Saturday, August 27, 2011

For Glen Campbell, the past is a present

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY
August 25, 2011

"Wichita Lineman". "Galveston". "By the Time I Get to Phoenix". "Rhinestone Cowboy". Glen Campbell's country and pop hits stand among the most memorable in the American songbook.

Except to him. Seated in a sunlit parlor, he strikes up "Gentle on My Mind", muscle memory driving his fingers across the guitar strings. He flubs the lyrics in the second verse, lost and confounded.

"Dang, what comes next?" he says.

That's a question worrying his family, fans, friends and peers. Campbell, 75, was diagnosed early this year with Alzheimer's, an incurable, memory-crippling disease with varying rates of degeneration. On a recent afternoon after a morning of golf, the genial Campbell is upbeat, enthusiastic and mentally crisp about his childhood days and early career highlights but often repetitive and sporadically foggy, especially regarding recent events.

He disclosed his illness in June, along with word of a prolonged farewell. His final album, the powerful, heartrending Ghost on the Canvas, arrives Tuesday, and the Glen Campbell Goodbye Tour will take him around the world one last time (most dates are planned for 2012). Four of his eight children are in his touring band.

"I like to play and sing, and I have the people I love around me, and that's why I'm doing it," Campbell says, beaming as he recalls a triumphant 22-song concert July 15 in Biloxi, Miss., the first since revealing his condition. "It was wonderful! The acoustics were just right. I was grinning like a dog passing peach seeds."

He's sitting on a couch in the living room of the spacious Mediterranean home he and his fourth wife, Kim, 53, bought six years ago after living in Phoenix for 23 years. Their dogs, a giant schnauzer named Kona and huge German shepherd J.J., are sprawled nearby. Campbell suggests Ghost may not be his swan song. "I'm only 75," he says with a laugh. "I still want to do an album called Old Folks' Songs."

One reason for such optimism may be his perhaps fortunate inability to retain the bad news he has been told over and over. Far from traumatized, he vacillates between blasé and oblivious about his diagnosis.

"I have what?" he says. "Hall-zymers? Do I? I don't know."

His wife, Kim, interjects, "Or, as we like to call it, 'part-timers.' That's why you're forgetting things."

Campbell nods. "Oh, yeah, it has helped me more than anything. Some things I don't want to remember. That's how I look at it now."

Ghost's deeply personal song cycle, with original songs provided by such modern admirers as Jakob Dylan, Paul Westerberg and Teddy Thompson, was produced by Julian Raymond, who plucked lyrics for five songs from conversations with Campbell. Players ranging from Dick Dale and Chris Isaak to Billy Corgan and the Dandy Warhols lined up to accompany their hero.

Raymond also produced 2008's cover collection, Meet Glen Campbell, which sold a modest 24,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Predecessor Love Is the Answer: 24 Songs of Faith, Hope and Love (2004) sold a paltry 5,000. Despite early success that racked up 21 top 40 hits, nine No. 1 country albums and sales of 45 million records, Campbell has enjoyed few chart triumphs since the '70s, selling 1.2 million albums in the SoundScan era (since 1991).

That could change. Many liken Ghost's brave, devastating tunes to the creative rebound by an ailing Johnny Cash at Rick Rubin's American Recordings label in the mid-'90s. Early reviews are laudatory, and Campbell's ailment has triggered a reassessment of his remarkable catalog.

His secret sideman history

Raymond marvels at Campbell's buried résumé as a sideman, especially with the Wrecking Crew session band that backed scores of hitmakers, fleshed out Phil Spector's "Wall of Sound" and served as the house band for 1964's fabled all-star concert The T.A.M.I. Show.

"Those guys could go from one radical style to the other, from Nat King Cole and The Monkees to Sonny and Cher," Raymond says. "Can you imagine being in a room when he recorded 'Good Vibrations' or 'Strangers in the Night'? Not to mention his own great songs. It's amazing the history he's had."

Campbell's impaired memory did not hamper his drive or skills, says Raymond, stressing their intention to craft a record true to the singer's personality and sound. "Glen picked songs he enjoyed, stuff he was lyrically drawn to. Everyone involved wanted to make not just a good record, but a good Glen Campbell record."

In the studio, Campbell "doesn't just go in and perform a song," Raymond says. "He puts his stamp on it. He treats songs the way a producer does. He speeds up the tempo. He's got cool guitar ideas. He makes changes in arrangements and lyrics."

Campbell, tan and trim in a Western shirt, jeans and brown suede cowboy boots, recalls little about Ghost's creation but speaks enthusiastically about his childhood and glory days.

"I'll tell you, my dad played and sang, and it didn't take me long to figure out that playing a guitar was a whole lot better than getting ahold of a hoe handle or chopping cotton, man," says Campbell, who was born to sharecroppers in tiny Delight, Ark. "I listened to a battery radio, old country and pop stuff. Because I was singing all the time, my dad bought me a $7.50 guitar. My sister still has that old guitar. I'll have to get that next time I see her.

"We lived on the farm, and our mode of transportation was wagon and team. No electricity. I'm the seventh son of 12 kids — eight boys and four girls. Mom and Dad handled that very well. But I wanted to get out."

Campbell knocked around the Southwest playing in bands before he headed to Los Angeles and found session work. The self-taught guitarist couldn't read music, but Campbell's playing was immaculate (modeled largely after jazz pioneer Django Reinhardt, "the most awesome player I ever heard"), and he possessed a sterling tenor and broad range. He was clearly bound for greatness but in no hurry for solo fame.

"I enjoyed that more than any time in my career," he says of his low-profile sideman gigs. "I was really in demand. I could put on a capo (a fret brace to raise the string pitch) and play anything. I was playing with the best folks in the world. They were wonderful. I played with the Beach Boys when Brian (Wilson) had his feet in the sandbox writing Pet Sounds.

"I did 'Viva Las Vegas' with Elvis. We were both from the sticks. What a talent. Frank Sinatra was wonderful. He always said, 'Hey, good job, guys.' And Dean Martin was my favorite. I was floating on cloud nine. To play with that caliber of musicians, it really opened my eyes and made my playing better."

Kim reminds him of jingles he did, and Campbell brightens.

"Oh, yeah, commercials paid good, too!" he says and starts singing, "Is it true blondes have more fun? Look at her go, look at her go! Lady Clairol blonde!"

They giggle, then Kim prods him to do his impression of John Wayne, who drafted Campbell for 1969's True Grit.

"Can you imagine walking in and doing a Western with John Wayne?" Campbell says, eyes wide. "I wasn't an actor! John said, 'Don't worry about it.' He was great: 'Aw, come on, cowboy!' I could ride horses, but they got me on the smallest horse they could find. It looked like a Shetland pony."

The movie theme, sung by Campbell, was the first country song nominated for an Oscar. Told it lost to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", he cracks, "Oh, that stupid thing. I remember now."

He broke through as a solo artist with 1967's "Gentle on My Mind", then "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" and his favorite, "Wichita Lineman", one of several Campbell hits written by Jimmy Webb.

"I got chill bumps the first time I heard it," Campbell says, solemnly quoting a verse. "I said, 'If this song ain't a hit, I'm going back to picking cotton.' That's a killer song, not just because old Glen Campbell is singing it."

But Campbell sold it, Kim insists, telling him, "A lot of people had recorded Jimmy Webb songs before, but they weren't hits until you sang them."

Campbell grins at the former Radio City Music Hall Rockette he met on a blind date in 1981 and married in 1982. "She's the one who kept Glen Campbell going," he says. "I've been so blessed with her. A wonderful woman. You don't go away kicking yourself. She really showed me that.

"What causes more pain than anything is people lying or cheating. When you look back, wow, some of the stupid things you do."

Clean living, clear loving

Ghost's poignant "Strong" and "There's No Me … Without You" address Campbell's devotion to Kim, who helped him overcome his drug and booze sprees. He sobered up by 1987 but relapsed and was arrested for hit-and-run in Phoenix in 2003, spending 10 days in jail after pleading guilty to drunken driving. Tests during a subsequent stint in the Betty Ford Center detected mild cognitive impairment, but his condition didn't deteriorate until last year.

He attributes his undiminished vocal skills to "no alcohol, stupid drugs or whatever" in recent years. "I realized I could play and sing, and I'd be stupid to waste it. I had to grow up."

He's happy to lose flashbacks of defeat and misdeeds. As the light dims, what memory does he cling to?

"My mom and dad," Campbell says somberly. "They raised 12 kids in the middle of nothing. We went to pick tomatoes at harvests in Indiana. The whole family. That was our big cash flow for the year.

"You learn to work hard. You learn not to be an evil person. I would give that lesson to the world."

Joey Vento: Assimilation Warrior

By Michelle Malkin • August 26, 2011 11:47 AM

On Tuesday, I gave you the sad news about the passing of Joey Vento. My column below pays tribute to a true American patriot and assimilation warrior.

Via Philly blogger Tania Gale, here are details for Vento’s funeral tomorrow if you happen to be in the area:

All are invited to pay their final respects to Joey on Saturday, August 27 from 9-11:45 AM at the Cathederal of Saints Peter and Paul, 18th and the Parkway, Philadelphia, PA.

A Mass of Christian Burial will immediately follow the viewing at 12 Noon. Longtime Vento friend and vocal supporter, WPHT TalkShow Host Dom Giordano, has been invited to give a eulogy.

In addition to his entrepreneurship and political activism, Vento was also a passionate philanthropist who raised money for the needy and families of slain police officers. He touched more people than he’ll ever know. In Key West, Florida, Pat Croce’s Rum Barrel restaurant is holding a cheesesteak fund-raiser in Vento’s honor. The details for those in Florida:

On Thursday, August 25, through Friday, August 26, The Rum Barrel will donate 50 percent of proceeds from sales of our signature Philly cheesesteaks to Joey’s foundation, which donated generously to the American Cancer Society and Philadelphia policemen killed in the line of duty.

“We don’t have that many great personalities in Philly and Joey Vento was one of them. He was larger than life and he was giving. The Earth literally shook the day Joey passed,” said Rum Barrel owner Pat Croce, referring to the earthquake that also rocked the East Coast Tuesday.

Joey was the kind of man, who after 9/11, held a 3-day fundraising marathon and raised $120,000, who often tracked down and sent checks to unemployed families or terminally ill children after reading about them in the newspaper. This is what we honor this week.

“I read story after story about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Joey Vento raised and donated out of his own pocket, many times anonymously, to complete strangers in need,” said Rum Barrel General Manager JC Picco. “It’s a privilege to honor a man who helped so many.”

The Philly cheesesteaks are available at The Rum Barrel’s restaurant and via the Key West Food-To-Go delivery service by calling (305) 292-7862 to order.

God bless Joey Vento and his family!


Joey Vento, Assimilation Warrior

by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

Vento famously caused a national stir in 2006 when he posted a sign outside his shop demanding his customers to speak English. (Matt Rourke/AP)

Blunt. Brash. Bold. Politically incorrect. Unapologetically patriotic. Philadelphia cheese-steak king Joey Vento was all that and a side of freedom fries. The 71-year-old owner of Geno’s Steaks died of a heart attack this week, but he reignited a national debate over radical multiculturalism that will burn for years to come.

Five years ago, Vento garnered national headlines when a local newspaper profiled his outspoken views on customers who couldn’t speak English. He hung a sign in his order window that read: “This is America. When ordering, speak English.” Though he never turned anyone away, the grandson of Italian immigrants informed hungry patrons that he reserved the “right to refuse service” to those he couldn’t understand.

No menus in 10 different languages. No dumbed-down pictographs for the idiocracy. The choice at Geno’s is simple: Sink or swim. Learn English or eat somewhere else. “If you can’t tell me what you want, I can’t serve you,” Vento told the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s up to you. If you can’t read, if you can’t say the word ‘cheese,’ how can I communicate with you — and why should I have to bend? I got a business to run.”

Vento’s refusal to coddle triggered a tsunami of complaints from self-appointed civil rights leaders. The ululations of the aggrieved resounded from sea to whining sea.

For exercising his constitutionally protected free speech, both the Philadelphia City Council and Philadelphia Human Relations Commission launched political inquisitions against Vento. Yes, it really happened in the home of Independence Hall. Members of the government bodies demanded that Vento remove his bald eagle-adorned sign and threatened to revoke his business license. After 21 months of investigation, a marathon seven-hour hearing and hysterical testimony likening his innocuous 4-inch-by-9-inch sign to “Jim Crow laws,” he was cleared of discrimination charges.

Plainspoken as ever, Vento understood full well why the multi-culti mob wanted to gag him: “I say what everybody’s thinking but is afraid to say.”

As a fellow Philly-born loudmouth, I cheered Vento on for years during his battles with the anti-assimilationists. He weathered the same old slings, arrows and accusations of being a “racist,” “xenophobe,” “nativist” and immigrant-basher — despite the fact that generations of assimilated immigrants and naturalized Americans agree with him. The vast majority of Americans support English as the official language of the United States. Latino parents in California revolted against “bilingual education” mandates that stuck their kids in Spanish-only classes.
Generations of successful immigrant families in America know English is the language of success, not the language of oppression. Yet, politicians in both parties have pandered ceaselessly to the language-Balkanizers.

The Clinton administration gave us Executive Order 13166, effectively requiring all government agencies to provide translations into any language on demand. Rather than rescind the order, the Bush administration went after localities and forced them to provide foreign language materials. In 2004, the Bush administration ordered Harris County, Texas, to provide all voter registration and election information and supplies, including the voting machine ballot, in Vietnamese, as well as English and Spanish.

Under the Obama administration, the Department of Justice threatened to cut off federal funding to the state of Oklahoma over a state constitutional amendment proposal to designate English as its official language. The Obama DOJ also has ordered my home state of Colorado to protect the interests of “language minority populations” by funding free translators for any foreigners — legal or illegal — who sue in civil cases here. In the same vein, the Philadelphia Human Rights Commission that tried to silence Vento distributes pamphlets asking “Are you a victim of discrimination?” in seven languages.

“Progressive” politicians pandering for votes treat non-English speakers as hopeless victims of white hegemony, instead of beneficiaries of the American dream. By contrast, small-business man Joey Vento promoted a common culture, a common tongue and common sense. We need more assimilation warriors like him to challenge the infantilizing Babel Lobby.


Joey Vento, R.I.P.
Joey Vento takes on the cowards
A win for Geno’s
“This is America. When ordering, speak English.”
The attack on Geno’s
Geno’s says: Speak English

Depraved but not Deprived

Not enough Westerners do not enough productive work for not enough of our lives

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
August 26, 2011

Police officers apprehend a suspect in south London, Thursday Aug. 11, 2011, during a series of raids to recover property stolen during the recent civil disturbances.(AP Photo/Glenn Copus, Evening Standard, pool)

Unlike many of my comrades in the punditry game, I don't do a lot of TV. But I'm currently promoting my latest doom-mongering bestseller so I'm spending more time than usual on the telly circuit. This week I was on the BBC's current-affairs flagship "Newsnight." My moment in the spotlight followed a report on the recent riots in English cities, in the course of which an undercover reporter interviewed various rioters from Manchester who'd had a grand old time setting their city ablaze and expressed no remorse over it. There then followed a studio discussion, along the usual lines. The host introduced a security guard who'd fought for Queen and country in Afghanistan and Bosnia and asked whether he sympathized with his neighbors. He did. When you live in an "impoverished society," he said, "people do what they have to do to survive."

When we right-wing madmen make our twice-a-decade appearance on mainstream TV, we're invariably struck by how narrow are the bounds of acceptable discourse in polite society. But in this instance I was even more impressed by how liberal pieties triumph even over the supposed advantages of the medium. Television, we're told, favors strong images – Nixon sweaty and unshaven, Kennedy groomed and glamorous, etc. But, in this instance, the security guard's analysis, shared by three-quarters of the panel, was entirely at odds with the visual evidence: There was no "impoverished society." The preceding film had shown a neat subdivision of pleasant red-brick maisonettes set in relatively landscaped grounds. There was grass, and it looked maintained. Granted, it was not as bucolic as my beloved New Hampshire, but, compared to the brutalized concrete bunkers in which the French and the Swedes entomb their seething Muslim populations, it was nothing to riot over. Nonetheless, someone explained that these riotous Mancunian youth were growing up in "deprivation," and the rioters themselves seemed disposed to agree. Like they say in "West Side Story," "I'm depraved on account of I'm deprived." We've so accepted the correlation that we don't even notice that they're no longer deprived, but they are significantly more depraved.

In fact, these feral youth live better than 90 percent of the population of the planet. They certainly live better than their fellow youths halfway around the world who go to work each day in factories across China and India to make the cool electronic toys young Westerners expect to enjoy as their birthright. In Britain, as in America and Europe, the young take it for granted that this agreeable division of responsibilities is as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky: Rajiv and Suresh in Bangalore make the state-of-the-art gizmo, Kevin and Ron in Birmingham get to play with it. That's just the way it is. And, because that's the way it is, Kevin and Ron and the welfare state that attends their every need assume 'twill always be so.

To justify their looting, the looters appealed to the conventional desperation-of-deprivation narrative: They'd "do anything to get more money." Anything, that is, except get up in the morning, put on a clean shirt and go off to do a day's work. That concept is all but unknown to the homes in which these guys were raised. Indeed, "Newsnight" immediately followed the riot discussion with a report on immigration to Britain from Eastern Europe. Any tourist in London quickly accepts that, unless he hails a cab or gets mugged, he will never be served by a native Londoner: Polish baristas, Balkan waitresses, but, until the mob shows up to torch his hotel, not a lot of Cockneys. A genial Member of Parliament argued that the real issue underlying the riots is "education and jobs," but large numbers of employers seem to have concluded that, if you've got a job to offer, the best person to give it to is someone with the least exposure to a British education.

The rioters, meanwhile, have a crude understanding of how the system works. The proprietor of a Bang & Olufsen franchise revealed that the looters had expressed mystification as to why he objected to them stealing his goods. After all, he was insured, wasn't he? So the insurance would pay for his stolen TVs and DVD players, wouldn't it? The notion that, ultimately, someone has to pay for the insurance seemed to elude them, in the same way it seems to elude our elites that ultimately someone has to pay for Britain's system of "National Insurance" – or what Canada calls "Social Insurance" and America calls "Social Security."

The problem for the Western world is that it has incentivized nonproductivity on an industrial scale. For large numbers at the lower end of the spectrum (still quaintly referred to by British reporters as "working class") the ritual of work – of lifetime employment as a normal feature of life – has been all but bred out by multigenerational dependency. At the upper end of the spectrum, too many of us seem to regard an advanced Western society as the geopolitical version of a lavishly endowed charitable foundation that funds somnolent programming on NPR. I was talking to a trustiefundie Vermont student the other day who informed me her ambition is to "work for a non-profit."

"What kind of ambition is that?" I said, a little bewildered. But she meant it, and so do most of her friends. Doesn't care particularly what kind of "non-profit" it is: As long as no profits are involved, she's eager to run up a six-figure college debt for a piece of the non-action. The entire state of Vermont is becoming a non-profit. And so in a certain sense is an America that's 15 trillion dollars in the hole, and still cheerfully spending away.

In between the non-profit class and the non-working class, we have diverted too much human capital into a secure and undemanding bureaucracy-for-life: President Barack Obama has further incentivized statism as a career through his education "reforms," under which anyone who goes into "public service" will have their college loans forgiven after 10 years.


As I point out in my book, in the last six decades the size of America's state and local government workforce has increased over three times faster than the general population. Yet Obama says it's still not enough: The bureaucracy needs even more of our manpower. Up north, Canada is currently undergoing a festival of mawkish sub-Princess Di grief-feasting over the death from cancer of the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition. Jack Layton's career is most instructive. He came from a family of successful piano manufacturers – in 1887 H A Layton was presented with a prize for tuning by Queen Victoria's daughter. But by the time Jack came along the family's private-sector wealth-creation gene had been pretty much tuned out for good: He was a career politician, so is his wife, and his son. They're giving him a state funeral because being chair of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative is apparently more admirable than being chairman of Layton Bros Pianos Ltd.

Again: Why?

The piano manufacturer pays for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, not the other way round. The private sector pays for the Vermont non-profits and the Manchester rioters and the entire malign alliance of the statism class and the dependency class currently crushing the Western world. America, Britain, Canada and Europe are operating on a defective business model: Not enough of us do not enough productive work for not enough of our lives. The numbers are a symptom, but the real problem, in the excuses for Manchester, in the obsequies in Ottawa, in the ambitions of Vermont, is the waste of human capital.


Friday, August 26, 2011

PSU women's volleyball is back at No. 1 spot

By Associated Press
Friday, August 26, 2011

Coach Russ Rose's Penn State club starts the 2011 season this weekend where the 2010 campaign ended — as the No. 1 team in the country.
(Associated Press)

UNIVERSITY PARK — Setter Kristin Carpenter slowly walked out of the locker room, her voice hoarse after doing a lot of yelling at Penn State practice.

Keeping a women's volleyball dynasty going is a tiring job.

That's four straight national titles now for the Nittany Lions, the measuring-stick program for the sport following the unprecedented run of success. Coach Russ Rose's club starts the 2011 season this weekend where the 2010 campaign ended — as the No. 1 team in the country, though a roster overhaul could make the drive for five straight crowns a tough task.

Is this the year the talent gap finally closes between Penn State and everybody else?

"I think everybody focuses on you when you're winning like this, so it will definitely close," Southern California coach Mick Haley said in a phone interview. The Trojans, ranked second in the American College Volleyball Association coaches poll, can make an early statement Saturday when they play Penn State in Happy Valley in a marquee, opening-weekend tournament.

Haley likened Penn State's dominating run to UCLA's seven straight national titles in men's basketball (1966-1973) under iconic coach John Wooden.

"But no one likes it when someone wins it all the time," Haley joked, "except for Yankees fans."

When last seen on the court, the Nittany Lions were jumping for joy after a three-set sweep of California at the NCAA finals in Kansas City. Several key players from that team have turned in their blue-and-white uniforms, most notably the player of the year, Blair Brown.

Also gone is middle hitter Arielle Wilson, who formed an imposing one-two punch on the front line with Brown. The toughest losses to overcome might be libero Alyssa D'Errico and defensive specialist Cathy Quilico, who provided veteran leadership on the back row.

The roster is a lot younger, including five freshman and two redshirt freshman. No wonder Carpenter's voice was so hoarse from barking out direction.

"With so many (younger players) on the roster," the junior said, "it's expected. We're young. We still have an opportunity to be successful. We have to be smart and eliminate those rookie mistakes, which trust me, I know all too well from last year."

Not that Penn State is bereft of talent — not even close.

The energetic Carpenter returns, along with Deja McClendon, Katie Slay and Ariel Scott, three front-line players who will be expected to step up after making sizable contributions as freshmen last year. The two seniors, outside hitter Katie Kabbes and defensive specialist Megan Shifflet, may need to emerge after three seasons as reserves.

Rose, who tells it like it is, doesn't quite understand how his team could be picked the preseason favorite.

"We won the last four national championships. I'm aware of that," Rose said. "It's unbelievable. Nobody's ever done that before. Does that mean that this group is the No. 1 group in the country? It doesn't make sense to think that's how it works."

Haley said he puts "zero stock" in preseason polls himself. Though he does have an idea why Penn State is No. 1.

"Russ knows why he's No. 1," Haley said. "He's No. 1 because everybody wants to beat him."

The Nittany Lions learned a lesson last year after a 109-match win streak ended in September in a loss to Stanford. It was the second-longest streak in Division I team sports, behind only the 137 straight match wins by Miami men's tennis from 1957-1964.

Four more losses followed in the Big Ten. There were doubts about the Nittany Lions in December when the NCAA tournament began, but they spiked their way to the top, again.

"They've figured out how to be great in December. They had two back-to-back, really strong recruiting classes," Nebraska coach John Cook said. "Russ is a great coach. They have tradition in that program.

"I don't think the gap is that far. I mean, they lost at Indiana, they lost at Illinois and they lost at Minnesota. ... It's not like they're just dominating and going undefeated. But they have had remarkable runs in the NCAA tournament."

And those runs are part of the reason why a sport rooted on the sand beaches of southern California has developed a following far away from the West Coast, from Nebraska to Penn State, and Texas to Florida. Penn State's roster includes players from North Carolina, Indiana and Oklahoma.

"Whatever it is, we're hot, and we've been hot for some time. That leads right into the collegiate game," Haley said. "Right now there are 40 teams that one way or another can get to the final four."

Once again, though, Penn State is the preseason favorite.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tehran’s American Hostages

Posted By Ryan Mauro
August 25, 2011

Iran imprisoned three American hikers in July 2009 for crossing into the country, releasing one for health reasons in September after being paid a $500,000 bail. Now, the remaining two have been sentenced to eight years in prison for allegedly being American spies. There is speculation that they will be released at the end of Ramadan, which will be predictably touted by the regime as proof of its good will and mercy. If they are not, Iran must be warned that the U.S. will not look the other way as its innocent citizens are imprisoned.

The three victims are Josh Fattal, an environmental and health activist; Shane Bauer, a freelance journalist; and Sarah Shourd, an English teacher for Iraqi refugees in Damascus and Bauer’s fiancé. They are 28, 29 and 32 years old, respectively. These young adventurers are admirable citizens, seeking to make a career out of helping others around the world. In the summer of 2009, they took a trip together to Iraqi Kurdistan to go hiking and see the country’s beautiful mountainous region.

The group was not on an ill-advised trip to a danger zone. Thousands of tourists visit the beautiful and peaceful area every year, including friends of the three. Kurdistan is a bright spot in Iraq, enjoying economic prosperity, relative stability and democracy since being protected from Saddam Hussein. The Kurdish Regional Government proudly boasts that no American has been attacked in the region. Fattal, Bauer and Shourd had no reason to expect what would happen to them.

On July 31, 2009, the three walked off of a path near a waterfall and soon found themselves being held by Iranian police for crossing into their country. The Americans begged for their lives when their captors cocked their weapons, leading them to believe they were about to be executed. They were brought to Evin Prison, known as a torture house for its treatment of the Iranian regime’s worst enemies. The regime’s interrogators act on the most horrifying impulses in mankind, using every method to break the will of the imprisoned.

It was seven months before Shourd was permitted to call her family. Fattal and Bauer have only been allowed three phone calls so far. When the group’s mothers visited them in May 2010, their visit was limited to two days. Shourd bravely went on a hunger strike to protest their treatment. Her captors offered to release her if she admitted to being a U.S. spy, and warned her she’d lose her life if she spoke about what went on inside Evin Prison. One of the guards said he’d personally sign her death warrant. She was ultimately released in September 2010 for medical reasons after having a $500,000 bail posted for her.

When Shourd came back home, she said that her male companions had been beaten. Fattal took more food that he was permitted, and was thrown down the stairs as punishment. In another incident, Bauer was thrown into the wall of his jail cell until his head started bleeding.

“I can see them in their cramped little cell with very little sunlight and they only get out an hour a day and, you know, they exercise side by side on a space like the size of a towel,” Shourd said.

On August 20, the Iranian government sentenced Fattal and Bauer to eight years in prison, three years for “illegal entry” and five years on “charges of espionage for the American intelligence agency.” The two pled not guilty and have 20 days to appeal the verdict. Of course, any appeal is ill-fated as the regime is not interested in a fair trial. There was a glimmer of hope that they’d be released when the Iranian foreign minister said he hoped that their trial would “advance in a way that would lead to their freedom.” The prosecutor general, however, dismissed “rumors” that the regime has decided to release them. Still, it is possible that the regime will pardon them in honor of tradition at the end of Ramadan on August 29. As Ali Alfoneh, an Iran expert with the American Enterprise Institute, explains, this would allow Ahmadinejad to “boast about how magnanimous he is and how he personally freed them” when he addresses the U.N. next month.

Some analysts such as Alfoneh see the sentencing of the two American hikers in the context of the power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Khamenei. Alfoneh says that Khamenei “really wants to humiliate Ahmadinejad before the U.N. visit” by showing him as powerless. Ahmadinejad has requested that they be given a soft punishment, but some analysts in Iran believe that the judiciary doesn’t want to be seen as subservient to him. One analyst believes that Khamenei wants to prevent Ahmadinejad from trying to improve ties with the U.S. If that is correct, then Khamenei is more of a hardliner than even Ahmadinejad.

It is a sad fact that few Americans are aware of this story. Severe international pressure on Iran to release the hikers is long overdue. The names of Josh Fattal and Shaune Bauer must be heard around the world, and the Iranian regime must be loudly warned of the consequences of not freeing them. The U.S. must not abandon its citizens.

The Old ‘Not Enough’ Excuse

True believers in government spending can never be proved wrong.

By Victor Davis Hanson
August 25, 2011 12:00 A.M.

To newly inaugurated Barack Obama and his prime-the-pump technocrats, the logic seemed so simple. America’s problem was a struggling economy. The solution was to spread around even more borrowed government money. The result would be a return to prosperity.

But after nearly three years and $4 trillion in borrowed “stimulus,” things have only gotten worse. Unemployment is stuck at 9.1 percent. Consumer confidence is approaching a record low.The stock market is tanking. National debt is increasing at a rate of $4 billion a day. Economic growth has almost vanished. America’s creditworthiness has been downgraded. The housing market is still depressed. Food and fuel prices are skyrocketing. In response, only 26 percent of the public expresses confidence in the president’s handling of the economy.

Apparently, as even the president himself recently confessed, government cannot so easily manufacture “shovel-ready” jobs. But it did far better at scaring cash-hoarding businesses into a historic hiring paralysis with nonstop talk of higher taxes, more national debt, more regulations, them vs. us class-warfare rhetoric, threatened government shutdowns of private plants, and higher-priced energy.

Obama is still promising to borrow more for “infrastructure” and “jobs.” Despite nearly $15 trillion in federal debt, the administration apparently wants to defy the rules of logic and do more of what made things worse in the first place, under the euphemism of “investments.” American popular culture has coined all sorts of proverbial warnings about such mindless devotion to destructive rote: “Don’t flog a dead horse,” “If you are in a hole, stop digging,” and “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

No matter: The administration still adheres to the logical fallacy that the toxic medicine cannot be proven to be useless or harmful, because there was supposedly never enough of it given. And the proof is that the worsening patient is still not quite dead.

The same fallacy arises over the rioting in Britain and the flash mobbing in American cities. With food stamps, housing subsidies, unemployment insurance, disability payments, and general assistance at all-time highs in the affluent West, why did looters target mostly high-end stores? Was the criminality really due to a lack of government investment and public caring — or was it perhaps the result of too much coddling and dependency? Yet some observers are talking of renewed “investments,” not of pruning back the destructive programs that seemed to facilitate an angry underclass in robbing electronics and boutique-clothing stores.

That there is never enough spending is a seductive fallacy because it never requires any empirical proof: If millions of those supported by the state have lost their self-reliance and self-initiative, perhaps it is because millions supported by the state were not supported well enough, and so in response, some resorted to stealing things they could not afford.

Consider also the current government-sponsored notion of “millions of green jobs” — a siren call that Obama and “green-jobs czar” Van Jones voiced to lift the economy and transition America over to sustainable, affordable energy. But tens of billions of wasted dollars later, electricity and gas prices are at near-record levels. The attempt to make subsidized green power competitive by cutting back on fossil-fuel exploration while trying to shut down coal plants and stop gas pipelines has only made energy prices climb and further burdened American households.

Meanwhile, hundreds of billions in green subsidies created neither much new energy nor many new jobs. But the massive handouts did provide a lot of public money in sweetheart deals to administration-friendly companies that either went broke, outsourced jobs to China, or hired the unemployed at insane costs, sometimes at $2 million per worker.

Yet despite the dismal record, President Obama is still touting the same-old, same-old, 2008 “millions of green jobs” mantra, apparently on the fallacious notion that massive subsidies to government-supported plants like Evergreen Solar in Massachusetts and Johnson Controls in Michigan have not worked too well — only because there were not enough costly investments.

As we witness the financial insolvency of blue-state America, the monetary meltdown in southern Europe, and the criminality breaking out among some members of the Western underclass, logic suggests that massive state deficits not only did not bring a promised utopia, but ensured chaos.

But for those who are invested materially and psychologically in the religion of never-ending government borrowing and spending, there is always the true believers’ excuse of “not quite enough.”

— Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and the author, most recently, of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Today's Tune: Gram Parsons - In My Hour of Darkness (w/ Emmylou Harris)

Pat Summitt, Tennessee women’s basketball coach, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease

By , Published: August 23
The Washington Post

Tennessee women's basketball coach Pat Summitt announces that she has been diagnosed with early onset dementia.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pat Summitt’s doctors are lucky they are still standing. When the first neurologist told her she had symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, she almost dropped him with one punch. When a second one advised her to retire immediately, she said, “Do you have any idea who you’re dealing with?”

Three months ago, Summitt, 59, the blaze-eyed, clench-fisted University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach who has won more games than any other college coach ever, men’s or women’s, visited the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. seeking an explanation for a troubling series of memory lapses over the past year. A woman who was always highly organized had to ask repeatedly what time a team meeting was scheduled for. “She lost her keys three times a day instead of once,” her son Tyler says. She was late to practice. On occasion, she simply stayed in bed.

“Are you having trouble with your memory?” friends began asking, puzzled.

“Sometimes I draw blanks,” Summitt finally admitted.

Her first clue that something was badly wrong came last season, when she drew a blank on what offensive set to call in the heat of a game.

“I just felt something was different,” she says. “And at the time I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Until I went to Mayo, I couldn’t know for sure. But I can remember trying to coach and trying to figure out schemes and whatever and it just wasn’t coming to me, like, I would typically say, ‘We’re gonna do this, and run that.’ And it probably caused me to second-guess.”

Summitt believed her symptoms were the side effects of a powerful medication she was taking for rheumatoid arthritis, an excruciating condition that she has quietly suffered with since 2006. Instead, when Summitt received her test results from the Mayo Clinic at the end of May, they confirmed a shocking worst-case scenario: She showed “mild” but distinct signs of “early-onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type,” the irreversible brain disease that destroys recall and cognitive abilities over time, and that afflicts an estimated 5 million Americans.

Denial was followed by anger. For the first few weeks, Summitt would barely even discuss the subject. She told her doctors, “You don’t know me. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” Finally, Summitt realized she would have to accept the diagnosis. “I can’t change it,” she says. After a pause, she adds, “But I can try to do something about it.”

Last week Washington D.C. attorney Robert B. Barnett flew to Knoxville to meet with his longtime friend and client, half expecting her to step down after 38 years as Tennessee’s coach. But Summitt told Barnett that she did not believe her symptoms were severe enough yet to warrant retirement, and that she would like to coach at least three more years, if possible. She also decided against a formal statement. Instead, she sat down for an interview with this writer, who co-authored her 1999 autobiography, and the Knoxville News-Sentinel to discuss her illness publicly for the first time.

Full disclosure: It is the measure of Summitt’s large-heartedness that she could call any of a half-dozen people her closest friend. This writer has only one: her. “I would rather drive stakes through my own hands than write this story,” I said.

“It is what it is,” she said. “I’ve got to face it.”

‘You will always be our coach’

Last Thursday, Summitt, Barnett, and her 20-year-old son Tyler, who is a junior at the University of Tennessee, met with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Joan Cronan to inform them of her condition. Barnett warned Summitt that contractually school administrators had the right to remove her as head coach immediately. Instead, Cheek and Cronan listened to Summitt’s disclosure with tears streaming down their faces.

“You are now and will always be our coach,” Cheek told her. With the blessing of her university, she will continue to work for as long as she is able.

“Life is an unknown and none of us has a crystal ball,” Cronan says. “But I do have a record to go on. I know what Pat stands for: excellence, strength, honesty, and courage.”

To Barnett, Pat’s fight is characteristic; her determination to keep working, and also to act as a spokeswoman for Alzheimer’s, is not incompatible with the values she has always preached as a coach.

“If you go back to her speeches, and her discussions with players through the years, you see several things,” Barnett says. “One is absolute dedication. Two is an unwillingness ever to give up. And three is an absolute commitment to honesty. And in this challenge that she’s facing, she is displaying the exact traits that she’s always taught. . . .Pat is going to run this race to the very end.”

Tennessee will be in uncharted territory, as will Summitt herself: Alzheimer’s is an unpredictable and dignity-robbing disease, thus far without a cure. The school’s concerns over leaving her in place range from potential embarrassment, to a decline in Summitt’s health, to the possibility that players could feel short-changed, or that the team is more about Pat than them.

Cronan, however, believes the exchange is worth it.

“Think about the difference she’s made, and the difference she can make going forward,” Cronan says.

She points out that even as Summitt was struggling both mentally and physically with her undiagnosed condition last season, she led Tennessee to a 34-3 record, swept the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, and reached the NCAA tournament region finals.

Nevertheless, Summitt has agreed to a significant redistribution of her duties. In consultation with Cronan and her staff, her role will be redefined to give her colleagues more formal responsibility, such as calling plays during games. Summitt will continue to do what she has always done best: teach, and lead.

Tennessee is uniquely positioned to make the experiment work. Summitt has constructed a stable, deeply experienced staff: Assistants Holly Warlick and Mickie DeMoss have each been with her for at least 20 years, and Dean Lockwood has been around another seven. Together they have helped Summitt build Tennessee’s juggernaut: 1,037 career victories against 196 losses; 18 Final Fours; and eight national championships.

“I’ve got a great staff and great support system, and I’m going to stick my neck out and do what I always do,” Summitt says.

According to Tyler Summitt, there is no diagnosis that can accurately break his mother’s fierce will, and famously incandescent energy. The reality of Summitt is that she is functioning — and even cracking a few wry jokes. “I’ve forgotten I have it,” she says, grinning.

In the past week she spoke at an orientation session for Tennessee’s athletes and sang the fight song “Rocky Top” to them, read the newspaper aloud over her morning coffee, appeared at a “Hoops for Hope” benefit for children with Down’s Syndrome, worked on recruiting, and hosted a large dinner at her home to prepare her staff for her announcement.

Thus far, Summitt has exhibited only the limited outward signs of her condition. There is a faint sense of dimming, as if a jar has been placed over a candle.

On Tuesday afternoon, she walked into the Tennessee locker room to inform her current team of her condition. She was prevented from telling them earlier by the fact that two of her players had been in China in the World University Games and did not arrive home until late Monday.

“I just want them to understand that this is what I’m going through, but you don’t quit living,” she says. “You keep going.”

Didn’t test for leadership’

After several instances of forgetfulness last season, she says, “I lost my confidence.” She became increasingly hesitant, and withdrawn. She avoided meeting with players one on one, afraid she might say something wrong.

When the season ended, Summitt decided to visit the Mayo Clinic for a full examination. For three days she underwent a battery of tests, an MRI exam, a PET scan, a neuro-psychological evaluation, and a spinal tap. After the spinal tap, she was told to remain lying down for 20 minutes. Sitting still is not something that comes naturally to her. Five minutes later she announced, “I feel fine,” and jumped off the table. A nurse looked at Tyler, and lifted an eyebrow. “I’m not going to be the one to stop her,” the nurse said.

She performed less strongly on the neuro-psych exam, which evaluated her mental status, and problem solving and spatial abilities. She was led into a small white room by a stranger who promptly began firing math questions at her — and math has always been a sore subject with Summitt. Her college sorority sisters at the University of Tennessee-Martin had to do her homework for her.

Asked to count backward from 100 by 7s, she froze. Next, she was asked, “Do you know today’s date?” She has never known the date. She deals with dates strictly on a need to know basis. Frequently, she doesn’t even known the name of her hotel — there have been so many of them, and they all look the same, and they are all called Radisson or Clarion or Hyatt or Hilton.

This has always been Summitt. She has always mislaid her car keys and forgotten where she put her cellphone. She has always juggled too many responsibilities, and obligations. For this reason, the numbers from her test results are somewhat misleading, according to her son.

“They didn’t test for leadership,” Tyler says. “They didn’t test for relationships. They didn’t test for basketball IQ. None of those things are on the test, it was just math problems. They asked questions she wouldn’t know on a regular basis. So I don’t think the test applies to what she does as a coach.”

At the conclusion of the testing, Dr. Ronald C. Petersen, director of Mayo’s Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, rendered his opinion: She appeared to have signs of the disease, though she would have to wait for the lab results to be sure. Summitt was so highly functioning that it actually delayed her acceptance of the diagnosis. Immediately after her stay at Mayo she rushed to the Southeast Conference annual meetings in Destin, Fla., then back to Knoxville to run a series of summer camps, and then hit the road again for a series of basketball tournaments to evaluate potential recruits.

Role reversal

It wasn’t until August that the reality of her condition hit home. “There was a pretty long denial period,” Tyler says. “At first she was like, ‘I’m fine.’ ”

When the blow finally fell, it was heavy. Summitt had always been the caregiver: Friends, family and former players struggling physically or emotionally have always come to her house for comfort, a hot meal and soothing advice in that honeyed southern voice. “I want to go see Pat,” is a common refrain. It wasn’t easy to reverse the role, and to admit that she would need care.

In September 2006, not long after the death of her father, she separated from R.B. Summitt, her husband of 26 years. Some months later, she found herself immobilized by physical pain, and was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. Summitt rarely betrayed in public the toll of that disease, but there were occasions, before it was successfully controlled by medication, when her son had to help her put her socks on.

In between those traumas she suffered a shoulder separation — from fighting a raccoon — and was hospitalized twice, once for cellulitis, and once for dehydration and exhaustion. Still, for all of that, she managed to lead the Lady Vols to consecutive national championships in 2007 and 2008.

Through it all, there has always been a sense of centeredness in Summitt. She is like a marble pillar, ramrod straight, that seems to have stood for a thousand years, while everything around it falls.

“Everyone has always wanted to know what Pat’s really like,” DeMoss said. “The word I’ve always used is ‘resolve.’ Pat has more resolve than any one I’ve ever known. She has a deep, deep inner strength.”

But now she will need a different kind of counterintuitive strength. Surrender and acceptance have never come naturally to her, nor has admitting vulnerability. She has trouble even uttering the word Alzheimer’s. But she’s learning.

“We sat down and had a good talk, and realized that the only reason we even made it this far, was that we had each other,” Tyler says. “It started with her father passing away, and then the divorce, and the arthritis, and then the Alzheimer’s, and each of those things, I don’t know how anyone could go through them alone. So we figured out that as much as we wanted to be Superman and Wonder Woman, and take care of things alone, we needed each other.”

With acceptance has come relief — and, thanks to treatment, apparent improvement.

Every morning she reads, or studies math problems on flash cards. Each night she spends hours working on her iPad, doing puzzles to improve her cognitive abilities.

“Once she came out of her denial state,” Tyler says, “it was like a gun went off. She just bolted out of it.”

Over the last few days, with the clarity of her diagnosis and decision to go public, Summitt has recovered her confidence. More often than not, it is she who comforts others, as usual. Her staff have grief-stretched looks around their eyes, and seem quietly destroyed under their skins. Every so often you find one of them has ducked into her laundry room to weep. It’s Summitt who puts her arms around them and talks quietly into their ear. “I don’t want you worrying about me,” she says. Strong has always been her natural, preferred state.

Tyler divides his time between his mother’s sprawling house on the banks of the Tennessee River, and an apartment just off-campus he shares with two college friends, with her cheerful approval.

Most nights, however, he spends at home. When everyone departs the Summitt household there are two people left, gazing at each other with a deep, indestructible understanding. Suddenly, something becomes clear: Summitt’s qualities and legacy have been vastly underrated. All these years, while she was coaching basketball and teaching other people’s daughters, she very quietly and without any fanfare, did a stupendous job of mothering her son.

“I followed her everywhere growing up,” Tyler says. “I followed her on bus rides, airplanes, in gyms and in locker rooms all over the country, and I thought she taught me everything she had. But she saved this lesson, to always come out and be open, to not be scared, to have the courage to face the truth like she’s doing.”

The boy, you realize with a start, is looking more like her all the time. He has the same scotch-red coloring, the same uplifted chin. The eyes are slightly different, a milder more limpid blue. But there is the same look in them, a quality. A candle.


America’s Green Quagmire

Obama’s energy agenda has been a very expensive failure.

By Jonah Goldberg
August 24, 2011

It was a massive flatbed truck, flanked by smaller vehicles brandishing “oversized load” banners, carrying a huge white thing.

I think the first one I saw was in Ohio. But I know that by the time I passed Grand Island, Neb., I’d lost count.

What was it? At first, it looked like it could be a replacement for the Swords of Qādisīyah — that giant crossed-blades sculpture in central Baghdad.

And then, the aha: It was a propeller blade for a wind turbine, a really big one.

I’ve seen plenty of wind farms, but I’d never seen the blades being transported for construction. Last week, I saw a lot of them.

Why? Because they were on the road, and so was I. My eight-year-old daughter and I were on a summer adventure. We drove more than 2,000 miles from Washington, D.C., to, eventually, Steamboat Springs, Colo. (Don’t worry, I did most of the highway driving.)

Something about seeing all those turbine propellers made me think of wartime mobilization, like FDR’s ramp-up during the Lend-Lease period or Josef Stalin’s decision to send Soviet heavy industry east of the Urals.

The comparison isn’t completely daft, either. The notion that we should move to a war footing on energy has been a reigning cliché of U.S. politics ever since Jimmy Carter’s Oval Office energy crisis address in 1977. “This difficult effort will be the ‘moral equivalent of war’ — except that we will be uniting our efforts to build and not to destroy.”

Ever since, we’ve been hearing that green must become the new red, white, and blue.

It’s difficult to catalogue all of the problems with this nonsense. For starters, the mission keeps changing. Is the green-energy revolution about energy independence? Or is it about fighting global warming? Or is it about jobs?

For most of the last few years, the White House and its supporters have been saying it’s about all three. But that’s never been true. If we wanted energy independence (and I’m not sure why we would) or if we wanted to reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil (a marginally better proposition, given that Canada and often Mexico supply the U.S. with more oil than Saudi Arabia), we would massively expand our domestic drilling for oil and gas and our use of coal or carbon-free nuclear. That would also create lots of jobs that can’t be exported (you can’t drill for American oil in China, but we can, and do, buy lots of Chinese-made solar panels).

As for the windfall in green jobs, that has always been a con job.

For instance, Barack Obama came into office insisting that Spain was beating the U.S. in the rush for green jobs. Never mind that in Spain — where unemployment is now at 21 percent — the green-jobs boom has been a bust. One major 2009 study by researchers at King Juan Carlos University found that the country destroyed 2.2 jobs in other industries for every green job it created, and the Spanish government has spent more than half a million euros for each green job created since 2000. Wind-industry jobs cost a cool 1 million euros apiece.

The record in America has been no better, Obama’s campaign stump speeches notwithstanding. The New York Times, which has been touting the green agenda in its news pages for years, admitted last week that “federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show.” Even Obama’s former green-jobs czar concedes the point, as do other leading Democrats, including Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles.

Perhaps the most pathetic part of the war to green America is how unwarlike it really is. The New York Times also reported that California’s “weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry,” a direct sop to labor unions. And afterward, the inflated costs made the program too expensive for homeowners.

Green jobs, like shovel-ready jobs, proved a myth in no small part because President Obama is eager to talk as if this green stuff were the moral equivalent of war, but he’s not willing or able to do things a real war requires.

What we’re left with is not the moral equivalent of war but the moral equivalent of a quagmire. A very expensive quagmire.

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. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

N.J. Murder the Latest Outrage in the Islamic Blame Game

by Robert Spencer

Nazish Noorani and her husband Kashif Pervaiz.

On Friday, a young Muslim man in New Jersey named Kashif Pervaiz was charged with the murder of his wife, Nazish Noorani, who was shot dead Tuesday night while pushing her 3-year-old son in a stroller on a street in Boonton, N.J.

Although the case apparently has nothing whatsoever to do with jihad terrorism, Islamic honor killing, or any such matter, it has been illuminating of the Islamic supremacist strategy to suppress free speech about Islam and jihad in the U.S. today.

Pervaiz, you see, was walking with Noorani when the shooting took place. He had allegedly set up the whole thing with his accomplice mistress, a Boston woman with whom he apparently shares an apartment. And according to the New York Post, Pervaiz initially told police that “three men, one black, one white and one of an uncertain race, called the couple terrorists before opening fire.” That was enough for police to investigate the possibility that the shooting was an anti-Muslim hate crime—that is, until Pervaiz began changing his story, and began to emerge as a suspect.

Islamic supremacists never miss a chance to position Muslims as victims so as to deflect attention away from jihad terror and try to place Islam and the Muslim community beyond reasonable scrutiny. And so even as Pervaiz was starting to equivocate and spin ever-taller tales, the blame game began. I received a tweet from a certain Jawad Rasul, containing a link to one of the initial stories about the murder: “If you have any humanity, you might ponder over this!” Meanwhile, a well-placed source told me that Ibrahim Hooper of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was “salivating and waiting to jump all over” the Noorani murder story. “They are waiting to blame you for everything.”

I wasn’t anywhere near Boonton last Tuesday, so why would CAIR want to blame me for this murder? Because in CAIR’s world, my work exposing the activities of Islamic jihadists and the ways in which they use Islamic texts and teachings to justify violence and their supremacist beliefs constitutes “hate” and “incitement to violence.” The network thinks they've found confirmation of this in the murder spree of Norwegian psychopath Anders Breivik, because he cited me (along with John Locke, Thomas Jefferson​, Charles Darwin, Barack Obama​, the New York Times and a host of others) in his lengthy and ideologically incoherent “manifesto.”

Another Hamas-linked Muslim Brotherhood​ front group, the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), wants Obama to take action on this: “The rise of Islamophobia fostered by individuals such as Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller has threatened our communities and prompted such acts of violence. ICNA calls upon the international community and the Obama administration to take action against hate groups and so-called ‘experts on Islam’ who promote this kind of bigotry.”

In reality, the idea that any of the counter-jihad activists and writers whom the mainstream media and Islamic supremacists have blamed for the Norway attacks is actually responsible for them is absurd, and not just because we have never called for or justified violence. When two people or groups share a belief or perspective, and one of them starts killing, the other is in no way responsible. Otherwise Martin Luther King Jr. would be responsible for the Watts Riots—and CAIR and ICNA for Islamic jihad terror. Indeed, it is ironic that the Islamic supremacist groups that are trying to shut down the counter-jihad movement by claiming that our views lead to violence, at the same time hotly deny that there is any connection between Islamic teachings and jihad violence—even though Islamic jihadists routinely point to those teachings as their motivation.

The CAIR/ICNA Islamic supremacist blame game, including the unseemly eagerness to blame me for a love triangle murder in New Jersey, is part of a larger initiative. The 57-government Organization of Islamic Cooperation has been working for years to compel the governments of the U.S. and Europe to criminalize all critical discussion of Islam, thereby rendering them unable to investigate the motives and goals of jihad terrorists, and thus become mute and defenseless against the advancing jihad. A key component of this effort in the U.S. today is to demonize and marginalize all the voices speaking out for the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience and the equality of rights of all people—all denied by Islamic law.

This blame game is an outrage to the memory of Nazish Noorani. And it’s a threat to the freedom of every American.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades), The Truth About Muhammad, Stealth Jihad and The Complete Infidel's Guide to the Koran (all from Regnery-a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).     


Husband admits role in fatal Boonton shooting of wife, prosecutor says -

Integrity stays JoePa's way

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thank you, Joe Paterno.

Thanks for the memories, for stubbornly acting your age, for not taking any guff from anyone.

Most of all, thanks for clinging faithfully to the fading integrity of intercollegiate athletics.

The Penn State football coach repeated his familiar mantra about running a clean program. It's the same message he has voiced for decades.

But Paterno had the guts to say it last week at the same time a Yahoo! Sports investigation was airing the University of Miami's dirty laundry.

To paraphrase Paterno, a lot of coaches are hesitant to draw the line with boosters and other friends of the program out of some fear it could limit financial contributions to their program.

"I'd be less than honest if I told you it's not flattering to hear people say you run a good program," said Paterno, who's entering his 46th season as Penn State's head coach. "I was delighted to be on that (ESPN) show with (Duke basketball coach) Mike Krzyzewski (discussing the state of college athletics). He has stayed at Duke. He's turned down other opportunities. A lot of guys, unfortunately, can't have that attitude because it's the trustees that give money. They want you to play this guy, that guy."

Born in 1926, Paterno has seen it all. He's outlasted legendary coaching peers Bear Bryant, Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler and Eddie Robinson -- and lived to tell about it.

He coaches by his own set of rules and makes those around him fall in line. Including his players.

Like all coaches, Paterno needs good players to win.

Like all coaches, Paterno has made concessions through the years. Players, after all, have their egos, too -- just like coaches.

Players want to be made to feel important. Paterno, I'm sure, has done his share of sweet-talking star players. He does have the most victories of any major college football coach.

What separates Paterno from most of his peers -- besides his advanced age -- is his desire to do things his way while keeping things in proper perspective.

That was true when Paterno was 54, and it's true now at 84.

The truth is, Paterno doesn't care what you or I think. That's what makes him special, a coach too old and set in his ways to change or bow to public opinion -- and proud of it.

"When I first got here, I needed facilities," said Paterno. "I said we've got to go out and raise money. I always ended up, 'I want your money, but I don't want your two cents.'

"Very few coaches can say that to a guy who gives them $8 to $10 million a year."

Yes, indeed, Paterno can be stubborn. He knows his critics believe the game has passed him by. But he won't leave until he's good and ready.

Even after Penn State finished 7-6 last season while struggling to find a starting quarterback, Paterno remains in charge.

Being a living institution has its benefits, even if it didn't save Bobby Bowden.

Would Paterno's coaching style work at the University of Miami?

JoePa in South Beach? Be serious.

There's no way Paterno would have tolerated an unscrupulous booster like Nevin Shapiro anywhere near his players, much less permitted Shapiro to greet players on the field prior to a game.

Paterno would have gone ballistic.

It's comical to think of Paterno and Shapiro being in the same room together, even funnier to think of Paterno's players disrespecting their coach that way.

If nothing else, Paterno demands respect. It's either his way or ... his way.

"It's an honor to play for him. I'm very fortunate and blessed to be in the situation I'm in, learning from one of the great ones," said quarterback Matt McGloin, who apologized for throwing the pass to wide receiver Devon Smith which led to Smith's recent sideline collision with Paterno. "I feel bad about what happened, considering I'm the one who threw it to Devon. I'm glad he's doing better."

Deep down, college kids want to be disciplined. They want someone like the grandfatherly Paterno, a coach so old-school that he's prehistoric, telling them "no" when everyone else is promising them the world.

It's a refreshing and rare quality from a one-in-a-kind coach. When Paterno leaves, he'll take a huge chunk of integrity with him.

Thanks for everything, Joe.

Yes, he's too old to change, and who says that's a bad thing?

PHOTO: Penn State head coach Joe Paterno holds a press conference from his golf cart at the school's indoor football training facility during NCAA college football media day in State College, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2011. (AP)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Today's Laugh Track: John Belushi - Samurai Delicatessen

Today's Tune: Billy Idol - Catch My fall

Film Reviews: 'Conan the Barbarian'

Blade of gory

Bloody ‘Barbarian’ is an uneven chairman of the sword

By Kyle Smith
New York Post
August 18, 2011

Within the span of a week, Rick Perry begins to run for president and the remake of “Conan the Barbarian” hits theaters. Coincidence? Or natural running mates?

The original “Conan” was a sloppy, grandiose, unforgivable muckbath directed by the (I say the words lovingly) right-wing maniac John Milius. I watched it about four times to make sure it had no redeeming qualities. The reboot (re-sandal?) isn’t good either, exactly. But it has a certain commitment to its cause, and by that I mean it supplies the necessary flayings, slayings, beheadings and, um, a be-nose-ing, all of it dancing to the tune of those amusingly stilted He-Man declaratives — King James Bible cadences applied to comic-book visions. It knows it’s a B movie, and gets on with it.

Conan 2.0 begins with nearly a half-hour of the story of l’il Conan (Leo Howard), a boy born in battlefield carnage. As Mom falls, Dad (Ron Perlman, clad in what appears to be an entire yak) conducts a field-expedient C-section on Mom, whose last glimpse is of her man-child. And Conan? “His first taste was of his mother’s blood.”

As a man, Conan (now played by Jason Momoa, Khal Drogo in “Game of Thrones,” whose Eddie Van Halen curls seem to glisten with detangling product), seeks vengeance on the evil lord Zym (Stephen Lang, the “Avatar” villain). Zym, joined by his witch daughter (an effectively creepy Rose McGowan, looking like the child of Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen and her ex-boyfriend, Marilyn Manson), will achieve ultimate power via a magic mask moistened with the pure blood of the descendant (Rachel Nichols) of the ancient sorcerers. Disappointingly, her name is, um, Tamara. As for Conan, his name is now pronounced like that of the ginger-haired talk-show host.

Tamara, the size of the average crossbow and the product of a literally cloistered upbringing, effortlessly slays hardened professional warriors on all sides until captured by Conan, who is a strict gentleman with her, and also frees some slaves out of a distaste for injustice. This is the kind of movie in which a dying murder victim murmurs, "I love you, son," instead of screaming, "Avenge me!"

Such liberal-arts-campus gesturing (the screenwriters attended Brown, Vassar and Northwestern, respectively) interferes with the flow. Conan is supposed to be a death-dealing Iron Age brute, not Abraham Lincoln. I was starting to wonder when OSHA inspectors would turn up to issue citations for unsanitary dungeon management.

And Momoa, beefy as he is, isn't really the right cut of meat for this part -- there's a little too much self-awareness glinting in his emerald irises. It would have been better to go with someone for whom speaking English does not come naturally. Like Arnold. Or Stallone.

But Conan does keep things roaring, using (for instance) a severed head as an ID card and slicing off a foe's nose (then jamming his finger in the crater). Director Marcus Nispel (who also remade both "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Friday the 13th") larks through piles of skeletons and frolics over bottomless pits of damnation. A couple of action scenes (such as a dull shipboard battle) are superfluous, and choppy editing mars many of them. Also, some nifty plot ideas -- such as cool dust monsters that the witch raises at will -- aren't well thought out. If these monsters are so invincible, why do the villains stop using them? Moreover, the good characters are way too bland compared to the much more interesting dual evildoers.

But deploying Morgan Freeman as the narrator is a witty touch (given that the original co-starred the previous godhead of narration, James Earl Jones). And you can't underestimate the vitality of a movie where manly men give orders such as, "We will cast our rivals into oceans of blood." Then there is this classic: "I live. I love. I slay. And I am content."

The presence of that line almost made me forgive the writers for omitting the classic motto of the original, a remark that begged to be repeated with gusto in the remake. What is best in life? Why, it's "to crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women." Hear hear, and pass the grog.

Keep Hold of Your Head, Lest He Lop It Off With the Others

The New York Times
Published: August 18, 2011

A heavy-metal fantasia scrawled in red, “Conan the Barbarian” now comes with 75 percent more gore. That’s only an estimate, though to judge by the gruesome opener that features the title character as a boy gouging enemy flesh and lopping off heads, it’s a fair guess. Having entered a forest for a newbie warrior rite of passage, baby Conan (Leo Howard) has returned to his village and its leader, his brawny, bushy father (Ron Perlman, surprise), splattered in blood and dangling several severed heads from his wee mitts. They look like grotesque puppets or maybe yo-yos, but, really, they’re just playthings for a growing barbarian.

Soon after, Conan’s father and people are slaughtered, leaving him a boy with an ax to grind, a sword to wield, a destiny to fulfill, a franchise to revive. By the time the boy is a man, he has transformed into a luxury cut of beef played and often posed by Jason Momoa, a he-man with a glamour girl’s flowing mane and a chiseled chest with even less fur than a hairless Chihuahua. Mr. Momoa will be familiar to fans of the HBO show “Game of Thrones” as Khal Drogo, a ponytailed, clothing-optional warrior leader. In “Conan” Mr. Momoa doesn’t wear a ponytail, but he does flash plenty of flesh on his way to a showdown with a crazed warlord, Khalar Zym (a fine Stephen Lang), and Zym’s spawn, Marique (Rose McGowan).

The film, tarted up with 3-D and introduced in voice-over by an understandably uncredited Morgan Freeman, is partly an origin story and partly proto-mythopoetic men’s movement gibberish involving good versus evil, the usual swords, sorcery and flagrantly bulgy masculinity. The original Conan was created by Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), a bullied Texan turned bodybuilder and fantasy writer whose Conan stories were published, starting in 1932, in the pulp magazine Weird Tales. In the decades following Howard’s death (he shot himself after hearing that his ailing mother had slipped into a coma), the Conan universe grew to include books written by Howard imitators, comics and two movies starring the bodybuilder turned governator of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Momoa has some awfully big biceps to fill.

He rises to that task with a pumped physique made for ogling. Thankfully, he also shows glints of self-awareness that can make hypermasculine blowouts like these more watchable and were largely missing from Mr. Schwarzenegger’s wide-eyed turn in the first “Conan the Barbarian” (1982). That film, directed by John Milius from an Oliver Stone screenplay that Mr. Milius retooled, opens with a quotation from Nietzsche and grows more lugubriously overblown from there, despite some freaky sex and Conan clocking a camel. The new movie, directed by Marcus Nispel from a script by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood, is less intellectually overweening: Instead of a slave who becomes his own master, as in Mr. Milius’s flick, this Conan runs off to a dude’s own adventure, pirating included.

Mr. Nispel, whose résumé includes a few other slick redos, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday the 13th,” doesn’t add anything obviously personal to this “Conan,” which was probably just what the producers ordered. What he does bring is the gore and plenty of it (those severed heads are simply the sanguineous beginning) as well as some wit and surprisingly O.K. performances, Mr. Lang’s unsmiling turn being the standout. Although meticulously kitted out in fetish boots and a shaved head, Ms. McGowan registers less like a dominatrix of doom and more like a Bjork-inspired pinup, her press-on metal claws drawing fatal lines and laughs. She’s pretty and pretty ridiculous, but the digital sandmen her character summons up to fight Conan, which burst out of the ground like rockets and explode into dust, are nifty.

“Conan the Barbarian” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Lots of death and a little sex.


Opens on Friday nationwide.

Directed by Marcus Nispel; written by Thomas Dean Donnelly, Joshua Oppenheimer and Sean Hood, based on the character created by Robert E. Howard; director of photography, Thomas Kloss; edited by Ken Blackwell; music by Tyler Bates; production design by Chris August; costumes by Wendy Partridge; produced by Fredrik Malmberg, Boaz Davidson, Joe Gatta, Danny Lerner, John Baldecchi, Les Weldon and Henry Winterstern; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 42 minutes.

WITH: Jason Momoa (Conan), Rachel Nichols (Tamara), Stephen Lang (Khalar Zym), Rose McGowan (Marique), Saïd Taghmaoui (Ela-Shan), Leo Howard (Young Conan), Ron Perlman (Corin), Steve O’Donnell (Lucius), Raad Rawi (Fassir), Nonso Anozie (Artus), Bob Sapp (Ukafa) and Milton Welsh (Remo).

When We Need Our Barbarians

From pulp to Arnold to modern day, a history of Conan the Barbarian

By Brian Phillips

The most famous photograph of Robert E. Howard shows him looming like a gangster: suspicious eyes under a white fedora, tough mouth over a sharp suit. It's a face that belongs on the cover of a crime pulp — maybe Black Mask, in which Dashiell Hammett serialized The Maltese Falcon in 1929, or Spicy Detective, which launched in the year the photo was taken, 1934. You look at the picture and think of cops, mobsters, speakeasies, tommy guns, and gang molls. It's startling to realize that Howard, who was one of the greatest pulp writers of his era, did his best work for the fantasy-horrory Weird Tales, in which he published 17 stories about his most enduring creation, Conan the Barbarian, between 1932 and 1936.

But then Conan was always a sort of American jumble. Howard spent his whole life in West Texas, most of it in a tiny oil-boom outpost called Cross Plains, and he forged his hero's character by combining "various prize-fighters, bootleggers, oil field bullies, gamblers and honest workmen I had come in contact with." Conan's birthplace, the shadowy land of Cimmeria, was suggested by the Texas landscape. Howard populated the rest of his Hyborian Age not with European history and folklore — the airbrushed post-Tolkien world of castles and elves and dragons — but with weird shards from his own peculiar obsessions. He mixed Southern tall tales with occult legends, Greek myths, ancient empires, Cossacks, cowboys, Indians, and Huns. Even in the mongrel world of the pulps, this was something else — the fantasy kingdom as 12th century melting pot.

Given these singular origins, it's a little remarkable that Howard's grim-visaged, bronze-muscled barbarian has proved so lastingly popular. Conan has spawned — in addition to the new movie, out today in 3-D — cartoons (Conan the Adventurer, Conan and the Young Warriors), comic books (including the classic Savage Sword of Conan, which ran for 235 issues starting in 1974), TV series, fiction by writers ranging from Poul Anderson to Robert Jordan, at least seven video games (including the massively multiplayer Age of Conan, which bills itself as "the sexiest and most savage MMO in the world"), and, of course, the two 1980s blockbusters that launched the career of Arnold Schwarzenegger and made a generation of suburban kids dream about crushing their enemies, seeing them driven before them, and hearing the lamentations of their women (whatever those sounded like).

As with Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and James Bond, every generation seems to get the Conan it wants. The question is why we want Conan at all. Howard's stories, written at the jolting speed of most pulp fiction, lack the deep-focus world-building of The Lord of the Rings, the poised cynicism of Michael Moorcock's Elric saga, and even the complex recurring cast of A Song of Ice and Fire. So what is it about this moody, shirt-optional relic of Depression-era fantasy that makes us keep the franchise fires burning?

"The Tower of the Elephant" (1933), which was the third Conan story Howard published in Weird Tales, is set in Arenjun, the "city of thieves" in the exotic, gypsy-like kingdom of Zamora. The young Conan goes to the tower of the sadistic sorcerer Yara to steal the Heart of the Elephant, a magic gem that sustains Yara's power. After sneaking into the tower, an adventure that includes poisoning multiple lions, Conan encounters a terrifying creature: a blind, chained prisoner with the head of an elephant and limbs ruined by torture. The broken thing explains to Conan that he belonged to a group of aliens that settled on the earth millennia ago; now he has been tricked by Yara into giving up his power. At the creature's request, Conan kills him, cuts out his heart, bathes the magic jewel in his blood, and uses the jewel to trap Yara. As the barbarian walks away at the end of the story, the tower shatters and collapses to the ground behind him.

There's an awesomeness quotient here that accounts for a part of the story's success. But what's really striking is how grim "The Tower of the Elephant" is. In sharp contrast to most heroic fantasy, there's no overriding moral order, no dichotomy of good vs. evil, no trustworthy authority that makes everything make sense. Yara is evil, but Conan is a thief, and the elephant creature is simply unfathomable. The world — and this is common to all the Conan stories — is essentially an anarchy of situations; what happens just happens, with no final judgment or possibility of redemption. You climb a tower, you discover a gruesomely tortured elephant-headed alien, you cut its heart out. Maybe you decide to get revenge on its behalf. On to the next adventure.

What's the appeal of all this? The Lord of the Rings was the perfect fantasy for WWII-era Europe, the story of an external evil defeated by a courageous alliance. The Conan stories address a more insidious threat, the decay of civilization from within. Science fiction and the western took opposite tacks to create frontier adventures for a world with no more frontiers; Howard created a sort of nightmare inversion of both, a world in which the ragged edge of civilization is always rolling backward. "Barbarism is the natural state of mankind," he wrote in the Conan story "Beyond the Black River." "Civilization is unnatural. … And barbarism must always ultimately triumph." It wasn't a cheerful form of escapism — Howard killed himself with a gunshot to the head in 1936, when he was 30 years old — but it was weirdly suited to a Depression America whose guiding institutions were widely perceived to have failed.

What's more, it was an easily updatable vision. You can see this in the construction of Conan the Barbarian, the first of the Schwarzenegger Conans, which was released in 1982. An early draft of the screenplay was by Oliver Stone, whose nose for American collapse was already unerringly strong. The director, John Milius, was also the screenwriter who had penned both "Go ahead, make my day" and "I love the smell of napalm in the morning." His post-Vietnam, Cold War-ready Conan battles flower-waving hippies and drone-like cultists, a solo Republican wreaking havoc in a world where the socialists have won. "Feels like a sequel to Red Dawn," I jotted in my notes when I rewatched the film recently. Later I realized that Red Dawn was Milius' next movie.

We can take this further. Milius was the Coen Brothers' inspiration for Walter Sobchak, and Conan is clearly the epic Walter would have made if he'd been given $50 million. That's not just because half the dialogue could fit in The Big Lebowski — "a couple of years ago they were just another snake cult" — or because, at one point, Schwarzenegger punches a camel in the face. It's also because, like Walter, the film is confused and alienated by the direction of American culture and has nothing to fall back on but the bogus dream of a warrior ethic, a hyper-Nietzschean cartoon of actualization through violence. Walter throws a bowling ball at a nihilist; Conan chops off James Earl Jones' head.

The Conan franchise didn't succeed in spite of its tie to Depression-era Texas. It succeeded because of it. Its beginnings in Howard's tough, weird environment let it build, and then continually renovate, an awesome story around a strain of American neurosis — the idea that civil society is about to collapse, and then it's just you and the road and your sword. That's a fantasy that tends to spring up in hard times, obviously, when cultural decline is combined with a suspicion of collective action. It's probably unrealistic to hope that the new Conan will justify itself in terms of the debt-ceiling deal. But either way, Howard's sullen killing machine, with his "gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth," will keep winding his bizarre path through American history. Case in point: President Barack Obama collects the comic books.