalty offense. Similar treasonous affronts to the umma, such as proselytism for Christianity, are also met with brutal punishments. Sharia regards women as chattel: Their rights to travel, socialize, marry, and inherit property are sharply restricted; their courtroom testimony is discounted to half the value of a man’s; they may be subjugated in polygamist marriages or kept as concubines; and they are routinely subjected to the pain and indignity of genital mutilation.


But no, the Kagans tell us, they’re not endorsing all of sharia. Of course they don’t mean to abet the sundry cruelties and the systematic abuse of women, homosexuals, apostates, and non-Muslims. They simply want believing Muslims to be able to participate in our markets without transgressing what they see as sharia’s worthy prohibition against the payment of interest in financial transactions.

Right. What they actually want, like Harvard wants, is to get their mitts on Gulf petrodollars. But even if we take their protestations at face value, they are wrong in every way. To begin with, sharia is not a Chinese restaurant menu, inviting you to pick one from column A and one from column B. It is the indivisible legal framework for a comprehensive socio-political and economic system: Islam. In that system, the state regulates all aspects of human life and seeks forever to expand its dominions.

As Daniel Pipes recounts [5] in reviewing the important work of Duke’s Timur Kuran, sharia-compliant finance (SCF) is the mid-20th-century brainchild of the Islamist intellectual Abu-Ala Mawdudi. His motive, the very antithesis of ecumenical inclusiveness, was economic jihad. As Pipes puts it, Mawdudi sought “to minimize relations with non-Muslims, strengthen the collective sense of Muslim identity, extend Islam into a new area of human activity, and modernize without Westernizing.” In effect, SCF is the financial iteration of sharia’s overriding objective: to insulate and fortify the umma for inter-civilizational battle.

I am indebted to the scholar Andrew Bostom for this assessment of SCF from the architect himself, an excerpt from Mawdudi’s paper, “The Economic Problem of Man and its Islamic Solution”:

If anyone thinks it feasible that this economic system can be successfully implemented even if divorced from the complete ideological, moral, and cultural system of Islam, I will humbly request him to get rid of this misunderstanding. This economic system has a deep relationship with the political, judicial, legal, cultural and social system of Islam. And all these are fundamentally based on the moral system of Islam. . . . If you do not accept this creed, this moral system and the whole of this code of life, completely as it is, the economic system of Islam, divorced from its source, cannot be maintained or administered in its purity for even a single day, nor will any appreciable advantage accrue from it if you take it out of its wider context and then seek to apply [it] to your life.

Kagan and other apologists for SCF would absolve themselves from the real-world consequences of their allegedly well-intentioned diversity fetish. But legitimizing any aspect of sharia is the endorsement of all of it. Moreover, there is no cut-and-dried separation of sharia brutality from the tidy, white-collar world of financial transactions.

To pull off the SCF chicanery, financial institutions hire as advisers Islamic clerics who are expert in Muslim jurisprudence — there being, again, no separation between divine edicts and the secular law in Islam. It is those clerics, many of them Islamists, who decide what transactions are permissible. And very often, to purge the taint, prohibited interest payments are diverted to Islamic “charities.” It all sounds wonderful . . . except for what they don’t tell you: The major schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that support for violent jihad is a legitimate form of charitable giving.

Indeed, as the Middle East Forum’s Raymond Ibrahim observes [6], the Koran actually prioritizes the need to fund jihad over the need to fight it. (See, e.g., Sura 9:41: “Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah!”) In a canonical hadith, Mohammed confers on the financial backer the same glorious status as the mujahid fighter: “He who equips a raider so he can wage jihad in Allah’s path . . . is himself a raider.”

SCF is thus the Islamist triple-play: It elbows sharia’s way into our legal system, from whence it can expand its influence; it institutionalizes financial jihad; and it pressures true Muslim moderates to shun Western practices. It is, furthermore, unabashedly anti-capitalist — another reason the Left likes it so much. As Frank Gaffney points out [7], the economic meltdown in late 2008 was taken by SCF proponents as “proof of the inherent corruption of capitalism” and the need to replace it with the asserted virtues of sharia.

But let’s put all that aside. Let’s pretend that there were some way you could compartmentalize sharia, some way you could even slice and dice SCF to facilitate market access without all the unsavory fallout. There would still be the matter of Elena Kagan’s bizarre moral universe.

The U.S. military is an unparalleled force for good in the world. Kagan has said as much, but she claims, straight-faced, that it is just this “extraordinary service” to our society that makes DADT “more not less repugnant” — the bathwater that requires throwing out the baby.

But let’s compare the U.S. military with sharia. Sharia is the cause of indescribable suffering in the world: for homosexuals, women, non-Muslims, and Muslims who wish to embrace the West. Yet for Kagan, sharia’s repugnance is irrelevant. Like opposition to DADT and support for abortion, the engagement of Islamists, the embrace of their case against American capitalism, is a progressive cause célèbre. So count Ms. Kagan in. She’ll worry about logic and sharia victims like Sakineh Ashtiani later — if ever.

Sheer political willfulness is an unattractive quality. In a Supreme Court candidate, it ought to be disqualifying.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.









Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Today's Tune: Lone Justice - Sweet, Sweet Baby (I'm Falling)

(Click on title to play video)

One Giant Leap (Backward)

By Jonah Goldberg
Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Waste anything but time." That was the motto of the teams behind NASA's Apollo mission. That spirit has long since evaporated. Today's NASA is pulled by a million missions, from improving education and spinning off more products like Tang to its latest call of duty: telling Muslims how good they are at math.

NASA chief Charles Bolden recently told Al-Jazeera TV that President Obama charged him with three crucial missions: (1) "help re-inspire children to want to get into science and math"; (2) "expand our international relationships"; and (3) "perhaps foremost" Bolden explained, president Obama "wanted me to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world ... to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science ... and math and engineering."

We've gone from "waste anything but time" to "waste everything, especially time" in about a generation.

Liberalism is caught in something of a Catch-22. Under Obama, liberals are determined to reinvigorate the reputation of government, to prove that only the state can get important things done. That is why the Gulf oil spill, for instance, is so vexatious for the White House and its liberal supporters. Why can't the government be more nimble, more resourceful?

It was one thing when the feds failed after Hurricane Katrina, liberals reasoned, because Bush didn't like government. This was not only untrue, it overlooked the fact that the permanent government bureaucracy is on liberal autopilot. Regardless, Obama is different. He loves government, he sees it as the most noble of callings. That's why he wants to make student loans much cheaper for kids who go to work for the government, and it's why he wants government jobs to pay so much better than private sector ones.

According to contemporary liberalism, the government is the control room of society, where problems get solved, where institutions get their marching orders, where the oceans are commanded to stop rising. Each institution must subscribe to the progressive vision, all oars must pull as one. We are all in it together. We can do it all, if we all work together. Yes, we can.

In my book, "Liberal Fascism," I called this phenomenon the "liberal Gleichschaltung" Gleichschaltung is a German word (in case you couldn't have guessed) borrowed from electrical engineering. It means "coordination." The German National Socialists (Nazis) used the concept to get every institution to sing from the same hymnal. If a fraternity or business embraced Nazism, it could stay "independent." If it rejected Nazism, it was crushed or bent to the state's ideology. Meanwhile, every branch of government was charged with not merely doing its job but advancing the official state ideology.

Now, contemporary liberalism is not an evil ideology. Its intentions aren't evil or even fruitfully comparable to Hitlerism. But there is a liberal Gleichschaltung all the same. Every institution must be on the same page. Every agency must advance the liberal agenda.

And this is where the Catch-22 catches. The dream of a nimble, focused, problem-solving government is undone by the reality of hyper-mission creep. When every institution is yoked to an overarching philosophy or mission, its actual purpose can become an afterthought. In 2005, volunteer firefighters from all over the country offered to help with Katrina's aftermath. But FEMA sent many of them to Atlanta first to undergo diversity and sexual harassment training (which most already had).

Such examples are everywhere. What is political correctness other than the gears of the liberal Gleichschaltung? The financial crisis was worsened because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became tools for liberal social engineering. Let's not even mention public schools.

The White House is determined to be a great friend (i.e., servant) to the unions, so everything from the stimulus to the automaker buyout to the Gulf spill must first pass union muster. Remember those vital, "shovel-ready" weatherization jobs the stimulus was supposed to pay for? The Labor Department delayed them for nearly a year while trying to figure out how to comply with pro-union "prevailing wage" rules for each of more than 3,000 counties.

Liberalism has become a cargo cult to the New Deal, but many of the achievements of the New Deal would be impossible now. Just try to get a Hoover Dam built today.

President Obama likes to say "if we could put a man on the moon" we can do anything, from socializing medicine to abandoning fossil fuels. That's nonsense on stilts for a host of reasons. But it's also ironic, given that we can't even put a man on the moon anymore. Not when NASA's foremost priority is boosting the self-esteem of children and Muslims.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

NASA Does Muslim Outreach

It might just be that Muslim self-confidence is more dangerous to us than imagined Muslim feelings of inadequacy.

By Mona Charen
July 7, 2010 12:00 A.M.

It’s not really surprising that President Obama told NASA administrator Charles Bolden that his highest priority should be “to find a way to reach out to the Muslim world and engage much more with dominantly Muslim nations to help them feel good about their historic contribution to science . . . and math and engineering.” It fits with so much that we already knew about the president.

It is consistent with his wildly exaggerated concept of governmental and presidential power and competence. Samuel Johnson wrote: “How small, of all that human hearts endure / that part which laws or kings can cause or cure.” Mr. Obama believes the opposite — that his presidency can be a transformative moment not just for the nation, but for the world. He will halt global warming and stop the rise of the oceans, transition America to a green energy future, end the “cycle of boom and bust” in the economy, provide universal health care while spending less than before, cushion “underwater” mortgage holders without rewarding profligate borrowers, increase taxes on the “rich” without harming the middle class, solve the problem of excessive public debt by amassing more public debt, and so on.

How in the world would NASA help Muslim nations to “feel good” about themselves? Would NASA hold science fairs in Tripoli or Tehran? Produce and circulate propaganda films about Great Muslim Men (careful, never women) of Science? Stress our global debt to Muhammad ibn Masa al-Khwarizmi, the father of algebra? (That’s risky, since al-Khwarizmi reportedly learned his math from the Indians.) How would Mr. Obama’s NASA chief undertake to alter the civilizational self-esteem of a billion people?

Of course, it’s entirely possible (pace Bernard Lewis) that the Muslim world does not lack for self-esteem on the matter of science or anything else. Certainly scientific know-how has not been lacking in nuclear-armed Pakistan, or (would-be) nuclear Iran. Besides, hasn’t Mr. Obama heard? The whole self-esteem myth has been exploded. Though millions of tax dollars and God only knows how many wasted instructional hours have gone toward making American kids think they are really, really special, it turns out that there is zero correlation between such drilled self-esteem and academic performance. (See Scientific American, January 2005.)

The Obama directive to NASA also revealed a mental tic common to liberals — the tendency to universalize the African-American experience. Just as African Americans were denied their rights and dignity, goes this reasoning, so today fill-in-the-blank are being persecuted or demeaned — women, gays, Muslims, the handicapped, illegal immigrants, Palestinians, “people of color.”

But this line of reasoning impedes rather than advances understanding. The African-American experience in America was actually very different from that of women, gays, the handicapped, illegal immigrants, or others here, to say nothing of the experience of Palestinians or “people of color” worldwide. Invoking the emotionally charged civil-rights paradigm closes the door on nuance and context and encourages dogmatism.

To treat the Muslim world as a vast ocean of African Americans in need of respect and encouragement from us is both arrogant and incredibly solipsistic. In fact, large swaths of the Muslim world feel inexpressibly superior to us — particularly morally and spiritually. Until cold terror forced them to accept American servicemen on their soil, the Saudis kept “infidel” pollution to the barest minimum in the home of the prophet. That wasn’t an expression of inferiority. Osama bin Laden boasted in 2000 that he had defeated the Soviet Empire and that it would be a small matter to defeat the American one. Again, he may have been deluded, but he was not a candidate for assertiveness training. Nearly every Muslim child is instructed that his is the true faith, superior in every way to the errors that came before — Judaism and Christianity — and infinitely above paganism or atheism. Jihadis are taught that their shining pure religion requires no less than the mass murder of infidels and unbelievers.

It might just be that Muslim self-confidence is more dangerous to us than imagined Muslim feelings of inadequacy. But in any case, solicitude about the feelings of individuals cannot constitute a foreign policy. Muslim nations, like other nations, are motivated by advantage and influenced by perceptions of strength and weakness. The president has absolutely no control over the way Muslims feel about themselves — but he has every power over the way they perceive us.

— Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.