Saturday, June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons dies of complications from stroke

By Tris McCall
The Star-Ledger
June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons — the Big Man with the big horn — died today of complications from a stroke he suffered last weekend, according to a spokeswoman for Bruce Springsteen who requested anonymity because she was not authorized by the Clemons family to issue a statement. He was 69 years old.

He was the spirit of the E Street Band, and the oaken staff that Bruce Springsteen leaned on.

"He was the kahuna of surf and soul and a man that had love in his heart and, always, a smile on his face. He was my brother — my musical brother," said original E Street Band drummer Vini "Mad Dog" Lopez.

Lopez last saw Clemons when he guested at an E Street Band show in Philadelphia, in 2009. "I was in the dressing room with him, and we were laughing and talking about golfing," said Lopez.

Clemons was having a hard time walking, Lopez remembered.

"It's just a shame," said Lopez of Clemons' death. "He had a lot more he could give."

There have been many charismatic figures in the E Street Band, but none had the personal gravity of Clarence Clemons, the group’s Bunyanesque saxophonist.

Springsteen himself acknowledged this, always introducing Clemons last at concerts and adopting a reverential attitude uncommon among rock stars. It’s Clemons' big shoulder that Springsteen was looking over lovingly on the famous cover of his "Born to Run" album. As his bandleader beamed at him, Clemons, black-hatted and bold, turned toward the camera and blew his sax.

"Clarence lived a wonderful life," Springsteen said in a statement tonight. "He carried within him a love of people that made them love him. He created a wondrous and extended family. He loved the saxophone, loved our fans and gave everything he had every night he stepped on stage.

"His loss is immeasurable and we are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years. He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Clemons seemed to be a character out of a storybook — or better yet, a widescreen movie about the triumph of a romantic gang of rock ’n’ roll renegades. Wildly popular among fans of the E Street Band, he was the sort of larger-than-life figure to whom legends accrued. Recognizing this, Clemons and Springsteen did much to play up those legends: "Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales," Clemons’ 2009 autobiography written with Don Reo, combined genuine reflections with fiction in an attempt to capture the mythical quality of the musician.

Springsteen’s oft-told story of his initial meeting with Clemons felt Biblical: with a lightning storm raging outside, the Big Man tore the door off an Asbury Park club, strode onstage, and made magic. (Springsteen would later immortalize this meeting in "Tenth Avenue Freeze-out," a song on "Born to Run.")

Was this embellished? Most likely. But reality never seemed quite big enough to accommodate Clarence Clemons.

"Mere facts," wrote Bruce Springsteen in the preface to Clemons’ book, "will never plumb the mysteries of the Big Man."

Born in Norfolk, Va., Clemons was the son of a Baptist minister who had no love for raucous rock ’n’ roll. But at the age of 9, his family gave young Clarence an alto saxophone — and soon he discovered his lung power was formidable.

By young adulthood, he excelled at music and athletics and earned a football scholarship to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Injuries suffered in a car accident prevented the young lineman from trying out for the Cleveland Browns. From then on, Clemons dedicated himself to his horn.

Clemons called his instrument "a vehicle to move my spirit around."

"I don’t think it’s only my saxophone," Clemons told All Access Magazine in 2008, "it’s who I am. My spiritual guide … told me that my purpose in life was to bring joy into the world. He didn’t know about my music, he didn’t know who I was. He saw my heart, he saw my soul, and he saw my determination for this life."

On the tenor saxophone, Clemons developed a style that was considerably more than the sum of his influences: party-ready King Curtis, brassy Junior Walker, skronking Earl Bostic. Clemons could be tough, raspy and percussive, but as a carrier of melody, his shoulders were broad.

After playing with a number of Asbury Park outfits in the early ’70s, Clemons joined the as-yet-unnamed E Street Band in 1972. Along with bassist Garry Tallent, drummer Vini Lopez, organist Danny Federici, pianist Dave Sancious and Springsteen himself, Clemons was an original member of the group.

He was also the oldest, and it’s no exaggeration to suggest he was often treated as the in-house big brother. His saxophone became a pillar of the E Street sound, and helped anchor Springsteen’s storytelling in blues, jazz and gospel traditions.

"That night we first stood together," said Springsteen of Clemons during his Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction speech in 1999, "I looked over at C and it looked like his head reached into the clouds. And I felt like a mere mortal scurrying upon the earth, you know. But he always lifted me up. Way, way, way up. Together we told a story of the possibilities of friendship, a story older than the ones that I was writing and a story I could never have told without him at my side."

Clemons’ solos on songs like "Jungleland" and "Born to Run" were quintessential rock ’n’ roll sax rides — things of beauty and drama unmatched by efforts of thousands of imitators. But Clemons also took his support role seriously. On "Spirit in the Night," his graceful passages were part of a thick tapestry of sound. On "Hungry Heart," the E Street Band’s first Top 10 hit, his baritone sax tugged at the bottom of the track like taffy on the sole of a sneaker.

That wasn’t the only time Clemons swapped his trademark tenor for a baritone. In the early ’70s, he kept another tool in his shed: a lilting soprano saxophone; on more recent tours, he covered the top end with a pennywhistle. Reeds weren’t all he did — with the E Street Band, Clemons also proved himself an able percussionist and an enthusiastic backing vocalist, too.

With his instantly identifiable tone and passion for all varieties of popular music, Clemons was often in demand as a session musician. When E Street activities slowed in the ’80s and ’90s, Clemons had no difficulty finding work. He played on scores of records, including Aretha Franklin’s "Who’s Zooming Who," Twisted Sister’s "Come Out and Play" and Roy Orbison’s comeback "King of Hearts." In 1989, he joined the inaugural version of Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band, where his charismatic stage presence and playful attitude fit in perfectly.

When Lady Gaga attempted to resurrect the glory of ’80s stadium rock on her recent album "Born This Way," she called in Clemons.

"The universe is there to give you what you want," Clemons told All Access about his multifaceted success. "You just need to be there to get it."

Clemons also released five solo albums under his own name. "Hero," a 1985 set produced by Narada Michael Walden, gave him a hit duet (with Jackson Browne): "You’re a Friend of Mine," a song, ironically, about the relationship between Clemons and Springsteen. Even on his solo sets, the sax player could not elude the shadow of the Boss.

For two years, Clemons operated Big Man’s West, a rock venue in Red Bank that became something of a clubhouse for the E Street team and affiliated acts. Springsteen himself appeared at Big Man’s close to 20 times. Although the club closed its doors for good in 1983 for financial reasons, its existence helped revive the Shore sound. Many of the musicians who’d rock the Garden State (and beyond) during the late ’80s took the stage at Big Man’s, including Jon Bon Jovi and John Eddie.

Stone Pony founder Butch Pielka warned the saxophonist about the perils of running a rock club.

"He offered me some advice in the beginning, like, ‘Get out of the business,’ " Clemons told The Star-Ledger this year. "My accountant agreed with him: ‘Just consider that you had a party for two and a half years, and invited all your friends, and you picked up the tab.’ That’s what it was like."

Clemons’ celebrity never quite faded. But in recent years, a series of debilitating ailments kept him out of the limelight. The Big Man was felled by multiple spinal surgeries and knee replacements. Undeterred, he continued to blow from his wheelchair. ("He’s always on time, he’s always in pain," wrote Don Reo in "Big Man.")

The musician lived long enough to see "Who Do I Think I Am?," a documentary about his life, air at the Paramount Theatre in his beloved Asbury Park this April. Hobbled by his health problems, he nevertheless took the stage at the Paramount and answered questions and signed autographs, smiling all the while.

Under the stagelights, surrounded by those who loved him, Clemons was in his element. Pushing 70, he rehabbed hard, hoping for a chance to join the E Street Band on tour in 2012.

He told Rolling Stone magazine in February that as long as he had a mouth, a brain and a pair of hands, he would keep on playing. Nobody who saw Clemons perform would ever have doubted it: his dedication was total. The saxophone was a conduit for his spirit, he assured us, and that spirit was a colossus.

Far beyond the boardwalk of Asbury Park, those big notes will keep echoing.

Clarence Clemons, Springsteen’s Soulful Sideman, Dies at 69

The New York Times
June 18, 2011

Clarence Clemons, the saxophonist in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, whose jovial onstage manner, soul-rooted style and brotherly relationship with Mr. Springsteen made him one of rock’s most beloved sidemen, died on Saturday at a hospital in Palm Beach, Fla. He was 69.

The cause was complications of a stroke he suffered last Sunday at his home in Singer Island, Fla., a spokeswoman for Mr. Springsteen said.

In a statement released Saturday night, Mr. Springsteen called Mr. Clemons “my great friend, my partner.”

“With Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music,” he added. “His life, his memory and his love will live on in that story and in our band.”

From the beginnings of the E Street Band in 1972, Mr. Clemons played a central part in Mr. Springsteen’s music, complementing the group’s electric guitar and driving rhythms in songs like “Born to Run” and “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out” with muscular, melodic saxophone hooks that echoed doo-wop, soul and early rock ’n’ roll.

But equally important to the group’s image was the sense of affection and unbreakable camaraderie between Mr. Springsteen and his sax man. Few E Street Band shows were complete without a shaggy-dog story about the stormy night the two men met at a bar in Asbury Park, N.J., or a long bear hug between them at the end of the night.

Mr. Clemons also became something of a celebrity in his own right, acting in Martin Scorsese’s “New York, New York” and other films, and on television shows like “Diff’rent Strokes,” and jamming with President Bill Clinton at the 1993 inaugural ball.

A former college football player, Mr. Clemons towered over Mr. Springsteen at 6 feet 4 inches and about 250 pounds — his self-evident nickname was the Big Man — and for most of its history, he stood out as the sole black man in a white, working-class New Jersey rock band. (The keyboardist David Sancious, who is also black, played with the group until 1974.) Onstage he had almost as much magnetism as Mr. Springsteen, and even if much of his time was spent hitting a cowbell or singing backup, he could still stir up a stadium crowd with a few cheerful notes on his horn.

For many fans, the bond between Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Clemons was symbolized by the photograph wrapped around the front and back covers of the 1975 album “Born to Run.” In that picture, a spent yet elated Mr. Springsteen leans on a shoulder to his right for support; the flip side revealed that it belonged to Mr. Clemons.

“When you look at just the cover of ‘Born to Run,’ you see a charming photo, a good album cover, but when you open it up and see Clarence and me together, the album begins to work its magic,” Mr. Springsteen wrote in a foreword to “Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales,” Mr. Clemons’s semifictional memoir from 2009, written with Don Reo. “Who are these guys? Where did they come from? What is the joke they are sharing?”

Clarence Anicholas Clemons was born on Jan. 11, 1942, in Norfolk, Va. His father owned a fish market and his grandfather was a Southern Baptist preacher, and although he grew up surrounded by gospel music, the young Mr. Clemons was captivated by rock ’n’ roll. He was given an alto saxophone at age 9 as a Christmas gift; later, following the influence of King Curtis — whose many credits include the jaunty sax part on the Coasters’ 1958 hit “Yakety Yak” — he switched to the tenor.

“I grew up with a very religious background,” he once said in an interview. “I got into the soul music, but I wanted to rock. I was a rocker. I was a born rock ’n’ roll sax player.”

Mr. Clemons was also a gifted athlete, and he attended Maryland State College (now the University of Maryland Eastern Shore) on a scholarship for football and music. He tried out for the Dallas Cowboys and the Cleveland Browns, but a knee injury ended his hopes for a football career.

He was working as a youth counselor in Newark when he began to mix with the Jersey Shore music scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s. He was older than Mr. Springsteen and most of his future band mates, and he often commented on the oddity — even the liability — of being a racially integrated group in those days.

“You had your black bands and you had your white bands,” he wrote in his memoir, “and if you mixed the two you found less places to play.”

But the match was strong from the start, and his saxophone soon became a focal point of the group’s sound. In an interview with The New York Times in 2005, Jon Landau, Mr. Springsteen’s manager, said that during the recording sessions for “Born to Run,” Mr. Springsteen and Mr. Clemons spent 16 hours finessing the jazzy saxophone solo on that album’s closing song, “Jungleland.”

Mr. Clemons’s charisma and eccentricity extended offstage. Wherever the band played, he made his dressing room into a shrine he called the Temple of Soul. He claimed to have played pool with Fidel Castro and won. And by many accounts, including his own, he was a champion partier on the road. He was married five times and divorced four. His fifth wife, Victoria, survives him, as do four sons: Clarence Jr., Charles, Christopher and Jarod.

Mr. Springsteen put the E Street Band on hiatus on 1989, and apart from reuniting for a recording session in 1995, the group did not play again until 1999. But by the mid-1980s, when Mr. Springsteen reached his commercial peak, Mr. Clemons had already found fame on his own. In 1985 he had a Top 20 hit with “You’re a Friend of Mine,” on which he sang with Jackson Browne, and played saxophone on records by Aretha Franklin and Twisted Sister. Recently he was featured on Lady Gaga’s album “Born This Way.”

Mr. Clemons’s first encounter with Mr. Springsteen has become E Street Band lore. In most tellings, a lightning storm was rolling through Asbury Park one night in 1971 while Mr. Springsteen was playing a gig there. As Mr. Clemons entered the bar, the wind blew the door off its hinges, and Mr. Springsteen was startled by the towering shadow at the door. Then Mr. Clemons invited himself onstage to play along, and they clicked.

“I swear I will never forget that moment,” Mr. Clemons later recalled in an interview. “I felt like I was supposed to be there. It was a magical moment. He looked at me, and I looked at him, and we fell in love. And that’s still there.”

Clarence Clemons dies following stroke
The Associated Press
June 18, 2011

NEW YORK — Clarence Clemons, the larger-than-life saxophone player for the E Street Band who was one of the key influences in Bruce Springsteen's life and music through four decades, has died. He was 69.

Clemons died Saturday night after being hospitalized about a week ago following a stroke at his home in Singer Island, Fla.

Bruce Springsteen acknowledge the dire situation earlier this week, but said then he was hopeful. He called the loss "immeasurable."

"We are honored and thankful to have known him and had the opportunity to stand beside him for nearly 40 years," Springsteen said on his website. "He was my great friend, my partner and with Clarence at my side, my band and I were able to tell a story far deeper than those simply contained in our music. His life, his memory, and his love will live on in that story and in our band."

Known as the Big Man for his imposing 6-foot-5-inch, 270-plus pound frame, Clemons and his ever-present saxophone spent much of his life with The Boss, and his booming saxophone solos became a signature sound for the E Street Band on many key songs, including "Jungleland," a triumphant solo he spent 16 hours perfecting, and "Born To Run."

In recent years, Clemons had been slowed by health woes. He endured major spinal surgery in January 2010 and, at the 2009 Super Bowl, Clemons rose from a wheelchair to perform with Springsteen after double knee replacement surgery.

But his health seemed to be improving. In May, he performed with Lady Gaga on the season finale of "American Idol," and performed on two songs on her "Born This Way" album.

Clemons said in a 2010 interview with The Associated Press then that he was winning his battles — including severe, chronic pain and post-surgical depression. His sense of humor helped.

"Of all the surgeries I've had, there's not much left to operate on. I am totally bionic," he said.

"God will give you no more than you can handle," he said in the interview. "This is all a test to see if you are really ready for the good things that are going to come in your life. All this pain is going to come back and make me stronger."

An original member — and the oldest member — of the E Street Band, Clemons also performed with the Grateful Dead, the Jerry Garcia Band, and Ringo Starr's All Star Band. He recorded with a wide range of artists including Aretha Franklin, Roy Orbison and Jackson Browne. He also had his own band called the Temple of Soul.

The stage "always feels like home. It's where I belong," Clemons, a former youth counselor, said after performing at a Hard Rock Cafe benefit for Home Safe, a children's charity, in 2010.

Born in Norfolk, Va., Clemons was the grandson of a Baptist minister and began playing the saxophone when he was 9.

"Nobody played instruments in my family. My father got that bug and said he wants his son to play saxophone. I wanted an electric train for Christmas, but he got me a saxophone. I flipped out," he said in a 1989 interview with the AP.

He was influenced by R&B artists such as King Curtis and Junior Walker. But his dreams originally focused on football. He played for Maryland State College, and was to try out for the Cleveland Browns when he got in a bad car accident that made him retire from the sport for good.

His energies then focused on music.

In 1971, Clemons was playing with Norman Seldin & the Joyful Noise when he heard about rising singer-songwriter named Springsteen, who was from New Jersey. The two hit it off immediately and Clemons officially joined the E Street Band in 1973 with the release of the debut album "Greetings from Asbury Park."

Clemons emerged as one of the most critical members of the E Street Band for different reasons. His burly frame would have been intimidating if not for his bright smile and endearing personality that charmed fans.

"It's because of my innocence," he said in a 2003 AP interview. "I have no agenda — just to be loved. Somebody said to me, 'Whenever somebody says your name, a smile comes to their face.' That's a great accolade. I strive to keep it that way."

But it was his musical contributions on tenor sax that would come to define the E Street Band sound.

"Since 1973 the Springsteen/Clemons partnership has reaped great rewards and created insightful, high energy rock & roll," declared Don Palmer in Down Beat in 1984. "Their music, functioning like the blues from which it originated, chronicled the fears, aspirations, and limitations of suburban youth. Unlike many musicians today, Springsteen and Clemons were more interested in the heart and substance rather than the glamour of music."

In a 2009 interview, Clemons described his deep bond with Springsteen, saying: "It's the most passion that you have without sex."

"It's love. It's two men — two strong, very virile men — finding that space in life where they can let go enough of their masculinity to feel the passion of love and respect and trust," he added.

Clemons continued to perform with the band for the next 12 years, contributing his big, distinctive big sound to the albums, "The Wild, The Innocent and the E-Street Shuffle," ''Born to Run," ''Darkness on the Edge of Town, "The River" and "Born in the USA." But four years after Springsteen experienced the blockbuster success of "Born in the USA" and toured with his group, he decided to disband the E Street Band.

"There were a few moments of tension," the saxophonist recalled in a 1995 interview. "You've been together 18, 19 years. It's like your wife coming to you: 'I want a divorce.' You start wondering why? Why? But you get on with your life."

During the breaks, Clemons continued with solo projects, including a 1985 vocal duet with Browne on the single "You're a Friend of Mine" and saxophone work on Franklin's 1985 hit single "Freeway of Love." He released his own albums, toured, and even sang on some songs.

Clemons also made several television and movie appearances over the years, including Martin Scorsese's 1977 musical, "New York, New York, in which he played a trumpet player.

The break with Springsteen and the E Street Band didn't end his relationship with either Springsteen or the rest of the band members, nor would it turn out to be permanent. By 1999 they were back together for a reunion tour and the release of "The Rising."

But the years took a toll on Clemons' body, and he had to play through the pain of surgeries and other health woes.

"It takes a village to run the Big Man — a village of doctors," Clemons told The Associated Press in a phone interview in 2010. "I'm starting to feel better; I'm moving around a lot better."

He published a memoir, "Big Man: Real Life and Tall Tales," in 2009 -- which relates how he once worked as a counselor at what was then the State Home for Boys in Monroe, N.J., also known as the Jamesburg Reform School -- and continued to perform.

He is the second member of the E Street Band to pass away: In 2008, Danny Federici, the keyboardist for the band, died at age 58 of melanoma.

Libya and the Potemkin alliance

The Washington Post
June 17, 2011

America’s intervention in Libya’s civil war, the most protracted and least surreptitious assassination attempt in history, was supposed to last “days, not weeks,” but is in its fourth month and has revealed NATO to be an increasingly fictitious military organization. Although this war has no discernible connection with U.S. national security, it serves the national interest, in three ways. It is awakening some legislators to their responsibilities. It is refuting the pretense that the United Nations sets meaningful parameters to wars it authorizes — or endorses, which is quite different. And it is igniting a reassessment of NATO, a Potemkin alliance whose primary use these days is perverse: It provides a patina of multilateralism to U.S. military interventions on which Europe is essentially a free rider.

Recently, one-third of the House of Representatives — 87 Republicans and 61 Democrats — unavailingly but honorably voted to end American involvement in Libya in 15 days. Were Barack Obama not taking a Nixonian approach to the law — the War Powers Resolution — his intervention would have ended last month. The WPR requires interventions to end after 60 days, absent congressional approval.

Some people, who know better, insist that although the WPR is a 38-year-old law — passed over Richard Nixon’s veto — it is somehow a “dead letter.” Their theory is that any law a president considers annoying, or Congress considers inconvenient, or some commentators consider unwise, is for those reasons nullified.

America’s Libyan involvement began because Moammar Gaddafi threatened to do to Benghazi what Bashar al-Assad’s tanks and helicopter gunships are doing to various Syrian cities. When, in March, Obama said “building this international coalition has been so important,” he meant merely that a minority of the members of a 62-year-old alliance would seriously participate. Eight of NATO’s 28 members are attacking Gaddafi’s ground forces.

Obama, a novel kind of commander in chief, explained in passive syntax that “it is our military that is being volunteered by others to carry out missions.” These “others” would rather finance their welfare states than their militaries, so they cannot wage war for 10 weeks without U.S. munitions and other assets.

Last month, this column noted that NATO was created in 1949 to protect Western Europe from the Soviet army; it could long ago have unfurled the “Mission Accomplished” banner; it has now become an instrument of mischief, and when the Libyan misadventure is finished, America should debate whether NATO also should be finished.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates had another purpose — NATO’s revival — but he recently fueled that debate when, in Brussels, he predicted “a dim, if not dismal future” for the military alliance unless its members reinvest in their militaries.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. military spending has more than doubled, but that of NATO’s 27 other members has declined 15 percent. U.S. military spending is three times larger than the combined spending of those other members. Hence Gates warned that “there will be dwindling appetite and patience in” America for expending “increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” Already, U.S. officers in Afghanistan sometimes refer to the NATO command there — officially, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — as “I Saw Americans Fighting.”

After a recent NATO attack on a tented encampment where Gaddafi has met foreign leaders, the New York Times reported: “The desert strike appeared to show the alliance’s readiness to kill Col. Gaddafi. A NATO statement described the target as a ‘command and control facility.’ But apart from small groups of soldiers lurking under trees nearby with pickups carrying mounted machine guns, reporters taken to the scene saw nothing to suggest that the camp was a conventional military target.”

In March, Obama said that U.S. intervention would be confined to implementing a no-fly zone: “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” By May, Obama’s Bushian mission was to make Libyans “finally free of 40 years of tyranny.” After more than 10,000 sorties, now including those by attack helicopters, NATO’s increasingly desperate strategy boils down to: Kill Gaddafi.

Then what? More incompetent improvisation, for many more months.
Disgust with this debacle has been darkly described as a recrudescence of “isolationism,” as though people opposing this absurdly disproportionate and patently illegal war are akin to those who, after 1938, opposed resisting Germany and Japan. Such slovenly thinking is a byproduct of shabby behavior.

Why liberals fell for ‘Muslim lesbian blogger' hoax

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
June 17, 2011

Last week was a great week for lesbians coming out of the closet – coming out, that is, as middle-aged heterosexual men. On Sunday, Amina Arraf, the young vivacious Syrian lesbian activist whose inspiring blog "A Gay Girl In Damascus" had captured hearts around the world, was revealed to be, in humdrum reality, one Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old college student from Georgia. The following day, Paula Brooks, the lesbian activist and founder of the website LezGetReal, was revealed to be one Bill Graber, a 58-year-old construction worker from Ohio. In their capacity as leading lesbians in the Sapphic blogosphere, "Miss Brooks" and "Miss Arraf" were colleagues. "Amina" had posted at LezGetReal before starting "A Gay Girl In Damascus." As one lesbian to another, they got along swimmingly. The Washington Post reported:

"Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian."

Who knows what romance might have blossomed had not "Amina" been arrested by a squad of Baath Party goons dispatched by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Tom MacMaster then created "Rania," a fake cousin for his fake lesbian, to try to rouse the world to take up the plight of the nonexistent Amina's nonexistent detention.

A "Free Amina!" Facebook page sprang up.

"The Obama administration must speak about this," declared Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. "This woman is a hero."

On June 7 the State Department announced that it was looking into the "kidnapping."

Now consider it from Assad's point of view. Unlike "Amina," "Rania" and the "three armed men in their early 20s" who "hustled Amina into a red Dacia Logan," you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You're the dictator of Syria. You've killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gadhafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep. Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a "reformer" only 20 minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger. Any moment now Sarkozy or Cameron or some other Europoseur will demand anti-homophobic NATO bombing missions over your presidential palace. On CNN Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will be interviewing each other back and forth all day long about the Gay Spring sweeping the Arab world. You'll be the first Middle East strongman brought down by lesbianism. You'll be a laughingstock at Arab League Where-Are-They-Now? nights.

Who needs it? "Release the lesbian bloggers!" commands Assad.

"Er, what lesbian bloggers?" says his vizier. "This is Damascus, remember?"

"Oh, yeah." And he spends another sleepless night wondering if this is the most devilish CIA dirty trick of all, or if one of their satellite drones merely misinterpreted the grainy footage from the Col. Gadhafi Lookalike round of "Syrian Idol."

The pretty young lesbian Muslim was exposed as a portly 40-year-old male infidel at the University of Edinburgh with the help of "Paula Brooks," shortly before "Paula" was exposed as a 58-year-old male construction worker from Ohio. "He would have got away with it if I hadn't been such a stand-up guy," the second phony lesbian said of the first phony lesbian. As to why stand-up guys are posing as sit-down lesbians, "Paula" told the Associated Press that "he felt he would not be taken seriously as a straight man."

"He got that one right," sneered the Toronto gay magazine Xtra.

Indeed. A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of Arabia. We have become familiar in recent years with the booming literary genre of the fake memoir, to which Oprah's late Book Club was distressingly partial. Greg Mortensen's now-discredited "Three Cups Of Tea" took it to the next level, not just near mandatory in the usual circles (grade schools and sentimental punditry) but also compulsory in the Pentagon for commanders en route to Afghanistan. After centuries of disdain for the preferred beverage of imperialists, American officers in the Hindu Kush now drink more tea than the Brits, and they don't even like it. But a charlatan told them to do it, so the tea allowance now consumes 23 percent of the Pentagon budget.

Yet Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent person its poster-"girl." From CNN to The Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?

Because they wanted to. It would be nice if "Amina Arraf" existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction – a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at No. 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other's diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other's attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day's Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.

Yes, yes, I stereotype. But stereotypes become stereotypes because they're grounded in observable reality. "Amina Arraf" is grounded in nothing more than a fetish fantasy as preposterous as those lipstick lesbians in porn movies who can't wait for some hot straight guy to jump in and make it a threesome.

It would be statistically improbable for there to be no women attracted to other women in Damascus. But "Amina Arraf" is nothing more than the projection of parochial obsessions on to distant lands Western liberals are too lazy to try to figure out. In 2007 in The Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan, not yet mired up Sarah Palin's birth canal without a paddle peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest child, announced that, never mind his policies, Barack Obama's visage alone would be "the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since Reagan." As he explained:

"It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man – Barack Hussein Obama – is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. ... If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close."

For crying out loud. The assumption that "a young Pakistani Muslim" in Lahore or Peshawar shares your peculiar preoccupations is the most feeble kind of projection even by the standards of Western liberal navel-gazing. If doting progressives stopped gazing longingly into "Obama's face" for just a moment, they might notice that in Benghazi "democracy activists" have been rounding up Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In Bahrain "democracy activists" have attacked hundreds of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, ripping the tongue out of one muezzin and leaving him brain damaged. What's so "multicultural" about the pampered middle-aged narcissists of the West's leisurely "activist" varsity pretending that the entire planet is just like them?

You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. "Amina Arraf" was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That's because the liberal worldview is a fiction.


Friday, June 17, 2011

A Shovel-Ready Punch Line

We saw that one coming.

By Jonah Goldberg
June 17, 2011

‘Shovel-ready was not as . . . uh . . . shovel-ready as we expected,” Barack Obama joked the other day at a meeting of his Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.

Republicans jumped on Obama’s comment as insensitive. “He joked about the wildly mistaken predictions he and others at the White House made a couple of years back about the job-creating potential of the stimulus,” said Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. “Well, I don’t think the 14 million Americans who are looking for jobs right now find any of this very funny.”

I’m sure they don’t, but the fact that the president laid an egg when he tried to be self-deprecating isn’t the scandal here.

After all, Obama has pretty much said the same thing several times. In a New York Times Magazine profile last October, the president admitted he had to learn the hard way that there’s “no such thing as shovel-ready projects.”

This is a staggering indictment of the president, the team he assembled, and the journalists who accepted this administration’s arrogant assertions that they knew exactly what to do, how to do it, and what would happen as a result. Remember, this is the administration that to this day insists it is “pragmatic” and simply cares about “what works.”

“I think we can get a lot of work done fast,” President-elect Obama said shortly after a gathering of governors in December 2008. “All of them have projects that are shovel-ready, that are going to require us to get the money out the door.”

Jared Bernstein, economic adviser to Vice President Joe Biden — the White House’s point man on the stimulus — said in a cable-news interview in February 2009: “I think what people need to understand is that this really isn’t rocket science.” Spend a bundle on public works projects and — boom — you get a lot of people working.

They were wrong.

They were wrong not just about the effect of infrastructure spending — even an analysis by the Associated Press found no evidence unemployment was significantly improved by the Recovery Act’s public-works projects — but they were wrong about the existence of shovel-ready jobs in the first place. (They were also misleading, since only a tiny, tiny fraction of the stimulus went to any infrastructure at all. The bulk went to social programs.)

Back in October, when Obama admitted that he had to learn on the job that shovel-ready jobs don’t exist, then-governor Ed Rendell (D., Penn.) — a leader in the push for the stimulus — told the New York Times it was all a terrible misunderstanding. “When we said ‘shovel ready’ we meant ‘shovel ready’ in the way we do things.” He added, “I don’t think we meant to be deceptive.”

You’ve got to love the “I don’t think” there.

The “way we do things” involves endless paperwork, union regulations, environmental red tape, and the like. That’s why it only took 410 days to build the Empire State building and 16 months to build the Pentagon but nearly 20 years to complete Boston’s Big Dig. Lord knows how long it will be for the government to finish work on Ground Zero.

The point is that the president and his team came into office insisting that they were on top of things and above mere ideological considerations. When confronted with skepticism about the existence of “shovel-ready” projects, they in effect rolled their eyes and scoffed at the backseat drivers.

But they were the ones who were blinded by ideology. One need not be an ideologue to understand that public-works contracting has become bloated and inefficient. Indeed, one must be an ideologue of a certain kind not to understand that. Or one has to be incredibly naive. Or both.

Perhaps that’s why Obama’s real economic agenda never changed to fit the economic crisis. During the campaign he promised to reform health care and fight for a green economy. After the financial crisis, the “pragmatist” stuck to his outdated agenda, saying — surprise! — what the economy needs is the same agenda he promised before. So while he kept saying he was obsessed with job creation, he spent all of his political capital on health-care reform and energy. All the while, the White House tries to spin its agenda as something it’s not.

For instance, you know where this jobs-council meeting took place? At Cree Inc., an LED lightbulb maker. Under the supposedly jobs-boosting stimulus, Cree received $5.2 million. According to, that $5.2 million created 3.02 jobs. That’s $1,716,171 per job.

There’s a funny joke in there somewhere, but I don’t think Obama wants to tell it.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. (C) 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Today's Tune: Billy Joe Shaver - Wacko From Waco (Live)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Thomas heroics the stuff of pipe dreams

By Bob Ryan
Boston Globe Columnist
June 16, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15: Tim Thomas(notes) #30 of the Boston Bruins is awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4 to 0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — He was never the Golden Boy.

You kidding? He didn’t start a game in the NHL until he was 28 and he didn’t become anyone’s regular goalie until he was 31. Until very recently, he would have been recognized on the street in Finland more readily than in downtown Boston.

Go back further. His parents hocked their wedding rings at one point to raise money in support of young Timmy’s career.

“Doesn’t mean anything to me,’’ said his mother, Kathy Thomas, who was on hand for this happy occasion. “You do what you can for your son.’’

The Thomases even moved from Flint, Mich., to Detroit to aid his quest, with Tim selling apples door-to-door to make some money.

So now here’s the question: Will we spawn a new worldwide generation of flopping, diving, sprawling, swatting, generally pro-active goaltenders now that 37-year-old Tim Thomas has carried the Boston Bruins to a Stanley Cup championship?

Maybe, maybe not. Perhaps Tim Thomas will remain sui generis. That would probably be a better scenario. After what he’s done all season, and especially in the past two months, Conn Smythe Trophy winner Tim Thomas deserves to be placed in a separate category.

“This is literally a dream come true, just like it is for everyone on this team,’’ he said. “At 37, this might be my only shot to win it.’’

The Vancouver Canucks have seen enough of him, that’s for sure. With last night’s 4-0 victory, Thomas wound up surrendering eight goals in seven games to the most potent offensive team in the league. This is a team that had three goals during one prolonged power play against San Jose.

Of course, he had help. The Bruins’ team defense during this series was beyond superb. But the anchor was No. 30. No one will deny that.

No, the man of most every match during the Bruins’ postseason was Tim Thomas, who gave the coach and his teammates what everyone wants in this game: peace of mind.

“He is so deserving of everything they’re giving him,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Every night, all season long, he always gave us a chance.’’

Has any Stanley Cup-winning goaltender ever had a weirder path to a moment like this? There were the post-collegiate years (and plenty of them) wandering through the North American minor leagues, not to mention the four separate stops in Finland and some time in Sweden before he finally plopped himself between the pipes in an NHL game.

He then plays well enough to win a Vezina Trophy and sign a $30 million contract, which becomes something of an issue when subpar performance triggered by a hip injury relegates him to cheerleading status in the 2010 playoffs. He watched young Tuukka Rask play all 13 games while constantly reading and hearing that, as a backup goalie, he was undoubtedly the most overpaid player in the league.

Offseason hip surgery took care of the injury issue, and when the 2010-11 season arrived, Tim Thomas was ready to do his job. He was good enough during the regular season to merit nomination as a Vezina Trophy candidate again. Who could have imagined his stellar regular-season play was a mere appetizer before the main course that was the Stanley Cup playoffs?

The stats for the 25 games it took the Bruins to win the Cup — three sevens and a sweep, which is pretty interesting in itself — include 17 games with 30 or more saves, three with 40-plus, and a mind-boggling 52-save effort in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 2 of the Philadelphia sweep.

But it was not just sheer accumulation of saves that mattered. There are saves and there are SAVES! And Tim Thomas had plenty of SAVES!

There are many to discuss, of course, but the one that will probably lead all the Tim Thomas highlight packages was the astonishing stick save he made on Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, a save so inexplicably athletic and spectacular it wasn’t until we all saw the replay that we knew the puck hadn’t simply hit the post.

There was endless discussion about his methodology, and it must be said that on occasion his abnormal aggressiveness creates tantalizingly open nets. Someone came up with the term “Battlefly’’ to describe his crowd-pleasing, unorthodox, no-style style.

All of which called to mind the many times Harry Sinden used to say that he didn’t give a hoot about how his goalies stopped the puck, as long as they stopped the puck. Harry wasn’t into style points.

Still isn’t.

“I’ve loved him since we got him,’’ beamed Sinden.

(What? You didn’t think Harry was going to miss this?)

“This was the culmination for him. I don’t care what people think about his style. His style is right; theirs is wrong.’’

What constituted a clunker game for Thomas in these playoffs might have merited a raise for someone else.

“I’ve got to tell you,’’ said Bruins president Cam Neely, who has seen a goalie or two in his time. “He’s got to be up there with the best I’ve ever seen. He elevated his game, especially in the Stanley Cup. He was so calm and composed. He took it to another level, and it was really fun to watch him play.’’

In the Now It Can Be Told Department, Thomas confessed he might not always have been as calm as he seemed.

“I won’t lie,’’ he said. “Yesterday and today, I faked it as well as I could, and I faked it all the way to the Stanley Cup.’’

Wait till the Canucks hear that.

Bob Ryan is a Globe columnist and host of Globe 10.0 on He can be reached at

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Raise the Cup

Bruins shut the door in Game 7 to take first title in 39 years

By Dan Shaughnessy
Boston Globe Columnist
June 16, 2011

VANCOUVER, BC - JUNE 15: Zdeno Chara(notes) #33 of the Boston Bruins celebrates with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game Seven of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Final at Rogers Arena on June 15, 2011 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The Boston Bruins defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4 to 0. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — They won it for every New England mom and dad who ever woke up to drive kids to the rink at 6 a.m., and drank hot chocolate while they waited in the cold.

They won it for the Revere girls with the big hair and O’Reilly sweaters; for the shot-and-beer guys who pour every dollar of expendable income into the hockey budget.

They won it to avenge losing Bobby Orr to Chicago, too many men on the ice in Montreal, free agents never signed, trades that went bad, unspeakable injuries, and Game 7 disappointments.

They won it for you.

The Boston Bruins last night won the Stanley Cup, shocking the Vancouver Canucks, 4-0, capping an epic seven-game series and bringing the holy grail to the Hub of Hockey for the first time since 1972. The goals were scored by Patrice Bergeron and Brad (Little Ball Of Hate) Marchand, two apiece.

The non-goals were stopped by playoff MVP Tim Thomas.

At this hour, Everyman Thomas is Tom Brady, Bill Russell, and Curt Schilling. And the Bruins are Stanley Cup champs. They outscored the favored Canucks by a whopping 23-8 over seven games.

Thomas addressed Cup-starved Boston fans, saying, “You’ve been waiting for it a long time, but you got it. You wanted it, you got it. We’re bringing it home.’’

“It’s surreal,’’ said Marchand. “I don’t know if it will ever kick in.’’

Marchand is a rookie. He is from Hammond Plains, Nova Scotia. He is 23 years old. How could he possibly know what this moment is like for longtime Bruins fans? How could any of the champion Bruins know?

“It’s unreal,’’ said club president Cam Neely, a man who skated and suffered through some of the tough years. “You dream about a moment like this and you don’t know how you’re gonna feel. I’m so proud of the whole group.’’

“I guess there is a Santa Claus,’’ said Jeremy Jacobs, who has owned the Bruins since 1975 and earned a reputation as the Montgomery Burns of Boston sports.

No more. It’s all good now. The kind folks inside Rogers Arena let the Bruins hang around the ice with the Cup for almost an hour after the game and played “Dirty Water’’ and “Tessie’’ over the public address system as Boston players embraced their families and friends and posed with the Cup.

Too bad they didn’t play “We Are The Champions.’’

Today would be a good day to call your out-of-town friends and tell them you live in a city that just won its seventh championship in 11 years. You live in the only hamlet that’s won the Grand Slam of North American trophies within seven years.

It is the High Renaissance of New England sports. Our Duck Boat tires are balding. The vaunted Patriots just became the Boston franchise with the longest championship drought. The Patriots, the NFL’s team of the decade, haven’t won a Super Bowl since way back in 2005.

The humanity!

Let the record show that the Bruins’ long-awaited return to the circle of champions came on a perfect June evening, 2,500 miles across the continent from Causeway Street. A season that started in Prague ended on Game No. 107, as the Bruins became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s in a single spring. It was the Bruins’ first Game 7 road win in their 87-year history. And it was stunning.

A seven-game series that had finger-biting, taunting, trash talk, and embellishment ended with Bruin dominance. After losing three one-goal games at Rogers Arena, the Bruins took the fight out of the locals in the finale. Vancouver’s only fight was demonstrated by nitwits who rioted after the game — fires raged and tear gas was released, giving the city another black eye.

The Bruins were inspired by the presence of Nathan Horton, who scored the game-winner in both of Boston’s first two Game 7s, then was felled by Aaron Rome’s late hit in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Horton splashed some Boston water on the Vancouver ice for good luck long before the start of last night’s game.

“This is the chance of a lifetime to be with my teammates,’’ he said afterward. “I couldn’t miss this.’’

The Canucks were strong at the jump, but with 5 1/2 minutes left in the first period, the Bruins lost a faceoff in the Vancouver zone, but Marchand got the puck. The Ball Of Hate controlled it nicely, and centered the puck to Bergeron, who one-timed it past Roberto Luongo. Good omen. The team that scored first won every game of the Final.

Late in the second, Zdeno Chara made a crucial save. That’s right. Save. After giving up the puck right in front of the Bruins’ net, he assumed the goalie duties when Thomas was faked out of position. Looking like a treetop Gump Worsley, Chara stopped Alex Burrows’s shot with his left knee. Nice save for the big guy.

With 7:47 left in the second, Marchand made it 2-0 on a wraparound at the left post. Once again, tire-pumpin’ Luongo was not agile enough to stop the puck.

Then the Bruins struck with a shorthanded goal — the clincher. With Chara off for interference (first penalty of the night), Bergeron found himself on a shorthanded partial breakaway. As he was dragged down by Christian Ehrhoff (chasing with Alex Edler), Bergeron somehow steered the puck past the shell-shocked Luongo. The goal was reviewed and when it was announced that the goal would count, it sounded like 18,860 were taking their college boards. The Bruins had three goals on only 13 shots. Both Sedins were on the ice for all three scores. At that juncture, Luongo had whiffed on six of the last 21 shots on net.

Back in Boston, the countdown was underway. Marchand potted an empty-netter with 2:44 left. Claude Julien made sure Mark Recchi was on the ice at the end.

To the finish, Thomas remained in full Battlefly, wielding his Reebok war club like Russell Crowe in “Gladiator.’’ Kevin Bieksa fired the puck the length of the ice as the whistle sounded. Perfect. Thomas had the puck and the Bruins had the Cup.

As for the other goalie? Here’s the new joke in British Columbia?

Q: What time is it in Vancouver?

A: It’s 20 past Luongo.

Actually, it was party time for the Boston contingent on the Rogers Arena ice.

At 10:52 (Boston time), the Cup appeared and NHL commissioner Gary Bettman beckoned Chara. The captain skated toward the commissioner, hoisted the chalice, skated in a circle, then presented it to 43-year-old Recchi.

Recchi had just played his last game. The veteran forward took his turn, then passed the Cup to Bergeron, who relayed it to Thomas. On and on it went. They’re probably still passing it to one another as you read this.

The Bruins were scheduled to fly home late last night (Stanley Cup belted into seat 4-C) and arrive at Logan early this morning. It should be a great moment at customs when agents ask Neely, Julien, and Chara if they have anything to declare.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at

© Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.

Report describes gun agents' 'state of panic'

Federal gun agents, concerned about weapons sales to Mexican drug suspects, begged to make arrests but were rebuffed, according to a congressional report on a controversial investigation.

By Kim Murphy
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
6:30 PM PDT, June 14, 2011

A memorial service was held Jan. 21 for U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, whose death in a shootout in December drove home the risks of Operation Fast and Furious. (John Moore / Getty Images / January 20, 2011)

Federal gun agents in Arizona -- convinced that "someone was going to die" when their agency allowed weapons sales to suspected Mexican drug traffickers -- made anguished pleas to be permitted to make arrests but were rebuffed, according to a new congressional report on the controversial law enforcement probe.

Agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives told congressional investigators that there was "a state of panic" that the guns used in the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in January and two U.S. agents in Mexico a month later might have been sold under the U.S. surveillance operation.

"I used the word anxiety. The term I used amongst my peers is pucker factor," Larry Alt, special agent with ATF's Phoenix field division, told investigators preparing a joint staff report for Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The report will be released Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Neither of those shootings was ultimately linked to the "Fast and Furious" probe, though two weapons sold to a suspect under surveillance were found at the scene of the fatal shooting of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry near Nogales, Ariz., in December.

Terry's family will be among the key witnesses at an oversight committee hearing Wednesday on the ATF operation, under which the bureau allowed purchases of high-powered weapons in an attempt to track their progress into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. According to the report and numerous interviews with The Times, several ATF agents regarded the operation as dangerous and misguided.

At least 195 of the weapons have been traced to Mexico, found mainly at crime scenes, but ATF agents quoted in the report said more than 1,700 firearms were trafficked "to known criminals or cartel elements south of the border and elsewhere" under the operation.

"I cannot see anyone who has one iota of concern for human life being OK with this," Agent John Dodson told committee interviewers.

In one case, Agent Pete Forcelli told the interviewers, an agent was making insistent calls over the radio, saying that gun traffickers had recognized him and begging for permission to stop the suspects. "But he was told to not stop the car with the guns in it," he said.

Dodson said the target was followed picking up money, buying guns and dropping them off somewhere else but recognized he was being followed and made obvious attempts to evade the surveillance. "I mean, there is a verbal screaming match over the radio about how -- what are you talking about? There is no better time or reason to pull this guy over than right now," Dodson related.

Issa and Grassley have been butting heads with ATF supervisors and senior officials at the Justice Department who signed off on the Project Gunrunner operation, which was intended to begin catching the powerful drug cartel traffickers in Mexico and the U.S. who were receiving weapons from the relatively low-level "straw purchasers" who were paid to buy them from U.S. gun dealers.

The two agencies, the Republican congressmen say, have refused to provide documents about the origin, direction and supervision of the operation.

The Justice Department has provided some information, but officials say disclosing their files now could compromise the trial of the traffickers accused of purchasing the weapons found at the scene of Terry's killing, and also that of one of the suspected border bandits, Manuel Osorio-Arellanes, 34, who was arrested at the scene of the Terry shootout and faces charges of second-degree murder.

"Fighting criminal activity along the Southwest border -- including the illegal trafficking of guns to Mexico -- has been a priority of this administration and this Department of Justice. The attorney general takes the allegations that have been raised by some ATF agents about the Fast and Furious operation seriously, which is why he has asked the inspector general to investigate the matter," Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said, adding that the department had made it clear that "under no circumstances should guns be allowed to cross the border into Mexico."

In a letter Monday to Issa, ranking House oversight committee member Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) said that pursuing the probe now broke with past committee policy of standing down until criminal prosecutions are complete. "We're all for conducting a responsible investigation to out any wrongdoing," said Ashley Etienne, Democratic committee spokeswoman. "But we can't do it at the expense of bringing these guys to justice."

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

American Muslims Are Victims

That’s the mainstream media’s faith-based narrative and they’re sticking to it.

By Clifford D. May
June 16, 2011

Muslims living in America face bias, discrimination, and persecution. That is the mainstream media’s story and they’re sticking to it — despite the fact that there is no evidence to back it up. You might call it a faith-based narrative.
I’ve written about this before, (for example, here, here, and here), but the most recent example appeared in the Washington Post, kicking off a series on American Muslims pegged to the upcoming tenth anniversary of the atrocities carried out by self-proclaimed Islamic holy warriors on Sept. 11, 2001. Marc Fisher, a veteran journalist whose work I generally admire, profiled Fawaz Ismail, proprietor of a thriving Virginia flag-selling business. Prior to 9/11, he felt so all-American that he called himself “Tony.” But after 9/11, “Ismail felt his adopted homeland pushing him away.”

In what manner? Did people threaten him? Did they hurl racial or religious epithets? Did they boycott his business? Did they throw garbage on his lawn? Did they tell him to get out of the country? Did they call for a ban on Muslim immigrants? Trust me: If anything like that had happened, Fisher would have included it in the story.

But all that happened was what Fisher reports: Ismail had a bad feeling about his fellow Americans. So he “decided to push back.” He stopped calling himself Tony. “A lot of people use a nickname to make it easier for Americans to pronounce,” he says, “but now, I don’t care. They’re going to have to pronounce my name. It’s not that hard — Fah-wahz.”

There was, Fisher explains, “pride in that decision but also a real and still-growing anger” — though not, curiously, directed at the terrorists who incinerated thousands of Tony/Fawaz’s fellow American citizens, justifying such barbarism in the name of his religion and thereby staining it.

No, he is angry at “Americans who assume that anything Islamic is shorthand for terrorism” Who are these Americans? Pres. George W. Bush, who called Islam “a religion of peace”? Pres. Barack H. Obama, who went to Cairo to pay his respects to “the Muslim world”? The many Christian and Jewish groups that have initiated outreach and inter-faith programs in recent years?

Ismail says only: “It’s hard hearing your faith put down all the time as this scary, evil thing.” Fisher helpfully adds: “And hard to endure the cloud of suspicion that American Muslims feel has grown rather than dissipated over the past decade.” There’s that word again: feel. This is all about a feeling, a free-floating sense of victimization, humiliation, and self-pity — its basis in fact is not substantiated in a story that is almost 4,000 words long.

We learn instead about Ismail’s Muslim friends who resort to “sleeping pills and antidepressants . . . I smoke because I’m stressed. Sometimes I wish I was born a Swede.” Yes, who has ever heard of a Swede suffering from angst? They’re all cheery and giggly — you know, like Ingmar Bergman.

Fisher asserts that “every day” American Muslims must cope with “stares, cutting comments, airport humiliations.” And as Washington Post readers surely know, evangelicals, Mormons, and Jews never suffer such indignities. For non-Muslim Americans, the procedures put in place at our airports in response to the jihadi threat are an absolute delight.

Fisher does note that “over the past 18 months alone” American citizens who subscribe to a militant reading of the Koran did carry out a massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, and did attempt to bomb Times Square. Also, there have been “sting operations that led to the arrests of alleged Muslim proto-terrorists” in several cities.

The consequence of all this: “U.S. Muslims have felt compelled to explain.” If that were true, would it really be so cruel and unfair? And, anyway, who has explained what to whom? In Fisher’s story, no one even discusses the links between fundamentalist Islamic theology and bloodshed.

One American Muslim interviewed by Fisher reveals how her family has suffered. In a Virginian supermarket “a woman looked at Sadaf Iqbal’s oldest daughter, 4-year-old Asiyah, and said: ‘She has such beautiful curly hair. It’s a shame she’ll have to cover it up.’ Iqbal, 30, who has covered her hair in public since she was 11, reacted with stunned silence. . . . Iqbal’s husband, Ibrahim Moiz — a 31-year-old Fairfax City lawyer who handles small-business and family cases, often from Northern Virginia’s large, rapidly growing Muslim community — would not have stayed silent. His anger, he says, would have ‘taken control of me.’”

The same day this article came out, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page piece by Yaroslav Trofimov, author of The Siege of Mecca, a book that must be read by anyone who hopes to understand modern jihadi movements. The piece he filed from Egypt reported on Coptic Christians. They, too, are feeling persecuted. But for Egyptian Christians it’s not just a feeling. Islamic militants set fire to Ayman Anwar Mitri’s home. When he went inside, they beat him with the charred remains of his furniture. Then they cut off his ear with a box cutter. Not to worry. Qureishi Salama, an Egyptian Islamist leader, tells Trofimov: “Only those Christians who did something wrong should be fearful.” If such treatment of Christians in Egypt — as well as the oppression of religious and ethnic minorities throughout the Muslim world — troubles the American Muslims interviewed by Fisher, we don’t hear about it.

It happens that I read both the Trofimov and Fisher articles while attending a conference on counterterrorism in the Canadian capital of Ottawa. Two of the speakers at the conference were practicing Muslims. Neither complained about their feelings; neither told us they were taking anti-depressants or smoking.

Instead, Salim Mansur, an author and professor at the University of Western Ontario, emphasized how serious is the threat posed to Canada, America, and Europe because, he said, “jihadism is a means to snuff out the democratic experiment.”

Raheel Raza is an award-winning writer, diversity consultant, and grassroots activist. She’s been seen on both American and Canadian television arguing that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and other Muslims who insist on building a mosque at Ground Zero in New York are, at the very least, grossly insensitive. She is concerned about the “hundreds of Islamic schools training young Muslims to become jihadis and terrorists.”

Near the very end of his article, Fisher does quote an American Muslim who “heard an imam — ‘a guy with a long beard and a Saudi dagger’ — teach that music is forbidden and dancing is forbidden and boys and girls should be educated separately. ‘I went to this imam’s board members and I said, ‘Look at what you’re shoving into your children.’ There were 700 people in that room listening to that crazy guy. And the board members said, ‘Yes, we know, but we don’t know what to do.’”

Why don’t they know what to do? Is the problem that it would be dangerous to stand up to such an imam? Or does the imam come not just with a Saudi dagger but also with Saudi money that’s difficult to refuse? The story provides not a clue.

Perhaps that’s because reporting on those whose reading of the Koran not only justifies but demands the spilling of infidel and apostate blood might distract from the authorized narrative of American Muslims as victims.

They’re angry about it and their anger, we’ve been warned, may “take control” of them. So someone needs to change his ways — and that would be you. That’s the mainstream media’s story and they’re sticking to it.

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism and political Islam. 


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today's Tune: Del McCoury Band - High on a Mountain (Live)

Against the ATM Scourge

Productivity is not the enemy.

In his eventful Today show interview this morning, President Obama advanced this penetrating insight to explain why unemployment has been hovering between 9% and 10% throughout his presidency:
“There are some structural issues with our economy, where a lot of businesses have learned to become much more efficient with a lot fewer workers. You see it when you go to a bank and you use an ATM, you don’t go to a bank teller… or you go to the airport and you use a kiosk instead of checking in at the gate. So all these things have created changes.”
As Rush Limbaugh observed, we had lots of ATMs during the Bush years, and his unemployment rate was half of Obama’s. Did the number of automated tellers and airline ticket machines double since 2008?
Besides groping for any possible excuse to evade responsibility for skyrocketing unemployment, Obama’s comments represent the convergence of two lines of populist liberal thought. One is the Left’s curious conviction that people absolutely hate ATM machines, based on the occasional round of complaints that fees for using the machines are too high. I suspect most people would be far more upset if automated tellers were not readily available – a distinct possibility, given legislative attempts to cap the amount of money banks can charge for debit card transactions. Price controls always come with a reduction in quality.
The other, much older, criticism Obama raises is the fear of productivity, which is part of the Left’s overall critique of capitalism. Machines are cheaper than people; businessmen want to reduce cost, and do not care about people; therefore, they can’t wait to automate and fire everyone in sight. 
This betrays a deep misunderstanding of the power of productivity. Machines don’t really “replace” human employees. They make humans more productive. ATM machines allow banks to service their customers with many more convenient locations – a machine built into the wall of a grocery store, or located in a small booth, can provide easy access to funds for customers. 
Is every 20 or 30 ATMs roughly equivalent to one bank office that doesn’t need to be built, and staffed with human tellers? It doesn’t really work that way. ATMs increase the productivity of the existing bank staff. If they didn’t exist, the banks wouldn’t be making a lot of big investments in bricks, mortar, and tellers. Instead, people would drive further to get their money, spend more time standing in line, and arrange their affairs so they didn’t have to go to the bank as often. If you’re not old enough to remember what that was like, watch movies from the 60s and 70s, and look for scenes set in banks.
Increased productivity doesn’t destroy jobs, any more than the development of automobiles put the people who make buggy whips out of work for the rest of their lives. We would not have achieved such low unemployment rates during periods of great technological progress otherwise. Freed human capital is not automatically wasted human capital… provided opportunity can be accessed with relative ease.
To put it simply, if automation “wipes out” a number of jobs, and a given company cannot find new purposes for its displaced workers, some of them will create new businesses in pursuit of new opportunities. A huge economy brimming with resources and consumers provides plenty of opportunity. This natural flow is interrupted, and the overflow of unemployment results, when forming new business ventures and hiring employees becomes too difficult. High labor costs and regulations create such barriers. Introduce high licensing fees for lemonade stands, and there will be fewer lemonade stands.
The other factor that can stymie the pursuit of opportunity is a lack of capital. Investors don’t provide capital when they know their investments can be destroyed through capricious government action, including government support for politically-connected competitors. They also make fewer investments when they know their profits will be taxed away. If anything, the lack of machinery – equipment, property, fuel for transportation and delivery costs – thwarts job growth.
This is all common sense to anyone who isn’t prepared to make silly arguments like “ATMs cause high unemployment.”

John Hayward is a staff writer for HUMAN EVENTS, and author of the recently published Doctor Zero: Year One. Follow him on Twitter: Doc_0. Contact him by email at

PJM Exclusive: Georgetown U. Received $325,000 Funneled Through Terror Front Group

Internal emails and faxes document the university’s collusion with the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference to promote criminalizing “Islamophobia.”
June 14, 2011 - 12:10 am - by Patrick Poole

Georgetown University has some explaining to do based on documents obtained exclusively by PJM from a confidential law enforcement source. The documents reveal a scheme to pass $325,000 through the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has been identified by the FBI as a front for the Hamas terrorist organization. The money was paid to Georgetown by the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to promote its “Islamophobia” agenda, which includes its stated international objective of criminalizing any criticism of Islam.
Even more troubling: evidence that Georgetown is not the only American university to cooperate with CAIR and the OIC in their joint plan to subvert the First Amendment right to free speech.

The plot was apparently initiated in 2006 by discussions between the OIC, CAIR, and Georgetown’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (CMCU). An email dated November 20, 2006, sent from OIC permanent observer to the UN Abdul Wahab to Nihad Awad and Hadia Mubarak — a CAIR board member and Georgetown CMCU “senior researcher” — urged them to expedite arrangements. The email also promised that funds would be transferred to Georgetown as soon as the OIC received a letter from John Esposito, director of Georgetown’s CMCU.

Abdul Wahab’s email was followed up with a January 11, 2007, joint letter from CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad and John Esposito, which is referenced in a January 15, 2007, letter of reply from OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (the letter is misdated as 2006). The letter offered $325,000 in cash from the OIC to finance an “Islamophobia” symposium to be convened at Georgetown University.

The OIC is the second largest intergovernmental body in the world behind the United Nations. It comprises every Islamic country in the world at the head of state level. OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu said last year that the OIC functions as the Islamic global caliphate and embodies the “Islamic solidarity” of the ummah. Included as an agenda item in the OIC’s 10 year plan — stated in English on their own website — is to push for the international criminalization of Islamophobia (1.VII), in defiance of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights protections of freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Georgetown’s CMCU was endowed in December 2005 by a $20 million grant from Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, one of the richest men in the world, who also gave another $20 million for a similar center at Harvard. Back in February 2008, I wrote about the extremist Wahhabi agenda that the center actively promotes. Congressman Frank Wolf has also written to Georgetown President John DeGioia expressing concerns about the potential Saudi influence of U.S. government foreign service personnel trained at the university. Wolf also queried whether the CMCU had ever written anything critical of the Saudis’ abysmal record on human rights, religious freedom, freedom of expression, women’s rights, minority rights, protection of foreign workers, due process, and the rule of law. Needless to say, they haven’t.

John Esposito, the CMCU’s director, described Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Sami Al-Arian at an August 2007 CAIR fundraiser in Dallas as “a good friend of mine,” even hiring Al-Arian’s son Abdullah as a researcher for the center. Esposito’s protégé, Hadia Mubarak, who now operates as a researcher at the Gallup Poll’s Muslim World project, is a virulent bigot who has gone so far as accusing other Muslims as having “a deep hatred of Islam” for daring to criticize American Islamic organizations and institutions that are Saudi-financed and promote their extremist Wahhabi agenda — such as the Georgetown CMCU.

During the period when this scheme came together, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case — the largest terrorism financing trial in American history. Not coincidentally, Esposito served as a defense witness in that trial. His testimony was apparently unpersuasive, as the defendants were convicted on all 108 charges and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. During that trial, FBI Special Agent Lara Burns testified that CAIR was a front for the terrorist group Hamas. Admittedly mirroring the agenda of the OIC, and presumably its aim to criminalize the defamation of Islam, CAIR has established an observatory for “Islamophobia.” CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad spoke last year at an OIC conference on Islamophobia held in Brazil. Nihad Awad was personally named an unindicted co-conspirator, along with his organization, in the Holy Land Foundation trial and is identified in federal wiretaps of a top-level Hamas meeting held in Philadelphia in 1993.

This symbiotic relationship between the OIC, Georgetown, and CAIR is expressed in their unity to promote the OIC’s “Islamophobia” agenda. But the attempts to pull off the Georgetown conference to that end experienced some setbacks, according to additional documents obtained from our law enforcement source.

A letter dated July 19, 2007, from OIC official Sukru Tujan to Nihad Awad and then-CAIR chairman Parvez Ahmed directed them to transfer $62,100 to Georgetown for costs associated with a scheduled September 20, 2007, workshop and speech at the university by OIC Secretary General Ihsanoglu (his speech can be found on Georgetown’s website). The letter also asked for the prompt return of the remainder of the $325,000 to the OIC, as the conference could not be organized in 2007. The letter notes this arrangement had previously been discussed, probably at the meeting between Awad and Ihsanoglu in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, at OIC headquarters two weeks before where they discussed joint OIC-CAIR projects.

But CAIR chairman Ahmed replied with a letter to Ihsangolu dated July 27, 2007, complaining that returning the remainder of the $325,000 to the OIC would hinder their efforts to organize a joint symposium at a later date. He also noted that they already incurred $19,700 in expenses for the event. A faxed reply from Ihsangolu dated July 20, 2007, cited auditing requirements for the return of the money and concerns that another partner may need to be found, possibly due to CAIR’s legal and media troubles at the time.

Notwithstanding that dispute and the delay in organizing the proposed “Islamophobia” symposium, the three organizations continue to jointly push their shared agenda. Both John Esposito and CAIR-Chicago Executive Director Ahmed Rehab were scheduled to speak at an OIC conference held at the American Islamic College in Chicago last September.

And other American universities have lined up to promote the OIC “Islamophobia” agenda, most recently the University of California, Berkeley, which hosted the “Islamophobia Production and Redefining the Global ‘Security’ Agenda for the 21st Century” just this past April. That UC Berkeley conference was co-sponsored by the OIC’s Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IESCO) and CAIR, and featured IESCO representative Papa Toumane Ndiaey and CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad as speakers.

The documents we are presenting here for the first time put the lie to CAIR’s repeated claims that they have never received foreign funding, and their denials that they promote the extremist agenda of hostile foreign nations. This, however, is hardly breaking news.

That some of America’s top universities are actively colluding with the Islamic foreign governments — most of whom have refused to sign the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights — is troubling enough. But signing onto and openly promoting the OIC’s stated agenda of criminalizing “Islamophobia” puts them in direct opposition to the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protections, and raises serious questions about their eligibility for public funding.

This is clearly an issue for Congress to investigate immediately.

Patrick Poole is a regular contributor to Pajamas Media, and an anti-terrorism consultant to law enforcement and the military.