Saturday, November 27, 2010

Our Puritanical Progressives

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fredric Wertham

An eminent Harvard law professor, James Thayer (1831-1902), argued that although the judicial function is "merely that of fixing the outside border of reasonable legislative action," this still gives courts "a great and stately jurisdiction." While patrolling that jurisdiction today, Supreme Court justices may be playing the video game "Postal 2," whose rich menu of simulated mayhem provoked California's legislature to pass a problematic law.[1]

During the oral argument about whether the law restricting children's access to violent video games violates First Amendment guarantees of free expression, the lawyer representing game manufacturers urged the court to remember America's history of moral panics, which he said included one in the early 1950s about comic books. Really? Yes, and the episode remains instructive.

An estimated 90 percent of children 8 to 13 then read 10-cent comic books, of which scores of millions were sold weekly. The worry du jour was juvenile delinquency. By 1957, delinquency - how quaint the term sounds - would be romanticized in "Romeo and Juliet" recast as "West Side Story." But by 1953, delinquency was considered an epidemic symptomatic of national decline, so the U.S. Senate established a juvenile delinquency subcommittee. It included Estes Kefauver, the spotlight-seeking Tennessean whose 1950-51 hearings on organized crime - the first congressional hearings to have a mass television audience - made him a presidential candidate and, in 1956, the Democrats' vice presidential nominee.

In 1954, Fredric Wertham brought science - very loosely defined - to the subject of juvenile crime. Formerly chief resident in psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, he was politically progressive: When he opened a clinic in Harlem, he named it for Paul Lafargue, Karl Marx's son-in-law who translated portions of "Das Kapital" into French, thereby facilitating the derangement of Parisian intellectuals.

Without ever interviewing the convicted spy Ethel Rosenberg, Wertham testified on her behalf concerning what he called her "prison psychoses." Since 1948, he had been campaigning against comic books, and his 1954 book, "Seduction of the Innocent," which was praised by the progressive sociologist C. Wright Mills, became a bestseller by postulating a causal connection between comic books and the desensitization of young criminals: "Hitler was a beginner compared to the comic-book industry."[2]

Wertham was especially alarmed about the one-third of comic books that were horror comics, but his disapproval was capacious: Superman, who gave short shrift to due process in his crime-fighting, was a crypto-fascist. As for Batman and Robin, the "homoerotic tendencies" were patent.

Even before Wertham's book appeared, a committee of New York's legislature considered government licensing of comic-book publishers. More than a dozen states passed laws restricting sales of comic books - laws similar to the California one pertaining to video games. Some civic groups staged comic-book bonfires.

Comic-book publishers fended off such pressures by adopting a severe code of conduct. Soon even Betty and Veronica, those less-than-wanton femme fatales of the "Archie" comics, had their supposedly provocative protuberances made less so by donning looser-fitting blouses.

In 1956, fear of comic books was suddenly eclipsed by fear of Elvis Presley, whose pelvis would not be the last cause of moral panic. Pre-Presley panics had concerned ragtime music, "penny dreadful" novels, jazz, "penny theatres," radio and movies. By 1926, seven states and at least 100 municipalities had censors who pre-screened movies. In 1940, NBC radio banned more than 140 songs that were thought to encourage, among other evils, "disrespect for virginity." NBC would broadcast only the instrumental version of Cole Porter's "Love for Sale." Post-Presley panics about threats to children have concerned television (broadcast, then cable), rap music and the Internet.

Concern for children's sensibilities is admirable. The coarsening of the culture is a fact with many causes, but its consequences are unclear. And it can bring out a Puritan streak in progressivism.

The lawyer for the video-game industry warned the Supreme Court that "the land is awash" with contemporary versions of Anthony Comstock (1844-1915), the crusader for censorship of indecency, as he spaciously defined it. "Today's crusaders," the lawyer said, "come less from the pulpit than from university social science departments, but their goals and tactics remain the same."

Progressivism is a faith-based program. The progressives' agenda for improving everyone else varies but invariably involves the cult of expertise - an unflagging faith in the application of science to social reform. Progressivism's itch to perfect people by perfecting the social environment can produce an interesting phenomenon - the Pecksniffian progressive.




The Horror! The Horror! Comic Books the Government Didn't Want You to Read!


By Ann Coulter
November 24, 2010

As long as the head of the TSA, Long Dong Silver, refuses to get rid of the intrusive, possibly dangerous airport searches, how about requiring members of Congress to go through the same security screening in order to enter hallowed congressional office buildings?

Not just Barney Frank -- I mean all members of Congress. "We've patted you down twice, Congressman Frank. Why don't you just go to your office now?"

The Rayburn House Office Building is a far more likely target for a terrorist attack than a random flight out of a random American airport. But every passenger on every flight in America must allow a TSA agent to get to second base with them, in some cases third base, or appear live in a nude video in order to board the plane.

If that's necessary to keep us airline passengers safe, why not use the same security procedures to protect members of Congress?

According to the FAA, there were about 37,000 commercial flights per day in 2008. A mere six buildings contain the offices of every member of our country's entire legislative branch.

So why shouldn't the people entering those tempting terrorist targets be given the same security screenings as the roughly half-million Americans taking random commercial flights every day?

It can't be because Capitol Hill security guards recognize members of Congress and their staff. TSA agents presumably recognize lots of people going through airport security. Ten to 20 percent of passengers are frequent fliers taking the same routes over and over again, year after year.

In addition, TSA agents will recognize their neighbors of 40 years, their hometown mayor, their children's teachers, local and national celebrities, actors, athletes and other famous personalities. Some TSA agents probably recognize Christian Slater as that guy who sometimes has a gun in his carry-on bag.

But all those people have to take their shoes off, remove their computers from their luggage and be subjected to a pat-down because TSA agents are prohibited by the Homeland Security Department from using an ounce of common sense.

In June 2002, Al Gore got searched at an airport. Gore may have a forgettable face, but at that point, he had been vice president of the United States for eight of the previous 10 years, had run for president, and then had made a spectacle of himself by demanding a recount when he lost.

I've seen James Caan in an airport security line. Is James Caan less recognizable than Rep. Steve Rothman? (Tip for the TSA: When your agents are asking passengers for their autographs, you're probably not on the verge of nabbing Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.)

Why are members of the ruling class the only Americans for whom it's possible to design a security system that takes the obvious into account?

If security guards at a big, fat terrorist target like the U.S. Capitol can be expected to figure out that members of Congress aren't a threat, why don't we trust TSA agents to figure out that little grandmothers, nuns and 8-year-olds aren't a threat either?

Nancy Pelosi is more likely to engage in a terrorist attack on America than any grandmother or 8-year-old. Just look at what she did to our health care.

Pelosi opposed the Gulf War on the grounds that it would be bad for the environment. She voted to reduce funds for the B-2 intercontinental bomber and repeatedly voted against a missile defense system. She voted to end Radio Marti broadcasts to Cuba. She voted against war in Iraq. She voted against a constitutional amendment to permit school prayer and against allowing state and local governments to display the Ten Commandments.

No wonder she has a 100 percent congressional rating from al-Qaida.

And yet Pelosi is not only able to breeze into the U.S. Capitol without a search, but she can usually board a commercial airline without submitting to the groping or nude body scan that awaits the rest of us. Members of Congress and government officials are generally exempted from the TSA's airport screenings.

Does TSA administrator John "Long Dong Silver" Pistole get searched at an airport? How about Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano? FBI Director Robert Mueller? Michelle Obama and the kids?

No, of course not. TSA agents are busy X-raying James Caan's shoes and feeling up nuns.

I'd feel safer if Pistole and Napolitano had the full body cavity search than Grandma. Anyone involved in the creation of an airport security system that requires pilots to be checked for weapons has got to be removed from any government job and promptly institutionalized, as he is a danger to himself and others.

We're talking about the pilot. Is there anyone in the government who can tell us why the pilot doesn't need a box-cutter to seize control of the airplane and kill everyone on it? You there, in the back -- the skinny guy with the big ears behind the teleprompter: Wanna take a guess? Bueller? Anyone? Bueller?

I'm for any program that requires Nancy Pelosi and Janet Napolitano to either be felt up or videotaped nude every morning by Jose, the $20-an-hour security guard -- just as they do for the rest of us.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Irrelevance of START

It ignores the real nuclear danger.

By Charles Krauthammer
November 26, 2010 12:00 A.M.

It’s a lame-duck session. Time is running out. Unemployment is high, the economy is dangerously weak, and, with five weeks to go, no one knows what tax they’ll be paying on everything from income to dividends to death when the current rates expire Jan. 1. And what is the president demanding that Congress pass as “a top priority”? To what did he devote his latest weekly radio address? Ratification of his New START treaty.

Good grief. Even among national-security concerns, New START is way down at the bottom of the list. From the naval treaties of the 1920s to this day, arms control has oscillated between mere symbolism at its best to major harm at its worst, with general uselessness being the norm.

The reason is obvious. The problem is never the weapon; it is the nature of the regime controlling the weapon. That’s why no one stays up nights worrying about British nukes, while everyone worries about Iranian nukes.

President Barack Obama and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev sign the New START treaty, Thursday, April 8, 2010, at the Prague Castle in Prague. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

In Soviet days, arms control at least could be justified as giving us something to talk about when there was nothing else to talk about, symbolically relieving tensions between mortal enemies. It could be argued that it at least had a soporific and therapeutic effect in the age of “the balance of terror.”

But in post-Soviet days? The Russians are no longer an existential threat. A nuclear exchange between Washington and Moscow is inconceivable. What difference does it make how many nukes Russia builds? If they want to spend themselves into penury creating a bloated nuclear arsenal, be our guest.

President Obama insists that New START is important as a step toward his dream of a nuclear-free world. Where does one begin? A world without nukes would be the ultimate nightmare. We voluntarily disarm while the world’s rogues and psychopaths develop nukes in secret. Just last week we found out about a hidden, unknown, highly advanced North Korean uranium-enrichment facility. An ostensibly nuclear-free world would place these weapons in the hands of radical regimes that would not hesitate to use them — against a civilized world that would have given up its deterrent.

Moreover, Obama’s idea that the great powers must reduce their weapons to set a moral example for the rest of the world to disarm is simply childish. Does anyone seriously believe that the mullahs in Iran or the thugs in Pyongyang will in any way be deflected from their pursuit of nukes by a reduction in the U.S. arsenal?

Obama’s New START treaty, like the rest, is 90 percent useless and 10 percent problematic. One difficulty is that it restricts the number of delivery vehicles for nuclear weapons. But because some of these are dual-use, our ability to deliver long-range conventional weapons, a major U.S. strategic advantage, is constrained.

The second problem is the recurrence of language in the treaty preamble linking offensive to defensive nuclear weaponry. We have a huge lead over the rest of the world in anti-missile defenses. Ever since the Reagan days, the Russians have been determined to undo this advantage. The New START treaty affirms the “interrelationship” between offense and defense. And Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has insisted that “the unchangeability of circumstances” — translation: no major advances in U.S. anti-missile deployment — is a condition of the entire treaty.

The worst thing about this treaty, however, is that it is simply a distraction. It gives the illusion of doing something about nuclear danger by addressing a non-problem, Russia, while doing nothing about the real problem — Iran and North Korea. The utter irrelevance of New START to nuclear safety was dramatically underscored last week by the revelation of that North Korean uranium-enrichment plant, built with such sophistication that it left the former head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory “stunned.” It could become the ultimate proliferation factory. Pyongyang is already a serial proliferator. It has nothing else to sell. Iran, Syria, and al-Qaeda have the money to buy.

Iran’s Islamic Republic lives to bring down the Great Satan. North Korea, nuclear-armed and in a succession crisis, has just shelled South Korean territory for the first time since the Korean armistice. Obama peddling New START is the guy looking for his wallet under the lamppost because that’s where the light is good — even though he lost the wallet on the other side of town.

— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2010 the Washington Post Writers Group.

Giving Thanks for American Ingenuity

Liberty, not 'government vision,' yields innovation.

By Michelle Malkin
November 24, 2010 4:00 P.M.

One of my favorite television programs is How It’s Made on the Science Channel. The documentary series shows “how the everyday objects people use become the things they are.” From ketchup and flip-flops, to nail clippers and snare drums, to NASCAR engines, hydraulic cylinders, and motor homes, the show takes viewers on wondrous journeys of the mundane products we too often take for granted.

Though it originated in Canada, How It’s Made has become a global phenomenon and is largely a tribute to American ingenuity and American entrepreneurs. The show’s myriad episodes spotlighting U.S. inventions also serve as potent antidotes to the government-centric vision that reigns in the White House these days.

Last summer, President Obama opined that the proper role of private entrepreneurs is to fulfill “the core responsibilities of the financial system to help grow our economy” — and that “at a certain point you’ve made enough money.” Last month, Vice President Joe Biden boasted that “every single great idea that has marked the 21st century, the 20th century, and the 19th century has required government vision and government incentive.”

Such command-and-control narcissism is completely alien to the unique American culture and marketplace that have bred so many successful inventors. Consider the electric carving knife that so many of you will use without a second thought this Thanksgiving season. Jerome L. Murray, the New York City man who invented the ubiquitous kitchen appliance, was an insatiable tinkerer from his teens until his death in 1998 at the age of 85. He was driven not by a social-justice agenda or by the need to “grow the economy” to boost government-employment figures, but by a constant desire to solve problems, cut costs, satisfy his intellectual curiosities, and pursue the profit motive.

Murray funded his creative pursuits out of his own pocket, not with taxpayer dollars. And one moneymaking idea was never “enough.” According to his obituary in the New York Times, the prolific inventor “saw no sense in inventing something that could not be sold.” At the time of his death, Murray held an astounding 75 foreign and domestic patents:

● At 15, Murray manufactured a windmill that powered a radio generator and sold it to farmers in rural areas where regular electricity was unavailable.

● In 1951, after observing passengers descending airplane stairs in the rain at Miami International Airport, he came up with the idea for covered airplane-boarding ramps to protect travelers from inclement weather and to enable those in wheelchairs to enter their terminals without having to be fork-lifted off their planes. The walkways are now used in airports around the world.

● To save time and energy whenever he needed to climb onto the roof to adjust his television antenna for better reception, Murray crafted a television-antenna rotator by attaching two strings to the antenna and pulling them from his window. The invention evolved into the TV-antenna rotator, which Murray’s obituary reports “generated nearly $40 million in sales over several decades.”

● Murray also invented the audible pressure cooker, the powered car seat, a high-speed dental drill, and the peristaltic pump, which moves fluids through the body without damaging cells using contractions and expansions. The lifesaving pump paved the way for historic breakthroughs in open-heart surgery and kidney dialysis — and its technology has been applied by the food-processing, pharmaceutical-manufacturing, and chemical-processing industries.

● And to assist harried housewives in the post–World War II era, Murray combined the use of an interior-combustion motor with dual blades to create the electric carving knife. It was patented in 1964, and the same technology used to slice up your turkey was adopted to create medical and forensic tools now used in surgeries and autopsies.

Murray’s self-interested capitalist pursuits yielded untold benefits and conveniences for the rest of the world. In the tale of the mundane electric carving knife lies a profound lesson: Liberty, not “government vision,” yields innovation. For this priceless insight bequeathed to us by our Founding Fathers, Americans should give eternal thanks.

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

Bruce Springsteen "The Promise" Molly Presents: Part 1 of 3 (HQ Audio)

Bruce Springsteen "The Promise" Molly Presents: Part 2 of 3 (HQ Audio)

Bruce Springsteen "The Promise" Molly Presents: Part 3 of 3 (HQ Audio)

Only Hal Can Fix This Mess

Only Hal Steinbrenner can fix the disconnect between the Yankees, Brian Cashman and Derek Jeter

By Mike Lupica
The Daily News
Wednesday, November 24th 2010, 4:00 AM

Derek Jeter tosses in the area behind home plate during a baseball workout at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2010. (AP)

This is the way the Yankees want the conversation about Derek Jeter to go: They have arrived at what they think is a fair contract for Jeter and if he doesn't accept it, he's being greedy and unreasonable and unrealistic and should go test the market. That is what Brian Cashman said Tuesday. What he is really saying to Jeter about the Yankees' offer to him - $45 million for three years - is take it or leave it.

So we're already there. I said a few weeks ago that the leverage the Yankees have in this matter, and they have most of it, mattered only if they were prepared to swing it like a baseball bat. That is what's happening now, in just about every news cycle.

You wonder how long Hal Steinbrenner - does the front office work for him or is it the other way around? - lets this go on.

As one American League East executive said Tuesday, "Out of all the guys in sports, they're going to take this kind of hard line on Jeter?"

Over the past few days the Yankees seem to have lost their minds because Jeter's agent, Casey Close, told me Saturday night that he finds the Yankees' negotiating strategy "baffling."

Not stupid. Not cheap. Not arrogant. Not insulting. Baffling. But in the thin-skinned world of the Yankees, they acted as if Close were Larry Lucchino of the Red Sox calling them the "Evil Empire" all over again.

The Yankees act as if Close is the one who ramped up the rhetoric, and not the other way around. You know when the rhetoric really started on this thing? When Hal Steinbrenner said a few weeks ago that the Jeter negotiation "could get messy" before it ever really began. And you know who's the only one who can fix this now? Hal Steinbrenner.

Could Close and Jeter have come into this looking for too much money, way too many years? I'm sure they have. Just because the Yankees are being the Yankees doesn't mean that the other side is the Vatican. Close and Jeter probably want a lot more than three years. And a lot more than $45 million. If you were Jeter, so would you. Nobody can say he's been stealing money over the last decade.

But how about this as an idea for both sides to look at, before this whole thing becomes more viral than it is? How about you take the average that Jeter just made over the last 10 years - it would work out to $18.9 million a year - and make that the three-year offer. And if Jeter is still hitting .300 at the end of that, a fourth year, for the same money, automatically kicks in.

That way Jeter isn't asked to take a salary cut after everything he has meant to the Yankees and continues to mean. You know what the difference is between $57 million for three years and what the Yankees are offering Jeter? It's just a little more than the Yankees paid Javy Vazquez last season.

The $45 million the Yankees are offering Jeter for three years? It happens to be $1 million less than the $46 million they paid to a scrub pitcher named Kei Igawa. You remember that deal, $20 million for five years and a $26 million posting fee in Japan.

It was no different with Igawa than anybody else: The Yankees are always greedy when they want somebody. Only now Jeter is supposed to be the greedy one if he doesn't take what they're offering. They put out their number and that's it and that's all, take it or leave it.

Test the market, Cashman says.

Come on. Brian Cashman knows better than anyone that the market is always different here. Especially here. Always here. The top market for CC Sabathia a couple of years ago was $100 million. That means the top market outside of the Bronx. Cashman paid him $161 million. Sabathia was an ascendant star at the time, you bet. Now the implication is that Jeter is in decline after his .270 year, even though he hit .334 in 2009 with 212 hits and the Yankees won the World Series.

As one former major-league player said the other day, "What, (Jeter) has one bad year and now it's going to be straight downhill from here?"

Always in this negotiation, of course, the elephant in the room is Alex Rodriguez. He opted out on the Yankees at the end of the 2007 World Series, but it appears that wasn't nearly as offensive to the Yankees as the word "baffling." Not long after that, the Yankees gave him an insane contract extension, justifying it at the time by telling themselves of the marketing possibilities of his growing home run totals. Then A-Rod turned out to be a juicer in an era of juiced home run hitters and the Yankees were shocked.

Now they want to talk about anything except A-Rod's contract. Jeter wants to talk about it, though. He saw what everybody saw last season, that A-Rod hitting his 600th home run didn't exactly set the big town on its ear. Jeter is also smart enough to know it will be a little different this season when he gets near 3,000 hits. There are a few legitimate milestones left in baseball. And legitimate stars. Derek Jeter is one of them, even at his current age. Even after hitting .270 at the worst possible time.

We now know, in great detail and absolute clarity, how much the Yankees think Jeter is worth. You just wonder how much all this will cost them in the end.

Read more:

Rangers' Josh Hamilton wins AL MVP, but that's not what defines him

By Gil LeBreton
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
November 23, 2010

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton shakes hands with Dominique Cushenberry, 9, on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010, in Arlington, Texas. Hamilton was at the ballpark to give away food for Thanksgiving to the needy. He was named the American League's Most Valuable Player earlier Tuesday. (AP)

ARLINGTON -- His baseball talents distinguish him, but Josh Hamilton's own humility is what defines him.

Sadly, we live in cynical times. We revel in the fallen star, not the abiding saint.

We live in cynical times. A national magazine does a cover story on him during his breakout 2008 season, and calls him "the unbelievable Josh Hamilton."

Reporters interview him, and then roll their eyes when Hamilton begins with a testimony to his Christian faith.

But the Rangers' Hamilton soldiers on, scaling walls and fending off his demons one day at a time.

Most valuable player? How about most valuable husband, father, teammate, and inspiration to a community?

Awards don't define him, Hamilton contended Tuesday.

"I talked about it after the Home Run Derby, after making that last out and not winning the thing," Hamilton said of his 2008 performance at the All-Star Game.

"It's not about the awards. It's not about the accolades. It's about how I glorify Him in everything I do."

He was talking about his faith again.

To write anything in depth about Josh Hamilton these days and to omit his frequent references to his Lord is to ignore the soul and substance of the man.

"I've talked before about being in this position and sharing my faith with people, how that's the most important thing to me," he said.

"Baseball is something I do, but it's not who I am."

He won it in a landslide, as it turned out. Of the 28 ballots cast by baseball writers in each American League city, Hamilton was named first on 22 of them.

A landslide, despite an anxiously slow start and despite missing nearly all of the season's final month.

Hamilton does that to people. He swats outside pitches into left field and drives in the go-ahead run. He clouts homers deep into the Arlington night.

He runs like a deer. He crashes into walls. He anchors, the numbers say, the best-hitting lineup in baseball.

And one day soon, Hamilton is going to be very expensive.

Officially, his contract remains under franchise control. Most baseball 29-year-olds have reached their initial free-agent years. Hamilton, alas, spent his first seasons in substance rehab.

What it means is that the Rangers have no previous contracts to compare before they soon push a pile of money across the table to Hamilton.

The chart can't account for a 29-year-old with a cannon arm and now a Most Valuable Player award, with a near-tragic stretch in his past and daily prayers in his future.

Free agent pitcher Cliff Lee remains the Rangers' No. 1 priority in this off-season. But once general manager Jon Daniels finishes filling the holes in the club, his attentions should rightfully shift to Hamilton.

Ideally, the Rangers likely will be looking to sign Hamilton this winter to a multiyear deal that, in effect, buys out his remaining arbitration-eligible years as well as his first few free agency seasons.

First things first. Hamilton signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract before the 2010 season. Even without free agency, the league's most valuable player is going to be due a sizeable raise.

The Phillies' Ryan Howard and the Twins' Justin Morneau both parlayed MVP seasons into premium raises. Morneau's deal was for six years and $80 million. Howard's initial post-MVP contract was for three years, $54 million.

Both, however, were younger than Hamilton, who may get only one chance at free agency. The Rangers likely will have to pay a premium for Hamilton to relinquish that.

"I stay out of it," Hamilton said Tuesday, insisting that his agent will do his bidding. "I'm just going to enjoy the off-season, the holidays, and whatever happens, happens.

"I'm just excited about the fact that the better I do, the more opportunities I'll have to help a lot more people."

The four priorities in his life remain the same, Hamilton said.

"God first, humility second, family third, sobriety and then baseball," he said.

That doesn't mean that money isn't important to Hamilton.

"You have to live," he said.

There are people to help, Hamilton repeated. Mouths to feed. Thanksgiving turkeys to give away. Sanctuaries to build.

Most valuable player. Most valuable provider.

He'll be worth it.

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Read more:

Dembski, Hitchens debate God's existence

by Benjamin Hawkins
Baptist Press
Posted on Nov 23, 2010

Southwestern Seminary professor Bill Dembski debates famed atheist Christopher Hitchens at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas. Photo by Adam Tarleton/SWBTS.

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)--Intelligent Design proponent William Dembski and famed atheist Christopher Hitchens disputed the existence of a benevolent God in a recent debate now posted on the website of Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas.

The debate was hosted in the worship center of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Nov. 18. A full video archive can be viewed at

"I don't think it is healthy for people to want there to be a permanent, unalterable, irremovable authority over them," argued Hitchens, a controversial author and speaker whose books include "god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." "I don't like the idea of a father who never goes away ... of a king who cannot be deposed.

"For hundreds and hundreds of years, the human struggle for freedom was against the worst kind of dictatorship of all: the theocracy that claims it has God on its side, the divine right of kings, the feudal system, the monarchical one against which the American Revolution with its secular humanism took place. I believe the totalitarian temptation has to be resisted."

According to Hitchens, the structure of the universe, the course of history and the makeup of human anatomy do not prove the existence of a benevolent creator.

"Our universe is flying apart further and faster than we thought it was," Hitchens said, referring to the Big Bang Theory and the ever-increasing expansion of the universe. "Now, I don't know about you, but I find it ... impossible to reconcile this extraordinarily destructive, chaotic, self-destructive process -- to find in it the finger of God."

Humans, he said, are "poorly evolved mammals on a short-lived planet" who are only "half a chromosome away from being chimpanzees." Human history, furthermore, is littered with battles wrongly justified in the name of God.

During the debate, Dembski, a research professor in philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, argued that the universe displays evidence of an intelligent creator. A champion of the Intelligent Design movement, Dembski is the author of several books, including "The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems" and "The End of Christianity: Finding a Good God in an Evil World."

"For Hitchens, Intelligent Design ... is just rebranded creationism," Dembski said. On the contrary, he argued, Intelligent Design is "the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence." This applies to various scientific fields, including archaeology and forensics. Furthermore, humans naturally try to decipher whether events are caused by chance or by the intent of an intelligent being of some kind, whether human or divine.

While Intelligent Design does not attempt to prove the existence of the Christian God in particular, it is "friendly toward theism" and toward belief in the loving God whom Christians worship.

On the other hand, Dembski argued, the atheism propounded by Hitchens and others "demands a materialistic form of evolution," such as Darwinism. "In regarding design as unthinkable, Hitchens puts himself in an atheist straightjacket: For the atheist, we must be here as the result of a blind, purposeless, evolutionary process."

Atheists often raise the problem of evil as they dispute the existence of God, Dembski noted, but they must answer a more difficult question if God does not exist: Where does good come from?

"The problem of good as it faces the atheist is this: Nature, which is the nuts-and-bolts reality for the atheist, has no values and thus can offer no grounding for good and evil," Dembski said. "Values on the atheist[ic] view are subjective and contingent," arising from the evolutionary process and social customs. How, then, Dembski asked, can atheists have moral indignation toward any person or action?

Addressing the problem of evil, Dembski argued that theists find a solution by realizing that God will eventually bring all wrong to justice. They must trust God in the meantime. Christians, he later added, find the cure for sin and evil in the God-man, Jesus Christ, who identified with human suffering on the cross.

"In God becoming human in Jesus Christ," Dembski said, "God has established solidarity with the human condition."

Benjamin Hawkins is a writer for Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (

Mexico’s War on America’s Border

By Ryan Mauro
November 24th, 2010

Police officers give a demonstration to students on how to position themselves in case of a shootout in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Tuesday Sept. 7, 2010. Ciudad Juarez has become one of the world's most dangerous cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez drug cartels.(AP)

Texas Governor Rick Perry caused a stir last week when he suggested that the deployment of U.S. troops into Mexican territory may be necessary, pointing out that five of his state’s citizens died in the past two weeks. The fight against the barbaric drug cartels has escalated each year since 2007, and terrorist groups are looking to benefit from the chaos. It has become a full-scale war worthy of attention, but Perry seems to be the only major politician sounding the alarm.

“I think you have the same situation as you had in Colombia,” Perry accurately said. About 31,000 people have been killed in the Mexican drug war since December 2006 — more than five times the number of American soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. And it is getting worse. There has been a 53 percent increase in murders since last year, with 10,000 murders so far this year.

Last week, four people in Tijuana were murdered in one day, with two having their corpses hung from a bridge and one being decapitated. Almost the entire population of 6,000 of Ciudad Mier near the Texan border has fled. A Pentecostal minister who fled said, “We have no mayor, no police, no transit system. We have been left to fend for ourselves.”

The drug cartels are so strong that the authorities fighting them must be genuinely concerned for their lives. In October, an American tourist was shot while riding a jet ski near Ciudad Mier. The investigator assigned by the Mexican authorities was killed only days later with his head found in a suitcase in front of military barracks. In August, 72 illegal immigrants on their way to the U.S. were found massacred by the Zetas at a ranch in the state of Tamaulipas that borders Mexico. Here again, the lead investigator was murdered within two days.

The violence has already spilled into the U.S. The federal government has placed signs along 60 miles of Interstate 8 in Arizona warning people of the danger in the area. This is over 100 miles north of the Mexican border and less than 50 miles south of Phoenix, well into American territory. Sheriff Paul Babeu of Pinal County says that local law enforcement has been overpowered by the cartels and that the “Mexican drug cartels literally do control parts of Arizona.”

“They literally have scouts on the high points in the mountains and in the hills and they literally control movement. They have radios, they have optics, they have night-vision goggles as good as anything law enforcement has,” Sheriff Babeu said.

There are strong indications that terrorist groups are aware of the opportunity open to them in Mexico and are taking advantage of it. In July, a Hezbollah-like car bomb killed four people in Ciudad Juarez. This came shortly after Rep. Sue Myrick reported that a high-level Mexican army officer had informed her of information about Hezbollah training drug traffickers in bomb production. Several car bombs have since been detonated in Mexico. The Mexican authorities have arrested a Hezbollah operative in Tijuana trying to set up a network using Mexican nationals with Lebanese backgrounds.

The cartels are in a very good position to help terrorist groups smuggle operatives and supplies into the U.S. The Drug Enforcement Agency recently discovered a 600-yard long underground tunnel into San Diego from Tijuana, complete with lighting and ventilation systems. The cartels have entered into business with the Colombian FARC terrorists who also deal drugs with Al-Qaeda in West Africa. Hezbollah also uses the cartel networks for its own smuggling. It is not unlikely that terrorists could use the cartels to enter the country via these tunnels or through other methods.

In February, Anthony Joseph Tracy of Virginia was arrested for having links to al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. He is believed to have smuggled 270 Somalis into the U.S. from Mexico, few (if any) of which have been identified or located. The Mexican authorities are known to have detained and released members of al-Shabaab. The lack of border security is already being exploited by terrorist groups and from this one case alone, the U.S. now has potentially hundreds of Somalis in the country that were brought in by an al-Shabaab associate.

President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has deployed 45,000 soldiers in 18 states to fight the drug cartels but the violence is still escalating. He has shown the media a top-secret $100 million underground command center being used for a massive intelligence-gathering effort. He said it was inspired by the TV show, 24. At the same time, he is blaming America’s lack of gun control regulation for the arming of the drug cartels—a claim which has previously been debunked.

The drug war is also spreading into other Latin American countries. The barrio of El Gallito of Guatemala City has fallen along with other northern parts of the country. Officials have confirmed seizing military uniforms, anti-personnel mines and even anti-aircraft missiles from the Zetas drug lords. The Obama Administration’s decision to withdraw the 550 National Guards troops sent in September to the Mexican border with Texas, New Mexico and California in February shows the threat still isn’t being understood.

Texas Governor Perry is right that securing the border and fighting the drug cartels must be a top priority. We are no longer talking about the possibility that the cartels will reach into the U.S. because it has already happened. It is only a matter of time before the terrorists and drug traffickers enter into a business agreement that causes enough American death to make the border finally be taken seriously.

- Ryan Mauro is the founder of, National Security Advisor to the Christian Action Network, and an intelligence analyst with the Asymmetric Warfare and Intelligence Center.

This Pope Plays It Right

The world needs more rocks in the river.

By Jonah Goldberg
November 24, 2010 12:00 A.M.

In the spring of 2005, Pope John Paul II died. My father, who passed away that summer, watched the funeral and the inauguration of the current pope, Benedict XVI, from his hospital bed. My dad, a Jew, loved the spectacle of it all. (The Vatican, he said, was the last institution that “really knows how to dress.”)

From what he could tell, he liked this new pope too. “We need more rocks in the river,” my dad explained. What he meant was that change comes so fast, in such a relentless torrent, that we need people and things that stand up to it and offer respite from the current.

I loved the literary quality of the expression “more rocks in the river,” even though the imagery doesn’t quite convey what my dad really believed. Dad was a conservative, properly understood. By that I mean he didn’t think conservatism was merely an act of passive and futile defiance against what Shakespeare called “devouring time.” Unlike human institutions, the rocks do not fight the devouring river of time, it just seems like they do. My dad believed that conservatism was an affirmative act, a choice of prudence and will. In the cacophony of perpetual change, the conservative selects the notes worth savoring and repeats them for others to hear and, hopefully, appreciate.

In this picture made available by the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano Pope Benedict XVI holds a copy of the book "Light of the World'', a series of Pope interviews with German journalist Peter Seewald, at the Vatican, Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010. (AP)

Over the weekend, the media misreported that Benedict had renounced the Roman Catholic Church’s longstanding “policy” against condom use. I put “policy” in quotes because the media have a tendency to portray all church positions as if they were like rules for trash pickup: easily changed or abandoned upon papal or bureaucratic whim. That’s not how it works.

What Benedict said in a book-length interview is that in certain circumstances using a condom would be less bad than not using one. To use Benedict’s example, a male prostitute with HIV would be acting more responsibly, more morally, if he wore a condom while plying his trade than if he didn’t.

The pontiff understands that not all harms are equal. Assault is wrong, for instance, but assault with a deadly weapon is more wrong than assault with a non-deadly one. Recognizing and limiting the harm you do can be the “first step in the direction of a moralization, a first act of responsibility in developing anew an awareness of the fact that not everything is permissible.”

Now, I’m not on the same page as the Vatican on all matters of sexuality, never mind theology. But I respect the Church’s position. And, given the core assumptions of Catholic moral thought, I think Benedict’s reasoning is sound.

But, more relevant, I appreciate the role the Church plays in savoring the right notes.

It’s a tired trope for Church critics to glibly suggest that the Vatican has the blood of millions on its hands because it doesn’t back condom distribution, particularly in Africa. That is as absurd as it is unprovable. The Church’s opposition to corruption, ethnic violence, and murder are just as pronounced and resolute, and yet such maladies persist in Africa as well. Are we to believe that African male prostitutes — no doubt devout Catholics all — were simply following Church doctrine when they declined to use condoms?

Meanwhile, the Church does perhaps more than any other institution to aid the sick and feed the hungry in Africa, something you certainly can’t say about many of the critics in the Fourth Estate peanut gallery.

As for the Church’s preferred approach — abstinence until marriage — it may be impractical in most parts of the world, as the critics claim. But it would undeniably save more lives than condom use if put into practice. What seems to offend many isn’t the efficacy of the solution but the suggestion that such values have any place in the modern world.

The Church’s position is that the truest notes are those that not only celebrate life and love but cut through the whitewater din of devouring time. As those notes become harder to hear, the answer isn’t to stop playing them but to turn up the volume.

Perhaps it’s the approach of yet another dad-less Thanksgiving — a holiday during which we give thanks for whatever parts of our lives are set to the music of those true notes — that has set my mind in this direction. But that shouldn’t surprise, for he was always the true rock in my river.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Airport ‘Security’?

The Obama administration would rather look under a nun’s habit than detain a jihadist imam for questioning.

By Thomas Sowell
November 23, 2010 12:00 A.M.

No country has better airport security than Israel — and no country needs it more, since Israel is the most hated target of Islamic extremist terrorists. Yet, somehow, Israeli airport-security people don’t have to strip passengers naked electronically or feel strangers’ private parts.

Does anyone seriously believe that we have better airport security than Israel? Is our security record better than theirs?

“Security” may be the excuse being offered for the outrageous things being done to American air travelers, but the heavy-handed arrogance and contempt for ordinary people that are the hallmark of this administration in other areas are all too painfully apparent in these new and invasive airport procedures.

Can you remember a time when a cabinet member in a free America boasted of having his “foot on the neck” of some business or when the president of the United States threatened on television to put his foot on another part of some citizens’ anatomy?

Yet this and more has happened in the current administration, which is not yet two years old. One cabinet member warned that there would be “zero tolerance” for “misinformation” when an insurance company said the obvious: that the mandates of Obamacare would raise costs and therefore raise premiums. Zero tolerance for exercising the First Amendment right of free speech?

More than two centuries ago, Edmund Burke warned about the dangers of new people with new power. This administration, only halfway through its term, has demonstrated those dangers in many ways.

What other administration has had an attorney general call the American people “cowards”? And refuse to call terrorists Islamic? What other administration has had a secretary of Homeland Security warn law-enforcement officials across the country of security threats from people who oppose abortion, support federalism, or are returning military veterans?

If anything good comes out of the “airport-security” outrages, it may be in opening the eyes of more people to the utter contempt that this administration has for the American people.

Those who made excuses for Barack Obama — for the candidate’s long years of alliances with, and for the president’s appointment of people with a record of antipathy to American interests and values — may finally get it when they feel some stranger’s hand in their crotch.

As for the excuse of “security,” this is one of the least security-minded administrations in American history. When hundreds of illegal immigrants from terrorist-sponsoring countries are captured crossing the border from Mexico — and then released on their own recognizance within the United States, that tells you all you need to know about this administration’s concern for security.

When captured terrorists who are not covered by either the Geneva Convention or the Constitution of the United States are nevertheless put on trial in American civilian courts by Obama’s Justice Department, that too tells you all you need to know about how concerned they are about national security.

The rules of criminal justice in American courts were not designed for trying terrorists. For one thing, revealing the evidence against them can reveal how our intelligence services got wind of them in the first place, and thereby endanger the lives of people who helped us nab them.

Not a lot of people in other countries, or perhaps even in this country, are going to help us stop terrorists if their role will be revealed and their families exposed to revenge by the terrorists’ bloodthirsty comrades.

What do the Israeli airport-security people do that American airport-security people do not do? They profile. They question some individuals for more than half an hour, open up all their luggage, and spread the contents on the counter — and they let others go through with scarcely a word. And it works.

Meanwhile, this administration is so hung up on political correctness that they have turned “profiling” into a bugaboo. They would rather have electronic scanners look under the clothes of nuns than detain a jihadist imam for some questioning.

Will America be undermined from within by an administration obsessed with political correctness and intoxicated with the adolescent thrill of exercising its new-found powers? Stay tuned.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. © 2010 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

Look for Terrorists, Not Weapons

We should follow Israel’s example in airline security.

By Mona Charen
November 23, 2010

Passengers have their hand luggage screened by security personnel, inside the Ben Gurion air port terminal near Tel Aviv, Israel, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. Senior Israeli airport official Nahum Liss said Tuesday screening procedures at airports around the world are inadequate, calling Israel's heavily fortified international airport the best protected in the world. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Back in January, the Obama administration announced a new policy for airline safety: country-based profiling. Travelers from 14 countries known to harbor terrorists would automatically receive extra scrutiny, including additional pat-downs or full-body scans. The named states were: Afghanistan, Algeria, Cuba, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

My reaction at the time was: You mean you weren’t already doing that? Apparently not. When underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab traveled from Nigeria to Detroit without baggage (it was reported at the time that he had purchased a one-way ticket, but that proved to be incorrect), he sailed through routine screening — despite a warning from his father to authorities that Umar had been radicalized.

After 9/11, we were all under the impression that the newly created TSA, and its counterparts in other Western countries, would be particularly alert for certain kinds of behavior. Purchasing a one-way ticket, paying cash, having little or no luggage, looking nervous, and traveling from certain unstable parts of the world were all presumed to be red flags that would trigger action. Instead, we seem to have settled into a kind of bovine, tedious hunt for weapons. We screen everyone for guns, knives, scissors, nail clippers, tweezers (yes, I lost a good pair in November 2001), and now also shoe bombs and liquids and gels. In short, we look for weapons, not terrorists.

Defenders of the system — Bush-era Homeland Security officials as well as the current crop — argue that these irritating procedures, and now the body scans and distasteful, intimate pat-downs, are the only way to keep us safe.

Critics from the right believe that if we would only drop our political correctness and aggressively profile Muslim-looking men between the ages of 18 and 40, we would solve the problem.

I’d be for profiling of that sort — despite the civil-liberties cost — if I thought it would work. But I’m not convinced.

Colleen Renee LaRose, a.k.a Jihad Jane, and Jamie Paulin-Ramirez were both blond, blue-eyed American converts to Islam who were arrested in October 2009 in Ireland and charged with plotting to kill a Swedish cartoonist who had drawn Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog.

In 1972, members of the Japanese Red Army opened fire in Tel Aviv’s airport, killing 24 people. In 1986, a pregnant Irish woman was attempting to fly from Heathrow to Tel Aviv. A check of her luggage revealed that her fiancé, a Palestinian, had planted Semtex explosives in her carry-on bag. If not discovered, they would have brought down the plane. In the early 1980s, a German national recently released from prison was befriended by Palestinians. His new friends bought him an airline ticket to Tel Aviv. He thought he was smuggling drugs. But in fact, his bags contained ten pounds of explosives.

Yes, most aspiring airline bombers are young Muslim men. But not all of them are from the 14 countries listed by the Obama administration. Richard Reid was British. Zacarias Moussaoui was French. One of the terrorists who hijacked an Air France jet in the 1970s on behalf of the Palestinians was a German woman. The suicide bombers who struck the Moscow subway in March were women. And women suicide bombers have struck at checkpoints in the West Bank.

Israeli security succeeds by questioning every passenger. What is the purpose of your trip? Who packed your bags? Where will you be staying? The security agents are all army veterans (well, nearly everyone in Israel is), have college degrees, and are fired immediately if they make a mistake. They learn psychological profiles of terrorists as well as how to detect things — like the Irish lady traveling to meet her fiancé’s family without him. That don’t smell right.

While it’s true that Israel has about 1/60th of the air traffic that we do, and it may not be feasible to undertake exactly that kind of examination in our country, we could at least attempt to apply the principle: looking for terrorists rather than weapons. How much longer would it take to ask each passenger a few questions than it does to put them all through the full-body scanner or subject them to a pat-down? Some travelers will be questioned more extensively, but on balance, it probably wouldn’t add any time to the average trip and might even speed it up. And the invasion of privacy would be much less offensive.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Awakening of the French Nation

From "The Gates of Vienna" blog
November 21, 2010

The French Defence League just sent out this communiqué to accompany their new video. They are demanding an end to the notorious French Muslim practice of occupying and blocking entire city streets during their prayers:

Warning to Muslims who believe that the public space can be invaded without consequences.

For a number of years, certain of you Muslim gentlemen dare to regularly occupy the public space for your prayers.

This occupation, as you well know, is illegal, and is, as we well know, a provocation and a demonstration of force designed to show your domination in certain parts of France and your contempt for our laws and the secular nature of our country.

These politico-cultural demonstrations are in defiance of our institutions and our culture, they put our territorial integrity under pressure with the aim of forcing the construction of mosques, which are often financed by the money of non-Muslims1 who then find themselves victims of gigantic rackets in which our elected officials are complicit.

Muslim militias and certain Muslims totally illegally block the streets to non-Muslims, preventing the citizens and residents from circulating, returning home or leaving their houses and the mayors say nothing, the police say nothing, the State says nothing.

Thus it remains for the French Nation, to the citizens themselves to take over because all their representatives have spinelessly bent over in the face of intimidation.

The message sent out by the French nation to the “praying” is clear:

Stop praying immediately on the public highway, it is illegal. Pray elsewhere, or don’t pray, we couldn’t care less about that. Nothing gives you the right to occupy our streets, you must respect our laws.

You are extremely lucky that the French (of all confessions and origins) are so patient and indulgent with you but in the face of your arrogant provocations, one day the limit will be reached.

Then there will no longer be time to whine about discrimination. You will have been the sole cause of your inevitable future troubles if you continue to defy our laws.

Who sows the wind reaps the storm. Stop sowing discord in France, stop occupying our streets and our towns with your inopportune prayers.

And the video:

[1] For example: the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë , under Muslim pressure spent 20 million euros of taxpayer money to finance a Muslim “cultural centre/mosque” in direct defiance of the law of 1905 which forbids this sort of financing.

Hat tip: Gaia.

Football fans aren't buying what ACC is selling

By John Feinstein
The Washington Post
Monday, November 22, 2010; 1:19 PM

Free safety Wes Davis #45 of the Boston College Eagles stops running back Darren Evans #32 of the Virginia Tech Hokies in the 2008 ACC Football Championship game at Raymond James Stadium on December 6, 2008 in Tampa, Florida. (December 6, 2008 - Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images North America)

There were two ACC football games played on Saturday that were critically important to the postseason hopes of the teams involved: Virginia Tech at Miami and Florida State at Maryland. The Hokies went south looking to clinch the ACC Coastal Division title, while Miami tried to stay alive in the division race. The Seminoles traveled north to play the Terrapins in a game that would keep only the winner still in the running to win the ACC Atlantic.

On a perfect fall night, a crowd of 48,115 showed up at Byrd Stadium- easily the best of the season, but well short of the building's capacity of more than 54,000. The attendance at Sun Life Stadium in Miami, now the home of what was once the vaunted "U," had far more empty seats with a crowd of 40,101 spaced out comfortably in the 75,000-seat stadium.

ACC football isn't exactly a hot ticket these days-to put it mildly.

Consider this: On the same day that Maryland people were giddy about a crowd of 48,000 showing up to see a team that has already won five more games than it did a year ago, a crowd of 78,790 gathered a few miles down the Beltway at virtually impossible-to-get-to FedEx Field to watch a game between a bad Big Ten team (Indiana) and a slightly-better-than-mediocre Big Ten team (Penn State).

In short: an unattractive Big Ten game played in an NFL stadium hundreds of miles from either campus drew 10,000 fans fewer than two key ACC games combined.


The ACC has been trying to stake a claim as a legitimate football league since then-commissioner Gene Corrigan decided that an eight-team conference that played great basketball wasn't good enough, and recruited then-national power Florida State to join in 1992. The good news was that Florida State brought attention and revenue to the league. The bad news was that the ACC championship was decided in mid-September.

Florida State was 62-2 in ACC play during its first nine seasons in the league and very few of the Seminoles' games were even close. The ACC's national reputation changed: Where once it had been a league filled with teams that aspired to the Peach Bowl most years, it now became known as Florida State and the Seven Dwarfs - and Duke, which aspired to Dwarfdom.

When Florida State began to falter, the league became more balanced - or ordinary - depending on your point of view. That was when Commissioner John Swofford and the conference presidents came up with the brilliant idea of expansion, and raided the Big East for three top football schools: Miami and Virginia Tech in 2004 and Boston College a year later. The hope was that adding those three would force the other schools to improve the quality of their programs.

It did get a lot of them to spend more money on facilities and to pay coaches more money. It did not improve the quality of the football being played.

Instead, Miami and Boston College (7-4 and 6-5, respectively, this year) have slipped - considerably in Miami's case - and Virginia Tech has continued to be to college football what the Washington Capitals are to hockey: The Hokies put up gaudy numbers every year but wilt when the national spotlight hits them. They have been the ACC's dominant team since arriving in 2004, which is sort of like winning the NHL's Southeast Division every year.

At least Virginia Tech sells out Lane Stadium on a regular basis. The Hokies are the only ACC team to sell out all their home games this season. In fact, ACC attendance, which topped out in 2004 at 94.5 percent, is well below 90 percent going into the rivalry games on the season's final weekend that should - in most venues - push that figure a little higher.

The ACC spin-masters will tell you that the economy has affected attendance the last few years - although it doesn't appear to have hit the SEC or the Big Ten nearly as hard, if you check their attendance figures. Then they'll tell you that most of their attractive nonconference games this season were played on the road. There's a little bit of a Freudian slip in that excuse, because what that really says is that allegedly important conference games aren't that great a draw. Which they aren't.

A few weeks ago a key conference game between N.C. State and Clemson drew a crowd announced at 74,000 in 81,400 seat Memorial Stadium in Clemson. Those who were there said it looked like a lot less than that. This was at the one ACC school that was considered football-first prior to Florida State's arrival. Defending champion Georgia Tech drew less than 50,000 for its last three conference games in Bobby Dodd Stadium.

The spin-masters also fail to mention that Duke's home attendance jumped this season by almost 10,000 a game not because Blue Devils fans were hit with football fever, but because Alabama fans bought up season tickets in order to see their team play in Wallace Wade Stadium. A Duke season ticket doesn't cost much more than a single-game ticket at Alabama, and there were plenty available.

Last year's ACC championship game between Georgia Tech and Clemson drew a little more than 57,000 fans in Tampa - after the game was moved there because of poor attendance in Jacksonville. This year the game will be in Charlotte and the league office is insisting the game will sell out, if North Carolina State beats Maryland on Saturday to qualify to play Virginia Tech. If Florida State is the Hokies' opponent, don't count on it. FSU has not had a home sellout since 2008 - although it may sell out Saturday if enough Florida fans show up.

Of course the good news is that football expansion has helped ACC basketball attendance. Oh wait, that's not true either. In 2001, when the ACC basketball tournament was a nine-team event, it drew more than 40,000 fans per session to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Two years ago, in the same building, that number was down to an announced 25,000 for a 12-team event.

In 2012, when the ACC tournament returns to Atlanta, it will be played across the street in Phillips Arena, not because the ACC wants a better basketball atmosphere, but because there's at least a chance the tournament might fill an 18,729 seat arena. Last year, the Greensboro Coliseum had acres of empty seats throughout the weekend.

Almost every ACC football stadium has been expanded in recent years with disastrous results - none more so than in the case of Maryland. Former athletic director Debbie Yow did everything but flag people down on Route 1 in College Park trying to get them to sit in Byrd Stadium's empty luxury boxes.

The Terrapins will be trying for an eighth win Saturday and have a chance to make it to a reasonably good bowl game with a victory over North Carolina State. They can also knock the Wolfpack - and new Athletic Director Yow - out of the ACC title game with a victory. Good weather is expected.

And, as is almost always the case with an ACC football game, plenty of good seats are available.

For more from the author, visit his blog at

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Forget the 'porn machines'

New York Post
November 19, 2010

Air travelers in the United States are now given two options at the security gate -- be groin-groped by gloved Transportation Security Administration agents, or photographed "naked" in the back-scatter X-ray device that Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic calls "the porn machine."

You can thank failed "underwear bomber" Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab for this one. While armies tragically tend to fight the last war, the TSA looks for the item the most recent terrorist used.

After 9/11, everything sharp -- even tweezers -- was banned. Ever since Richard Reid tried and failed to light his loafers on fire, security agents have forced us to take off our shoes. British authorities rounded up terrorists who planned to bring liquid explosives on board, and we've all been prohibited from carrying shampoo through the gate ever since.

Terrorists have yet to use the same weapon twice, and the TSA isn't even looking for whatever they'll try to use next. I can think of all sorts of things a person could use to wreak havoc on a plane that aren't banned. Security officials should pay less attention to objects, and more attention to people.

The Israelis do. They are, out of dreadful necessity, the world's foremost experts in counterterrorism. And they couldn't care less about what your grandmother brings on a plane. Instead, officials at Ben Gurion International Airport interview everyone in line before they're even allowed to check in.

And Israeli officials profile. They don't profile racially, but they profile. Israeli Arabs breeze through rather quickly, but thanks to the dozens of dubious-looking stamps in my passport -- almost half are from Lebanon and Iraq -- I get pulled off to the side for more questioning every time. And I'm a white, nominally Christian American.

If they pull you aside, you had better tell them the truth. They'll ask you so many wildly unpredictable questions so quickly, you couldn't possibly invent a fake story and keep it all straight. Don't even try. They're highly trained and experienced, and they catch everyone who tries to pull something over on them.

Because I fit one of their profiles, it takes me 15 or 20 minutes longer to get through the first wave of security than it does for most people. The agents make up for it, though, by escorting me to the front of the line at the metal detector. They don't put anyone into a "porn machine." There's no point. Terrorists can't penetrate that deeply into the airport.

The Israeli experience isn't pleasant, exactly, and there's a lot not to like about it. It can be exasperating for those of us who are interrogated more thoroughly.

The system has its advantages, though, aside from the fact that no one looks or reaches into anyone's pants. Israelis don't use security theater to make passengers feel like they're safe. They use real security measures to ensure that travelers actually are safe. Even when suicide bombers exploded themselves almost daily in Israeli cities, not a single one managed to get through that airport.

Michael J. Totten is an indepen dent foreign correspondent. His next book is "The Road to Fatima Gate: The Beirut Spring, the Rise of Hezbollah and the Iranian War Against Israel."

The T.S. of A takes control

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Sunday, November 21, 2010

Fifty years ago, William F. Buckley wrote a memorable complaint about the fact that Americans do not complain enough.[1] His point, like most of the points he made during his well-lived life, is, unfortunately, more pertinent than ever. Were he still with us, he would favor awarding the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which he received in 1991, to John Tyner, who, when attempting to board a plane in San Diego, was provoked by some Transportation Security Administration personnel.[2]

When Buckley was asked how he came up with topics for three columns a week, he jauntily replied that the world annoyed him that frequently. The fecundity of the world as an irritant was on display one winter evening in 1960 when Buckley found himself in an insufferably hot car on a New Haven Railroad commuter train from Grand Central Station to his Stamford, Conn., home. Everyone was acutely uncomfortable; no one was complaining.

"In a more virile age, I thought, the passengers would have seized the conductor and strapped him down on a seat over the radiator to share the fate of his patrons." But he had "nonchalantly walked down the gauntlet of eighty sweating American freemen, and not one of them had asked him to explain why the passengers in that car had been consigned to suffer."

Buckley, who was gifted at discerning the metaphysical significance of the quotidian, thought that he saw civilization tottering on its pedestal. He was not mistaken:

"It isn't just the commuters, whom we have come to visualize as a supine breed who have got onto the trick of suspending their sensory faculties twice a day while they submit to the creeping dissolution of the railroad industry. It isn't just they who have given up trying to rectify irrational vexations. It is the American people everywhere."

Happily, not quite everywhere today. Not anywhere where Tyners are.

When TSA personnel began looking for weapons of mass destruction in Tyner's underpants, he objected to having his groin patted. A TSA functionary,[3] determined to do his duty pitilessly - his duty is to administer the latest (but surely not the last) wrinkle in the government's ever-intensifying protection of us - said: "If you're not comfortable with that, we can escort you back out, and you don't have to fly today."

Tyner: "I don't understand how a sexual assault can be made a condition of my flying."[4]

TSA: "This is not considered a sexual assault."

Tyner: "It would be if you weren't the government. . . ."

TSA: "Upon buying your ticket, you gave up a lot of rights."

Oh? John Locke, call your office.

The theory - perhaps by now it seems like a quaint anachronism - on which the nation was founded is, or was: Government is instituted to protect preexisting natural rights essential to the pursuit of happiness. Today, that pursuit often requires flying, which sometimes involves the wanding of 3-year-olds and their equally suspect teddy bears.

What the TSA is doing is mostly security theater, a pageant to reassure passengers that flying is safe. Reassurance is necessary if commerce is going to flourish and if we are going to get to grandma's house on Thursday to give thanks for the Pilgrims and for freedom. If grandma is coming to our house, she may be wanded while barefoot at the airport because democracy - or the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment; anyway, something - requires the amiable nonsense of pretending that no one has the foggiest idea what an actual potential terrorist might look like.

But enough, already. Enough trivializing important values - e.g., air safety - by monomaniacal attempts to maximize them. Disproportion is the common denominator of almost all of life's absurdities. Automobile safety is important. But attempting to maximize it would begin (but by no means end) with forbidding left turns.

Bureaucracies try to maximize their missions. They can't help themselves. Adult supervision is required to stand athwart this tendency, yelling "Stop!"

Again, Buckley: "Every year, whether the Republican or the Democratic Party is in office, more and more power drains away from the individual to feed vast reservoirs in far-off places; and we have less and less say about the shape of events which shape our future."

The average American has regular contact with the federal government at three points - the IRS, the post office and the TSA. Start with that fact if you are formulating a unified field theory to explain the public's current political mood.