Saturday, August 21, 2010

Which Islam Will Prevail in America?

That is the real question at hand in the Ground Zero mosque debate.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
August 21, 2010 4:00 A.M.

The real battle for religious freedom lurks beneath the Ground Zero mosque controversy. It is sadly ironic that our public debate presents the mosque proponents as the partisans of liberty: That includes everyone from imam Feisal Rauf, the project’s sharia-touting sponsor, to President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg, and the rest of the Islamist-smitten Left, to the GOP’s own anti-anti-terrorist wing. Yet, wittingly or not, when they champion this mosque and its sponsors, it is the agenda of an alien and authoritarian Islam that they champion — an Islam against which many American Muslims chafe.

When it comes to liberty, no one in this society has been given a wider berth than the Islamists, the purveyors of this authoritarian Islam, which is the mainstream Islam of the Middle East. Their vise grip on the American Muslim community has been cinched for two decades by the government, the media, and the academy. For our post-American ruling class, “Islamic outreach” means prostituting themselves for Saudi largesse; it means putting the “moderate” label on the Muslim Brotherhood — the Saudi-backed saboteurs whose American operatives boldly promise to “eliminate and destroy Western Civilization from within.”

The victims of this lethal charade include American Muslims. They, too, crave religious liberty and Western enlightenment. Our elites abandon them to the sharia-mongers. That freedom destroyers have been allowed to pose as freedom defenders ought to tell mosque opponents something: We have done a poor job of explaining the stakes.

In 1993, I headed up a prosecution team that was preparing to try the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven other jihadists for conducting a terrorist war against the United States. The case revealed this country’s Muslim divide.

On one side were patriotic American Muslims, without whom successful prosecution would have been impossible. Not only did they infiltrate the terror cells, they helped us shape the resulting evidence into a compelling narrative. On the other side were the Muslim Brotherhood’s satellites. These included outfits like CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations), which was formed in 1994 by the Brotherhood’s Hamas-support wing, with seed money from an Islamic “charity” — the Holy Land Foundation — later shut down for financing foreign terrorist organizations. These Brotherhood satellites purport to speak for American Muslims. In fact, they speak for anti-American Muslims, most of whom are outside the United States. They demagogued the case as a phobic criminalization of Islam itself, just as they have libeled America since 9/11 as being “at war with Islam.”

Translating evidence into English turned out to be a Herculean challenge during our trial preparation. Most of our evidence was in Arabic, because almost all of our defendants had immigrated here from Egypt and Sudan, hotbeds of anti-American Islam. The resulting mounds of documents, wiretap recordings, and inflammatory sermons overstretched the Justice Department’s thin Arabic-language capacity. To ease the strain, we tried to retain some civilians as private contractors. A number of local Muslims expressed interest, but in the end they turned us down.


Mind you, they wanted to help. They were as offended as anyone by what the terrorists had done. These folks were Americans. They were the kind of Muslims you’re never exposed to, given the media’s preference for jihad apologists who, when not applauding him, claim Osama bin Laden was “made in the U.S.A.” But the would-be translators wanted ironclad assurance that their assistance to the prosecution would be kept confidential. It was an assurance I was not in a position to give, so they politely declined.

Here’s the most depressing part: It wasn’t really a matter of safety. There was surely some element of that — it goes with the territory in terrorism cases. But these people were mostly worried that they and their families would be ostracized in their communities as traitors to Islam.

In Muslim communities, I learned, many people — especially American Muslims — were supportive of our investigations. Of course they didn’t like the light of suspicion being shined on Muslims, not any more than Italian Americans liked the attention our mafia cases thrust on their communities. Yet they tuned out the CAIR chorus, just as most sensible people tune out the grievance industry. They reserved most of their resentment for the malevolent, anti-American actors in their midst. They understood that public safety is the government’s highest obligation. As long as they could do it quietly, they were willing to help.

But doing it quietly was imperative. Most American Muslims are not instinctively different from other Americans. But American Muslim communities are peculiar. In many of them, the leadership of the mosques and Islamic centers is foreign (or at least foreign-influenced). This leadership tends to be anti-Western and arrogant, claiming an Islamic authenticity Americans are said to lack. Many American Muslims are intimidated into silence. They are cowed by the specter of being condemned as too American. In Islam, there is no more grievous offense than causing disunity through infidelity. It is no small thing when community leaders frame a Muslim as insufficiently loyal to the ummah, the notional Islamic nation.

American Muslims are also taken aback by the ease with which their community leaders straddle the line between preaching Islam and cheerleading for terrorists. Why, they wonder, does their government, the U.S. government, consistently elevate America-bashing Islamists who can’t give a straight answer when asked about Hamas and Hezbollah? Why not highlight Muslims who are pro-American and unambiguously anti-terrorist — Muslims who desperately need the support?

Most of the mosques and Islamic centers in our country are controlled, to a greater or lesser degree, by the Muslim Brotherhood and its satellites. The North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) was established in the early Seventies to buy up property for the establishment of American mosques and “Islamic centers,” the latter being what the Brotherhood calls “the axis” of the Islamist movement in America. The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) supplies literature and vets imams. Both NAIT and ISNA, along with CAIR and other Brotherhood groups, were identified by the Justice Department as unindicted coconspirators in the recent Hamas-financing prosecution against the Holy Land Foundation. These Islamists owe their vision to the Brotherhood. Just as important, they owe their livelihood, influence, and power to moneyed Middle East patrons, particularly the Saudis.

The Kingdom and the Brotherhood have combined for a half-century to put American Muslim communities in a stranglehold. They proselytize a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam — an amalgam of Saudi Wahhabism and Brotherhood Salafism — that is virulently anti-Western. Its instruction to Muslims in the United States, Canada, and Europe is voluntary apartheid: Immigrate but don’t integrate, infiltrate but don’t assimilate.


This brand of Islam is designed to create parallel Muslim enclaves, resistant to America’s freedom culture and to Western civilization, just as it created the liberty-killing “no-go zones” now sprouting up throughout Europe. It is designed to snuff out religious freedom, pressuring American Muslims to adopt the Islamists’ social mores, financial practices, and anti-Western outlook. And the authoritarian device it uses to establish and control these enclaves is sharia, Islam’s legal and political framework, which aspires to control of all aspects of life — not just spiritual life, but all of life.

It is the Brotherhood’s objective to thread sharia through American law and culture. This mission drives imam Feisal Rauf’s work, as documented by the Center for Security Policy’s Christine Brim in an eye-popping report at Andrew Breitbart’s Big Peace website. [1]

Since 2006, Rauf has been developing the “Sharia Index Project.” His partners in this venture include longtime Muslim Brotherhood honcho Jamal Barzinji, a top official at the International Institute of Islamic Thought. The IIIT, a major backer of the convicted terrorist Sami al-Arian, is one of the Brotherhood satellites that republished Rauf’s book, What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, the book that was released in Malaysia under the more telling title, A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. (The other Brotherhood organization behind the republication of Rauf’s book was the aforementioned ISNA.) As Ms. Brim explains, the purpose of Rauf’s Sharia Index Project is “to benchmark” every country’s compliance with sharia, with an eye toward pressuring them to adopt and enforce more.

The United States is not going to become a sharia state anytime soon. That obvious fact has commentators pooh-poohing the encroaching peril, even as we watch Europe succumb before our eyes, as if no-go zones, honor killings, the Balkanizing of society, and the strangulation of freedom could never happen here. On Tuesday, for example, in an otherwise insightful column on the Left’s incoherence in the mosque controversy, the Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto took an offhanded swipe at the “fringe right’s ravings about ‘Shariah.’” But are the concerns really “ravings,” and are they truly confined to a right-wing “fringe”?

It so happened that in the same day’s Journal, Bret Stephens penned a sharp essay about Muslim “moderates” who turn out not to be so moderate. As his counterpoint, he offered a courageous, progressive Muslim reformer, Irshad Manji. Rather than pretending that Islamic doctrine has nothing to do with terrorism, Ms. Manji is forthrightly confronting the doctrine and working to change it. What is it that needs change? As illustrated in her spellbinding book, The Trouble with Islam Today: A Muslim’s Call for Reform in Her Faith, much of what ails Islam is sharia sclerosis. Sharia, she elaborates, represents the legal opinions of classical Muslim jurists, frozen a millennium ago and, ever since, impervious to critical inquiry.

Frozen it remains thanks to atavistic zealots, prominent among them the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization founded by fundamentalists in the 1920s and lavishly funded by the Saudis since the 1950s, an outfit Manji correctly describes as “the al-Qaeda of its generation.” These Islamists are the true enemies of religious liberty. It is they who foreclose modern Muslims from the right to reason independently, to evolve.

Whether Ground Zero mosque proponents realize it or not, the cause they are advancing — against the will of the American people, and, perversely, under the guise of “religious freedom” — is the Islamist cause. It is the Brotherhood, not American Muslims, insisting that this monument must be imposed on this sacred spot.

It is a “considerable comfort,” Mr. Stephens writes, “to know that there are Muslims in the U.S. like Irshad who are working, tirelessly but mainly out of view, toward the cause of reform. They could use more support and recognition.” But, of course, their tireless work must happen “out of view,” because the Islamists have made it too dangerous for them to work openly. And they are denied support and recognition because the post-American ruling class has made its bed with sharia salesmen like Rauf, who blame America for 9/11 and can’t bring themselves to say Hamas is a terrorist organization.

By contrast, American Muslims grasp that 9/11 was an attack on their country, too. Their emerging leaders, such as Zuhdi Jasser and Steven Schwartz, have started organizations — respectively, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy and the Center for Islamic Pluralism — that promote freedom and offer Muslims an escape from the Brotherhood’s clutches. As Messrs. Jasser and Schwartz relate, American Muslims understand the significance of Ground Zero to our nation, to the families of those who were slaughtered, and to the enemy against whom we are still fighting. [2] They know that, in contrast to the innate intolerance of sharia states, the United States opens its arms to people of all faiths, including Muslims. Like Ms. Manji, they are struggling, against daunting opposition, to forge an Islam that embraces Western values, that reveres religious faith but denies it temporal authority.

The Ground Zero mosque controversy is not about religious liberty for Muslims. It is about which Islam will thrive in the United States: the one that is fighting Americans, or the one American Muslims are fighting for.

— 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.




Friday, August 20, 2010

Today's Tune: The Call - I Still Believe

(Click on title to play video)

Michael Been: 1950 - 2010

Rocker Michael Been’s death brings back memories of forgotten band The Call

By Jonathan Tully
August 20, 2010

Unless you were really paying attention to music in the 1980s, chances are you might have missed hearing of The Call. There was nothing necessarily flashy about them — they were a band of four strong musicians with a straight-forward rock sound.

Today, hearing about the death of that band’s lead singer, Michael Been, I am reminded why I’m glad I took time to get to know The Call.

The Call, featuring Michael Been (second from left).

Depending on when you got to first hear them, unless you’re a fan, you’ve might’ve heard of any of five songs by The Call at some point during the ’80s — “The Walls Came Down”, “Everywhere I Go”, “I Still Believe”, “I Don’t Wanna” and “Let The Day Begin”. In each of them, and any time where the group was truly at its best, Been’s voice was front and center, deep, straight as an arrow.

It was unlike a lot of what was on the radio then — wasn’t even close to hair metal or mall pop. Just good, no-BS rock.

The best way to describe The Call’s sound — tough one, but here goes. It’s either a less bombastic U2 or if The Pretenders had a male singer and more of their songs were like “My City Was Gone” or, really, anything off Learning to Crawl.

What The Call had was respect, from both their fans and the more popular musicians in their corner, like Peter Gabriel or The Band’s Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson (both of whom guested on The Call’s albums at some point).

Even when The Call’s name began to fade into the footnotes, Been wasn’t far from helping put out great music. He had a massive role in the development of another of my favorite bands, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club — not surprising, considering his son, Robert Levon Been (aka Robert Turner), is the band’s bassist and one of its two lead singers.

Michael Been in fact died helping B.M.R.C. — he was working as the group’s sound engineer at a show in Belgium when he had a heart attack. While the situation is sad, truly the man loved music.

Here’s a look at Been and his band at their best — for those who know The Call, enjoy and remember. For those who don’t, well, check it out, you might like it (See video posted above - jtf).

Our Lecturer in Chief

The Obama Watch

By Andrew Cline on 8.20.10 @ 6:10AM
The American Spectator

President Obama just can't help himself. It's impulse. Every time he sees the American people, in their infinite and confounding ignorance, pursuing a course they shouldn't, he intervenes to correct them. Such is the view from the clouds on which he placidly floats above us all.

Most politicians speak of the wisdom of the American people. Some even believe it. But not Obama. Time and time again, he takes to the lectern to scold or educate us.

Last Friday, he needlessly jumped into a percolating political controversy -- again -- to enlighten the uneducated masses. This time the subject was the Islamic cultural center proposed to be built two blocks from Ground Zero, where Islamist terrorists murdered more than 2,700 Americans.

"The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country," he said, beginning what was to be yet another lecture on what he sees as our failure as a people to live up to our values. "And the pain and the experience of suffering by those who lost loved ones is just unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. And ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

"But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

No one can pack more conceit, more condescension, into two little paragraphs than Barack Obama can. In the first paragraph, he establishes that opponents of the Islamic center are reacting purely emotionally. "I understand the emotions that this issue engenders." In the second, he informs us that, as an enlightened being, he sees this issue properly -- it's about freedom of religion. Appealing to our reverence for the Constitution, he states that "our commitment" (all Americans are bound by creed to agree on this) "must be unshakable."

These are not the words of a president attempting to lead and unite a nation. They are the words of an academic attempting to instruct a class that he considers particularly thick-headed. And they came unprompted. He didn't have to address the issue at all. He wanted to. He needed to. His conscience compelled him to.

This is how President Obama so often gets himself into trouble. He didn't have to weigh in on the Henry Louis Gates Jr. arrest. But he couldn't help himself. He had to use it as a "teachable moment" on race relations.

He didn't have to explain to Joe the Plumber that he intended to "spread the wealth around." He didn't have to tell Democratic donors in San Francisco that rural Pennsylvanians salve their bitterness by clinging to guns and religion. But he just couldn't help himself.

Last year, in his third press conference as president, he couldn't resist telling Americans to wash their hands and cover their mouths when they cough.

Obama has never transitioned from his former job as a college lecturer. The reason is that he really doesn't see his new job as that different. It just has more perks, such as the ability to use force when persuasion fails. And the ability to have paid staffers step forward to clarify one's ill-considered remarks.

The day after asserting that no American should object to an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero -- "in lower Manhattan," as he put it -- he contradicted himself, saying, "I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That's what our country is about."

If he wasn't giving his approval of a mosque near Ground Zero, then why did he specifically define the location ("lower Manhattan") where he said we must all be unshakably committed to the right of Muslims to build a mosque?

When the press found his clarification not all that clarifying, the president's staff rephrased it. White House Spokesman Bill Burton said on Saturday, "What he said last night, and reaffirmed today, is that if a church, a synagogue or a Hindu temple can be built on a site, you simply cannot deny that right to those who want to build a mosque."

That's a better way to put it. But it still fails to clarify. Here is why. The question never was one of religious freedom -- because the use of government force is not at issue. The question is whether the backers of this Islamic center should build it two blocks from Ground Zero, not whether government should stop them.

In his haste to teach us all a lesson, Obama misread the issue. This is nothing new. As is his habit, he was so eager to talk that he never listened to the conversation into which he injected himself. As with his instant analysis of the Gates affair, he hastily leapt in with a pre-set conclusion. In both instances his conclusion was the same -- I must speak out to show the majority how it is being intolerant of the minority.

Here is a president who presumes that most Americans are intolerant, uneducated simpletons who need to be taught constitutional basics by their president. And in his mind, they have exactly the right president for the job.

Is it any wonder that the more he talks, the lower his poll numbers dip?

Andrew Cline is editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader. His Twitter ID is Drewhampshire.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Jack London's Dark Side

A new biography confronts the good, bad, and repellent.

By Johann Hari
Posted Sunday, Aug. 15, 2010, at 6:59 AM ET

The United States has a startling ability to take its most angry, edgy radicals and turn them into cuddly eunuchs. The process begins the moment they die. Mark Twain is remembered as a quipster forever floating down the Mississippi River at sunset, while his polemics against the violent birth of the American empire lie unread and unremembered. Martin Luther King is remembered for his prose-poetry about children holding hands on a hill in Alabama, but few recall that he said the U.S. government was "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

But perhaps the greatest act of historical castration is of Jack London. This man was the most-read revolutionary Socialist in American history, agitating for violent overthrow of the government and the assassination of political leaders—and he is remembered now for writing a cute story about a dog. It's as if the Black Panthers were remembered, a century from now, for adding a pink tint to their afros.

If Jack London is chased forever from our historical memory by the dog he invented, then we will lose one of the most intriguing, bizarre figures in American history, at once inspiring and repulsive. In his 40 years of life, he was a "bastard" child of a slum-dwelling suicidal spiritualist, a child laborer, a pirate, a tramp, a revolutionary Socialist, a racist pining for genocide, a gold-digger, a war correspondent, a millionaire, a suicidal depressive, and for a time the most popular writer in America. In Wolf: The Lives of Jack London, his latest biographer, James L. Haley, calls London "the most misunderstood figure in the American literary canon"—but that might be because he is ultimately impossible to understand.

London nearly died by suicide before he was even born. His mother, Flora Chaney, was a ragged, hateful hysteric who reacted to anyone disagreeing with her by screaming that she was having a heart attack and collapsing to the floor. She had grown up in a 17-bedroom mansion, but she ran away as a teenager and ended up joining a religious cult that believed it could communicate with the dead. She had an affair with its leader, William Henry Chaney, who beat her when she got pregnant and demanded she have an abortion. She took an overdose of laudanum and shot herself in the head with a—fortunately—malfunctioning pistol. When the story was reported in the press, a mob threatened to hang Chaney, and he vanished from California forever.

When Flora delivered Jack in the San Francisco slums in 1876, Flora called him "my Badge of Shame" and wanted nothing to do with him. She handed him over to a black wet nurse (and freed slave) named Virginia Prentiss, who let him spend most of his childhood running in and out of her home. She called him her "white pickaninny" and her "cotton ball," and he called her "Mammy," no matter how many times she told him not to.

"I was down in the cellar of society, down in the subterranean depths of misery about which it is neither nice nor proper to speak," he wrote years later. As soon as he left primary school, he was sent to work in a cannery, stuffing pickles into jars all day, every day, for almost nothing. For the rest of his life, he was terrorized by the vision of a fully mechanized world, where human beings served The Machine. The shriek of machinery pierces through his fiction, demanding that human beings serve its whims.

He didn't get a toothbrush until he was 19, by which time his teeth had rotted. London grew up into America's first great depression, slumping from one unbearable job to another. He shoveled coal until his whole body seized up with cramps. He tried to kill himself for the first time by drowning, but a fisherman saved him. He began to notice the legions of toothless, homeless men on the streets, broken by brutal work and left to die in their 40s and 50s. He responded, at first, with a cold Nietzschean individualism, insisting he would escape through his own personal strength and courage.

But in the despond of the depression, new ideas were emerging in America. London said they were "hammered in" to him, against his will: "No lucid demonstration of the logic and inevitableness of Socialism affects me as profoundly and convincingly as I was affected on the day when I first saw the walls of the Social Pit rise around me and felt myself slipping down, down, into the shambles at the bottom."

When the tramps organized a march across America to demand jobs in 1894, London hit the road with them—only to be arrested at Niagara Falls for "vagrancy." When he asked for a lawyer, the police laughed in his face. When he tried to plead not guilty, the judge told him to "shut up." He was shackled and jailed for a month. London had always known the economic system was rigged against him, but now he came to believe even the law was rigged.

When he was released in 1894 at the age of 18, he began to deliver impassioned speeches on street corners, and soon he was on the front page of San Francisco papers as "the Boy Socialist," urging the workers to rise up and take the country from the robber barons.

He was offered a place at a posh prep school, and escape seemed possible for a flickering moment. But he soon dropped out after the parents at the school protested against his supposedly coarsening influence on their little darlings. He enrolled in another academy—only to be thrown out for completing the entire two-year curriculum in four months, embarrassingly outclassing all the rich kids. London felt humiliated and enraged. Soon after, he charged off to the Canadian Arctic, where there were rumors of gold. He watched his team of gold diggers die around him of drowning, cold, and scurvy. A passing doctor inspected him and told him he, too, would die if he didn't get urgent care. He was 22 years old, and he vowed that if he lived, he would become a writer, whatever it took.

His first works—like The Sea-Wolf (1904), a novel about a shipwreck survivor who is rescued by a ship captain only to be enslaved and tortured in increasingly deranged and homoerotic ways by him—injected into American literature a hard, terse vernacular style that seemed to hack Edith Wharton to death with an axe and feed her to the wolves. It was as discordant and brutal as the machines London had operated and as rough as the landscapes he battled through. Readers were startled by the crude, rude energy of the writing. It ripped out manners and replaced them with mania: His characters were violent and thuggish and real.

If you read his work today, you can see literary semen spraying across the American century as he makes possible some of the most important writers in the United States and beyond. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck rushed to his rawness and imitated it. The Beats followed him onto the road and into a jazzy, improvised style. George Orwell followed him to live among tramps and was inspired to write 1984 by London's own dystopia, The Iron Heel. Everyone from Upton Sinclair to Philip Roth claims him as an influence, and he seems to have left an imprint well beyond that. Look at the pictures of his handsome bulk insolently confronting you from a leather jacket, and you see Marlon Brando and James Dean decades before their time.

The richer London became, the more radical his politics were. He was soon praising the assassination of Russia's political leaders and saying socialism would inevitably come to America. Even as he employed small battalions of servants, he insisted he was a Robin Hood figure: They would be made to wait on the tramps and trade unionists he invited to his mansion.

And yet there is an infected scar running across his politics that is hard to ignore. "I am first of all a white man, and only then a socialist," he said, and he meant it. His socialism followed a strict apartheid: It was for his pigmentary group alone. Every other ethnic group, he said, should be subjugated—or exterminated. "The history of civilization is a history of wandering—a wandering, sword in hand, of strong breeds, clearing away and hewing down the weak and less fit," he said coolly. "The dominant races are robbing and slaying in every corner of the globe." This was a good thing, because "they were unable to stand the concentration and sustained effort which pre-eminently mark the races best fitted to live in this world."

And for those who are not "best fitted to live in this world"? In his 1910 short story "The Unparalleled Invasion," the United States—with the author's plain approval—wages biological warfare on China to decimate its population. It then invades and takes it over. It is, the story says, "the only possible solution to the Chinese problem." Haley, in an otherwise solid and competent biography, is horribly soft on London's racism, saying only that he thought the races should be separate. He didn't: He frequently thought whites should kill the rest.

How did he become like this? His mother was a crazed racist. Panicked by her loss of status, she found living near black people a permanent humiliation. London, too, seems to have felt a strong impulse to identify with people "trapped in the abyss." But he also found it humiliating, and so needed an Untermenschen class below even them. Yet there at his origins was also Virginia Prentiss, who virtually raised him. Didn't he think of her when he compared black people to monkeys? At times, for tantalizing moments, the man who could be so eloquent in his compassion for one group of undeserving victims seems to sense that he is saying something vile about another. At one point, London says socialism's strength is that it "transcends race prejudice"—but then that prejudice returns, just as vicious as before. When he visits Hawaii, he is in awe of its native culture, but then demands the United States conquer it just the same.

His near-constant guzzling of whisky made his thoughts even less consistent or coherent. Every day, he was unwittingly finishing off his mother's pre-natal attempt to kill him. He wrote: "So obsessed was I with the desire to die that I feared I might commit the act in my sleep, and I was compelled to give my revolver away to others who were to lose it for me where my subconscious hand might not find it." He staved off this deep, darkening depression with booze, work (he wrote 1,000 words a day, every day), and socialism. It was his transcendent cause. He said he could go to political meetings in despair and be "lifted out of self, and in the end return home happy, satisfied."

He was happy to write entertainments, but he didn't see them as his driving purpose. So London would be surprised to discover he is remembered now, almost entirely, for The Call of the Wild (1903), the novel about a pampered dog who is kidnapped, forced to be a sled dog in Alaska, and eventually flees to live among the wolves. Like almost all London's heroes, he is forced into a harsh, hideous landscape, where he must fight or die. There's a proto-environmentalism to the story, with its message that you can't escape nature; it will reclaim us all, no matter how civilized we seem. But his writing—after an initial efflorescent burst of hard reality—deteriorated as surely as his kidneys. The less he experienced out there in brutal reality, the more his work wilted and became mannered—the very tone he had set out to sucker punch.

Even as The Call of the Wild became one of the best-selling books in American history, newspaper editorials were calling for London to be jailed or deported for his Socialist speeches. By the age of 40, he was broken. He was taking morphine to stop the pain from his booze-burned kidneys and liver. As he lay killing himself with whiskey, London grew increasingly despondent that the United States was failing to become the Socialist republic he prophesized. "I grow, sometimes, almost to hate the mass, to sneer at dreams of reform," he wrote to a friend. He resigned from the Socialist Party, saying it had become too moderate and reformist and should be pushing for direct action—but he took none himself. Cut off from his great redeeming cause, he was dead within a year. His manservant found his almost-dead body, accompanied by a note calculating how much morphine it would take to kill him. Flora Chaney's bullet had hit, 40 years behind schedule.

Doesn't that tale deserve to be remembered, in the end, as amounting to more than a solitary dog story?

- Johann Hari is a Slate contributing writer and a columnist for the Independent in London. He was recently named newspaper journalist of the year by Amnesty International. You can e-mail Johann at

Article URL:


By Ann Coulter
August 18, 2010

"Nativism in American politics has become so rampant that it is considered scandalous in Republican circles for a judge to acknowledge paying any attention to foreign courts and their legal rulings." -- New York Times editorial, Aug. 3, 2010

The New York Times runs this same smug editorial every few months -- at least I think it's the same editorial -- to vent its spleen at conservatives who object to American judges relying on foreign law to interpret the U.S. Constitution.

But when it comes to anchor babies, The New York Times and the entire Democratic establishment plug their ears and hum rather than consider foreign laws on citizenship. (For more on this, see "Mexican immigration law versus U.S. immigration law.")

Needless to say, America is the only developed nation that allows illegal aliens to gain full citizenship for their children merely by dropping them on U.S. soil.

Take Sweden -- one of the left's favorite countries. Not only is there no birthright citizenship, but even the children of legal immigrants cannot become Swedish citizens simply by being born there. At least one parent must be a citizen for birth on Swedish soil to confer citizenship.

(Applicants also have to know the lyrics to at least one ABBA song, which explains why you don't see groups of Mexicans congregating outside Ikea stores.)

Liberals are constantly hectoring Americans to adopt Sweden's generous welfare policies without considering that one reason Sweden's welfare policies haven't bankrupted the country (yet) is that the Swedes don't grant citizenship to the children of any deadbeat who manages the spectacular feat of giving birth on Swedish soil.

In Britain, only birth to at least one British citizen or the highest class of legal immigrant, a "settled" resident with the right to remain, such as Irish citizens, confers citizenship on a child born in England. And if the British birthright is through the father, he must be married to the mother (probably a relic from Victorian times when marriage was considered an important institution).

Even Canada, the country most similar to the United States, grants citizenship upon birth -- but excludes the noncitizen parents of anchor babies from receiving benefits, such as medical care, schooling and other free stuff given to Canadian citizens.

After MSNBC'S favorite half-black guest, professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell, made the dazzling point last week that "all babies are anchor babies" because "I certainly know my 8-year-old has anchored the heck out of my life," thereby winning this week's witty wordplay contest, she claimed to be stumped on how citizenship could possibly be determined if not by location of birth.

"I want Americans to pause for a moment and ask themselves," Harris-Lacewell said portentously, "on what basis would you determine citizenship, if not based on where a child is born?" (Luckily for Harris-Lacewell, U.S. citizenship is not granted on problem-solving abilities.)

Harris was off and running, babbling: "Do you have to have two parents who are citizens? How about grandparents? How about great-grandparents?"

I don't know -- how does Sweden do it? How about Denmark? Maybe we should check the laws of every other country in the universe -- especially the ones liberals are relentlessly demanding we emulate!

Or is Ms. Lacewell one of those chest-thumping, nationalistic nativists who becomes hysterical when anyone brings up foreign law? Where is The New York Times when we need it?

The Times' editorial denouncing "nativist" conservatives ended with this little homily: "(Republicans) might want to re-read James Madison's description in the Federalist Papers of the ideal legislator: 'He ought not to be altogether ignorant of the law of nations.'"

Of course, conservatives' objection to judges looking to foreign law is that they're judges, not legislators -- least of all "ideal legislators."

Judges are supposed to be interpreting a constitution and laws written by legislators, not legislating from the bench. Hey, whose turn is it to remind The New York Times that the legislative branch of our government is different from the judicial branch?

As the Times' own august quote from James Madison indicates, he was referring to "the ideal legislator," not "the ideal Supreme Court justice."

In its haste to call conservatives names, the Times not only gave away that they think judges are supposed to be "legislators" -- a point they've been denying for decades -- but also provided a ringing endorsement for ending birthright citizenship.

Not being an easily frightened nativist like Harris-Lacewell, I think we should look at other countries' laws, then adopt the good ones and pass on the bad ones.

For example, let's skip clitorectomies, arranged marriages, dropping walls on homosexuals, honor killings and the rest of the gorgeous tapestry of multiculturalism.

Instead, how about we adopt foreign concepts such as disallowing frivolous lawsuits, having loser-pays tort laws, and requiring that both parents be in the U.S. legally and at least one parent be a citizen, for a child born here to get automatic citizenship?

Or (to paraphrase my favorite newspaper) has nativism in American politics become so rampant that it is considered scandalous in Democratic circles for a legislator to acknowledge paying any attention to foreign countries and their laws? If so, then Democrats might want to re-read James Madison's description in the Federalist Papers of the ideal legislator: "He ought not to be altogether ignorant of the law of nations."


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I am slightly mercenary. I write for money

Like his novels, Frederick Forsyth's life has been full of intrigue. He talks to Olga Craig about being chased by arms dealers, an assignation with a Czech spy – and how he was embezzled.

The Telegraph
August 15, 2010

Frederick Forsyth in Paris in 1984 on the balcony of his flat in Paris (Photo: CORBIS)

Sometimes, one has to suffer for one's art and pay the price of fame. Something Frederick Forsyth knows an awful lot about. Forsyth, bestselling author of 11 novels, is not only renowned for the cracking pace of his pulsating spy thrillers and his adrenalin-charged political novels, but also for their meticulous accuracy. When Forsyth writes of the murky world of arms dealers, the shadowy Nazi underground movement or the intricacies of worldwide drug cartels, every scenario is entirely plausible. Every detail is minutely researched. By him.

"Well, I'm getting on a bit. It's becoming more and more difficult," he says. "And, yes, it has led to some hairy moments."

Such as when the young Forsyth, fresh from the success of his debut novel, The Day of the Jackal, travelled to Hamburg in the early Seventies posing as an arms dealer for his third book, The Dogs of War. The novel, which tells the story of a British mining executive who hires mercenaries to overthrow an African government in a bid to install a puppet regime that will give him access to its colossal platinum ore reserves, meant that he needed to infiltrate the highly dangerous world of the arms trade.

"I managed to penetrate their world and was feeling rather proud of myself actually," Forsyth recalls. "What I didn't know was that the arms dealer had passed a bookshop shortly after our meeting. And there, in the window, was The Day of the Jackal. With a great big picture of me – the man he thought was a South African arms buyer – on the back cover."

A few minutes later, back at his hotel, Forsyth received a phone call warning him that he had 80 seconds to get out of the country. "I left all my clothes, grabbed my money and passport and ran across the square to the train station. There was a train pulling out so I did a parachute roll through the window, landing on a bewildered businessman. The ticket conductor asked me where I was going. I asked him where the train was going and he said Amsterdam. So am I, I said."

Forsyth, a big bear of a man with a surprisingly softly spoken voice and impeccable manners, has announced his retirement, how shall we say, several times. With the publication of his new book, The Cobra, a hairy account of a White House-hatched plan to let loose a seasoned Special Operations former CIA operative – who had been 'retired' for being too ruthless – on the worldwide cocaine industry, with the remit that there were no boundaries, no rules, he insists he has no plans to write any more books. "That said," he laughs, "I've said that at least three times now. So, who knows?"

If he does hang up his typewriter – Forsyth holds no truck with technology, writing on an old Canon manual in the study of the Hertfordshire home he shares with Sandy, his wife of 21 years – it will be an immense blow to his fans.

But probably an immense relief to Sandy. While researching The Cobra, Forsyth went to Guinea-Bissau. "I needed to get into the subject," he says, "which probably indicates I have no imagination." As he flew over the country, some 30,000 feet below the president was being blown up and beheaded. "I landed straight in the middle of it. I spent the night hanging out of my hotel window watching the military avenge their leader, with rocket-propelled grenades going off everywhere".

Forsyth also managed to pick up a nasty blood infection. When he returned to England, he developed cellulitis and very nearly lost his leg. "It does concentrate the mind," he admits.

Forsyth didn't set out to be a writer. Indeed he wrote The Day of the Jackal in just 35 days. "I didn't have a penny. I was bust," he says matter of factly. "When I was a kid, I longed to be a Spitfire pilot. My father took me to a squadron in Woking, and I remember sitting in the cockpit. The smell, the sound; I was enthralled."

Forsyth fulfilled his ambition, becoming the RAF's youngest pilot at 19. But two years later, learning that he was destined for a desk job, he resigned. He has never regretted it, simply that he was born too late. "The pilots of the Battle of Britain, they were the heroes," he says wistfully. "When people ask what era I would like to have lived through, for me there is only one. The Second World War. To have flown with 'the few'."

His father, a furrier in Kent, instilled in him a yearning to travel. "Journalism seemed like a good idea. It meant I could travel and keep my own timetable." After a stint in Fleet Street, Forsyth joined Reuters, the foreign news agency. It was there that he honed the journalistic skills that are a hallmark of his novels. "I suppose I created a genre," he agrees. "I was the first novelist to set fiction in the factual setting. Lumbered myself with it, I suppose."

It was during a stint with the BBC, covering the war in Biafra, that the restraints of journalism led Forsyth into the altogether more lucrative world of fiction. Though he didn't think so at the time.

The deeply conservative BBC took issue with his political line, and Forsyth left. "I didn't go into journalism to be a PR for Whitehall," he says drily. "And it isn't much different today. The hard-hitting investigative programmes no longer exist. The BBC is an arm of the Government."

Broke, he approached a publisher with The Day of the Jackal, little thinking it would become a worldwide seller. He was immediately signed up for a three-book deal, promising that he was "brimming with ideas". In fact, he didn't have any. "I thought to myself, 'What else do I know about?' Well, I knew about the underground Nazi movement in Germany and a bit about mercenaries, so I bashed out a synopsis and we were off."

Forsyth writes at a rattling pace. "Twelve pages a day, 3,000 words, seven days a week. But it's the research that takes the time. And, yes, I have to force myself to write. Sounds ungrateful, I know."

Neither is he romantic about the need to write. "I am slightly mercenary. I write for money," he admits. "I feel no compulsion to write. If someone said, 'You are not going to write another word of fiction', it wouldn't matter a damn."

Forsyth claims he hasn't a clue about his current wealth – though it is vast – but he did not, he confides, make as much as one might think from The Day of the Jackal. "In fact, I made a lot less than people think. It sold for £2 and 10 shillings – of which 10 per cent went to the author. These days, it is 15 per cent. The publishers said they would buy me out of the book – which was a lunatic decision on my part – but I didn't know it would still be selling years later, so I did, for £75,000. When the film possibility came up, I was offered £17,500 and five per cent of the action. Or £20,000. I took the upfront cash. So I sold the right to both for money. In retrospect, I could have retired on that one book."

Forsyth also lost money when he become tangled with the fraudster and disgraced financial adviser, Roger Levitt. "To discover every penny you have earned has been embezzled is, well, dispiriting," he says with an understated air. "But I was lucky. I was 51 and young enough to start over. But I am very vague about money. Though I don't travel first class and I'm not into luxury items".

Is he embarrassed that he was conned? "I trusted a man who turned out to be a crook," he says philosophically. "I did ask him, and he swore on the heads of his children that he wasn't lying. He was. I now have utter contempt for him. One friend did suggest I put a hit man onto him. I politely declined." Indeed, it is not for nothing that his contacts' book is the envy of many investigative journalists. "Let's say, I do have friends in low places," he smiles.

There are few sex scenes in Forsyth's books, but he happily admits he has had several intriguing liaisons in his past. Once, when he worked in Prague for Reuters, he was constantly followed by the secret agency, the STB. One night, at a disco, he met a beautiful girl called Jana. "We had a drink and a dance. It was a hot August night, and I suggested we have a swim in the lake. So we went skinny dipping, then I spread out a rug and we made love. As I drove her back to the hotel, I remarked that there were no headlights in my rear view mirror. "Where the hell are the STB," I said. She replied, 'You just made love to it'."

An outspoken critic of the Labour government – Forsyth once called Gordon Brown a "numpty" – he insists his jury is still out on the Coalition. He knows, and likes, David Cameron but is still sore that the Tories missed a golden opportunity to win an outright majority. Still, he isn't tempted to become a tax exile. "I can live with 50 per cent tax," he says. "I have no desire to live abroad. I'm 72 now and I like being able to pop into London for dinner with friends. You can't do that on the Florida Keys."

• Frederick Forsyth's 'The Cobra' is available from Telegraph Books for £16.99 plus £1.25 p&p. Call 0844 871 1515 or visit

The Forsyth Saga

By Hannah Stephenson
The Aberdeen Press & Mail
Published: 14/08/2010

Bestselling author Frederick Forsyth

TOP author Frederick Forsyth has had more brushes with danger during his career than most of us have had hot dinners.

He’s been arrested and interrogated by police in East Germany, tailed and bugged by the KGB in Moscow and shot at by Nigerians in Biafra.

But it’s all in a day’s work for the man who brought us The Day Of The Jackal, The Odessa File and other stories about assassins, mercenaries, terrorists and kidnappers.

The 71-year-old author says he had another close shave last year while researching his latest book, The Cobra.

His trip to Guinea-Bissau in west Africa, or that “war-ravaged, gutted hell-hole” as Forsyth describes it, was rather eventful.

“While I was airborne someone blew the chief of the Army to pieces with a bomb under his desk,” he recalls.

“As I landed at 2am, the vengeful army was heading into town to seek retribution.”

Later that night, Forsyth was woken in his hotel room by the sound of a bomb exploding 500 yards away.

It seemed the earlier murder has sparked a revenge killing, and President Joao Bernardo Vieira had been shot at his presidential villa then hacked to death with machetes.

The former Reuters foreign correspondent recalls: “Borders and airports were immediately closed so I had a world exclusive. Great fun at 71. Quite like old times.”

Hours later he was recounting the events on the BBC before returning to his research.

Forsyth was visiting the former Portuguese colony, a key transit point for cocaine being smuggled to Europe, to research his latest thriller, The Cobra, which sees a former CIA operative given a free rein to do whatever it takes to fight the cocaine cartels and win the war on drugs.

He says he doesn’t get anxious when travelling to volatile countries for research, but he does take care.

“I’m not exactly scared, but a bit wary. The trick is to have a feasible cover story and to keep beaming, shaking hands and standing rounds of beer.

“Stoned African soldiers are the worst – completely unpredictable.”

Despite his frightening encounters with soldiers and corrupt police, he says the worst danger he faces when visiting far-flung places is tropical diseases.

“In Bissau last year I picked up a blood infection that nearly cost me my left leg. I arrived back at Harley Street just in time.”

He says despite the thrills and spills, he knows how to relax in such exotic locations: James Bond-style leisure activities such as scuba diving and big game fishing are among his passions.

Born in 1938, the only child of shopkeeper parents in Ashford, Kent, his family were the epitome of the English middle classes, he has said. But the young man always had a desire to travel.

After a period at the Eastern Daily Press in Norwich, he was hired by Reuters and was posted to Paris, where he witnessed street rioting by opponents of General de Gaulle’s independence plans for Algeria.

It gave him the idea for The Day Of The Jackal, which was published in 1971 and later adapted twice into films. He has never looked back.

Today, he and his wife Sandy live in an old, rustic Hertfordshire farmhouse.

He has no thoughts of retiring, even though he has plenty to keep him occupied outside of writing.

“Each time a novel comes out I say, ‘That’s it. I have chickens to feed, dogs to walk, fish to catch, I’m outta here’. Then I see something and the old reporter wakes up and I have to check it out to see if it is really true.”

After the phenomenal success of his writing career, does he have any further ambitions?

“I’ve done most things I wanted to do,” he reflects, “except I never caught that 1,000lb marlin, the legendary ‘grinder’. My biggest was 660lbs, off Mexico.

“And I do wish my two sons would stop mucking about and make me a grandchild or two. But that’s it. A small child and a big fish.”

The Cobra, by Frederick Forsyth, is published by Bantam on August 19, priced £18.99.

When Rights Make Wrongs

By Ralph Peters
August 18, 2010

Well-meaning Westerners are quick to point out that jihad doesn't have to be violent. That's true. Jihad expands Islam's domain by any means available.

The 13-story mosque complex to be built a home-run's length from Ground Zero is jihad--not a gesture to promote inter-faith tolerance.

We are also told that we must be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims. This, too, is true. But isn't it equally true that Muslims should be sensitive to non-Muslims?

Would it not be wise and virtuous to respect the memory of our dead, the emotions of victims' families, and the sanctity with which so many Americans imbue Ground Zero?

Is the establishment media correct that the two-thirds of Americans opposed to a mega-mosque complex at that site are bigots? Or is willful insensitivity-even gloating-at play on the side of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Cordoba Initiative's point-man on this project?

Finally, we are told-daily-that those behind the planned facility have the legal right to build. This, too, is irrefutably true.

But no one has questioned the legal right to construct this mosque complex. Far more than a First Amendment issue, this is a question of wise judgment, of good citizenship, of calculated insult and deep emotion.

Social peace requires reciprocity. Each day, each one of us chooses not to do many things that would be legal but offensive to those around us. Even in our permissive society, restraint keeps the peace.

Imam Rauf is not being a good citizen. He is not "building bridges," but exploiting the arrogance of our cultural elite toward their fellow citizens. He is an exuberantly divisive figure, not a healer.

The glaring failure of our media has been their unwillingness to question the Cordoba Initiative with the same rigor they apply to the mosque's opponents: Who will fund the mosque complex? Why should so grandiose a project be built so far from the center of mass of New York's Muslim communities? Why scorn out of hand Governor Patterson's remarkably generous offer of free state land elsewhere in New York City?

The key to unlocking the Cordoba Initiative's secrets may lie in the funding. Why should Imam Rauf-so vocal in other regards-play coy about who will pay the center's bills (estimated at a minimum of a $100 million)?

The money probably will come, directly or indirectly, from Saudi Arabia and Persian Gulf states. If that's the case, it suggests divisive purposes. From Africa through Asia, I've seen Wahhabi "charity" at work. Invariably, the Saudi purpose in funding religious schools and mosques abroad (including in the US) has been to prevent Muslims from integrating into majority non-Muslim societies.

What if the purpose of the Cordoba Center is to provoke, to alienate non-Muslim and Muslim Americans from one another? That certainly would explain Imam Rauf's intransigence when it comes to insisting that his chosen site is the only acceptable site.

Are the intended victims of this travesty our Muslim fellow citizens, so many of whom are integrating successfully? Is the Cordoba Initiative really about aggravating social divisions? How does it serve our society for our media to refuse to ask such questions?

Even the use of the name "Cordoba" is brilliantly cynical. To Atlantis-will-rise-again! Leftists, medieval Cordoba, in Spain, is a fairy-tale example of Muslims, Christians and Jews living together amicably in a social compact called the convivencia.

What's left out of the fable is that Christian and Jews were distinctly second-class members of society heavily taxed for their faiths and subject to the whims of Muslim rulers. After a brief cultural flowering, Cordoba's rulers for centuries were Islamist fanatics from North Africa.

One cannot help but suspect that Imam Rauf and his backers are mocking us, gleefully turning our Constitution against us, and exploiting a media terrified of being accused of bigotry.

Last, but not least, this Ground-Zero mosque complex would be a symbol-not of reconciliation and tolerance, but of the greatest triumph of violent jihad in three centuries: 9/11.

Islam's ghazis-religious warriors--have always understood symbols. That's why the hijackers struck the Twin Towers, not a housing project. This mega-mosque complex will be interpreted by hardline fanatics as a monument to their 9/11 "victory."

Imam Rauf and his backers have every legal right to build their extravagant Islamic center within the lethal radius of Ground Zero. But the rest of us have the right to question why they insist on doing so.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Endless War."

Lack of Foresight Lets Mosque Controversy Balloon

This whole debate could have been avoided with a few phone calls.

By Jonah Goldberg
August 18, 2010 12:00 A.M.

The Ground Zero mosque controversy is one of the stupidest debates of our time. I don’t mean the substance of the debate (though there’s no shortage of stupidity on that front either). I mean that we are having it at all.

The CIA usually defends its existence by pointing out that we never hear about its successes, only its failures. The bombs that don’t go off don’t make headlines. Politics works the same way. Good politicians instinctively see down the road and around the corner. Great politicians do this not just with political headaches but with weighty affairs as well. We call such foresight statesmanship.

With the Ground Zero mosque, we have gotten the exact opposite. The supposedly pragmatic political wise men have been blinded by ideology or incompetence and have failed to see what was so obviously around the corner. A big, honking Islamic center built to capitalize on 9/11, in a building that was damaged on 9/11? What could go wrong?

It’s as if they’ve wanted to turn a dumb idea into an emotional and unwinnable national controversy.

Let’s start with the incandescent idiocy of New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. If Bloomberg had a scintilla of foresight, he would have prevented anyone from ever hearing the words “Ground Zero” and “mosque” in the same sentence.

Bloomberg is not only the mayor. He’s also a billionaire with massive sway in the city’s media, finance, and cultural institutions. Moreover, the Big Apple is a Hieronymus Bosch hellscape for landlords and developers. Rent control, historic preservation, zoning, environmental impact, community protests, union delays — not to mention plain old red tape and corruption — offer enough tools to stop any project before it starts. (Heck, Ground Zero is still a gaping hole, and everyone has wanted that land to be developed, fast.)

The notion that Bloomberg couldn’t have quietly stopped this in New York is like saying Satan is powerless to do anything about the heat in Hades. He could have kept the molehill from becoming a mountain with an afternoon’s worth of phone calls. The center would be built, just not so close to Ground Zero; no big deal.

But instead of quietly extinguishing a controversy, Bloomberg said it was as important a “test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime.”

He also insists that opponents should be “ashamed” of their bigotry, even though he expects “special sensitivity” from the mosque’s backers. Apparently, it’s only shameful to think Ground Zero requires “special sensitivity” if you oppose the mosque. Bloomberg apparently needs a tutor to pass his own church-state test.

Which brings us to President Obama (who himself could have quietly intervened months ago) and to what may be his most embarrassing blunder yet. At a White House dinner with Muslim leaders Friday night, Obama offered what every major journalistic outfit in the country took to be unqualified support for building the mosque. Indeed, Obama aides preened over his moral courage, telling the New York Times that there was no doubt which side he would take.

“He felt he had a responsibility to speak,” said David Axelrod, as if he were drafting the inscription on Obama’s Profiles in Courage Award. But by Saturday morning, Obama tried to weasel out of it with the sort of lawyerly parsing everybody despises. Speaking to reporters in Florida, Obama claimed he had no position on the “wisdom” of the project, and anyone who mistook his academic comments about building a mosque in Lower Manhattan for an endorsement misunderstood him.

Well, if his real intent was to remain agnostic, he should fire his speechwriter immediately.

Of course that wasn’t his intent. He wanted to seem heroically principled. But when he was hit with an entirely foreseeable backlash (according to one poll, nearly 70 percent of Americans oppose the mosque), he once again led with his glass jaw and, in effect, told everybody they were too dimwitted to grasp the brilliant nuance of his remarks.

This was the opposite of statesmanship. By elevating an already stupid idea and a poisonous debate, he forced everyone to take a side on a polarizing issue (including vulnerable Democrats like Nevada senator Harry Reid, who, late Monday, came out against the mosque), while undermining his own credibility, not to mention America’s reputation around the world.

And it all could have been avoided with some foresight and a few phone calls.

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

Hamilton leaving no doubt he is the best player in baseball

By Tom Verducci
August 17, 2010

Just another night in the life of the best player in baseball went something like this, at least as far as last Friday the 13th:

• Smash four hits all over the park: a single to left, a 440-foot bomb to center, a single and double to right.

• Score from third base on a pop fly to deep shortstop/short left.

• Score from second base on a ground ball to second.

• Make a diving catch on the warning track and a leaping catch against the centerfield wall.

• Cause the third-base coach to halt a runner from scoring from second on an otherwise routine run-scoring single to centerfield.

• Crush the postgame spread.

• Throw around hundreds of pounds of iron in a postgame weightlifting session.

• Gulp down a 2,000-plus-calorie protein shake, made with real cream, on the car ride home.

• Sit down for a full home-cooked meal by his wife. (Yes, for those of you scoring at home, that's the equivalent of three full meals just between the last out and bedtime.)

The legend of Josh Hamilton, Texas Ranger, is growing on a nightly basis. There is nobody like him in baseball, and possibly nobody this good, this big, this fast and this unique -- a 6'4", 235-pound sledgehammer of a hitter who can run balls down in center field and fly around the bases and hit for such a high average -- since Mickey Mantle in his prime.

Hamilton leads the league in batting (.362), slugging (.634), hits (161) and total bases (282). The rest of the league is playing for second place in the MVP race. He has no contemporaries, especially when you consider that the Rangers, somewhat against their better judgment, have started him 26 times in center field.

How rare is that kind of skill set? The last three players to have batted .360 and slugged .600 while playing that much center field are none other than Mantle in 1957, Stan Musial in 1948 and Joe DiMaggio in 1939.

Now, are there any more questions about who is the best player in baseball this year?

"He's certainly in the discussion," Texas GM John Daniels said. "You rarely see a guy perform at this level for this length of time."

In 65 games since June 1, just when the Texas heat is supposed to wilt players, Hamilton has hit .423. He also sets himself apart from other great sluggers because he is one of the game's best base runners and can play Gold Glove-caliber defense in the middle of the field. He has made 14 of his past 24 starts in center field.

Baseball doesn't have official player rankings as does golf and tennis, though its No. 1 player typically has caused little debate -- from Ken Griffey Jr. to Barry Bonds to Alex Rodriguez to Albert Pujols. Pujols' consistency is remarkable, especially measured against Hamilton's career. Hamilton is 29 and only 16 months older than Pujols, but has yet to play 100 games in back-to-back seasons -- minors or majors. But in the snapshot of today's game, based on skill set and production right now, Hamilton is the new BPB -- Best Player in Baseball. At the end of the year he could wind up with the batting title, MVP, Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and All-Star Game election, all for a first-place team.

The game last Friday against Boston belongs in a time capsule, so that when somebody who never saw him play wonders what Hamilton could do on a baseball field, just that one game will suffice.

"There aren't many days when Josh goes 0-for-4," Daniels said, "but if it does happen there are so many other ways he can help us win a game. Josh can influence the outcome of a game with his bat and glove.

"And when he goes from first to third, he's able to turn it on with his head up and without breaking stride and can see the ball or the coach. I was fortunate to see Larry Walker one year in Colorado. He runs the bases like that. He runs with his head up at full speed. He accelerates to full speed quickly, cuts the bases perfectly, and all the while his eyes are where they're supposed to be."

Walker and Bonds are the only outfielders in the past 50 years to hit .360 with 30 homers -- measurements within Hamilton's grasp. The men to do it before them were Mantle, Musial, DiMaggio and Ted Williams.

Hamilton is nothing more than a breathtaking comet for the moment. He has no real career to speak of and no certainty to his future. He threw away his early years in baseball because of drug addiction, endured an alcohol-related relapse last year, and his years trying to remain clean have been marred by injuries. He has played fewer major league games than Billy Butler, the 24-year-old Kansas City first baseman.

New Rangers owner Chuck Greenberg would love to lock up Hamilton this winter to a contract extension that buys out at least one year of free agency. (Hamilton is under Texas' control for two more arbitration-eligible seasons.) But what kind of length could be guaranteed when his body of work, however great, is so checkered? His value is complicated, too, by the oddity of not earning free agent rights until he is 31 years old. Remember, age matters in baseball now. There is not one player today in his age 36 season or older who is healthy and has an OPS better than .800.

Just for argument's sake, you could draw a faint comparison to Kevin Youkilis, another rare late bloomer, who signed his extension with the Red Sox in 2009 at age 29 -- Hamilton's age now -- and with two arbitration years remaining and coming off a year in which he finished third in MVP voting. He signed for $41.125 million over four years. Here's how Youkilis' numbers then match up with those of Hamilton now:

Kevin Youkilis vs. Josh Hamilton


Youkilis- 29 553 66 314 .289/.385/.472 .857
Hamilton- 29 447 87 311 .310/.370/.541 .911

Hamilton will have bigger numbers and more awards on which to bargain. He will lack the bigger body of work. The Rangers briefly discussed a contract extension with Hamilton in spring training of 2009, shortly after Youkilis signed, but the club hit a financial downward spiral that eventually led to bankruptcy and Hamilton played only 89 games while spending two stints on the disabled list. Both developments put extension talks off to the side.

Greenberg inherits many financial loose ends in addition to a possible Hamilton extension. The contracts of manager Ron Washington, pitcher Cliff Lee, DH Vladimir Guerrero, catcher Bengie Molina and reliever Frank Francisco all expire this year. All issues are likely to be set aside until after the postseason, in which Texas tries to win its first-ever postseason series.

"Let's not cloud the picture right now," Daniels said.

In the meantime, the Rangers will do the best they can to keep Hamilton healthy, which is why they need center fielder Julio Borbon to hit. If Borbon doesn't hit, the Rangers have to play Hamilton more in center field than they would like, with David Murphy in left field and Nelson Cruz, when he recovers from a hamstring strain, in right field. They also need to give Hamilton a few more days at DH while resting Guerrero.

"It's hard to take Josh out of the lineup," Daniels said.

Who knows how long Hamilton can keep up this pace? He already has dealt with tendinitis in his right knee this month. But for now, the sight of a guy built like an NFL strong safety crashing into walls, blasting long home runs, flying around the bases, and chasing a batting title with a 22-point lead on Miguel Cabrera is something to behold. There is nothing like it in baseball.

Bobby Thomson's home run off Ralph Branca - The Shot Heard 'Round The World - will live forever

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
Tuesday, August 17th 2010, 4:22 PM

New York Giants outfielder Bobby Thomson, left, and Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca fool around on Oct. 10, 1951. The two are forever linked because of Thomson's memorable home run.(File Photo)

It was always so much more than other baseball moments, whether the moment involved a famous home run or not; more than Mookie and Bill Buckner, more than Mike Torrez and Bucky Dent and their own October home run one day at Fenway Park in 1978. It was always different with Bobby Thomson and Ralph Branca, because what they had was a unique and unforgettable moment in baseball time, Oct. 3, 1951, the Dodgers vs. the Giants at the Polo Grounds and what became known, forever, as The Shot Heard 'Round the World.

There was Branca, the Brooklyn Dodger who threw the pitch, and Thomson, the New York Giant who hit it and won the pennant, won the pennant, won the pennant, as Russ Hodges kept yelling that day. One moment, the two of them, joined forever until Thomson finally died Monday night in Savannah, Ga., at the age of 86.

The two of them had made it through all the anniversaries of the three-run shot that Thomson hit that afternoon, all of the pictures preserved in black and white for history, everything preserved except the ball, the one truly great missing piece of baseball memorabilia. Somehow that made the moment even better, somehow made it more epic, as if the ball went over the wall and disappeared into memory and imagination and lore forever.

Thomson and Branca. Branca and Thomson. Now just Branca.

All the anniversaries of that home run. Somehow, incredibly, the next one, in October of next year, will be 60.

"I've been saying the same thing over and over for years," Thomson told me once, with Branca sitting at the table with us at Westchester Country Club. "All it meant at the time was that we beat the Dodgers."

He thought so in the moment. At the time. Until he understood how his home run had become frozen in time. One pitch and one swing and two New York teams and only one of them going to the World Series. The Dodgers were ahead in the last inning of the last game of a best-of-three series for the National League pennant, that close to going to the Series to play the Yankees. Because the whole baseball world was New York in those days, in the '50s. Then Thomson jumped on a high pitch and hit that three-run shot and then was skipping around the bases, bounding around the bases, and Hodges was yelling and nothing would ever be the same, for either of them.

There would be a moment years later, when I had taken my friend Pete Hamill to Vero Beach on the day before pitchers and catchers would report to Dodgertown for spring training. Hamill is from Brooklyn, of course, and would never root for the Los Angeles Dodgers because they weren't the Brooklyn Dodgers, and I joked that spring that it was time for him to drive up to Vero with me from West Palm Beach and just finally give it up.

We were talking to Tommy Lasorda at little Holman Stadium that day and Hamill looked down and saw Roy Campanella sitting in his wheelchair, in the shade down the right field line, excused himself and went down to talk to him. When Hamill got out to right field, Campanella said, "You're from Brooklyn, right?"

Pete said he was, and how did Campanella know?

"Because guys your age, they're always from Brooklyn," Campanella said.

And one thing Brooklyn guys never got over was The Shot Heard 'Round the World. By the time of the 35th anniversary, when I got Thomson and Branca together for a piece in the Daily News Sunday magazine, Thomson understood that he'd done a bit more than beat the Dodgers that day in '51.

Said he really began to understand better when he got home to Staten Island that day.

Thomson said, "My brother Jim said, 'Do you realize what you've done?' I laughed and said, 'Don't ask me such a silly question. I was there.' But Jim wouldn't let me go. He said, 'No, no, Bob. Don't you see that something like what you did might never happen again?'"

In so many ways, it never did. Oh, there have been home runs since then, famous ones, even before the steroid years. There was Bill Mazeroski to end the '60 World Series and Joe Carter to hit another walk-off more than 30 years later to win a Series for the Blue Jays against the Phillies. There was Dent's home run and Kirk Gibson's to beat the A's in Game 1 of the '88 World Series and Roger Maris' 61st and the one Ted Williams hit in his last at-bat and the one the great Henry Aaron hit to pass Babe Ruth.

None was as mythic and romantic as Thomson's shot.

The one heard 'round the world.

That day at Westchester Country Club in 1986, home turf for a wonderful man named Ralph Branca because he and his wife Ann lived there, I knew what everyone had known about them since the ball went over the left field wall at the Polo Grounds and disappeared: That it had always been a lot better, in this two-man act of theirs, the dance they had danced for so long, to be Thomson, not Branca.

The guy who hit it instead of the guy who threw the pitch.

"You must be awfully sick of it," I said to Ralph Branca.

"I take it as it comes," Branca said in a quiet voice. "If I feel like getting into it, I do. If I don't, I don't. You find out a lot about people by who brings it up and who doesn't."

I asked Branca, who became my friend that day, what he remembered best about Oct. 3, 1951. Even Don DeLillo wrote about the moment, so elegantly later, in a brilliant piece originally published in Harper's, called "Pafko at the Wall."

"I remember the parking lot," Branca said. "I remember going out to the parking lot. Ann was in the car with a friend of ours, Father Paul Rowley from Fordham. And I said to Father Rowley, 'Why me? Why did this have to happen to me?' And Father Rowley said, 'God gave you this cross to bear because you're strong enough to bear it.'"

He always was, over all the years, all the times when the two men were together at card shows and golf tournaments and dinners, and it was much more fun to answer the questions about the moment if you were the guy who hit the ball over the wall. Even when it came out much later that the Giants had been stealing Dodger signs, or so the story went, a story that tried to drive one more wedge between two old men.

"It's fun for me to talk about," Thomson said. "Not him."

One home run, hit nearly 60 years ago. One moment, shared by these two remarkable men. Only one of them left standing now. One left to tell the story of the most famous home run in baseball history.

‘Shot Heard Round the World’ Was Just a Homer to Thomson

The New York Times
August 17, 2010

Bobby Thomson, center with hand raised, after his home run against the Dodgers sent the Giants to the World Series.(AP)

Bobby Thomson always seemed more embarrassed than proud of what he did on Oct. 3, 1951, at the Polo Grounds.

“It was just a home run,” he would often say in his shy, soft voice.

Just a home run that won the National League pennant for the New York Giants in the ninth inning of the decisive third game of their playoff with the Brooklyn Dodgers, the “shot heard round the world.”

Just a home run that has endured for more than half a century as a reminder of the teams’ rivalry, six years before both franchises skipped town for California.

Just a home run for a 5-4 victory off an up-and-in fastball on a 0-1 count that the Dodgers right-hander Ralph Branca wishes he had thrown low and outside.

Just a home run that will continue to be part of his name long after his death on Monday at age 86 in Savannah, Ga.

Just a home run that the Staten Island Scot never gloated about, never used to embarrass Branca. When the San Francisco Giants planned to commemorate its 50th anniversary, he declined to attend the festivities.

“They were going to have Ralph and me ride around in a cart,” he said at the time. “Ralph doesn’t need that.”

Just a home run that for decades displayed Thomson and Branca as genuine friends signing countless baseballs and photos at countless memorabilia shows.

But until that three-run home run disappeared into the lower left-field stands for a 5-4 victory, coincidentally at about five minutes to 4 that afternoon, Thomson and Branca never had a word for each other. In that era, when Leo Durocher, the Giants manager, and Jackie Robinson traded dugout insults, when Sal Maglie, the Giants ace known as the Barber, shaved the chins of Dodgers hitters, the teams simply did not like each other.

“I never spoke to any of the Dodgers,” Thomson once told me, “except for an occasional hello to Gil Hodges.”

Not many know that the Dodgers had only themselves to blame for Thomson’s wearing a Giants uniform. When Thomson, born in Glasgow, was growing up on Staten Island, he played for the Dodger Rookies, a sandlot team sponsored by the Dodgers organization, with the stipulation that he not sign with any other major league club without allowing the Dodgers to match the offer.

When the Giants offered Thomson $100 a month to join their minor league system, the Dodgers weren’t interested in matching it. After serving in World War II as an Army Air Forces bombardier, Thomson moved quickly through the Giants’ farm system. As a rookie center fielder in 1947, he hit 29 homers. Two seasons later, he hit 27 homers with 109 runs batted in and a .309 average.

But when the struggling Giants promoted a young center fielder, Willie Mays, from their Minneapolis farm team early in the 1951 season, Durocher transferred Thomson to third base, a move that on Sept. 9 at Ebbets Field would affect the Giants’ chase of the Dodgers in that pennant race.

With the Giants leading, 2-1, in the bottom of the eighth inning and Robinson taking a long lead off third base, Thomson snatched Andy Pafko’s hot grounder near the third-base line, tagged Robinson and whipped the ball to Whitey Lockman at first. Double play, inning over. When the Giants completed that 2-1 victory, they were five and a half games behind instead of seven and a half games out.

“That’s the greatest play that I’ve ever seen a third baseman make,” Durocher said later.

Thomson hit 32 homers and drove in 101 runs that season, but without that double play that he started as a third baseman, the Giants might not have forced a pennant playoff with their 37-7 finish. And without a playoff, Thomson would not have hit the home run that many historians and fans still consider the most memorable moment in baseball history.

That moment soured somewhat about a decade ago when The Wall Street Journal reported that several ’51 Giants confirmed published reports in earlier years that they had used a club employee with a high-powered telescope in Durocher’s center-field office at the Polo Grounds to steal signs from opposing catchers.

The signs were relayed by a buzzer system to the bullpen — no buzz for a fastball, one buzz for a breaking ball — where a third-string catcher, Sal Yvars, held up a ball for a fastball or tossed a ball in the air for a breaking ball. When I asked Thomson in 2001 at his home in Watchung, N.J., if he had watched Yvars for a sign when he faced Branca in the ninth inning on Oct. 3, 1951, he said:

“I was in no mind-set to think about Sal Yvars. Durocher had asked us, I think in July, ‘Who wants the sign?’ I used the signs off and on,” meaning during the season, “but not when I hit the home run. Like I say, I was in no mind-set to think about Sal Yvars.”

Over the years, I often played in Bobby Thomson’s annual charity golf outing at Plainfield Country Club in New Jersey to benefit arthritis research. After the last tournament, in 2007, before he moved to Savannah, I received a thank-you letter from him, as many others did. Next to his signature, he wrote: “Dave, you were with us from the start. Thank you so much. In case you’re interested, I did not get a sign. Bobby T.”

Miracle of Coogan's Bluff

by Red Smith
New York Herald Tribune
October 4, 1951

Now it is done. Now the story ends. And there is no way to tell it. The art of fiction is dead. Reality has strangled invention. Only the utterly impossible, the inexpressibly fantastic, can ever be plausible again.

Down on the green and white and earth-brown geometry of the playing field, a drunk tries to break through the ranks of ushers marshalled along the foul lines to keep profane feet off the diamond. The ushers thrust him back and he lunges at them, struggling in the clutch of two or three men. He breaks free and four or five tackle him. He shakes them off, bursts through the line, runs head on into a special park cop who brings him down with a flying tackle.

Here comes a whole platoon of ushers. They lift the man and haul him, twisting and kicking, back across the first-base line. Again he shakes loose and crashes the line. He is away, weaving out toward center field where cheering thousands are jammed beneath the windows of the Giants' clubhouse.

At heart, our man is a Giant, too. He never gave up.

From center field comes burst upon burst of cheering. Pennants are waving, uplifted fists are brandished, hats are flying. Again and again, the dark clubhouse windows blaze with the light of photographers' flash bulbs. Here comes that same drunk out of the mob, back across the green turf to the infield. Coat tails flying, he runs the bases, slides into third. Nobody bothers him now.

And the story remains to be told, the story of how the Giants won the 1951 pennant in the National League....The tale of their barreling run through August and September and into October....On the final day of the season when they won the championship and started home with it from Boston, to hear on the train how the dead, defeated Dodgers had risen from the ashes in the Philadelphia twilight....Of the three-game playoff in which they won, and lost and were losing again with one out in the ninth inning yesterday when — Oh, why bother?

Maybe this is the way to tell it: Bobby Thomson, a young Scot from Staten Island, delivered a timely hit yesterday in the ninth inning of an enjoyable game of baseball before 34,320 witnesses in the Polo Grounds....Or perhaps this is better:

"Well," said Whitey Lockman, standing on second base in the second inning of yesterday's playoff game between the Giants and Dodgers.

"Ah, there," said Bobby Thomson, pulling into the same station after hitting a ball to left field. "How've you been?"

"Fancy," Lockman said, "meeting you here!"

"Ooops!" Thomson said. "Sorry."

And the Giants' first chance for a big inning against Don Newcombe disappeared as they tagged him out. Up in the press section, the voices of Willie Goodrich came over the amplifiers announcing a macabre statistic: "Thomson has now hit safely in fifteen consecutive games." Just then the floodlights were turned on, enabling the Giants to see and count their runners on each base.

It wasn't funny, though, because it seemed for so long that the Giants weren't going to get another chance like the one Thomson squandered by trying to take second base with a playmate already there. They couldn't hit Newcombe and the Dodgers couldn't do anything wrong. Sal Maglie's most splendorous pitching would avail nothing unless New York could match the run Brooklyn had scored in the first inning.

The story was winding up, and it wasn't the happy ending which such a tale demands. Poetic justice was a phrase without meaning.

Now it was the seventh inning and Thomson was up with runners on first and third, none out. Pitching a shutout in Philadelphia last Saturday night, pitching again in Philadelphia on Sunday, holding the Giants scoreless this far, Newcombe had now gone twenty-one innings without allowing a run.

He threw four strikes to Thomson. Two were fouled off out of play. Then he threw a fifth. Thomson's fly scored Monte Irvin. The score was tied. It was a new ball game.

Wait a moment, though. Here's Pee Wee Reese hitting safely in the eighth. Here's Duke Snider singling Reese to third. Here's Maglie, wild — pitching a run home. Here's Andy Pafko slashing a hit through Thomson for another score. Here's Billy Cox batting still another home. Where does his hit go? Where else? Through Thomson at third.

So it was the Dodgers ball game, 4 to 1, and the Dodgers' pennant. So all right. Better get started and beat the crowd home. That stuff in the ninth inning? That didn't mean anything.

A single by Al Dark. A single by Don Mueller. Irvin's pop-up. Lockerman's one-run double. Now the corniest possible sort of Hollywood schmaltz — stretcher bearers plodding away with an injured Mueller between them, symbolic of the Giants themselves.

There went Newcombe and here came Ralph Branca. Who's at bat? Thomson again? He beat Branca with a home run the other day. would Charlie Dressen order him walked, putting the winning run on base, to pitch to the dead-end kids at the bottom of the batting order? No, Branca's first pitch was called a strike.

The second pitch — well, when Thomson reached first base he turned and looked toward the left-field stands. Then he started jumping straight up in the air, again and again. Then he trotted around the bases, taking his time.

Ralph Branca turned and started for the clubhouse. The number on his uniform looked huge. Thirteen.