Saturday, July 24, 2010

Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble

Meet the Ground Zero Mosque imam’s Muslim Brotherhood friends.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
July 24, 2010 4:00 A.M.

Feisal Abdul Rauf is the imam behind the “Cordoba Initiative” that is spearheading plans to build a $100 million Islamic center at Ground Zero, the site where nearly 3,000 Americans were killed by jihadists on 9/11. He is also the author of a book called What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America. But the book hasn’t always been called that. It was called quite something else for non-English-speaking audiences.[1] In Malaysia, it was published as A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11.

Now it emerges that a “special, non-commercial edition” of this book was later produced, with Rauf’s cooperation, by two American tentacles of the Muslim Brotherhood: the Islamic Society of North America and the International Institute of Islamic Thought. The book’s copyright page tells the tale:

Both ISNA and IIIT have been up to their necks in the promotion of Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ruthless Palestinian branch, which is pledged by charter to the destruction of Israel. In fact, both ISNA and IIIT were cited by the Justice Department as unindicted co-conspirators in a crucial terrorism-financing case involving the channeling of tens of millions of dollars to Hamas through an outfit called the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. For the last 15 years, Hamas has been a designated terrorist organization under U.S. law.

Dawa, whether done from the rubble of the World Trade Center or elsewhere, is the missionary work by which Islam is spread. As explained in my recent book, The Grand Jihad, dawa is proselytism, but not involving only spiritual elements — for Islam is not merely a religion, and spiritual elements are just a small part of its doctrine. In truth, Islam is a comprehensive political, social, and economic system with its own authoritarian legal framework, sharia, which aspires to govern all aspects of life.

This framework rejects core tenets of American constitutional republicanism: for example, individual liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom to govern ourselves irrespective of any theocratic code, equality of men and women, equality of Muslims and non-Muslims, and economic liberty, including the uses of private property (in Islam, owners hold property only as a custodians for the umma, the universal Muslim nation, and are beholden to the Islamic state regarding its use). Sharia prohibits the preaching of creeds other than Islam, the renunciation of Islam, any actions that divide the umma, and homosexuality. Its penalties are draconian, including savagely executed death sentences for apostates, homosexuals, and adulterers.

The purpose of dawa, like the purpose of jihad, is to implement, spread, and defend sharia. Scholar Robert Spencer incisively refers to dawa practices as “stealth jihad,” the advancement of the sharia agenda through means other than violence and agents other than terrorists. These include extortion, cultivation of sympathizers in the media and the universities, exploitation of our legal system and tradition of religious liberty, infiltration of our political system, and fundraising. This is why Yusuf Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the world’s most influential Islamic cleric, boldly promises that Islam will “conquer America” and “conquer Europe” through dawa.

In considering Imam Rauf and his Ground Zero project, Qaradawi and the Muslim Brotherhood are extremely important. Like most Muslims, Rauf regards Qaradawi as a guide, and referred to him in 2001 as “the most well-known legal authority in the whole Muslim world today.” And indeed he is: a prominent, Qatar-based scholar whose weekly Al Jazeera program on the subject of sharia is viewed by millions and whose cyber-venture, Islam Online, is accessed by millions more, including Muslims in the United States. Not surprisingly, his rabble-rousing was a prime cause of the deadly global rioting by Muslims when an obscure Danish newspaper published cartoon depictions of Mohammed.

Qaradawi regards the United States as the enemy of Islam. He has urged that Muslims “fight the American military if we can, and if we cannot, we should fight the U.S. economically and politically.” In 2004, he issued a fatwa (an edict based on sharia) calling for Muslims to kill Americans in Iraq. A leading champion of Hamas, he has issued similar approvals of suicide bombings in Israel. Moreover, as recounted in Matthew Levitt’s history of Hamas, Qaradawi has decreed that Muslims must donate money to “support Palestinians fighting occupation. . . . If we can’t carry out acts of jihad ourselves, we at least should support and prop up the mujahideen [i.e., Islamic raiders or warriors] financially and morally.”

Qaradawi’s support for Hamas is only natural. Since that organization’s 1987 founding, it has been the top Muslim Brotherhood priority to underwrite Hamas’s jihadist onslaught against the Jewish state. Toward that end, the Muslim Brotherhood mobilized the Islamist infrastructure in the United States.

The original building block of that infrastructure was the Muslim Students Association (MSA), established in the early Sixties to groom young Muslims in the Brotherhood’s ideology — promoting sharia, Islamic supremacism, and a worldwide caliphate. As Andrew Bostom elaborated in a New York Post op-ed on Friday, Imam Rauf, too, is steeped in this ideology.[2]

In 1981, after two decades of churning out activists from its North American chapters (which now number over 600), the Brotherhood merged the MSA into ISNA. In its own words, ISNA was conceived as an umbrella organization “to advance the cause of Islam and service Muslims in North America so as to enable them to adopt Islam as a complete way of life.” That same year, the Brotherhood created IIIT as a Washington-area Islamic think tank dedicated to what it describes as “the Islamicization of knowledge.”

After Hamas was created, the top Brotherhood operative in the United States, Mousa Abu Marzook — who actually ran Hamas from his Virginia home for several years in the early Nineties — founded the Islamic Association for Palestine to boost Hamas’s support. One of his co-founders was Sami al-Arian, then a student and Muslim Brotherhood member, later a top U.S. operative of the terrorist organization Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which he helped guide from his perch as a professor at the University of South Florida. In 2006, al-Arian was convicted on terrorism charges.

Marzook and other Brotherhood figures established the Occupied Land Fund, eventually renamed the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), to be Hamas’s American fundraising arm. The HLF was headquartered in ISNA’s Indiana office. As the Justice Department explained in a memorandum [3] submitted in the HLF case:

During the early years of HLF’s operation, HLF raised money and supported Hamas through a bank account it held with ISNA. . . . Indeed, HLF (under its former name, OLF) operated from within ISNA, in Plainfield, Indiana. . . . ISNA checks deposited into the ISNA/[North American Islamic Trust] account for the HLF were often made payable to “the Palestinian Mujahideen,” the original name for the Hamas military wing. . . . From the ISNA/NAIT account, the HLF sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzook . . . and a number of other individuals associated with Hamas.

Ultimately, the HLF raised over $36 million for Hamas. At the height of the intifada, this was not about the social-welfare activities Hamas touts to camouflage its barbarism. As the journalist Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism has observed, “Ordinary Americans should be shocked and outraged to learn that Hamas was running its terror campaign from a sanctuary in the U.S.” In addition, prosecutors showed that ISNA was central to a 1993 meeting of top Brotherhood operatives, who were wiretapped “discussing using ISNA as an official cover for their activities.”

Meantime, in 1992, the IIIT contributed $50,000 to underwrite an al-Arian venture, the World & Islam Studies Enterprise (WISE), a front for Palestinian Islamic Jihad that ostensibly employed several members of the PIJ governing board. IIIT has been under federal investigation since 2002 — and after his terrorism conviction, al-Arian went into contempt of court rather than honor a grand-jury subpoena in the probe.

In 1991, the Muslim Brotherhood’s American leadership prepared an internal memorandum for the organization’s global leadership in Egypt. It was written principally by Mohamed Akram, a close associate of Sheikh Qaradawi. As Akram put it, the Brotherhood

must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.

The memorandum included a list described by Akram as “our organizations and the organizations of our friends,” working together to implement this sabotage strategy. Prominently included in that list were ISNA and IIIT.

The Ground Zero project to erect a monument to sharia overlooking the crater where the World Trade Center once stood, and where thousands were slaughtered, is not a test of America’s commitment to religious liberty. America already has thousands of mosques and Islamic centers, including scores in the New York area — though Islam does not allow non-Muslims even to enter its crown-jewel cities of Mecca and Medina, much less to build churches or synagogues.

The Ground Zero project is a test of America’s resolve to face down a civilizational jihad that aims, in the words of its leaders, to destroy us from within.

— 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.





Duvall, Nearly 80, Is Still a Darling of Hollywood

The New York Times
July 23, 2010

Sam Emerson/Sony Pictures Classics

Robert Duvall with Sissy Spacek in the film “Get Low,” directed by Aaron Schneider.

WHEN it came time to fill the lead role in “Get Low” — which embellishes the real-life story of a septuagenarian Tennessee hermit who gave his own “funeral party” in 1938 while still alive — the options weren’t plentiful for the people behind the film. The hermit, Felix Bush, is a worn-out man who has exiled himself to a cabin for four decades, haunted by a youthful trespass. The object of nasty countywide gossip, Felix has a short fuse but comports himself with grizzled dignity. “It’s the kind of role where you want to blur the line between the legend and gravitas of the character and the legend and gravitas of the performer,” the film’s director, Aaron Schneider, said by phone. “Our list of actors was short: Our list was Robert Duvall.”

Next January Mr. Duvall will celebrate his 80th birthday. He has been a Hollywood actor for 48 years, having moved from stage to screen in 1962 as Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” He is among a handful of A-list actors who have neared or reached 80 while suffering little to no career slowdown. Clint Eastwood is 80. Michael Caine is 77. Morgan Freeman and Anthony Hopkins are both in their early 70s. With Gene Hackman, 80, retired, the list pretty much stops there.

Mr. Duvall’s longevity raises two intertwined questions. For one, what has he been doing right all these years? For another, is the end of his laws-of-Hollywood-physics-defying run in sight?

“It’s coming. It’s got to be,” Mr. Duvall said, addressing the second question over an Earl Grey tea at the Four Seasons hotel in Manhattan last Monday. (He’d also spoken by phone a few days earlier.) In town from Virginia, where he shares a 360-acre farm with his wife, two dogs and several horses, he wore black jeans, cowboy boots and a Texas Longhorns track jacket that hewed close to his barrel chest.

But as Mr. Duvall described several would-be projects on his “front burner,” he made clear that he’s in no hurry to bow out. There’s a postwar drama written by Billy Bob Thornton that he adores, a movie he wants to make with his longtime pal James Caan, and a reboot of the star-crossed “Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” in which Terry Gilliam has cast Mr. Duvall as the titular windmill jouster. “These are some terrific roles,” he said. “I want these projects to get off the ground.”

To answer the question of Mr. Duvall’s longevity, a good place to start is the range of characters he’s inhabited over the years. He began acting in the ’50s but was a Hollywood latecomer — he “arrived a fully formed actor,” said the British film critic Tom Shone, the author of “Blockbuster: How Hollywood Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Summer.” Mr. Duvall rose to prominence in the ’70s alongside figures like Al Pacino, Dustin Hoffman and Robert De Niro, who brought a new energy to the movies. They were not simply “movie stars, like Errol Flynn or Clark Gable,” said Bruce Beresford, who directed Mr. Duvall in 1983’s “Tender Mercies,” but also “superlative actors” who “became totally identified with whichever role they were playing.”

Mr. Duvall stood out in Robert Altman’s “Countdown” (1968) and George Lucas’s “THX 1138” (1971), but it was in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Godfather” (1972), playing cool-headed Corleone consigliere Tom Hagen, that he gave his first indelible performance. In 1979 he took a 180-degree turn and won raves playing two military men whose heads were about as cool as napalm: Bull Meechum in “The Great Santini” and Lieutenant Colonel Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” In “Apocalypse” Mr. Duvall’s performance “upset the moral tidiness of the film,” Mr. Shone said, complicating the “peacenik” proceedings “with this charismatic, full-throated, fantastic hawk.”

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Mr. Duvall at his farm in Virginia

Downshifting in “Tender Mercies,” Mr. Duvall won the best actor Oscar for his restrained portrayal of Mac Sledge, a down-and-out country singer whose inner storms roil beneath but never quite break through his wistful surface. In the years since, Mr. Duvall has played a hardboiled detective, a Texas preacher, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Stalin. What unites these performances, he said, is that, “Within each character, I like to find the contradictions. Even when I played Stalin, I tried to find a vulnerable point for that guy.”

Sissy Spacek said, “He embodies the character,” describing the experience of watching Mr. Duvall at work on “Get Low,” which opens Friday, and in which she has a supporting role. (Bill Murray co-stars as an undertaker.) “Every actor has their own process, but his is seamless. He just becomes.”

That aura of seamlessness results from a technique that balances intense preparation and spontaneity. After taking a role, Mr. Duvall does his homework. To play Mac Sledge he frequented honky-tonk bars and even sang with a makeshift country band. To inhabit Euliss Dewey, a Pentecostal preacher and heartfelt ham in “The Apostle” (1997), which Mr. Duvall also wrote and directed, he spent years visiting black churches. He marinates in such research but makes no firm decisions about how to play a part until cameras roll. Mr. Beresford recalled that, during rehearsals for “Tender Mercies,” Mr. Duvall’s readings were curiously “flat and unemotional,” but that he bloomed when filming began.

“I don’t even think you need to rehearse,” Mr. Duvall said. “Take 1 is rehearsal, and you’ve got Take 2, 3, 4 and 5 if need be.”

Mr. Duvall’s unshowy acting — he had a tendency while shooting “Tender Mercies” to turn his back to the camera, Mr. Beresford said — and chameleonic gifts are artistic assets, but they’ve also been something of a commercial liability. Thanks to his ability to dissolve so fully into characters, Mr. Duvall has alternated between tremendous supporting performances and tremendous leading performances without ever moving definitively from one column to the other. “Perhaps some of the most brilliant actors are so brilliant that people don’t identify them that well,” Mr. Beresford said, contrasting Mr. Duvall with a megastar like Tom Cruise, “who is always Tom Cruise in every role, no matter how competent or capable.”

In an e-mail message Mr. Coppola said that Mr. Duvall “always brings himself to whatever role he plays.” That Mr. Duvall has occupied a gray area between supporting man and top-liner, Mr. Coppola suggested, represents a shortcoming in the distinction between categories. At a certain point, Mr. Coppola wrote, it’s “hard to say the difference between leading men and great character actors.”

Mr. Duvall said he likes parts that give him the time and space to dig in. His favorite role is the former Texas Ranger Augustus McCrae, whom he played in the six-hour CBS mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” “That’s like the Bible down in Texas,” Mr. Duvall said. “It’s not as well directed as ‘The Godfather,’ but the arc of it is incredible.”

But he also said he can find great satisfaction in a role that takes up only a sliver of screen time: “You can do a lot if it’s well-defined, or you try to expand the part and find three dimensions.” While filming his cameo opposite Viggo Mortensen in “The Road,” he recalled, “I improvised a whole scene that wasn’t in the script, and they left it in.” Mr. Duvall grinned, his eyes crinkling up mischievously at their corners. (In that scene Mr. Duvall’s character, Old Man, is looking for his son.) “I didn’t ask the director. I didn’t ask permission. I just told Viggo, ‘Get ready, I’m going to do something here.’ ”

Friday, July 23, 2010

An Open Conspiracy To Slant the News

JournoList is a symptom, not the disease, of liberal media bias.

By Jonah Goldberg
July 23, 2010 12:00 A.M.

The JournoList has started to leak like an over-ripe diaper.

Just in case you’ve been living in a cave, or if you only get your news from MSNBC, here’s the story. A young blogger, Ezra Klein, formerly of the avowedly left-wing American Prospect and now with the avowedly mainstream Washington Post, founded the e-mail listserv JournoList for like-minded liberals to hash out and develop ideas. Some 400 people joined the by-invitation-only group. Most, it seems, were in the media, but many hailed from academia, think tanks, and the world of forthright liberal activism generally. They spoke freely about their political and personal biases, including their hatred of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh.

That off-the-record intellectual bacchanalia has started to haunt the participants like an inexplicable rash after a wild party during Fleet Week.

Last month, David Weigel, a young Washington Post blogger hired to report on conservative politics, ostensibly from a sympathetic perspective, left the Post thanks to his damning statements on JournoList (conservatives are racists, Rush Limbaugh should die, etc.).

Now the diaper is coming off entirely. Perhaps stretching the diaper metaphor too far, what’s inside JournoList may stink, but it’s no surprise that it does. JournoList e-mails obtained by the Daily Caller reveal what anybody with two neurons to rub together already knew: Professional liberals don’t like Republicans and do like Democrats. They can be awfully smug and condescending in their sense of intellectual and moral superiority. They tend to ascribe evil motives to their political opponents — sometimes even when they know it’s unfair. One obscure blogger insisted that liberals should arbitrarily demonize a conservative journalist as a racist to scare conservatives away from covering stories that might hurt Obama.

Oh, and — surprise! — it turns out that the “O” in JournoList stands for “Obama.”

In 2008, participants shared talking points about how to shape coverage to help Obama. They tried to paint any negative coverage of Obama’s racist and hateful pastor, Jeremiah Wright, as out of bounds. Journalists at such “objective” news organizations as Newsweek, Bloomberg, Time, and The Economist joined conversations with open partisans about the best way to criticize Sarah Palin.

Like an Amish community raising a barn, members of the progressive community got together to hammer out talking points.[1] Amidst a discussion of Palin, Chris Hayes, a writer for The Nation, wrote: “Keep the ideas coming! Have to go on TV to talk about this in a few min and need all the help I can get.” Time’s Joe Klein admitted to his fellow JournoListers that he’d collected the listserv’s bric-a-brac and fashioned it into a brickbat aimed at Palin.

Many conservatives think JournoList is the smoking gun that proves not just liberal media bias (already well-established) but something far more elusive as well: the Sasquatch known as the Liberal Media Conspiracy.

I’m not so sure. In the 1930s, the New York Times deliberately whitewashed Stalin’s murders. In 1964, CBS reported that Barry Goldwater was tied up with German Nazis. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times polled 2,700 journalists at 621 newspapers and found that journalists identified themselves as liberal by a factor of 3 to 1. Their actual views on issues were far more liberal than even that would suggest. Just for the record, Ezra Klein was born in 1984.

In other words, JournoList is a symptom, not the disease. And the disease is not a secret conspiracy but something more like the “open conspiracy” H. G. Wells fantasized about, where the smartest, best people at every institution make their progressive vision for the world their top priority.

As James DeLong, a fellow at the Digital Society, correctly noted on the Enterprise Blog, “The real problem with JournoList is that much of it consisted of exchanges among people who worked for institutions about how to best hijack their employers for the cause of Progressivism.”[2]

For a liberal activist, that’s forgivable, I guess. But academics? Reporters? Editors? Even liberal opinion writers aren’t supposed to “coordinate” their messages with the mother ship.

The conservative movement at least admits it is a movement (even though conservatives outnumber liberals 2-1 in this country). Establishment liberalism, not just in the press but also in the White House, academia, and Hollywood, holds power by refusing to make the same concession. “This isn’t about ideology. . . . We just call them like we see them. . . . We don’t have an agenda.”

The open conspiracy that perpetuates that lie is far more pernicious than any chat room.

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




Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ralph Houk, Yankees Manager, Dies at 90

The New York Times
July 21, 2010

Ralph Houk, a third-string catcher for the Yankees who went on to win three straight American League pennants and two World Series championships in his first seasons as their manager, died Wednesday at his home in Winter Haven, Fla. He was 90.

His death — coming soon after the deaths of George Steinbrenner, the principal owner of the Yankees, and Bob Sheppard, the team’s former public address announcer — was announced by his daughter, Donna Slaboden.

Diamond Images/Getty Images

Ralph Houk, awaiting a game in 1966, won a Silver Star in World War II and was known in baseball as the Major.

As he got ready to manage in a World Series game for the first time, against the Cincinnati Reds in 1961, Houk was asked if he was nervous. “Why, is somebody going to be shooting at me?” he replied, according to “The Man in the Dugout” (Crown, 1992) by Leonard Koppett.

Houk had displayed his courage as an armored corps officer in World War II, winning the Silver Star. Upon returning to baseball, he was known as the Major, a tribute to his commanding presence, whatever the uniform.

When he became manager of the Yankees in October 1960, Houk stepped into a pressure-filled situation: he was replacing a man who had won 10 pennants and 7 World Series.

“There’s only one Casey Stengel,” he said. “I’m Ralph Houk.”

Managing for 20 seasons — with the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers and the Boston Red Sox — Houk’s strong point was building the morale and confidence of his players with an optimistic outlook and a refusal to criticize them publicly.

“I don’t think you can humiliate a player and expect him to perform,” he said.

Ralph George Houk, a Kansas native, was born on Aug. 9, 1919, the son of a farmer. He was a star athlete in high school, then was signed by the Yankees as a catcher in 1939.

After playing in the minors for three seasons, he enlisted in the Army as a private but received a lieutenant’s commission after officer candidate school.

He took part in the invasion of Normandy in June 1944 and the Battle of the Bulge that December, when he received the Silver Star for exposing himself to enemy fire as he drove off German tanks near a village in Luxembourg. When he was discharged as a major at war’s end, Houk took home a souvenir: a helmet he wore at Omaha Beach with holes in the front and back, a bullet having narrowly missed his skull.

In his first game with the Yankees, on April 26, 1947, Houk got three hits against the Washington Senators, and he went on to hit .272 in 41 games. That was his best season. With Yogi Berra en route to the Hall of Fame as the Yankees’ catcher, Houk appeared in only 91 games and had 158 at-bats over eight seasons, never hitting a home run.

He spent most of his time in the bullpen.

“I used to sit out there with pitchers who weren’t in the starting rotation, and I learned exactly what went through their minds,” Houk once told the sportswriter Lee Allen.

Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Ralph Houk in 1966.

In 1955, Houk was named manager of the Yankees’ top minor league team, the Denver Bears of the American Association. In three years at Denver, he managed such future Yankees as Tony Kubek, Bobby Richardson, Don Larsen and Johnny Blanchard.

After the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pittsburgh Pirates, Stengel was forced out, at age 70, in favor of Houk, and General Manager George Weiss was replaced by his aide, Roy Hamey.

Houk made his debut as manager in an epic season: Roger Maris hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s record. The Yankees defeated the Reds in a five-game World Series, then captured the Series again in 1962, beating the San Francisco Giants in seven games. They repeated as pennant winners in 1963, but were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Series.

Houk and Hughie Jennings, who managed the Tigers to American League pennants from 1907 to 1909, are the only managers to finish in first place in each of their first three seasons.

After the 1963 season, Hamey retired because of health problems, Houk was elevated to general manager and Berra was named manager. The Yankees won the pennant again in 1964, but lost to the St. Louis Cardinals in seven games in the World Series.

Berra, never having enjoyed the players’ respect the way Houk had, was fired after the 1964 season and replaced by Johnny Keane, who had managed the Cardinals to the Series championship and then quit.

The Yankees’ stars were getting old, and the team finished sixth in 1965. When the Yankees got off to a 4-16 start in 1966, Houk fired Keane and returned to the dugout. The Yankees fell to 10th and last place, and during the season CBS took over complete ownership.

In January 1973, a syndicate headed by Steinbrenner bought the team. Under CBS, Houk had a free hand on the field while Lee MacPhail handled the front-office duties.

Houk quit on the final day of the 1973 season as the Yanks finished fourth in the Eastern Division. He said that he had not accomplished what he hoped for, and “I blame no one but myself.”

Houk managed for five years in Detroit, never finishing higher than fourth place, then retired to his Florida home. But he returned to baseball in 1981 as manager of the Boston Red Sox and had modest success over four seasons. He had a career record of 1,619-1,531, and upon retiring as a manager for a second and final time, stood 10th on the career list in games managed. He became a vice president of the Minnesota Twins in November 1986 and helped build their World Series champions of the following season.

In addition to his daughter, of Westerville, Ohio, Houk is survived by his son, Robert, of Bainbridge Island, Wash.; 4 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. His wife, Bette, died in 2006.

When Houk was named manager of the Yankees, he affected no false bravado. As Clete Boyer remembered: “At his first meeting, Ralph said we knew how to play the game better than he did. So if we wanted to bunt, bunt. If we wanted to hit and run, then hit and run.”

But his players never forgot that Houk was in command. As Kubek put it in his remembrance of the 1961 season: “None of us questioned Ralph. He was the Major.”

Former New York Yankees catcher, World Series-winning manager Ralph Houk dies at age of 90

By Bill Madden
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 21st 2010, 7:55 PM


Ralph Houk (l.), who wins the 1961 and '62 World Series as manager of the New York Yankees, stands with Yogi Berra, who tips his cap after being named Houk's successor in 1963.

They say deaths come in threes, and the Yankees, who already have the flags at half staff at Yankee Stadium for George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard, suffered yet a third loss in the family Wednesday. Ralph Houk, the combative former World War II hero who managed them to back-to-back world championships in 1961-62 and later became the first skipper to part ways with The Boss, died Wednesday in Winter Haven, Fla. He was 90. His grandson, Scott Slaboden, said he "died peacefully of natural causes after having a brief illness."

Although his Yankee legacy has become almost erased over time, especially since so much of it was spent during the CBS "fall from glory" years, 1964-73, Houk was an integral part of the organization for 12 years and remains the only man to win world championships in his first two seasons as a manager. Nicknamed "The Major" for the rank he achieved in World War II, he earned a Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Silver Star in leading his Ranger battalion in the Battle of the Bulge. Houk joined the Yankees in 1947 as a backup catcher but played only 91 games through 1954, hitting .272 with no homers and 20 RBI.

Yankee farm director Lee MacPhail, however, saw leadership qualities in Houk and asked him to manage the Bombers' Triple-Ateam in Denver for 1955. Among the players on that team were shortstop Tony Kubek and second baseman Bobby Richardson, who would become key players on his '61-'62 Yankee championship clubs.

"He had the Yankees' spirit, the Yankees' winning attitude," Kubek told The AP. "He had all the qualities that make a special manager."

In 1957, the Yankees brought Houk back to the majors as a coach under Casey Stengel. When Dan Topping and Del Webb decided to fire Stengel after the Yankees lost the 1960 World Series to the Pirates, they named Houk to replace him. Houk's 1961 Yankees became one of the greatest teams of all time, winning 109games. Led by Roger Maris' 61 homers that broke Babe Ruth's record, the Yankees went on to defeat the Reds in five games in the World Series.

The following year, the Yankees won a second straight pennant and defeated the San Francisco Giants in seven games in the World Series despite a controversial decision by Houk.

With the Yankees clinging to a 1-0 lead in Game 7, Houk elected to let his righthanded starter Ralph Terry pitch to the dangerous lefthanded-hitting slugger Willie McCovey with Willie Mays on second after a two-out double and the righthanded-hitting Orlando Cepeda on deck. McCovey, who in his previous at-bat against Terry had tripled, hit a vicious liner to Richardson at second to end the Series.

The following year, Houk's Yankees won a third straight pennant but were swept by the Dodgers of Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Johnny Podres in the World Series. After the Series, Topping came to Houk and asked him to move up to the front office as general manager. Houk reluctantly agreed and named Yogi Berra as his replacement. After one year, in which Berra managed the team to another pennant, the Yankees replaced him with Johnny Keane, the Cardinals manager who had just defeated him in the World Series.

"I was the GM when they let (Hall of Fame) broadcasters Mel Allen and Red Barber go, too," Houk said in a 2002 interview. "I had nothing to do with that. What did I know about broadcasting? It was a real mess. I had to be the one to tell Yogi. Worst thing I ever had to do. He'd been my teammate and friend. We didn't talk for a long time after that."

It turned out that the Yankees were beginning to decay in 1964, and in April of 1966 with the team 4-16, Houk was forced to fire Keane and went back on the field to manage again. His second tour of duty was not nearly as successful as his first - the Yanks' best finish was second place in 1970 - and after one year of managing for Steinbrenner, Houk resigned and moved over to the Tigers, with whom he had been secretly negotiating during the '73 season.

Houk, who was just as famous for getting physical with sports writers - Maury Allen of the Post, Jay Dunn of the Trentonian and the Baltimore Sun's Phil Hersh among them - was not used to a meddlesome owner like Steinbrenner. At the end of the season, he told Steinbrenner he was resigning, to which The Boss replied: "You're making a mistake, Ralph, I'm going to go out and get good players here and we're gonna be right back on top."

Last week, speaking to the Daily News in what was likely his last interview, Houk said of Steinbrenner, "He certainly treated me great, and as far as I'm concerned, he's a great guy. George was all out for the ballclub and I can't say anything but good things about him."

Houk went on to manage the Tigers from 1974-78, the Red Sox from 1981-84 and was never fired. But he also never won another pennant, his best finish being second place with the Red Sox in 1981. His final record as a manager was 1,619-1,531, with the victories representing the 15th-most in history.


By Ann Coulter
July 21, 2010

The Democrats are depressed about their collapsing poll numbers, so it's time to start calling conservatives "racist."

As we now know from the Journolist list-serv, where hundreds of liberal journalists chat with one another, and which was leaked to Daily Caller this week, journalists cry "racism" whenever they need to distract from bad news for Obama. (Ironically, this story did not make headlines.)

When the Rev. Jeremiah Wright scandal broke during the 2008 campaign, the first response of Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent was to demand that they start randomly picking conservatives -- "Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares -- and call them racists."

Ackerman, frequent guest on MSNBC's "Rachel Maddow Show," continued on Journolist:

"What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically."

This is what "racism" has come to in America. Democrats are in trouble, so they say "let's call conservatives racists." We always knew it, but the Journolist postings gave us the smoking gun.

This explains why we've heard so much about Tea Partiers being "racists" lately.

But despite a frantic search, the media have been unable to produce any actual evidence of racism at the Tea Parties. Even the trace elements are either frauds or utterly trivial.

For example, there was blind terror last week over a Tea Party billboard in northern Iowa that showed a picture of Adolf Hitler, Obama and Vladimir Lenin under the headings: "National Socialism," "Democratic Socialism" and "Marxist Socialism."

Overheated? Perhaps. Racist? No. Unless liberals are about to break the news that Lenin and Hitler were black, what we have here, gentlemen, is not racism.

I'm not even sure why liberals are so testy: As an aficionado of liberal talk radio, I've heard both Ed Schultz and Randi Rhodes repeatedly say socialism is terrific. (Given their ratings, this is understandable.)

Most sickeningly, the mainstream media continue to spread the despicable lie that someone called civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis the "N-word" 15 times during the anti-ObamaCare rally in Washington. Fifteen times!

That turned out to be another lie. About a week after the protest, Andrew Breitbart offered a $100,000 reward for anyone who could produce a video of Lewis being called the N-word even once -- forget 15 times. (That's the most we can afford. Hey, who do we look like over here, George Soros?)

Plus, the winner might have his video appear on the new hit TV show, "America's Most Racist Home Videos."

With hundreds of news cameras, cell phone cameras and camcorders capturing every nook and cranny of the Capitol Hill protest -- and news media hungry for an ugly, racist act -- it defies possibility that someone called Lewis the N-word once, much less 15 times, without one single camera capturing the incident. And yet, to this day the reward remains unclaimed.

Democrats did their best to provoke an ugly confrontation by marching a (shockingly undiverse) group of black Democrats right through the middle of the anti-ObamaCare protest. But they didn't get one, so the media just lied and asserted Lewis was called the N-word. (If they wanted to hear the N-word so badly, they should have sent the congressional delegation to a Jay-Z concert.)

Indeed, news anchor after news anchor has indignantly claimed to have footage of the incident, teasing viewers by saying, "We'll get that right up" or claiming personally to have seen the video -– and then you watch the whole program without ever seeing footage of anyone calling Lewis the N-word.

Dateline: April 18, 2010, CNN's Don Lemon: "We have the tape here at CNN. I saw it on CNN's 'State of the Union.'" And yet, Lemon never got around to showing viewers that tape. IF YOU HAVE THE TAPE, DON, CLAIM YOUR $100,00 REWARD!

And now this week, with the NAACP accusing the Tea Partiers of harboring racists, and conservatives demanding proof, the George Soros-backed Center for American Progress ran a 45-second video allegedly showing racism at the Tea Parties.

One of the videos shows an obvious liberal plant announcing, "I'm a proud racist!" Apparently this was their best shot, because they had to work this video into the montage twice, amid utterly innocuous posters, for example, saying, "God bless Glenn Beck." So I guess they didn't have anything better.

Here's the part Soros' people didn't show you: In the fuller video shown on the Glenn Beck show, the Tea Partiers surrounded the (liberal plant) racist, jeering at him, telling him he's not one of them and to go home. In a spectacularly evil fraud, all that was edited out.

Just hours later on MSNBC, Chris Matthews was loudly proclaiming that he would believe the Tea Partiers weren't racist when he sees "just one of those Tea Party people pull down one of those racist signs at the next Tea Party rally. I'm going to just wait. Reach over, grab the sign and tear it out of the guy's hands. Then I will believe you."

Well, here it was. The (liberal plant) racist was driven from the Tea Party by the Tea Partiers. But you won't see that. Like USDA official Shirley Sherrod's apparently racist comments excerpted this week from what was, in fact, a commendable speech about racial reconciliation, the alleged Tea Party racism was, literally, "taken out of context."


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Obama's Latest Monstrosity

By John Berlau on 7.21.10 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

The 2,315 page Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill [1] that President Obama will sign today should not be called "financial reform." Instead the bill, which passed the Senate 60-39 last week when Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown joined Maine Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to grant cloture, should be called what for what it is: pages and pages of massively costly, counterproductive and possibly unconstitutional mandates on nearly every type of business except for those government-sponsored enterprises at the root of the crisis. And while the bill claims to crack down on excesses on Wall Street, its harshest impact will likely be on Main Street businesses that had nothing to do with the meltdown.

A front-page Wall Street Journal article [2] this week noted that "far from Wall Street, President Barack Obama's financial regulatory overhaul... will leave tracks across the wide-open landscape of American industry." The Journal notes that "the bill will touch storefront check cashiers, city governments, [and] small manufacturers."

But one thing it will leave totally untouched is the government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which new research by Congress's Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and other bodies shows was even more of a prime factor in the subprime boom than originally assumed. The Federal Housing Finance Agency now reports that Fannie and Freddie purchased 40 percent of all private-label subprime securities in 2003 and 2004. Indeed, according to Edward Pinto [3], housing scholar and Fannie's former chief credit officer, millions of mortgages to borrowers with credit scores of less than 660, considered by prominent researchers to be the dividing line for subprime loans, had been labeled by Fannie and Freddie as prime going back as early as 1993.

Rather than wait for Congress's own Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission to issue its report in December to examine the role of the GSEs and other causes, Congress passed a bill that will not prevent future bubbles and imposes untold costs that will put the country in danger of slipping back into a recession.

New collateral requirements on derivatives could cost U.S. companies as much as $1 trillion in lost capital and liquidity, according to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association.[4] And as the WSJ piece notes, these costs would hit not just big banks, but farmers who use derivatives to hedge the price of their crops and fuel for their tractor. The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau could also hit retailers that issue credit tangentially related to their business, such as small stores that offer layaway plans.

On the other side of the retail ledger, some of the biggest retailers also got an unjustified mandated benefit with the Durbin amendment that puts price controls on the interchange fees they pay to process credit cards. This corporate welfare for fat cat merchants will mean higher costs to consumers, community banks, and credit unions.

In addition, the bill contains provisions that will empower special interests at the expense of ordinary shareholders and that may exceed the limits of the U.S. Constitution. The bill's "orderly liquidation" authority will allow the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department not only to bail out firms whose failure is deemed to be a threat to "financial stability," but to actually seize firms that are not even asking for a bailout.[5]

The "proxy access" provisions [6] would override longstanding state rules in corporate director elections and force companies and their shareholders to subsidize director elections of special-interest shareholders -- such as unions, environmentalists and others. This would give progressive groups leverage to cut deals with management to push through agenda items, such as the "card check" abolition of secret ballots in labor elections and carbon cap-and-tax reductions, that they can't get through the halls of Congress.

The silver lining is that the more people found out about the potential unintended consequences of this bill, the less popular it became. The bill cleared cloture with the bare minimum 60 votes that it needed. In the House, almost all Republicans, as well as 19 Democrats, voted no on the final bill.

Brown's vote was certainly disappointing to those who supported him and expected him, if not to be conservative on every issue, at least to be one who doesn't go along with phony big-government reform. But other ostensible conservatives in safe seats who would eventually vote against the bill also share much of the blame for smoothing passage. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and retiring Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) became the media's favorite Republicans in the spring by constantly making comments to the effect that they agreed with "90 percent" of the bill, and it would take just "5 minutes" for the parties to resolve their differences.

Their soft-pedaling of the disagreements, rather than sounding the alarm about the bill's flaws, made the parties' differences seem trivial and gave red-state Democrats, as well as Brown and the "Maine sisters," cover to offer their support. In the end, both Corker and Gregg would become more vocal in their criticisms -- Gregg gave a particularly impassioned floor speech last week calling the derivatives rules "simply a punitive exercise" that will "make it harder for Americans to be competitive" -- but the damage of their playing to the cameras had already been done.

Republicans also should have insisted on Fannie and Freddie reform from the beginning as a precondition to negotiation on any bill. The bill's lack of action on the GSEs became a valuable talking point in the end in communicating to the public that this bill was anything but "reform." Given Dodd and Frank's allegiance to the GSEs, insistence on action from the beginning may have stopped the bill in its tracks.

As a result of the growing skepticism of the bill, a few of the most horrific provisions publicized by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and other free-market groups -- such as those that would have hurt angel investors and ensnared manufacturers in the definition of "financial companies" -- were dropped. And one genuinely pro-growth reform was adopted.

That measure, which was added over Chairman Dodd and Chairman Frank's objections, helps fix costly and counterproductive provisions of the last "financial reform": the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002. This provision will permanently exempt smaller public companies -- those with market valuations of $75 million or less -- from the law's section 404(b), the mandate of an audit of a company's "internal controls." This requirement and the rest of Sarbox did nothing to stop the accounting schemes at companies like Lehman Brothers and Countrywide, but instead frustrated honest entrepreneurs with audits of trivial items like possession of office keys and number of letters in employee passwords, and cost the U.S. economy $35 billion a year. (I wrote about Sarbanes-Oxley's burdens and lack of investor benefits in my paper, "SOXing it to the Little Guy.")[7]

Thanks to this relief, many smaller companies should once again be able to afford the cost of going public and get the financing they need to grow into the next Microsoft, Facebook or Google. That is, if they don't get strangled by the other mounds of red tape in this bill.

In this bill, much arbitrary power is delegated to an army of new regulators. In the end, it was heartening that many informed citizens and their lawmakers did their own due diligence on this bill, and weren't stampeded into supporting a measure labeled as "getting Wall Street." They will need to continue this scrutiny in examining the mounds of regulations to be implemented under the bill's authority.

John Berlau is director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute. CEI Research Associate Andrew Kwiatkowski contributed to this article.









Journolist Equals Liberal Fascism

Media Matters

By John R. Guardiano on 7.21.10 @ 6:07AM
The American Spectator

"The only morality [that] they recognize is what will further their cause -- meaning they reserve unto themselves the right to commit any crime, to lie [and] to cheat…"

-- Ronald Reagan, speaking candidly about the Soviet Union during his first press conference as president, Jan. 29, 1981

"Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama's relationship with Wright by changing the subject [and lying]. Pick one of Obama's conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, 'Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.'"

-- The Daily Caller's Jonathan Strong in a stunning investigative exposé of the hidden machinations behind "Journolist," a secret listserve of several hundred liberal journalists, activists and academics, July 20, 2010 [1]

We always knew that most liberal journalists were biased. Now we know that many of them are dishonest -- and that, like their leftist forbearers in the Soviet Union, they reserve unto themselves the right to lie and to cheat to further their political ends.

We know this because of the Daily Caller's astonishing report yesterday that a cabal of liberal journalists, activists, and academics acted in concert, and with malice aforethought, to kill and bury stories that were unfavorable to their political masters: Barack Obama and Rev. Jeremiah Wright (pictured at right).

Indeed, these "journalists" were so blindly and zealously committed to the left-wing political agenda that they advocated smearing their political opponents with wholly unfounded charges of "racism" and "bigotry."

Thus Ackerman's call for his fellow lefty "journalists" to "pick one," any one conservative. After all, "who cares" who it is? Who cares about their innocence? Just pick a prominent conservative and call him a racist. Smear him! Show no mercy! Destroy his reputation and kill his public image! Now!

I must confess that as worldly wise as I like to think that I am, I have been stunned, shocked and appalled by the raw partisanship and animalistic lust for power displayed by this pack of left-wing journalists.

Of course I always new most Washington journalists were leftists. But what I didn't realize were the depths of intellectual dishonesty and dishonor to which many Washington journalists would descend in order to protect leftist pols and smear conservatives.

"Have you no sense of decency?" Mr. Ackerman. "Have you no sense of shame?"

Apparently not. But Ackerman is not alone. As the Daily Caller reports, several hundred journalists, activists and academics secretly conspired on Journolist. What did they know and when did they know it -- and with whom did they conspire and why?

Did anyone pay them for favorable news coverage? Were they promised jobs and privileges for toeing the party line? And whom else were they commanded to punish in the public prints? What other lies did they purposely, and with malice aforethought, disseminate throughout the media?

In short, there are a lot of unanswered questions that still surround the lingering Journolist scandal. Which is why I have urged Journolist co-conspirators Ezra Klein, David Weigel, Jonathan Chait, Michael Tomasky, Matthew Yglesias, and Spencer Ackerman to come clean and to release the Journolist archives in toto.

The public has a right to know what reportorial actions these "journalists" were coordinating, with whom and why.

Sure, there may be no legal right to know, but there is a moral and professional right to know. We're not talking about private love letters, after all. We're talking about coordinated journalistic actions designed to shape and influence what is reported in the public prints.

Moreover, these journalists are very influential; they write for the "big media." Klein, for instance, reports for the Washington Post, Chait for the New Republic; Weigel for MSNBC; Tomasky -- The Guardian; Yglesias -- Think Progress; and Ackermann -- Danger Room. These are the same media outlets that are often in high-dudgeon about the public's "right to know."

Well, turnaround is fair play -- and entirely justified right now. The Left's journalistic empire has destroyed too many innocent people for too long. It's time, then, that these "journalists" be held to account for their misdeeds.

Public exposure, public pressure, and moral suasion ultimately destroyed the "evil empire," and it will destroy the Left's journalistic empire as well. Which is why Journolist insists on covering up its journalistic crimes. But moral suasion can be a powerful and righteous force; and it just might force Klein, Chait, Weigel, Tomasky, Yglesias, and Ackerman to do the right thing -- even though, sadly, they'd quite clearly prefer not to.



Dumbing down Intel

New York Post
July 21, 2010

The fundamental problem with our national intelligence system is that it assumes that quantity can substitute for quality. The result is a vast, expensive network that's far less than the sum of its parts.

It's as if the Yankees, stung by a string of losing seasons, avoided seeking out talented ballplayers in favor of hiring a thousand Little Leaguers (at major-league salaries).

Angelina Jolie as a spy: The real intelligence picture isn't nearly as pretty.(AP)

This week, The Washington Post has done something of a service with a series of articles, "Top Secret America," chronicling the lack of accountability in our intelligence community.[1] The analysis is a bit superficial, but diligent reporting drives home the point that we're just not getting our money's worth.

That's been the case at least since The 1960s. But waste took a quantum leap after 9/11.

I spent two ultimately disheartening decades at various levels of our intelligence system, from dirty boots to Beltway snoots. Expenditures are far more lavish today, but the "four pillars of failure" remain in place:

Quantity substitutes for quality: Nothing cripples the intel world so profoundly as our refusal to identify, recruit, develop and retain gifted intelligence officers. Got a degree and no felonies? You're in. We still don't test for the quirks of mind that make a first-rate player. Yet one great analyst is worth a legion of plodders.

Most folks serving in the intelligence world aren't bad people. They'd like to do good work. But they lack the special gifts -- or the passion (The best intel work is done by obsessive types). In the end, it's just a job.

So we try to work around personnel deficiencies by buying lots of stuff. Some of it works, some doesn't. But no cutting-edge device provides understanding. Only talented humans do.

The cult of classification: If you read The Economist front to back every week, you have a more sophisticated worldview than the average intelligence officer (who tends to be a quarter-mile deep and a half-inch wide). But high-level classification markings lend insider cachet to trivial information -- and outright blather.

Serving in the Pentagon, I was tapped for access to a classification level I can't even name here. Another officer escorted me through a labyrinth of hallways to a dead-end corridor with an unmarked door. Inside the vault, The lone librarian looked like a cave-dweller guarding secrets in The Lord of The Rings.

Handed a packet of documents specially culled for me, I sat down and read with naive expectations -- signing each cover sheet to attest that I'd read The Big Secret. The material was stunning, but not in the way it should've been: This ultra-secret network of programs was producing worthless junk.

I went back to that vault just once, in case my first experience had been an anomaly. It wasn't. We were spending vast amounts of money to learn that Dictator X didn't change his underwear every day (actually, the data weren't even that useful).

Over-classification covers up more waste than anything else I've encountered.

Timidity: Bureaucracies aren't brave. The Army staff, where I worked, was bolder than the cover-your-butt DIA and CIA -- but authentic outside-the-box thinking just worried folks. The goal of The intelligence community wasn't revelatory insight, but consensus -- so no one organization could be singled out for blame when things went south.

Intelligence work without moral courage is just a welfare program for university grads.

Lack of foreign experience: This deficiency keeps getting worse, despite our ongoing wars. The analyst-to-agent ratio is crazily top-heavy -- for every serious observer on the ground reporting back to Washington, you have hundreds of analysts at dozens of agencies and headquarters parsing the same reports. And the underwear bomber still gets through.

There's no substitute for getting the local stench up your nose, for dealing with enemies, allies and the indifferent where they live, for wielding language skills and taking risks.

Despite some programs that attempt, half-heartedly, to expose analysts to the situation down-range, most intel personnel deal in an expensive version of book-learnin'.

The situation's deteriorated over the past decade (as noted by The Washington Post series) because we allow contractors to hire away intelligence personnel -- after the government's trained them and done the expensive investigations to grant them high-level security clearances. It's an enormous, costly scam that pukes on patriotism.

All of this adds up to a system that produces a counter-terrorism czar unwilling to call Islamist terrorists what they are. Perhaps "timidity" is too weak a word.

Our intelligence system isn't worthless. It's just dispiritingly mediocre. Our country, our troops and our taxpayers deserve better.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."



The Boundless Beneficence of Big Brother

Comparing government to a wealthy brother or sister is simply a category error.

By Jonah Goldberg
July 21, 2010 12:00 A.M.

‘Should we let Americans fall off a cliff or should we help them? There shouldn’t be a debate as to where the money comes from. I mean, if your brother or your sister needed something, you wouldn’t say, ‘When are you going to pay me back?’”

That’s Jim Chukalas, a car-parts manager who has been unemployed for nearly two years. He’s received unemployment benefits for 79 weeks and desperately wants those benefits extended again. He feels so strongly about it, he agreed to be one of the White House’s human props on Monday.

“It’s time to stop holding workers laid off in this recession hostage to Washington politics,” President Obama proclaimed with Chukalas at his side. “It’s time to do what is right, not for the next election but for the middle class.”

While it’s hardly new for Obama to claim that anyone who holds a position different from his own is merely playing partisan politics — that’s his default response to all disagreements — it’s at least amusing to hear him suggest that budget balancing is now a sign of pandering to popular sentiments.

Obama already signed an extension of unemployment benefits in November, when the economy was worse. He later bragged that it was “fiscally responsible” and consistent with the “pay-as-you-go” legislation he championed and signed, which says, in Obama’s words, “Congress can only spend a dollar if it saves a dollar elsewhere.”

Officially, the Republicans do not oppose extending unemployment benefits yet again. Rather, they merely want to observe the rules Obama championed last fall. In other words, Democrats should pay for the spending by finding cuts elsewhere in the budget. What is “fiscally responsible” when Obama is for it, is rank partisanship when he’s against it.

But enough with the point scoring. I want to get back to Mr. Chukalas, a father of two and a diligent, decent man for all I know. Again, he says, “If your brother or your sister needed something, you wouldn’t say, ‘When are you going to pay me back?’”

I don’t know about the Chukalas clan, but in my family and my wife’s family, and in most families I know, asking, “When are you going to pay me back?” isn’t so unimaginable. Sure, in a crisis, kin come to the rescue if they can. But they also usually expect to be repaid once everyone is back on their feet. Does Chukalas have any intention of paying taxpayers back once he gets a job?

“Extending benefits” means paying the unemployed more than they paid into the unemployment system. (The money Chukalas paid into that system — his money — ran out long, long ago.) In other words, this is direct assistance from the federal government, which actually means direct assistance from taxpayers, which means Chukalas is really asking for money from complete strangers. Moreover, he thinks all of the moral equities line up on his side of the argument, and that there shouldn’t even be a discussion about where the money comes from or any talk of paying it back.

Chukalas is a moral philosopher compared with many of the C-SPAN callers these days who simply demand “their money.” By what math are government benefits their money, I wonder, given that 60 percent of Americans get more from government than they pay in taxes.

Now I know this all sounds terribly harsh, and, truth be told, I do not think the government should consider benefit extensions to be loans. Nor do I think it’s a slam-dunk argument that such aid should be cut off. This is not a normal downturn.

But I do think this illustrates how fuzzy our thinking is about the role of government. Comparing government to a wealthy brother or sister is simply a category error. Can you get a gift or loan from your relatives by shouting, “Give me my money!”?

It turns out, perhaps not coincidentally, that President Obama shares Chukalas’s outlook.

On countless occasions he has said that his central vision of government is to fulfill the Biblical mandate to be “my brother’s keeper, my sister’s keeper.” Health-care reform, for instance, was an effort to meet this “core moral and ethical obligation.”

Leave aside that the Bible does not tell anyone to be their brother’s keeper (the phrase appears once, when Cain sarcastically tries to dodge a murder rap from God). It is just plain weird that anyone thinks we should all view government as our Big Brother.

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

Dealergate: Destroying Jobs in the Name of “Shared Sacrifice”

Dealergate exposes the nightmare of government-controlled businesses.

By Michelle Malkin
July 21, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Everything you need to know about the nightmare of government-controlled businesses can be found in a damning new inspector general’s report on Dealergate. The independent review of how and why the Obama administration forced Chrysler and General Motors to oversee mass closures of car dealerships across the country reveals grisly incompetence, fatal bureaucratic hubris, and Big Labor cronyism. No wonder you won’t hear much about the report’s in-depth details in the so-called mainstream media.

Under the guise of “saving” the American auto industry through a bipartisan, taxpayer-funded bailout now topping $80 billion, President Obama’s know-nothing bureaucrats pushed the car companies to eliminate thousands of jobs — with unjustified haste using dubious economic models.

Obama ordered the bailout recipients to “prove” their long-term viability by submitting restructuring plans. But White House and Treasury Department “experts” rejected the auto manufacturers’ proposals, citing the too-slow pace of their plans to reduce their dealership networks over a period of five years. Once the auto companies modified those plans to meet government-backed timelines, the money flowed.

But Neil Barofsky, the federal watchdog overseeing the bank-auto-insurance-all-purpose bailout fund, found that the White House auto-industry task force and the Treasury Department “Auto Team” had no basis for ordering the expedited car-dealership closure schedules. They relied on a single consulting firm’s internal report recommending that the U.S. companies adopt foreign auto-industry models to increase profits — a recommendation hotly disputed by auto experts, who questioned whether foreign practices could be applied to domestic dealership networks.

Team Obama’s government auto mechanics also ignored the economic impact of rushing those closures. According to Barofsky, they discounted counter-testimony from industry officials that “closing dealerships in an environment already disrupted by the recession could result in an even greater crisis in sales.”

The inspector general also noted that “it is clear that tens of thousands of dealership jobs were immediately put in jeopardy as a result of the terminations by GM and Chrysler.” After extensive investigation, the watchdog concluded that “the acceleration of dealership closings was not done with any explicit cost savings to the manufacturers in mind.” Only after Capitol Hill critics — both Republicans and Democrats — started questioning the Dealergate decisions did Obama’s auto “experts” come up with market studies and estimated job-loss data to assess the impact of their reckless, arbitrary orders.

In sum, the inspector general found:

At a time when the country was experiencing the worst economic downturn in generations and the government was asking its taxpayers to support a $787 billion stimulus package designed primarily to preserve jobs, Treasury made a series of decisions that may have substantially contributed to the accelerated shuttering of thousands of small businesses and thereby potentially adding tens of thousands of workers to the already lengthy unemployment rolls — all based on a theory and without sufficient consideration of the decisions' broader economic impact.

This is no surprise, of course, considering the amount of actual business expertise among Obama’s auto czars and key staff. That is: zero. Obama’s first auto czar, Steve Rattner, ran a private-equity firm in New York before resigning his position amid a financial ethics cloud.

Rattner’s chief auto-expert adviser, Brian Deese, is a 30-something former Hillary Clinton/Barack Obama campaign aide and law-school graduate with no business experience, who openly boasted that he “never set foot in an automotive assembly plant.”

And Rattner’s auto-czar successor, Ron Bloom, is a far-left union lawyer who cut his teeth under Big Labor boss John Sweeney, has ideological ties to the corporate-hating Labor Zionist movement, and opined that “the blather about free trade, free-markets and the joys of competition is nothing but pabulum for the suckers.”

In search of the rationale for Team Obama’s bizarre, job-killing exercise of power over thousands of small car dealerships, the TARP inspector general may have stumbled onto the truth from Bloom. On page 33 of its report, Barofsky writes:

No one from Treasury, the manufacturers or from anywhere else indicated that implementing a smaller or more gradual dealership termination plan would have resulted in the cataclysmic scenario spelled out in Treasury's response; indeed, when asked explicitly whether the Auto Team could have left the dealerships out of the restructurings, Mr. Bloom, the current head of the Auto Team, confirmed that the Auto Team "could have left any one component (of the restructuring plan) alone," but that doing so would have been inconsistent with the President's mandate for "shared sacrifice."

“Social justice” chickens coming home to roost.

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Wilders’ Message to Muslims

Posted by on Jul 20th, 2010

(Editor’s note: the new site asked Geert Wilders why he became anti-Islam and what his message would be to Muslims. Below is his response.)

I first visited an Islamic country in 1982.

I was 18 years old and had traveled with a Dutch friend from Eilat in Israel to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

We were two almost penniless backpacking students.

We slept on the beaches and found hospitality with Egyptians, who spontaneously invited us to tea.

I clearly recall my very first impression of Egypt: I was overwhelmed by the kindness, friendliness and helpfulness of its people.

I also remember my second strong impression of Egypt: It struck me how frightened these friendly and kind people were.

While we were in Sharm el-Sheikh, President Mubarak happened to visit the place.

I remember the fear which suddenly engulfed the town when it was announced that Mubarak was coming on an unexpected visit; I can still see the cavalcade of black cars on the day of his visit and feel the almost physical awareness of fear, like a cold chill on that very hot day in Summer.

It was a weird experience; Mubarak is not considered the worst of the Islamic tyrants and yet, the fear of the ordinary Egyptians for their leader could be felt even by me. I wonder how Saudis feel when their King is in town, how Libyans feel when Gaddafi announces his coming, how Iraqis must have felt when Saddam Hussein was near. A few years later, I read in the Koran how the 7th century Arabs felt in the presence of Muhammad, who, as several verses describe, “cast terror into their hearts” (suras 8:12, 8:60, 33:26, 59:12).

From Sharm el-Sheikh, my friend and I went to Cairo. It was poor and incredibly dirty. My friend and I were amazed that such a poor and filthy place could be a neighbor of Israel, which was so clean. The explanation of the Arabs, with whom we discussed their poverty, was that they were not in any way to blame for this affliction: They said they were the victims of a global conspiracy of “imperialists” and “Zionists”, aimed at keeping Muslims poor and subservient. I found that explanation unconvincing. My instinct told me it had something to do with the different cultures of Israel and Egypt.

I made a mistake in Cairo. We had almost no money and I was thirsty. One could buy a glass of water at public water collectors. It did not look clean, but I drank it. I got a terrible diarrhea. I went to a hostel where one could rent a spot on the floor for two dollars a day. There I lay for several days, a heap of misery in a crowded, stinking room, with ten other guys. Once Egypt had been the most advanced civilization on earth. Why had it not progressed along with the rest of the world?

In the late 1890s, Winston Churchill was a soldier and a war correspondent in British India (contemporary Pakistan) and the Sudan. Churchill was a perceptive young man, whose months in Pakistan and the Sudan allowed him to grasp with amazing clarity what the problem is with Islam and “the curses it lays on its votaries.”

“Besides the fanatical frenzy, …, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy,” he wrote. “The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist where the followers of the Prophet rule or live. … The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to a sole man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. … Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities – but the influence of the religion paralyzes the social development of those who follow it.” And Churchill concluded: “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world.”

There are people who say that I hate Muslims. I do not hate Muslims. It saddens me how Islam has robbed them of their dignity.What Islam does to Muslims is visible in the way they treat their daughters. On March 11, 2002, fifteen Saudi schoolgirls died as they attempted to flee from their school in the holy city of Mecca. A fire had set the building ablaze. The girls ran to the school gates but these were locked. The keys were in the possession of a male guard, who refused to open the gates because the girls were not wearing the correct Islamic dress imposed on women by Saudi law: face veils and overgarments.

The “indecently” dressed girls frantically tried to save their young lives. The Saudi police beat them back into the burning building. Officers of the Mutaween, the “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice,” as the Police are known in Saudi Arabia, also beat passers-by and firemen who tried to help the girls. “It is sinful to approach them,” the policemen warned bystanders. It is not only sinful, it is also a criminal offence.

Girls are not valued highly in Islam; the Koran says that the birth of a daughter makes a father’s “face darken and he is filled with gloom” (sura 43:15). Nevertheless, the incident at the Mecca school drew angry reactions. Islam is inhumane; but Muslims are humans, hence capable of Love – that powerful force which Muhammad despised. Humanity prevailed in the Meccan fathers who were incensed over the deaths of their daughters; it also prevailed in the firemen who confronted the Mutaween when the latter were beating the girls back inside, and in the journalists of the Saudi paper which, for the first time in Saudi history, criticized the much feared and powerful “Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.”

However, Muslim protests against Islamic inhumanity are rare. Most Muslims, even in Western countries, visit mosques and listen to shocking Koranic verses and to repulsive sermons without revolting against them.

I am an agnosticus myself. But Christians and Jews hold that God created man in His image. They believe that by observing themselves, as free and rational beings capable of love, they can come to know Him. They can even reason with Him, as the Jews have done throughout their history. The Koran, on the contrary, states that “Nothing can be compared with Allah” (sura 16:74, 42:11). He has absolutely nothing in common with us. It is preposterous to suppose that Allah created man in his image. The biblical concept that God is our father is not found in Islam. There is no personal relationship between man and Allah, either. The purpose of Islam is the total submission of oneself and others to the unknowable Allah, whom we must serve through total obedience to Muhammad as leader of the Islamic state (suras 3:31, 4:80, 24:62, 48:10, 57:28). And history has taught us that Muhammad was not at all a prophet of love and compassion, but a mass murderer, a tyrant and a pedophile. Muslims could not have a more deplorable role model.

Without individual freedom, it is not surprising that the notion of man as a responsible agent is not much developed in Islam. Muslims tend to be very fatalistic. Perhaps – let us certainly hope so – only a few radicals take the Koranic admonition to wage jihad on the unbelievers seriously. Nevertheless, most Muslims never raise their voice against the radicals. This is the “fearful fatalistic apathy” Churchill referred to.

The author Aldous Huxley, who lived in North Africa in the 1920s, made the following observation: “About the immediate causes of things – precisely how they happen – they seem to feel not the slightest interest. Indeed, it is not even admitted that there are such things as immediate causes: God is directly responsible for everything. ‘Do you think it will rain?’ you ask pointing to menacing clouds overhead. ‘If God wills,’ is the answer. You pass the native hospital. ‘Are the doctors good?’ ‘In our country,’ the Arab gravely replies, in the tone of Solomon, ‘we say that doctors are of no avail. If Allah wills that a man die, he will die. If not, he will recover.’ All of which is profoundly true, so true, indeed, that is not worth saying. To the Arab, however, it seems the last word in human wisdom. … They have relapsed – all except those who are educated according to Western methods – into pre-scientific fatalism, with its attendant incuriosity and apathy.”

Islam deprives Muslims of their freedom. That is a shame, because free people are capable of great things, as history has shown. The Arab, Turkish, Iranian, Indian, Indonesian peoples have tremendous potential. It they were not captives of Islam, if they could liberate themselves from the yoke of Islam, if they would cease to take Muhammad as a role model and if they got rid of the evil Koran, they would be able to achieve great things which would benefit not only them but the entire world.

As a Dutch, a European and a Western politician, my responsibility is primarily to the Dutch people, to the Europeans and the West. However, since the liberation of the Muslims from Islam, will benefit all of us, I wholeheartedly support Muslims who love freedom. My message to them is clear: “Fatalism is no option; ‘Inch’ Allah’ is a curse;

Submission is a disgrace.

Free yourselves. It is up to you.

Geert Wilders

Monday, July 19, 2010

Gabriel Allon is back, much to novelist Daniel Silva's surprise

By David Martindale
Special to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram
July 16, 2010

Daniel Silva (pictured at right) has a vivid imagination, but some scenarios even he can't wrap his mind around.

Like when he wrote The Kill Artist, the spy thriller that introduced Israeli assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon.

"I wrote him as a one-off character and had no idea that it would become a series," says Silva, whose 10th Gabriel Allon book goes on sale Tuesday. "No one is as surprised as I am to find that character at the top of the bestseller list these days."

Today, Gabriel is widely regarded as one of the most compelling characters in contemporary fiction. But Silva initially had doubts.

"Frankly, I thought that there was too much anti-Israelism in the world to have an Israeli character as the star of a book," he says. "I had to be talked into writing about him again. And it wasn't until about the fourth book that I realized this was someone I would be writing many, many books about."

The Rembrandt Affair (Putnam, $26.95) starts out as a rollicking art history chase involving a long-missing Rembrandt masterpiece, then explores the life-lasting trauma of being a Holocaust survivor and eventually takes on the contemporary threat of Iran trying to become a nuclear power.

We chatted last week with Silva, who will be at a Borders in Dallas on Thursday to talk to fans and sign copies.

When you weave real-world issues, such as Iran's efforts to become a nuclear power, into your book, is there a danger of breaking news making it obsolete almost as soon as it's published?

I don't think so. I look carefully at the landscape of an issue. I am quite confident nothing is going to happen between now and the next month that is going to significantly change the story in some way. But it is something to keep in mind when you're thinking about a book. Is the situation too fluid? Might I get overtaken by events? It has just not happened to me.

Would it necessarily hurt your book if it did?

I don't think so. I like to work from a foundation of fact. Something like what I wrote is going on today on a daily basis, in terms of Iran and a state-sponsored nuclear smuggling network, trying to acquire components for its nuclear enterprise, from suppliers around the world. This is a piece of fiction, a piece of entertainment, and it deals with that issue in a larger-than-life way. But it is not terribly far removed from the truth.

Gabriel and his team essentially hijack the villain's cellphone and laptop computer. They read everything on his computer, listen to every call he makes, track his every move because the phone has a GPS system in it. Does your research make you paranoid about this technology?

I carry a cellphone, but under duress. I find it's impossible to live in the modern world without it. I just think we all need to be aware what the wireless age truly means about our personal privacy. In skilled hands, as I show in the book, our phones and our laptop computers can be turned into full-time surveillance devices with incredible powers. I don't think we need to throw them out, but it's necessary to have at least some awareness that there really is no such thing as personal privacy anymore.

Spy novels have evolved since the end of the Cold War, but the genre is still going strong. Would spy novels would be as popular if we lived in a world of peace, love and understanding?

No. I think the genre works best when there are real issues to write about. If we lived in a world without conflict, without suffering, without men of violence willing to slaughter people in the name of an ideology, then I don't think the thriller, as I call it, rather than the spy novel, would work. But that is not the world that we live in, as much as we would like to live in that world. And as long as there are nation states and as long as there are conflicts in the world, there are going to be spies and intelligence officers. I don't think I'll ever run out of things to write about.

A real-life Gabriel probably would have no interest in letting you shadow him. So how do you do your research?

To the best of my knowledge, I have never met the real Gabriel. But I have met people and have very close friends who work in the intelligence business. I don't get to shadow them, but they allow me to pick their brains. If I stray into territory they don't want to address, they tell me right away. It's fascinating work, but I really wouldn't want to do what they do. To live that kind of double life, to compartmentalize one's life in such a way, to be able to move through the world as two or three or four different people, I think it's amazing.

Book Review: 'The Rembrandt Affair' by Daniel Silva

By ALAN CHEUSE / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hello, my name is Alan, and I am a thriller addict.

My habit doesn't drive me to read just everything and anything. The vision of espionage and the execution of the plot in powerful, persuasive prose, such as one finds in the work of John le Carré and Alan Furst, set for me the highest standard. And, fellow addicts, you'll be happy to hear that just about every page of the new Daniel Silva novel, The Rembrandt Affair, meets that standard.

It also meets the thriller's highest standard for reading experience: I read the entire novel on one long airplane ride and into the next day.

A few words about the plot and you'll know why.

In his skein of novels featuring Gabriel Allon, for whom Allon's bosses in Israel's Mossad have the greatest respect and admiration, Silva makes no secret of his own affection. He stands behind the Israelis and cheers them all the way. But this does not make for superficial narrative – quite the opposite. In Allon, Silva has created a credible secret agent with skills that would make James Bond weep.

First of all, Allon has a hobby – art restoration – that sets him apart from most spy heroes. When this novel opens, he has repaired to a hideaway in the distant English realms of Glastonbury along with his beautiful young wife, Chiara, a fellow agent. Allon makes a doughty figure, and he's got "juice" (which in his case means he is a genius at tradecraft, has astonishing intuition, and is also a master of the deadly combat yoga employed by the Mossad).

He has only recently rescued Chiara from the murderous hands of a megalomaniacal Russian oligarch – see Silva's The Defector – and returned to anonymity and the small pleasures of his hooded life.

The murder of an art restorer friend and the theft of the Rembrandt painting the man had been working on soon draws Allon back into investigative mode, and before too long, in a beautiful segue from art to espionage, the focus of the book shifts from art theft to international financial chicanery and crimes intended to cover up the ever-present Nazi madness of Europe's past.

As Allon reports to his old mentor, the retired head of Israeli intelligence, the story is a fascinating one: "the story of a hidden child from Amsterdam, a murderer who had traded lives for property, and a painting stained with the blood of all those who had ever attempted to find it."

And there is a larger narrative, as Allon explains to his team of assembled agents on the verge of executing a plan to take down the international financier whose fortune is soaked with blood. This is "a story of greed, dispossession, and death spanning more than half a century and stretching from Amsterdam to Zurich to Buenos Aires and back to the graceful shores of Lake Geneva. It featured a long-hidden portrait of Rembrandt, a twice-stolen fortune in looted Holocaust assets, and a man known to all the world as Saint Martin who was anything but ... "

The plot Silva makes out of all of these elements is terrifically engaging, and the characters themselves seem real beyond anything you read in the newspapers or see on the cable shows.

It's only a book, I kept telling myself; these are not real people. But I couldn't have been pulled into their story with any more intensity than if I had been reading about horrifying and murderous events in my own family, or yours.

NPR commentator Alan Cheuse is the author of four novels, three collections of short fiction, and the memoir Fall Out of Heaven.

The Rembrandt Affair
Daniel Silva
(Putnam Adult, $26.95)

PLAN YOUR LIFE: Daniel Silva will appear 7 p.m. Thursday at Borders, 10720 Preston Road at Royal Lane, Dallas.