Friday, January 14, 2011

Today's Tune: Dwight Yoakam - Blame The Vain

Mountains, Sky, Writers

The Nation's Pulse

By Bill Croke on 1.14.11 @ 6:08AM
The American Spectator

"The sun had set now, the yellow rocks were turning grey, down in the pueblo the light of the cook fires made red patches of the glassless windows, and the smell of pinon smoke came softly through the still air. The whole western sky was the color of golden ashes…."

-- Willa Cather, Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)

The Santa Fe-Taos region of New Mexico is an upscale enclave and playground for celebrities. It's one of the more scenic parts of the "Land of Enchantment," and is the epicenter of the history of the Southwest. The 400-year-old "Palace of the Governors" is still a tourist attraction. But other than the Hispanic tradition, scenery, and great weather (300 days of sunshine per year), it epitomizes the artistic culture of the Southwest, from its "Santa Fe style" earth-tone adobe architecture to its renowned Native American silver and turquoise jewelry work.

Santa Fe was founded in 1608 (Spain's colony started within a year of both Jamestown and Quebec, interestingly enough), New Mexico being Old Mexico's northernmost province. It was also the land of the pueblos, those ancient Indian communities so interesting in their cultural and archeological aspects. The Mexican War (1846-48) ceded the Southwest to the United States.

In the late 19th century the place began to attract artists, writers and assorted eccentric bohemians. Nineteen-seventeen saw the arrival of Mabel Dodge, a New York socialite and radical-chic arts patron (and linked to such writers as Max Eastman, Walter Lippmann and John Reed), who married an Indian named Tony Luhan. Word spread among her circle in New York about New Mexico's landscape and quality of light, so interesting to painters. Both Santa Fe and nearby Taos soon had thriving arts colonies.

At Mabel Dodge Luhan's behest, D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda arrived in 1922. They stayed for two years, eventually buying a ranch near Taos (now owned by the University of New Mexico and where the English writer's ashes are buried), using it as a base for more extensive travels in Mexico, resulting in the novel The Plumed Serpent (1926) and the travel book Mornings in Mexico (1927). These wanderings also brought on the tuberculosis that killed Lawrence in 1930. Today a memorial attracts scholars and aficionados to the "D.H. Lawrence Ranch".

Another New Mexico habitué was Willa Cather. She had first visited the region in 1912, and spent much of 1925-'26 in residence at Santa Fe's La Fonda Hotel, researching and writing Death Comes for the Archbishop, considered by many critics her finest novel. Her archbishop is Jean Marie Latour, based on the real-life Jean Baptiste Lamy (1814-1888). Lamy was a noteworthy figure in Southwestern history. He built Santa Fe's first hospital and the cathedral that is one of the city's prominent landmarks. The archbishop was a close friend of Kit Carson and his family, who were his parishioners.

California author and Jack London confidante Mary Austin moved to Santa Fe in 1924, living there the last decade of her life. She was famous for The Land of Little Rain (1903) a work California natural history. While in New Mexico she published -- among other things -- The Land of Journey's Ending (1924), a book of Southwest travel sketches focusing on Native American culture. She also helped found Santa Fe's Community Theater. We find her chronicled in Oliver LaFarge's Santa Fe (1959), as a woman with "…that mark of distinction which make her a fine interpreter of the Indian spirit and so great a writer."

Santa Fe is a chronological collection of news items and fragments gleaned from Santa Fe's newspaper, the New Mexican, where LaFarge -- author of a score of books --was a columnist. The entries date back to the paper's founding in 1849 and cover a century of Santa Fe history. LaFarge also wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning Laughing Boy (1929), a novel of Navajo life and the first book to treat American Indians as a serious subject for fiction.

Paul Horgan lived most of his life in Albuquerque, setting his best novel A Distant Trumpet (1951) on an army post in 19th century New Mexico. Author of 37 books, Horgan set a number of his novels in Santa Fe. He's was also a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, being the author of the two volume Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History (1954), a history of the region as drained by the Rio Grande. His second Pulitzer was for the biography Lamy of Santa Fe (1975). Horgan can be compared to another prolific Westerner, Wallace Stegner, in that he excelled in both fiction and nonfiction.

Georgia O'Keefe first visited in 1929, and finding Santa Fe too culturally busy, took up residence on part of the legendary "Ghost Ranch" near Abiquiu in 1940. Here she painted the strange landscapes, portraits and self-portraits that made her famous through a life lasting almost a century. Besides O'Keefe, scores of painters are associated with Santa Fe and Taos, notably Thomas Moran, Edward Borein and Joseph Henry Sharp.

Photographers loomed large, as the New Mexico landscape and its fascinating light beckoned. It was even promising at night, as Ansel Adams proved with his iconic photograph "Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico" (1941), with its moonlight illuminating the white crosses in a rural church cemetery. It's all there in one picture: So much history; so much art; so much New Mexico.

Bill Croke, formerly of Cody, Wyoming, is a writer in Salmon, Idaho.


Frugal Traveler: Santa Fe, N.M. -

You Got Terrorism! We Got Terrorism! Let's Be Friends and Fight Terrorism!

By Barry Rubin
Global Research in International Affairs
January 13, 2011

Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State Photo: AP

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remark about how the Arizona shooting is just like September 11 is such a superb example of everything wrong with Western policy toward the Middle East.[1] Let's summarize the issue by coining a phrase which sounds a bit Zen but has a very practical meaning:

The ear doesn't necessarily hear what someone else's brain thinks.

Or, to put it a different way, there are cultural or situational differences that make people think differently and interpret stuff in different ways. The job of the expert or diplomat or journalist is to make that translation effectively. Often, they fail.

And so Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may think herself clever by telling students in the United Arab Emirates that the Arizona shooting is comparable to the September 11 attacks and shows that America and the Arab world have a similar problem with terrorism.

She is doing Western-speak and particularly American-speak. This includes the concept of building agreement and defusing conflict by persuading your interlocutor that you have a lot in common.

You've got terrorism!
We've got terrorism!
Let's get together and fight terrorism!

That sounds very somebody who doesn't know anything. They might expect those Arab students to rise from their seats and say, "Hey, those Americans aren't bad at all!"

In fact, if they don't get up at the end of the session and say, "Those Americans are really stupid!" they're probably saying something worse.

What this does is to reinforce the view that the West is hypocritical talking about revolutionary Islamism or Iranian aggression.

The fact that on one side you have virtually every media outlet calling for violence daily and on the other side virtually every media element decrying violence doesn't matter.

The fact that on one side you have the vast majority of clergy advocating violence and a tiny few marginal figures doing so on the other side doesn't matter.

The fact that on one side huge numbers of people cheer terrorists and on the other almost everyone boos terrorists doesn't matter.

One, or at most two, crazies acting on their own with no popular backing or financing do not exactly compare with an organized group with thousands of members, with operations stretching from Morocco through Asia, being given safe haven by governments, with their world view constantly reinforced by massive religious and governmental institutions, and cheered on by millions of sympathizers or at least well-wishers!

Now here's the bottom line. What is needed to fight terrorism like that within Western countries is better law enforcement and counterterrorist intelligence and actions.

What is needed to fight terrorism in the Muslim-majority world is structural change and a rethinking of basic principles.

There's also another factor: self-deprecation of yourself and flattery of the other side. This is a commonplace in American society. Making fun of yourself is a key way of getting people to like you.

But back to the present. Let me put it in one sentence: You don't deprecate yourself and flatter macho societies. They attribute your behavior not to winsome modesty but to cowardice and to fear that they are more powerful. What do you think is the number-one reason why revolutionary Islamists and terrorists think they will win despite the fact that the West or America or Israel is stronger? It feeds into the, "We believe in death and you believe in life" mantra.

Moreover, the relatively moderate Arab regimes--especially in the Gulf--don't want a modest, deferential, self-critical, apologetic America. They want an America that they think will defend them from Iran, Syria, and the revolutionary Islamists. What's needed is Mr. Tough Guy, not Mr. Nice Guy. As one Gulf Arab put it privately, "I don't want an Arab as the American president, I want an American as the American president."

So when President Barack Obama made his flattering, self-critical Cairo speech back in 2009, or British Prime Minister David Cameron grovels to the Pakistanis in 2010, or Hillary Clinton makes this kind of statement in 2011, it has the exact opposite effect from what is intended.

There are worse things than the dialogue of the deaf. There's the dialogue of the misinterpreters.

* Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict, and Crisis (Palgrave Macmillan), Conflict and Insurgency in the Contemporary Middle East (Routledge), The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition) (Viking-Penguin), the paperback edition of The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan), A Chronological History of Terrorism (Sharpe), and The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley).



Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rounding Up the Guns

What not to do
January 13, 2011 4:00 A.M.

The go-to expert on foolish rushes to further restrict guns after a shooting is John R. Lott Jr. An economist and contributor, he is author of the authoritative More Guns, Less Crime, now in its third edition. National Review Online talked to him about the Tucson attack.

Kathryn Jean Lopez: Are you outraged that Jared Lee Loughner was not marked a “prohibited possessor” when he went to Sportman’s Warehouse to buy a gun on November 30?

John R. Lott Jr.: No, I am not. While about 90 percent of murderers have a violent criminal history, not every murderer does. It is impossible to flag everyone who might possibly become a criminal. While Loughner had an arrest record and exhibited strange behavior, he was not a convicted criminal, and had not been involuntarily committed, and had not been deemed as a risk to himself or others. Do people really want to forbid gun ownership to law-abiding individuals who have never been convicted of a crime?

Background checks are actually very ineffective to begin with and are mostly an inconvenience for regular people. Unfortunately, many law-abiding citizens end up being erroneously flagged. People intent on horrific crimes are not going to be deterred if they cannot get the guns legally. They can easily enough get guns illegally.

The statistics are clear on this issue: Virtually the only people inconvenienced by background checks are law-abiding citizens. Just as law-abiding citizens accidentally get their names on the government’s “no-fly” list, Americans without a criminal record also find themselves prevented from buying guns.

In 2008, 1.5 percent of those having a Brady background check were forbidden from purchasing a gun. Unfortunately, virtually all these cases represent so-called “false positives.” In 2006 and 2007 (the latest years with detailed data), a tiny fraction — just 2 percent — of those denials involved possible unlawful possession; and just 0.2 percent of the denials were viewed as prosecutable — 174 cases in 2006[1] and 122 in 2007[2]. Even when the government decided that the cases were prosecutable, at least a third of them failed to result in convictions. And even the few convictions were often for people who simply made mistakes — they hadn’t realized that they were prohibited from purchasing a gun.

The Brady background checks have done virtually nothing to prevent people with criminal intent from getting guns. Given that, it isn’t too surprising that no academic studies by economists or criminologists have found that the Brady Act or other state background checks have reduced violent crime.

Lopez: Does anyone need a nine-millimeter Glock, the gun he used?

Lott: Nine-millimeter semiautomatic pistols are by far the most common handguns sold in the U.S. Handguns are particularly useful for self-defense in enclosed spaces such as inside a house. Indeed, there is a safety reason for using handguns. The bullets fired by handguns travel more slowly than those fired by rifles and are thus less likely to harm people outside of the home.

As to the type of handgun that works best for people — that depends on everything from the size of the person’s hands and strength to how much stopping power he needs.

Lopez: Isn’t that gun made “to kill people,” as I’ve heard on MSNBC?

Lott: Well, guns do make it easier to kill people, but guns also make it easier for people to defend themselves. The defensive argument is especially important for people who are weaker physically — women and the elderly — and for those living in crime-infested neighborhoods, such as poor blacks in urban areas. Criminals are overwhelmingly young males who are physically stronger than their potential victims. Police are extremely important in deterring crime, but they understand that they almost always arrive on the scene after the crime has been committed. Simply telling people to behave passively or to defend themselves in some other way is not very good advice. Having a gun is by far the safest course of action for those left to confront a criminal alone.[3]

Lopez: Should we ban guns at civic events, to protect congressmen?

Lott: Another law banning guns from outdoor events would be ineffective — it would make no difference for somebody intent on committing murder. Actually enforcing such a law would require conducting events only in enclosed areas with guards checking for guns at the entrance. It would effectively ban the type of spontaneous contact that Congresswoman Giffords and others felt was so important. It isn’t very clear how one would provide extensive Secret Service protection to all 535 members of Congress.

Lopez: Could this attack have been prevented if there were a federal assault-weapons ban?

Lott: When the federal assault-weapons ban expired on Sept. 14, 2004, those favoring the ban predicted a massive violent-crime wave.

Massachusetts senator John Kerry, the Democratic party’s presidential nominee that year, warned it would make “the job of terrorists easier.”[4] California senator Dianne Feinstein foresaw that deadly crime would soar because of the “pent-up demand for 50-round magazines and larger.”[5] Gun-control advocates such as Sarah Brady, James’s wife, anticipated similar problems.

Six years have passed since the ban sunset, and none of those fears has been borne out. Indeed, every category of violent crime has fallen, with the murder rate falling by about 15 percent between 2004 and June 2010. The recently released third edition of More Guns, Less Crime found that the six states that have their own assault-weapons ban saw a smaller drop in murders than the 44 states without such laws.

There is no academic research by criminologists or economists that shows that either state or federal assault-weapon bans have reduced any type of violent crime. Clips are very easy to cheaply make, and a ban would mean that criminals, not law-abiding individuals, would have the advantage in any confrontation.

The civilian version of the AK-47, or other so-called assault weapons, may look like the guns used by militaries around the world, but they are quite different. The civilian version of the AK-47 is not a machine gun, and fires essentially the same bullets as deer-hunting rifles at the same rapidity (one bullet per pull of the trigger), and does the same damage. Of course, in this attack in Tucson, the weapon used was a very commonly owned handgun.

Lopez: What about some kind of ban on high-capacity magazines? Could that have cut down on the casualties?

Lott: Re-instituting the parts of the assault-weapon ban limiting magazine size won’t lower crime. No research by criminologists or economist found that the ban or magazine-size restrictions reduced crime. Magazines are just small metal boxes with a spring, and are very easy to make. The benefits of not exchanging the magazines accrue to law-abiding citizens, police, and criminals. If criminals still get the larger magazines, they’ll have the advantage.

Lopez: Is there anything new about the legislation Carolyn McCarthy is offering?

Lott: No, she is trying to reinstitute part of the federal assault-weapons ban.

Lopez: Why shouldn’t members of Congress be emotionally or politically pressured into supporting it?

Lott: Too often, knee-jerk reactions cause Congress to pass laws that actually make future crimes more likely. Creating gun-free zones is one such example. Banning guns from places such as schools might have seemed like a way of protecting children or college students, but instead it created a magnet for those intent on causing harm. The problem is that instead of gun-free zones making it safe for potential victims, they make it safe for criminals.

Criminals are less likely to run into those who might be able to stop them. Everyone wants to keep guns away from criminals. But the question is, who is more likely to obey the law?

A student expelled for violating a gun-free zone at a college is extremely unlikely ever to be accepted to another college. A faculty member fired for a firearms violation will find it virtually impossible to get another academic position. But even if the killer at Virginia Tech had lived, the notion that the threat of expulsion would have deterred the attacker when he would have already faced 32 death penalties or at least 32 life sentences seems silly.

Letting civilians have permitted concealed handguns limits the damage from attacks. A major factor in determining how many people are harmed by these killers is the amount of time that elapses between when the attack starts and when someone with a gun is able to arrive on the scene.

Lopez: Is there any gun-control regulation that makes sense?

Lott: I really wish that I could point to something that seems to work here. If background checks make people feel safer, I suppose that there are worse wastes of money, but, generally, gun-control laws either have no effect on crime or actually make things worse. It seems preferable to take the money that we are spending on gun-control laws and use it to hire more police, whom we do know to be extremely important in stopping crime. The big question that people have to ask when examining a law is, who is most likely to obey it? If the law-abiding, good citizens are the ones most likely disarmed by the law, the law can actually make crime rates worse.

Lopez: But don’t gun bans stop criminals from getting guns?

Lott: Everyone wants to keep guns away from criminals, but the question is: Who is most likely to obey the law? With a ban, if the law-abiding citizens are the ones who turn in their guns relative to the criminals, you can actually see increases in crime rates. And that is what we see happening. In every instance, we have data that show that when a ban is imposed, murder rates rise. In America, people are all too familiar with the increased murder rates in Chicago and Washington, D.C., following their handgun bans. They might even be familiar with the 36 percent drop in murder rates in D.C. since the Supreme Court struck down its handgun ban and gun-lock laws.[6]

Supporters blame those gun-control failures on the ease of getting guns in the rest of the country. The claim is that unless the ban covers the entire country, it isn’t a fair test of how well a ban will work. Still, that doesn’t explain why gun bans increase murder rates. As the third edition of More Guns, Less Crime shows, even in island nations such as Ireland, the U.K., and Jamaica — with their easily defendable borders and lack of obvious neighbors — gun bans haven’t stopped drug gangs from getting either drugs or the guns that they use to protect their valuable product (see the figures here[7]).

Lopez: What have been the most prevalent media errors you’ve heard in recent days?

Lott: No one in the media holds gun-control advocates responsible for past claims. Again, after the federal assault-weapons ban sunset, politicians and gun-control advocates lined up claiming that murder and violence rates would soar, but the opposite happened. So when gun-control advocates now claim that renewing part of the assault-weapons ban is essential to control violent crime, it would be helpful for reporters to once in a while call them on their past predictions.

In other cases, gun-control advocates make what should be obviously incorrect statements. Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, blamed the attack on Arizona’s alleged complete lack of gun-control laws. “Arizona basically has no laws restricting guns, and everyone can get a gun,” he told Fox News on Sunday.[8]

I have learned that most of the initial media reports will get the type of gun wrong. Terms such as “assault weapon” and “automatic weapon” are thrown around with apparently little understanding of what they mean. The news coverage here was no different, with many stories claiming that an automatic weapon was used.

It is also disappointing how quickly the press jumps to conclusions about motives of the criminals. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that if you were “wondering why a Blue Dog Democrat, the kind Republicans might be able to work with, might be a target, the answer is that she’s a Democrat who survived what was otherwise a GOP sweep in Arizona, precisely because the Republicans nominated a Tea Party activist.…‘The whole Tea Party’ was her enemy. And, yes, she was on Sarah Palin’s infamous ‘crosshairs’ list.” He even attacked Palin’s offer of concern and prayers for the victims as insufficient.[9]

And on CNN, correspondent Jessica Yellin singled out Sarah Palin as bearing responsibility for the attack: “political rhetoric, as you point out, in creating the environment that allowed this instance to happen…President Obama also delivered that message saying that it was partly the political rhetoric that led to this.”[10]

Well, it looks like those who blamed Sarah Palin and the Tea Party for political gain are going to wish that they had waited just a couple of days. Jared Loughner has been described by a former classmate as “left wing, quite liberal,”[11] and a “pothead,”[12] — hardly a Tea Party fan — who has had a fixation on Giffords since 2007, well before Sarah Palin or the Tea Party made their entry onto the national political scene.

Lopez: Where should Congress go from here?

Lott: Sen. John Thune’s proposal for right-to-carry reciprocity, to make concealed-carry licenses more like driver’s licenses, would be helpful. Congress should also try undoing many new regulations and treaties that the Obama administration is pushing through. The Obama administration has enacted a ban on the importation of semiautomatic guns because: “The U.S. insisted that imports of the aging rifles could cause problems such as firearm accidents.”[13] They have also imposed much more extensive reporting requirements on sales of long guns.[14] However, possibly the biggest threat is Obama’s nomination of Andrew Traver to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.[15] There is also the Obama administration’s push for the U.N.’s Arms Trade Treaty[16] and its continual inaccurate statements about the source of Mexico’s crime guns.[17]

Lopez: Where can the Second Amendment go from here?

Lott: What happens with the Second Amendment depends a lot on what happens with the Supreme Court and the lower-court appointments. The two recent Supreme Court decisions that affirmed that there was an individual right to self-defense were 5-to-4 decisions, and just because the court says that a complete ban on an entire category of guns goes too far doesn’t mean that they will decide that high fees or other restrictions that effectively prevent many from owning guns are unacceptable. President Obama’s appointments to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are adamantly against any protection for individual ownership of guns. If one of the five justices in the majority of the Heller or McDonald cases were to die or retire, not only would further gains be prevented, but even those two precedents would be threatened.

Striking down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban and gun-lock law and Chicago’s handgun ban has been met with new costly restrictions that would-be gun owners must meet. In D.C., the restrictions are so extensive that after two years, only around a thousand people have obtained permits to own handguns in their home. Those regulations are being challenged, but it will take a few years to see whether the Supreme Court will take those cases. Another prominent issue will involve what it means for people to be able to “bear,” in other words carry, guns.

Lopez: Do Jason Chaffetz and Heath Shuler[18] — two congressmen who are planning on arming themselves when they are in their districts — have the right idea? Is that necessary?

Lott: Congressmen can be victims of violent crime, and not just because of their prominent political position. In 1997, when Colorado senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell was asked by the Denver Post “how it looks for a senator to be packing heat,” he responded, “You’d be surprised how many senators have guns.” Campbell said that “he needed the gun back in the days when he exhibited his Native American jewelry and traveled long distances between craft shows.” I just wish that more people in Tucson, Arizona, were carrying a concealed handgun with them when the attack occurred on Saturday.

—John R. Lott Jr. is a contributor, an economist, and the author of More Guns, Less Crime, the third edition of which was recently published by the University of Chicago Press.

—Kathryn Jean Lopez is an editor-at-large of
National Review Online.




















BCS title game crowns a champion of a fraudulent system

By Sally Jenkins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 12:36 AM

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 10: Head coach Gene Chizik of the Auburn Tigers celebrates the Tigers 22-19 victory as he holds up the Coaches Trophy after defeating the Oregon Ducks during the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 10, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

What a dubious honor for Oregon and Auburn to meet in that game that ought to be known as the BS Bowl. The Tigers are champions of what, exactly? Of an illegitimate system in which nearly the half the top-level college football teams in the country were excluded before the first kickoff ever went up.

Since 2004, nine undefeated teams have been denied chances to play for the college football national championship, thanks to the current Bowl Championship Series scheme, because they don't play in the right conferences. Yeah, it's a regular meritocracy, all right.

It's a system in which fraternal preference trumps excellence, and a half-dozen elites control the market, the profits, and the access, via a double-super-secret poll formula that no one can understand without a special decoder ring. It's a through-the-looking-glass world in which U-Conn., an 8-4 patsy that got stomped by four unranked teams this season, can get a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Meantime Boise State, a team that lost just once, to a ranked team on a field goal in overtime, gets left out of the major bowls altogether. It's a system that says to undefeated Texas Christian and all the other teams like it, which don't belong to the privileged club: "No matter what you did all season, it was never going to matter in the competitive sense. Your fate was outside of your hands."

The BCS has taken the essential principle of competition - that those who perform best should be acknowledged and rewarded - and replaced it with a caste system. We would find this detestable in any other aspect of society, yet it's somehow tolerated in college football, because we think it's too trivial for governmental action, and because the cartel called the BCS sells us speciously on the "tradition" of the bowl system. In fact, it's just old-fashioned plantation economics: The Boise States and TCUs are three-fifths citizens in the sport they play.

This past week the Department of Justice received a 28-page analysis of the BCS from the Washington law firm Arent Fox, which is representing Boise State and the Mountain West Conference in their quest for reform of the postseason system. Written by attorney Alan Fishel, it's entitled "22 Tall Tales of the BCS." The DOJ is conducting an ongoing review of the bowl scheme, with an eye toward whether it's in violation of antitrust laws. Fishel contends that it is, and more.

"It's illegal, indefensible, unconscionable, and completely at odds with the values that higher education seeks to promote," he says.

In his analysis, Fishel offers several facts that observers of college football may not know, thanks to BCS officials' talent for coverup and misinformation. For instance, the BCS likes to insist that bowl profits are distributed equitably.

Did you know: Under the BCS scheme, each year the six automatic-qualifier conferences will receive - at a minimum - $10 million more in revenue than the non-automatic-qualifier conferences, regardless of who performs better. This discrimination will occur no matter what the rankings, or the records. This year the Big East, which had not a single team ranked in the top 20, will receive at least $21 million. The Mountain West, which had two teams ranked in the top 20, including unbeaten No.3 TCU, will receive only half that.

A common BCS defense is, "Nobody wants to see the smaller schools like TCU and Boise State. There's not as much interest in them." Really? Was U-Conn. a better television draw?

Did you know: The regular season game between Boise State and Virginia Tech had the second-highest ratings of any game this year, including conference championships. And aside from the interest thing not being, you know, true, there's also this rebuttal: Would last year's NCAA basketball tournament final have been better without Butler?

The BCS's entire reason for being rests on its contention that it produces the best championship matchup every year. It argues that it puts the two most powerful and deserving teams in the title game.

But did you know: The so-called favorites hardly ever win the title, in most sports. The BCS system, which so badly skews the championship game toward the alleged power conferences, is actually anti-competitive. Since 1998, the national champions in NCAA baseball and basketball have come from the top two seeds in just four of 13 years, a third of the time.

There is no reason to believe football would be any different if the champion was legitimately decided on the field. Did you know: The old bowl system was far more equitable and outsiders had a better shot at a championship. In seven of the 10 years immediately preceding the creation of the BCS in 1998, the national title was claimed by teams outside of the power conferences. Including Miami, which was then an independent.

The BCS is getting it wrong most of the time.

The BCS also loves to argue that it's simply the result of a free-market system. Actually, it flies in the face of market forces.

Did you know: In the last four years the major bowl games involving the Mountain West and WAC teams on average had higher ratings and larger game attendance than the major bowls involving the ACC and Big East.

So did the MWC and WAC receive more money for that performance? Not under the BCS. Instead they received about half of what the ACC and Big East got.

"How exactly has the market demanded this system?" Fishel asks.

And how is such discrimination necessary in shaping a national championship game? If the North Carolina Tar Heels were eliminated from winning an NCAA basketball title before the season began, would we tolerate it? If the Red Sox were eliminated from the pennant race before the season began, wouldn't we consider the Red Sox and their fans "harmed" by such a system?

We'll have a true national championship game on the day that the BCS invites unrestricted competition, instead of eliminating half the competition. Until then, no team can claim a real victory.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

POP CULTURE: Bruce Springsteen and the Right

Baseball Crank
January 10, 2011

When New Jersey's Republican governor, Chris Christie, was sworn into office, he chose to celebrate at his inauguration by joining a Bruce Springsteen cover band in singing the Boss' signature anthem, 'Born to Run'. Governor Christie hails from Bruce's home state of New Jersey, and his zealous Springsteen fandom is perhaps unusually dedicated for a politician. But it also symbolizes a paradox: while Springsteen has long been open about his left-wing political views and has hit the campaign trail for the last two Democratic presidential candidates, he remains enduringly popular with a broad segment of conservatives and Republicans. In part, that's for the obvious reason: Bruce is a rock legend with a ton of fans, so we should be unsurprised that he would have fans of every political persuasion. It's also partly demographic; Bruce's fans tend to be disproportionately white and, increasingly, older, and those are more conservative groups than the population at large. But my own anecdotal sense is that Bruce's fanbase is - if anything - more conservative-leaning than you would explain by those factors alone, and certainly not markedly more liberal. Speaking as a conservative and a longtime Springsteen diehard, let me offer some theories as to why that is. This is not an essay dedicated to claiming Springsteen for the Right, or arguing that he's unwittingly some sort of crypto-conservative, although I do note at a few points conservative themes in his writing and his life. Rather, my argument is that the things that appeal to fans of Bruce Springsteen and his music are, quite logically, most appealing to conservatives.

Generally, we conservatives have pretty low expectations, politically, for our pop-culture icons. We understand that most of them don't agree with us on politics or policy. So, what we look for are artists who have some tolerance and respect for us, some themes in common with our worldview, and sometimes being one of the good guys on something. Bruce delivers on all counts.

(1) Decency

One of the principal complaints of conservatives about the culture is that it's a sewer of indecency: too much sex, too much bad language, too much immorality of various general, too much bombardment of the young and the unwilling with messages and imagery that subvert any effort to bring kids to maturity gradually, with the perspective of time.

Bruce may be a liberal, but on this count, he's been one of the good guys for a very long time. People bring their kids to Springsteen concerts and play his albums in the car without worry; out of his vast catalog, I can count on one hand the number of Springsteen songs I have to censor from my kids, and none of them are his major hits (on Live in Dublin, you can hear an audible crowd reaction to the line in 'Long Time Coming' where Bruce uses the F word). Bruce deals in adult themes without forcing his listeners into adulthood. Contrast this to a self-identified Republican like Britney Spears, who launched her career as an icon of underage sexuality, sings about threesomes and has presented an ongoing reality-show-style trainwreck of a life offstage.

In his personal life, Bruce is no perfect role model, but by and large he's avoided the public spectacle of a life of rock n' roll dissolution; he's raised a family (his first marriage collapsed quickly, but the second one has endured two decades), stayed out of trouble with the law, kept any tales of excess and vice out of the press. Clarence Clemons, in his book Big Man - which I highly recommend - recounts that Bruce had a "no drugs" policy for his band, more out of professionalism than anything else; while Clarence admits to violating this policy rather regularly, he nonetheless respected the fact that Bruce sought to hold himself and his band to some standards, if for no other reason than to keep the band from unraveling. (TIME's famous 1975 profile of Bruce noted his avoidance of drugs, an unusual stance in the 70s, a decade before Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" campaign).

Read the entire article by clicking on the link below:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Horrid Crime, a Dishonest Debate

The same Left that embraces terrorist Bill Ayers seeks a tactical victory in Tucson.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
January 11, 2011 4:00 A.M.

On June 5, 1968, a deranged 25-year-old Jordanian named Sirhan Sirhan slithered through a crowd toward Sen. Robert Kennedy as the Democratic presidential candidate basked in the glow of his California presidential primary triumph. Sirhan shot and killed Kennedy, wounding several others. The ensuing investigation showed that Sirhan was a raging anti-Semite who’d become fixated on Senator Kennedy because of the latter’s support for Israel.

Two people profoundly impressed by the assassination were the terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn. In 1974, they dedicated their own communist manifesto, Prairie Fire, to Sirhan, hailing him — among a cast of violent radicals — as a courageous political prisoner.[1] In the book itself, they and the rest of the Weathermen went on to identify themselves proudly as “communist women and communist men underground in the United States” who were determined to lead a violent leftist revolution — a “fight [to] seize power and build the new society.” Their rhetoric, their heedless dehumanization of those they maligned as ideological “enemies,” was coupled with acts of horrific violence, including a plot to mass-murder U.S. soldiers in Fort Dix, a plot that went awry when the nail bomb accidentally exploded during construction, killing some of the terrorists.[2]

This history is one the modern Left, in which Ayers and Dohrn remain icons, would rather you’d forget today. Today, instead, is for politicizing the wanton savagery of another deranged radical, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner, who stunned the nation by slithering through a Tucson crowd and unleashing a 31-shot fusillade, gravely wounding his primary target, Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona. In the spree, Loughner also killed six people: nine-year-old Christina Green; three elderly Arizonans, Dorothy Morris, Dorwin Stoddard, and Phyllis Schneck; John M. Roll, Arizona’s chief federal district judge; and Gabriel Zimmerman, an aide to Representative Giffords. Two other legislative aides, Pamela Simon and Ron Barber, were wounded.

Already, we have learned a great deal about the assassin. He is a deeply disturbed pot-head. In order to give meaning to the addling emptiness of his life, he turned to the anti-Semitic rants of Adolph Hitler, Marx’s Communist Manifesto, the occult, and what appears to have been an obsession with Representative Giffords, a Jewish congresswoman and supporter of Israel. Some acquaintances and schoolmates who’d endured his tirades over the years predicted he’d come to an end just like this.

Nevertheless, the instantaneous reaction of the hard Left, President Obama’s base, was to politicize the Tucson atrocity as a natural, an inevitable, result of conservative ideology, enthusiasm for immigration-law enforcement and gun ownership by law-abiding Americans, and dissent from Obama’s policies — Giffords, a centrist Democrat (indeed, a former Republican) having supported Obamacare and amnesty for illegal aliens.

The disturbing mugshot of Jared Lee Loughner

The atrocity has called on us to indulge a double fantasy. First, that it is worth the time and effort to engage Obama’s base in a debate about the root cause of the shootings, and specifically about whether what the Left frames as an atmosphere of toxic rhetoric (translation: the Tea Party, talk radio, and Fox News) is to blame. Second, that without such a debate, we wouldn’t and couldn’t know why this atrocity happened.

To grasp the absurdity of the first point, one need only remember the reaction to terrorist attacks by two jihadists: Maj. Nidal Hassan, who killed 13 people and wounded numerous others in the Fort Hood massacre, and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to explode a plane over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009. There could not have been a more committed effort to deny that Islamist ideology and its hateful rhetoric had anything whatsoever to do with these events.

Very simply: The Left likes Islam and sympathizes with the Islamist critique of America, while it seethes with contempt for the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and any person or institution that can serve as a symbol of conservatism or bourgeois American life. Consequently, any heinous act that can be contorted, however counterfactually, into a condemnation of the Right will be exploited for that purpose. Conversely, there is to be quick rationalization for, and then studious suppression of, any shameful episode that is too clearly traceable to a leftist cause célèbre — Islam, a movie pining for George W. Bush’s assassination, ghoulish wishes that Clarence Thomas or Dick Cheney will meet swift and painful deaths, or Senate Democrats’ comparing U.S. troops to Nazis, Soviets, Pol Pot, or terrorists.

There is no point debating any of this. Two years ago, we were still being told dissent was the highest form of patriotism; now it’s the root cause of murderous rampage. Modern leftists are tacticians. They’ve convinced themselves of the rightness of their cause, obviating the need to be consistent or faithful to facts in any single episode. For them, it’s all about how the episode can be spun to help the cause. That’s worth understanding, but not debating.

Second, can we forget that Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn’s atrocities transformed them into icons of the modern Left — respected “educators” still passionate about “social justice”? Barack Obama didn’t say, “I’ll have nothing to do with unrepentant terrorists who dedicate books to deranged assassins.” He chose to hold his political coming-out party in their living room and cultivated relationships with them, just as he cultivated a relationship with other hate-mongering radicals.

It is as stupid to claim that rhetoric causes violence as it is to claim that normal people can be entrapped into terrorism. What vitriolic thing would someone need to say to you, whether the vitriol could be cast as right-wing or left-wing, that would get you to pick up a gun and start spraying bullets at people with whom you disagreed, however vigorously, about some political or social issue? It wouldn’t happen. It couldn’t happen.

If wanton violence has a cause other than mental illness, it is a culture that lionizes the savages. That culture is not the culture of the Tea Partiers so despised by the Left. Many Tea Partiers are part of what until recently was called “the Christian Right,” an amorphous group of Americans, not all of whom are actually Christians, tied together by their shared acceptance of basic Judeo-Christian principles, such as equality and the sanctity of life (even the lives of their ideological opponents). They love liberty, because in their hands it is guided by virtue. It leads to the good life and the good society, not to dissipation and anarchy. Many of them pray for President Obama despite their revulsion at most of his policies. All of them consider him their president and would rally behind him if the good of the nation demanded it. Their dissent does not diminish their patriotism.

For our opinion elites, though, they are a punch line or, when disaster strikes, a punching bag. Those elites scoff at the very idea of real, knowable virtue — unless it is rhetorically useful in showing that America has failed to measure up. They would erase any traditional understanding of virtue from public life, replacing it with their vapid “values.” Under these, the young learn, a terrorist can still be a hero if he kills for noble reasons, if it becomes fashionable to deny the humanity of those he takes as his enemies.

And then we wonder at the depravity of the next atrocity.

— Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.




The charlatans' response to the Tucson tragedy

By George F. Will
The Washington Post
Tuesday, January 11, 2011

It would be merciful if, when tragedies such as Tucson's occur, there were a moratorium on sociology. But respites from half-baked explanations, often serving political opportunism, are impossible because of a timeless human craving and a characteristic of many modern minds.

The craving is for banishing randomness and the inexplicable from human experience. Time was, the gods were useful. What is thunder? The gods are angry. Polytheism was explanatory. People postulated causations.

And still do. Hence: The Tucson shooter was (pick your verb) provoked, triggered, unhinged by today's (pick your noun) rhetoric[1], vitriol[2], extremism[3], "climate of hate."[4]

Demystification of the world opened the way for real science, including the social sciences. And for a modern characteristic. And for charlatans.

A cartoon by Jeff Danziger of the Washington Post reacting to the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

A characteristic of many contemporary minds is susceptibility to the superstition that all behavior can be traced to some diagnosable frame of mind that is a product of promptings from the social environment. From which flows a political doctrine: Given clever social engineering, society and people can be perfected. This supposedly is the path to progress. It actually is the crux of progressivism. And it is why there is a reflex to blame conservatives first.

Instead, imagine a continuum from the rampages at Columbine and Virginia Tech - the results of individuals' insanities - to the assassinations of Lincoln and the Kennedy brothers, which were clearly connected to the politics of John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, respectively. The two other presidential assassinations also had political colorations.

On July 2, 1881, after four months in office, President James Garfield, who had survived the Civil War battles of Shiloh and Chickamauga, needed a vacation. He was vexed by warring Republican factions - the Stalwarts, who waved the bloody shirt of Civil War memories, and the Half-Breeds, who stressed the emerging issues of industrialization. Walking to Washington's train station, Garfield by chance encountered a disappointed job-seeker. Charles Guiteau drew a pistol, fired two shots and shouted, "I am a Stalwart and Arthur will be president!" On Sept. 19, Garfield died, making Vice President Chester Arthur president. Guiteau was executed, not explained.

On Sept. 6, 1901, President William McKinley, who had survived the battle of Antietam, was shaking hands at a Buffalo exposition when Leon Czolgosz approached, a handkerchief wrapped around his right hand, concealing a gun. Czolgosz, an anarchist, fired two shots. Czolgosz ("I killed the president because he was the enemy of the good people - the good working people. I am not sorry for my crime.") was executed, not explained.

Now we have explainers. They came into vogue with the murder of President Kennedy. They explained why the "real" culprit was not a self-described Marxist who had moved to Moscow, then returned to support Castro. No, the culprit was a "climate of hate" in conservative Dallas, the "paranoid style"[5] of American (conservative) politics or some other national sickness resulting from insufficient liberalism.

Last year, New York Times columnist Charles Blow explained that "the optics must be irritating" to conservatives: Barack Obama is black, Nancy Pelosi is female, Rep. Barney Frank is gay, Rep. Anthony Weiner (an unimportant Democrat, listed to serve Blow's purposes) is Jewish.[6] "It's enough," Blow said, "to make a good old boy go crazy." The Times, which after the Tucson shooting said that "many on the right" are guilty of "demonizing" people and of exploiting "arguments of division,"[7] apparently was comfortable with Blow's insinuation that conservatives are misogynistic, homophobic, racist anti-Semites.

On Sunday, the Times explained Tucson: "It is facile and mistaken to attribute this particular madman's act directly to Republicans or Tea Party members. But . . ." The "directly" is priceless.

Three days before Tucson, Howard Dean explained that the Tea Party movement is "the last gasp of the generation that has trouble with diversity." Rising to the challenge of lowering his reputation and the tone of public discourse, Dean smeared Tea Partyers as racists: They oppose Obama's agenda, Obama is African American, ergo . . .

Let us hope that Dean is the last gasp of the generation of liberals whose default position in any argument is to indict opponents as racists. This McCarthyism of the left - devoid of intellectual content, unsupported by data - is a mental tic, not an idea but a tactic for avoiding engagement with ideas. It expresses limitless contempt for the American people, who have reciprocated by reducing liberalism to its current characteristics of electoral weakness and bad sociology.









Monday, January 10, 2011

Conservatives in the Crosshairs

The Left is wrong to tie metaphorical violence to literal violence.

By Roger Kimball
January 10, 2011 4:00 A.M.

It’s been only two days since a murderous rampage left six dead — including a nine-year-old child and federal judge John Roll — and 14 wounded, including Democratic congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot point-blank in the head and who, as of this writing, is still in critical condition but (all things considered) “doing well.” Thank God for that.

The bullets had hardly stopped whizzing when a cataract of commentary descended. The first inundation came mostly from the Left. Its basic message was epitomized by Paul Krugman[1]: The shooting was probably politically motivated. The Tea Party. Sarah Palin. Scary. “The climate that preceded the Oklahoma City bombing.” Beck. Limbaugh. “The evils of Partisanship.” “Culture of hate.” Et cetera.

I wrote about Krugman in my PajamasMedia column[2], explaining how he and his ilk showed the world “How to Turn a Tragedy into an Emetic.” Jared Lee Loughner, the 22-year-old psychopath who shot those people in Tucson, was not inspired, egged on, or motivated by conservative opponents of Obama. He isn’t a poster boy for right-wing “hate-mongering.” He isn’t, come to that, a poster boy for left-wing hate-mongering, either. He is just a delusional, homicidal fantasist. The effort by Krugman and others to invest his actions with political import — more precisely, their efforts to blame others for this horrific episode and thereby garner political capital for their side — was itself an act of fantasy, alternately repellent and mendacious.

This has been amply pointed out by the second inundation from that cataract of commentary: the many pieces from the other side of the aisle pointing out the fact-free nature of left-wing paranoia sweepstakes. Several pieces specialized in the game of compare and contrast. Byron York[3], for example, was one of many who pointed out that if you’re a Muslim fanatic who mows down 13 people at Fort Hood while chanting “Allahu Akbar!” the watchword is caution: Let’s not jump to conclusions here. He was just a “lone extremist.” Islam is a religion of peace. Etc. But just let the lunatic be a white boy from the heartland and, bingo, field day. Sarah Palin. Culture of hate. The whole nine yards. As Jennifer Rubin noted[4], “You can almost hear the disappointment from the left that he was a pothead rather than a Tea Partyer.” (See this roundup at Instapundit.[5])

The irony — or maybe it’s just good old-fashioned hypocrisy — is that while Paul Krugman, Chris Matthews, the Daily Kos, et al., stridently bewail “the culture of hate,” their own rhetoric is much more intemperate than that of their opponents. Moreover, as several commentators have pointed out, it takes only a comparative visit to some Tea Party rallies, on the one hand, and some anti-Bush or anti-Palin rallies, on the other, to register a wide discrepancy not only in rhetorical tone but rhetorical substance. At one you are likely to see signs decrying socialism, big government, Obamacare, high taxes, etc. At the other you are likely to see signs advising you that “Bush = Hitler,” proclaiming the imperative “F*** Bush,” etc. Really, it is instructive to compare the rhetorical temperature, and general drift, of the two sides. One complains about various policies. The other complains about “a culture of hate” while at the same time wallowing in it. (One commentator to my PJM column supplied this sobering roundup.[6])

Why the discrepancy — or, rather, why doesn’t the discrepancy register more forcefully on the great Geiger counter of public sentiment? That is a deep, or at least an elusive, question. Part of the answer, I think, lies in the same psychological metabolism that commends what we call “liberalism” (no matter its generally anti-liberal tendency). If you say you are in favor of something we as a society think is commendable, then it matters little that your actions or your policy conduce to the opposite.

Consider, to take one example, everything we can aggregate under the rubric of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society program. Has there ever been a greater gap between announced goal (the abolition of poverty, helping the underclass, etc.) and the actual effects? Johnson’s programs were in fact engines for the spread of poverty and multi-generational dependency. But all it took were a few rhetorically skillful politicians to mount the hustings and tell you they were engaged in a War on Poverty and, presto! susceptible souls rolled over on their backs, waved their arms and legs in the air, and emptied their wallets. (Actually, the government did the emptying, but you see what I mean.)

This isn’t a whole explanation, not by a long shot. But it at least gets us into a neighborhood of plausibility, unlike the commentary that asks us to tut-tut over the fact that Sarah Palin includes maps that “target” Democrats on her Facebook page. (Oh, dear: The Democrats do that for Republicans, too! Who knew?[7])

What we have here in the tortured left-wing effort to enlist the ghastly Arizona shootings into their anti–Tea Party campaign is yet another example of political correctness on the march. The great irony, as I intimated a moment ago, is that all this vitriol should be marching under a banner called “liberalism.” There is nothing liberal, nothing having to do with freedom, about it. It is all about control: power in the hands of a nomenklatura and submission visited upon you and me, my friends. It’s the good old strategy of Lenin, dusted off and infused with some new names. It all boils down, however, to what Lenin said politics was all about. Not the control of faction and controlling the power of the state so that individual freedom could flourish. That was the idea of earlier tea partiers such as James Madison and Alexander Hamilton. No, Lenin’s idea, like Krugman’s, is “Who/Whom.”

What so infuriates the party of the Left is that those on the accusative side of the equation have woken up and have decided they don’t like it. It’s a bit like the chap who came across the most amazing animal: It protects itself when attacked. Message to the world’s Krugmanites: Get used to it. We’re on the march, we’re targeting you, you’re in our crosshairs, and, no, this is not an incitement to “hate” or political divisiveness: It is what politics in a democracy is all about.

— Roger Kimball is publisher of Encounter Books, and co-publisher and co-editor of The New Criterion.









Sunday, January 09, 2011

Thank God These People Are on the Other Side of the World

Another Perspective

By William Tucker on 1.7.11 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

Arrested Pakistani bodyguard Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri wearing a garland shouts 'We are ready to sacrifice our life for the prestige of the Prophet Mohammad' after appearing in court in Islamabad on January 5, 2011 a day after the assassination of the governor of Punjab province Salman Taseer. Pakistani police on January 5, 2011 charged the police commando with murder and terrorism over the killing of Salman Taseer, lawyers said.

Just curious, but is anybody paying attention to what just happened in Pakistan? It's dribbled out in bits and pieces, but I don't recall anyone putting the whole picture in perspective.

Here's what's happened. More than a year ago, Asia Bibi, a 45-year-old mother of five, was working in the fields in the Punjab province when some of the Muslim women working alongside her asked her to fetch water. When she returned, several women said they would not accept it because she was a Christian and therefore "unclean." Insults were exchanged and in the process Bibi made some insulting remarks about the Koran and Islam.

The incident blew over at first, but word spread through the town and a few days later Bibi was being pursued by a Muslim mob. The police intervened and rescued her but felt obliged to satisfy the mob's bloodlust so they charged Bibi with blasphemy. This is a capital offense under a law dating back to British colonialism. Bibi was held in solitary confinement for more a year until she was finally put on trial in October. She was convicted in the provincial court and sentenced to die on November 9.

By now the case was drawing international attention. Christian groups began to protest and Pope Benedict XVI appealed for clemency, complaining that Christians in Pakistan are "often victims of violence and discrimination." Other minority groups in Pakistan began calling for the repeal of the blasphemy law, saying it was used to persecute all minorities. The execution was postponed. Then in mid-November, Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab and apparently a decent man, called for issuing a pardon and said that blasphemy should not be punishable by death. In late November, an aide to President Asif Ali Zardari put out word that a pardon would be forthcoming. All the while, Bibi remained in jail.

So on last Tuesday, Governor Taseer, the man who had spoken up for softening the law, was assassinated by one of his own guards. The killer, one Malik Mumtaz Hussain Qadri, said that Taseer had committed blasphemy by siding with Bibi. Qadri was known for his extreme views and acted alone, but none of the governor's other guards seemed to make any attempt to stop him. Yesterday when Qadri appeared in court, he was mobbed by a throng of admirers who garlanded him with flowers. Meanwhile, Taseer's family couldn't find a Muslim cleric to preside over his funeral.

SO THERE YOU have it. An incident that might take place on a playground in this country becomes an international incident in Pakistan with one of the highest public officials in the land assassinated while the crowds cheer.

Taseer with Asia Bibi who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy.

Press coverage has been typically boring and mealy-mouthed. The Voice of America found the whole thing emblematic of class conflict:

Political power in Pakistan has usually rested with an educated, liberal, and often wealthy elite -- at least when the country was not under military rule. With his push to roll back the country's blasphemy laws, Punjab Governor Salman Taseer epitomized what radicals view as an alarming secular drift in Pakistan.

Lisa Curtis, of the Heritage Foundation, of all places, ascribed the incident to a kind of post-traumatic stress syndrome:

"It's been events over the past 30 years, like the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Islamization policies of General Zia ul-Haq during the 1980s, which has really strengthened the Islamist forces and the more puritanical sects in Pakistan over the more traditional and moderate Sunni sects."

Ravi Agrawal, reporting for CNN, explains it all as a reaction to colonialism.

[Taseer's] political thoughts were forged at his English-style high school in posh Lahore, and then furthered in his time studying accounting in England. Taseer lived and died a Muslim. But he was also modern, with western views on law and democracy. And it was those views that clashed with a country that has increasingly identified itself as Islamic, shedding the anglicized traditions of its colonized past.

Sounds like he deserved to die to me.

Here's an alternative explanation to the story. These people are crazy. They live in a world that most Europeans left behind when Hieronymus Bosch hung up his paintbrushes -- a world that most contemporary American leave behind somewhere around first grade. I remember well the panic we all felt that year trying to escape some particularly unpopular girl's "cooties." After another year, however, the terror subsided. We began to lead rational lives. Not so in the great Islamic Republic. The phobias, irrational fears, superstitions, and delusions that most cultures would ascribe to madness are part of daily life. The place is a lunatic asylum. Thank god they live on the other side of the world. But of course, as 9/11 showed, that's not really true anymore. And they do have a nuclear weapon, too -- think of that.

We are not to blame for Pakistan. As Iraqis have gone on killing each other for the last five years, it was always possible to say that we set the ball rolling by invading in the first place. But Pakistan is sui generis. These people are not rejecting colonialism, they are rejecting civilization. Sunnis kill Shi'ia, Shi'ia kill Sunnis, and Sunnis and Shi'ia combine to kill Suffi. Then they all get together and murder Christians or someone who can speak English or whoever else happens to be at hand. Me and my cousin against the world.

I think we should finish whatever the hell it is we are doing in Afghanistan but then get the hell out. Forget about this "nation-building." These people are incapable of holding a wedding or a funeral without somebody blowing himself up and taking half the crowd with him. Maybe in some other century we can sit down and talk about a peaceful future. For now, I say let them broil in their own inferno.

- William Tucker is the author of Terrestrial Energy: How Nuclear Power Will Lead the Green Revolution and End America's Energy Odyssey and editor-at-large at Nuclear Townhall.