Saturday, September 11, 2010

Important Things

By Kathryn Slattery
September 11, 2010 12:00 AM

It was a September morning like any other. The air was still summer warm. The sky was a brilliant robin’s egg blue. I stepped onto the 8:25 a.m. Metro North commuter train, headed toward my office at Guideposts magazine on 34th Street in New York City.

“Excuse me.” I squeezed between a young woman wearing earphones who was thumbing through the color photo-filled pages of Star Magazine, and a middle-aged gray-bearded man reading The New York Times.

Drat. The dreaded middle seat. Oh, well, at least I don’t have to stand.

I put on my sunglasses and folded my arms tightly across my chest, as though doing so might somehow make me not only smaller, but invisible. Before closing my eyes I sneaked glances at the headlines in my seatmates’ reading material – a microcosm of everyday life in twenty-first century America. On my left, in Star, there was the insatiable culture of celebrity (“Look Who’s Got Cellulite!”). On my right, in the New York Times, bitter partisan politics (“Campaigning for Mayor: City Voters Have Heard It All”). Oozing from the pages of both – as well as from the jokes told the night before on the late night TV talk shows – was the prevailing tone of world-weary, been there-done that, above-it-all irony.

I’d just dozed off, when someone’s cell phone chirped. Followed by another, and then another. Passengers began speaking in hushed, urgent tones, something about one of the World Trade Center’s twin towers being hit by a plane. Not a small private plane. A big commercial airliner.

How awful, I thought. What a terrible accident.

Several minutes passed, and a second shrill chorus of cell phones announced a second strike.

This was no accident. We were being attacked.

The bearded man next to me became agitated as he punched the buttons on his cell phone to no avail. “My staff is on the 86th floor of Tower One,” he said. “My God, I hope they’re all right.”

As the train rounded the bend north of 125th Street, passengers across the aisle left their seats to peer out the train’s west windows at the terrifying spectacle of the towers burning.

At Grand Central Station, I wedged myself into the crowd at the Hudson News kiosk, transfixed by the horrifying images on the elevated Fox News TV monitors. Fiery orange explosions. People jumping from the towers. Skirts billowing. A man and woman holding hands as they plummeted.

This can’t be happening.

Walking south on Fifth avenue, I watched aghast as the blue sky filled with black smoke hemorrhaging from ugly gashes in both towers. At street level there was the surreal sensation of being in a 1950s Japanese horror movie. People with radios and cell phones pressed to their ears shouted breaking news.

“They’ve hit the Pentagon!”

“There’s a plane headed for the White House!”

At the office, I frantically tried to phone my husband Tom, who had driven into Manhattan earlier in the morning for a breakfast meeting with a client somewhere in the city… But where exactly? Downtown? Uptown? If only I had asked! I tried to call our daughter Katy at her New York University dorm downtown, on Greenwich Street. I tried to call my sister in her classroom at Middle School 131 in downtown Chinatown, where she taught sixth grade science. But none of their cell phones were working.

“Did you hear?” A young ashen-faced staffer cried out from her office across the hall. “The south tower has fallen!”

I phoned my mother back at our house in New Canaan, Connecticut, and told her not to worry. I phoned my friend Alison, and told her I couldn’t get in touch with Tom, Katy, or my sister, that they were all downtown, and would she please pray?

“Of course,” she replied. “Oh, my God, Kitty. Are you near a television? The north tower is falling…”

My desk phone rang. It was Tom. He was safe. I sobbed with relief. His breakfast meeting had not been downtown, but just five blocks away on 39th Street at the Williams Club where Tom, an alumnus of Williams College, was a member. We agreed to meet there, where the staff was busy setting up phone banks, and tables with bottled water and emergency provisions.

As the morning dragged on, men and women covered in white dust, looking like ghosts, staggered up the steps and through the door. Survivors from the horror downtown, they had walked the four miles to the Williams Club in shock.

Once we had finally gotten through to Katy and my sister, and made sure they were safe, and called my mother, and our son Brinck at his high school to reassure them that we were all okay, Tom and I headed for home via the West Side Highway. It was three o’clock in the afternoon. Across from us on the southbound lane, an endless convoy of ambulances and emergency vehicles from the northern suburbs, including New Canaan, moved toward what the newscaster on the radio was calling “Ground Zero.” I turned around in my seat and looked south where a dismal dirty gray cloud filled the empty space where the twin towers had stood. It seemed impossible that they were gone. National Guardsmen, armed with rifles and wearing camouflage uniforms and black boots, stood at the Henry Hudson Bridge toll gates, and inspected our car before letting us pass.

When we finally made it home, Tom and I pulled my father’s flag – the flag that had covered Dad’s casket when he died – out from the darkness of the closet and hung it over the front door. Across the street and next-door, our neighbors had put out their flags, too.

As I stood looking at the flag, I remembered how as a teenager, my father’s patriotism had embarrassed me. At high school football games I wanted to hide when he placed his right hand over his heart and lustily bellowed every word to the Star Spangled Banner. Back then, my father’s old-fashioned, unapologetic patriotism seemed not only corny, but irrelevant. Forged by the fires of adversity and sacrifice, his patriotism was the birthright of a different generation – the Greatest Generation – surely something that could never burn in my privileged baby boomer’s heart.

Until now.

The two towers were not all that fell on that awful day. If only for a moment, all that was trivial about everyday American life fell away, too. The culture of celebrity. Partisan politics. Irony. All were unmasked as the cheap, shallow, frivolous imposters that they were.

Rising out of the ruins, all that remained standing were the Important Things: Faith. Family. Friends. Freedom. Essential and enduring, they offered meaning and hope to a nation and people suffering incalculable heartache and loss.

Now, I thought, is the time to say, “I love you.” Now is the time to say, “I’m sorry.” Now is the time to say, “Thank you.” Now is the time to make peace with God. Now is the time. Tomorrow may be too late.

On September 11, 2001, it was all so clear.

- Kathryn Slattery is a long-time Contributing Editor for Guideposts magazine, and the author of several books.

Imagining Islam

Wishful thinking will not bring success or security.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
September 11, 2010 4:00 A.M.

If only the fantasy were true: If only there actually were a dominant, pro-American, moderate Islam, an ideology so dedicated to human rights, so sternly set against savagery, that acts of terrorism were, by definition, “un-Islamic activity.” Imagine an Islam that, far from a liability, proved an asset (indeed, an indispensable asset) in combating the threat against us. Imagine that we could accurately call the threat mere “extremism” — no “Islamic” (or even “Islamist”) modifier being necessary because the “extremists” truly were a tiny, aberrant band, fraudulently “hijacking” a great religion.

If the fantasy were true, who among us would not be proud to mark the annual observance of September 11 by breaking ground on a $100 million Islamic center cum mosque at the site of the most horrific attack in American history? In the nine years since the atrocities that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Americans at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pa., such an Islam — if it really existed — would have spearheaded the defeat of America’s enemies.

Such an Islam, over nine long years, would have risen up and made itself heard. It would have identified by name and condemned with moral outrage the imposters purporting to act in its name. It would have honored America’s sacrifice of blood and treasure in the liberation of oppressed Muslim peoples. It would have said “thank you” to our troops. It would have joined America, without ambiguity or hesitation, in crushing terror networks and dismantling the regimes that abet them. It would not have needed trillion-dollar American investments to forge democracies; it would naturally have adopted democracy on its own.

What excruciating truths have we yet failed to grasp on this ninth anniversary of 9/11? The first is that such an Islam does not exist. The second is that, despite this fact, American foreign and domestic policy continues to proceed as though it does exist — and as though it were the only real Islam. That is, nine years after Islamists made their commitment to our destruction as unmistakable as possible, nine years after the non-occurrence of all the wonderful things that would certainly have happened if the Islam of our dreams were the Islam of our reality, our national-security strategy is still steeped in fiction.

Self-delusion is a convenient policy. It resists defining missions with anything but the most detached, politically correct loftiness. Serial attacks by readily identifiable enemies seamlessly become a nebulous “war on terror,” then a “long struggle against violent extremism,” then an “overseas contingency operation.” If you stubbornly avoid saying whom you’re fighting and why, pretty soon no one remembers — the better to define down success — don’t say victory. So we gradually slide from “You’re with us or you’re with the terrorists,” to “draining the swamps,” to “the forward march of freedom,” to the creation of “democracies” that are reliable American “allies in the war on terror,” to “democracy-lite, and please pass the sharia,” to “shoot for stability,” to “Why not negotiate with the Taliban? Look how well the engagement with Iran is going.”

We may succeed in kidding ourselves, but our enemies aren’t fooled. By 9/11, Iran had been braying “Death to America!” and matching word with deed for over 20 years. The mullahs heard all the “You’re with us or with the terrorists” banter, but they also saw it followed up with a policy of entreaty, appeasement, and capitulation. So they did what any jihadist taking our measure would do: They spent the ensuing nine years helping other jihadists kill Americans. The only difference now is that they’re about to be a jihadist nuclear power — a status they must have known was a shoo-in once the chorus of American politicians began pronouncing it “unacceptable.”

In the two new “democracies” we’ve built, sharia reigns, as it was bound to do when the State Department wrote it into the new constitutions — Islam being one of our purported weapons against terrorism. One result is that homosexuals and religious minorities are brutally persecuted.

In Iraq, where half the public still sees attacks on U.S. troops as legitimate, democratic elections are now contests in which candidates vie to show who is most anti-American. To the new Iraq, Iran is the most important ally. Indeed, if war broke out with Iran tomorrow, American forces in Iraq would be barred from launching attacks against Tehran. We’ve pledged not to use our costly military presence in Iraq against any other country — the only country for which the Shiite government would waive that prohibition is Israel.

Meantime, in Afghanistan, the U.S.-backed Karzai government is desperately seeking a deal with the Taliban — the Islamist terrorists the State Department refuses to designate as terrorists. As the Wall Street Journal reports [1], the Afghan government even convened a conference of clerics to enact a resolution calling for more exacting enforcement of sharia, the Taliban’s key demand. In response, the Taliban have stepped up the pace of bombings and assassinations. They are convinced, as Karzai is convinced, that President Obama will begin pulling out next year, just as he said he would. We imagine a cozy life with a “moderate” Taliban; the actual Taliban intend on ruling with remorseless sharia.

At home, even as al-Qaeda continues its efforts to reprise 9/11, a network of Islamist organizations — coordinated by the Muslim Brotherhood and financially backed by our friends, the Saudis — proceeds with what it calls its “grand jihad” to eliminate and destroy Western civilization by sabotage. This is not a secret. The Brotherhood’s internal memoranda were seized by the FBI. They boldly announce these claims in black and white. Two years ago, the Justice Department aptly labeled the constituent organizations — including the Islamic Society of North America and the Council on American Islamic Relations — as unindicted co-conspirators in a terrorism-financing case in which several of their partners were convicted of funneling millions of dollars to Hamas. Today, those Islamist organizations are right back in business, with an open door to “engaging” government policymakers, as if nothing ever happened. In our imagination, they’re moderates, too.

One thing never intrudes on our make-believe world: the real 9/11. Before it was Ground Zero, the World Trade Center was a real place, where flesh-and-blood Americans were slaughtered — some of them leaping over 70 stories to their grisly demise because it seemed more merciful than immolation in the fires that raged within. We try not to think about that much anymore, except for a fleeting moment or two every September 11. We just imagine it can never happen again. After all, we’ve got Islam in our corner.

— 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, September 10, 2010

No, Professor Ahmed, the Founders Were Not So Fond of Islam

While doing the MSM circuit this week, American University professor Akbar Ahmed told some whoppers about Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin.

September 10, 2010 - by Laura Rubenfeld

Akbar Ahmed, the chair of Islamic studies at American University, has advised many government officials, including General Petraeus, Richard Holbrooke, and George W. Bush. He speaks regularly on BBC and CNN, and has appeared on many U.S. shows, including Oprah and Nightline.

To oppose the “burn the Quran” event planned by Pastor Terry Jones, Ahmed wrote an editorial for CNN in which he stated:

Not only are the actions of Jones contrary to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, but they are also against the ideals of the American Founding Fathers.

The Founding Fathers read and honored the same Quran that Jones is now seeking to burn.

[John Adams, America’s second president] showed the utmost respect for Islam, naming the Prophet Mohammed as one of the greatest truth seekers in history.

These statements are utterly opposed by the facts.

John Adams said absolutely nothing of the kind. Correspondence from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson on July 16, 1814, reveals John Adams’ true feelings about Islam: Adams states that Mohammed is “a military fanatic” who “denies that laws were made for him; he arrogates everything to himself by force of arms.”

John Adams did indeed own a Quran — the copy he owned contained the following in the preface:

This book is a long conference of God, the angels, and Mahomet, which that false prophet very grossly invented; sometimes he introduceth God, who speaketh to him, and teacheth him his law, then an angel, among the prophets, and frequently maketh God to speak in the plural. … Thou wilt wonder that such absurdities have infected the best part of the world, and wilt avouch, that the knowledge of what is contained in this book, will render that law contemptible

Perhaps Akbar Ahmed misspoke, and was referring to John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams? The sixth president, not the second?

No. Here is what John Quincy Adams wrote about the Islamic prophet Mohammed:

In the seventh century of the Christian era, a wandering Arab of the lineage of Hagar, the Egyptian, combining the powers of transcendent genius, with the preternatural energy of a fanatic, and the fraudulent spirit of an impostor, proclaimed himself as a messenger from Heaven, and spread desolation and delusion over an extensive portion of the earth. Adopting from the sublime conception of the Mosaic law, the doctrine of one omnipotent God; he connected indissolubly with it, the audacious falsehood, that he was himself his prophet and apostle. Adopting from the new Revelation of Jesus, the faith and hope of immortal life, and of future retribution, he humbled it to the dust, by adapting all the rewards and sanctions of his religion to the gratification of the sexual passion. He poisoned the sources of human felicity at the fountain, by degrading the condition of the female sex, and the allowance of polygamy; and he declared undistinguishing and exterminating war, as a part of his religion, against all the rest of mankind. THE ESSENCE OF HIS DOCTRINE WAS VIOLENCE AND LUST: TO EXALT THE BRUTAL OVER THE SPIRITUAL PART OF HUMAN NATURE. [emphasis in the original]

John Quincy Adams also described the Quran in one of his essays as follows:

The precept of the koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.

Ahmed also claims in his editorial that “Benjamin Franklin called the Prophet Mohammed a model of compassion.” Ahmed made similar claims on The Daily Show:

I quote the Founding Fathers. … John Adams on the Prophet of Islam: He called him one of the greatest truth seekers in history. (Ben) Franklin called him a model of compassion. And Jefferson had the first Iftaar … and owned a copy of the Quran. … Those Americans who are attacking Islam simply as a terrorist religion or a religion of evil, really need to go back to their own Founding Fathers.

In a March 23, 1790, letter to the editor of the Federal Gazette, Ben Franklin wrote:

Nor can the Plundering of Infidels be in that sacred Book [the Quran] forbidden, since it is well known from it, that God has given the World, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of Right as fast as they conquer it.

Thomas Jefferson? Like John Adams, he did own a Quran, one translated by George Sale. Here are some of Sale’s comments on the Quran, included by Sale in his introduction:

It is certainly one of the most convincing proofs that Mohammedism was no other than human invention, that it owed its progress and establishment almost entirely to the sword.

In his editorial, Akbar Ahmed claims:

Thomas Jefferson kept the … Quran in his personal collection and it informed his decision to host the first presidential iftaar during Ramadan.

President Obama repeated this claim — that Jefferson hosted the first presidential iftaar — at the most recent White House Ramadan dinner.

Let’s review the facts.

During the Barbary Wars, in 1805, the bey (i.e., monarch) of Tunis threatened war with the United States after the U.S. had been successful in capturing some Tunisian pirate ships. The bey sent an envoy to the United States to negotiate for the return of the ships. This envoy stayed in Washington for six months, during which the month of Ramadan passed.

One of Thomas Jefferson’s many invitations extended to this envoy to meet with him at the White House was during the month of Ramadan. To accommodate the envoy’s religious obligation, Jefferson changed the time of dinner from the usual “half after three” to “precisely at sunset.”

Jefferson was being polite — not celebrating the first White House iftaar, as Akbar Ahmed suggests.

The first Ramadan iftaar was not actually held at the White House until 1996.

Indeed, in a letter dated June 26, 1822, Jefferson had this to say about Islam in a passage regarding Calvinism:

Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet.

For good measure, Akbar Ahmed also mentioned John Locke:

The Founding Fathers were also inspired by Christian thinkers like John Locke, who declared that the true Christian’s duty was to “practice charity, meekness, and good-will in general toward all mankind, even to those that are not Christians.”

Akbar Ahmed is currently Ibn Khaldoun chair and professor of Islamic studies at American University. Ibn Khaldoun was a 14th century Islamic philosopher and scholar, a man about whom Akbar Ahmed has written. Ibn Khaldoun advocated for violence against non-Muslims as a religious duty, in order to achieve the larger goal of dismantling non-Muslim civilization and imposing an Islamic caliphate.

Ibn Khaldoun makes it clear that holy war is the duty of every Muslim. From his most famous work, Muqaddimah:

In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the (Muslim) mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force.

Akbar Ahmed is, as previously noted, an advisor to General Petraeus. One wonders if General Petraeuss has been influenced by the false teachings of this professor.

Laura Rubenfeld is an analyst for the Investigative Project on Terrorism.

The Eternal Flame of Muslim Outrage

If they’re not outraged by Ground Zero mosque protesters, it will be something else.

By Michelle Malkin
September 10, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Shhhhhhh, we’re told. Don’t protest the Ground Zero mosque. Don’t burn a Koran. It’ll imperil the troops. It’ll inflame tensions. The “Muslim world” will “explode” if it does not get its way, warns sharia-peddling imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Pardon my national-security-threatening impudence, but when is the “Muslim world” not ready to “explode”?

At the risk of provoking the ever-volatile Religion of Perpetual Outrage, let us count the little-noticed and forgotten ways.

Just a few months ago in Kashmir, faithful Muslims rioted over what they thought was a mosque depicted on underwear sold by street vendors. The mob shut down businesses and clashed with police over the blasphemous skivvies. But it turned out there was no need for Allah’s avengers to get their holy knickers in a bunch. The alleged mosque was actually a building resembling London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. A Kashmiri law-enforcement official later concluded the protests were “premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere.”

Indeed, art and graphics have an uncanny way of vitiating the Muslim world’s atmosphere. In 1994, Muslims threatened German supermodel Claudia Schiffer with death after she wore a Karl Lagerfeld–designed dress printed with a saying from the Koran. In 1997, outraged Muslims forced Nike to recall 800,000 shoes because they claimed the company’s “Air” logo looked like the Arabic script for “Allah.” In 1998, another conflagration spread over Unilever’s ice-cream logo — which Muslims claimed looked like “Allah” if read upside-down and backwards (can’t recall what they said it resembled if you viewed it with 3D glasses).

Even more explosively, in 2002, an al-Qaeda-linked jihadist cell plotted to blow up Bologna, Italy’s Church of San Petronio because it displayed a 15th-century fresco depicting Mohammed being tormented in the ninth circle of Hell. For years, Muslims had demanded that the art come down. Counterterrorism officials in Europe caught the would-be bombers on tape scouting out the church and exclaiming, “May Allah bring it all down. It will all come down.”

That same year, Nigerian Muslims stabbed, bludgeoned, or burned to death 200 people in protest of the Miss World beauty pageant — which they considered an affront to Allah. Contest organizers fled out of fear of inflaming further destruction. When Nigerian journalist Isioma Daniel joked that Mohammed would have approved of the pageant and that “in all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among them,” her newspaper rushed to print three retractions and apologies in a row. It didn’t stop Muslim vigilantes from torching the newspaper’s offices. A fatwa was issued on Daniel’s life by a Nigerian official in the sharia-ruled state of Zamfara, who declared that “the blood of Isioma Daniel can be shed. It is abiding on all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty.” Daniel fled to Norway.

In 2005, British Muslims got all hot and bothered over a Burger King ice-cream-cone container whose swirly-texted label resembled, you guessed it, the Arabic script for “Allah.” The restaurant chain yanked the product in a panic and prostrated itself before the Muslim world. But the fast-food dessert had already become a handy radical-Islamic recruiting tool. Rashad Akhtar, a young British Muslim, told Harper’s Magazine how the ice-cream caper had inspired him: “Even though it means nothing to some people and may mean nothing to some Muslims in this country, this is my jihad. I’m not going to rest until I find the person who is responsible. I’m going to bring this country down.”

In 2007, Muslims combusted again in Sudan after an infidel elementary-school teacher innocently named a classroom teddy bear “Mohammed.” Protesters chanted, “Kill her, kill her by firing squad!” and “No tolerance — execution!” She was arrested and jailed, and faced 40 lashes for blasphemy before being freed after eight days. Not wanting to cause further inflammation, the teacher rushed to apologize: “I have great respect for the Islamic religion and would not knowingly offend anyone, and I am sorry if I caused any distress.”

And who could forget the global Danish-cartoon riots of 2006 (instigated by imams who toured Egypt stoking hysteria with faked anti-Islam comic strips)? From Afghanistan to Egypt to Lebanon to Libya, Pakistan, Turkey, and in between, hundreds died under the pretext of protecting Mohammed from Western slight, and brave journalists who stood up to the madness were threatened with beheading. It wasn’t really about the cartoons at all, of course. Little remembered is the fact that Muslim bullies were attempting to pressure Denmark over the International Atomic Energy Agency’s decision to report Iran to the U.N. Security Council for continuing with its nuclear-research program. The chairmanship of the council was passing to Denmark at the time. Yes, it was just another in a long line of manufactured Muslim explosions that were, to borrow a useful phrase, “premeditated and organized to vitiate the atmosphere.”

When everything from sneakers to stuffed animals to comics to frescos to beauty queens to fast-food packaging to undies serves as dry tinder for Allah’s avengers, it’s a grand farce to feign concern about the recruitment effect of a few burnt Korans in the hands of a two-bit attention-seeker in Florida. The eternal flame of Muslim outrage was lit a long, long time ago.

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

Your move, Mr. Abbas

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, September 10, 2010; A27

The prospects are dim but the process is right. The Obama administration is to be commended for structuring the latest rounds of Middle East talks correctly. Finally, we're leaving behind interim agreements, of which the most lamentable were the Oslo accords of 1993.

The logic then was that issues so complicated could only be addressed step by step in the expectation that things get easier over time. In fact, they got harder. Israel made concrete concessions -- bringing in Yasser Arafat to run the West Bank and Gaza -- in return for which Israel received growing threats, continuous incitement and finally a full-scale terror war that killed more than a thousand innocent Israelis.

Among the victims was the Israeli peace movement and its illusions about Palestinian acceptance of Israel. The Israeli left, mugged by reality, is now moribund. And the Israeli right is chastened. No serious player believes it can hang on forever to the West Bank.

This has created a unique phenomenon in Israel -- a broad-based national consensus for giving nearly all the West Bank in return for peace. The moment is doubly unique because the only man who can deliver such a deal is Likud Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu -- and he is prepared to do it.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu talk at the State Department. (Jason Reed/associated Press)

Hence the wisdom of how the Obama administration has shaped the coming talks: No interim deals, no partial agreements. There are no mutual concessions that can be made separately within the great issues -- territory, security, Jerusalem, the so-called right of return -- to reach agreement. The concessions must be among these issues -- thus if Israel gives up its dream of a united Jerusalem, for example, the Palestinians in return give up their dream of the right of return.

Most important is the directive issued by U.S. peace negotiator George Mitchell: What's under discussion is a final settlement of the conflict. Meaning, no further claims. Conflict over.

What's standing in the way? Israeli settlements? Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, one of Israel's most nationalist politicians, lives in a settlement and has said openly that to achieve peace he and his family would abandon their home. What about the religious settlers? Might they not resist? Some tried that during the Gaza withdrawal, clinging to synagogue rooftops. What happened? Jewish soldiers pulled them down and took them away. If Israel is offered real peace, the soldiers will do that again.

The obstacle today, as always, is Palestinian refusal to accept a Jewish state. That has been the core issue of the conflict from 1947 through Camp David 2000, when Arafat rejected Israel's extraordinarily generous peace offer, made no counteroffer and started a terror war (the Second Intifada) two months later.

A final peace was there to be had. It remains on the table today. Unfortunately, there's no more sign today of a Palestinian desire for final peace than there was at Camp David. Even if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas wants such an agreement (doubtful but possible), he simply doesn't have the authority. To accept a Jewish state, Abbas needs some kind of national consensus behind him. He doesn't even have a partial consensus. Hamas, which exists to destroy Israel, controls part of Palestine (Gaza) and is a powerful rival to Abbas's Fatah even in his home territory of the West Bank.

Indeed, this week Abbas flatly told al-Quds, the leading Palestinian newspaper, "We won't recognize Israel as a Jewish state." Nice way to get things off on the right foot.

What will Abbas do? Unable and/or unwilling to make peace, he will exploit President Obama's tactical blunder, the settlement freeze imposed on Israel despite the fact that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations had gone on without such a precondition for 16 years prior. Abbas will walk out if the freeze is not renewed on Sept. 26. You don't need to be prescient to see that coming. Abbas has already announced that is what he'll do.

That would solve all of Abbas's problems. It would obviate signing on to a final settlement, fend off Hamas and make Israel the fall guy.

The trifecta. Why not walk out? The world, which already condemns Israel even for self-defense, will be only too eager to blame Israel for the negotiation breakdown. And there is growing pressure to create a Palestinian state even if the talks fail -- i.e., even if the Palestinians make no concessions at all. So why make any?

The talks are well designed. Unfortunately, Abbas knows perfectly well how to undermine them.

Islam center's eerie echo of ancient terror

New York Post
September 10, 2010

Should there be a mosque near Ground Zero? In fact, what is pro posed is not a mosque -- nor even an "Islamic cultural center."

In Islam, every structure linked to the faith and its rituals has a precise function and character. A mosque is a one-story gallery built around an atrium with a mihrab (a niche pointing to Mecca) and one, or in the case of Shiites two, minarets.

Other Islamic structures, such as harams, zawiyyahs, husseinyiahs and takiyahs, also obey strict architectural rules. Yet the building used for spreading the faith is known as Dar al-Tabligh, or House of Proselytizing.

This 13-story multifunctional structure couldn't be any of the above.

TOWER: The Ground Zero project doesn't fit the traditional minaret.(AP)

The groups fighting for the project know this; this is why they sometimes call it an Islamic cultural center. But there is no such thing as an Islamic culture.

Islam is a religion, not a culture. Each of the 57 Muslim-majority nations has its own distinct culture -- and the Bengali culture has little in common with the Nigerian. Then, too, most of those countries have their own cultural offices in the US, especially in New York.

Islam is an ingredient in dozens of cultures, not a culture on its own.

In theory, at least, the culture of American Muslims should be American. Of course, this being America, each ethnic community has its distinct cultural memories -- the Iranians in Los Angeles are different from the Arabs in Dearborn.

In fact, the proposed structure is known in Islamic history as a rabat -- literally a connector. The first rabat appeared at the time of the Prophet.

The Prophet imposed his rule on parts of Arabia through a series of ghazvas, or razzias (the origin of the English word "raid"). The ghazva was designed to terrorize the infidels, convince them that their civilization was doomed and force them to submit to Islamic rule. Those who participated in the ghazva were known as the ghazis, or raiders.

After each ghazva, the Prophet ordered the creation of a rabat -- or a point of contact at the heart of the infidel territory raided. The rabat consisted of an area for prayer, a section for the raiders to eat and rest and facilities to train and prepare for future razzias. Later Muslim rulers used the tactic of ghazva to conquer territory in the Persian and Byzantine empires. After each raid, they built a rabat to prepare for the next razzia.

It is no coincidence that Islamists routinely use the term ghazva to describe the 9/11 attacks against New York and Washington. The terrorists who carried out the attack are referred to as ghazis or shahids (martyrs).

Thus, building a rabat close to Ground Zero would be in accordance with a tradition started by the Prophet. To all those who believe and hope that the 9/11 ghazva would lead to the destruction of the American "Great Satan," this would be of great symbolic value.

Faced with the anger of New Yorkers, the promoters of the project have started calling it the Cordoba House, echoing President Obama's assertion that it would be used to propagate "moderate" Islam.

The argument is that Cordoba, in southern Spain, was a city where followers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism lived together in peace and produced literature and philosophy.

In fact, Cordoba's history is full of stories of oppression and massacre, prompted by religious fanaticism. It is true that the Muslim rulers of Cordoba didn't force their Christian and Jewish subjects to accept Islam. However, non-Muslims could keep their faith and enjoy state protection only as dhimmis (bonded ones) by paying a poll tax in a system of religious apartheid.

If whatever peace and harmony that is supposed to have existed in Cordoba were the fruit of "Muslim rule," the subtext is that the United States would enjoy similar peace and harmony under Islamic rule.

A rabat in the heart of Manhattan would be of great symbolic value to those who want a high-profile, "in your face" projection of Islam in the infidel West.

This thirst for visibility is translated into increasingly provocative forms of hijab, notably the niqab (mask) and the burqa. The same quest mobilized hundreds of Muslims in Paris the other day to close a whole street so that they could have a Ramadan prayer in the middle of the rush hour.

One of those taking part in the demonstration told French radio that the aim was to "show we are here." "You used to be in our capitals for centuries," he said. "Now, it is our turn to be in the heart of your cities."

Before deciding whether to support or oppose the "Cordoba" project, New Yorkers should consider what it is that they would be buying.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Bryant’s Life and Death Cast a Shadow Over Paterno

The New York Times
September 8, 2010

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Joe Paterno unofficially started his 45th season as the Penn State football coach with a request at the team’s media day in August that caused an eruption of laughter and made him smile.

“Please,” the 83-year-old Paterno told reporters, “don’t ask me if I’m going to die.”

But there was an underlying uneasiness to the remark, however playful it was. Paterno has made it no secret that part of his motivation for returning each fall has been his fear of the unknown after football.

Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

Joe Paterno, in his 45th season as Penn State’s head coach, still spars with reporters but has appeared worn down lately.

On Saturday, No. 18 Penn State (1-0) will play at No. 1 Alabama (1-0) in the renewal of a classic rivalry. It is a meeting that has illuminated a story that has influenced Paterno’s thinking in continuing to coach the Nittany Lions: the death of Alabama’s Bear Bryant only four weeks after he coached his final game.

“He’s painfully aware that Bryant died a couple of weeks after he retired,” L. Budd Thalman, the retired associate athletic director for communications at Penn State and a close friend of Paterno’s, said in a telephone interview. “I’ve heard him say that a couple of times. I think Joe’s definitely aware of that.”

Bryant and Paterno are entwined in history. In 2001, Paterno passed Bryant for the most victories among coaches at major programs. Paterno, standing alone after Bobby Bowden stepped down at Florida State after last season, has 395 wins.

Bryant, whose Alabama teams were 4-0 against Paterno’s Penn State teams, retired after the 1982 season and died at age 69. In candid moments over the years, Paterno has admitted that the timing of Bryant’s death has weighed on him when contemplating his future.

At his weekly news conference Tuesday at Beaver Stadium, Paterno did not want to discuss anything related to Bryant.

“I think it’s two football teams playing,” Paterno said of the game in Tuscaloosa, Ala. “I don’t think they care if a guy by the name of Paterno is coaching and a guy named Bryant used to coach their team.”

Paterno’s passions are football and family. He majored in English at Brown and is well read in classic literature. Though he says he has many interests, he has often pointed out that he does not hunt, fish or golf, activities that are common among his coaching brethren. If he retired, he has reasoned, he wouldn’t be able to look forward to much other than mowing the lawn.

“The thing about Joe is Joe has a need to stay active,” Thalman said. “He’s not a person who can sit around and vegetate, so to speak. He needs something to really occupy his mind. He’s got a remarkable mind that always demands a task. He’s not a guy who will just put his feet up and sit on the porch and drink lemonade.”

Paterno has long batted away retirement questions with a refrain about wanting to continue coaching for a few more seasons. But more recently, questions about his coaching future have intensified.

Paterno was asked to step aside, but declined, in 2004, after consecutive losing seasons; he broke his left leg when two players ran into him on the sideline in 2006; and he had hip-replacement surgery after coaching from the press box in 2008 (then received a contract extension that would allow him to coach through the 2011 season).

There was renewed uncertainty about Paterno this off-season.

Joe Paterno jokes with seniors Ollie Ogbu (85), Evan Royster, second from left, Brett Brackett, center rear, and Stefen Wisniewski, right, during NCAA college football media day in State College, Pa., Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010. Paterno is heading into his 45th season as head coach of Penn State.(AP)

Although he has missed only 3 of 683 Penn State games in 60 years, Paterno was absent from at least three planned appearances away from State College. The university said Paterno had an intestinal illness as a side effect of antibiotics he took for dental work. At the Big Ten Football Kickoff in Chicago in August, Paterno looked worn down while addressing reporters.

David Jones, a columnist for The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pa., wrote that Paterno’s “speech was slow and slightly slurred, and his intellect seemed a little dulled and delayed — something that’s never, ever been true.”

On Tuesday, Paterno carried a handkerchief on his arrival and had trouble hearing some questions, but his wit was sharp, and he did not appear to have any mobility problems. Paterno has tried to keep the focus on the field.

Penn State and Alabama have a rich series history, with the Crimson Tide having won 8 of the teams’ 13 meetings. The most notable game was Alabama’s 14-7 victory over the Nittany Lions in the 1979 Sugar Bowl, with perhaps the most famous goal-line stand in college football history giving the Crimson Tide the national title.

In his 1989 memoir, “Paterno: By the Book,” Paterno wrote of the loss: “It haunted my ego. When I stood toe to toe with Bear Bryant, he outcoached me.”

Off the field, Bryant, who was from Arkansas, and Paterno, a Brooklyn native born 13 years after him, were not rivals.

At a banquet after the 1968 season, Bryant advised Paterno, then a tenured professor at Penn State, on the importance of having a contract. Bryant called Paterno before their teams met in 1981 to see if Paterno could ask the Pennsylvania governor to clear a lane after the game for the Alabama team buses on the roads to the Harrisburg airport.

“I think the idea of Bryant as an uncle is right on the nose,” Allen Barra, the author of a biography on Bryant, “The Last Coach,” said in a telephone interview. “Bryant was not the domineering figure people think; he wasn’t a bully. Bryant made you feel like you wanted his approval.”

On Saturday, the only tangible sign of Bryant will be his name on Bryant-Denny Stadium, but the coach on the visiting sideline will undoubtedly feel the Bear’s presence.

Burning Questions

The Koran-burning stunt is a stupid and pointless provocation -- sound familiar?

By Andrew C. McCarthy
September 9, 2010 4:00 A.M.

How do you know your vacation has been too short? You leave behind one charlatan, whose concept of “building bridges” is a patently offensive project to build a giant Islamic center on a site where the remains of the thousands killed by Islamist terrorists are still being found, and then return to deal with another charlatan, one whose idea of nurturing a Christian community is to rally it to the gratuitously offensive gesture of burning Korans.

In this photo provided by CNN, Larry King Live guest host Soledad O'Brien interviews Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf during a live broadcast of Larry King Live on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2010.
(AP Photo/CNN, Lorenzo Bevilaqua)

It’s a shame that we need to waste time condemning minister Terry Jones. He’s obviously a nincompoop. But I suppose the fact that he’s being universally condemned for this useless provocation is an improvement. Remember the classified prisoner-abuse photos that the Obama administration was hot to disclose last year, until a groundswell of protest from the military and the public finally impelled Congress to act responsibly when the president wouldn’t? That, too, was a gratuitous provocation that would have served no purpose other than to pull the hair-trigger of Muslim rage. Yet the Left — including the Justice Department — was indifferent to the threat posed to our troops by that action. The pictures simply had to be disclosed because they may have made the United States and the Bush administration look bad, and anything that can make the United States and the Bush administration look bad is worth doing, no matter the cost.

We were able to stop that, and let’s hope someone is able to talk some sense into the Rev. Jones. But as we reflect on what a moron he is, it is worth examining this episode through the prism of moronic rationalizations offered by Ground Zero mosque proponents to justify their enterprise — and, in Imam Feisal Rauf’s case, to excuse terrorism.

For instance, I’m wondering whether President Obama, after his always clarifying “Let me be clear,” has yet been heard to say,

I believe that Christian ministers have the same right to free expression as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to torch a Koran on private property in Florida, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to free expression must be unshakeable. The writ of the Founders must endure.

The president can always come back the next day and explain that he wasn’t talking about the wisdom of burning Korans, only the irrelevant fact that a jackass has a right to be a jackass.

And what of Imam Rauf? Strangely, he has not yet explained that “in the most direct sense, the Rev. Jones was made in the K.S.A. — the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” Given its Wahhabist breeding and its financial backing of jihadists, coupled with sharia measures that (along with subjugating women and executing apostates) mandate the burning of Bibles, crucifixes, and Stars of David, you could easily see why the Rev. Jones feels he’s been “humiliated” and had his passionate feelings “ignored” by Saudi Arabia and other purveyors of Islamist ideology. Maybe he just “feels the need to conflagrate.”[1]

Here’s an interesting thing about the man behind the mosque. A few months back, a controversial court ruling in Malaysia held that “Allah,” the Arabic word for God, was not the exclusive property of Muslims. A Christian monthly, the Herald, had decided it would use “Allah” to refer to God — as Imam Rauf is fond of saying, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths whose adherents worship the same deity, right? So why not use the same name?

It turns out that tolerant, moderate Malaysian Muslims didn’t see things quite that way. They took the Christians’ ecumenical gesture as an affront — an effort to proselytize for Christianity or, as Imam Rauf himself put it, “to manipulate the word [“Allah”] to win converts.” So the tolerant, moderate Muslims did their usual Terry-Jackass-Jones-on-steroids routine: They didn’t just burn Bibles, they fire-bombed churches. Non-Islamic proselytism is prohibited by sharia, as Imam Rauf, who wants the United States to be more sharia-compliant, could tell you.

And what did Rauf do? Did he condemn this blatant Christianophobia? Did he lecture Malaysians that the Herald was perfectly within its legal rights to invoke “Allah” in the service of Christianity, and that living in a tolerant, pluralistic society that ensures free expression means accepting the Herald’s actions even if they make Muslims uncomfortable?

Are you kidding?

Instead, Imam Rauf took to the newspapers [2] to admonish Christians on the need to show more sensitivity to Muslims’ feelings. “My message to the Christian community in Malaysia,” he proclaimed, “is that using the word Allah to mean the Christian God may be theologically and legally correct, but in the context of Malaysia, it is socially provocative. If you want to have influence with people in Malaysia, you must find a way to convey your message without provoking this kind of response.”

You know what else might be “socially provocative”? A giant mosque at Ground Zero.

— 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.





By Ann Coulter
September 8, 2010

In response to Gen David Petraeus' denunciation of Florida pastor Terry Jones' right to engage in a symbolic protest of the 9/11 attacks by burning copies of the Quran this Sept. 11, President Obama said: "Let me be clear: As a citizen, and as president, I believe that members of the Dove World Outreach Center have the same right to freedom of speech and religion as anyone else in this country."

Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida lauded Obama's remarks, saying America is "a place where you're supposed to be able to practice your religion without the government telling you you can't."

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called Obama's words a "clarion defense of the freedom of religion" -- and also claimed that he had recently run into a filthy jihadist who actually supported the Quran-burning!

Keith Olbermann read the poem "First they came ..." on air in defense of the Quran-burners, nearly bringing himself to tears at his own profundity.

No wait, my mistake. This is what liberals said about the ground zero mosque only five minutes ago when they were posing as First Amendment absolutists. Suddenly, they've developed amnesia when it comes to the free-speech right to burn a Quran.

Weirdly, conservatives who opposed building the mosque at ground zero are also against the Quran burning. (Except in my case. It turns out I'm for it, but mostly because burning Qurans will contribute to global warming.)

Liberals couldn't care less about the First Amendment. To the contrary, censoring speech and religion is the left's specialty! (Any religion other than Islam.)

They promote speech codes, hate crimes, free speech zones (known as "America" off college campuses), and go around the country yanking every reference to God from the public square via endless lawsuits by the ACLU.

Whenever you see a liberal choking up over our precious constitutional rights, you can be sure we're talking about the rights of Muslims at ground zero, "God Hates Fags" funeral protesters, strippers, The New York Times publishing classified documents, pornographers, child molesters, murderers, traitors, saboteurs, terrorists, flag-burners (but not Quran-burners!) or women living on National Endowment of the Arts grants by stuffing yams into their orifices on stage.

Speaking of lying dwarfs, last week on "The Daily Show" Bloomberg claimed he was having a hamburger with his "girlfriend" when a man came up to him and said of the ground zero mosque: "I just got back from two tours fighting overseas for America. This is what we were all fighting for. You go and keep at it."

We're fighting for the right of Muslims to build mosques at ground zero? I thought we were trying to keep Muslims AWAY from our skyscrapers. (What an embarrassing misunderstanding.) PLEASE PULL THE TROOPS OUT IMMEDIATELY.

But back to the main issue: Was Bloomberg having a $150 Burger Double Truffle at DB Bistro Moderne or a more sensible $30 burger at the 21 Club when he bumped into his imaginary veteran? With the pint-sized mayor shrieking at the sight of a saltshaker, I assume he wasn't having a Hardee's No. 4 Combo Meal.

Adding an element of realism to his little vignette, Bloomberg said: "I got a hamburger and a pickle and a potato chip or something."

A potato chip? Translation: "I don't know what I was eating, because I'm making this whole story up -- I wouldn't be caught dead eating 'a potato chip' or any other picaresque garnish favored by the peasants." At least Bloomberg didn't claim the man who walked up to him took credit for setting the Times Square bomb because he was a tea partier upset about ObamaCare -- as Sherlock Bloomberg had so presciently speculated at the time.

Gen. Petraeus objected to the Quran-burning protest on the grounds that it could be used by radical jihadists to recruit Muslims to attack Americans.

This is what liberals say whenever we do anything displeasing to the enemy -- invade Iraq, hold captured terrorists in Guantanamo, interrogate captured jihadists or publish Muhammad cartoons. Is there a website somewhere listing everything that encourages terrorist recruiting?

If the general's main objective is to hamper jihadist recruiting, may I respectfully suggest unconditional surrender? Because on his theory, you know what would really kill the terrorists' recruiting ability? If we adopted Sharia law!

But wait -- weren't we assured by Fire Island's head of national security, Andrew Sullivan, that if America elected a "brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy," the terrorists would look like a bunch of lunkheads and be unable to recruit?

It didn't work out that way. There have been more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil by these allegedly calmed Muslims in Obama's first 18 months in office than in the six years under Bush after he invaded Iraq.

Also, as I recall, there was no Guantanamo, no Afghanistan war and no Iraq war on Sept. 10, 2001. And yet, somehow, Osama bin Ladin had no trouble recruiting back then. Can we retire the "it will help them recruit" argument yet?

The reason not to burn Qurans is that it's unkind -- not to jihadists, but to Muslims who mean us no harm. The same goes for building a mosque at ground zero -- in both cases, it's not a question of anyone's "rights," it's just a nasty thing to do.


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

In a Golden Land, but Grateful for Brass Rings

The New York Times
Published: September 7, 2010

Donal Logue, left, and Michael Raymond-James as private detectives struggling on San Diego's fringes.

“Terriers,” a cop show beginning on Wednesday on FX, is the joint effort of Shawn Ryan, creator of “The Shield,” the bleak treatise on police corruption, and Ted Griffin, the writer of “Ocean’s Eleven,” the jaunty examination of high-end fraternal thievery. And the series feels precisely like the love child of these two seemingly inconsistent sensibilities. “Terriers” has a genetic disposition at once vaguely melancholy and eccentrically sprightly, but the good mood always seems to prevail. This is a welcome love child, one we are eager to embrace rather than put up for adoption.

The series is set in an area of San Diego called Ocean Beach, where the climate is too good to inspire much ambition, and the opportunities to make a killing don’t present themselves in any case. Stuck at the fringes are Hank and Britt, scrappy pups — one a former detective whose bad habits prompted an early departure from the force, and the other an ex-burglar who fell for his girlfriend when he saw her picture on the fridge during a break-in. The two men talk about back alimony while riding around in a pickup truck that suggests that they clean pools — but really they are verbally agile private eyes who are struggling and without a license.

We are in the era now of the light-and-funny cop show — perhaps a reflection of violent crime’s decline in various American cities. “Terriers” is at home in the genre but stands rungs above a cheap effort like “Psych” (USA). If it didn’t, I would borrow the sledgehammer the writers have deployed to carve out a few clich├ęs and use it to wage an attack. “Terriers” stirs generous impulses even as it gives birth to what seems like the 6,349th television cop who has done war with the top shelf and bottom shelf of every bar in his precinct, lost a woman and committed his midlife to brooding over her.

The cruel twist on Hank is that he had the misfortune to have been abandoned by his wife just as he got sober. He is played by Donal Logue, who has a schlubby sex appeal and easily settles into the skin of a man who has made a certain peace with his discontents. Unable to get over his wife but resigned to the reality that he will probably never be with her again, Hank decides to buy back their old house as a remarriage substitute — a move that a disapproving friend from Alcoholics Anonymous likens to erecting “a museum of your past mistakes.”

Buying the house is a big deal for Hank. Financial limitation is a recurring theme in the series, and the lengths he must go to to have his mortgage application approved violate several ethics codes. Britt (Michael Raymond-James) is in even worse shape. He cannot afford to take his veterinarian-in-training girlfriend to dinner, and the question looms of how he can stay afloat without reverting to prior career paths.

“Terriers” moves from crime to crime episodically, but the big case that threads through to create a running narrative involves the severely tarnished morality of a local land developer. This being Southern California, it is fitting that the biggest villain is in real estate and that the most disturbing nut job is a home-loan officer.

“Terriers” hangs rich people out to dry, makes fun of yuppie affectation and seeks as much to position itself on the right side of the class war as it does to amuse us. It succeeds amiably on both fronts.


FX, Wednesday nights at 10, Eastern and Pacific times; 9, Central time.

Created by Ted Griffin; Mr. Griffin, Shawn Ryan and Tim Minear, executive producers; Marney Hochman, co-executive producer; Ed Milkovich, producer and unit production manager; Phoef Sutton and Jed Seidel, consulting producers. Produced by Fox 21.

Donal Logue (Hank Dolworth), Michael Raymond-James (Britt Pollack), Kimberly Quinn (Gretchen Dolworth), Laura Allen (Katie Nichols), Jamie Denbo (Maggie Lefferts) and Rockmond Dunbar (Detective Mark Gustafson).

Book review: 'Bob Dylan in America' by Sean Wilentz

A distinguished historian excels in teasing out the origins of the singer-songwriter's artistic impulses, the context in which they arose and flowered, and the multiple sources of his art.

By Tim Rutten, Los Angeles Times
September 8, 2010

Bob Dylan in 1965 from the book, "Bob Dylan in America" by Sean Wilentz. (Jerry Schatzberg, Doubleday / August 26, 2010)

Every modern American adolescence has its own distinctive soundtrack and, if you grew up in the 1960s, Bob Dylan's voice and music almost surely echo in your ear.

"Bob Dylan in America," a new biography of the singer-songwriter by distinguished cultural, political historian Sean Wilentz, gives an enjoyably thorough, convincing explanation why Dylan's new music has gone on finding new audiences ever since he burst upon the New York folk scene of the early 1960s, fresh from the iron range of northern Minnesota and ferociously ambitious for his art.

It's an extraordinary, resonant intersection of subject and biographer: Dylan, after all, is the only American popular singer ever to be awarded a special Pulitzer citation in the arts — an honor he shares with the popular composers and musicians Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein, Thelonious Monk, George Gershwin, Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington, though the latter three received theirs posthumously. Wilentz is the only American historian ever to win both a Bancroft Prize — for "The Rise of American Democracy" — and a Grammy nomination for the 50-plus pages of liner notes he did for a DVD release of Dylan's 1964 concert at Philharmonic Hall. He's also been acquainted with Dylan since he was a small boy in and out of the Greenwich Village bookstore his family owned and which the singer frequented. Dylan met Allen Ginsberg in the apartment above the shop. More recently, Wilentz, now a professor at Princeton, has been the official historian of Dylan's website. (Once you've gotten your head around the notion that Dylan has a website, the fact that it has its own historian seems somehow unexceptional.)

Dylan, of course, has been the subject of other biographies and has published the first book in what he intends as a multi-volume autobiography. Wilentz's book stands apart from these in the lucidity of its prose, the rigor of its research and convincing originality of the place he assigns his subject in the context of American cultural history. Fans looking for a recording-by-recording, concert-by-concert account of the singer and songwriter's career would do better looking elsewhere, though there's plenty of truly fine analysis of the most significant songs and recordings. Where Wilentz excels is in teasing out the origins of Dylan's artistic impulses, the context in which they arose and flowered, the multiple sources of his art.

Thus, there's a fascinating discussion of Aaron Copland and the musical component of the left-wing popular front between the wars, as well as the influence of Bertolt Brecht's dramatic theories on the environment in which Dylan first formulated his notions about performance. If that begins to sound a bit drearily scholarly for the music's fans, there's also a detailed reconstruction of Dylan's first revolutionary — and myth-encrusted — Nashville sessions that rings absolutely true. (Who knew that Highway 61, which Dylan's fans regularly revisit along with their artist, runs from Hibbing, Minn., where he grew up, to New Orleans, where he found important musical roots?)

Wilentz explores the particular influences — musical and lyrical — that Dylan has sought out for himself and the self-consciously serious way in which he has pursued that passionate exploration. It began not just in Manhattan's cafes and bars, but in the New York Public Library, where the college dropout's self-education went deep into original sources. "For a professional historian," Wilentz writes, "it was mildly thrilling to learn that Dylan discovered the cuneiforms of his art in the microfilm room." What emerged from that process was a new language of lyrical social criticism that was totally contemporary while rooted in the historical tumult of mid-19th century America. As Dylan would say, "Back there, America was put on the cross, died and was resurrected. There was nothing synthetic about it. The godawful truth of that would be the all-encompassing template behind everything that I would write."

Wilentz compares his subject to the seminal bluesman Blind Willie McTell, one of whose masterpieces is the now classic "The Dyin' Crapshooter's Blues," parts of which Dylan appropriated. McTell, Wilentz writes, "was as Dylan would later be, a musical modernist with strong roots in traditional forms…. McTell was beholden to no particular performance or composing style … and he excelled in numerous genres, including amalgamated genres of his own devising." As the author explains, McTell, like many other celebrated "bluesmen" of his generation, belonged to a tradition of independent African American "minstrelsy" that stretches back to Reconstruction and whose practitioners mastered everything from gospel to Tin Pan Alley hits. They accepted the appellation "bluesmen" to distinguish themselves from black artists who played jazz but thought of themselves more broadly as "songsters."

That's also a description sufficiently capacious to describe the dazzling variety of Dylan's output. As the author once told an interviewer, "Dylan is a master of the American ballad. Ballads are maybe the major music form in which Americans describe their land and each other."

Wilentz's unselfconscious ability to discuss the ultra-politically conscious Copland and the influential McTell, who would exert such a pull on Dylan that he became the subject of a celebrated song, also says something about the breadth of his cultural erudition. Here is scholarship that successfully slips the bonds of specialty and pretension.

At one point, the author compares Dylan's compositional method, which often involves quotation, appropriation and juxtaposition from a wide variety of musical, textual and even cinematic sources, to a more familiar form of assemblage. "Although reminiscent of the modernists' collages," Wilentz writes, "Dylan's method aimed not simply at allusion but at something very different, essential to his recent work — more emphatic, at times risky dissolution of distinctions between past and present, as well as between high and low, scholarly and popular, exotic and familiar, moving between and among them as if it required no effort."

That's not a bad description of Wilentz's own method as a biographer and cultural historian, and his daring makes "Bob Dylan in America" a pleasure to read.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

I, Market Economy

Central planning never works.

By Jonah Goldberg
September 8, 2010 12:00 A.M.

No one in the world knows how to make the computer monitor you are looking at (and, if you’re reading this on your phone, iPad, or Kindle, no one knows how to make those things either).

Even the best editor in the world has no clue how to make a printing press or ink, or how to operate a communications satellite.

This is hardly a new insight. In 1958, Leonard Read wrote one of the most famous essays in the history of libertarianism, “I, Pencil.” It begins, “I am a lead pencil — the ordinary wooden pencil familiar to all boys and girls and adults who can read and write.” It is one of the most simple objects in human civilization. And yet, “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

The pencil tells the story of its own creation. The wood comes from Oregon, or perhaps California. The lead, which is really graphite, is mined in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). The eraser, which is not rubber but something called “factice,” is “made by reacting rape-seed oil from the Dutch East Indies with sulfur chloride.”

To make a long story short, the simple act of collecting and combining the ingredients of a pencil involves the cooperation of thousands of experts in dozens of fields, from engineering and mining to chemistry and commodity trading. I suppose it’s possible for someone to master all of the knowledge and expertise to make a pencil all by himself, but why would he?

The lessons one can draw from this fact are humbling. For starters, any healthy civilization, never mind any healthy economy, involves unfathomably vast amounts of harmonious cooperation.

These days there’s a lot of buzz about something called “cloud computing.” In brief, this is a new way of organizing computer technology so that most of the data storage and number-crunching doesn’t actually take place in your own computer. Rather, everyone plugs into the computational equivalent of the electrical grid.

Do a Nexis search and you’ll find hundreds of articles insisting that this is a “revolutionary” advance in information organization. And in one sense, that’s obviously true. But in another, this is simply an acceleration of how civilization has always worked. The information stored in an encyclopedia or textbook is a form of cloud computing. So is the expertise stored in your weatherman’s head. So are the intangible but no less real lessons accumulated over generations of trial and error and contained in everything from the alphabet to the U.S. Constitution to my daughter’s second-grade curriculum.

More relevant, the modern market economy is the greatest communal enterprise ever undertaken in the history of humanity. Friedrich Hayek did the heavy lifting on this point over half a century ago in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” The efficient pricing of markets allows millions of independent actors to decide for themselves how to allocate resources. According to Hayek, no central planner or bureaucrat could ever have enough knowledge to consistently and successfully guide all of those economic actions in a more efficient manner.

The latest proof of Hayek’s insight can be found not only in the economic winter that goes by the label “recovery summer,” but in the crown jewel of the stimulus known as “cash for clunkers,” which subsidized car purchases that would have happened anyway. That’s a major reason the auto industry just had its worst August in 27 years. Meanwhile, lower-income buyers are seeing used-car prices soar thanks to the artificial scarcity created by destroying perfectly good “clunkers.”

But that’s a small point in the grand scheme of things. According to progressives, the financial crisis discredited “market fundamentalism” and created a burning need for a more cooperative society where “we’re all in it together.” It’s an ancient argument, with many noble intentions behind it. But it rests on a misunderstanding of one simple, astounding, irrefutable fact. The market economy is cooperative, and more successfully so than any alternative system ever conceived of, never mind put into practice. Admittedly it doesn’t feel that way, which is why everyone wants to find a better replacement for it. But they never will, for the same reason no one can make a pencil.

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

This Is Where We Begin to Say No

On the Ground Zero mosque, Americans reject the opinion elites that empower the Islamists.

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

Aerial photo of World Trade Center Ground Zero following Sept. 11 attacks. Red square to right of Ground Zero marks former Burlington Coat Factory and proposed location of Cordoba House.

A tectonic shift is in motion: How fitting that its focal point is Ground Zero, the inevitable fault line between Islam and the West.

Only the blink of an eye ago, uttering the unpleasant truth that in terms of doctrine there is no such thing as “moderate Islam” resulted in one’s banishment from what our opinion elites like to call the “mainstream,” by which they mean the narrow-minded, viciously defended circle of their own pieties and fictions. You could say it, but your skin had better have an extra coat or two of thick: You were in for a fusillade of rage, the likes of which our candor-phobic elites would never dream of unleashing at our Islamist enemies — no matter how clearly those enemies announced their intention to destroy us.

The fusillade still comes, but now its blows only glance. The elites and their mainstream have been exposed as frauds: Being on the wrong side of enough 70-30 issues will do that to you.

It should never have gotten this far. Sponsors of the Ground Zero mosque neither own the property in question nor possess the means to build and operate the palatial Islamic center they envision. The more light that shines on their record of murky real-estate dealings and the dubious circumstances of their limited stake in the Ground Zero property, the more questions arise. In a more sensible world, those questions would get answered before we plunged into a rancorous public debate. That hasn’t happened, though. In spite of the implacable determination of the mayor (and the attorney general who would be governor) to look the other way, the issue has galvanized the public. What has long bubbled beneath the surface did not need much more heat to boil over.

For the better part of two decades, Americans have been murdered by Islamists and then lectured that they are to blame for what has befallen them. We have been instructed in the need for special sensitivity to the unceasing demands of Islamic culture and falsely accused of intolerance by the people who wrote the book on intolerance. Americans have sacrificed blood and bottomless treasure for Islamic peoples who despise Americans — and despise us even more as our sacrifices and gestures of self-loathing intensify. Americans have watched as apologists for terrorists and sharia were made the face of an American Muslim community that we were simultaneously assured was the very picture of pro-American moderation.

Americans have had our fill. We are willing to live many lies. This one, though, strikes too close to home, arousing our heretofore dormant sense of decency. Americans have now heard Barack Obama’s shtick enough times to know that when he talks about “our values,” he’s really talking about his values, which most of us don’t share. And after ten years of CAIR’s tired tirades, we’re immune to Feisal Rauf, too.

We look around us and we see our country unrivaled by anything in the history of human tolerance. We see thousands of thriving mosques, permitted to operate freely even though we know for a fact that mosques have been used against us, repeatedly, to urge terrorism, recruit terrorists, raise money for terrorists, store and transfer firearms, and inflame Muslims against America and the West. As Islamists rage against us, we see Islam celebrated in official Washington. As we reach out for the umpty-umpth time, we find Muslim leaders taking what we offer, but always with complaint and never with reciprocation. We’re weary, and we don’t really care if that means that Time magazine, Michael Bloomberg, Katie Couric, Fareed Zakaria, and the rest think we’re bad people — they think we’re bad people, anyway.

So finally we’re asking: Where is this “moderate Islam” you’ve been telling us about? Why would a self-proclaimed bridge-builder insist on something so patently provocative and divisive? How can we be sure that if imam Rauf builds his monument on our graveyard, it won’t become what other purportedly “moderate” Islamic centers have become: a cauldron of anti-American vitriol?

It turns out that there are no satisfactory answers. When finally pressed on the taxonomy of moderate Islam, the best our elites can do — besides shouting “Islamophobia!” — is debate whether there ever was a “golden age” of Islamic tolerance. They have to confess that the Islamists — whom they’d like us to see as a handful of “extremists” but who are in truth a mass movement — are in the ascendancy. It is embarrassingly obvious that while some of us have been working to defeat Islamism in our midst, our elites are of the incorrigibly progressive mindset that counsels accommodating them — in the delusion that they will be appeased rather than encouraged to become more aggressive. That is precisely the mindset that makes an Islamist think: Maybe now is the time for a $100 million mosque at Ground Zero.

“Moderate Islam” is a dream, not a reality. It is a dream with potential, because there are millions of Muslims who are moderate people, and because there are dedicated Muslims working to transform their faith into something that is institutionally moderate. But they work against great odds. They confront Islamists whose dedication to theocratic principles is deeply and undeniably rooted in Islamic scripture. And they confront American opinion elites who, wittingly or not, serve as the lifeline of the Islamists.

The reformers’ slim chance at prevailing hinges on the American people’s will to say “no” to our self-anointed betters. Ground Zero, once again the site of epic Islamist overreach, may be remembered as the place where we started to say “no.”

— 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.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

On the Boardwalk, HBO Hangs Out With a New Mob

The New York Times
September 3, 2010

The series "Boardwalk Empire" revolves around a a political boss played by Steve Buscemi. The character is based on Enoch “Nucky” Johnson, who was “a political boss and stalwart of the Republican Party who from 1911 to 1941 controlled all the vice in Atlantic City.”

Credit: Craig Blankenhorn/HBO

ON a blistering afternoon last June, outside a Polish social club in Greenpoint, men in heavy wool tuxedos, with slicked-back hair and pencil-thin mustaches, were blotting their brows. They looked like overheated figures from a Peter Arno drawing. Nearby were some very slender young women in spangly, ankle-length dresses. A couple were wearing feathered headdresses; others had their hair in paper curlers. But because this was Brooklyn, where people wear weird getups all the time, nobody paid them any attention.

A few blocks away, on a lot once intended for a condo complex, a 300-foot long old-fashioned seaside boardwalk had miraculously arisen, not just a facade, but a collection of clubs, restaurants, a photo studio, salt-water taffy joints, even a place where for 25 cents you could have peered at premature babies. Except that the incubators were empty. So were the shops. The only sound came from a couple of squawking seagulls, doubtless disappointed by the absence of litter or garbage. At the end of the boardwalk a sandy, unpopulated beach baked in the sun, but where the ocean should have been, there was, instead, a wall of metal shipping containers.

This brand-new ghost town is the $5 million set for “Boardwalk Empire,” a new HBO series that begins Sept. 19. For more than a year now it has periodically sprung to life with hundreds of actors, like the ones milling outside the social club. They were getting ready to film a supper-club scene in which Hardeen, Houdini’s younger brother, escapes from an upside-down straitjacket.

“Boardwalk Empire” is set in Atlantic City in 1920, during the first year of Prohibition, and the big outdoor set, the vintage clothing and the kind of historical research that delights in Houdini’s sibling are all evidence of the unusual, painstaking lengths the show’s creators have gone to recreate an era that barely registers in the American historical consciousness. Daniel Okrent, a former public editor for The New York Times, who has just published a history of the period, “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” said that when he began his research, he was struck by how little most of us know about these years, which had such a profound effect on American political and social life. Prohibition was tied both to the introduction of the income tax and universal suffrage, and radically altered the relation of citizen and government. It also brought men and women — the ones who wanted to take a drink, that is — closer in ways they had never imagined.

“All we know is Robert Stack as Eliot Ness,” Mr. Okrent said, referring to the 1959 television series “The Untouchables.” “Prohibition is like a guilty secret, or an embarrassment,” he went on, explaining why the period has been so little studied. “How do you explain that for 13 years there was an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that said you couldn’t get a drink legally? It beggars the imagination.”

The series “Boardwalk Empire” is based in part on a book by the same name, a history of Atlantic City from its creation in the 19th century up to the present, by Nelson Johnson, a Superior Court judge in New Jersey. In 2006 HBO, already looking for a big series to replace “The Sopranos,” showed the book, which had been optioned by the actor Mark Wahlberg and his production partner, Stephen Levinson, to Terence Winter, who wrote many “Sopranos” episodes. “They said, maybe you’ll find something here,” Mr. Winter recalled recently, “and they added that, oh, by the way, Martin Scorsese is attached to this if it goes anywhere. I said that in that case I would absolutely find something.” (Mr. Scorsese wound up directing the pilot episode and became an executive producer of the series.)

Mr. Winter was initially interested in 1950s Atlantic City and a character named Skinny D’Amato, a club owner and Rat Pack hanger-on. But he quickly turned instead to the ’20s and Enoch Johnson, known as Nucky, by far the most vivid character in the book. The appeal of the period was that it had seldom been done on TV or even in the movies, he said. “I’ve always loved the way people talked in the ’20s, and the clothes, the cars,” he went on. “It was such a transitional period. The world was changing so much. And in some ways it was a very modern time. This was almost a hundred years ago, but they had airplanes, telephones, people went to the movies all the time.”

Nucky Johnson (no relation to the author of “Boardwalk Empire”) was a political boss and stalwart of the Republican Party who from 1911 to 1941 controlled all the vice in Atlantic City. He lived like a pasha, occupying a whole floor of the Ritz-Carlton hotel and rising every day at 3 p.m. to make his rounds in a powder blue Rolls-Royce.

The real Nucky was tall and broad-shouldered, with an enormous, domelike head. In the show, fictionalized slightly as Nucky Thompson, he’s played by the bug-eyed, slightly cadaverous Steve Buscemi, another “Sopranos” alumnus. “If we wanted the real Nucky, we would have cast Jimmy Gandolfini,” Mr. Winter said, “but by Episode 12 you’re going to think nobody else could have done it but Steve.”

If Mr. Buscemi doesn’t exactly look the part, he nevertheless dresses like Nucky, in sherbet-colored high-collared shirts and beautifully tailored suits in bold windowpane plaid. “My inspiration for Nucky was the Prince of Wales,” said John A. Dunn, the show’s costume designer, referring not to the current one but to the dandy who later became Edward VIII . Mr. Dunn was standing recently in a storage room in a Brooklyn soundstage that resembled an extremely well-organized attic. Racks of clothing were arranged by character: Nucky’s suits were on a rack next to Al Capone’s and near Arnold Rothstein’s and Lucky Luciano’s. (They, along with several other historical figures, are also characters in “Boardwalk Empire.”) There were racks of robes, beaded chiffon gowns, fox-trimmed evening coats and clothes for policemen, waiters and bellhops. A rack of corsets. A shelf of homburgs and fedoras.

Not a scrap of this stuff was polyester. Wherever possible Mr. Dunn used vintage clothing, either rented or bought on eBay or in vintage clothing shops; otherwise the costumes were handmade to designs of the period. He rummaged through the collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum and studied old magazines catalogs and tailoring books. “The great surprise for me was the color,” he said. “Because of photographs we tend to think of ’20s clothing as black and white, but really there was this splash of new, bold color, maybe in reaction to World War I. It’s almost a shock to the contemporary eye.”

The show’s music, bright and ebullient, is also authentic and also a reaction to the end of the war. People wanted to get up and dance, as Mr. Okrent pointed out, and Prohibition, or the speakeasy culture, conveniently (and for the first time) mingled men, women and alcohol in an atmosphere of congenial illicitness. Some of the show’s tunes, taken from silent movie arrangements or music found in old nickelodeons, hasn’t been heard for close to a century. The soundtrack also makes use of remastered 78 recordings by people like Al Jolson, who sings “Avalon” on the pilot. Eddie Cantor and Sophie Tucker are actual characters on the show and sing hits from the period like “Some of These Days” and the comic ballad “I Never Knew I Had a Wonderful Wife Until the Town Went Dry.”

“Marty and Terry both wanted the music to be historically accurate,” said Randall Poster, the music coordinator for the series. “So we just immersed ourselves in this fascinating transitional period when ragtime is just beginning to turn into jazz. It was like a musical scavenger hunt. A lot of the music on the show had never been recorded before because after talkies came in, there was no reason to record it. And yet it’s the birth of so much of what came later.”

Mr. Winter said he and Mr. Scorsese refused to fudge some of the historical detail, even though by doing so they could probably have saved a bundle and no one would have noticed. “If you’re going to this kind of thing, the little details are what’s important,” Mr. Winter said.

He added: “Thank God for HBO. They let you tell intelligent stories in a slow, careful way. You can let them breathe.” (The pilot alone cost nearly $20 million.)

The research even extended to the way people talked in the ’20s. “I didn’t want it just to be a caricature, where everybody was saying ‘23 skidoo’ all the time,” Mr. Winter explained, and so he studied old newspapers and magazines and carefully read the documentarylike novels of John Dos Passos. Books, of all things, are prominent props in “Boardwalk Empire.” One of the characters is reading a novel by Henry James; another keeps a copy of Sinclair Lewis with him.

“I hate to say it, but before TV people spoke better and were better read than we are,” Mr. Winter said. “They were probably more literate.”

The big details are important too. Prohibition didn’t just give rise to a generation of Charleston-dancing, flask-waving tipplers. It unloosed a wave of greed and violence. Atlantic City positively welcomed the 18th Amendment, seeing in it a huge financial windfall, and the characters in the show, authentic and imaginary, are besotted with money as much as with booze.

“We have whiskey, wine, women, song and slot machines,” the real Nucky once said. “I won’t deny it, and I won’t apologize for it. If the majority of the people didn’t want them, they wouldn’t be profitable.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

These Talks Are Doomed

Before peace can come, Palestine’s culture must be changed.

By Mona Charen
September 3, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Hamas sent a greeting card to the quintet of leaders meeting in Washington, D.C., this week to initiate negotiations about a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. In a well-planned ambush, they killed four Israeli civilians near the city of Hebron, two men and two women (one nine months pregnant), creating seven orphans. The murderers escaped, and may perhaps have videotaped the atrocity. In Gaza that evening, 3,000 celebrants clogged the streets, waving flags, setting bonfires, passing out candy, and carrying their children on their shoulders. If there is videotape, it will presumably permit the revelers to relive the pleasure, even as the video of Daniel Pearl’s beheading has circulated on the Internet.

While the Palestinian Authority did condemn the attack, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad did so, he explained, because “the operation went against Palestinian interests.” It would be difficult for a leader of the “moderate” (that word is always attached) PA to condemn such attacks as, say, immoral or despicable, as the Palestinian Authority itself (formerly the PLO or Fatah) was conceived in violence and continues to honor its spirit. In the course of the past few months, the PA has named a square and a children’s summer camp in honor of a terrorist who murdered 37 Israeli civilians on a bus, and provided a hero’s funeral to Amin Al-Hindi, one of the terrorists who kidnapped and murdered eleven Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. The official PA newspaper described Al-Hindi as “one of the stars . . . who sparkled at the sports stadium in Munich.” Both Abbas and Fayyad attended the funeral.

These realities, reflecting as they do the unreadiness of the Palestinian people for peace with Israel, have been and will continue to be ignored by the Obama administration, the so-called international community, and most journalists. Instead, world leaders, very much including President Obama, speak of borders, and confidence-building measures, and opportunities for peace, as if the problem were one of details. This thoroughly misconceives the nature of the dispute. An Israeli saying (now decades old) captured the essence: If the Palestinians were disarmed tomorrow, there would be no conflict. If the Israelis were disarmed tomorrow, there would be no Israel.

With whom would Israel be making binding agreements? Since a bitter civil conflict in 2007, Palestinian society has been divided. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and the PA controls the West Bank. Just last month, the PA canceled scheduled municipal elections for fear that Hamas might again triumph at the polls as they did in 2006. Hamas and Fatah thugs continue to target and assassinate one another. By standing up the wobbly Abbas and perhaps even signing a treaty with him, the Obama administration may imagine that they can strengthen him. But this is a figure so unsure of his current standing with his people — and this is before making any unpopular concessions — that he canceled elections.

Abbas’s weakness in this regard is not so much a personal failing as an inheritance. The entire Arab world (and Iran) has conspired to embitter and enrage the Palestinian people in perpetuity, encouraging maximalist demands and enshrining bloodshed and frenzied hatred. Though Abbas has shaken hands all around in Washington, D.C., the incitement at home continues. A year ago, at Fatah’s general congress in Bethlehem, the delegates reaffirmed their longstanding commitment to “armed struggle” as “a strategy, not a tactic. . . . This struggle will not stop until the Zionist entity is eliminated and Palestine is liberated.”

Just this week, the PA’s minister for prisoners' affairs presented an award called the Shield of Resoluteness and Giving to Um Yousuf Abu Hamid. Her accomplishment? Four of her sons are serving long sentences in Israeli prisons for committing terrorist attacks. Handing her the plaque, the minister intoned: “The Palestinian mother is a central partner in the struggle, by virtue of what she has given and continues to give. It is she who gave birth to the fighters, and she deserves that we bow to her in salute and in honor.”

A Palestinian children’s-television program instructs its viewers that all Israeli cities — including Haifa, Lod, Ramle, and Acre — are “occupied Palestinian” cities. Another show aimed at children, which often dispenses advice like “drink your milk” and “obey your parents,” also advised a young viewer named Saraa that “all Jews must be erased from our land. . . . We want to slaughter them, Saraa, so they will be expelled from our land. . . . We’ll have to [do it] by slaughter.”

This latest iteration of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks midwived by the U.S. is doomed just as all of its predecessors were — because it is based on a fallacy and a stubborn refusal to face the truth about Palestinian society.

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