Saturday, July 17, 2010

Today's Tune: Tom Jones - Did Trouble Me

(Click on title to play video)

Tom Jones: Praise and Blame, CD review

By far Jones’s best album in two decades or more and it isn't made up of hymns.

Rating: * * * *

By Andrew Perry
The Telegraph
Published: 3:36PM BST 16 Jul 2010

Tom Jones: 'I'd like to live for ever. I'd like to sing for ever' Photo: Sandra Johnson

Tom Jones’s latest album has become mired in a bizarre controversy. In a leaked memo, the vice-president at Island lambasted his subordinates for allowing their new £1.5 million signing to make an album of “hymns”. He even wondered if the whole project is “a sick joke”.

In desperate times for the record business, this disclosure only fuels the suspicion that the top brass at certain major record companies simply have no idea about music: Praise & Blame is, by far, Jones’s best album in two decades or more, and, needless to say, it isn’t made up of hymns either.

Recently turned 70, Jones’s tenor remains as boundlessly capable as when he first boomed into earshot with It’s Not Unusual.

Yet, ever since he was made over for the 1980s pop market with his bump-and-grind take on Prince’s Kiss, even the most delirious knicker-flinger would have to concede that Sir Tom’s “mature” work has been anything but mature. For the past 20 years, he has largely made lightweight, trivial pop, ill-befitting of a voice so omnipotent.

Jones was signed by Island, it transpires, with the explicit aim of pointing him towards some more substantial material. To that end, the singer was matched up with a rootsy producer, Ethan Johns (Kings of Leon, Laura Marling etc), and together they selected a pool of songs that drew strongly on themes of faith, temptation and redemption. These were recorded live, with a stripped-down backing combo, including occasional guests such as Stax’s Booker T Jones.

Praise & Blame is, accordingly, drenched in blues and southern soul, and yet it sounds way more current than Jones’s hi-tech latter-day flops. It opens with What Good Am I?, a self-questioning meditation written by Bob Dylan. Much of what follows goes further back, to the root of country and rock & roll in gospel music, from songwriters such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mahalia Jackson.

On Burning Hell, by the Mississippi bluesman John Lee Hooker, a terrified sinner prays for forgiveness. To an insistent White Stripes-ish riff, Jones hollers like a man possessed – believe it or not, cuddly old disco-dancing Tom really can make your blood freeze.

Jones himself calls Praise & Blame his Johnny Cash record, referring to the country singer’s twilight recordings. His own achingly fatigued wisdom on If I Give My Soul certainly justifies the comparison. With its loose, spontaneous sound, and the all-pervasive sense of artistic rebirth, the album even has something of his old pal Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback about it. Either way, it’s a revelation.

Tom Jones: back to his bluesy roots

A revitalised Tom Jones – now 70 – talks to Andrew Perry.

By Andrew Perry
The Telegraph
Published: 10:12AM BST 15 Jul 2010

Tom Jones: I used to sing this kind of song at Sunday school in Pontypridd Photo: Carsten Windhorst

Tom Jones, the hip-thrusting, turbo-tonsilled lothario from the Welsh Valleys, is going through the umpteenth makeover of his 50-year singing career. With songs such as It’s Not Unusual and What’s New Pussycat?, he was the benign, care-free face of the Swinging Sixties. He soon mutated into a Las Vegas crooner, and then a country singer, before remodelling himself in the late Eighties as a “disco grandad”, whom neither time nor passing trends could silence.

Subsequently, Jones has remained a top-flight performer, a perennial target for the underwear of his ardent female fanbase. In 2006, he was knighted by the Queen, but his latterday recordings have by and large been frustratingly weak for a singer with such heavyweight vocal qualities. Released in 2008, the 24 Hours album was high-tech and pop, but not in the sense of popular – it failed to make the Top 30.

Jones’s latest album could hardly contrast more starkly with its predecessor. Entitled Praise & Blame, it’s a sparsely-accompanied, back-to-basics collection, in the gospel idiom of the American South. Some songs are sombre, contemplative, country-tinged; others are fiery, rollicking, blues-drenched; all are spiritually profound, commensurate with Jones’s advanced stage in life, and all, at long last, put his boundlessly capable tenor voice to good use.

On the cusp of a major restoration of his credibility, Jones has, though, become embroiled in a strange controversy, with his new record company, Island Records, which signed him in a reputed £1.5million deal. Just three weeks before the release of Praise & Blame, a leaked email, apparently written by Island’s vice-president, David Sharpe, castigated the label’s A&R department for allowing Jones to make such a record.

“We did not invest a fortune in an established artist,” it ran, “for him to deliver 12 tracks from the common book of prayer [sic]… I want to know if this is some sick joke???”

When I meet Jones in London, a few days after the furore erupted in the media, he can scarcely hide his anger.

“I still haven’t got to the bottom of it,” he says, visibly bristling. “I don’t even know who this guy is: I’ve never met the fellow.” He pauses rather menacingly. “Maybe it’s better that I don’t. The thing that p------ me off more than anything else is that people read it and think, 'Oh, Tom’s made a mistake here, even his record company doesn’t like it.’ But I know for a fact that they do.”

Indeed, when Jones performed songs from the album at an Island launch party in Mayfair two weeks earlier, the wine flowed freely, and the mood was distinctly bullish. Whatever the truth behind the email scandal (could it even have been some twisted form of hype?), Jones gave his most eloquent riposte on last week’s Jonathan Ross TV chatshow. There, he tore through one of its highlights, Burning Hell, a blood-and-thunder song written by John Lee Hooker, which had more of the feel of a White Stripes gig than a sleepy parish church service.

“I’ve always wanted to do songs like that,” says Jones, his composure now recovered, “it’s just getting the opportunity to do them. I’ve known this kind of stuff all my life, but, every time I sign with a record company, it’s always pop, pop, pop. This one was different. Initially, they were asking for a Christmas album, but I thought, 'Well, the door seems to be open here to do some really solid stuff.’ ”

The project took shape, once its producer came aboard. Ethan Johns, the son of sometime Beatles and Led Zeppelin studio operative, Glyn Johns, has a reputation for gritty, organic music-making. As he and Jones sifted through old songs of faith and redemption, he succeeded in giving the singer a sense of reconnecting with his roots.

“I used to sing this kind of song at Sunday school, in a Presbyterian chapel in Pontypridd,” Jones recalls, “things like The Old Rugged Cross, Down by the Riverside and Bread of Heaven.

“Much later, when I was in Vegas, I’d sing gospel with Elvis Presley, late at night. After our shows, we’d go back up to the suite and sing. He was surprised that I knew some of these songs. I told him, 'Well, a lot of gospel songs are taken from British hymns.’ He thought gospel was from the South, from black people singing in church, and it rubbed off on white Southerners – but it was the two peoples coming together, as far as I’m concerned. The whites were singing country and hymns, and the black people added to it and put their own thing in it, and that’s when you get the hot Southern gospel.

“And that’s where rock and roll, to me, came from. The structure of the music was gospel; they just changed the words and boogied it up.”

Those who know Jones only from wafer-thin latterday hits such as Sex Bomb, might be surprised to hear him talk with such authority about the birth of rock and roll. Jones, however, started out as an R&B singer in the Sixties beat era – half Otis Redding, half Treorchy Male Voice Choir. After usurping the vocalist in a local group, the Senators, he took them all the way to Vegas. His early repertoire was not, by any means, fluff.

“A lot of people nowadays just think of Delilah as a karaoke thing,” he says, smiling, humming its bawdy bar-room refrain, “but, if you listen to the words, it’s pretty serious stuff.”

In, say, Nick Cave’s hands, Delilah would be more earnestly discussed as a “murder ballad”. On the back of such hits, and the success of his first seasons in Vegas, he landed himself a weekly TV series with ABC, which made him a household name the world over. His show was a hip update of the Andy Williams/Dean Martin-type format, and, he says, it allowed him to spread his wings, creatively.

“It gave me the opportunity to do stuff that maybe the record company wouldn’t let me do. I could sing a duet with Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett or Aretha Franklin. I could show my versatility more.”

Where some artists with a similar profile, such as Scott Walker or indeed Elvis, were consumed by their celebrity in one way or another, Jones never seemed to agonise – he just gamely got on with the job. While he remains to this day a massive draw in Vegas, he says his recording career started to go awry during his Seventies country phase.

“It got a little difficult because the songs were not coming my way. The success I’d had in the Sixties was carrying me through. I was playing arenas in the States without a hit record. When you go out on stage and see all the people every night, you think, 'Whoa, everything’s great.’ I wasn’t chasing the songs enough. I got maybe a little complacent.”

When his son, Mark, took over his management in the mid-Eighties, some changes were made, but perhaps Jones’s biggest problem has been precisely his versatility. He always wanted to prove that he could take on any style and come out on top, but this resulted in albums that lacked focus – until Ethan Johns took over.

“The thing with me is, I like to go this way and that way, but Ethan realises that you can’t get self-indulgent, and go flying off on tangents.” What Johns also recognised was that Jones needed to reconnect with the simple process of recording live, in one room, with a small rhythm combo.

“It was like being in a rock band again, like when I had my band in Wales, like when you all get into the back room of a pub to rehearse. It really was like that! You’re all in the room, and it’s a close thing. It was great to do that again.”

As a result, Praise & Blame has the raw, immediate feeling of the albums Johnny Cash made in his twilight years. Assuming that the spat with Island is quickly resolved, Jones, who turned 70 last month, is keen to make more records in this vein.

“I don’t want to stop,” he says, “because I don’t want to be 80, which is actually not far away, and look back and think, 'Why did I stop then?’ I don’t want to have any regrets. I hope it goes on for ever. I’d like to live for ever. I’d like to sing forever, because it’s great.”

He smiles and shrugs. “I’m having a ball.”

'Praise & Blame’ is released on July 26.

Why the Russian Spy Case Matters

Apart from the cloak-and-dagger fascination of seductive women, clandestine meetings, and strains of “The Third Man Theme” playing in the background, do spies like these really matter in this day and age? The answer may surprise you.

July 17, 2010 - by Michelle Van Cleave Share

Champagne corks might have been popping at FBI headquarters and rightfully so, if that sort of thing were allowed at 10th and Pennsylvania.

Two weeks ago, the FBI rounded up the biggest peacetime espionage ring in history, by any measure a stunning success for U.S. counterintelligence, culminating ten years of tightly held and manpower-intensive work.

The party was short-lived. In a rush of diplomatic activity, ten Russian “illegals” pleaded guilty to conspiring to act as agents of a foreign power and were deported for a quickly though intricately arranged “spy swap” in Vienna. One could almost hear the sigh of relief among the Washington “reset” crowd, as this looming irritant in U.S.-Russian relations was swept aside.

New York newspapers feature personal photos of suspected Russian spies Anna Chapman (L) and Richard and Cynthia Murphy at a news stand in New York. Three of the 10 accused Russian spies held by the United States faced bail hearings Fridays, as revelations from glamorous suspect Anna Chapman's ex-husband told how she was dominated by her KGB father.(AFP/File/Emmanuel Dunand)

Should we care? Apart from the cloak-and-dagger fascination of seductive women, brush passes, and strains of “The Third Man Theme” playing in the background, do spies like these really matter in this day and age? The answer may surprise you.

Human intelligence — the work of spies — is necessarily the bread and butter of our adversaries. Unlike U.S. intelligence, which employs highly developed national technical means of collection such as SIGINT and imagery satellites, most of the world’s governments — including Moscow — must rely on the work of human collectors to serve as their principal (sometimes exclusive) eyes and ears.

Foreign adversaries may not have a prayer of fielding and maintaining costly and technologically demanding technical collection suites, but they can organize, train, equip, sustain, and deploy impressive numbers of case officers, agents of influence, saboteurs, and spies. And the U.S. is their principal target.

These intelligence operations depend upon an extensive foreign presence within our borders that provides both cover and operational support for clandestine services and their agents.

Like the Russian spies deported last week, intelligence adversaries from scores of countries are working clandestinely within American society in numbers far greater than those afforded by the diplomatic protection of their embassies and consulates. Their numbers are growing in absolute terms, and growing relative to ours and especially relative to the resources we have dedicated to counter them. This includes the Russian services, for whom “reset” has meant a return to Cold War tempos.

It is an inconvenient truth (to borrow a phrase) that the Kremlin is looking to reclaim great power status — not good news for Russia’s neighbors (just ask the Georgians) or for the West. The power and influence of the once-and-future KGB and its successors arguably are greater today than in Soviet times, since their networks pervade not only government and security circles but business and industry as well. Their global intelligence operations are a well-resourced and highly developed instrument of state power. From deep and long experience, they know what they are doing.

So I marvel at the hubris of self-styled national security pundits who rush to assure the public that “Putin knew nothing about these low-level people” or relegate their activities to keystone cop ridicule. Historically, the Russians and their fraternal services have used illegals (false identities, not under diplomatic cover) to spot potential recruitments, to control agents already recruited, to facilitate personal contacts, to arrange safe houses and safe hands, and to supply on-the-ground expertise essential to suppressing the signature of intelligence operations. In a security state such as Russia, such activities are core concerns of the highest reaches of government; there is nothing low-level about it.

By such means, traditional foes, building on past successes, are continuing their efforts to penetrate the U.S. government to learn essential secrets about American intelligence and military operations, negating decades of investment and putting American lives at risk. There is also a booming third country “market” in these secrets, which among other things enables foreign practices of deception and denial to impair U.S. intelligence collection. Countries large and small, friendly and not, have a keen interest in U.S. technologies for the next generation weapons system or the next commercial craze (money, money, money). Perhaps most troubling, growing foreign capabilities to conduct influence and other covert operations threaten to undermine U.S. allies and national security interests.

The United States has been slow to appreciate the effects of these human intelligence operations, much less to address the threats they pose to current American foreign policy objectives or enduring national security interests. We know surprisingly little about adversary intelligence services relative to the harm they can do, or relative to the insights to be gained by analyzing the distinctive ways in which they operate, and the different purposes they serve.

Why this disparity between foreign intelligence threats and U.S. counterintelligence effort? Perhaps it is because our national security leadership has failed to connect the dots. Ask government officials what they’re doing to counter foreign intelligence operations and they point to ever tightening security measures and closer monitoring of U.S. personnel. That’s the policy equivalent of looking for your lost keys only under the streetlamp — with the added cost of Big Brother getting even bigger.

Over the past decade, while the foreign intelligence presence within the United States has grown, counterintelligence budgets and billets have been cut in favor of other priorities. The lead counterintelligence components within the Defense Department, the FBI, CIA and the office of the Director of National Intelligence have all been downgraded, casualties of serial reorganizations. Nascent efforts to bring greater strategic coherence across the U.S. counterintelligence enterprise have fallen victim to bureaucratic inertia. As a result, our successes are all too rare.

All the more reason to question the rushed “return-to-sender” dispatch of the Russian spies. One of my jobs as head of U.S. counterintelligence was to assess the damage caused by espionage and other compromises of our national security. The best leads come from plea agreements where the defendant is obligated to cooperate with the government over an extended period of time. Invariably the damage assessment team will assemble new pieces of the puzzle during the course of its long and painstaking work.

The inevitable and necessary damage assessment that must now be conducted would have benefited from the information the illegals could have provided; they may have opened a rare window into ongoing espionage operations, but now we’ll never know. Public trials might have thrown enough of a spotlight on foreign intelligence threats to motivate elected representatives to take action, but now the moment has passed. Meanwhile, it’s a little disingenuous to suggest that the years of surveillance on these people have taught us all there is to know about them and their network. If that were true, then why would Moscow be so eager to get them back?

Now that the lid is off and investigators no longer have to worry about tipping their hand, you can be sure there’s a full court press underway to fill in the 7-to-10-year patchwork of exactly where the Russian spies went and whom they touched and what they did and how they did it … and who else may be out there.

Even so, some will argue, there will always be spies so how much can all of this matter, really? Such a tolerant view might not seem unreasonable, until you read (as I have) the file drawers full of damage assessments cataloging the enormous loss in lives, treasure, and pivotal secrets occasioned by spies and other foreign intelligence coups against us. Their content is a cold awakening to what is at stake.

The events of the past few weeks provide a rare public peek into the real challenges of U.S. counterintelligence, which has the difficult job of proactively identifying, disrupting, and sometimes exploiting the intelligence operations of potential adversaries. In the coming months, as the Congress considers the nomination of a new director of National Intelligence, and what to do about the behemoth of an office he will direct, the members might want to ask how he perceives the severity and reach of foreign intelligence threats to U.S. national security, and what he plans to do about them.

The deported illegals are a little like the tar balls now washing up on the beach along the Gulf Coast. Up until the end of the week, the oil well was still gushing somewhere under the surface. Similarly, it’s past time we implemented a strategy to get at this source.

Michelle Van Cleave served as head of U.S. counterintelligence for President George W. Bush.

Back to Work for ‘Mad Men’

The New York Times
July 18, 2010

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The fourth season of “Mad Men” brings major changes for the characters, including those played by, from left, Jon Hamm, Christina Hendricks, Elisabeth Moss and January Jones.

“WHO is Don Draper?” is the question that opens the premiere of the fourth season of “Mad Men.” And that’s an insider’s joke, a wink at viewers who have spent three years burrowing into the cryptic ad man’s buried secrets and damaged psyche.

AMC’s drama about Manhattan’s advertising world in the early 1960s isn’t just a cult favorite anymore; “Mad Men” has become a cultural phenomenon much in the way “The Sopranos” once was. The two shows are mirror opposites of course.

“The Sopranos” amused viewers with unexpected glimpses of bourgeois ordinariness — lawn mowing, school meetings, psychotherapy — inside the scary, alien world of organized crime. “Mad Men” offers a far more commonplace milieu — the rat race — and finds comedy in the distortions of a rear-view mirror. There lies the spectacle of people just like us doing things that today seem scary and alien, like smoking, drinking old-fashioneds at lunch, letting children play with dry-cleaner bags.

It’s a series set in the days of ice-cold martinis and cold war anxiety that has seduced contemporary fashion, advertising and even the English language. There are “Mad Men” Barbie and Ken dolls, a “Mad Men” clothing line at Banana Republic and pop culture books like “Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is as It Seems.” The term “mad men” has become an adjective, a shorthand way to describe things that are louche, elegant and dissipated in an antediluvian way.

And accordingly there is “Mad Men” overload in the air and, in some corners, even a backlash. Don’s angst at times grew tiresome, as did his marital woes. Viewers yearned to get away from the home front and back to the office skirmishes at his agency, Sterling Cooper. Fortunately the series’s creator, Matthew Weiner, has found a way to finesse “Mad Men” fatigue at the end of the third season by giving his story a mulligan.

Sterling Cooper is starting over, as Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce, and so is Don. When the series began in 2007, its main characters were established, slightly jaded players in a field that was on top of its game in a nation still puffed up with postwar confidence and superpower brio. The advertising firm was so successful, despite its disreputable office parties, that it was practically white shoe. And its creative director, Don Draper (Jon Hamm), married to lovely Betty (January Jones) with two lovely children in a lovely suburb, had little to prove, except, perhaps his effortless prowess as an extramarital ladies’ man.

But when Sterling Cooper’s British parent company was sold at the end of last season to an even bigger advertising behemoth, Don and his colleagues broke away and lost their complacency.

Suddenly they became small and scrappy without the huge accounts, vast office space and bottomless expenses of yesteryear. And that final episode, as Don banded his loyalists together to start a new firm, was the most exhilarating moment of the season.

Now, at the beginning of Season 4, which begins next Sunday, it’s a year later, and the executives of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce go on cattle calls to woo clients. Contracts melt away. The business is precarious and copywriters stoop to publicity stunts to gin up business.

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

The “mad men,” top, played by from left, Jared Harris, Robert Morse, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery and Jon Hamm.

His personal life is just as altered. Betty is freshly embarked on a new marriage with Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley), an older man and an aide to Nelson Rockefeller. Henry, who has grown children from a previous marriage, promises Betty a better life — though this one comes with a scornful mother-in-law.

And Don, who had women falling over themselves trying to get him into bed when he was married, finds himself alone in a dark Greenwich Village apartment, shining his own shoes and going out on blind dates. Being a bachelor back in those days before the pill and “The Sensuous Woman” did not automatically include swinging. Don tries to kiss a young woman in the back of a cab but can’t get any further. She won’t let him accompany her to the door to the Barbizon, then a women-only hotel, because, as she puts it coyly, “I know that trick.”

“Mad Men” keeps confounding expectations — the ’60s fashion, mores and cultural landmarks keep getting more familiar, but the characters maintain an elusive weirdness. Betty looks like Grace Kelly, but she seems blandly prosaic — except when she picks up a BB gun and shoots the neighbor’s pigeons, a cigarette dangling from her perfectly curved lips.

Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) would be just another irritating office brown-noser, a prep school Sammy Glick, except that he too has a screw loose and a mystical rapport with firearms. Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) should be an easily identified Rona Jaffe heroine — an unmarried career woman breaking the barriers of sexism — but she too is peculiar and enigmatic. Even Don and Betty’s forlorn daughter, Sally (Kiernan Shipka), is more strange than sad.

“Mad Men” is a period piece that reverses the template. Historical dramas like “The Tudors” or “John Adams” sift through a remote, archaic culture to highlight the most familiar and contemporary concerns of historical characters. “Mad Men” wallows in the comfort of a recent and well-known past by way of characters who are always a little opaque and unknowable.

The narrative snakes through a Life magazine timeline of political turmoil and social change — the John F. Kennedy assassination is a transforming event, and so are the poems of Frank O’Hara and the songs of Bob Dylan. In the season premiere, a character cites the killing of Andrew Goodman, the civil rights volunteer who was murdered with two co-workers in Mississippi. It’s a mention that marks the year as 1964 and the mood of the country as nearing a boiling point. Or as one character puts it, “The world is so dark right now.”

But it isn’t always obvious to those living in it. Copywriters goof around at work. Peggy and a young colleague jokingly coo the names “Marsha” and “John” at each other, an oblique nod to Stan Freberg, an ad writer and comedian who had a huge hit in 1951 with a recorded single, “John & Marsha,” a soap opera parody in which actors intone the words “John” and “Marsha” over and over to organ music.

Don has dinner at Jimmy’s La Grange, a Midtown restaurant favored by advertising executives where chicken à la Kiev is a specialty, and diners are given bibs to protect them from the splatter of butter.

Those kinds of oblique references tether the fictional world of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce to the real advertising world of those times. That’s partly professional pride on the part of the writers, who dread complaints from old ad executives. Emeritus “mad men” can be as finicky and exacting about the historical details of their bygone days as Civil War re-enactors are about the uniforms worn at Bull Run.

But those cues also hold out the promise that the coming season will once again pivot the story on the workplace. It’s where “Mad Men” started and where it was best. A fresh start at the rat race is just what the series needs.

Yankees radio announcer Suzyn Waldman cultivated unique relationship with owner George Steinbrenner

By Bob Raissman
The Daily News
Friday, July 16th 2010, 4:00 AM


Prior to her time with John Sterling in the Yankees' radio booth, Suzyn Waldman worked for WFAN, which is where her relationship with George Steinbrenner got its start.

Now, there was only time to remember.

Someone called Suzyn Waldman at 7:30 Tuesday morning and told her George Steinbrenner was dead. She took the dogs out for a walk and picked some flowers.

"And you think," she said Thursday. "You think about everything."

Except for her parents and grandfather, The Boss had as much influence on her as anybody. Right from the start. Right from the late 1980s when she landed in the world according to George M. Steinbrenner.

"I like my women to spend my money and look real pretty," Steinbrenner bellowed during their first face-to-face meeting in 1988. "I don't like them to be pilots, policemen or sports reporters."

Waldman had traveled to Tampa on her own dime to interview the Yankees' principal owner. In a letter, she convinced him she was worthy. Waldman wrote that her 5:05 p.m. WFAN "Yankees Report" was heard by more people than those who read all the metropolitan area newspapers combined ("I should be taken seriously," she wrote). Her letter made the rounds of the ladies in Steinbrenner's office. Waldman walked in a hero, only to be greeted by Steinbrenner's chauvinistic babble.

"I just looked him in the eye and said, 'I can look pretty and I can spend anybody's money,'" she said. "'But you're missing a lot of great women if you don't like women to do those kind of things."

Steinbrenner laughed.

That's how this relationship began. Early on, long before she became the Yankees radio analyst, he critiqued her work, canvassing his favorite Manhattan saloon keepers and asking: "What do you think of that girl?" In times of trouble, Steinbrenner was there. He became a coveted source, providing the kind of access and info other reporters did not normally receive.

The moniker "Georgie Girl"? That's how Waldman earned it.

She would hear Steinbrenner's laughter often.

Yet during her days working the beat on FAN, to stints in WPIX's Yankees TV booth, the short-lived Baseball Network, and YES, she was exposed to his dark side.

During a charter flight home after two exhibition games with Grambling State University, Waldman felt his irrational wrath. On this occasion, Steinbrenner wanted all players who preferred sitting in the back of the plane to sit in front. Waldman, always front and center, was looking for a seat. Don Mattingly gave her his and retired to the back of the plane. The aircraft was flying somewhere over Georgia when Steinbrenner saw Waldman and flipped.

"George comes up to me and says, 'Get out of the seat.' He actually told me to move my ass," Waldman said. "I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. He started screaming at me. I just started to cry."

"If you don't stop crying and move out of that seat you're going to be kicked off the charter," Steinbrenner fumed.

"Right now?" Waldman asked.

Steinbrenner laughed.

"There were times he didn't like what I said on the air and told me I was 'cut off' before hanging up," she said. "I would just call back and say: 'Don't hang up on me Mr. Steinbrenner.' Then I slammed the phone down. Two days later I'd call back and he'd say: 'What do you want, Waldman?'"

No matter if they were feuding, Steinbrenner was always there.

When she was being pressured during a messy divorce Waldman had nowhere to turn. She reached out to Steinbrenner. A half-hour later she had a high-powered attorney of her own. When Waldman battled breast cancer in 1996, it was Steinbrenner who reached out.

In her hotel rooms the Yankees provided a refrigerator to store the medicine she needed to inject herself. On planes there were other necessities in case she got sick. By no means were these the only times The Boss looked out for Waldman.

In 1989, Waldman was the recipient of death threats from one, or more, of the lunatic fringe. Some threats came in letters addressed to the Yankees. Steinbrenner hired off-duty NYC cops, dressed as fans, to provide security.

"I was never alone the whole season," she said, "but I never knew who they (the security guys) were."

There's a "Women In Baseball" room at the Hall of Fame. In it, Waldman is honored as a pioneer. Her microphone is there. A scorecard, too. There are pictures of her with Joe Torre and Mariano Rivera.

A few years ago Waldman took prints to the old Yankee Stadium, right up to The Boss' office. Steinbrenner was well into his twilight phase. The organization was in full protection mode. The guy at the door said he didn't know if visitors were allowed.

"He'll see me," Waldman assured before barging in.

"George, I brought you something," she said.

Waldman took out her Cooperstown pictures. She handed them to Steinbrenner. He looked at the photographs and smiled.

"See George," she said. "Look what you did for me."

Then, George Steinbrenner cried.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Brothers at war over belief in God

Bryan Patterson From: Sunday Herald Sun July 03, 2010 10:13PM

This is the tale of two talented and opinionated brothers, born three years apart, who have become known as the Cain and Abel of the modern age.

Like most brothers, they had disagreements, but both were devout atheists.

Both became famous scribes, but then Peter Hitchens renounced his atheism and that led to a string of public clashes during which Christopher Hitchens described his brother as "an idiot" and Peter called his sibling an atheist "zealot".

Christopher and Peter Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens, a poster boy for the New Atheists and supporter of George W. Bush's war on Iraq, is author of several books including the best-seller God Is Not Great, which attacked what he described as the murderous quality of religious belief.

Younger brother Peter, who was a public opponent of the war on Iraq, is author of the recently released The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith. The book is a fascinating account of the disparity between the brothers and a journey of one brother away from and back to faith.

Hitchens the younger reveals that at 15, as a formal renunciation of Christianity, he set fire to a Bible on the playing fields of his Cambridge boarding school and notes "the book did not, as I had hoped, blaze fiercely and swiftly". Nevertheless, he became a youthful Marxist - "engaged in a full, perfect and complete rebellion against everything I had been brought up to believe" - who regarded marriage as "something to be avoided" and abortion as a necessity.

"I smugly congratulated myself on being able to be virtuous without hope of reward or fear of punishment. We were sure that we, and our civilisation, had grown out of the nursery myths of God, angels and heaven. We had modern medicine, penicillin, jet engines, the welfare state, the United Nations and science, which explained everything that needed to be explained," he writes.

For 20 years he hardly met a religious person, and almost all his peers shared in his unbelief.

His long dalliance with atheism began to erode when he was 30. He concluded a return to God was the only real hope for personal freedom and meaning.

One Christmas, he slipped into a carol service, diffident and anxious not to be seen. "I knew perfectly well that I was enjoying it, though I was unwilling to admit it. I also knew I was losing my faith in politics and my trust in ambition, and was urgently in need of something else on which to build the rest of my life," he writes.

Word spread around journalistic circles that Hitchens was "mixed up" in church matters. The rumours at first embarrassed him.

"I remember a distinguished foreign correspondent, with an incredulous look of mingled pity and horror on his face, asking: 'How can you do that?' "

Hitchens overcame his embarrassment amid growing attacks on Christianity, including those by his brother. "While I was making my gradual, hesitant way back to the altar-rail, my brother Christopher's passion against God grew more virulent and confident," he writes.

"As he has become more certain about the non-existence of God, I have become more convinced we cannot know such a thing in the way we know anything else, and so must choose whether to believe or not. I think it better by far to believe."

In God Is Not Great, Christopher argues that the human race no longer needs religion - the source of all ills - and calls for a "new enlightenment" that views religion as a creed only for the foolhardy.

Peter Hitchens believes his brother does not appreciate the reality of our existence and calls for rationality in the God debate.

He says: "I think it's fair to say that atheism led me to faith because so many people see atheism as the final station on the railroad.

That you arrive there, that you have been through everything else, that the argument is finished and that you have permanently rejected something that is restricted to childhood.

"From where I sit, it's not the end of the argument, but the beginning of the argument."

Hitchens writes that there is so much fury against religion because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of power of the strong over the weak.

"If you drive God out of the world you create a howling wilderness," he writes. "In an age of power worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power."

Hitchens believes his atheist brother, who claims to "loathe" believers, may one day arrive at some sort of acceptance that belief in God is not necessarily a character fault, and that religion does not poison everything.

"Believing what I believe and thinking what I think, it would be wrong of me not to hope," he writes.

Yankees a no-show at Bob Sheppard's funeral, an act George Steinbrenner wouldn't have stood for

By Bill Madden
The Daily News
Friday, July 16th 2010, 4:00 AM

Patches to be worn on Yankee uniforms for the rest of the 2010 season.

At Bob Sheppard's last Mass Thursday, his friends and family were reminded what it was like to be in the presence of "a good and decent man" who, as a husband, father, athlete, wartime naval officer, teacher and public address announcer, lived about the most perfect life, for 99 years, as anyone God ever placed on this Earth.

It was just too bad that not a single player whose name Sheppard introduced, ever so properly and eloquently, over 57 years as the Yankees' P.A. announcer, was among those paying their final respects to the "Voice of God." Even if one player - certainly one among the former players employed by the team for this very purpose - would have shown up, it would have provided the touch of class George Steinbrenner always made sure to exhibit in these circumstances.

It's been a tough week, no doubt, for the Yankees, who are mourning the loss of Steinbrenner, which came on the heels of Sheppard's death on Sunday. Sheppard, especially, probably would not have felt slighted that no player, past or present, was among the hundreds paying their respects at the Church of Saint Christopher in Baldwin, L.I.

As his son, Paul Sheppard, put it: "My father was a man of such humility. He could not understand why anyone would want his autograph."

And besides, the Yankee delegation that was there, led by GM Brian Cashman and Senior VP of Marketing Debbie Tymon, was made up of the behind-the-scenes front office folks Sheppard knew the best. About the only times he ever fraternized with the players, other than asking the new ones how they wanted their names pronounced, was at Sunday Mass at Yankee Stadium. Cashman, who admitted to being "a nervous wreck" at having to deliver a eulogy for the greatest public speaker of them all, talked about how Sheppard would do the Sunday readings before home games.

"One day, he asked for volunteers to take his place," Cashman said, "and you never heard such a silence in that room.

"Bob will not be remembered as a good teacher of speech. He'll be remembered as a great teacher of life."

It was Giants co-owner John Mara who proudly reminded everyone that Sheppard was also their P.A. voice from 1956-2006 despite the fact that he never had a contract and worked on a handshake agreement. One time, Mara recalled with a sly grin, Phil Rizzuto asked Sheppard what was the greatest Yankee Stadium game he had presided over.

"The day Pat Summerall kicked the field goal in the snow in 1958," Sheppard replied instantly, much to the chagrin of Rizzuto, who was no doubt expecting him to pick a historic Yankee game.

Another time, Mara remembered, his father, Wellington, had been asked to give a speech and sought out Sheppard for advice. Sheppard's reply was classic.

"Remember Lou Gehrig's farewell address?" he said. "It was 90 seconds! Keep it brief!"

That was Sheppard's credo, as even Steinbrenner came to learn on the day he summoned him and handed him a long-winded apology to Canada, one he had penned himself after a guest anthem singer had butchered "O Canada" at the Stadium the night before.

"This will not do," Sheppard said as Steinbrenner looked at him in disbelief. "It must be succinct."

Just as Sheppard was always proper, he was always right, too, and he led a blessed life, the last 50 years of it spent with his wife, Mary. It was after his first wife, Margaret, died that Sheppard promised his Lord he would attend Mass every day and it was there where he met Mary. Could it have been any other way for this man of faith whose only hate was for foul language?

"The closest he ever came on that," said his son, Paul, "was when he got a flat tire on his '48 Dodge and as he was changing it, the jack snapped on his wrist and left him bloodied. He looked up and exclaimed: 'Darn!'"

In his homily, the Rev. Steven R. Camp talked about his visits with Sheppard at his house during these past couple of years .

"He wasn't afraid of death," Camp related. "He wanted to know why God was taking so long. I told him: 'Your mission in life is not over.'"

Now that it is, Paul Sheppard surmised what his father's new mission is.

"God is already recruiting him," he said, "and if we're fortunate to get there, we'll be greeted by the voice saying: 'Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Heaven.'"

And if Sheppard has happened to meet up with Steinbrenner, one can just imagine the Boss telling him:

"I'm embarrassed we didn't have any players at your funeral, Bob. You have my deepest apology. But this is what happens when I'm not around."

Obama's next act

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, July 16, 2010; A19

In the political marketplace, there's now a run on Obama shares. The left is disappointed with the president. Independents are abandoning him in droves. And the right is already dancing on his political grave, salivating about November when, his own press secretary admitted Sunday, Democrats might lose the House.

I have a warning for Republicans: Don't underestimate Barack Obama.

Consider what he has already achieved. Obamacare alone makes his presidency historic. It has irrevocably changed one-sixth of the economy, put the country inexorably on the road to national health care and, as acknowledged by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus but few others, begun one of the most massive wealth redistributions in U.S. history.

Second, there is major financial reform, which passed Congress on Thursday. Economists argue whether it will prevent meltdowns and bailouts as promised. But there is no argument that it will give the government unprecedented power in the financial marketplace. Its 2,300 pages will create at least 243 new regulations [1] that will affect not only, as many assume, the big banks but just about everyone, including, as noted in one summary (the Wall Street Journal), "storefront check cashiers, city governments, small manufacturers, home buyers and credit bureaus."

Third is the near $1 trillion stimulus, the largest spending bill in U.S. history. And that's not even counting nationalizing the student loan program, regulating carbon emissions by Environmental Protection Agency fiat, and still-fitful attempts to pass cap-and-trade through Congress.

But Obama's most far-reaching accomplishment is his structural alteration of the U.S. budget. The stimulus, the vast expansion of domestic spending, the creation of ruinous deficits as far as the eye can see are not easily reversed.

These are not mere temporary countercyclical measures. They are structural deficits because, as everyone from Obama on down admits, the real money is in entitlements, most specifically Medicare and Medicaid. But Obamacare freezes these out as a source of debt reduction. Obamacare's $500 billion in Medicare cuts and $600 billion in tax increases are siphoned away for a new entitlement -- and no longer available for deficit reduction.

The result? There just isn't enough to cut elsewhere to prevent national insolvency. That will require massive tax increases -- most likely a European-style value-added tax [2]. Just as President Ronald Reagan cut taxes to starve the federal government and prevent massive growth in spending, Obama's wild spending -- and quarantining health-care costs from providing possible relief -- will necessitate huge tax increases.

The net effect of 18 months of Obamaism will be to undo much of Reaganism. Both presidencies were highly ideological, grandly ambitious and often underappreciated by their own side. In his early years, Reagan was bitterly attacked from his right. (Typical Washington Post headline: "For Reagan and the New Right, the Honeymoon Is Over" -- and that was six months into his presidency!) Obama is attacked from his left for insufficient zeal on gay rights, immigration reform, closing Guantanamo -- the list is long. The critics don't understand the big picture. Obama's transformational agenda is a play in two acts.

Act One is over. The stimulus, Obamacare, financial reform have exhausted his first-term mandate. It will bear no more heavy lifting. And the Democrats will pay the price for ideological overreaching by losing one or both houses, whether de facto or de jure. The rest of the first term will be spent consolidating these gains (writing the regulations, for example) and preparing for Act Two.

The next burst of ideological energy -- massive regulation of the energy economy, federalizing higher education and "comprehensive" immigration reform (i.e., amnesty) -- will require a second mandate, meaning reelection in 2012.

That's why there's so much tension between Obama and congressional Democrats. For Obama, 2010 matters little. If Democrats lose control of one or both houses, Obama will probably have an easier time in 2012, just as Bill Clinton used Newt Gingrich and the Republicans as the foil for his 1996 reelection campaign.

Obama is down, but it's very early in the play. Like Reagan, he came here to do things. And he's done much in his first 500 days. What he has left to do he knows must await his next 500 days -- those that come after reelection.

The real prize is 2012. Obama sees far, farther than even his own partisans. Republicans underestimate him at their peril.




Thursday, July 15, 2010

Today's Tune: B-Tribe - You Won't See Me Cry

(Click on title to play video)

In his prime, George Steinbrenner was the star of the show, even when Yankees were on top of World

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
July 15, 2010


George Steinbrenner, as Reggie Jackson says, 'makes owning a team feel like a contact sport.'

This isn't about the scorecard being kept now, like the one you keep at the ballpark, putting all the good George Steinbrenner did against the bad, trying to come up with some kind of final score on the man now that he is gone.

This isn't about how for every Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson and Goose Gossage he brought to Yankee Stadium in the 1970s, there came a Dave Collins and Steve Kemp and Steve Trout in the 1980s - "I just won you the pennant!" Steinbrenner told Lou Piniella once. "I got you Steve Trout!" - and how by the end of that decade Steinbrenner looked dumber than Dolan.

This isn't about trying to balance the Steinbrenner who gave so much money to charity and helped so many people against the one who insulted Yogi Berra enough that Yogi stayed away from the Yankees and Yankee Stadium for 14 years.

This isn't even about the money, though talking about Steinbrenner without talking about Yankee money is like talking about the Yankees and leaving out the part about Mickey Mantle. Or pinstripes.

Instead, this is about the real reason why people are talking about George Steinbrenner all over again:

He was the only owner people came to watch own.

Others have tried since George Steinbrenner came to town, you know they have, tried way too hard, the way Mark Cuban does. Or Danny Snyder of the Redskins. Jerry Jones makes you watch him, but mostly because Jones is down on the sideline trying to look like the coach of the team. Steinbrenner? He was hardly ever on the field at Yankee Stadium. Try to remember seeing him out there before he made that last trip around the field at the All-Star Game of 2008.

Still, when he had his chops, when he was at the top of his voice - whether the Yankees were at the top of baseball or not - he went against everything you ever heard about how nobody comes to watch a manager manage. Or a coach coach his team.

Or an owner own.

It's like Reggie Jackson, the real game-changer for Steinbrenner, a star made for him and New York, the first free agent in sports worth talking about, says:

"George made owning his team feel like a contact sport."

Didn't he, though?

Reggie found out firsthand, getting romanced by Steinbrenner on his way into town, practically getting driven to the city limits when Steinbrenner got tired of him, when Steinbrenner decided that he loved Dave Winfield more. Like some old fool falling for a younger woman.

Reggie went with the Angels. He came back to Yankee Stadium the first time as an Angel and hit a home run - of course - and then the fans down close to the field were turning toward Steinbrenner's box and pointing and chanting, "Steinbrenner Sucks." Like it was the owner of the team who had thrown the pitch that Reggie had hit over the wall.

When the game was over that night, Reggie was in the lobby at the old Stadium with some friends. The elevator door opened. Steinbrenner. He saw Reggie standing there.

He let the door close without saying a word.

Reggie stayed a while longer, not wanting to leave. It had been a big night for him, he was back at the Stadium, he had hit one out against Ron Guidry. The elevator came back down to the lobby a few minutes later. Doors opened. Steinbrenner. Again.

He let the door close again.

After all the winning they'd done together, and as close as they would be much later in Steinbrenner's life, now had come this night when it was as if Reggie had won and the owner of the Yankees had lost.

Another night when it was as if Steinbrenner, even upstairs, made people think he was down there in the middle of the ring. You had to be there. You did. You saw guys come to the Yankees and buckle under the pressure of playing for an owner who would call them out in the papers, or to their faces. When that happened, there was an expression for it from the veterans in the Yankee clubhouse.

They said that player had been "Georged."

So in addition to everything else he was in the old days, Steinbrenner was also a verb.

Steinbrenner was present even when he wasn't. It was why part of the sadness of these last years was reading these ridiculous press releases from him. It was seeing people running down to the field, giddy, with some quote they got off him on his way to the car, this aging man who didn't always recognize old friends, or faces, at the old Stadium even when he was still showing up.

He was still the owner, just in name only. Even as there was all this coverage about The Boss of old, instead of an old Boss. As if he were still calling his manager during games, as if he were still the guy Dallas Green finally called "Manager George," Green's way of getting himself fired, he'd had enough of Steinbrenner's meddling.

Jerry Jones is right there on the sideline. The thing about Steinbrenner was he never needed to be. Somehow he was right there for you anyway, even when the television cameras couldn't find him anywhere. He fired people and bullied people and made you think he'd lost his mind sometimes. It's all there on the scorecard.

If you saw it all, you know. Of course you weren't buying your ticket to watch him own. With this owner, it just felt that way sometimes.

From Berlin to Jerusalem

The collaboration between National Socialism and Islamism has left a venomous legacy.

By Clifford D. May
July 15, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Last month, Sheikh Muhammad Hussein, the mufti of Jerusalem, called on Palestinians to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which he said was “threatened by the plans of the enemies of God,” by which he meant Israelis.

It should go without saying that this is a lie. Israel poses no threat to Al-Aqsa, now or ever. On the contrary, Israelis have always recognized and respected Islamic sovereignty over Islamic religious sites within Israel — despite the fact that Jewish holy places have been desecrated by Palestinians, Jordanians, and others. The notion that the Israelis would raze Al-Aqsa to build a temple on its ruins — as the mufti has also claimed — is a ludicrous slander.

What should not go without saying is how serious it is that such an allegation has been leveled by Jerusalem’s senior Islamic religious authority. Under sharia, Islamic law, to be an “enemy of God” is to be the worst sort of criminal. Just a few weeks ago in Iran, five people were declared mohareb (enemies of God) — and then hanged.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, must know all this. Yet he says nothing about it. Nor do most Western diplomats, politicians, and journalists.

Also overlooked is the historical context. In the 1930s, the mufti of Jerusalem was Haj Amin el-Husseini. He, too, despised Jews — there was not yet a state of Israel to despise. After participating in a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq in 1941, Husseini moved to Berlin. There he became Hitler’s ally, the “most important public face and voice of Nazi Germany’s Arabic-language propaganda,” in the words of historian Jeffrey Herf, who adds: “Husseini was a key figure in finding common ideological ground between National Socialism, on the one hand, and the doctrines of Arab nationalism and militant Islam, on the other.”

Herf’s groundbreaking study, Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World, draws on archival resources not previously mined to explore the extent and significance of this collaboration. His nuanced conclusion: “Nazi Germany’s Arabic-language propaganda was neither an imposition of a set of hatreds previously unknown to the traditions of Islam nor a matter of simply lighting the match to long-standing but suppressed anti-Jewish hatreds.” Rather, the Nazis and their Arab partners drew on and emphasized “the most despicable and hate-filled aspects of the cultures of Europe and of Islam.”

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husayni, meets Hitler for the first time. Berlin, Germany, November 28, 1941. For more about the meeting and to view film footage, scroll to the end of the article.

— Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

They also added this audacious twist: They claimed they were the ones under attack. Their purpose, they insisted, was merely to protect themselves from a malevolent conspiracy. Over and over again, Nazi diplomats and their allies drove the message that Churchill had started the war against Germany “to expand British power,” and that Roosevelt was behind Churchill “as the exponent of world Jewry.”

Herf elaborates: “In Europe, the Nazis presented their policy of ‘extermination’ and ‘annihilating’ the Jews as a desperate and justified act of self-defense. In their propaganda directed at the Middle East, they urged Arabs and Muslims to take matters into their own hands and ‘kill the Jews’ before the Jews were able to kill them. In both its European and Middle Eastern dimensions, the propaganda rested on the identical logic of paranoia and projection.”

And here we are, more than a half century later, with the current mufti of Jerusalem fabricating crimes against Muslims for which Jews deserve to be put to death. Meanwhile, Hamas leaders openly declare their intention to annihilate Israel and exterminate Jews — claiming they, too, are acting in self-defense, and calling themselves a “resistance” movement.

The number of people who appear to be buying these fictions is not insignificant. Few scholars have examined the links between Nazi and Islamist ideas in the 20th century. Few journalists are examining their venomous legacy in the present era.

Herf, obviously, is an exception — as is author and social critic Paul Berman, who recently observed that a taboo has developed: Most intellectuals determinedly ignore the fact that “Nazi inspirations have visibly taken root among present-day Islamists, notably in regard to the demonic nature of Jewish conspiracies and the virtues of genocide.”

This means, Berman added, that “the Islamist preachers and ideologues have succeeded in imposing on the rest of us their own categories of analysis.” That amounts to a victory for them and, of course, a defeat for us.

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


By Ann Coulter
July 14, 2010

So I guess all that hysteria about the Arizona immigration law was much ado about nothing. After months of telling us that the Nazis had seized Arizona, when the Obama administration finally got around to suing, its only objection was that the law was "pre-empted" by federal immigration law.

With the vast majority of Americans supporting Arizona's inoffensive little law, the fact that Obama is suing at all suggests that he consulted exclusively with the craziest people in America before filing this complaint. (Which is to say, Eric Holder's Justice Department.)

But apparently even they could find nothing discriminatory about Arizona's law. It's reassuring to know that, contrary to earlier indications, government lawyers can at least read English.

Instead, the administration argues, federal laws on immigration pre-empt Arizona's law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

State laws are pre-empted by federal law in two circumstances: When there is a conflict -- such as "sanctuary cities" for illegals or California's medical marijuana law -- or when Congress has so thoroughly regulated a field that there is no room for even congruent state laws.

If Obama thinks there's a conflict, I believe he's made a damning admission. There's a conflict only if the official policy of the federal government is to ignore its own immigration laws.

Only slightly less preposterous is the argument that although Arizona's law agrees with federal law, Congress has engaged in "field pre-emption" by occupying the entire field of immigration, thus prohibiting even harmonious state laws.

Field pre-emption may arise, for example, in the case of federal health and safety laws, so that manufacturers of cars, medical devices and drugs aren't forced to comply with the laws of 50 different states to sell their products nationally.

And yet, just over a year ago, the Supreme Court held that there was no "field pre-emption" even in the case of an FDA-approved anti-nausea drug because Congress had not explicitly stated that state regulation was pre-empted.

The drug, Phenergan, came with the warning that, if administered improperly (so that it enters an artery), catastrophe could ensue.

In April 2000, Phenergan was administered improperly to Diana Levine -- by a clinician ignoring six separate warnings on Phenergan's label. Catastrophe ensued; Levine developed gangrene and had to have her lower arm amputated.

Levine sued the health center and clinician for malpractice, and won.

But then she also sued the drug manufacturer, Wyeth Laboratories, on the grounds that it should have included more glaring warnings about proper administration of the drug -- like, I don't know, maybe a flashing neon sign on each vial.

Wyeth argued that since the Food and Drug Administration (after 54 years of study) had expressly approved the warnings as provided, state tort law was pre-empted by the federal drug regime.

But the Supreme Court held that Congress had to make pre-emption explicit, which it had not, so Levine was awarded $6.7 million from Wyeth.

If ever there were a case for "implicit pre-emption," this was it. Without federal supremacy for the FDA's comprehensive regulation of drugs, pharmaceutical companies are forever at the mercy of state and local laws -- and trial lawyers -- in all 50 states.

As much as I would like pharmaceutical companies to rot in hell for their support of ObamaCare, I might need their drugs someday. Now, drug prices will not only have to incorporate R&D costs, but also the cost of paying for trial lawyers' Ferraris. (Perhaps that should be listed as a side effect: "Caution! Improper use may cause nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and six new houses for John Edwards.")

But the point is: According to the Supreme Court's most recent pre-emption ruling, Arizona's law is not pre-empted because Congress did not expressly prohibit state regulation of illegal aliens.

In fact, the Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected the pre-emption argument against state laws on immigrants -- including laws somewhat at odds with federal law, which the Arizona law is not.

In the seminal case, De Canas v. Bica (1976), the court held 8-0 that a California law prohibiting employers from hiring illegal immigrants was not pre-empted by federal law.

The court -– per Justice William Brennan -- said that the federal government's supremacy over immigration is strictly limited to: (1) a "determination of who should or should not be admitted into the country," and (2) "the conditions under which a legal entrant may remain."

So a state can't start issuing or revoking visas, but that's about all it can't do.

Manifestly, a state law about illegal immigrants has nothing to do with immigrants who enter legally or the condition of their staying here. Illegal aliens have neither been "admitted into the country" nor are they "legal entrants."

Indeed, as Brennan noted in the De Canas case, there's even "a line of cases that upheld certain discriminatory state treatment of aliens lawfully within the United States." (You might want to jot some of this down, Mr. Holder.)

So there's no "field pre-emption" of state laws dealing with aliens, nor is there an explicit statement from Congress pre-empting state regulation of aliens.

On top of that, the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state laws on immigrants in the face of pre-emption challenges. Arizona's law is no more pre-empted than the rest of them.

Unless, of course, Obama is right and it's a violation of federal law to enforce federal immigration laws, which is the essence of the Department of Justice's lawsuit.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Arrogance Surplus Leads to Government Excesses

By Amity Shlaes - Jul 13, 2010

What helps business? President Barack Obama seems to think putting a complaining executive on a prestigious committee is the answer.

That’s what Obama did when he responded to Verizon Chairman Ivan Seidenberg’s complaint about policy uncertainty with invitations to chat and a seat on a committee studying exports. Democrats think that the way to help business is to create a small business fund, at least according to legislation proposed by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

Nobody knows what Republicans think about business. To judge by its chatter this week, the Grand Old Party solution for business has something to do with curtailing the distribution of medical marijuana.

The problem for all is that business isn’t an identifiable person, group or company. Good policy is what might be called humble policy. It starts with admitting what we don’t know. That includes who will lead growth in 2011 or 2012, where that person lives, and how he or she will get capital. Humble policy then goes on to concentrate on trying to let our economy become that broad space that future businesses and industries still unknown, might find inviting.

Humble policy is, of course, hard for a U.S. Congress to get its head around. Policy, in lawmakers’ minds, is all about knowing and crafting smarter law. Lawmakers are arrogant in their certainty that voters will never accept policy that doesn’t reward voters like Pavlov’s dogs. Lawmakers are also certain that they shouldn’t be seen to write law that will help the rich in the future. But again, there is that mistake: they are assuming they know who the rich will be.

First Step

But to the plan. Humble step No. 1: Permanently set tax rates lower for all. That means keeping the dividend tax low, keeping the top income-tax rate at 35 percent and sustaining the capital-gains rate at 20 percent or lower. Cutting the corporate tax would help the U.S. compete with the rest of the world.

Even better would be to pass the plan of the humble congressman, Republican Paul Ryan of Wisconsin. The Ryan plan advocates abolishing taxes on capital gains and dividends, and reduces the top marginal rate on income taxes to 25 percent.

Lower taxes would increase growth. When President George W. Bush and Congress lowered dividend and capital gains rates taxes, they increased gross domestic product by 0.25 percentage point. When President Bill Clinton and Congress lowered the capital gains rate in the 1990s, growth likewise increased. The revenue from the cuts were in both incidents higher than static analysis from federal offices predicted.

Cutting Regulation

Cutting regulation, including the new health-care mandate, would generate the missing jobs that are driving our political and policy debates. It is the definition of arrogance to assume employers can afford the modern mandates.

The next humble step would be to set policy to benefit the overall economy, not any specific group. The Obama administration’s new emphasis on exports is misguided. Promulgating export policy may help one politician through one election cycle. But overall, emphasizing exports ignores that exports may not be the area in the U.S. economy where growth will be most productive. Therefore export politics misallocates economic resources.

Plenty of lawmakers tell themselves they are too clever to back exports. Instead they want to target help to entrepreneurs, and offer, of course, a specific definition for what an entrepreneur is. But doing this, they begin to commit the same error as the export mercantilists.

Dropping Stimulus

The third humble policy is demanding a serious commitment from lawmakers to abandon fiscal stimulus. Stimulus spending represents an even worse misallocation of resources than export promotion. Optimal of course would be if Washington used savings it gets from abandoning stimulus to pay for the supposedly impossible task of maintain the Bush tax rates.

The fourth humble move is up to voters. It is to reduce expectations about entitlements. This would be easier to do if the fifth and final requirement were met: electing lawmakers or hiring government advisers with an ability to demonstrate humility.

One such humble hero in the wings is Mitch Daniels, Republican governor of Indiana. Daniels spent time in the second Bush administration as director of Office of Management and Budget, so he knows the details of crafting, say, a humbler Medicare policy. Ryan, the congressman, may also meet the humility criterion.

Right now there’s little evidence of humble vision in Washington. At a hearing on the future of taxes in the Senate Finance Committee this week, for example, the debate will range from extending the Bush rates for some to extending them for all to extending them for none. Any other possibility, deeper cuts for example, will be ridiculed because it won’t fit the pay-as- you-go budgeting regime. And tax cuts never will meet that standard, goes the argument, because lawmakers will never be willing to make the offsetting spending cuts.

Even as it is ridiculed, humble policy still is worth laying out. Doing so reminds us that what is failing us isn’t our economy, but our politics.

(Amity Shlaes, senior fellow in economic history at the Council on Foreign Relations, is a Bloomberg News columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Amity Shlaes at

The National Association for the Advancement of Coddled People

The NAACP is no longer a proud and respectable civil-rights organization.

By Michelle Malkin
July 14, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Before the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People decided to ride the anti-tea-party wave back to political relevancy, its most recent activist crusade involved a silly space-themed Hallmark graduation card. Yes, the NAACP has been lost in space for quite some time now. And blaming whitey will no longer cut it.

First lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks during the 101st annual NAACP convention, Monday, July 12, 2010, in Kansas City, Mo.
(AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

In June, the Los Angeles chapter of the NAACP demanded that the greeting card be pulled. The card used the term “black holes,” which the bionically equipped ears of the PC police insisted sounded like “black whores.” “It sounds like a group of children laughing and joking about blackness,” one NAACP official complained.

It was a group of hipster cartoon characters chattering about the universe and galaxies and wide-open possibilities to new high-school and college grads. Alas, this is what has become of the once-inspired drive against racial discrimination.

In just a few short decades, the stalwart strivers for equality have turned into coddled whiners for hypersensitivity. The NAACP is a laughingstock. The group no longer represents the best interests of oppressed minorities, but the thin-skinned whims of the black elite and the ravenous appetite of the Nanny State. Establishment civil-rights leaders now use their once-compelling moral authority to hector, bully, and shake down corporate and political targets.

As Ward Connerly, the truly maverick opponent of government racial preferences, who is black, wrote recently, “The NAACP is not so much a civil-rights organization as it is a trade association with clear links to the Democratic Party, despite the claim of its chairman that ‘the NAACP has always been non-partisan.’ Such a statement doesn’t pass the giggle test. The NAACP uses the plight of poor black people as a fig leaf to hide its true agenda of promoting policies that benefit their dues-paying members, not black people in general or poor black people in particular.”

To compensate for squandering the proud history of the civil-rights organization on innocent greeting cards, NAACP leaders introduced a much-hyped resolution at their annual convention this week attacking the nation’s biggest racial bogeyman: the tea-party movement. It’s a tried-and-true tactic of worn-out grievance-mongers: When you can’t find evil enough enemies to blame for your problems, manufacture them. (Just ask hate-crimes huckster Al Sharpton.) This is why one of the most popular signs spotted at tea-party protests across the country remains the one that reads: “It doesn’t matter what this sign says. You’ll call it racism, anyway!”

The NAACP resolution calls on its chapters across the country to “repudiate the racism of the Tea Parties” and stand against the movement’s attempt to “push our country back to the pre–civil rights era.” Yet, it’s the NAACP that lobbied the Obama White House to dismiss voter-intimidation charges against the thugs of the New Black Panther Party, according to Justice Department whistleblower J. Christian Adams. It’s the NAACP that opposes the 21st-century school-choice movement to free poor minority students from rotten government schools, as black parents in Washington, D.C., have suffered firsthand. It’s the NAACP that elevates “diversity” above academic rigor as its primary education goal. And it’s the NAACP that backs retrograde, race-based set-asides and classifications that encourage cronyism of color championed by their water-carriers at the Congressional Black Caucus.

And it’s the NAACP that tolerates racist sneers and smears like those leveled by the St. Louis NAACP chapter against black limited-government activist Kenneth Gladney, who was derided by civil-rights leaders as an “Uncle Tom” after he was beaten bloody by Service Employees International Union henchmen last summer.

Addressing the convention on Monday, first lady Michelle Obama urged NAACP mau-mau-ers to “increase” their “intensity.” She’s a pro at employing intense accusations of racial oppression as a defense against criticism and milking the victim-ocracy for all it’s worth.

At Princeton, she complained about “further integration and/or assimilation into a white cultural and social structure that will only allow me to remain on the periphery of society; never becoming a full participant.” But rather than remaining “on the periphery,” Mrs. Obama climbed the crooked Chicago ladder on a rapid ascent to the top. She hopped from Princeton to Harvard to prestigious law firms, cushy nonprofit gigs, and an exclusive Hyde Park manse, before landing in the East Wing with the greatest of ease.

Question the timing of the tea-party-demonizing resolution? You bet. The NAACP’s man at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. finds himself radically out of step with the American mainstream in the lead-up to the 2010 midterms. He sent his wife to the convention to reestablish White House racial authenticity at a time when increasing numbers of minorities are now as fed up with massive debt, usurpation of individual liberties, corruption in Washington, and chaos on the border as everyone else.

It’s a black-hole bonanza. Cue the distraction: RAAAACIST!

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

George Steinbrenner: Yankees owner was full of bravado and bluster

By Thomas Boswell
The Washington Post
Wednesday, July 14, 2010; D01

(Associated Press / October 8, 1976)

Steinbrenner, principal owner of the New York Yankees, chats in 1976 with slugger Reggie Jackson, then a free agent, at Royals Stadium in Kansas City.

ANAHEIM, CALIF. - Whenever you heard the latest news about the Boss, you always thought the same thing, "Oh, even he wouldn't do that." Then you realized: "Yes, he would. And it'll probably work."

So, we should just accept the fact that the death of George Steinbrenner III on the morning of the All-Star Game, so soon after his 80th birthday on the Fourth of July, is the appropriate and perhaps the only sufficiently extravagant sendoff for such a man. This is exactly the ideal over-the-top farewell for a man who loved nothing better than to upstage his entire sport and steal every iota of attention for himself and his team.

The site of this All-Star Game may be at the home of the Anaheim Angels of Los Angeles but Steinbrenner made sure that it was held in a New York state of mind. Even the National League's 3-1 win, its first victory since '96, lost the back-page war that George loved so much.

That one of seven Yankees in this game, pitcher Phil Hughes, was charged with the loss, while the lone Washington player in the game, Matt Capps, was the winner, will simply become mid-summer minutia, not a "Damn Yankees" installment.

Still, come October, if his team, with the best record in the sport, should be in the World Series, it will be noted that a club chocked with his payroll couldn't win-one-for-the-Boss. To a man as superstitious about baseball and as drenched in sport-as-life as Steinbrenner, no omen was ever too small.

When you're the most famous, and often infamous, owner in the history of American sports, you deserve a gathering of the clans to send you off with proper honors. Even though, let's face it, this is the fourth time that George has managed to turn a huge celebratory event into a homage in the last 24 months.

Two years ago at old Yankee Stadium, the entire All-Star Game was practically dedicated to Steinbrenner's memory. His health was bad enough that he could only be driven around the field and he said nothing publicly. But everybody who wanted to offer a valediction, a revised, updated and probably more generous evaluation of his life and Yankees work, had the chance.

Then, last spring, when the new Yankees Stadium opened, once again all of baseball got to shake its head in disbelief. No stadium could possibly be that expensive, that showy and still be a success. It would be a $2 billion horror, a desecration of the old Big Ballpark across the street and a symbol of how the rich-get-richer culture that the Boss embodied could spend until they burst even in the midst of the Great Recession.

But the new park wasn't a failure. It was better than either the original House That Ruth Built, with its obstructed-view columns, or the massively refurbished, but less magisterial park that opened three years after Steinbrenner gained control of the team in 1973. You walked through it, if you were a baseball lover, and thought, "I'm glad George lived to see this."

Finally, at last year's World Series, a Yankees team that was paid more money than any club in history, a collection that made an absolute travesty of the concept of fair competition, beat the Phillies for its 27th world championship to inaugurate the new park.

A pinstripe bunch that was the apotheosis of everything the word "Steinbrenner" had come to mean -- not just in baseball, but all over the country and much of the world -- was back on top after nine years of pratfalls, comeuppances and gloriously embarrassing take-that-George moments in one postseason after another.

Relief pitcher Joba Chamberlain ran around the field waving a huge flag, then stopped behind home plate and waved the talisman of victory over his head, time after time, in the direction of the owner's box. The Boss wasn't up to being there that night, which tells you everything about his health; but, once again, every generous word that could be dragged out of every Yankee-hating, Steinbrenner-respecting fan was summoned by that moment.

Once again, the sport, even the Boston chapter, grudgingly saluted the man who understood that baseball wasn't really baseball unless the Yankees were at the top of it -- or, better yet -- close enough to the top to win or else provide the eventual victor with its Ultimate Opponent.

You figured George couldn't top that. In 16 months, he'd had three huge celebrations of himself and his 37 years of commanding a reborn Yankees dynasty and he'd been able to watch it, feel it and share it with his sons who now ran the team.

But never underestimate George Steinbrenner III. The Boss always knew that the only good excess was wretched excess. If you owned the Yankees, then you were automatically cast as a villain in baseball's play, so why not play the role to the hilt.

Summon all that bravado and bluster that came so naturally.

Why those words -- bravado and bluster -- became so closely associated with him that you wouldn't have been surprised if he'd changed his monogram to read "G.B.B.S. III."

Then, as the decades passed, all that overbearing irony-free vanity and often-gross appetite from the '70s and '80s was mixed -- not often, but enough -- with a wink that hinted at self-awareness and even self-deprecation. See, George gets the joke.

Or were those stints on "Saturday Night Live", the running gags on "Seinfeld" and the commercials from Billy Martin to Derek Jeter, really something else: the evolution of Yankees branding. Gotta freshen up the product, change the spin.

My Steinbrenner will, I'm delighted to say, never be the semi-avuncular remake that recent fans and players know. I came on the beat just as he made his bones; I saw the original up close, the glorious shameless caricature. God, he was fun. We all argued and laughed with him countless times. If you worked for him, you were his slave. But if you could take him in public, he loved the tussle.

George would always take your call because he never wanted to miss the action. There couldn't be a labor-management war without him in the middle of it, playing power broker. A commissioner couldn't get overthrown, like Bowie Kuhn, without him being aware of the coup. Some of his players who hated him the most were those I liked the best. Yet, today, some of them work for him, adore him and would never believe the names they called him then.

Generous as he always was when he felt sentimental, guilty or patriotic, and downright soaked in charity and concern for former Yankees as he became in the last 15 years, he still owes me money.

We had an annual football bet since our schools had the oldest running collegiate rivalry. By tradition, when I lost, I paid. When George lost, he forgot. Like almost everyone in baseball, I got the short end of the deal from George. And ended up the better for it.

Actually, there was a lot to like

By Dan Shaughnessy, Boston Globe Columnist
July 14, 2010

You would have liked George Steinbrenner.


It was different for those who worked for him, no doubt. Steinbrenner, the Yankees owner who died yesterday in Tampa at 80, was demanding and quick-tempered and ever-ready to fire people. He brought a football mentality to baseball, and that could be problematic.

People who got fired around the Yankees offices were usually told to just show up the following Monday and pretend nothing happened. George would forget that he’d fired you.

(Richard Drew / Associated Press / October 29, 1999)

Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter greets Manager Joe Torre and Steinbrenner at the start of a rally at New York City Hall honoring the 1999 world champion Bronx Bombers.

Miami Dolphins publicist Harvey Greene remembers working for George in the 1980s. Yankees beat reporters took Harvey out for his birthday during spring training one year, but he had to be back in his hotel room extra early in case there was a call from George. Harvey always said he got to stay out later on the night of his bar mitzvah than he did when he worked for George.

Ken Nigro, now a Red Sox employee, was a Yankees publicist in the early 1980s and remembered the night George ordered him to type up a statement criticizing umpires who were working a Yankees game. An assistant to the American League president was at the game and issued his own statement, rebuking George. This prompted a return salvo from Steinbrenner, and yet another press release.

“It was the night of the dueling statements and we outdueled them, 2-1,’’ Nigro said proudly. “Unfortunately, the copy machine couldn’t keep up and it keeled over and died from overuse.’’

No problem. George was always happy to buy new equipment, just as he always would buy new ballplayers. Employees were replaceable — an assembly line of Costanzas anxious to buy calzones for the Boss.

Red Sox fans were blessed to have George as owner of the Yankees. It forced the Sox to be aggressive.

The Red Sox-Yankees rivalry had flattened when Steinbrenner came on the scene in 1973. George brought the Yankees back to the top of the world in 1977 and 1978 because he was willing to hire the best and most expensive free agents — Catfish Hunter, Reggie Jackson, and Rich Gossage.

John Henry was a Steinbrenner partner long before he sought the Red Sox. When Henry bought the Boston franchise, Steinbrenner called Henry and said, “Welcome back to the American League East. We’ll have some fun as rivals. But I gotta tell ya, I’m very concerned about you getting into bed with Werner and Lucchino. Those are two treacherous, phony backstabbers you’ve got there, John. You’re a pal, but I’m telling you, I’ve got no use for those two bastards.’’

New York Daily News scribe Bill Madden included the above passage in his spectacular book “Steinbrenner — The Last Lion of Baseball.’’

How does Madden know about the conversation?

“John Henry told me about it,’’ said Madden.

Steinbrenner loved coming to Boston in his early years of owning the team. He liked to eat at the old Charlie’s Saloon on Newbury Street, just a few steps down the street from Daisy Buchanan’s — the watering hole where his players gathered the night before the 1978 playoff game.

Go back and check the grainy footage of Bucky Dent’s home run off Mike Torrez. You’ll see George, ever-clad in his blue blazer and white turtleneck, standing in the corner box by the dugout. When Reggie homered off Bob Stanley in the eighth, Mr. October circled the bases, then detoured on his way back to the dugout and shook Steinbrenner’s hand.


The Boss had Massachusetts roots. He attended Williams College, where he ran track.

“I came up to Boston a lot, but not to Fenway,’’ he told me in 1998. “I always went to the Boston Garden to run track. We came into North Station in our track suits. My first time at Fenway was the first time I had the Yankees, back in 1973. The Boston fans were throwing nuts and bolts at our players in the outfield. I sat right by the dugout when we came here for the playoff game. I wanted to be with my players.’’

Twenty-six years later, George came out of an empty Yankee Stadium at 1:20 a.m., just about an hour and a half after the Red Sox had defeated the Yankees in the seventh game of the 2004 American League Championship Series. It was the worst, most stunning defeat in baseball history. The Yankees had led the series, three games to none, then collapsed and coughed up the pennant at home. Boston’s buses already had pulled away from the Stadium when George emerged and reluctantly said, “I want to congratulate the Boston team. They did very well and played very well. They are a great team.’’

It had to hurt. Like Red Auerbach, George had a hard time being gracious in victory or defeat.

We didn’t hear much from Steinbrenner after that (oh, to hear him tell us that one of his players “spit the bit’’ just one more time). He was increasingly reclusive and barely a presence when his team returned to the top last October.

We missed him then, and we’ll miss him even more now. He was the Boss. He was Phineas T. Bluster. He was the perfect cartoon character if you were a Red Sox fan who wanted to hate the Yankees.

But you would have liked him. You really would have.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at