Saturday, March 19, 2011

Interview: Giulio Meotti - Genocide in Israel

We in the West have much to repent for in the blind eye we have turned to the slaughter of innocents.

By Kathryn Jean Lopex
March 18, 2011 4:00 A.M.

‘The victims were sleeping as the killer came in. The paramedics described children’s toys right next to pools of blood. It’s the worst single attack in Israel’s recent history.”

That’s Giulio Meotti (pictured at right), describing the slaughter last week of five members of the Fogel family on the West Bank. They were killed “while they were sleeping in their home on the Sabbath evening,” as Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in denouncing the act of terrorism.

In truth, as horrific as it was, the attack was far from foreign to the lives of Israelis. As is the widespread lack of outrage internationally.

As Meotti tells me, “Those who profess to deplore violence on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian equation have remained relatively silent on the slaughtering of this Israeli family. No words of condemnation about the killing of these innocents have been heard from the human-rights groups, the same faction that is so quick to vilify Israel for defending itself from terrorist attacks, especially when Palestinian citizens lose their lives during a retaliatory foray by Israel. There is no other conclusion to draw: When the deaths of Jewish innocents go unmourned and unacknowledged, it is because Jewish lives do not count. Where’s the outrage? Why is the world silent about the beheading of a Jewish infant? The silence has been telling.”

Giulio Meotti, an Italian journalist, is the author of the haunting book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel’s Victims of Terrorism, dedicated to making sure that these victims are known and not forgotten.

Meotti does a thorough, moving job of introducing the reader to the victims of Islamic, anti-Jewish terrorism. Some of those we meet are Americans. All of them were human. And none of them deserved their fate. Reading Meotti, you come to miss every single one of them, although you probably never physically met them. Meotti talked to me this week about these people who have become victims of what he calls the New Shoah, and what their lives tell us about our own. – KJL

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: Is there really a new Shoah in Israel? If that’s so, why aren’t we doing more to stop it? All of us?

GIULIO MEOTTI: The Shoah was a unique evil in human history, and I had to be very careful not to make false comparisons. Through books, museums, memorials, and cinema, the Shoah has become a universal metaphor of victimization, invoked by everyone from AIDS sufferers to African-American activists (who define slavery as the “real Holocaust”) to pro-Arab propagandists portraying Palestinians as the inheritors of Nazi-era victimization. I’d prefer to avoid using the term “Shoah,” but I didn’t find any other term as accurate in describing what is happening in Israel under the hanging sword of terrorism.

Shoah is a word that, to me at least, links the generation of the Holocaust to the Israelis being killed today in their homeland. The book describes a very specific destructive process, a slow-motion 9/11 launched against civilians day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, attack after attack. We talk about 1,600 innocent dead, murdered in cold blood, targets of a planned genocidal program, the proportional equivalent to 85,000 American victims.

I spent six years tracking down and interviewing witnesses to terrorist atrocities — including people who survived attacks and family members of those who did not. I heard about scores of young people and children, women and elderly, incinerated on buses; cafés, pizzerias, and shopping centers turned into slaughterhouses; mothers and daughters killed in front of ice-cream shops; entire families exterminated in their own beds; infants executed with a blow to the base of the skull; teens tortured and their blood smeared on the walls of a cave; fruit markets blown to pieces; nightclubs annihilated along with dozens of students; seminarians murdered during their Biblical studies; husbands and wives killed in front of their children; brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandchildren murdered together; children murdered in their mothers’ arms.

What has been happening in Israel is a destructive campaign completely neglected by foreign newspapers and television stations and by legal forums like the United Nations. Applying lessons from the Holocaust to the Arab-Israel conflict is a tricky business. But as Prof. Yehuda Bauer of Yad Vashem (the official Israeli Holocaust memorial) has argued, “Nazism, Stalinist Communism, and radical Islam are different from each other, but they also have a certain similarity: All three aim, or aimed, at exclusive control over the world, all three oppose or opposed all expressions of democracy, and all three attacked Jews.”

I also decided to adopt the word Shoah because today in Western democracies, the Holocaust’s memory is a special weapon in the hands of those who hate Israel and the West. In the last 15 years, hundreds and hundreds of Jews were killed because they were Jews, while the guardians of memory were busy in non-useful phony ceremonies. The very memory of the Shoah was betrayed. The book A New Shoah is a lament for the most tragic past, delivered in the present tense. I wanted to show the absolute character of Jewish tragedy. I wanted to show how the Israelis are victimized and how they are alone, abandoned by the world — now just as then.

LOPEZ: How is Hamas like the Nazis? Is it perhaps the only organization today for which the Nazi metaphor is appropriate?

MEOTTI: The Muslim Brotherhood’s guru, the Egyptian sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has ruled that even the unborn Israeli child in the womb is a legitimate target for death, because one day he will wear a uniform. This ruling has set in motion a mass hatred that has precedents only in Nazism. Only one nation on the planet is regarded as having no civilians; only one nation must recognize that its children risk being torn apart by nail bombs on buses. Terrorism came not in response to an intensification of the occupation but in response to Israel’s attempt to end it.

Rabbi Mordechai Elon once referred to one area of the Mount Herzl cemetery in Jerusalem as the burial area for the nation’s unborn victims (as opposed to the section for the nation’s great leaders). Eyal and Yael Shorek are buried there; Yael was nine months pregnant when she was killed. Next to them lie Gadi and Tzippi Shemesh, who were killed in downtown Jerusalem immediately after having a scan of their unborn twins. Four members of the Gavish family are buried next to one another in Elon Moreh, a settlement in the biblical West Bank. In Gaza, a terrorist squad opened fire on the car of Jewish settler Tali Hatuel, who died on the spot. Then her four daughters were murdered, each with a shot to the head at point-blank range. It was an execution. The attacks on the Park Hotel in Netanya and in the Beit Yisrael neighborhood in Jerusalem wiped out entire families. Ruti Peled and her granddaughter Sinai Keinan were murdered in Petah Tikva. Noa Alon and her granddaughter Gal Eizenman were killed at the French Hill intersection in Jerusalem. Five members of the Schijveschuurder family were killed in the bombing of the Sbarro restaurant in Jerusalem. Boaz Shabo lost his wife, Rachel, and their three children in a terrorist attack in Itamar, and he feels as if this is “a mini-holocaust.”

Hamas and Hezbollah, two of the terrorist organizations that seek the destruction of Israel, call the Jews “pigs,” “cancer,” “garbage,” “germs,” “parasites,” and “microbes.” Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad uses the expression “dead rats.” The Islamist terminology is the contemporary version of the Nazi “Schmattes,” the Yiddish word for “rags.” It’s very important for these groups to dehumanize the Israelis before killing them.

Hamas is committed not merely to the political goal of expelling Jews from the land of Israel but also to what it believes is a sacred religious goal of exterminating all Jews everywhere, behind every tree in creation. There is another metaphor, and that is the Russian pogroms. During the Cossack pogroms of 1648–49 whole families were wiped out. And that’s what is happening again in the new Shoah.

LOPEZ: Why do so many believe the Israelis are not the wronged party? It isn’t mere anti-Semitism, is it? Israel isn’t perfect, strategically or otherwise.

MEOTTI: There’s a river of oily, bloody money that feeds those who incite anti-Israeli riots, organize anti-Israeli boycotts, spread anti-Israeli lies in the guise of “objective journalism” and “academic research.” There are careers to be made on the betrayal of intellectual standards.

The process of Israel’s delegitimization, which began with the Soviets’ pathological assault on its legitimacy, has now come full circle. In Western Europe today, and even among many U.S. liberals, the old Soviet critique of “colonialist Zionism” has penetrated mainstream media and intellectual circles. Don’t forget that the Guardian, the leftist U.K. outlet, ran an editorial titled “Israel Has No Right to Exist.” It is also true, though, that Israeli diplomacy does nothing to explain abroad the real story of Israel. The Arabs’ propaganda is very active in rewriting history for their own convenience. The silence of Jewish writers is disconcerting — and has been for a long time now. In Europe and in the U.S., the public knows very well the story of the Jewish girl from Amsterdam, Anne Frank. But nobody knows the Ohayon children slaughtered in the dovish Israeli kibbutz of Metzer. They were the same age as Anne Frank when the terror squad broke into their home. They died in the arms of their mother, who was trying to protect them.

The “civilized” world should be ashamed for leaving the Israelis alone, during the Second Intifada, to be killed in cafés, buses, supermarkets. How will it answer when the Iranian ayatollahs threaten to burn half of the Jewish state with the atomic bomb? These Israeli victims don’t fit in the secular-humanist mentality that is mainstream today in the cultural industry. No book, no movie, no CNN documentary has been dedicated to their memories. It’s as if these slaughtered Israelis never really existed. The old Nazi slogan, “The Jews are our misfortune,” is amplified again, in slightly modified form. When Europeans cited Israel as “the greatest threat to world peace,” they meant: “The Jewish state is our misfortune.” That’s why they so easily accepted the idea that Israeli kids and Holocaust survivors have been killed by “desperate” suicide bombers.

LOPEZ: With the situation as grave as you portray it, why do Jews stay in Israel? You talk about the Americans who have died there. Why go there? You’d think God would understand . . .

MEOTTI: Israel is not just another country. The Zionist project was based on the historical necessity, to use a Marxist phrase, of creating a safe haven for European Jews as a reaction to 19th-century anti-Semitism. But the price for freedom and independence was very high. The truth is that the attempted genocide of the Jewish people has continued for the past 63 years. Since the day of Israel’s birth, originally sanctioned by the United Nations, its Jewish inhabitants have faced the constant threat of annihilation. The 20,000 Israeli dead over this period are the proportional equivalent to more than a million American victims. For six decades, citizens of the Jewish state have endured mandatory military service for every young man and woman, with men forced to continue reserve duty into their middle age, in order to protect their families and their future. If you visit any Tel Aviv shopping mall today, the security guards will search you and your bags. Haifa, the third-largest city in Israel, is now building “the largest underground hospital in the world.” And the state is continuing the distribution of gas masks. The Knesset, Israel’s parliament, is building a labyrinth of underground tunnels and rooms where the Jewish leadership would guide the country in case of nuclear attack. But despite the war for survival, Israel thrives. The economy is booming, the democracy is very solid, immigration is growing, the demography is the strongest among the democracies.

About the Americans killed, I was always impressed by a specific story. Sarah Blaustein had a comfortable life in Staten Island with an income in the top 2 percent in America. She left everything there to come to Israel, where she was killed on the road to the tomb of Rachel, the wife of Jacob, who gave birth to two of the patriarch’s twelve sons, Joseph and Benjamin, the ones most dear to their father and to the Jewish people. A sense of sadness and deep amazement pervades you about people like Sarah Blaustein.

LOPEZ: Your book is faces and names. Gripping emotionally. Why was that important for you? To give current events faces and names?

MEOTTI: It was very important to present the story of Israel with real stories beyond politics and statistics. Stories with names and faces and ideals and hopes. Who were the Israelis killed? What about their dreams? Why did they come to Israel? I wanted to show just how monstrously determined so many of Israel’s enemies are to kill Jews — but I also wanted to show the spirit of the survivors. These families are an ethical example to the world. I portrayed the beauty of their lives in order to make the unbearable bearable.

LOPEZ: Tell me about the children.

MEOTTI: Just think about the Beslan terror attack in 2004, when Chechen terrorists killed dozens of kids in the little Ossetian school. The same attack has happened in Israel many times: Maalot, Avivim, Kiryat Shmona . . . and I can go on with this list of massacres. In 1997, a group of Israeli girls were on a field trip to the “Island of Peace,” along the border with Jordan. This is where, decades earlier, a dream had come true for two Russian-born Jews who wanted to harness the water to produce electricity, and unite Arabs and Jews in a shared project. The girls had come to the top of the hill where a turret stood, with a large Jordanian flag waving in the wind. Seven of them were killed by a Jordanian soldier, who has just been praised as a “hero” by a minister in Amman. Yehuda Shoham was just five months old when he was struck in the head by a rock while his parents were driving home to the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, the biblical city. In the elegant Jerusalem street of Ben Yehuda, many kids were killed at the beginning of the Intifada. Danielle Shefi, five years old, was killed near Hebron while she was playing in her parents’ bedroom. Avia Malka was nine months old when she was killed by a grenade in the coastal city of Netanya. Ethiopian children were killed by rockets in Sderot, labeled as “the most bombed city in the world.” In Taba, al-Qaeda destroyed an entire Jewish family, the Nivs, because the Israelis have rendered the city “impure” by their presence. The worst attack took place in the Tel Aviv promenade one evening in 2001. Dozens of Russian-born high-school students were waiting to get into the disco for an evening of dancing, relaxation, and friendship. Twenty dead. The witnesses described a Dante-esque scene in which survivors waded through large pools of blood, navigating around arms and legs. If you go there and see the place you understand the real story of Israel, the real effects of what has been called the “Zionicide.”

LOPEZ: Is Israel’s story the story of the victims of terrorism?

MEOTTI: Israel is the story of a special miracle, the Jewish survival and rebirth, the story of making the desert bloom amidst many difficulties. Despite the endless conflict and ceaseless hostility, Israel is a vibrant democracy, a high-tech powerhouse, a magnet to immigrants around the globe. The psychological need for normalization is so great that it overwhelms the clear failures in the peace process, the continuing terrorism, and unabated Arab hatred. Sixty-three years after its creation, Israel is still fighting for its very survival. Punished with missiles raining from north and south, threatened with destruction by an Iran aiming to acquire nuclear weapons, and pressed upon by friend and foe, Israel, it seems, is never to have a moment’s peace. My book tells this hard story.

LOPEZ: How is Israel a “metaphysical nation”?

MEOTTI: In Israel you hear dozens of different languages, you see different skin colors and physical characteristics, you share time with very liberal people and very religious ones. Israeli society remains stubbornly split, divided along religious, political, and social lines. The challenges are immense and, to an outside observer, might very well seem insurmountable. So what is the common element of the Israeli adventure? It is the metaphysical dimension of the survival despite all the historical rules. The Jews should have been destroyed in the Shoah, and the remnant of them should have been assimilated in a secularized society. Israel is the living exception. Israel is thriving.

Judaism is now the religion of 13 million people, one million more than before the Shoah. Israel is the miracle of a nearly three-thousand-year emotive and intellectual capacity for survival amid the greatest problems. Judaism found its strength and its interactions with history by building a civilization of liberty that said no to Greek hegemony, no to the ancient Romans, no to Christian conversion, no to conversion to Islam, and, later, no to totalitarianism. Israel is Spinoza, Freud, Einstein, Schönberg, Mahler, but it’s also a great modern army, a great scientific adventure, a great moral law, a great democracy, a great biblical heritage. It’s a unique experiment. In one single day in Israel you can see the protests of African immigrants, pacifists who want to safeguard the Palestinian olive harvest, the announcement of some scientific or technological invention, gays insisting on having a parade and the ultra-Orthodox heatedly opposing them, a kite contest in Herzliya, and a film festival in Beersheba. Meanwhile missiles fall on Sderot, in Gaza the army kills a Hamas operative, and young Israelis get to know one another in a bomb shelter.

Israel is a beacon of hope for humanity.

LOPEZ: What message do you wish you could give to European leaders? About Israel? About Islamists within their own borders?

MEOTTI: Stop cultivating anti-Semitism and the isolation of Israel. I don’t have anything to say to the Islamists, people who tear apart Jewish infants and teach their followers to kill the “nonbelievers.”

LOPEZ: And what would you say to the U.S?

MEOTTI: To President Obama: Don’t abandon the only real American ally in the Middle East. The belief that the democracies can sacrifice tiny Israel in order to placate Islamism is profoundly dangerous.

LOPEZ: You’re not Jewish. Why do you care so much about Israel?

MEOTTI: It’s a good question for all the Western peoples. What is Israel? Will Israel survive? What will happen to the democracies if Israel falls? These are the questions that today most affect the debate. If you are a Christian in the Middle East there is only one country where you would want to live. That is Israel, the only Middle Eastern country where Christians are growing in number and existential condition. The national rebirth in its original homeland of a people threatened with extinction for three thousand years should represent, especially in the eyes of our civilization, a marvelous story, a promise of redemption for all humanity — all the more so since this people’s arid and tiny land is in the middle of a region that violently contests its existence. In Rosh Pinna in the Galilee, or in Zikhron Ya’akov, cultured German immigrants discarded all their old habits and, surrounded by stones and marshes, sustained themselves with a piece of bread and an apple. In their homes, however, they had microscopes and test tubes for learning how to conquer illnesses, and in the evenings they held concerts and read European literature together. The Bible was always present in their lives. You don’t have to be Jewish to understand that.

LOPEZ: What are you thinking as you watch the unrest in so much of the Arab world?

MEOTTI: I’m very suspicious about what is going on in the Arab world, especially in Egypt. Hosni Mubarak was not an ideal leader, and he was immersed in corruption, but he was also the last obstacle to the Islamist tsunami. Mubarak put Egypt in the Western orbit. He was pro-U.S. against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini; he signed a 30-year peace pact with Israel; he survived six assassination plots; he provided Israel with gas at a cheap price; and he was the only leader of a major Arab state, apart from Jordan’s King Hussein, to attend the funeral of Yitzhak Rabin. The image of Mubarak reaching out to Leah Rabin will forever remain. What will be the future of Egypt? The “cold peace” with Israel is already at risk, as is the fate of Egypt’s Christian minorities. We are heading toward very hard times for the West.

LOPEZ: What did you learn about pain during the course of writing this book?

MEOTTI: The idea — also reaffirmed by Pope Benedict XVI — of human rationality as a form of likeness with the Creator is born from Judaism, which lends it a progressive character, given that creation aims to a point on the horizon where one finds absolute good, even if no one knows what that is. Reading the stories in my book you learn about the happy ending to this story. There is a moral duty of building the world with God and of going forward, of doing better, of working hard in order to create a better world. This is how I can explain the mystery of Israeli families who decided to dedicate themselves to doing good to Arabs and Jews alike after the killing of their relatives. In that sense, Israel has already won against terrorism.

LOPEZ: About grief?

MEOTTI: A different kind of grief. Proud, confident, powerful, stoic. Just an example: When the International Court of Justice in The Hague condemned Israel’s security barrier, Israelis marched through the Dutch city to the triangular plaza near the courthouse, holding posters of their relatives who had fallen victim. Parked there was the bombed-out shell of the No. 19 bus in which eleven people were killed in Jerusalem. The Israeli paramedics read out the names of the dead. Widows read letters about their dead husbands. A father brought a bullet to The Hague. He had found it under a pile of toys in the corner of the bedroom where his two sons huddled with their mother while a terrorist shot all three to death.

LOPEZ: About evil?

MEOTTI: During the intifada, when in Jerusalem a bus exploded almost daily, people went on living their lives — going to the movies, to school, to the supermarket, even if every corner of the city had been blown up and almost everyone had a family member or a dear friend who had been killed or wounded. But what keeps the Jewish people together, what makes it live and renders it also capable of relating to others, is a moral choice. The choice of life over evil and death.

LOPEZ: About love?

MEOTTI: Judaism believes in a happy conclusion to creation, represented by the coming of the Messiah. It’s amazing to see how much love, faith, hope, and sense of freedom the families wounded by terrorism are still able to show to the world. Many of the people in the book had new families after losing their spouse and children in the attacks. The survivors were able to rebuild; they married again and had more babies. These are real moral heroes, normal people shedding light in a world that is becoming darker. Israel is a lighthouse of life, and life is the most endangered value of our times.

Obama now offers hope of no change

Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
March 18, 2011

By the time you read this, President Barack Obama will be taking a well-deserved break from the 54th hole of today's scheduled golf game and the grueling responsibility of picking out his Final Four priority high-speed rail projects on ESPN by relaxing on a beach in ... Libya? Japan? No, Brazil. Oh, here he is now:

"Tall and tan and young and lovely

The boy from Spendaholica goes walking

And when he passes

Each one he passes

Goes 'Aiiieeeeee...'"

Hey, it worked in 2008, and who's to say the same old song won't exercise its seductive charm all over again in 2012? That's the way the president's betting. As he told a gathering of high-rolling Democratic donors in Washington last week: "As time passes, you start taking it for granted that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States. But we should never take it for granted. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility."

Well, no, I couldn't honestly say that I do. I mean, I always like the bit in the movie where 007 says, "The name's Bond. James Bond," but generally he follows it by rappelling into a hollowed-out volcano and taking out the evil mastermind while disabling the nuclear launch codes with three seconds to spare. I'm not sure I get quite the same "sense of excitement" from the Obama version:

"The name's Bond. James Hussein Bond."

"I'm afraid you're growing rather tedious, Mr. Bond."

Speaking of names, the new stimulus-funded Amtrak station in Wilmington, Del., is to be named after Vice President Joe Biden. Say what you like about Obama, but he made the naming of train stations run on time. We should never take it for granted that a guy named Joseph Robinette Biden is a railroad halt in the Northeast corridor. I hope that all of you still feel that sense of excitement and that sense of possibility. I couldn't be more excited if Robinette Hussein Robinette were president.

In 2008, Obama offered Hope and Change. This time round he's offering the Hope of No Change. Life goes on. When your president's middle name is Hussein, trust me, that's all the change you guys need. Harry Reid says he doesn't even want to talk about the possibility of opening discussions to consider raising the possibility of contemplating the thought of the merest smidgeonette of changes to Social Security for another 20 years. Sen. Reid, 71, told MSNBC this week, "Two decades from now, I'm willing to take a look at it." Big of you. No-Change You Can Believe In! The Audacity of Torpor.

There may be more takers for this than my friends on the right would wish. On Libya, the Audacity of Golf seems to have done the trick: Nobody's in the mood for a no-fly zone in another thankless distant hellhole just as Iraq and Hoogivsastan have dropped off the news. And yeah, gas seems to be going up, and, when 40 percent of Americans work in minimal-skill service jobs, it makes a difference to the economic viability of those jobs whether you're driving there at a dollar-eighty per gallon or four bucks. "We have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe," Steven Chu, now Obama's Energy Secretary, said in 2008. We're getting there. It's just shy of 10 bucks per in Britain, but there's no reason a fuel policy for small, densely populated nations can't work for Wyoming, because we're investing in all those high-speed rail links. So you'll be able to commute from your home in Rattlesnake, Nev., to your job in North Rattlesnake, Nev., via the Joseph Robinette Biden Delaware, Lackawanna, Atchison, Topeka, Santa Fe & Canadian Pacific High-Speed Interchange Facility & Federal Stimulus Mausoleum in Wilmington.

How will we power the trains? Nukes? Oh, perish the thought. Not after those whachamacallits in Japan failed to withstand the thingummy from the whoozis. Obviously, if something can't shrug off one of the five most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, then we shouldn't have anything to do with it at all, no way, no how. Instead, we should "invest" in "green jobs," and then you'll be able to commute to your overnight shift at the KwikkiKrap because the high-speed trains will have giant wind turbines nailed to the roof of the caboose, at least until the next of kin of boxcar-riding hobos caught in the slipstream file a class-action suit. And by then you won't need to commute to the KwikkiKrap because they'll have cut the night shift after the drop-off in vehicular traffic was so severe they had to change the sign to "CASHIER CARRIES LESS THAN $3.79 IN CHANGE." But that proved to be the biggest stimulus to the American sign-manufacturing industry since they had to make all those "THIS TWO-HUNDRED YARD STRETCH OF SCARIFIED PAVEMENT BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE AMERICA RECOVERY & REDISTRIBUTION ACT" sign, so that's even more good news.

The Audacity of Golf may yet prove a potent message. Many Americans seem disinclined to heed warnings, especially of stuff that Harry Reid assures us is a long way off. Change we can believe in? Thanks but no thanks. We'll wait till it happens. In New Orleans, they waited till the hurricane hit, and then the cops walked off the job, and the fleet of evacuation buses lay empty and abandoned, and enterprising locals fired on army engineers repairing the 17th Street Canal, and less-ambitious types went a-lootin', and, when the feds showed up to hand out emergency debit cards, they spent them at strip joints, and of the refugees who fled to Texas, 45 percent turned out to have criminal records, and the Houston homicide rate went up 23 percent.

So imagine if last week's earthquake and tsunami had hit Louisiana.

Japan is a dying nation, literally. They're the oldest people on Earth, and their shrunken pool of young 'uns are childless. They're already in net population decline: The nation that invented the Walkman would have been better off inventing the walker. Today their only world-beating innovations are in post-human robotechnology – humanoid nurses with big-eyed Manga faces doing the jobs that humans won't do.

Japan is doomed. And yet, watching the exemplary response to catastrophe this week, you sense that their final days will at least be tranquil and orderly. From afar, we shrieked like ninnies, retreating to the usual tropes: No nukes! And more carbon offsets to appease the great Water Gods of the Tsunami!

America is the brokest country in history. We owe more money than anyone has ever owed anyone. And Obama and Reid say relax, that's no reason not to spend more – because the world hasn't yet concluded we have no intention of paying it back. When they do, the dollar will collapse, like those buildings in Sendai. When that happens, it will make a lot of difference whether Americans react like the Japanese or Louisianans.

But, in the meantime, Barack Obama goes to Brazil and assures us that life's a beach: Golf on, Mr. President.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Today's Tune: INXS - Don't Change

The President Takes a Bogey

Is Obama a president playing golf, or a golfer playing president?

By Jonah Goldberg
March 18, 2011 12:00 A.M.

I’ve figured out Obama. He’s not a Muslim, he’s a golfer!

That’s a reference to Russell Kirk’s semi-famous retort to the conspiratorial nuts who insisted that Dwight Eisenhower was a secret Commie. The revered conservative intellectual responded disdainfully, “Ike’s not a Communist, he’s a golfer.”

For the record, while I think the media’s special standard for Democratic presidents’ recreation is outrageous, I really don’t care that Obama plays a lot of golf.

And he does play a lot. In his first year in office, Obama played more rounds of golf than George W. Bush did in two full terms. He’s now close to tripling Bush’s eight-year total, though that’s misleading since Bush vowed to stop golfing in 2003 because “playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signals.”

That clarifies the golf stats, but not exactly in Obama’s favor since we’re still at war and the president has been nothing if not abundantly clear that he considers himself a greater moral exemplar than his predecessor.

Perhaps it’s Obama’s conspicuous duffing that inspired New York Times columnist and White House confidant David Brooks to write that we are in a new Ike Age.

“During the first two years,” Brooks writes, the administration “hewed to Kennedy’s seize-the-moment style. Now it seems to be copying the Eisenhower mood.”

Really? The “Eisenhower mood” is an awfully charitable way to describe a president who seems to be playing hooky when he’s not hiding under his desk.

The real problem for Obama is not that he likes his exercise. It’s that he’s acting like an employee who thinks he’s too good for the job.

Obama has always been offended by criticism, finding it somehow illegitimate to disagree with him. But his frustration is getting the better of him. The New York Times reports that “Mr. Obama has told people that it would be so much easier to be the president of China. As one official put it, ‘No one is scrutinizing Hu Jintao’s words in Tahrir Square.’”

What an inconvenience it must be that the world looks to America for leadership when people are sacrificing their lives to fight tyranny. I don’t remember reading that Eisenhower whined about Mao having it so much easier than he did.

The Eisenhower mood was consonant with Eisenhower’s statecraft. Ike was like a duck, gliding smoothly on the lake surface while working tirelessly below eye level to get where he needed to go. I’m open to evidence that Obama is working tirelessly behind the scenes, but where exactly does he think he’s going?

Yes, yes, I know he says we’re on course to “win the future” with high-speed rail and enough windmills to lift the continental shelf. But what does any of this nonsense have to do with the turmoil around us? Calm is always good, but calmly checking out during a crisis is inexcusable.

I do not subscribe to the mythology of the 1950s as an uncomplicated time. But it was a confident and prosperous time, and an avuncular war-hero president taking to the links sent the signal that the commander-in-chief had everything well in hand, not that he was fed up with the job.

Obama’s full-spectrum passivity simply is not the same thing, because we do not live in the same world. On the budget and questions of our long-term fiscal survival, he’s AWOL. On Libya, he talks as if we’re doing everything in our power to “tighten the noose” on Qaddafi, while it’s very clear that tightening the noose means running out the clock. Gas prices are skyrocketing, but all Obama does is claim credit for increased oil production that entered the pipeline under his predecessor.

The only area where he has shown sustained energy lately is fundraising. And even there, his pitch for support hinges on the fact that his middle name is still “Hussein.” We should never take it for granted, the president told Democratic donors, “that a guy named Barack Hussein Obama is president of the United States.”

Uh, okay. But I thought the important thing about his middle name was that it would help him improve relations with the Muslim world. How’s that going?

Obama added that he understands how easy it is to get “frustrated” with politics. Why, his wife had to stop watching cable TV it’s gotten so bad. I bet Hu Jintao’s wife can watch the news all she likes.

Go ahead, Mr. President, play golf. But you should never take it for granted that you’re a president playing golf, not a golfer playing president.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

It’s still an empty lockbox

By Charles Krauthammer, Thursday, March 17, 8:00 PM
The Washington Post

Last week, President Obama’s budget chief, Jack Lew, took to his White House blog[1] to repeat his claim[2] that the Social Security trust fund is solvent through 2037. And to chide me for suggesting otherwise. I had argued in my last column[3] that the trust fund is empty, indeed fictional.

If Lew’s claim were just wrong, that would be one thing. But it provides the intellectual justification for precisely the kind of debt denial and entitlement complacency that his boss is now engaged in. Therefore, once more unto the breach.

Lew acknowledges that the Social Security surpluses of the last decades were siphoned off to the Treasury Department and spent. He also agrees that Treasury then deposited corresponding IOUs — called “special issue” bonds — in the Social Security trust fund. These have real value, claims Lew. After all, “these Treasury bonds are backed by the full faith and credit of the U.S. government in the same way that all other U.S. Treasury bonds are.”

Really? If these trust fund bonds represent anything real, why is it that in calculating national indebtedness they are not even included? We measure national solvency by debt/GDP ratio. As calculated by everyone from the OMB to the CIA, from the Simpson-Bowles to the Domenici-Rivlin commissions, the debt/GDP ratio counts only publicly held debt. This means bonds held by China, Saudi Arabia, you and me. The debt ratio completely ignores the kind of intragovernmental bonds that Lew insists are the equivalent of publicly held bonds.

Why? Because the intragovernmental bond is nothing more than a bookkeeping device that records how much one part of the U.S. government (Treasury) owes another part of the same government (the Social Security Administration). In judging the creditworthiness of the United States, the world doesn’t care what the left hand owes the right. It’s all one entity. It cares only what that one entity owes the world.

That’s why publicly held bonds are so radically different from intragovernmental bonds. If we default on Chinese-held debt, decades of AAA creditworthiness are destroyed, the world stops lending to us, the dollar collapses, the economy goes into a spiral and we become Argentina. That’s why such a default is inconceivable.

On the other hand, what would happen to financial markets if the Treasury stopped honoring the “special issue” bonds in the Social Security trust fund? A lot of angry grumbling at home for sure. But externally? Nothing.

This “default” would simply be the Treasury telling the Social Security Administration that henceforth it would have to fend for itself in covering its annual shortfall. How? By means-testing (cutting the benefits to the rich), changing the inflation formula, raising the retirement age and, if necessary, hiking the cap on income subject to the payroll tax.

You can plug in whatever combination of numbers you prefer for the definition of “rich,” for the slope of the sliding scale of benefit reduction, for the rate of the retirement-age increase or for any other variable. Whatever the formula, we will ironically have been forced to adopt the very reforms needed to keep Social Security in balance for years to come — the kind President Obama’s own deficit commission recommended. Arguably, that would add to U.S. creditworthiness by finally demonstrating to the world our seriousness about bringing our unsustainable pension liabilities under control.

Invoking the “full faith and credit” mantra for those IOUs in the trust fund is empty bluster. It does not change the fact that, as the OMB itself acknowledged[4], those IOUs “do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits.” Yet Lew continues to insist that these “special issue” trinkets will pay off seniors for the next 26 years.

Nonsense. That money is gone with the wind. Those trust fund trinkets are nothing more than a record of past borrowings. They say nothing about the future.

Consider: If Treasury had borrowed twice as much from Social Security in the past — producing twice as many IOUs sitting in the lockbox — would this mean the trust fund is today twice as strong? Solvent for 50-some years instead of just 26? Of course not. The trust fund “balances” are mere historical record-keeping. As the OMB itself admitted, future payouts will have to be met by future taxes and future borrowings — or by Social Security reform that, by reducing benefits, makes such taxing and borrowing unnecessary.

There is no third alternative. There is no free lunch. And there is nothing in the lockbox.






Thursday, March 17, 2011

Today's Tune: Van Morrison - Cypress Avenue (Live)

"Of Gods and Men": A Profound Work of Art

"Of Gods and Men" is the rare film that does not look away from religion or try to suit comfort levels. The film simply allows its story, its characters, and its faith to be.

By Fr. James Martin, S.J.
March 04, 2011

Of Gods and Men is the greatest film on faith I've ever seen. It surpasses even some of my longtime favorite movies on the spiritual life, like Romero, Diary of a Country Priest, A Man for All Seasons, The Mission, and The Song of Bernadette. Perhaps only Franco Zeffirelli's multi-part series Jesus of Nazareth has moved me more.

By now, you probably know that the French-language movie, lauded in all corners (except, inexplicably, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—the film was omitted from being nominated for Best Foreign Language Film), is about the Trappist monks of Our Lady of Atlas Monastery in Algeria, who were assassinated by Algerian extremists in 1996. Their story, which was in danger of being forgotten even in many corners of the Catholic world, is told in John Kiser's essential book, The Monks of Tibhirine.

What may make the film so profound?

First of all, it is a realistic portrayal of the life of faith. The monks are not perfect; no saint, or martyr, is. Holiness always makes its home in humanity. Occasionally the monks are impatient, tetchy, or short with one another. ("He's tired," says an older monk after a younger one has spoken to him sharply while cleaning up after a meal.) One of them thinks wistfully of the life that he might have had "on the outside." Moreover, the group struggles mightily with the idea that they might be "called" to be martyrs, indeed resisting it until almost the last minute. As anyone would. The life of the believer often involves uncertainty, doubt, and confusion. Two of them are seen, quite distinctly, as "avoiding" their fate. But all try to grapple with what God seems to be asking of them, strange and frightening as it may seem to them.

Second, the movie does not stint—at all—on the religious underpinnings of their actions and choices. Too often in contemporary cinema, producers or directors indicate by their own choices that audiences will not understand people who talk about God in a serious way. And so we see (and hear) the monks chanting their prayers, celebrating Mass, preparing for Christmas. In this way the movie was reminiscent of another recent film on the monastic life, the documentary Into Great Silence. We hear the words of their prayers, too; and we are privy to their conversations with one another about God, and often with God. God is real to them; and God's effect on their lives is made real to the viewer.

We see, too, the real-life effects of their Christian faith: particularly in the love they show (and receive) from the villagers who live near the monastery. The Trappists are, moreover, charitable and loving not only to friends (to one another; to their longtime friends in the village), but to those who oppose them (to both the terrorists who threaten their lives and the army officers who have nothing but contempt for their desire to stay). The life of contemplation and action are inseparable; the true effects of their belief are made manifest.

Third, the director Xavier Beauvois underplays many scenes, like a beautifully pastoral image of the abbot walking silently through a flock of sheep. Another director might have wanted to demonstrate more explicitly (through music, a caption, or a voice-over) the idea of the Good Shepherd who does not leave his flock, which the monks discuss at one point during their deliberations on whether or not to "stay." The use of music from "Swan Lake," which Anthony Lane in the New Yorker felt was used more effectively than even in Black Swan, is also subtle. At a meal, a kind of Last Supper before their martyrdom, the community listens not to the traditional "reading at table" (where a monk reads from a religious text to the silent diners), but to Tchaikovsky's great music. They drink good wine, as the camera pans over their now confused, now calm, now sorrowful, now joyful faces.

The movie, as the modernist poets liked to say, shows rather than tells.

Fourth, the actors' performances are nearly perfect. Based on the monks (and Trappists) I know, these characters felt as close to real monks as I've ever seen on screen, particularly the kind-hearted Brother Luc, played by Michael Lonsdale, and the intellectually-minded abbot, Christian, played by Lambert Wilson (who can be heard here[1] on NPR's "Fresh Air" speaking about his role).

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, the film treats the idea of martyrdom intelligently. Watching Of Gods and Men, I started to realize, slowly at first then more strongly, that more people might begin to understand the strange idea of martyrdom. For it is an idea that even believers find hard to comprehend.

Besides this unique film, perhaps only A Man for All Seasons and Romero can help people understand this difficult and complex idea, which today is often seen as naïve, bizarre, or simply masochistic. But martyrdom is always more about fidelity to one's mission than it is about an outright courting of danger. None of the Trappist monks do this; they all want to live. Until they cannot.

In addition to being the final result of fidelity to God in a dangerous situation, or a faithfulness to those with whom one ministers, martyrdom may also involve a negation, a via negativa. That is, martyrdom is just as often about finding oneself not being able to do something. St. Thomas More could not say "yes" to the king's actions in Renaissance England; Archbishop Oscar Romero, the American churchwomen, and Jesuit priests could not leave the poor with whom they worked in El Salvador in the 1980s; the Trappist monks in Algeria could not desert a poor and oppressed village that had come to depend upon them.

But in this "no" comes a "yes." A "yes" to solidarity with the oppressed; a "yes" to God; a "yes," paradoxically, to life.

Fr. James Martin is a Jesuit priest, culture editor of America Magazine and author of The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything.



Film Review: 'Of Gods and Men'

By James Bowman on 3.17.11 @ 6:02AM
The American Spectator

It's still only March, but I don't hope to see a better movie this year than Xavier Beauvois's Of Gods and Men (Des hommes et des dieux), winner of the Grand -- meaning second -- Prize at last year's Cannes Festival. It tells the true story of the Trappist Monks of Notre-Dame de l'Atlas in Tibhirine, Algeria, whose little monastery, a forlorn relic of the French imperial presence in that country, was invaded and the monks kidnapped and later murdered by Islamicist guerrillas in 1996. M. Beauvois does not sensationalize their deaths, however, and he appears to have little interest in the political conflicts within Algeria that led to them. This is no accident. The historical Brother Christian (Lambert Wilson), the prior of the Tibhirine monastic community, belonged to a French military family and had himself served during the Algerian war. Much might have been made of the fact, if the film had had a political or historical or, indeed, a psychological point to make instead of a religious one. As it is, however, its focus on the piety, the goodness, the fellowship and the courage of the monks is much more interesting and unusual and in my opinion could not but have suffered from the introduction of a political subtext.

At one point, it's true, a secular Algerian official tells Brother Christian that he blames the insurgency on French colonialism ("that organized plunder"), which had ended more than 30 years earlier, but this comes across as self-serving, a mere reflex on the part of one of many in post-colonial Africa who still take comfort from having someone else, even someone else long ago, to blame for their failures. The villagers who depend on the monastery for medical care and material assistance are as frightened of the government and the army as they are of the guerrillas, and they desperately want the monks to stay among them. "But without protection?" asks one of them.

"You are the protection," says an Arab woman.

"We are like birds on a branch," says another monk -- birds who don't know if they will fly away or stay on the branch.

The same woman replies: "We are the birds; you are the branch. If you leave, we lose our footing."

Accordingly, the one guerrilla fighter to whom the film introduces us, Ali Fayattia (Farid Larbi), is a complex and even somewhat sympathetic character. We see him commit at least one brutal murder -- this is the only graphically disturbing scene in the film -- but at the same time he respects the monks and recognizes the indispensable role they play in the lives of the villagers. He even apologizes for disturbing the monastery's Christmas eve devotions when he and his men make a nocturnal visit in search of medicine. He had been unaware of the significance of the date to them, he says. It seems that Fayattia is protecting the monks from some of his more brutal and, perhaps, fanatical confreres who are only free to engage in the final terrorist outrage once he is removed from the scene. As in real life, there is no good political outcome of the war which rages around the monks, but there is at least an imaginable human outcome implied by the mutual tolerance issuing from the otherwise terrifying confrontation of Ali Fayattia and Brother Christian.

The story of the Tibhirine monks themselves, however, is the real heart of the picture, and it is told as an extended allusion to the passion of Jesus Christ, including a healing ministry, the odd miracle, a gratuitous political intervention, a moment of doubt and a last supper -- including bread and wine (and a recording of Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake") -- before the inevitable martyrdom. Apart from Brother Christian, the most memorable of the little community is its medic, Brother Luc (Michael Lonsdale) -- reminiscent of Luke the physician, supposed author of the Gospel of Luke and the Book of the Acts of the Apostles -- who has worn himself out in the selfless service of the villagers of Tibhirine. "I'm not afraid of death; I'm a free man," he tells Brother Christian. But it is the latter whose own fear, answering that of the less saintly brothers, inspires him with the sympathy needed to encourage them when they have to make the decision to remain where there is so much danger and so much to be done or to go back to a France that most of them left decades ago.

This story is punctuated with scenes of the monks' devotions, their chants and prayers and readings that provide a counterpoint to their worldly chores and fears. When they chant that "God charges no soul save to its capacity" or one of their readings throws up a sentence like "Weakness is not a virtue but a fundamental reality" there is an instant resonance that helps us as well as them to an understanding that their lives in this place and this time are continuous with their deaths. "Dying here, now, does it serve any purpose?" one of the monks asks Brother Christian.

"Remember," he replies: "you have already given your life."

I have written that there is no overt political purpose to the picture, and that I think it is all the better for that, but there are certainly political implications, if only of a negative sort. Those who put their trust in political solutions to social problems and political remedies for human misfortunes will find naught for their comfort here. Once having decided to stay, the atmosphere of constant fearfulness amidst the daily round of work and prayer is made palpable and gives point as well as almost unbearable pathos to the prayer of the doubter, Brother Christophe (Olivier Rabourdin): "Help me! Don't abandon me, please!" It is one measure of Xavier Beauvois's very considerable accomplishment in Of Gods and Men that it is possible for the faithful to believe Brother Christophe's prayer was answered.

- James Bowman is a resident scholar at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, media essayist for the New Criterion, and The American Spectator's movie and culture critic. His new book, Media Madness: The Corruption of Our Political Culture, was recently published by Encounter Books.

Italy at 150

The victory of the Risorgimento seemed a defeat for the papacy. In fact, it led to a rebirth of papal power and, ultimately, the defeat of Communism.

By George Weigel
March 17, 2011 12:00 A.M.

Rome — Italy celebrates the sesquicentennial of its birth as a unified nation today. On March 17, 1861, while Americans were preoccupied with some serious business of their own, the first Italian Parliament met in Turin and declared Rome the capital of unified Italy. That legislative act was given effect nine years later, when Italian troops took advantage of the Franco-Prussian War to enter the rump of the old Papal States.

As the Italians closed in on the city of Peter and Paul, the student body of the Pontifical North American College, the U.S. seminary in Rome, volunteered to a man to take up arms in defense of the pope. Pius IX gently thanked them and wrote back, in his own hand, that he hoped they would be victorious in fighting, not for his territory, but for the truth of Christian faith. Pio Nono ordered his own troops to fire one volley, “for honor’s sake” — to emphasize that Italy was acquiring Rome by force and not consent. And so, after a brief exchange of mis-aimed shots that prefigured Italy’s martial success in the decades to come, the papal forces retired and the Risorgimento, a secularist as well as nationalist affair, had what it wanted: the Eternal City, and the chance to try to reclaim the glory that was Rome in the days of empire. Fifty-nine years later, in the 1929 Lateran Treaty, the papacy regained a smidgeon of sovereign territory: today’s Vatican City and some extraterritorial properties like the papal summer villa at Castel Gandolfo.

For a long time, Catholics of a certain cast of mind bitterly resented all this. Their attitude was neatly captured by Guy Crouchback, the protagonist of Evelyn Waugh’s World War II trilogy, Sword of Honor. At the beginning of the third volume, Unconditional Surrender, Guy chats with his wise and aged father during the Allied campaign in Italy:

News of the King’s flight came on the day the brigade landed at Salerno. It brought Guy some momentary exhilaration.

“That looks like the end of the Piedmontese usurpation,” he said to his father. “What a mistake the Lateran Treaty was. It seemed masterly at the time — how long? Fifteen years ago? What are 15 years in the history of Rome? How much better it would have been if the Popes had sat it out and then emerged, saying, ‘What was all that? Risorgimento? Garibaldi? Cavour? The House of Savoy? Mussolini? Just some hooligans from out of town causing a disturbance. Come to think of it, wasn’t there a poor boy whom they called King of Rome?’ That’s what the Pope ought to be saying today.”

Mr. Crouchback regarded his son sadly. “My dear boy,” he said, “you’re really talking the most terrible nonsense, you know. That isn’t what the Church is like. It isn’t what she’s for.”

The fictional Gervase Crouchback was a man ahead of his time in 1943, when he set Guy straight about the “Piedmontese usurpation,” the Lateran Treaty, and the rest of it. But his view has been thoroughly vindicated in the decades since World War II, and on this sesquicentennial in Rome it would take a particular kind of obtuseness, combined with over-the-top romanticism, to think that the loss of the Papal States was anything other than a tremendous blessing for the Catholic Church. Garibaldi, Cavour, and the House of Savoy turned out to be unwitting midwives of a new papacy, one that deployed moral authority to great political effect in world affairs — far more effect, in fact, than either the Kingdom of Italy or the Repubblica Italiana has managed since 1861.

The key figure in this, it seems ever more clear, was the immediate successor to Pius IX, Pope Leo XIII (pictured at right). Rather than behaving like a petulant dispossessed minor Italian noble, Leo set about engaging modernity in his own distinctive way, thereby laying the groundwork for the exercise of new forms of papal power. He thought through the challenges of political modernity and the modern, secular state in a series of encyclicals; their literary style tends toward the higher baroque, but the trenchancy of Leo’s thought makes them worth plowing through today. Leo fostered a Catholic intellectual renaissance by encouraging study of the original texts of Thomas Aquinas, whose political theory he himself used to launch modern Catholic social doctrine, one of the three mega-proposals for ordering the human future on offer in the world today (the others being jihadist Islam and the pragmatic-utilitarian ethos embodied in American consumerism and popular culture).

None of this would have been possible if Leo had been stuck managing a minor European state in the middle of the Italian peninsula and trying to reconcile his evangelical functions as Successor of Peter with the requirements of daily statecraft. Nor would we have seen the historic accomplishments of the man who brought the Leonine papacy to its apogee, John Paul II, the pivotal figure in the collapse of European Communism. John Paul deployed the moral weapons that Leo began to develop, and showed them to be singularly effective in bringing to an end the greatest tyranny in human history. The victory of freedom over Communism had many authors, to be sure. But in the judgment of serious Cold War historians, the pivotal moment in the drama that became the Revolution of 1989 was John Paul II’s first pilgrimage to his Polish homeland in June 1979: a moment made possible, in no small part, by the victory of Italian secularists over Pius IX in 1861 and 1870.

There are many ironies in the fire, indeed.

As for 21st-century Italy, it will try its best to celebrate today, but the fact is that it is beset by the same problems that bedevil much of the rest of Western Europe: demographic meltdown, a fiscally impossible welfare state, the loss of any work ethic, inane politics, dysfunctional public services, irresponsible unions, and unresponsive bureaucratic government. Many of those problems reflect the crisis of cultural morale that hangs over contemporary Europe like a dense fog. And that crisis of cultural morale, in its Italian form, is rooted in the arid secularism that helped shape the modern Italy born 150 years ago today. Some wise Italians, like Marcello Pera — philosopher and former president of the Italian Senate — understand this and are trying to do something about it. But theirs is a difficult task.

Pope Benedict XVI sent a congratulatory letter to Italian president Giorgio Napolitano (a former luminary of the Italian Communist party) yesterday. Being a close student of modern history, Benedict might well have been tempted (though he is too much a gentleman to do any such thing) to send a brief salute to Italian unification from the Vatican to the Quirinale: “Thanks for the favor.”

— George Weigel is distinguished senior fellow of Washington’s Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies. His new book is The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II — The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy.


By Ann Coulter
March 16, 2011

'Nuclear Health Spa' (Rachel Harding)

With the terrible earthquake and resulting tsunami that have devastated Japan, the only good news is that anyone exposed to excess radiation from the nuclear power plants is now probably much less likely to get cancer.

This only seems counterintuitive because of media hysteria for the past 20 years trying to convince Americans that radiation at any dose is bad. There is, however, burgeoning evidence that excess radiation operates as a sort of cancer vaccine.

As The New York Times science section reported in 2001, an increasing number of scientists believe that at some level -- much higher than the minimums set by the U.S. government -- radiation is good for you. "They theorize," the Times said, that "these doses protect against cancer by activating cells' natural defense mechanisms."

Among the studies mentioned by the Times was one in Canada finding that tuberculosis patients subjected to multiple chest X-rays had much lower rates of breast cancer than the general population.

And there are lots more!

A $10 million Department of Energy study from 1991 examined 10 years of epidemiological research by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on 700,000 shipyard workers, some of whom had been exposed to 10 times more radiation than the others from their work on the ships' nuclear reactors. The workers exposed to excess radiation had a 24 percent lower death rate and a 25 percent lower cancer mortality than the non-irradiated workers.

Isn't that just incredible? I mean, that the Department of Energy spent $10 million doing something useful? Amazing, right?

In 1983, a series of apartment buildings in Taiwan were accidentally constructed with massive amounts of cobalt 60, a radioactive substance. After 16 years, the buildings' 10,000 occupants developed only five cases of cancer. The cancer rate for the same age group in the general Taiwanese population over that time period predicted 170 cancers.

The people in those buildings had been exposed to radiation nearly five times the maximum "safe" level according to the U.S. government. But they ended up with a cancer rate 96 percent lower than the general population.

Bernard L. Cohen, a physics professor at the University of Pittsburgh, compared radon exposure and lung cancer rates in 1,729 counties covering 90 percent of the U.S. population. His study in the 1990s found far fewer cases of lung cancer in those counties with the highest amounts of radon -- a correlation that could not be explained by smoking rates.

Tom Bethell, author of the "Politically Incorrect Guide to Science," has been writing for years about the beneficial effects of some radiation, or "hormesis." A few years ago, he reported on a group of scientists who concluded their conference on hormesis at the University of Massachusetts by repairing to a spa in Boulder, Mont., specifically in order to expose themselves to excess radiation.

At the Free Enterprise Radon Health Mine in Boulder, people pay $5 to descend 85 feet into an old mining pit to be irradiated with more than 400 times the EPA-recommended level of radon. In the summer, 50 people a day visit the mine hoping for relief from chronic pain and autoimmune disorders.

Amazingly, even the Soviet-engineered disaster at Chernobyl in 1986 can be directly blamed for the deaths of no more than the 31 people inside the plant who died in the explosion. Although news reports generally claimed a few thousand people died as a result of Chernobyl -- far fewer than the tens of thousands initially predicted -- that hasn't been confirmed by studies.

Indeed, after endless investigations, including by the United Nations, Manhattan Project veteran Theodore Rockwell summarized the reports to Bethell in 2002, saying, "They have not yet reported any deaths outside of the 30 who died in the plant."

Even the thyroid cancers in people who lived near the reactor were attributed to low iodine in the Russian diet -- and consequently had no effect on the cancer rate.

Meanwhile, the animals around the Chernobyl reactor, who were not evacuated, are "thriving," according to scientists quoted in the April 28, 2002 Sunday Times (UK).

Dr. Dade W. Moeller, a radiation expert and professor emeritus at Harvard, told The New York Times that it's been hard to find excess cancers even from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, particularly because one-third of the population will get cancer anyway. There were about 90,000 survivors of the atomic bombs in 1945 and, more than 50 years later, half of them were still alive. (Other scientists say there were 700 excess cancer deaths among the 90,000.)

Although it is hardly a settled scientific fact that excess radiation is a health benefit, there's certainly evidence that it decreases the risk of some cancers -- and there are plenty of scientists willing to say so. But Jenny McCarthy's vaccine theories get more press than Harvard physics professors' studies on the potential benefits of radiation. (And they say conservatives are anti-science!)

I guess good radiation stories are not as exciting as news anchors warning of mutant humans and scary nuclear power plants -- news anchors who, by the way, have injected small amounts of poison into their foreheads to stave off wrinkles. Which is to say: The general theory that small amounts of toxins can be healthy is widely accepted --except in the case of radiation.

Every day Americans pop multivitamins containing trace amount of zinc, magnesium, selenium, copper, manganese, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, boron -- all poisons.

They get flu shots. They'll drink copious amounts of coffee to ingest a poison: caffeine. (Back in the '70s, Professor Cohen offered to eat as much plutonium as Ralph Nader would eat caffeine -- an offer Nader never accepted.)

But in the case of radiation, the media have Americans convinced that the minutest amount is always deadly.

Although reporters love to issue sensationalized reports about the danger from Japan's nuclear reactors, remember that, so far, thousands have died only because of Mother Nature. And the survivors may outlive all of us over here in hermetically sealed, radiation-free America.


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why They Celebrate Murdering Children

Islam is as Islam does.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
March 16, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Gaza residents from the city of Rafah hit the streets Saturday to celebrate the terror attack in the West Bank settlement of Itamar where five family members were murdered in their sleep, including three children.

Do you think the State Department noticed that no one in Arizona, Mexico, or even Mars took to the streets to celebrate the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords? No one seemed to think it was a “natural” act — the Islamic term du jour to rationalize the throat-slitting massacre of a sleeping Jewish family: 36-year-old Udi Fogel, his 35-year-old wife, Ruth, and, yes, their three children: 11-year-old Yoav, 4-year-old Elad, and Hadas, their 3-month-old baby.

There had been about a week between this most hideous Muslim barbarity and . . . well, the last hideous Muslim barbarity. On that one, the Obama administration could not bring itself to label as “terrorism” a Kosovar jihadist’s gory attack on American airmen in Germany.

Arid Uka had opened fire in a sneak attack at the Frankfurt airport, killing two and seriously wounding two others while screaming the obligatory “Allahu Akbar!” Wasn’t that a terrorist attack? Gee whiz, you know, the State Department’s chief spokesman just couldn’t say. After all, in P. J. Crowley’s mindless yet seemingly inevitable comparison, “was the shooting of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords a terrorist attack?”

Muslims are frequently found carrying out the Koranic directive to “strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” Actually, make that the Koranic theme, so often is it reiterated in the scriptures devout Muslims take to be the verbatim commands of Allah. (See, e.g., Suras 3:151, 8:12–13, 8:60, 9:5, 33:25–27, 59:2–4, 59:13.) And that is beside the hadith, scriptures in which Mohammed, taken to be the perfect Muslim role model, boasts, “I have been made victorious with terror.” (Bukhari 4.52.220 — just scroll down from here[1], through the glories promised to Muslims who wage jihad against the infidels.)

Muslims, in fact, are more often exhorted by their scriptures to brutalize non-Muslims than Christians are urged by the gospels to love their enemies and turn the other cheek. Yet, though we assume the latter are meant to take the message to heart, we are somehow sure Islam doesn’t really mean what it says — that when Muslims strike terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, it must be Israel’s fault, or America’s, or something, anything, other than Islam, the only common denominator in these attacks.

For U.S. officials, it is a bridge too far to acknowledge the welter of doctrinal grounding that supports these atrocities. Sort the deranged likes of Jared Loughner from the ideologically driven adherents of Islam? Observe the chasm between mentally disturbed killers and mentally conditioned killers? No way.

So here’s a suggestion: Maybe our paralyzed policy makers could see their way clear to noticing how Muslims respond to Muslim jihadists: Like the Muslims across the globe who cheered the 9/11 attacks; like those who littered Arid Uka’s Facebook with such commentary as, “Way to go, you old killer!” and “That is part of this beautiful religion. One is allowed to fight the unbelievers when attacked.”[2]

Maybe then the American government could be as revolted as the American people are by the celebrations in Gaza over last Friday’s murder of the Fogel family (or nearly the whole family — three of the children managed to survive). Gaza, of course, is controlled by Hamas, the Palestinian wing of the Muslim Brotherhood. You may know the Brothers as the “largely secular”[3] “moderates”[4] the Obama administration and the European Union see as part of the solution to the strife currently rippling through one Islamic country after another — a studiously underreported staple of which is Jew-hatred, with mob promises to conquer Jerusalem and depictions of dictators like Mubarak and Qaddafi as Israeli spies.[5]

As the Israeli press reported, jubilant Muslims crowded Gaza’s streets, handing out candy and sweets in the wake of the murders (pictured above). Jennifer Rubin notes that the outpouring of joy over the slitting of an infant’s throat was, according to one resident, “a natural response to the harm settlers inflict” on Palestinians.[6]

It is a natural response, if you are a monster. If you have been reared in a culture that worships suicide bombers, that dehumanizes Jews as the children of monkeys and pigs, and that insists Israel is not merely the enemy but does not have a right to exist. And these positions, it bears emphasizing, do not represent some fringe Islam of al-Qaeda terrorists who have purportedly hijacked an otherwise peaceful religion. This is mainstream Islam, the sorts of things you would hear in a classroom at al-Azhar University or a television show on al-Jazeera — the place where, according to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton[7], people turn for “real news,” the place where Muslim Brotherhood guru Yusuf Qaradawi lionizes suicide bombers in his popular weekly program, Sharia and Life.

“The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said, ‘The time [of judgment] will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: Oh, Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!” That’s not something Osama bin Laden made up. It is right there in the hadith, the authoritative accounts of Mohammed’s words and deeds. As Robert Spencer has demonstrated, variations of this end of times scenario run through the hadith collections of Sahih Muslim (Book 41, nos. 6980-86) and Bukhari (4.52.176 & 177, and 4.56.791.) That is why the story is repeated in Article 7 of the Hamas charter, the document in which the Muslim Brotherhood explains that annihilating Israel is a religious duty. That is why the story is a favorite of Sheikh Qaradawi’s.

In 1979, Smadar Kaiser, her husband Danny, and their two small daughters, four-year-old Einat and two-year-old Yael, were awakened in their northern Israel apartment at midnight by gunfire and exploding grenades. A team of Muslim terrorists was in the neighborhood. While a trembling Smadar hid with Yael in the dark, suffocating crawl space, the terrorists grabbed Danny and Einat and marched them down to a nearby beach. There, one of them shot Danny in front of his daughter so that his death would be the last sight she’d ever see. Then the ruthless ringleader, Lebanese-born Samir Kuntar, used the butt of his rifle to bash in the four-year-old’s skull against a rock. Hours later, upon finally being “rescued” from the crawl space, two-year-old Yael, too, was dead – accidentally smothered by her petrified mother in the effort to keep her quiet as the jihadists searched for more Jews to kill.

The Israelis captured Kuntar, who was sentenced to life in prison. Nevertheless, Palestinian leaders and masses agitated for his release for decades, praising this vicious cretin as a “brave leader” and “model warrior.” In 2007, the Israeli government finally capitulated, exchanging Kuntar and other imprisoned terrorists for the remains of two deceased Israeli soldiers. Kuntar was welcomed to the West Bank as a conquering hero.[8] The Palestinian Authority granted him and another released terrorist honorary citizenship “as an act of dedication to their struggle and their heroic suffering in the occupation’s prisons.” It was business as usual: In the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Muslim world, it is a commonplace to name streets after jihadist killers. Mohammed taught that there was no higher form of service to Allah.

Rep. Peter King is to be applauded for forcing Congress to notice the phenomenon we so gingerly call Muslim “radicalization.” The question that really begs for hearings, though, is why we continue pretending not to know what causes it.

— 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.










Meet The Wizard

From Lori Shontz, senior editor of The Penn Stater:

The Rose piece was particularly fun for Ryan Jones, the other senior editor, and me. We talked to players, coaches, even Rose’s wife, trying to figure out exactly what makes him such a great coach. Both of us knew Rose is a character, so we weren’t surprised when every interview started with some version of this: “Wow, I’m not sure I can tell you the best Russ Rose stories.” Even with that caveat, I laughed so hard when I talked with Bonnie Bremner Pettigrew ’00 that our class notes editor, Julie Nelson, peeked into my office to see what was going on.

“Oh my God,” Pettigrew said at one point, “if you find out what makes him tick, you’ve got to let me know.”

We think we did. Check out the story, and let us know what you think.

Ariel Wilson, Megan Hodge, Coach Rose, Blair Brown, and Alisha Glass at the 2009 AVCA All-American banquet.

March/April 2011

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Russ Rose does his best to go unnoticed. He sits courtside in a padded folding chair, his left foot propped on his right knee, quietly jotting notes in a black plastic binder. Now and then he'll blurt out a quick bit of instruction. He might grimace after a shanked pass or a missed block. Mostly, though, he just watches, while the fire and roar of the best women's volleyball team in America draws all attention.

There is no curtain for a volleyball coach to hide behind, but if there were, Rose gives the impression he might have one set up at Rec Hall in time for next season's opener. OK, so it's an imperfect metaphor, both because Rose isn't a con man, and because the volleyball Utopia he has built in 32 seasons at Penn State is anything but an illusion. But there does seem to be something magical happening here. Just how does he coax such sustained excellence from an ever-changing cast of 18- to 22-year-olds? What's the secret? In the wake of the Nittany Lions' unprecedented fourth straight national championship, we went looking for answers from some of the people who know Rose best. We found a coach who's funny, selfless, relentlessly analytical, and brutally candid—and a line of young women tough and talented enough to turn his coaching into yellow-brick gold.

TOM TAIT(Tait was head coach of Penn State's first men's and women's varsity volleyball teams. He served on the hiring committee that brought Rose to Happy Valley in 1979.)

One of Russ’s real strength is his style of recruiting. There's seldom a kid who signs to come play for Russ without knowing who he is, and the kind of taskmaster he is. There are a lot of coaches who try to say things extra nicely to get recruits, and the recruits don't really know what they're in for when they arrive. The kids who sign at Penn State know they're in for a challenge.

He'll allow an athlete to be an athlete. This is one of my criticisms in how we handle girls and women: We keep trying to turn them into robots. Megan Hodge ('10 Bus) is a prime example. She did some stuff that volleyball purists say is just ugly. Why did Russ let her do it? Because it worked. If he had tried to make her into a robot, she never would have been as effective. I thought this year, more than any season, Russ and his staff did a remarkable job of putting together a puzzle. He had so much changeover on his roster, and so many freshmen who had to fit into that puzzle. As I watched through the season, it was obvious that they were putting people in different roles, trying them in different situations, so that by time they got into the NCAA tournament, they had a good idea how to put the puzzle together. Russ has always done that. One of the things I used to get a kick out of:

Early in the fall, I'd walk by his office, and on his desk, he's got coins or pieces of paper with players' numbers on them, and he's moving them around, playing with different lineups. By the time he got onto the practice floor, he had a pretty good idea what he wanted to do.

(Zemaitis was a three-time Ail-American and the 1995 Big Ten Player of the Year. In 1997, when Penn State lost in the national title match, she was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.)

Don’t let his laid-backness fool you. He is the hardest-working coach in the country. He would watch video. He would watch satellite games on TV at home. He scouted. He never took a break. It's hard to be the best. He has paid his dues.

He really focuses on team building. Maybe the best athlete at a certain position didn't play a lot. He put the best personalities together to work on the court, and they found a way to win together.

I didn't come in expecting to be the leader I was asked to be. Every day he had to say to me, "We need you to do this as a leader. We need you to do less of this, more of this." Now I'm coaching and my husband's a coach, and when we talk about how kids don't have natural leadership, I always have to stick up for those kids -- because they can be taught. Russ taught me to be a leader.

(A two-time first-team All American, the 2007 Big Ten Player of the Year, and a member of the 2007 and 2008 NCAA champions, Harmotto is one of four Penn Staters playing with the U.S. national team.)

My sophomore year, we lost to Washington in the regional finals in Seattle. I just remember sitting in the locker room afterward, and Coach could barely talk. I don't remember a lot of what he said, but I remember the feeling—his disappointment. He pointed out things about leadership and work ethic. I was like, "OK, it's time for me to step up." That next summer, the whole team stayed on campus. We were super committed. That next season, we were a powerhouse. That's what started this run.

In 2008, we played Nebraska in the Final Four. It was wild; there were times you couldn't hear yourself think. We were down in the fifth game, but just seeing him so relaxed was enough to keep us focused. He's just sitting there with his clipboard, and then in timeouts, he's like, "Well, I guess we should do something...." We learned to relax in those situations because he was so relaxed.

(A four-time All-American and two-time Big Ten Player of the Year, Bremner was a member of the 1999 NCAA championship team. She's married to former Nittany Lion football player Titcus Pettigrew)

I fell in love with his coaching style the first day. I came from a program with a military regimen: sugar-free, fat-free diet, no makeup, shirts tucked in, everyone had the same hairstyle. I walked into practice that first day, and something happened, and he says, "Hey, Bremner. Come here." We go out of the gym, and he hands me this humongous Hershey bar. I'd never seen one that size. He says, "Just sit out there, take a breather, have a piece of chocolate." I remember holding the chocolate bar and thinking, "Is this a test? Am I supposed to not touch it? I know this is bad for me." But he knew exactly what I needed—to relax.

I really miss Penn State, but I really, really miss Coach. When I was dating my husband at Penn State, I was talking to Coach and I said, "I don't know, this is not the kind of guy I thought I'd marry." And he said, "You know what? If he makes you laugh, marry him." And we've had a lot of ups and downs, but at the end of the day, Titcus makes me laugh. He's the only person who can make me laugh like Coach did.

(A standout player at Juniata College, Hohenshelt spent a decade as an assistant coach with the Penn State men's volleyball team before joining Rose's staff in 2006.)

We all take stats during the match. His stats give him a good feel for what we're doing well, what we're not doing well. We're throwing ideas at him, and he's using his stats to either confirm what we're saying, or say, "No, let's do this." It's the stuff that's not in the box score. Like, the stat sheet could show someone has 20 digs; his would show she has 20 digs, but that she should have 30, because she missed 10 she should've had.

Russ is wired differently. He sleeps two to three hours a day. I can't tell you how many texts and e-mails we get at 2 or 3 in the morning, because he's up thinking about something: strategy, numbers, recruiting. There are times I'm up feeding the baby at 4 a.m. and I text him back, and he's like, "Feeding time, huh?"

(A back-row specialist and co-captain of the 2010 squad, D'Errico joined classmates Blair Brown and Arielle Wilson as the only players in history to win four NCAA championships.)

Coach gets to know his players better than any coach I've seen at this level.

He has an ability to connect things to real life. After bad practices, he'd stand at the net and say, "When life isn't going the direction you want it to go, are you going to turn it around, or are you just going to let it keep going that direction?" I coach a club team now, seventh and eighth graders, and the first thing we're working on is approaching everything you do in life with confidence. I think I learned that from him.

He never yells. I think in my career, I've heard him yell maybe once or twice. He doesn't need to yell, because he has respect, and he knows it.

I wasn't an All-American, I didn't get Big Ten Player of the Year. He allotted me to be comfortable as not necessarily the best athlete, but as a leader. Once I started to understand that, it allowed people to respect me in a leadership role. It sounds corny, but I've grown into a young woman under his guidance and wisdom.

He forces us to respect ourselves.

(The star of Penn State's loaded 2010 rookie class, McClendon was named national Freshman of the Year and Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA championship.)

On my recruiting visit, he didn't try to awe me with "Look at the big locker room, look at all this free stuff you'll get." It was never like that, and that's what recruiting is about sometimes, that whole runaround of trying to impress you. He was really the only coach who was no bull.

Even if Coach says something that makes you feel like you're the worst player in the world, every once in a while you get a compliment, and those really boost you. I've had some days in practice where my eyes start watering. Like, you might get kicked out of a passing drill—he doesn't even want to look at your bad passing any more. It happens to everyone. It can be hard at first, but you learn not to take it personally.

Mentally, he's changed me 100 percent. Used to be, every point I got, I was really excited. I focused too much on the good things I did. Now, I focus on the things I don't do well, and I want to work to get better.

(Mink covered the team's 2008 unbeaten season for The Daily Collegian, and was a student in Rose's KINES 493 class, Principles and Ethics of Coaching.)

He has always maintained that it's not about him. It's all about his players. Senior Night, team banquets, being in the team photos, he hates all that stuff. If you look at the team photos, he's always hiding in the back.

He has his own, methodical way of getting the most out of his players. If you play for him, he'll call you out on your insecurities, and the people who take a harder look at themselves and realize that he's right will ultimately perform better.

The line I've heard him use is, he doesn't recruit kids with character, he recruits kids who are characters. He recruits kids who will work hard, and don't feel that sense of entitlement.

(A three-time Ail-American from 1982-84, Barberich still holds single-season team records for kills and hitting percentage. She married Russ Rose in 1986; they are the parents of four boys.)

Every now and then he'll applaud on the bench. It's always after an amazing defensive play. That's his thing. He's most proud when the kids are just flying all over the court, digging passes, running transition, playing the game hard. When I played, we didn't have the full complement of scholarships, and we were always one player away. We'd get to the NCAA regionals and lose in the final because we were competing against teams with the full 12 scholarships. It was so frustrating.

Everything changed when we joined the Big Ten. It was such a blessing. We were immediately fully funded. It just really took off. Russ is, by far, the funniest person I know, the most quick-witted. He makes me laugh every day. That transfers to his team: They'll be working hard, and then all of a sudden he'll throw out a one-liner, and they'll crack up. They love it. They know they're working hard, and Russ knows it when he's got what he wants out of them. It’s like, "job well done."

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