Saturday, September 03, 2011

Today's Tune: Gary U.S. Bonds - Love's On The Line

Hockey Players’ Deaths Pose a Tragic Riddle

The New York Times
September 1, 2011

Wade Belak, 35, who recently retired, was found dead in Toronto on Wednesday. He made his N.H.L. debut in 1996-97. (Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI, via Getty)

Three N.H.L. players, all enforcers entrusted with protecting teammates through intimidation and the occasional flurry of fists, have been found dead since May, stirring debate over the role of fighting in hockey, the stress placed on enforcers and the possible impact of brain trauma on the men who absorb the sports’ biggest beatings.

The three players — Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, who died Wednesday — combined to play 945 N.H.L. regular-season games, scoring only 20 goals while accumulating more than 2,000 penalty minutes. They dropped their gloves hundreds of times to fight, sometimes against one another, while meting out hockey’s unique brand of jaw-cracking justice.

The question emerging in hockey circles is not only whether something could have been done to save the lives of each man, but whether their deaths were related to their jobs as enforcers.

“While the circumstances of each case are unique, these tragic events cannot be ignored,” the N.H.L. commissioner, Gary Bettman, and the N.H.L. Players Association’s executive director, Don Fehr, wrote in a joint statement. “We are committed to examining, in detail, the factors that may have contributed to these events, and to determining whether concrete steps can be taken to enhance player welfare and minimize the likelihood of such events taking place.”

That calculated review stands in contrast to the emotions tangled among the enforcers themselves.

“A sense of fear, especially, came over me,” said Todd Fedoruk, whose afflictions over the past decade as an enforcer included a shattered cheekbone at the hands of Boogaard and a battle over alcohol and drug addiction, which he says he has overcome. “I did what these guys did for as long as they did, or longer. And you get the sense: is this going to happen to me, too?”

The body of the recently retired Belak, 35, was found in a downtown Toronto hotel and condominium building on Wednesday. The police said the death was not suspicious but would not elaborate. The Associated Press and other news outlets reported it was a suicide.

On Aug. 15, Rypien, a 27-year-old who played for the Vancouver Canucks and recently signed a contract with the Winnipeg Jets, was found dead in his home in Alberta. Again, the cause of death was ruled unsuspicious; widespread news reports called it a suicide.

Those deaths, 16 days apart, followed the death of Boogaard, widely considered the most feared player in the N.H.L., in his Minneapolis apartment on May 13. Boogaard, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound 28-year-old, was found to have died of an accidental overdose of alcohol and prescription painkillers.

“I can’t rule out coincidence yet, but I’m definitely leaning toward the role and the bumps that we take,” Fedoruk said.

There is reluctance to tie the deaths together too tightly. Belak, married with two young daughters, engaged in more than 100 fights in his career, but if he had personal problems, they were not well known. Rypien fought depression for most of his adult life and had taken leaves of absence in the past couple years to address it. Boogaard sustained at least a dozen concussions in his career, his family believes, and was addicted to sleeping pills and painkillers the last years of his life.

“I think sometimes we get caught up in generalizations,” said Allain Roy, Rypien’s agent. “We have three sad instances where we have three young men who struggled with their lives off the ice. Whether their role played a piece in it, I think it’s almost impossible for anybody to draw that straight line through it — to say, all right, they were enforcers, and this is why this happened to them.”

But the questions left in their wake are reminiscent of what the N.F.L. endured in recent years as it slowly addressed the evidence mounting over the life-threatening nature of brain trauma among football players.

More than 20 former N.F.L. players have been posthumously found to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative disease caused by blunt trauma to the head. Many athletes with C.T.E., which can be found only by examining the brains of the deceased, had symptoms like drug abuse, impulse control problems and impaired memory.

Boogaard’s family saw all those symptoms in Boogaard, and donated his brain to researchers at Boston University. The final report is not complete.

In March, it was revealed that the Boston University researchers found C.T.E. in the brain of the former N.H.L. player Bob Probert, a hard-living, well-respected brawler who struggled with addiction and died of heart failure in 2010. Earlier research found the disease in the brain of the 1960s-era enforcer Reggie Fleming.

As with the N.F.L., the growing attention on one potentially life-threatening aspect of its game may force the N.H.L. to closely re-examine its rules and procedures in protecting players — particularly, perhaps, those in the most pugilistic roles.

Many enforcers described the toll — not only physically, but mentally — of being a designated fighter, used as a weapon of retribution against perceived cheap shots or simply to charge the crowd or teammates. A lot of them, including the long-feared enforcer Georges Laraque, now retired, said that sleep was rare the night before an expected fight with another enforcer.

The job can pay well (Boogaard signed a four-year, $6.5 million contract with the Rangers in 2010), and some enforcers are among the most popular players in the game. But beyond their fists, most do not have the range of hockey skills necessary to stay in the N.H.L. Each lost fight could be the last.

“The guys that have played the role have never denied how it makes them feel and what it does to them emotionally,” said Brantt Myhres, a former N.H.L. enforcer who made five trips to league-mandated rehabilitation because of alcohol and drug addictions, and now works as a substance-abuse counselor. “It’s one of the hardest jobs in sports. All people see is 20,000 people standing and cheering you on. They don’t see the dark times. They don’t see you curled up in a ball in a hotel room, scared to death for the next fight.”

On Wednesday, after news of Belak’s death emerged, the player agent Scott Norton sent a Twitter message that read: “Boogaard, Rypien and now Belak? Maybe we should spend less time worrying how they play on the ice, and more time helping em cope off?”

In an interview Thursday, Norton said that while the three cases were unique, “It’s hard to say the deaths are completely not connected.”

He added: “The common thread is that they go to war every day. What have they done in their lives to prepare themselves for that?”

Several enforcers and agents said that more work needed to be done in eroding the persistent stigma over personal problems like depression and substance abuse. Players still worry about being embarrassed by teammates and fans, and being branded by coaches and team officials.

“There are thousands of guys waiting to have your job,” Myhres said. “There has to be a way to get these guys to come forward and talk about these issues, without fear of any repercussions.”

With training camps scheduled to start this month, Fedoruk is one who expects an unforeseen amount of understanding and compassion in the dressing rooms in the wake of the three deaths.

“I think there’s going to be a level of caring among teammates like you’ve never seen before this coming year,” Fedoruk said.

Yet the question as to why three N.H.L. enforcers died this off-season, and whether their deaths can be tied to their role and the physical and mental toll it takes, will linger.

“They scare me,” said the former enforcer Ryan Vandenbussche, 38, who last played in the N.H.L. five years ago and acknowledges bouts of memory loss. “They scare me because we don’t know why this is happening.”

Eternal adolescence lacking in romance

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
September 2, 2011

I was on a very long flight the other day and, to get me through it, I had two books: the new bestseller “Of Thee I Zing,” by Laura Ingraham, and a book I last read 20 years ago, “The Radetzky March,” by Joseph Roth. The former is the latest hit from one of America’s most popular talk radio hosts; the latter is an Austrian novel from 1932 by a fellow who drank himself to death just before the Second World War, which, if you’re planning on drinking yourself to death, is a better pretext than most. Don’t worry, I’ll save the Germanic alcoholic guy for a couple of paragraphs, although the two books are oddly related.

“Of Thee I Zing’s” subtitle is “America’s Cultural Decline From Muffin Tops To Body Shots.” If you are sufficiently culturally aware to know what a “muffin top” and a “body shot” are (and incidentally, if you don’t have time to master all these exciting new trends, these two can be combined into one convenient “muffin shot”), you may not think them the most pressing concerns as the Republic sinks beneath its multitrillion-dollar debt burden. But, as Miss Ingraham says, “Even if our economic and national security challenges disappeared overnight, we’d still have to climb out of the cultural abyss into which we’ve tumbled.” Actually, I think I’d go a little further than the author on that. I’m a great believer that culture trumps economics. Every time the government in Athens calls up the Germans and says, OK, we’ve burned through the last bailout, time for the next one, Angela Merkel understands all too well that the real problem in Greece is not the Greek finances but the Greek people. Even somnolent liberal columnists grasp this: A recent Thomas Friedman column in the New York Times was headlined “Can Greeks Become Germans?” I think we all know the answer to that. Any society eventually winds up with the finances you’d expect. So think of our culture as one almighty muffin shot, with America as a giant navel filled with the cheap tequila of our rising debt and …no, wait, this metaphor’s getting way out of hand.

These are difficult issues for social conservatives to write about. When we venture into this terrain, we’re invariably dismissed as uptight squares who can’t get any action. That happens to be true in my case, but Laura Ingraham has the advantage of being a “pretty girl,” as disgraced Congressman Charlie Rangel made the mistake of calling her on TV the other day in an interview that went hilariously downhill thereafter. So she has a little more credibility on this turf than I would. She opens with a lurid account of a recent visit to a north Virginia mall – zombie teens texting, a thirtysomething metrosexual having his eyebrows threaded, a fiftysomething cougar spilling out of her tube top, grade-schoolers in the latest “prostitot” fashions – and then embarks on a lively tour of American cultural levers, from schools to social media to churches to Hollywood. If there is a common theme in the various rubble of cultural ruin, it’s the urge to enter adolescence ever earlier and leave it later and later, if at all. So we have skanky ’tweens “dry humping” at middle-school dances, and an ever greater proportion of “men” in their thirties living at home with their parents.

Adolescence, like retirement, is an invention of the modern age. If the extension of retirement into a multi-decade government-funded vacation is largely a function of increased life expectancy, the prolongation of adolescence seems to derive from the bleak fact that, without an efficient societal conveyor belt to move you on, it appears to be the default setting of huge swathes of humanity. It was striking, during the Hurricane Irene frenzy, to hear the Federal Emergency Management Agency refer to itself repeatedly as “the federal family.” If Big Government is a “family,” with the bureaucracy as its parents, why be surprised that the citizens are content to live as eternal adolescents?

Perhaps the saddest part of the book is Ingraham’s brisk tour of recent romantic ballads. Exhibit A, Enrique Iglesias:

“Please excuse me, I don’t mean to be rude

But tonight I’m f**king you…”

Well, at least he said “excuse me,” which is more than this young swain did:

“Take my order ’cause your body like a carry out

Let me walk into your body until it’s lights out.”

Lovely: I am so hot for you I look on you as a Burger King drive-thru. That’s what the chicks dig. That’s what you’ll be asking the band to play at your silver wedding anniversary as you tell the young ’uns that they don’t write ’em like they used to. Even better, this exquisite love song is sung not by some bling-dripping braggart hoodlum of the rap fraternity but by the quintessential child-man of contemporary pop culture, ex-Mouseketeer Justin Timberlake.

It’s not the vulgarity or the crassness or even the grunting moronic ugliness, but something more basic: the absence of tenderness. A song such as “It Had To Be You” or “The Way You Look Tonight” pre-supposes certain courtship rituals. If a society no longer has those, it’s not surprising that it can no longer produce songs to embody them: After all, a great love ballad is, to a certain extent, aspirational; you hope to have a love worthy of such a song. A number like “Carry Out” is enough to make you question whether the fundamental things really do apply as time goes by.

Yet one of the curious features of a hypersexualized society is that it becomes paradoxically sexless and joyless. Guys who confidently bellow along with Enrique’s “F**king You” no longer quite know how to ask a girl for a chocolate malt at the soda fountain. It’s hardly surprising that, as Miss Ingraham reports, the formerly fringe activity of computer dating has now gone mainstream on an industrial scale. And, even then, as a couple of young ladies happened to mention to me after various recent encounters through and the like, an alarming number of chaps would rather see you naked on their iPhones Anthony Weiner-style than actually get you naked in their bachelor pads. I was reminded of “The Children Of Men,” set in an infertile world, in which P D James’ characters, liberated from procreation, increasingly find sex too much trouble.

Laura Ingraham’s book is a rollicking read. But, as I said, I picked it up after a re-immersion in “The Radetzky March,” by Joseph Roth, a melancholy portrait of the decline of the Habsburg Empire seen through the eyes of three generations of minor nobility and imperial civil servants in the years before the Great War swept away an entire world order and its assumptions of permanence. Roth was a man of the post-war era, yet he could not write his story without an instinctive respect for the lost rituals of a doomed world: The novel takes its title from the great Strauss march that the town band plays in front of the District Commissioner’s home every Sunday. As much as the Habsburgs, we, too, are invested in the illusions of permanence, and perhaps one day it will fall to someone to write a bittersweet novel about the final years of the Republic. But we will not even enjoy the consolations of a Strauss march. It doesn’t have quite the same ring if you call the book “Carry Out” or “F**king You.”


Friday, September 02, 2011

A Not-So-Amusing Day at the Amusement Park

By Rich Trzupek
September 2, 2011

A confrontation between Muslims celebrating the end of Ramadan at the Rye Playland amusement park in Westchester County, New York and local authorities turned ugly yesterday, in a perfect demonstration of the toxic influence agitation outfits like the Council on American-Islamic Relations have had on American discourse. “It’s clear, this all happened because we’re Muslim,” said Dena Meawad, an 18-year-old Muslim woman who was in the midst of the action. She, of course, is the aggrieved victim of the supposedly racist, sexist and, above-all, Islamophobic American society.

Three years ago, Westchester County, which operates Rye Playland, put a policy into effect that forbids people from wearing headgear on certain rides. That rule was imposed because of safety concerns, both that a hat landing on the tracks of certain rides could cause problems and that some coverings – like a head scarf – could represent a strangulation hazard. Peter Tartaglia, deputy commissioner of Westchester County Parks, said the Muslim American Society of New York was informed about the headgear rule on multiple occasions in advance of yesterday’s event, during which about 3,000 members of the society visited the park. “Part of our rules and regulations, which we painstakingly told them over and over again, is that certain rides you cannot wear any sort of headgear,” Tartaglia said.

Some of the young women attending the event either didn’t get the message or chose to ignore it. According to reports, some Muslim women began arguing with police over the rules when they were denied entrance to rides. The confrontation escalated to the point that about 100 police converged on the park to get the melee under control. Fifteen Muslims, including three women, were taken into custody. Two park rangers were injured in the fracas.

The Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was naturally quick to take offense over the incident. “In this heightened state of Islamophobia, a woman wearing a hajib is an easy target these days,” said Zead Ramadan, president of CAIR – New York. Except that’s not even remotely the way that America works “these days.”

Far from being “Islamophobic,” modern-day America bends over backwards to avoid even the slightest appearance of impropriety when it comes to interacting with the Muslim community, which is evident in everything from our public school curriculum to our airports. This is a natural outgrowth of the kind of leftist mentality that permeates our society; that America is a racist, sexist and Islamophobic nation for which we must perpetually atone. Unfortunately, some of the “victims” of this paradigm, like CAIR head-hunters, whose relevancy and power is parasitic on the fear of discrimination in the Muslim community, understand that American psychology all too well.

Organizations like CAIR trade in exploiting victimhood, and, as the Rye Playland incident too richly illustrates, that victim mentality filters down into the mainstream Muslim community most readily.
The young women at the amusement park were more than ready to take offense at a perfectly reasonable park policy, because they have been propagandized into believing they are constantly under attack. The outraged young Muslims at Rye Playland were merely acting in accordance with the leftist backstory and CAIR plot-line. They behaved in the way they should be expected to behave, given the nature of the indoctrination on “American-Islamic relations” to which they have been subject.

As has been amply documented, about 70% of all hate crimes are anti-Jewish in nature, while only about 9% of hate crimes are anti-Muslim. Yet this staggering degree of blind bigotry largely goes unnoticed relative to the comparatively minuscule number of anti-Muslim hate crimes. The grossly exaggerated portrayal of Muslim discrimination in the US directly feeds the hysteria that results in ugly incidents like that at Rye Playland and, even worse, stands to excuse them.

But the Rye Playland incident also shows that the prevailing narrative that the Islamic community is a passive, persecuted American enclave doesn’t hold up. It is in fact a politically aggressive community, whose outrages tend to be instigated by Islamophobia manufacturers and the political crowd rather than by acts of bigotry themselves. Rest assured, the more these parties are given credence by society at large, the more Rye Playland incidents we will see.

Gibson Guitar Wails on Federal Raid Over Wood

The Wall Street Journal
September 1, 2011

Federal agents with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service shut down the Gibson Guitar factory in Memphis Aug. 24 to serve search warrants. (The Commercial Appeal/Zuma Press)

Gibson Guitar Corp., a big user of ebony and other scarce woods, for years has allied itself with Greenpeace and other environmental groups to show it was serious about preserving forests.

That didn't stop the Nashville-based company, whose guitars are used by such musicians as B.B. King and Angus Young of AC/DC, from running afoul of U.S. authorities over allegedly illegal imports of wood. Though no charges have been filed, Gibson factories have been raided twice, most recently last week, by federal agents who say ebony exported from India to Gibson was "fraudulently" labeled to conceal a contravention of Indian export law.

Henry Juszkiewicz, chief executive officer of the closely held company, said in an interview that a broker probably made a mistake in labeling the goods but that the sale was legal and approved by Indian authorities.

Gibson's predicament, which raises concerns for musical instrument makers and other importers of wood, illustrates the pitfalls of complying with U.S. law while dealing with middlemen in faraway countries whose legal systems can be murky.

The law ensnaring Gibson is the Lacey Act of 1900, originally passed to regulate trade in bird feathers used for hats and amended in 2008 to cover wood and other plant products. It requires companies to make detailed disclosures about wood imports and bars the purchase of goods exported in violation of a foreign country's laws.

Leonard Krause, a consultant in Eugene, Ore., who advises companies on complying with the Lacey Act, is telling clients they should hire lawyers in countries where they obtain products. "How many people know the statutes in India?" Mr. Krause said. "The net effect is that it raises everybody's cost of doing business."

Federal agents first raided Gibson factories in November 2009 and were back again Aug. 24, seizing guitars, wood and electronic records. Gene Nix, a wood product engineer at Gibson, was questioned by agents after the first raid and told he could face five years in jail.

"Can you imagine a federal agent saying, 'You're going to jail for five years' and what you do is sort wood in the factory?" said Mr. Juszkiewicz, recounting the incident. "I think that's way over the top." Gibson employees, he said, are being "treated like drug criminals."

Mr. Nix hasn't been accused of any wrongdoing. He couldn't be reached for comment.

A Justice Department spokesman declined comment. While Justice Department officials pursue what they say is a possible criminal case against Gibson, they and the company are battling in federal district court in Nashville over whether materials seized in the 2009 raid should be returned to Gibson. That civil fight provides indications of the case the government is trying to make against Gibson.

Mr. Nix went to Madagascar in June 2008 on a trip organized by environmental groups to talk to local officials about selling responsibly harvested wood to makers of musical instruments. Afterward, in emails later seized by the government, he referred to "widespread corruption and theft of valuable woods" and the possibility of buying ebony and rosewood from Madagascar on "the grey market."

In a June 4 court filing, Jerry Martin, U.S. Attorney for central Tennessee, quoted the emails, and said "Nix knew that the grey market meant purchasing contraband."

Gibson has denied the allegation and said Mr. Nix's emails were quoted out of context.

The government has focused on a March 2009 shipment of ebony from Madagascar intended for guitar fingerboards. Madagascar law bars the export of certain unfinished wood products, according to both Gibson and the government. Gibson says the ebony had been cut into pieces and that local officials approved the export as a legal sale of finished goods.

U.S. officials described the wood as "sawn timber" and said Madagascar officials were "defrauded" by a local exporter about the nature of the product.

Gibson says the government is trying to "second guess" the Madagascar government. "The U.S. government's startling position smacks of something from an Orwell novel," Gibson said in a July 15 court filing in federal district court in Nashville.

After the 2009 raid, Gibson stopped buying wood from Madagascar. Gibson continued to use suppliers in India for ebony and rosewood.

As for last week's raid, the government said it had evidence that Indian ebony was "fraudulently" labeled in an attempt to evade an Indian ban on exports of unfinished wood.

"It is very possible that a broker made the mistake in filling out a form," Mr. Juszkiewicz said. Gibson says the ebony was partially finished for use as fingerboards and that Indian officials have endorsed such exports as legal. A spokesman for India's commerce ministry had no immediate comment.

After the 2009 raid, Mr. Juszkiewicz resigned from the board of the Rainforest Alliance, which seeks to preserve tropical forests. He said he didn't want to tar the nonprofit with bad publicity. A Rainforest Alliance spokeswoman said he wasn't pressured to step down, and the group continues to praise Gibson's efforts to promote responsible harvesting of wood.

Scott Paul, a Greenpeace official in New York responsible for forestry issues, said Gibson for years has done "great work" to promote better forestry practices. The question, he said, is whether Gibson did everything possible to avoid buying wood from dubious sources. "We have no idea," he said.

—Amol Sharma contributed to this article.

Write to James R. Hagerty at and Kris Maher at

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Obama and the Burden of Exceptionalism

Post-'60s liberals, with the president as their standard bearer, seek to make a virtue of decline.

The Wall Street Journal
September 1, 2011

If I've heard it once, I've heard it a hundred times: President Obama is destroying the country. Some say this destructiveness is intended; most say it is inadvertent, an outgrowth of inexperience, ideological wrong-headedness and an oddly undefined character. Indeed, on the matter of Mr. Obama's character, today's left now sounds like the right of three years ago. They have begun to see through the man and are surprised at how little is there.

Yet there is something more than inexperience or lack of character that defines this presidency: Mr. Obama came of age in a bubble of post-'60s liberalism that conditioned him to be an adversary of American exceptionalism. In this liberalism America's exceptional status in the world follows from a bargain with the devil—an indulgence in militarism, racism, sexism, corporate greed, and environmental disregard as the means to a broad economic, military, and even cultural supremacy in the world. And therefore America's greatness is as much the fruit of evil as of a devotion to freedom.

Mr. Obama did not explicitly run on an anti-exceptionalism platform. Yet once he was elected it became clear that his idea of how and where to apply presidential power was shaped precisely by this brand of liberalism. There was his devotion to big government, his passion for redistribution, and his scolding and scapegoating of Wall Street—as if his mandate was somehow to overcome, or at least subdue, American capitalism itself.

Anti-exceptionalism has clearly shaped his "leading from behind" profile abroad—an offer of self-effacement to offset the presumed American evil of swaggering cowboyism. Once in office his "hope and change" campaign slogan came to look like the "hope" of overcoming American exceptionalism and "change" away from it.

So, in Mr. Obama, America gained a president with ambivalence, if not some antipathy, toward the singular greatness of the nation he had been elected to lead.

But then again, the American people did elect him. Clearly Americans were looking for a new kind of exceptionalism in him (a black president would show America to have achieved near perfect social mobility). But were they also looking for—in Mr. Obama—an assault on America's bedrock exceptionalism of military, economic and cultural pre-eminence?

American exceptionalism is, among other things, the result of a difficult rigor: the use of individual initiative as the engine of development within a society that strives to ensure individual freedom through the rule of law. Over time a society like this will become great. This is how—despite all our flagrant shortcomings and self-betrayals—America evolved into an exceptional nation.

Yet today America is fighting in a number of Muslim countries, and that number is as likely to rise as to fall. Our exceptionalism saddles us with overwhelming burdens. The entire world comes to our door when there is real trouble, and every day we spill blood and treasure in foreign lands—even as anti-Americanism plays around the world like a hit record.

At home the values that made us exceptional have been smeared with derision. Individual initiative and individual responsibility—the very engines of our exceptionalism—now carry a stigma of hypocrisy. For centuries America made sure that no amount of initiative would lift minorities and women. So in liberal quarters today—where historical shames are made to define the present—these values are seen as little more than the cynical remnants of a bygone era. Talk of "merit" or "a competition of excellence" in the admissions office of any Ivy League university today, and then stand by for the howls of incredulous laughter.

Our national exceptionalism both burdens and defames us, yet it remains our fate. We make others anxious, envious, resentful, admiring and sometimes hate-driven. There's a reason al Qaeda operatives targeted the U.S. on 9/11 and not, say, Buenos Aires. They wanted to enrich their act of evil with the gravitas of American exceptionalism. They wanted to steal our thunder.

So we Americans cannot help but feel some ambivalence toward our singularity in the world—with its draining entanglements abroad, the selfless demands it makes on both our military and our taxpayers, and all the false charges of imperial hubris it incurs. Therefore it is not surprising that America developed a liberalism—a political left—that took issue with our exceptionalism. It is a left that has no more fervent mission than to recast our greatness as the product of racism, imperialism and unbridled capitalism.

But this leaves the left mired in an absurdity: It seeks to trade the burdens of greatness for the relief of mediocrity. When greatness fades, when a nation contracts to a middling place in the world, then the world in fact no longer knocks on its door. (Think of England or France after empire.) To civilize America, to redeem the nation from its supposed avarice and hubris, the American left effectively makes a virtue of decline—as if we can redeem America only by making her indistinguishable from lesser nations.

Since the '60s we have enfeebled our public education system even as our wealth has expanded. Moral and cultural relativism now obscure individual responsibility. We are uninspired in the wars we fight, calculating our withdrawal even before we begin—and then we fight with a self-conscious, almost bureaucratic minimalism that makes the wars interminable.

America seems to be facing a pivotal moment: Do we move ahead by advancing or by receding—by reaffirming the values that made us exceptional or by letting go of those values, so that a creeping mediocrity begins to spare us the burdens of greatness?

As a president, Barack Obama has been a force for mediocrity. He has banked more on the hopeless interventions of government than on the exceptionalism of the people. His greatest weakness as a president is a limp confidence in his countrymen. He is afraid to ask difficult things of them.

Like me, he is black, and it was the government that in part saved us from the ignorances of the people. So the concept of the exceptionalism—the genius for freedom—of the American people may still be a stretch for him. But in fact he was elected to make that stretch. It should be held against him that he has failed to do so.

Illustration: Chad Crowe

Mr. Steele is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Among his books is "White Guilt" (Harper/Collins, 2007).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today's Tune: Adele - Someone Like You (Live, 2011 VMA)

Screw up, move up, cover up: Fast and Furious edition

By Michelle Malkin
August 31, 2011

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' acting director Kenneth Melson speaks at a Houston news conference in April 2009. (Pat Sullivan / Associated Press)

There are now enough Operation Fast and Furious officials playing hide-and-seek in the Obama administration to fill a “rubber room.”

That’s the nickname for taxpayer-subsidized holding pens, such as the ones in the New York City public schools, where crooked employees are separated from the system and paid to do nothing. Perhaps the White House can stimulate a few construction jobs by adding an entire rubber room annex for “reassigned” scandal bureaucrats at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s getting mighty crowded.

On Tuesday, the Justice Department announced it was shuffling Kenneth Melson, acting director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, out of his job. The disclosure comes amid continued GOP investigations into the administration’s fatally botched straw gun purchase racket at the border and spreading outrage over legal obstructionism and whistleblower retaliation by DOJ brass. The DOJ inspector general is also conducting a probe.

Internal documents earlier showed that Melson was intimately involved in overseeing the program and screened undercover videos of thousands of straw purchases of AK-47s and other high-powered rifles — many of which ended up in the hands of Mexican drug cartel thugs, including those who murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry last December. Fast and Furious weapons have been tied to at least a dozen violent crimes in America and untold bloody havoc in Mexico.

In secret July 4 testimony, Melson revealed he was “sick to his stomach” when he discovered the extent of the operation’s deadly lapses. Join the club, pal.

Melson told congressional investigators that he and ATF’s senior leadership “moved to reassign every manager involved in Fast and Furious, from the deputy assistant director for field operations down to the group supervisor” after ATF whistleblowers went to the press and Capitol. But according to Melson, he and company were ordered by Justice Department higher-ups to remain silent about the reasons for the reassignments.

In other words: the ATF managers in the know were “effectively muzzled while the DOJ sent over false denials and buried its head in the sand,” as GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Sen. Charles Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, concluded in July.

Melson has been kicked back to DOJ’s main office in a flabbergasting new slot as “senior adviser on forensic science in the department’s Office of Legal Policy.” He may have been “sick to his stomach,” but the federal careerist apparently has no intention of quitting an administration with blood on its hands. And now he’ll be advising others on how to track and handle evidence. Nice make-work if you can get it.

Others on the Fast and Furious dance card of lemons:

– Assistant U.S. Attorney Emory Hurley in Phoenix, who helped oversee the straw gun purchase disaster. He’s being transferred out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s criminal division and into the civil division.

– Assistant ATF Special Agents in Charge George Gillett and Jim Needles. Moved to other positions.
– BATF deputy director of operations in the West, William McMahon. Promoted to ATF headquarters.

– ATF Phoenix field supervisors William Newell and David Voth. Promoted to new management positions in Washington.

Keep your friends close and your henchmen on the verge of spilling all the beans closer.
There’s been only one visible Fast and Furious resignation: U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Phoenix, who quietly stepped down on Tuesday. One of his last acts? Opposing the request of murdered Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry’s family to qualify as crime victims in a court case against the thug who bought the Fast and Furious guns used in Terry’s murder.

The fish rots from the head down, of course. DOJ is run by Eric Holder, the Beltway swamp creature who won bipartisan approval for his nomination — even after putting political interests ahead of security interests at the Clinton Justice Department in both the Marc Rich pardon scandal and the Puerto Rican FALN terrorist debacle. Remember: Holder won over the Senate by arguing that his poor judgment made him more qualified for the job.

Screw up, move up, cover up: It’s the Holder way, the Obama way, the Washington way. And innocent Americans pay.

The Walking Dead: Season 2 Previews

Full Black

By Mark Tapson
August 30, 2011

Brad Thor is the perennial New York Times bestselling author of eleven thrillers. His extensive real-world knowledge of espionage, covert special operations and terrorism caught the attention of Homeland Security, who invited him to join their “Red Cell” Program of writers commissioned to brainstorm on terrorism scenarios.

The plot of Thor’s latest, Full Black, revolves around a planned wave of dramatic terrorist attacks designed to cripple America and pave the way for a socialist utopia. It’s an action-packed page-turner to literally the very last line of the book, pitting Thor’s hero Scot Harvath against Russian hitmen, Muslim suicide bombers, and a radical Left terror financier. But it’s more than just beach-read escapism; it’s also a forceful defense of capitalism, freedom, and American character.

Mark Tapson: Full Black is your tenth novel to feature your protagonist Scot Harvath, an ex-Navy SEAL turned covert counterterrorism operative. What is it about Harvath that you think resonates with so many readers?

Brad Thor: I think what resonates with so many readers about Harvath is that he is a good guy – a very good guy – but he realizes the only way to win against an enemy who refuses to fight by any rules is to take the gloves off. I think we’re all beyond tired of political correctness in this country and it’s refreshing to see somebody actually taking the battle directly to the bad guys.

MT: Harvath’s principal antagonist in the novel is described as a billionaire anti-capitalist, a Jewish anti-Semite, a master manipulator of our media, economy, and education – a “malignant, messianic narcissist” whose goal is the collapse of the United States. That no doubt rings a bell for readers of FrontPage Mag. Can you elaborate on your inspiration for this character?

BT: My number one job as a thriller writer is to entertain you. That’s why I strive to write fast moving, cinematic chapters. I love hearing from readers who say they sat down intending to read only a couple of pages and the next thing they knew it was three o’clock in the morning. If you’ve had that experience, if I have given you a terrific, white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride then I have done my job as an author. But that’s not enough for me. I want you to get even more out of my novels and I think that “something more” is one of the hallmarks of a Brad Thor thriller.

I want you to close the book a smarter, better-informed person who knows more about a range of topics than when you began. I want to take you inside the intelligence, political, and special operations arenas and show you things no other author can show you. I also want to present things to you that are happening at home and abroad that you probably had no idea about.

When you finish my books, I want you to be conversant in a host of very interesting, very consequential topics that are facing our nation and our way of life.

I realize, though, that his doesn’t really answer your question, does it? I have refused to mention publicly (or privately) who the main antagonist in Full Black “might” be based on. I know who everyone thinks he is, and all I can say is that readers will have to pick up the book and come to their own conclusions.

For me, the best part about this particular antagonist is that he allowed me to lay out some deeply disturbing and very real issues that I think all Americans should be concerned about. In fact, I’ve had scores of people claim that Full Black (in particular, Chapter 32) should be required reading not only in the White House, but in every school across the country. As a thriller author, that’s pretty powerful stuff.

MT: Harvath decries the media figures and politicians who “try to put a happy face on Muslim extremism and Sharia law under the banner of cultural diversity,” the ones who use “the false moral equivalency card [to] paint Christian fundamentalists as equally dangerous and prolific in their violence.” How significant are the barriers of political correctness and multiculturalism to combating the threat of fundamentalist Islam?

BT: I have long held that our Achilles heel – the greatest chink in our national security armor – is political correctness. It will be the death of this nation (if government spending doesn’t do us in first).
Nothing hinders the reformists within the Islamic faith more than the politically correct apologists outside it. When they make excuses for Islamic terrorism, when they refuse to even call it Islamic terrorism, they prop up the terrorists and blunt the voices of the good Muslim men and women who are trying to root out the evil within the ranks of their faith.

As per multiculturalism – don’t even get me started. All you need to know is that Western Europe is the canary in the coalmine. France, Germany… they all realize now what an utter failure their leftist social policies have been.

It’s not our differences that make us stronger – it’s what we have in common. We need a shared sense of identity and shared sense of purpose to be successful in a nation-state. The leftists, though, do not want nation-states to be successful.

This is a big reason why you see the hard left working so hard to compartmentalize everyone into victim groups. If you can isolate people into smaller and smaller cells and then blame the right for all of their woes, you can garner more votes – at least that’s their hope. It is “Balkanization” and it’s despicable. There is only one minority group that makes a whit of difference in this world and it’s the smallest minority group there is – the individual.
MT: In the book, you pull no punches in your criticisms of the CIA. You describe it as a top-heavy, inefficient, risk-averse, hidebound bureaucracy that, ten years after 9/11, is still more obsessed with protecting its own turf than correcting the intelligence mistakes that led up to the attacks of that morning. If you were made CIA Director, how would you transform the agency?

BT: In Full Black I also state that the CIA is filled with many absolutely remarkable, patriotic men and women who are being stymied by the bureaucracy and lack of leadership. Not one single head rolled at Langley after 9/11 and I think that says a lot about the problems there.

If I was made DCI – the first thing I would do is have a meeting with former DCI, Porter Goss. Mr. Goss had been sent in with a mandate to clean up the CIA and clear out all of the “deadwood.” Mr. Goss’s tenure at the Agency was short-lived. I have to imagine he could probably offer a lot of suggestions on how he might go at things differently today if he was given another crack at the broken culture at Langley.

The bottom line is that the CIA is a cold-war era relic that needs to be figuratively burned to the ground and rebuilt. If I was the architect of that rebuilding, I’d design the CIA’s replacement in the style of its precursor, the OSS. I would keep the great, patriotic Americans of the CIA who value protecting their country above protecting their backsides and I’d dump everyone else. We need intelligence people who are focused on the next threat, not the next promotion – and we need to provide them with a culture in which they and the nation can succeed.

MT: As if Harvath isn’t defending America against enough enemies in Full Black, the Chinese also play a behind-the-scenes role, facilitating a devastating strategy of “unrestricted warfare” against the United States. Based on your experience in counterintelligence circles, is China more of a serious and imminent terrorist threat than most Americans realize?

BT: China knows it can never defeat the U.S. on the conventional battlefield. That was why, in the 1990’s, two colonels from the PLA drew up a blueprint to secretly collapse America from within. The attacks had to meet two criteria. They could not be traceable back to the Chinese, i.e. no Chinese fingerprints, and the attacks had to all seem like random occurrences that America wouldn’t be able to link in a pattern.

To that end, the plan called for many things including: encouraging the work of George Soros, co-opting al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups to attack America and American interests (it specifically mentions attacking the World Trade Center), and developing the capabilities to shut down America’s power grids (there have been reports that some inside the intelligence community believe the 2003 Northeast blackout was caused accidentally by Chinese hackers mapping our power grids and planting Trojan viruses in preparation for just such an attack).

I saved the best parts of the plan for Full Black, but as I was writing it, I was stunned by how so much of the plan seemed to be unfolding right now in real life. In fact, national security columnist Bill Gertz came out with an article while I was polishing the draft saying that there were elements affiliated with the Pentagon that believed the 2008 financial crash may have also been part of this same master plan to covertly collapse the United States from within.

MT: Recently Warner Bros. Studios picked up the rights to your novels to develop what will hopefully be a movie franchise as successful as the Jason Bourne series. Tell us about your experiences trying to find a home for Harvath and your books in Hollywood. Did you meet with any resistance to having such an openly conservative character in left-leaning Hollywood?

BT: I have long held that al Qaeda didn’t pick the World Trade Center because it was filled with Republicans, but because it was filled with Americans. And when they attempt to carry out their next attack on the NYC subway system, they’re not going to post operatives at turnstiles asking to see voter registration cards and suggesting Democrats and Independents ride the bus that day.

National security should be an American issue, not a partisan issue. Al Qaeda is united in its mission to kill Americans and we should all be just as united, if not more so, in our mission to kill all of them first.

As far as Hollywood is concerned, there is a reason anti-American films like Stop-Loss, Redacted, Lions for Lambs, etc. have bombed at the box office. Americans want to see their values triumph. We want good to succeed over evil.

And speaking of good, there are lots of good people in Hollywood. They don’t all look down their noses at “fly-over” country. They know there’s much more to America than just her coasts and they also know that the area between the coasts is where a majority of their ticket sales come from.

I have been nothing but impressed with all of the people I have been working with at Warner Bros. We’re not making “conservative” movies or movies with a “conservative” hero. We’re making an action franchise with a tough-as-nails American protagonist who everyone will stand up and cheer for – Republican, Democrat, and Independent alike. In fact, these movies are going to be so spectacular, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that al Qaeda’s dirtiest little secret is how much they love Scot Harvath and seeing the Brad Thor books up on the big screen.

If people come to a deeper understanding of the threats our country faces by watching these movies, that’s terrific. But at the end of the day, I – like Warner Bros – am in the entertainment business. I want our moviegoers to walk out of the theater raving about what they have just seen. If we do that, then we have done our job as entertainers.

Mark Tapson, a Hollywood-based writer and screenwriter, is a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center. He focuses on the politics of popular culture.

Glen Campbell Says Goodbye on "Ghost on the Canvas"

Moving on to a better place

By Peter Gerstenzang
published: August 31, 2011

You don't know the meaning of "poignant" until Glen Campbell, sitting two feet from you, starts to sing "Ghost on the Canvas," the title track of his new—and final—album. The country great, who's going through the early stages of Alzheimer's, sometimes forgets which family member once saved him from drowning, the last city he played, which guitar he used on "Good Vibrations." But when he sails into the magical realism of this heartbreaking Paul Westerberg ballad, he's the old Glen.

"I know a place between/Life and death/For you and me," he croons in his familiar, boyish tenor. He sings on about the end, about eternity, and you have to turn your head away, to brush back tears.

Campbell, still spry and blond at 75, his wife, Kim, sitting beside him, is in Manhattan to promote Ghost, maybe the finest album he's ever made. And even though some familiar names elude him, and at one point he gets me an Evian, then proceeds to drink it himself, Campbell hasn't lost a step musically. He's still the untutored guitar genius of L.A.'s famous Wrecking Crew, still the man who skyrocketed to stardom singing "Galveston" and "Wichita Lineman" in the late '60s. His new songs—some of which he co-wrote, others penned by the likes of Westerberg, Jakob Dylan, and Teddy Thompson—are virtually their equal. Bringing to mind what Campbell's friend John Wayne said in Rio Bravo: "I'd hate to have to live on the difference."

Has Campbell's increasing memory loss impeded him from playing and singing these new songs? "Not really," he says, the faintest trace of his Arkansas accent still sharpening his vowels. "My producer, Julian Raymond, and I went through about 50 submissions and picked a bunch. Co-wrote some others. Recording is still easy for me. Like when I played with the Beach Boys. I just put the capo up to the proper key and go! We had a saying in the '60s: 'Make the feel, feel good.' It was no different this time."

Many of the songs on Ghost are about getting old and letting go, with frightening emotions lurking just beneath their elegant surfaces. "When you got the diagnosis of Alzheimer's," I ask, "were you scared?"

Campbell smiles serenely. "No," he says, firmly. "Because l love the Lord. He's been so good to me, man." As if to underline this, Campbell tenderly fingers a small blue cross tattooed on his left arm. "When I look back on things—the hit records, the good fortune I've had—I can't complain. Mostly, there's my kids and my lovely wife. We been married 29 years. She ain't even that old!"

Campbell absentmindedly starts to hum John Hartford's "Gentle On My Mind," the tune that kickstarted his career some forty-odd years ago. I ask if he remembers when he first heard it. "You know, John sang that song so slowly when he first brought it to me. It took six minutes. I thought he'd never get through it." He laughs and stares off into space for a minute.

I find myself time-traveling a bit, too, remembering my conversation with Westerberg two days earlier. Normally, the ex-Replacement would rather star in a reality show than talk to the press; his eagerness to discuss Ghost on the Canvas suggests that he's unusually proud of his involvement with it.

"Glen did my tune 'Sadly Beautiful' on his last record, but I'm still surprised when anyone wants to do something of mine," Westerberg says. "Even if I tailor a song, it rarely works out how I planned it. Like, I'd love to tell you that 'Dyslexic Heart' was written for the movie Singles, but it was just a nice accident. Like this."

Still, Westerberg is pleased that Raymond kept Campbell's legacy in mind when arranging his two contributions to the record.

"They're not slavish imitations of his trademark '60s sound," he says. "But they're not far afield either. You'll notice on 'Ghost,' there's a musical nod to 'Wichita Lineman.' It makes sense. If Chuck Berry was making a final album, you'd want it to sound like classic Chuck, right?"

When I tell Campbell about the indirect way the Westerberg tunes got to him, he makes the connection with an old country joke.

"You know the one about the baby who swallowed the bullet?" he says. "His mama calls the doctor, very upset and asks what to do. The doctor says, 'Give him some castor oil and just don't aim him at anything!' Paul didn't aim those songs at me; that's why they worked."

Jakob Dylan's contribution to Ghost on the Canvas came about differently.

"I was stuck writing my last record," Dylan says. "And Julian asked if I'd try and write something for Glen. I came up with 'Nothing but the Whole Wide World.' It unlocked something, and encouraged me to write my whole album. The thing I love about Ghost is, it's not like those final Johnny Cash records. They're good, but not classic Cash. Glen's album sounds like vintage Glen, just updated."

Campbell, never a prolific writer, co-wrote five of the album's songs. "Julian would start them. And I'd personalize them, with 'I' and 'Me.' I have people I want to say goodbye to, so that made me want to contribute lyrics. Songs like 'A Better Place,' which is hopefully where I'm headed. I sang most of them in one take, with some punch-ins. Of course, occasionally, I'd learn a song one day and forget it the next. So, we'd start over."

The mood of the songs is so haunting, the feeling of mortality in the room so strong, Campbell has a sudden reminiscence about his first brush with death.

"When I was about three, I was on my way to buy some candy, when I fell into the creek. My uncle fished me out, but I'd turned blue. Momma was screaming, 'Lord, please don't take him!' My brothers happened to be coming along and they'd just taken lifesaving at a 3-C Camp. They worked on me, passed me back and forth, and got a half-gallon of water outta me. Somehow, I survived."

"So, Glen, you've been on Golden Time these past 70 years or so," I say.

"I had a destiny to play guitar, is all. No way I was supposed to die then."

I ask if he believes he's going to heaven when he dies.

"Yeah, I think so," he says. "I was pretty wild there for a while, but I got straightened out. Especially with my marriage. So, I'm pretty sure I'll make it to heaven." His eyes glint.

"Of course," Campbell adds, "that's on one condition. That, between now and then, I don't mess things up. Barring that? I'll be fine, man."

Today's Tune: Justin Townes Earle - One More Night in Brooklyn (Live)

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Assessing Qaddafi

Libya's long decline will take years to ameliorate.

By Daniel Pipes
August 30, 2011

On September 1, Mu’ammar al-Qadhdhafi (the proper transliteration of his name) would have been ruler of Libya for exactly 42 years, making him the world’s longest-ruling non-royal head of state. As he leaves the scene, his wretched reign deserves an appraisal.

Qaddafi took power at the age of 27 in the waning days of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the immensely influential pan-Arab leader of Egypt, and saw himself as Nasser’s acolyte but with a greater ambition: Whereas Nasser dreamed of a single Arab nation stretching from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf as an end in itself, Qaddafi saw Arab unity as the first step to Muslim unity. Although Qaddafi failed to achieve any sort of unity, and his “Third International Theory” detailed in the 1975 Green Book proved a total bust, he did have an early and marked impact on two major developments.

First, he had a key role in the increase in energy prices that began in 1972 and continues to this day. By challenging the international oil companies’ control over petroleum production and pricing, he began the transfer of power from Western boardrooms to Middle Eastern palaces. Specifically, the chances Qaddafi successfully took helped bring about the four-fold increase in oil prices in 1973–74.

Second, Qaddafi kicked off what was then known as the Islamic revival. At a time when no one else was ready to do so, he proudly and provocatively advanced Islamic causes by applying aspects of Islamic law, calling on Muslims worldwide to do likewise, and assisting any Muslims in conflict with non-Muslims.

Qaddafi’s long rule can be divided into four eras. The first and most significant, 1969–86, consisted of frenetic activity on his part, meddling in issues and conflicts from Northern Ireland to the southern Philippines. An incomplete listing would include the near crippling of Jimmy Carter’s 1980 reelection campaign by making payments to his brother Billy; declaring political union with Syria; aiding Iran militarily versus Iraq; threatening Malta over oil exploration in contested waters; bribing the Cypriot government to accept a Libyan radio transmitter; sending troops to southern Chad to control the country and impose a political union on it; and helping a Muslim group in Nigeria whose violence left over 100 dead.

But these efforts led nowhere. As I wrote in a 1981 assessment, “Not one of Qaddafi’s attempts at coups d’├ętat has toppled a government, not one rebellious force has succeeded, no separatists have established a new state, no terrorist campaign has broken a people’s resolve, no plan for union has been carried through, and no country save Libya follows the ‘third theory.’ Qaddafi has reaped bitterness and destruction without attaining any of his goals. Greater futility can scarcely be imagined.”

That first era ended with the U.S. bombardment of 1986 in retaliation for the bombing of a discotheque in Berlin, which seemed to affect Qaddafi’s psyche. His rabid adventurism dramatically declined, accompanied by a turn toward Africa and an ambition to build weapons of mass destruction. As his presence on the world stage shriveled, he was dismissed as a nut-job.

A third stage began in 2002, when a tamed Qaddafi paid reparations for the Libyan role in the 1988 downing of a Pan Am plane and gave up his WMD. Although the fundamentals of his regime remained in place, he became persona grata in Western countries, while the British prime minister and American secretary of state even paid their respects to him in Libya.

The fourth and final era began earlier this year, with the Benghazi rebellion, when Qaddafi in retreat reverted to the explicit brutality of his earlier rule, casting aside the carefully constructed image of someone newly paying attention to international expectations. With his regime in the balance, his viciousness and delusion took center stage and the results were devastating, with Libyans in great numbers rejecting him, his family, his regime, and his legacy.

After decades of repression and deceit, Libyans now face the challenge of discarding that foul legacy. They must struggle to free themselves of paranoia, depravity, and contortion. As Andrew Solomon of the New Yorker summed up the problem, Libyans “may recover from the Qaddafis’ embezzlement and brutality, but the falseness of life in the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya will take a long time to fade.”

Indeed it will.

Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum and Taube distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution of Stanford University. © 2011 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wind Power is Dying

Posted By Tait Trussell
August 28, 2011

While the U.S. is dumping billions of dollars into wind farms and onshore and offshore wind turbines, this energy source is being cast aside as a failure elsewhere in the world.

Some 410 federations and associations from 21 European countries, for example, have united against deployment of wind farms charging it is “degrading the quality of life.”

The European Platform Against Wind farms (EPAW) is demanding “a moratorium suspending all wind farm projects and a “complete assessment of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of wind farms in Europe.” The EPAW said it objects to industrial wind farms which “are spreading in a disorderly manner across Europe” under pressure from “financial and ideological lobby groups,” that are “degrading the quality of life living in their vicinity, affecting the health of many, devaluing people’s property and severely harming wildlife.” A petition for a moratorium has been sent to the European Commission and Parliament, said EPAW chairman J.L Butre.

France, earlier his year ran into opposition to its plan to build 3,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind turbines by 2020. That year is the target date the European Union set for providing 20 percent of its energy through renewable sources. An organization called the Sustainable Environment Association, opposes wind power, saying the subsidies will “not create a single job in France.”

In Canada, Wind Concerns Ontario (WCO) has launched a province-wide drive against wind power. It said Aug. 8 it wants to ensure that the next government is clear that “there is broad based community support for a moratorium…and stringent environmental protection of natural areas from industrial wind development.” WCO claimed, “The Wind industry is planning a high powered campaign to shut down support” for the WCO’s aims. “Our goal is to store the petition until the next legislative session gets underway in the fall…”

The Netherlands has approximately 2,000 onshore and offshore wind turbines. But even though Holland is synonymous with windmills, the installed capacity of wind turbines in the Netherlands at large has been stagnant for the past three years, according to an article in February in the Energy Collective. It was 2237 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2011. That was said to be about 3.37 percent of total annual electricity production. The principal reason for the stagnant onshore capacity “is the Dutch people’s opposition to the wind turbines.” They are up to 400 feet in height.

The Dutch national wind capacity factor is a dismal 0.186. The German wind capacity factor “is even more dismal at 0.167,” the article said.

Expanding wind power to meet the European Union’s 20 percent renewables target by 2020 meant adding at least another thousand 3 MW, 450-foot wind turbines to the Dutch landscape “at a cost of about $6 billion.” Not surprisingly, the Dutch people found that to be far too costly—“an intrusion into their lives and an unacceptable return on their investment, especially when considering the small quantity of CO2 reduction per invested dollar.”

An added 3,000 MW of offshore turbines also was rejected. The capital cost was figured at $10 to $12 billion. The cost was judged to be too much and the wind energy produced too little. “The energy would have to be sold at very high prices to make the project feasible.” The article added, “The proposed Cape Wind project in Massachusetts is a perfect example of such a project.” Environmental Lawyer Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in July wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal blasting the project off Cape Cod as “a rip-off.” Recently, the Netherlands became the first country to abandon the European Union target of producing 20 percent of its domestic power from renewables by 2020.

In Denmark, the Danes became aware that the poor economics of their heavily-subsidized wind energy is a major reason for the nation’s high residential electric rates. Opposition to the gigantic onshore turbines was so great that the state-owned utility finally announced last year that it would abandon plans for any new onshore wind facilities.
The Energy Collective article also reported that a CEPOS (Center for Political Studies) study found that 90 percent of wind energy sector jobs were transferred from other technology industries and that only 10 percent of the wind industry jobs were newly created jobs. As a result, the study said, Danish GDP is $270 million lower than it would have been without wind industry subsidies.

The Australian government, like the U.S., has placed a major emphasis on deploying renewable sources of energy, especially wind energy. As in the U.S., Australia set a target of 20 percent of its energy to come from renewal sources by 2020. The government provides generous subsidies and tax breaks to wind energy developers. But medical studies on farmer families living within 5 miles of wind farms found health problems ranging from sleep deprivation to nausea. Similar health effects have been discovered in other locations, including in the U.S.

Because wind blows only intermittently, Britain has determined that it will have to construct an additional 17 natural gas-powered plants as back-ups to wind to keep the lights on by 2020. These plants will cost 10 billion pounds, according to a posting by the Institute for Energy Research. One analyst was quoted as saying, “Government’s obsession with wind turbines is one of the greatest blunders of our time.”

Onshore wind power today costs about $0.13 per kWh. That’s nowhere near either the objective of the U.S. Department of Energy or the cost of competing power sources. The wind turbines jutting into the sky all across the country exist only because of the massive federal subsidies. Is this considered a failure by Obama officials? No way. Obama’s 2012 budget proposal increases renewables spending by 33 percent.

Wind farms in Texas that will cost $400 million over the next two years produce, incredibly, an average of only one job for every $1.6 million of capital investment. So the state’s comptroller general figured, according to a December 20, 2010 story in the Austin American-Statesman.

As long ago as 1973, then-President Nixon called for “Project Independence” in reaction to the OPEC oil embargo. The project was to achieve energy independence through development of alternative energy sources, such as wind, solar and geothermal power. So, there’s nothing new about renewable energy.

The Obama 2012 budget asks for $8 billion for “clean” energy, mainly wind power subsidies. As recently as Feb. 7, the secretaries of Energy and Interior announced plans to launch dozens of offshore turbines miles out at sea, while admitting the expense would be unknown. Despite generous subsidies, wind power is expected to provide no more than 8 percent of electric power in the U.S. by 2030.

The American Wind Industry Energy Association, the wind lobby group, said the top five states for wind energy were Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington. It said the second quarter of 2011 saw over 1,033 megawatts of capacity installed. It also maintained that wind is second only to natural gas and U.S. wind power represents more than 20 percent of the world’s wind power.

Over the next half century, say, it’s possible some new technologies will revolutionize energy. But, if so, they surely will come from the private sector — not government.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Losing Malmo

And Brussels, and Rome, and Amsterdam . . .

By Andrew C. McCarthy
August 27, 2011

An estimated 6,000 Leftists, Arabs, Muslims and anarchists protested the Israeli presence in the 2009 Davis Cup in Malmo, and hundreds attacked police.

Do you remember the jihadist terror campaign that ravaged Malmo, Sweden’s third largest city? Do you recall the bombings, the suicide-hijackings, and the random assassinations that finally coerced the city to surrender to Islamization?

No? Funny, I don’t remember them either. Yet there is no question that Malmo has surrendered. Large enclaves of the city, like similar enclaves throughout Western Europe, have earned the dread label “no-go zone.” They are unsafe for non-Muslims, particularly women who do not conform to Islamist conventions of dress and social interaction. They are especially perilous for police, firefighters, and emergency-medical technicians.

Why would a community discourage the so-called first-responders? After all, the top priority of law-enforcement officers is to assist crime victims. In an Islamic enclave, a high percentage of these will be Muslims. And obviously, the fire department and the ambulances are dispatched to save lives — here, Muslim lives. Yet, the community is hostile. The police and other emergency personnel are viewed as agents of the non-Muslim state. Their presumptuousness in entering the Islamic enclave and acting under the color of Swedish law is taken as an affront to Islamic sovereignty.

An Islamic enclave in the West may as well be the West Bank, and the authorities the IDF. They are regarded no differently. That is why, as Soeren Kern of the Madrid-based Strategic Studies Group notes, “Fire and emergency workers . . . refuse to enter Malmo’s mostly Muslim Rosengaard district without police escorts.” And sensibly so: When firefighters attempted to extinguish a blaze at the city’s main mosque, local Muslims pelted them with stones.

There is a simple reason why this has happened to Malmo, and why it is happening in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, etc. The European Union forced on its member states the same approach to their swelling Muslim populations that the Obama administration is now trying to strong-arm American cities and states into adopting. It is a suicide theory, holding that the only threat to our security is “violent extremism.”

Violent extremism, the theory goes, is wanton and irrational. Therefore, it is mere coincidence that today’s violent extremists are almost uniformly Muslims. Indeed, the big thinkers settled on the antiseptic term “violent extremism” specifically to avoid the word “terrorism,” which, owing to the inconvenience that Islamic scripture adjures Muslims to “strike terror into the hearts” of their perceived enemies, would give violent extremism an Islamic connotation that is to be studiously avoided, no matter how accurate it may be.

With violent extremism as their guide, policymakers instruct security agencies that there is no need to scrutinize any strain of Islamic ideology for the purpose of divining what Islamists want. In fact, the theory continues, because violence is wanton, while Islam is peaceful, violence must perforce be anti-Islamic, and thus Islamists must be just as offended by it as anyone else. Consequently, since by some strange quirk of fate the violent extremists seem to be coming out of the Islamic community, the best strategy is to befriend Islamist leaders and consult them about how we can conduct investigations without causing offense.

Naturally, police veterans fully appreciate that this is nonsense on stilts. They know that violence is often barbaric in the execution but almost never irrational in the application. Understanding motivation is the key to solving most crimes. But, hey, if the suits want it to be “violent extremism,” then violent extremism it is.

Cops, like most of us, want to get promoted up the ranks. Today, the people deciding who gets promoted up the ranks are progressives. You may remember their visionary criminal-justice theories from the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the explosion of crime that resulted from them. Back then, it was all about excusing the savagery and punishing the police for failing to understand the root causes. Today, it is about infantilizing the savages and warning the police not to look for the root causes.

If we cared to look for the root cause of what’s happening in Europe — happening primarily without “violent extremism” — the answer is very simple: Islamist leaders have adopted a strategy of voluntary apartheid in their quest to Islamize the West.

The strategy has been championed by the Muslim Brotherhood. Its chief jurisprudent, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, urges Muslims to relocate to Europe, Australia, and North America. There, they should live among other Muslims, conduct their affairs in accordance with sharia (the law of Islam), and pressure Western governments to accept the primacy of sharia in Muslim enclaves — enclaves that will grow and spread and connect. By convincing “Western leaders and decision-makers of our right to live according to our faith — ideologically, legislatively, and ethically,” Qaradawi reasons that Muslims would “traverse an immense barrier in our quest for an Islamic state.”

Equally adamant is the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the bloc of governments from the world’s Islamic countries. The OIC purports to speak as a sovereign on behalf of the Muslim ummah. In 2010, it released its now annual report on — what else? — Islamophobia. The report conjures an imaginary tidal wave of anti-Muslim bias while overlooking both the predominance of Muslims in global “violent extremism” and the West’s pandemic of official solicitude toward Islamic leaders. “Muslims should not be marginalized or attempted to be assimilated, but should be accommodated,” the report proclaimed. “Accommodation is the best strategy for integration.”

The best strategy for whom? Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, goes even farther, inveighing that “assimilation is a crime against humanity.” With progressives in charge and see-no-Islam in vogue, Erdogan remains the West’s favorite “moderate” Islamist, despite the fact that he rejects the term “moderate Islam” as an insult. “Islam is Islam,” he snaps, “and that’s it.” Meanwhile, he warns Germany’s leaders not to pressure their large immigrant population of Turkish Muslims to become German. The message to Muslims is clear: Integrate? Yes. Assimilate? Never.

That is the plan, and it’s making extraordinary progress with a minimum of violent extremism. As Soeren Kern elaborates, in England Islamist organizations are now pressing to turn twelve British cities into Islamic emirates: autonomous Muslim enclaves governed by sharia law, independent of the national justice system. They call one proposed emirate “Londonistan” — surely not to honor Melanie Phillips, who wrote a book by that title, but confirming nevertheless the phenomenon she so brilliantly diagnosed. In these cities, non-Muslims are serially harassed, women are threatened (and worse) for failing to don the veil, and visiting officials such as former home secretary Jon Reid are heckled, “How dare you come to a Muslim area?”

In France, the government now posts on its official website the list of 751 Zones urbaines sensibles, the Muslim enclaves considered no-go zones. Non-Muslims are on notice: Enter at your own considerable risk. The police no longer go in. The nation no longer exercises sovereignty. The same pattern is seen in Brussels, Rome, Amsterdam, and the Ruhr: As the number of Muslims increases, so does the number of enclaves. The police will not enter without police escorts, which often means the police will not enter, period. As one police chief told the German press, the governments may deny it, but everyone knows these no-go zones exist, and “even worse, in these areas crimes no longer result in charges.” The Muslims are “left to themselves. Only in the worst cases do we in the police learn anything about it. The power of the state is completely out of the picture.”

These are the wages of a myopic concentration on the physicality of violence coupled with an irrational denial that the violence — jihadism — is only is part of an ambitious plan to govern in accordance with sharia. Violent jihad is not wanton. It is part of a strategy to implement sharia as the foundation of a fundamentalist Muslim society. That is why sharia is worth studying. The idea is not to kill non-Muslims; it is to overcome resistance. Sometimes that is done by “violent extremism,” but it is just as effectively done by demoralizing the police. It is even more effectively done by infiltrating the councils of government policy.

The Obama administration has arrived at a counterterrorism policy it publicly calls “Empowering Local Partners to Prevent Violent Extremism in the United States.” It has its roots in the Homeland Security Department’s “Countering Violent Extremism” working group.

In 2010, the working group issued its recommendations. The group “felt” it was essential to “delink” law enforcement’s “crime reduction efforts” from studies on “radicalization” in the Islamic community. Law enforcement needs to be more “sensitive,” the working group suggested, to damaging community “perceptions” that can arise from “enforcement actions and intelligence gathering.” Nothing is more important, the group argued, than developing strong relationships between police and communities, and those relationships can be wounded if people “perceive that they are viewed as incubators of violent extremism.” Instead, police should take their lead from “members of the community” who “should be invited to provide training to government personnel.”

And who was in that working group, offering advice that is now federal policy? Among others, it included top officials of such Islamist groups as the Islamic Association of North America (an organization shown to be complicit in the Muslim Brotherhood–led conspiracy to finance Hamas, proved by the Justice Department in a 2008 prosecution), Muslim academics, the president of the Muslim Bar Association of New York, and the president of the ultra-leftist Southern Poverty Law Center.

They tried the same thing in Europe: Emphasize “violent extremism,” bleach out Islam, build strong relationships with influential Muslim leaders, and — just to prove you’re not one of those “just the facts ma’am” Cro-Magnons — let the Muslim leaders be your eyes and ears in their communities. Trust them to tell you what they think you need to know about Islamic culture. That frees you up to devote your energy to stamping out the scourge of Islamophobia.

Look how well it’s worked out.

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