Friday, November 12, 2010

A Growth Agenda for the New Congress

For now: Extend the Bush tax cuts, repeal ObamaCare, support free trade. After 2012: Enact a flat tax, stabilize prices, balance the budget, give politicians incentive pay.

The Wall Street Journal
NOVEMBER 11, 2010, 7:05 P.M. ET.

Since its cyclical zenith in December 2007, U.S. economic production has been on its worst trajectory since the Great Depression. Massive stimulus spending and unprecedented monetary easing haven't helped, and yet the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve still cling to the book of Keynes. It's an approach ill-suited to solving the growth problem that the United States has today.

The solution can be found in the price theory section of any economics textbook. It's basic supply and demand. Employment is low because the incentives for workers to work are too small, and the incentives not to work too high. Workers' net wages are down, so the supply of labor is limited. Meanwhile, demand for labor is also down since employers consider the costs of employing new workers—wages, health care and more—to be greater today than the benefits.

Firms choose whether to hire based on the total cost of employing workers, including all federal, state and local income taxes; all payroll, sales and property taxes; regulatory costs; record-keeping costs; the costs of maintaining health and safety standards; and the costs of insurance for health care, class action lawsuits, and workers compensation. In addition, gross wages are often inflated by the power of unions and legislative restrictions such as "buy American" provisions and the minimum wage. Gross wages also include all future benefits to workers in the form of retirement plans.

For a worker to be attractive, that worker must be productive enough to cover all those costs plus leave room for some profit and the costs of running an enterprise. Being in business isn't easy, and today not enough workers qualify to be hired.

But workers don't focus on how much it costs a firm to employ them. Workers care about how much they receive and can spend after taxes. For them, the question is how the wages they'd receive for working compare to what they'd receive (from the government) if they didn't work, plus the value of their leisure from not working.

David Klein

The problem is that the government has driven a massive wedge between the wages paid by firms and the wages received by workers. To make work and employment attractive again, this government wedge has to shrink. This can happen over the next two years, even with a Democratic majority in the Senate and President Obama in the White House, through the following measures:

1) The full extension of the Bush tax cuts. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives can write legislation extending all the tax cuts in perpetuity. Of particular importance for employment is keeping the highest personal income tax rate at 35%, the capital gains tax rate at 15% and the dividend tax rate at 15%, while eliminating the estate tax permanently. If the Senate blocks this legislation or Mr. Obama refuses to sign it, House Republicans should hold firm and let voters decide in 2012. (My guess is that he'll sign it or have his veto overridden.)

2) The full repeal of ObamaCare, which allows individuals to pay only five cents for each dollar of health care. Who do you think pays the other 95 cents? As former Sen. Phil Gramm notes, if he had to pay only five cents for each dollar of groceries he bought, he would eat really well—and so would his dog. No single bill is more antithetical to growth than ObamaCare.

Repeal could take the form of Michele Bachmann's Legislative Repeal Act, and if it is blocked in the Senate or by a veto Republicans should continue bringing it up every six months. Come 2012 the public will have a clear view of what congressional candidates stand for. The end game for U.S. prosperity is the election in 2012.

3) The cancellation of all spending that punishes those who produce and rewards those who don't. This is really the distinction between demand-side economics and supply-side economics. Stimulus spending and quantitative easing don't make it more rewarding to work an extra hour. If the government pays people not to work and taxes people who do work, is it really so difficult to see why employment is so low?

So the government should sell its stakes in public companies acquired via TARP, sell government-run enterprises that lose money (e.g., Amtrak and the Postal Service), end farm subsidies that pay people not to farm, cancel the rest of the stimulus and return all spending programs to their pre-stimulus levels. Congress should also continually examine spending in Afghanistan and Iraq. And it should return the duration of unemployment benefits to the standard 26 weeks, from the current 99 weeks.

4) The enactment of stalled free trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

These changes would spur recovery, but they are just the start. Elected officials should offer longer-term measures that voters can judge in 2012, when 33 senators—including 21 Democrats, two independents who caucus with the Democrats, and 10 Republicans—as well as the entire House and President Obama are up for re-election.

Beyond 2012, the ideal growth agenda would include:

1) A true flat tax, a la Jerry Brown's proposal in 1992. Congress should replace all federal taxes (except sin taxes) with two flat-rate taxes, one on personal income and one on net business sales. The personal income tax would be on all forms of income: wage income, dividends, inheritance (as proposed by Democratic Rep. Jared Polis), and all capital gains. This tax code would remove loopholes and almost all deductions, and the static revenue rate would be around 11.5%.

2) Price stability. Congress should revise the Federal Reserve's mandate, making it serve only the goal of price stability (and not also full employment). In addition, the Fed should follow a monetary rule, targeting either the quantity of money or the price level. There can be no prosperity without price stability.

3) Passage of a balanced budget amendment, without raising taxes. This would prevent government from being able to balance its budget by unbalancing the budgets of its citizens. And it would force politicians to make difficult decisions about what spending is worthwhile, just like the rest of us.

4) Finally, saving the best for last, the mother of all supply-side reforms is incentive pay for politicians (which the comedian Jackie Mason called "putting the politicians on commission"). Politicians must be held personally responsible for their actions. In business, firms align the incentives of decision makers with the incentives of shareholders to ensure that they take the best course of action. Washington must begin doing the same by creating an incentive structure that pays elected officials according to factors such as stock market performance and economic growth.

Mr. Laffer is the chairman of Laffer Associates and co-author of "Return to Prosperity: How America Can Regain Its Economic Superpower Status" (Threshold, 2010).

Dino De Laurentiis, storied movie producer, dies at 91

De Laurentiis helped revive the film industry in his native Italy and later ran studios and produced big-budget movies in the U.S. His output was once described as 'high-brow and low-brow, huge moneymakers and expensive flops.'

By Dennis McLellan
Los Angeles Times
November 12, 2010

The producer at his Beverly Hills home. (Los Angeles Times)

Dino De Laurentiis, the flamboyant Italian movie producer who helped resurrect his nation's film industry after World War II and for more than six decades produced films as diverse as the 1954 Federico Fellini classic "La Strada" and the 1976 remake of "King Kong," has died. He was 91.

De Laurentiis, who moved to the United States in the 1970s and continued to produce films until 2007, died Wednesday night at his Beverly Hills home, his daughter Raffaella De Laurentiis, said in a statement Thursday. The cause was not given.

A consummate showman whose epic career belongs to a bygone era of Hollywood grandeur, De Laurentiis produced more than 160 films.

"I don't think anyone will ever top Dino," David Lynch, who directed "Blue Velvet" for De Laurentiis, said Thursday. "Ask anybody — he just never let up. He always had fun. He loved the cinema world. He was always thinking of the next thing."

"The world lost a great entrepreneur, genius and salesman with the passing of Dino De Laurentiis," California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who starred in the producer's "Conan the Barbarian," said in a statement. "Dino always treated me like a son and gave me my first big break in the movie business."

De Laurentiis launched his long career as a producer in Italy in the 1940s and in the next decade produced two Oscar-winning best foreign films — Fellini's "La Strada" (with then-partner Carlo Ponti) and Fellini's "Nights of Cabiria" (1957).

During the De Laurentiis-Ponti partnership in the '50s, they launched into foreign film production in Italy, producing director Mario Camerini's "Ulysses," starring Kirk Douglas, Silvana Mangano and Anthony Quinn; and King Vidor's "War and Peace," starring Audrey Hepburn, Henry Fonda and Mel Ferrer.

As film producers in Italy after World War II, "De Laurentiis and Ponti in particular took the function of producer, which had never been highly regarded in European cinema before this, and raised it to a higher level," said USC film professor Rick Jewell.

De Laurentiis, Jewell told The Times in 2007, "was involved with some very important films at that time. Those films didn't just help resurrect the Italian film industry but brought attention to the Italian film industry that it had never done before."

While mentioning De Laurentiis-produced films by Italian directors such as Fellini, Vittorio De Sica and Roberto Rossellini, Jewell said De Laurentiis also "got involved in foreign productions in Italy at a time when Hollywood in particular was looking to make films overseas for various reasons, and he jumped on that with films like 'War and Peace' and 'Ulysses.' "

De Laurentiis with Oscars won by himself and his partner Carlo Ponti after their film "La Strada" won an Academy Award for best foreign language film. (AFP / Getty Images / March 27, 1957)

In 1962, the prolific producer began building a sprawling studio complex on the outskirts of Rome that he called Dinocitta — Dino City.

During the 1960s — he is credited with pioneering the now-common practice of financing films by pre-selling the distribution rights in foreign countries — De Laurentiis produced films such as director Richard Fleischer's "Barabbas," starring Anthony Quinn; John Huston's star-studded "The Bible"; and Roger Vadim's "Barbarella," starring Jane Fonda.

His company also produced Franco Zeffirelli's adaptation of "Romeo and Juliet."

After selling his studio and moving to the United States in the 1970s, De Laurentiis produced films such as "Serpico," "Death Wish," "Three Days of the Condor," "The Serpent's Egg," "Ragtime" and "Conan the Barbarian."

But his name also became synonymous with expensive box-office failures such as "Dune," "Tai-Pan" and "King Kong Lives."

Veteran Associated Press Hollywood reporter Bob Thomas once summed up De Laurentiis' varied output as "high-brow and low-brow, huge moneymakers and expensive flops."

Hit or miss, in an industry in which directors are deified, De Laurentiis had no doubt as to where he stood in the cinematic scheme of things.

"If no producer, no movie," he growled in a 2002 interview with Canada's the Globe and Mail.

By 1985, De Laurentiis was running a 32-acre movie studio in Wilmington, N.C. The same year, he acquired Embassy Pictures and formed the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, a distribution and production company.

Among the films produced under the DEG banner was Lynch's "Blue Velvet," which was a critical hit but a disappointment at the box office.

After producing what one analyst called "too many high-priced films, which had minimal commercial value," De Laurentiis stepped down as chairman in February 1988, and six months later his company was forced to file for bankruptcy.

But in 1990, the producer obtained backing from an Italian friend and formed another company, Dino De Laurentiis Communications.

"De Laurentiis has that quality that all great producers have, which is — I suppose momentum is the best word I can think of," Jewell said. "This is a guy that always had that forward momentum. It was basically self-generated, but you have to have it" as a successful producer.

In 2001, De Laurentiis received the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, which is given by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Board of Governors in recognition of "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistent high quality of motion picture production."

De Laurentiis, who became a U.S. citizen in the mid-1980s, also received the Producers Guild of America's 2004 David O. Selznick Award for his "historic contributions to motion pictures as the champion of many of our industry's greatest talents and as a true visionary of international cinema."

One Italian observer of the movie scene told The Times' Rome bureau chief in 1976: "Dino has made virtues out of his faults. He is crude, rude and capricious. He treats people as buttons to be pushed. I'm not even sure he cares that much about movies. It is the deals that he loves, the wheeling and dealing. And he's a genius for publicity. He has a childlike quality, and most people can't help being charmed by him — even if they live to regret it."

De Laurentiis on the set of "King Kong" in the 1970s. (AP)

As a producer, De Laurentiis was known as a man who never took no for an answer.

When Kurt Russell initially turned down the starring role in the 1997 action-thriller "Breakdown" — it was to be shot in the Utah and Arizona desert, and Russell had just made two films on location and wanted to stay home in Pacific Palisades with his family — De Laurentiis came up with a way for the actor to sleep at home each night.

He instructed director Jonathan Mostow to find desert locations near airfields that could accommodate small jets: Russell was picked up at home each morning, driven to Van Nuys Airport and flown to the desert airstrips in a Lear jet. He was then helicoptered next to his trailer at the location.

"I'd get Kurt for one shot before lunch, then we'd shoot till 5 p.m., when we'd hear the helicopter coming in, like 'MASH,' signaling that it was time for him to go," Mostow told The Times in 2001. "It was crazy, but like a lot of Dino's ideas, it worked."

Of course, De Laurentiis didn't always get what he wanted.

When Jodie Foster, director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Ted Talley all turned down making "Hannibal," the 2001 sequel to the hit crime thriller "The Silence of the Lambs" (which De Laurentiis had not produced), he simply forged ahead with another female star, director and screenwriter.

As he put it: "The pope dies, you get another pope."

The son of a pasta manufacturer, he was born Agostino De Laurentiis on Aug. 8, 1919, in Torre Annunziata, near Naples.

One of seven children, he dropped out of school at 15 and traveled as a salesman for his father's pasta factory. But he wasn't enamored of the family business.

In 1937, the movie-struck teenager was accepted to the first-year acting course at a new film school in Rome, Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia.

At the end of the year, De Laurentiis realized he didn't have the makings of a successful actor and realized he'd rather be behind the camera — as a producer.

He worked for a time as an extra, stagehand, electrician and director's assistant before changing his first name from Agostino to Dino and launching a production company.

After producing two short films, he bought the remake rights to a Swedish film and produced his first feature movie, "L'amore Canta" ("Love Sings"), which was released in September 1941 when he was 22.

A remake of a German film followed, and that led to his receiving a one-year contract as a producer at the Lux studios in Rome.

His budding producing career was finally interrupted by World War II while he served for a time in the Italian army organizing shows to entertain troops.

After the war, he returned to producing at Lux studios and scored his first international success with Giuseppe De Santis' "Bitter Rice," a 1949 drama set among women working in the rice fields of the Po Valley in northern Italy.

The film's cast included Silvana Mangano, whom De Laurentiis married in 1949 and with whom he had four children: Veronica, Raffaella, Federico and Francesca. The couple divorced in 1989. Federico, 26, died in an airplane crash while making a documentary in Alaska in 1981.

In 1990, De Laurentiis married producer-colleague Martha Schumacher, with whom he had two daughters, Carolyna and Dina.

Besides his wife and five daughters, De Laurentiis also leaves five grandchildren, including Food Network host Giada De Laurentiis; three sisters; and two great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Times staff writer Elaine Woo contributed to this report.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

Obama: Blaming Israel First

By P. David Hornik
November 11, 2010

“This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations,” President Obama said [1] Tuesday at a press conference in Indonesia. He was referring to approvals issued in Israel this week to build 1300 homes in two East Jerusalem neighborhoods.

That is, 1300 homes for Jews. Obama would have had no problem if the announced homes had been designated for Arabs—or anyone other than Jews.

As the Wall Street Journal noted [2] in an editorial, the country—Indonesia—in which Obama made his remark is one that forbids Israeli citizens to visit. Indonesia is also one of 19 UN member states that do not recognize Israel as a state, and it does not allow overflights by Israeli aircrafts.

One could say, then, that in counterposing Jewish homes in Jerusalem to peace, Obama was not encouraging the best side of the Indonesian national ethos.

He wasn’t the only one to object to the Israeli plans, of course. In a de rigueur eruption [3] that is almost dreary to record, the State Department said it was “deeply disappointed” and that the plans were “counterproductive to our efforts to resume direct negotiations between the [Israelis and Palestinians].” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton pronounced herself “extremely concerned,” and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon also “expressed concern.”

The pertinacious Palestinian spokesman Saeb Erekat chimed in that the new construction plans proved that “Israel chooses settlements, not peace.”

As the Wall Street Journal also observed, it was Erekat who recently sent an admiring letter [4] to Ahmed Sa’adat, a terrorist who masterminded the murder of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001. Erekat warmed Sa’adat’s Israeli jail cell with “the strongest emotions of solidarity and brotherhood…. You exhibited steadfast resistance that has become the stuff of legend, during which many martyrs fell.”

The cabinet minister in question, Rehavam Zeevi, was shot twice in the head [5] at the Hyatt Hotel in Jerusalem on October 17, 2001. The assassin was from the PFLP terror organization, then headed by Sa’adat, and was directly dispatched by him.

Think about it: no slap on the wrist—no reaction at all—for Erekat from Obama, Ashton, Ban, or anyone else for his tribute to Sa’adat, no protestations that this wasn’t in the spirit of peace; and yet another public upbraiding of Israel, a country already subject to a worldwide delegitimization campaign, for the building plans.

If there was a bright spot in this episode, it was that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, in replying to Obama’s words, showed—at least initially—more spunk in a way that is hard not to connect with last week’s Democratic debacle at the polls. Netanyahu’s office released a statement [6] saying that:

Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel. Israel has never accepted upon itself restrictions of any kind on construction in Jerusalem, which has approximately 800,000 residents….

Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and planning and building policy in Jerusalem, which has not changed in 40 years. All Israeli governments in the past 40 years have built in all parts of the city. During this period, peace agreements were signed with Egypt and Jordan, and for 17 years, diplomatic negotiations have been conducted with the Palestinians. These are historical facts. Construction in Jerusalem has never hindered the peace process.

Yet, unfortunately, in a later interview with Fox Business News, Netanyahu already softened the message, calling the issue “overblown” and saying [7]: “you are talking about a handful of apartments that really don’t affect the map at all contrary to impressions that might be perceived from certain news reports. So it’s a minor issue that might be turned to a major issue.”

In fact, the right of Jews to live in Jerusalem is a major issue in any case. In repeatedly calling it into question, Obama strikes at the heart of Jewish being and sows fear and distrust in the large majority of Israelis—exactly contradictory to his presumed desire to advance peace talks and Israeli concessions. In that regard, paradoxically, he is doing some good, as more Israelis understand that the concessions required of them would be suicidal.

As for the other side, Obama’s words can only encourage Muslims, whether in Indonesia or Judea and Samaria, in visions of Judenfrei Jerusalem and the worst supremacist tendencies.

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Heart of 'Darkness'


The Wall Street Journal
NOVEMBER 10, 2010

Colts Neck, N.J.

Under an early autumn sky here in central New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen pointed north toward nearby Holmdel, where 33 years ago he began recording "Darkness on the Edge of Town," likely the most important album of his notable career. Then, turning east, he said, "And I recorded 'Nebraska' five miles that way." His birthplace, Long Branch, he added, is about a dozen miles from where he stood. On their first date, Mr. Springsteen said, he took Patti Scialfa, his wife of 19 years, on a drive down the nearby back roads to show her a home for retired circus animals.

Now 61 years old, Mr. Springsteen may have been alluding to his loyalty to the Garden State, but he also was relating how once he's determined that something's right, he stays with it.

He's kept the core of his E Street Band together since 1974—the band that stood by him when, coming off his 1975 breakthrough album, "Born to Run," he was embroiled in a lengthy legal dispute: In essence, he couldn't release new music until a lawsuit with a former manager was settled. Incurring a huge debt, Mr. Springsteen and the band kept touring, then hunkered down in Holmdel to work on his new compositions. The battle, and Mr. Springsteen's ultimate triumph, is depicted in the Thom Zimny documentary "The Promise: The Making of 'Darkness on the Edge of Town,'" which has been presented at film festivals and on HBO. It's part of a new six-disc "Darkness" boxed set that includes the original 1978 album, early drafts of what evolved into the album's songs, previously unreleased tracks and two performance DVDs.

Hurt and embittered, a determined Mr. Springsteen used the three-year period between albums to re-examine his purpose as a songwriter and bandleader. He decided there'd be no big, brash "Born to Run II."

"I tend to think that by the time we finished 'Born to Run' my thought process was moving forward—you know, 'How do I not do that again?'" Mr. Springsteen said.

"I probably did start out trying to remake a Brill Building-influenced album," he said, referring to the New York City home to many '60s R&B and pop composers, some of whom provided songs for the Phil Spector productions that influenced "Born to Run." "I hadn't moved into my passion for country music or political or social music." But, he added, "I didn't want to be mistaken for a genre artist or neo-soul. I didn't want to be neo- anything."

"The lawsuit gave me a lot more time to reflect," he said, sitting in his guesthouse, a crackling fire at his back. "By nature, I'm cautious in many ways. I knew I was playing with dynamite. I was suspicious of success and its potential to derail your inner life. It's a huge distorting mirror. I had a pretty good self- preservation streak, but I had lots of fears."

Though he'd been on the cover of Time and Newsweek in 1975, one of those fears was the possibility that he might soon be forgotten. "There was no cable TV, no electronic media, no newsstands filled with entertainment magazines," he said of the mid-'70s. "The tyranny of the pop-culture media didn't exist. You were a young kid and nobody gave a damn."

He continued, "At that time, I didn't feel I had the room to play around. I couldn't be too casual. I felt like an adult doing my job. I was in pursuit of an adult voice and I was interested in an adult-type rebellion. It hadn't been addressed."

Mr. Springsteen leaned on what would become his greatest strength—narrative songwriting—and funneled his anxieties and concurrent willfulness into songs and performances so lean, harsh and direct that they remain startling more than three decades later. "Darkness" is an album in which its characters are angry, aggrieved and alienated, and yet when faced with a hopeless situation they hold on to hope. Though they doubt, they still want to believe, as did Mr. Springsteen way back then.

"It was like pulling a rubber band really, really tight, then leaving it tight," he said.

Mr. Springsteen set aside the boyish tales and derivative sounds of "Born to Run." Instead, he focused on supporting the complex emotions in his songs, which were built on simple unembellished chords and delivered with bite and innate power. On "Darkness," the E Street Band is restrained until it must explode, and when it does Mr. Springsteen's voice is a raw yowl. So is his guitar playing. I proposed that the album's most affecting moments rise from Mr. Springsteen's searing, whip-crack guitar solos. He'd have none of it.

"Look, I was the fastest gun in central New Jersey," he said. "When I was a kid I made my living as a guitar player frying brains and making 20 bucks from the club owner. But I set out to become a songwriter and a bandleader. I was much more interested in canvases of sound—painting the big picture lyrically and developing the sound of the band."

The new "Darkness on the Edge of Town" box includes a video, recorded last December, of Mr. Springsteen and the E Street Band playing the original album's 10 songs. His guitar playing on those tunes still expresses defiance and rage.

Risking his career, Mr. Springsteen became who he remains: a distinctive songwriter with the ability to represent the aspirations and frustrations of working men and women who hold tight to the American dream—John Steinbeck with a Fender Telecaster. In subsequent years, he created "Nebraska," "The Ghost of Tom Joad" and the underappreciated "Lucky Town," all of which stem in their ways from "Darkness," an album in which a grown man who had experienced success and stood on the precipice of elimination dug in to say what he wanted to, all else be damned.

"'Darkness,'" Mr. Springsteen said, "made very clear what we were after: music built strong enough to be about sustaining things—family, your job. Things that are always relevant."

As for changing his voice and sound after having achieved success, he said, "You don't risk, you don't get."

Mr. Fusilli is the Journal's rock and pop music critic. Email him at or follow him on Twitter: @wsjrock.

Photo credit: Eric Meola

American Spartans

The New York Post
November 10, 2010

They stormed the shores of Tripoli in 1804 and the beaches at Tarawa in 1943 and Iwo Jima in '45.

They fought America's foes house by house in Hue in 1968 and in Fallujah in 2004.

They died at Belleau Wood, halting Germany's last great offensive in World War I. Every day, they fight to stem the tide of Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.

But in the halls of the Pentagon, they may be fighting their most desperate battle yet.

They're the United States Marines. Two hundred thirty-five years ago today, the Continental Congress authorized the creation of the corps, which quickly evolved into America's most reliable fighting force and the toughest unit in the US military.

In the crossfire: SecDef Gates is set to cut the Marines' budget, while gay activists are targeting them over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Above, Marines firing on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan last month. (Scott Olson/Getty)

Generations of young men, and now young women, have passed through the Marines' unique 13-week boot camp at the Parris Island and San Diego recruit depots, where they're prepared body and soul for a love of country as well as of combat -- and a love for the traditions of the Marine Corps.

That's why they are easy for a historian to love. It's why the 1st Marine Division takes pride in being called the "Old Breed" -- where "old" means upholding the sometimes unfashionable values of honor, duty, courage and sacrifice.

That's why some of us would feel a whole lot safer if President Obama had done his 13 weeks at Parris Island. Because right now, this administration is casting a shadow over the Marines and their future.

When Navy Secretary James Forrestal watched Marines plant the flag on Mount Surabachi on Iwo Jima -- the most iconic image of World War II in the Pacific -- he told Marine Gen. Holland Smith, "That means a Marine Corps for the next 500 years."

His prediction is looking premature.

Back in August, Defense Secretary Robert Gates ordered a massive review of the corps' future role, due out in December. In Pentagon speak, "review" usually means "get ready for cuts," and this is no exception.

Gates has been quoted as saying that the Marines have "gotten too big" since the Iraq and Afghanistan wars grew their numbers from 175,000 to 202,000, and "too heavy, too removed from their expeditionary, amphibious roots" as during World War II. Too many Marines "have never stepped aboard a ship."

That's fine, except Gates has also mused about whether big amphibious operations like Iwo Jima or Inchon are even feasible any more in the age of long-range anti-ship missiles -- and whether the money spent on ships, helicopters, landing vehicles and planes for close air support of Marines attacking from the sea might be better spent elsewhere.

Today's Pentagon is focused on saving money, no matter what. If the Marines are best suited for one kind of warfare, and that warfare is becoming obsolete, that begs the obvious question: Why have Marines at all?

Yet here, Gates' view of history is distorted. The Marines have never been just a fighting force that existed to land and die on beaches. They literally wrote the book on counterinsurgency back in 1940, the "Small Wars Manual," based on their 180-year experience fighting in remote jungle and rough terrain environments from Latin America to the Philippines and North Africa.

The Marines pioneered the strategy of not just fighting an enemy but understanding his mind-set and culture, as well -- a huge advantage in counterinsurgency operations -- which is why Marines have led the way in the surges both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

Joe Rosenthal's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph taken on the Pacific island of Iwo Jima is one of the best-known war images ever made. The Allies invaded the island, more than six hundred miles off the coast of Japan, on February 19, 1945, hoping to establish a staging area for bombers. Rosenthal, a photographer for the Associated Press, landed under gunfire three hours after the invasion began. The Marines fought their way to the top of Mount Suribachi on February 23 and raised a small flag. Later that same day, five Marines and a naval medicine corpsman raised this second, larger flag at the summit and were recorded by Rosenthal. Contrary to popular belief, the moment was not staged. In thirty-one days of brutal fighting, 6,821 Americans died, including three of the flag-raisers.

Five times past administrations have tried to take down the Marines, and five times they've failed. President Harry Truman was the last to publicly talk about dismantling the corps to save money. Then as (one hopes) now, Marines were too tightly woven into the fabric of American life to let that happen.

And the Marines soon proved how wrong Truman had been in the Korean War, during the landings at Inchon and at Chosin Reservoir, where the Old Breed fought off 8-to-1 odds against the Red Chinese army in 40-degree-below-zero weather, and won 17 Medals of Honor.

Still, the Marines have an even more powerful enemy in the Obama White House. Gay activists pushing to end "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" see them as the last bastion of resistance to a social ethos that puts personal rights over teamwork and self-sacrifice, and tolerance over group cohesion.

Yet that warrior ethos has been why presidents have been able to say "Send in the Marines!" in response to sudden crises around the world for more than 200 years.

Some argue that, today, this role can best be done by such special forces as the Navy SEALS. But Marines are trained not just to fight but to die -- if necessary, to the last man. They are our American Spartans -- and like the Greek Spartans of old, their tradition of courage and self-sacrifice is the ultimate guardian of our freedom.

We tamper with the Marine Corps at our peril. The corps' new commandant general, James Amos, needs to defend it against those who would do so, for budgetary or ideological or other short-sighted reasons.

It's not just the corps that's at stake, but our nation.

Arthur Herman, author of "Gandhi and Churchill," is an American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar.

Browns' turnaround mirrors Hillis' emergence

By John Dudley
Erie Times-News
November 9, 2010

CLEVELAND - NOVEMBER 07: Running back Peyton Hillis runs the ball against the New England Patriots at Cleveland Browns Stadium on November 7, 2010 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Getty Images)

CLEVELAND -- Peyton Hillis carried three ballcaps as he walked out of the interview room Sunday afternoon. He picked the frayed, tan one -- the one that read "Cabela's," which calls itself the World's Foremost Outfitter -- and snugged it low across his brow.

Then he headed through the door, his cowboy boots clicking across the concrete floor as he disappeared down a concourse that wound through the bowels of Cleveland Browns Stadium about half an hour after a 34-14 victory over New England that cemented the Browns' status as an emerging team.

Hillis, who ran for 184 yards and two touchdowns against the Patriots, has worn a lot of hats this season.

Bruising runner. Surprisingly sure-handed receiver. And, maybe, most valuable player.

Rookie quarterback Colt McCoy might be the face of the franchise, but Hillis is beginning to look like its most irreplaceable part.

And no one in the locker room appreciates Hillis more than McCoy, whose first three games as a starter have been made easier by having a battering ram behind him to crash through piles and move the chains.

"The way Peyton runs is huge," McCoy said. "He gets fired up, and that gets the offensive line fired up, which gets the whole team fired up."

As recently as Week 1, Hillis wasn't a candidate to carry the offensive burden.

The Browns drafted Montario Hardesty as the presumed running back of the future, and even after Hardesty was lost with a season-ending knee injury, the Browns figured to go with a runner-by-committee approach led by Jerome Harrison, last season's breakout star.

But after a Week 5 loss to Atlanta in which Harrison carried six times for six yards, the Browns dealt him to Philadelphia for Mike Bell and turned the running game over to Hillis, a former seventh-round pick who had posted back-to-back 100-yard games against Baltimore and Cincinnati in Weeks 3 and 4.

Hillis hasn't looked back.

Peyton Hillis runs through the grasp of New England Patriots Vince Wilfork during the second quarter of their NFL football game in Cleveland, Ohio November 7, 2010. (Reuters)

He is on pace to rush for nearly 1,300 yards and 14 touchdowns and catch 60 passes. It's been said that his punishing style might make him more susceptible to injuries. Yet Hillis runs like a bull chasing a matador. On Sunday, he hurdled a tackler, who probably should have considered himself fortunate given that Hillis generally prefers to blast through them.

"Peyton does a nice job of grinding down the defense, which is fun to watch," Browns coach Eric Mangini said.

None of Hillis' contributions would have been possible had the Browns not abandoned the Brady Quinn experiment during the offseason and convinced the Denver Broncos to part with Hillis and two draft picks for the player who was once labeled as their next franchise quarterback.

Hillis arrived with about as much fanfare as you would expect for someone who took a backseat to Darren McFadden at Arkansas and never rushed for more than 348 yards in a season in college. The Razorbacks even used him as a blocking tight end during his senior season, and the Broncos selected him with their second pick in the seventh round of the 2008 draft and installed him at fullback.

It's hard not to root for a back like that, one who called Sunday's win -- in which the Browns dominated the Patriots in all three phases -- "the way football is supposed to be played."

Hillis has made it clear that, as someone overlooked as a potential feature back because of his lack of breakaway speed or less-than-stellar résumé, he can identify with his current team and its long-suffering fans.

"Three weeks ago a lot of people in the league didn't give us a chance," Hillis said, referring to the Browns' 1-5 start. "When that happens, you look in the mirror and ask, 'What are you going to do today to get better?' Me personally, a lot of people didn't believe in me, sometimes even people in my own family. So I can understand what that's all about."

Hillis raved about the Browns' offensive line, which has paved the way for 100-yard rushers in six of the past 11 games going back to last season. And the defense deserves credit, too, for holding the Super Bowl champion Saints to 17 points and the Patriots, the league's No. 1 offense going into Sunday, to 14.

Right now, though, no one in orange and black is outshining Hillis, no matter which hat he happens to be wearing.

JOHN DUDLEY can be reached at 870-1677 or

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Today's Tune: Kings of Leon - Use Somebody

(Click on title to play video)

Jihad by Stoning

The Obama Watch

By Aaron Goldstein on 11.9.10 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

MUMBAI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 07: President Barack Obama addresses Indian students at St. Xavier's College on November 7, 2010 in Mumbai, India. The President and the First Lady are on a ten day Asia tour with stops in India as well as Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. (Getty Images)

Perhaps the most telling moment so far of President Obama's overseas trip to Southeastern Asia occurred while he was addressing students at St. Xavier's College in Mumbai, India. During a question and answer period which followed the President's remarks, a female student asked Obama's views about jihad. Here is a portion of the President Obama's reply to that question:

Well, the phrase "jihad" has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to a lot of different interpretations. But I will say that, first, Islam is one of the world's great religions. And more than a billion people who practice Islam, the overwhelming majority view their obligations to their religion as ones that reaffirm peace and justice and fairness and tolerance. I think all of us recognize that this great religion in the hands of a few extremists has been distorted to justify violence towards innocent people that is never justified.

And so I think one of the challenges that we face is how do we isolate those who have these distorted notions of religious war and reaffirm those who see faiths of all sorts -- whether you are a Hindu or a Muslim or a Christian or a Jew or any other religion, or your don't practice a religion -- that we can all treat each other with respect and mutual dignity, and that some of the universal principles that Gandhi referred to -- that those are what we're living up to, as we live in a nation or nations that have very diverse religious beliefs.

If one is to accept President Obama's argument that jihad "has a lot of meanings within Islam and is subject to different interpretations," then one must wonder what Obama thinks about its meaning and interpretation in certain parts of Indonesia. After all, Obama did spend four years of his childhood in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. As a presidential candidate, Obama made the argument that his time in Indonesia rendered him more qualified on questions of foreign policy than either Hillary Rodham Clinton or John McCain. Based on those formative experiences, it would not be unreasonable then to conclude that the President maintains a keen interest in Indonesia's state of affairs and is aware of ongoing developments there.

So as President Obama proceeds to the country he once called home for the next leg of his South Asian tour, one wonders if anyone will ask him what he thinks of that meaning and interpretation of jihad which sanctions death by stoning against those who commit adultery. To be precise, will anyone ask him his views of the stoning law that was unanimously passed in the Indonesian province of Aceh in September 2009?[1] Some of the other sanctions covered under the law in Aceh are public caning for activities such as non-marital sex, drinking, and gambling.[2] Anyone caught engaging in homosexual behavior is also subject not only to caning but a minimum of eight years in prison.[3]

Aceh's harsh sanctions against homosexuality are noteworthy when one considers what President Obama had to say about Uganda's proposed anti-homosexual laws. Last February, while addressing the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington D.C., the President called the East African nation's plans against homosexuals (which does include a death penalty provision) "odious."[4] As of this writing, however, the Ugandan legislation has not been enacted although it is believed the law will eventually pass.[5]

However, the sanctions against homosexuality are the law of the land in Aceh. So too is the death penalty for adultery. Yet at present President Obama has volunteered no public comment and in the absence of any public comment it is only fair to ask President Obama if he also find the laws of Aceh to be "odious." Or does the President hold Muslim countries and Christian countries to different standards? Does President Obama believe the legislators in Aceh engaged in extremism? Or does the President believe they are just fulfilling their obligation to their religion? Does President Obama think the Gandhian universal principles of respect and mutual dignity apply in Aceh? Or is Aceh one of those places where the President says it is not for him to meddle?

Or put another way, will President Obama leave Indonesia no stone unturned?

Aaron Goldstein writes from Boston, Massachusetts.







What’s So Great About America

The Weekly Standard
Nov 6, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 09

U.S. Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio waves as he leaves the stage with his wife Jeanette, mother Oria, and daughter Amanda, during an outdoor victory celebration at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Florida November 2, 2010. (Reuters)

Marco Rubio will have to write a new speech sooner or later, but he shouldn’t hurry up on our account. We still enjoy the one he’s been giving all year. He delivered it again to a national television audience on Election Night, after walloping not one but two formidable opponents in his campaign for a vacant Florida Senate seat. Along with his gift for wooing voters, the speech has made Rubio, according to a chorus of news accounts, a “rising star”—even, said one Vanity Fair writer who should know, a “matinee idol.” Republicans might want to ponder why.

The theme of the speech, and the source of its power, is American exceptionalism. “It’s sometimes easy to forget how special America really is,” Rubio says. “But I was raised by exiles .  .  . by people who clearly understand how different America is from the rest of the world.” Rubio’s parents, who fled Castro’s tyranny, taught him this difference by their words and by their example. Rubio makes his case for American exceptionalism with both an appeal to authority—the word of his parents​—and an appeal to experience: The good life America offered them is itself proof that his country, in its political, social, and economic arrangements, is unlike any other in history.

Rubio’s speech dares to cast our political differences in the grandest terms. Politics becomes a matter of history and ideas rather than motive-mongering and pie-slicing. It has been heartening to see other Republican politicians pick up his theme of exceptionalism, and we commend it to those who haven’t. During the campaign Sarah Palin and her hand-crafted candidates repeated the “E” word as though it had magical powers. And maybe it does. Lt. Col. Allen West, like Rubio a Floridian and one of two African Americans to win congressional seats for the Republicans last week, tucked every one of his policy positions, from modernizing the military to cutting the federal budget, under the rubric “Restoring American Exceptionalism.”

Not every candidate needs to go so far as West. Some political issues, after all, do not necessarily touch on first principles. Republicans must take care that “exceptionalism” doesn’t collapse through thoughtless repetition into a mere slogan, another bit of political cant like “Take Our Country Back” or “Move America Forward,” losing all meaning even as it wows the focus groups. For the line of argument that Rubio pursues, his way of framing the choice that voters face in the Obama era, is uncommonly—you might say, exceptionally—useful, for three reasons.

First, the idea of American exceptionalism has the benefit of being true. The United States is fundamentally and demonstrably different from other countries. It is bound together by a founding proposition, and properly applied the proposition has brought freedom and prosperity to more people, and more kinds of people, than any other. Second, a large majority of Americans believe American exceptionalism to be true. And third, it drives Democrats right around the bend.

It’s not clear why. Maybe liberal polemicists don’t quite understand what the phrase means, and so they pummel it into a caricature. In Politico last week, under the oddly truncated headline “U.S. Is Not Greatest Country Ever,” the columnist Michael Kinsley wrote that exceptionalism is “the theory that Americans are better than everybody else.” The next day, on a well-trafficked liberal website, another columnist said much the same thing—they tend to run in packs, these guys. Other countries, this columnist wrote, are “investing in infrastructure,” unlike the United States, which apparently just spent $780 billion in stimulus on chopped liver. At the same time, he went on, “the Republicans have taken refuge in an antigovernment ideology premised on the lunatic notion that America is the only truly free and successful country in the world.”

Assuming they were offered in good faith, these characterizations are hopelessly confused, conflating exceptionalism with jingoism or xenophobia or mere self-aggrandizement. (He got the antigovernment part right, though.) But even if they do understand what the term means, we can’t be sure that professional Democrats really believe it. Liberalism in its present degenerate form is reactionary—a gesture of irritation at the backward quality of ordinary American life, at its culture, its food and dress and amusements and politics, and especially at the mindless and sentimental patriotism that unsophisticated Americans are so quick to embrace.

President Obama—who in other venues, such as his Nobel speech, has given eloquent testimony to America’s uniqueness—last year made a now notorious remark that nicely summarized the off-the-shelf liberal view. “I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.” The logic is straightforward. Since every people believes it’s exceptional, none is. And thus our belief in American exceptionalism merely shows how much we’re like everybody else; the assertion disproves itself. We all of us here on Spaceship Earth indulge in a kind of touching childish delusion, akin to a toddler’s belief that he’s the center of the universe. We really should grow up.

For many sophisticated Democrats the belief is not merely childish but dangerous. It distracts us from the urgent matters at hand. “This conceit that we’re the greatest country ever may be self-immolating,” Kinsley wrote. “If people believe it’s true, they won’t do what’s necessary to make it true.”

This strikes us—and will strike most Americans, we’ll wager—as the precise opposite of the truth. Americans through time have already done “what’s necessary to make” the country unique in all the world; that’s why Glenn Beck and all those Tea Partiers prattle endlessly on about the Founders. Thanks to the ingenuity, persistence, and sacrifice of earlier generations, our obligation now is to conserve the arrangements that make us exceptional, reaffirm them, and prepare to pass them on, with an abiding faith in personal liberty. And this much should be obvious: If Americans don’t believe “we’re the greatest country ever,” we won’t be for much longer.

Sounds like a campaign theme.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Night of numbers for Penn State's Paterno

Sunday, November 07, 2010
By Ron Cook, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno gets carried off the field after getting his 400th career win against Northwestern at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pa. Saturday. (Lake Fong/Post-Gazette)


This wonderful, magical night at the State University of Pennsylvania was about an amazing number, but it isn't the one you might think. It wasn't so much about Joe Paterno's 400th career coaching win -- a 35-21 come-from-behind stunner against Northwestern Saturday -- although that's an extraordinary total that you and your kids and their kids never will see matched in your and their lifetimes by one coach at one school at the highest level of college football. It was more about the 104,147 fans who came to Beaver Stadium to see sports history, a much different, more throbbing crowd than the one of 40,911 who turned out at the stadium for Paterno's first victory against Maryland back on Sept. 17, 1966. Really, it's about the total number of fans who have watched Penn State play at Beaver Stadium during the Paterno era, now in its 45th year and showing no signs of stopping.


Good luck wrapping your arms around that figure.

"It's funny; his whole thing when I played here [in the late-1960s] was about putting Penn State on the map," former All-American and Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham was musing about Paterno before the game Saturday. "People thought we were the University of Pennsylvania. They thought we were in Philadelphia. Now, they know better."

Certainly, the big crowd Saturday night realized what Paterno has meant to Penn State. Just about all of the 104,000-and-change hung around to watch the classy on-field tribute that school officials did for him. Video on the scoreboard took him way back in time, tracing his life at Penn State, beginning in 1950 when he broke his parents' hearts by passing up law school to join coach Rip Engle's staff for the first of 16 seasons as an assistant coach. His wife, Sue, was on his arm. His five children, including son, Jay, his quarterbacks coach, who was in tears, were there on the podium, as were their spouses and the 17 Paterno grandchildren.

You should have heard those fans roar when they finally handed Paterno the microphone. His voice, so weak this summer when he was sick and looking as if he wouldn't make it through the season, sounded mighty fine and powerful. At that incredible moment, he didn't look at all 83, soon to be 84 on Dec. 21.

"People ask me why I've stayed here so long," Paterno said. "You know what, look around ... Look around."

It was an incredible sight.

The energy was staggering.

It's just one piece of the Paterno legacy, a legacy that's unmatched in college football history. There's the Paterno Library on campus. The $4 million he and Sue have donated to Penn State. The countless millions he has raised as the university's best goodwill ambassador.

And, of course, those 400 wins.

"I can't imagine anyone ever getting there again unless they start playing 25 games a year in college football," Ham gushed under his white "JoePa" ballcap,

A man has to have incredible staying power to get to that number. Harry Truman was in the White House when Paterno joined Engle's staff. Ten presidents have come and gone since then with there being no guarantees that the 11th -- Barack Obama -- will outlast Paterno. In typical fashion for a man who's always looking ahead to the next game, the last thing he told the crowd was, "Now that the celebration is over, let's go beat Ohio State [next Saturday]!" He didn't sound at all as if he was close to retiring.

That's just fine with the Penn State students. They like living in "Paternoville" outside Beaver Stadium the night before home games, better to get the good seats when they open the gates. They had chanted "JoePa-Terno" as the clock ticked down on Penn State's comeback from a 21-0 deficit, matching the largest comeback by a Paterno team. Cameras flashed throughout the stadium. People wanted to capture the moment. Kids held up signs, "400 The Paterno Way." The scoreboard rolled off a list of each of his wins. Good thing the Penn State people did it at the same speed they run movie credits or we'd still be waiting for the finish.

"It's not just about the 400 wins," Penn State athletic director Tim Curley told the crowd. "It's about how they were accomplished: Success with honor and integrity."

400 The Paterno Way.

The final words here are reserved for Alabama coach Nick Saban, one of the many coaches who only can dream of having a career like Paterno's. His team put a 24-3 licking on Penn State in Tuscaloosa Sept. 11, giving Paterno one of his 132 defeats.

"In his 45 years at Penn State," Saban said, "there isn't a classier program or classier gentleman, a better teacher or a guy who has affected more lives in a positive way ... "

What a nice way to be remembered.

And 400 wins to boot!

"I've been awfully lucky," Paterno said, quietly.

Pretty good, too.

Ron Cook: Ron Cook can be heard on the "Vinnie and Cook" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.

Read more:

Remembering Sparky Anderson

Sparky Anderson, thanks for the memories

Former Reds manager was gregarious, loving and well-loved.

By Paul Daugherty
Cincinnati Enquirer
November 4, 2010

Former Reds Manager Sparky Anderson with his bronzed image in 2004. The Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame celebrated its completion with a gala attended by former and present day Reds players. (Enquirer file photo)

If sports provide the carnival music of our lives, Sparky Anderson was the barker.

It was a good time to be alive and in Cincinnati in the 1970s. You could thank Sparky for some of that. Leaning forward from the dugout rail, yapping at his “boys,’’ loving baseball and his role in it. A lucky man who knew it.

Not long ago, he stopped eating. Dementia does that to a person. Swallowing can be impaired; the connection between eating and staying alive is lost. It’s as if the brain tells the body “enough.’’

He died peacefully and without fanfare Thursday. George Lee Anderson was 76. There’s some wonderful and ironic Big Red symmetry there.

Dying peacefully wasn’t especially like Sparky Anderson. He was gregarious, loving and well-loved. The no-fanfare would have been OK with him, though. He’d have appreciated that. Sparky wouldn’t want no fuss made.

“It’s them guys out there that do it,’’ he might say, stretching a finger in the direction of the ballfield. “It wasn’t what I did. It was what they did. I got the easiest job in the world.’’

He managed the Reds to four pennants and two world titles. He arrived in 1970, a 36-year-old career bus rider that Lee May referred to early on as “that minor-league mother.’’ He departed nine years later as the jockey who rode the Secretariat of major league teams.

Anderson was comfortable with fame. It just never changed him, which was remarkable. He was also easy with crediting everyone else, a trait that served the Reds well during their star-filled run. “He had everyone’s respect, but he had to earn it, and he did,’’ Johnny Bench recalled Wednesday.

Reds manager Sparky Anderson in 1977, watching a game versus the Dodgers at Riverfront Stadium. (Enquirer file photo)

A few years ago, I did a book with Bench. We talked at length about Sparky. Bench said the Main Spark’s best attribute was his ability to manage people. From the book, Catch Every Ball:
Sparky took the time to know his players individually, so when he needed to motivate someone, he knew what made him tick.

Anderson would consult The Big Four (Bench, Pete Rose, Tony Perez, Joe Morgan) before recommending a trade to the general manager. If we didn’t like the player or didn’t believe he’d fit our team, we’d veto him. If there was a guy available we wouldn’t like to have dinner with, he wouldn’t be on our club.

Joe, Pete, Tony and I ruled the clubhouse. One spring, Sparky told the team, “I have one set of rules for you guys, and one set for them,” pointing to The Big Four. “Their rules are, they have no rules.”

“He relied on our information, but made the decisions,’’ said Bench. “And 99.9 percent of the time, he was right.’’

The Big Four repaid Anderson’s respect for them with championships, and love of the sort only ballplayers know. Pete Rose visited Anderson recently; Bench and Morgan saw him in August, in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. “It was sad,’’ Bench recalled.

Anderson couldn’t hear. He’d gotten new hearing aids not long before he made the trip to Cooperstown, but had forgotten to remove them when he took a shower. “When you can’t hear, it’s like you’re living in a vacuum. His social life stopped,’’ Bench said. “We were just all holding our breath in Cooperstown, hoping he’d make a comeback.’’

Bench recalled a photo he took of his former manager that day. “He had a faraway look in his eyes,’’ Bench said, “like he was already gone.’’

I asked Bench to look into his mind’s eye and fetch an image of Anderson.

“Smiling, happy and brilliant,’’ Bench said. “That lean he always had. . . The fact he never stepped on a foul line. . . ‘Big John, how ya doin’?’ … we’re in spring training once, in the outfield doing calisthenics. He came up, started feinting, like he was boxing. I clipped him with a left jab on top of his head. He wanted to be one of the guys.

“Sparky gave me stature,’’ Bench continued. He gave the team a level of professionalism and the fans a team that would be respected.’’

Icons die ingloriously, same as the rest of us. The difference is the memories they bequeath. Once upon a time, there was a team that played baseball as well as any before or since. Sparky Anderson managed it. We all were younger then.

An essay on Sparky Anderson

Enquirer writer shares his thoughts on Reds great

By John Erardi
Cincinnati Enquirer
November 4, 2010

Sombebody once asked Sparky Anderson what was his favorite kind of music.

"The love songs," he answered.

No three words ever described a man better.

In 25 years of covering sports in Cincinnati, I only once got somebody's autograph – Sparky Anderson's.

2008 Goudey

Under the strictures of the Baseball Writers Association of America, I wasn't supposed to get any. I made a one-time exception for my mother, bedridden from multiple sclerosis. Sparky was one of her favorite guys, so I figured what the heck.

Besides, it wasn't a public setting; it was just me and Sparky. I recall it taking place in Louisville in the mid-to-late 1980s when Anderson's Detroit Tigers were in town to play an exhibition game.

I think we talked about Sparky's and my mother's love of country music. I've never been a big fan of the genre, but I understood their point: Country and western songs have the best storylines.

I remember leaving our meeting thinking, "Man, what a nice guy."

I've never had a feeling on the job quite like that since – except when I'd see Sparky again.

I'm writing this today not because Sparky has just died. I've been saying it for years whenever somebody has asked me who is the nicest person I've ever met in sports. My answer's always been the same: "Sparky Anderson - nobody else even close."

Everybody who ever met Sparky has a Sparky story, because he was congenitally kind. Sparky would dispute the congenital part. He says he learned it from his father growing up in Bridgewater, S.D.

It doesn’t cost anything to be nice to people.

My Enquirer colleague Bill Koch recently told me of having driven with another journalist to the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown, N.Y., late in the afternoon on the day of their arrival for Induction Weekend at the Baseball Hall of Fame. They were scrambling for a first-day story, as often happens for journalists.

They found a side road onto which to pull their rental car. As they approached the hotel, who should be walking down the driveway and headed back to the hotel?

"Hey, Lonnie, check this out," Koch pointed.

It was none other than George "Sparky" Anderson, media gold, dropped down from heaven.

"He didn't know me," Koch said. "He didn't have to stop and talk. But he stood there and talked to us for 30 minutes like we were his next-door neighbors."

Which was, of course, the charm of the man.

I didn't know Sparky well, but he always gave me a smile and handshake that I took to mean he remembered my face.

How sweet that twinkle of recognition.

I remember once being in the manager's office in Detroit where I had gone to write a feature on the Tigers manager.

I lost track of the time. It was Sparky who woke me from my reverie.

"Excuse me – that's the national anthem," he said. "I'm always out there for the anthem."

It was 10 minutes before game time. I should have been out of his office a half hour earlier. We'd been talking about the Big Red Machine; he could've gone on forever. Not because he needed to, but because I needed him to.

There is only one other person I've ever met who was so totally devoid of any pretense whatsoever about his celebrity: Joe Nuxhall.

Toward the end of Sparky's 17-year run in Detroit, I recall hearing that he had to take a leave of absence; he was exhausted. There was, we were told, a public and a private Anderson. "Sparky" never said no to anybody when he was managing, on the field or off. Back home in Thousand Oaks, "George" Anderson could say no.

But it wasn't a phony "Sparky." It couldn't have been. Nobody can be that nice that long unless it's real. Besides, there are countless stories of him back home in the neighborhood, being everybody's best friend, even when he was just out taking a walk.

Before I got into sports writing, I was driving to work one day in the mid-1970s, and who should cross the street in front of me – between downtown and Riverfront Stadium – but Sparky Anderson. I'd never before seen the man except from the stands or on TV. He was carrying his dry cleaning. It caught me off-guard. It shouldn't have. It was Sparky. He picked up and dropped off his own laundry. I would later learn that Sparky was a "neat freak."

That day, a couple of horns of recognition honked. I remember yelling something at the Reds' skipper – he was God in this town in the mid-1970s – something like, "Hey, Main Spark!" He waved back.

That's the way I'll remember him.

I've never written a story about somebody without saying something more than "What a nice guy." I don't expect I ever will again.

Sparky Anderson was one of a kind.

Losing Sparky like losing family

The Skipper held court, built up his players and lit up a room

November 5, 2010

I had a dream about Sparky Anderson a few days ago. He looked old and his hair was brown, and I called to him, but he didn't recognize me. Only after I said my name did he smile.

And then it ended.

Detroit Tigers manager Sparky Anderson relaxes with his pipe and a newspaper in the Tigers locker room before a game against Milwaukee in Detroit on Oct. 2, 1981. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I'd been wondering about that dream because Sparky doesn't usually show up in my REM cycle. And why was his hair brown? Sparky? The original White Wizard? Then, Thursday afternoon, I heard the jarring news: At age 76, Anderson, one of the most colorful, charming, perfectly suited managers baseball ever produced, had died in California.

I don't know what that means for the dream. I know what it means for baseball. A mold has been forever shattered. Fans of a certain generation need only hear the word "Sparky" and they'll know what just passed. And kids, well, it may be hard to explain. Anderson didn't belong to today's fantasy league/money ball/analytics world of baseball. He was born to manage it. Not study it. Not even play it. (He was a pretty lousy player.) Manage it. He got the game. He felt it. He gripped the clubhouse the way Ruth or DiMaggio gripped a bat. He played hunches, pulled pitchers, tinkered lineups. He lived the game's lore until he became part of it. Baseball wasn't a diamond to Sparky, it was a planet. His home.

Unlike most managers, Sparky Anderson actually looked more natural in a baseball outfit than in regular clothes. If you saw him in a shirt and tie or, heaven forbid, one of those colorful sweatsuits he sometimes wore, you wanted him to yank it off, Superman style, and reveal the leggings, the belt, the cap.

You know. The Sparky look.

He knew the game inside out

George Lee Anderson was baseball. As a kid in Los Angeles, he played the game with Buckwheat from the "Little Rascals." True story. I learned this in one of countless visits to his inner sanctum, the manager's office. Those lucky enough to get inside recall a whirling dervish of a man in his underwear, scarfing spaghetti, his head almost in the sauce, but talking. Or a man hurled back in his chair like a king, hands raking through his white hair, still talking. Or a man stuffing his pipe with tobacco, eyes on the stem, still talking.

I've heard Sparky talk about the Pope ("Oh, that man there, what a face!"), an alternative career ("I woulda been a painter like my daddy"), even a punk rock group, The Dead Milkmen. Ain't? None? Nobody? No? I have heard Sparky use so many negatives in one sentence that it became a positive.

But the players who heard him talk baseball were the luckiest of all. He knew the game's DNA. Don't misunderstand. Sparky was no Kumbaya campfire skipper. He made his players shave. Dress in jackets and ties. To paraphrase Kipling, they all counted with him, but none too much. Kirk Gibson remembers a time Anderson called him into the office, yelling, "Big Boy, come in here! ... You got something to say?" And Gibson did. He ranted and raved for three minutes, uninterrupted, about playing time and usage. Finally, Sparky nodded and said, "Are you done?" Yes, Gibson said. Sparky motioned to the door -- go on now, get out -- and never added a word.

"But I felt better," Gibson recalled.

And that was Sparky's touch.

Hall of Fame inductee Sparky Anderson views a display featuring artifacts from the Detroit Tigers' 1984 World Series win at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., on April 18, 2000. (Tim Roske/AP)

'A father figure' to his players

Anderson's accomplishments speak for themselves. (And given how much Sparky spoke, that's saying something.) Sixth on the all-time wins list. World Series titles in both leagues. Hall of Famer.

But in the flood of memories Thursday from former players, few focused on that, and nearly all focused on how cherished they felt by him, how much he molded them. Cecil Fielder referred to him as "a father figure." Jack Morris said the team felt like "his family." Lance Parrish recalled Anderson's endless charity work.

It would be fitting to ask Ernie Harwell -- he and Sparky walked together every morning on road trips -- but we lost Ernie this year, too, and it seems like some heavenly roll call is taking place in our town.

I know this. The Sparky I saw in my dream wasn't the Sparky we loved -- nothing brown about him -- and if that was to be his path with the dementia he suffered, perhaps this is a kinder fate. Better to recall the best manager Detroit ever had as smiling, chatting, lighting up a room with a gravelly "How ya doin'?" Forever young in name and spirit, forever white and bright.

A Manager Who Stuck to His Guns and Fired Away

The New York Times
November 6, 2010

Lennox Mclendon/Associated Press

Sparky Anderson, who died Thursday, managed Detroit and Cincinnati to World Series titles.

To everyone in baseball he was Sparky Anderson; hardly anybody called him George. But as a manager, he was not just a spark. He was a bonfire who sometimes burst into a three-alarm blaze.

He led Cincinnati’s Big Red Machine to World Series championships in 1975 and 1976, but when the Reds finished second the next two seasons, he was abruptly dismissed.

“I burned inside ever since I was fired in Cincinnati,” Anderson, who died of complications of dementia on Thurday at 76, often said. “I hold no grudges — that’s part of the game. But I won’t stop driving until I prove I’m right.”

Hired early in the 1979 season by the Detroit Tigers, he slowly assembled the team with Kirk Gibson and Alan Trammell that soared to a 35-5 start in 1984 and dominated the San Diego Padres in the World Series. He had proved that he was right, that he was much more than a “push-button manager” who in Cincinnati had won those two Series, four National League pennants and five divisional titles.

“We heard that for nine years, my coaches and me,” he said with a serrated edge in his voice when the Tigers won that 1984 Series. “But we only had three people from the team we inherited: Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Tony Perez. Three men make a dynasty — I didn’t know that.”

His teams in Cincinnati also had second baseman Joe Morgan, an eventual Hall of Famer, as well as shortstop Dave Concepcion; outfielders George Foster, Ken Griffey Sr., and Cesar Geronimo; and pitchers Don Gullett, Jack Billingham, Pat Zachry and Rawly Eastwick. In the classic 1975 Series, the Reds beat the Boston Red Sox in seven games, and then they swept the Yankees in four games in 1976.

During his news conference after the Series finale in 1976, Anderson was asked to compare Yankee catcher Thurman Munson, who was voted the American League’s most valuable player that season, with Bench, the Reds catcher and eventual Hall of Famer who had been the National League’s M.V.P. in 1970 and 1972. The question lighted the bonfire of Anderson’s loyalty to his players.

“Munson is an outstanding ballplayer and he would hit .300 in the National League,” he replied sharply, “but don’t ever compare nobody to Johnny Bench; don’t never embarrass nobody by comparing them to Johnny Bench.”

Standing nearby, Munson heard Anderson’s words, and when he followed Anderson to the microphone, he said he felt “belittled.” Three weeks later, Anderson wrote Munson a letter of apology, released by the Reds, that he had “no intention of trying to belittle you or any other catcher.”

Anderson’s devotion to all major league players was evident when club owners, mired in a labor dispute with the Players Association that eventually canceled the 1994 World Series, were considering using replacement players to start the 1995 season. Anderson took a leave of absence until the regular players returned.

As a 5-foot-9, 170-pound second baseman, he spent only one season in the big leagues, with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1959, hitting .218 with only 34 runs batted in and no home runs before returning to the minors and managing. He was a coach with the Padres before he joined the Reds as their manager in 1970.

“Please let’s don’t think of such a horror story that we’re going to have baseball with replacement players,” he barked, adding that he would decline his $1.2 million salary, then the highest of any manager, and refuse to manage such a group. “I don’t like my intelligence insulted by telling me this is the Detroit Tigers.”

By then, he was speaking with the security of what would be more than a quarter of a century as a major league manager — 9 years with the Reds, 17 with the Tigers. But in the days before the Tigers won that 1984 Series, he knew what a victory in it would mean to his career.

“I told my wife, Carol, that if I’m the first manager ever to win the World Series with a team in both leagues, we can always get a job,” he said.

His syntax was seldom perfect, but his meaning was always clear. “I see now,” he once said with a smile, “they even put ‘ain’t’ in the dictionary, so I’m good. I’m covered.”

When a pitcher joined the Reds or the Tigers, he knew not to argue or show up the manager known as Captain Hook when he came to the mound and called for a relief pitcher.

“Just put the ball in my hand like an egg,” he told them, “and leave quietly.”

When he managed, he decided on the lineup. The day he transferred Pete Rose, who had played second base and the outfield, to third base, he was reminded that Bob Howsam, the Reds’ general manager, was out of town.

“It doesn’t matter where Bob is,” he said.

In one of his last seasons with the Tigers, he was annoyed that George Steinbrenner had seemed to be stalking Manager Buck Showalter before the Yankees ran off six straight victories. “I hope he,” Anderson said, meaning the Yankees’ principal owner, “doesn’t think he won any of those games.”

Yes, his nickname was Sparky, but he really was a bonfire who sometimes burst into a three-alarm blaze.

Sparky Anderson on baseball

Reds manager wrote this foreword on baseball

By John Erardi
Cincinnati Enquirer staff writer
November 4, 2010

Sparky Anderson provided the foreword, as told to John Erardi, for our 2006 baseball preview section, Baseball by the Book, which talked about his way to play the game:

I’ve heard about “the book.” Baseball by the book. I didn’t have a book, didn’t go by the book, never once in my life copied anybody. My attitude was, "What if they’re wrong?" But some things I believed in.

Left-handed pitcher vs. left-handed hitter. The left-hander’s breaking ball runs away from the left-handed hitter. Makes it harder to hit. Righty-righty, same thing. Well, except for Clay Carroll. Clay was a righty, still is I guess, and he could get anybody out. Didn’t make no difference to Clay, and so it didn’t make no difference to me. I’d say, "Hawk" - that was his nickname - "Hawk, we need some all-star relief tonight." And he’d say, "You got it!" Boy, he was something else.

My eyes, that’s what I believed in. That’s what I went by. Leave your heart at home. Your heart’s for your family. I didn’t need no computer to tell me what my eyes were seein’. The sacrifice bunt? No, I didn’t believe much in that, except for the pitchers, of course.

You know why I wasn’t big on the bunt? I didn’t like giving my team one less out. Outs? I guard outs with my life, especially those last six outs.

But some outs I give you. Like at the beginning of an inning. Joe Morgan walks by and says, “Skip, when I get on” – see, when I get on, not if I get on, and, oh yes, he would get on, walk, hit, whatever – “don’t bunt me over; I got this guy” – the pitcher – “down pat. I’ll get myself over.” And then, when Joe took that lead and shook up the pitcher – who knew there was no way he could keep Joe on first, but he’d try, anyway – well, when Joe got to second, and he always got to second, that’s when I’d bunt him over, and the next guy or the guy after that would hit the sacrifice fly.

Boom! Game over, we go home.

Talent makes the manager. You get all the talent out of your players that you can. That’s all that managing is. Getting every ounce out of them that you can. Tony LaRussa and Bobby Cox, I marvel at them. They’re really good. They get the most out of their talent, year after year after year.

The hit-and-run? Now you’re talkin’. I believed in the hit-and-run. I saw John Bench hit three home runs on hit-and-runs. See, when John was having trouble at the plate it was because he was coming off the ball, you know, pulling off with his left side. Give him the hit-and-run sign and he’d stay on that ball because on the hit-and-run the hitter needs to make contact, otherwise the baserunner, who is running on the pitch, could easily be thrown out by the catcher unless the runner’s fast.

Stealing a base? Yeah, I loved the stolen base. Larry Shepard, our pitching coach, said, "You took a league that wasn’t moving and got it moving." The stolen base gave us another way to beat you. You aren’t always going to hit. But the speed, the speed’s always there. They say I was three years ahead of the rest of the league, having more stolen bases than home runs, but I wasn’t doing it just to be doing it. I was doing it because I knew you couldn’t stop it.

Captain Hook? Yeah, I used what I had. We weren’t blessed with the Dodgers’ starting pitching, but we had a really deep bullpen. People say I was ahead there, too, five years ahead of the league, you know, having more saves than complete games, but I didn’t do it because it was in some book. I did it because we didn’t have but a couple of guys who could go much past six innings.

The other thing is, you got to know what the other guy’s got. You got to know what the opposing team has available to them to try to get themselves back into it. Coach Georgie Scherger called it having the last six outs. Get us to those last six outs and we’re going to beat you, because our last six outs are better than your last six outs, and we know what we want to do.

So, yeah, you manage what you got, and you know what the other guy’s got so you can trap him. That was the way I managed. That was the book I used.

- Sparky Anderson

What Springsteen Kept to Himself

The New York Times
November 4, 2010

Colts Neck, N.J.

OVER the course of nearly four decades Bruce Springsteen has become such a reassuring figure that he once wearily noted that people seemed to think of him as Santa Claus, with New Jersey serving as the North Pole. The notion, then, of Mr. Springsteen leaping onto a conference table in a Midtown law office and screaming obscenities at a lawyer who was questioning him during a pretrial deposition hardly corresponds to his inspirational image.

But in the summer of 1976 Mr. Springsteen, who less than a year before had been on the covers of Time and Newsweek to mark the release of his album “Born to Run,” now a classic, had grown desperate that his career was being derailed. He and the man who had been his manager and producer had become embroiled in bitter lawsuits, and Mr. Springsteen’s control of his life and work hung in the balance.

Bruce Springsteen, right, with the E Street band in 1978 on the roof of the building in Manhattan where they recorded "Darkness on the Edge of Town," the album released after his legal battles. (Frank Stefanko)

The raw emotions of that period partly account for the continuing power of “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” the album Mr. Springsteen released in 1978, after the lawsuits had been settled. An elaborate three-CD, three-DVD boxed set, “The Promise: The Darkness on the Edge of Town Story,” scheduled for release on Nov. 16, tells the tale of how that album came to be. The collection includes a documentary on the making of the album, a two-CD set of previously unreleased tracks that will also be available separately, two additional DVDs of live material, and a remastered version of “Darkness on the Edge of Town” itself.

The dread and exultation woven through all that material reflects the contradictions of those times, as well as the twin poles of Mr. Springsteen’s work since then.

“Those are our specialties,” he said with a laugh, as he recalled that period. Wearing black jeans and a light-blue-plaid shirt open to the middle of his chest, with chains and medals hanging around his neck, Mr. Springsteen sat on a high stool in front of a fireplace in a 300-year-old cottage on his property in Colt’s Neck, near Asbury Park. Mr. Springsteen, relishing the heat from the fire, would hunch over and look down when he was thinking and look straight ahead intently when he found his train of thought.

If the highly romantic “Born to Run” had been a final howl of adolescence for Mr. Springsteen, the 10 songs on “Darkness” marked his entry into the troubled, compromised, ambiguous world of adulthood. It was not an easy transition, as the 21 songs on “The Promise,” all of which Mr. Springsteen recorded while working on “Darkness,” make clear.

“I loved all of that music tremendously,” he said about the dozens of songs he recorded while finding his way to the rigorously spare “Darkness.” “It was in me, and I had to get it out. And I’m glad I did.

“It’s filled with melody and the Brill Building and soul music and English pop music.”

At the time, however, Mr. Springsteen was concerned about being labeled a “revivalist” because of his love of those classic genres. “I felt that would have been a diminishment of what my abilities might be,” he said. Critics had viewed him as the savior of rock ’n’ roll, but he was determined to carve out a future, not simply restore what the music had meant in the past.

“The only thing I was always nervous about was not living up to what my potential might be,” he said. “That frightened me the most. I didn’t think I was the most gifted performer or singer. I felt like I was given a heavy dose of journeyman’s talents, and that if I worked those things with everything I had, they could coalesce into something that was specifically mine.”

Mr. Springsteen, who was in his late 20s, had just begun to define his vision with “Born to Run,” and he wanted to make sure his next step extended his creative reach. “I was chasing my own voice, and I was also concerned with adulthood,” he said. “In 1977 the ceiling on the age for rock musicians wasn’t 70 years old, as it is today. It was about 33.

“Plus, I was becoming interested in music that dealt with the pressures of the adult world: work, family entanglements, social forces arrayed for or against you.”

Mr. Springsteen hit that target hard on “Darkness.” Songs like “Factory” and “Racing in the Street” portray the lives of the working-class people he had grown up with in stark, existential terms. The choices available are a grim descent into numbness or exultant, if potentially destructive, sensation seeking:

Some guys they just give up living

And start dying little by little, piece by piece,

Some guys come home from work and wash up,

And go racin’ in the street.

It was a worldview that was coming into focus in the 70s, a time of gas lines, narrowing economic horizons and what President Jimmy Carter characterized as a national “malaise.” The director Martin Scorsese and actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino (whom Mr. Springsteen strongly resembles in the cover portrait for “Darkness”) portrayed blue-collar lives with force and dignity in the movies.

Mr. Springsteen created an album very much in tune with those cultural currents, but he paid a price in the many worthwhile songs he set aside in order to do that. “The Promise,” a song that had become a favorite of Mr. Springsteen’s fans in performance, lost its place on the album, Mr. Springsteen said, because he believed it to be too autobiographical, too tied to his legal troubles and therefore too narrow in its focus. “I don’t write songs about lawsuits,” he had snapped at the time, but, at least in part, he had, and that was the song’s demise. It has now been restored to prominence.

“It was a song about defeat, and it was self-referential, which made me uncomfortable,” Mr. Springsteen said about “The Promise.” “I didn’t want it to overtake the album, which, in the end, was not my personal story. I wanted ‘Darkness’ to be completely independent of that. So I left it off. But I remember saying to myself, ‘This is something I can sing later.’ The distance really helps it now.”

Jon Landau, who is Mr. Springsteen’s manager and who co-produced “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” describes another critical decision Mr. Springsteen made in selecting the songs for “Darkness”: “The album had no hits. The songs that were pretty obviously going to be pop hits, ‘Fire,’ ‘Because the Night,’ ” songs that Mr. Springsteen gave to the Pointer Sisters and Patti Smith. “Bruce took them off at a very early stage. He did not want what he was trying to do with the album to be overshadowed.”

Mr. Springsteen’s versions of those songs are now on “The Promise,” which in both Mr. Springsteen’s and Mr. Landau’s view stands as a coherent work, not simply a collection of outtakes. “We organized, sequenced and finished these 21 songs as an album,” Mr. Landau said. “It is the album that might well have come during that three-year time between ‘Born to Run’ and ‘Darkness.’ ”

As difficult as the years leading up to “Darkness on the Edge of Town” were for Mr. Springsteen, the story has a happy ending. He and Mr. Landau solidified their working relationship, and collaborate to this day. With the lawsuit long ago settled, Mr. Springsteen has reconciled with his former manager, Mike Appel, and they are friends once again. Much of the work that Mr. Springsteen cast aside to hone his vision for “Darkness” is seeing the light of day.

And, most important, “Darkness on the Edge of Town” itself is now regarded as a classic, a breakthrough into a world that, as Mr. Springsteen hoped, is specifically his own. “I went back to where I was from, and I looked into that world and those lives, which I understood was only tangentially going to be my life from there on in,” he said, as the fire behind him burned. “But if I was dedicated to it, and if I thought hard enough about it, and if I put in my time, I could tell those stories well. And that’s what I did.”