Saturday, October 29, 2011

Diaper change we can believe in

An able-bodied man paid by the government to lie in a giant crib, wetting his diaper, is almost too poignant an emblem of the republic at twilight.

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
October 28, 2011

Diapers are necessary 'to keep children healthy and in daycare,' Rep. Rosa DeLauro says. (AP Photo)

Last Thursday was officially "Diaper Need Awareness Day" in the state of Connecticut. Were you aware of it? There are so many awareness-raising days, it's hard to keep track. Maybe we could have an Awareness-Raising Day Awareness Day. At any rate, the first annual Diaper Need Awareness Day was proclaimed by Dan Malloy, governor of the Nutmeg State, and they had a big old awareness-raising get-together in New Haven. It's not clear yet whether they've got an official ribbon. We're running a bit low on ribbon colors these days: It's not just pink ribbons for breast cancer, but also teal for agoraphobia, periwinkle for acid reflux, pink and blue ribbons for amniotic fluid embolisms, and pinstripe ribbons for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. We could use a Ribbon-Hue Awareness Day to raise awareness about how we're falling behind in the race for more ribbon colors.

If you're wondering what sentient being isn't aware of diapers, you're missing the point: Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro is raising awareness of the need for diapers in order to, as Politico reported, "push the Federal Government to provide free diapers to poor families." Congresswoman DeLauro has introduced the "DIAPER" Act – that's to say, the Diaper Investment and Aid to Promote Economic Recovery Act Act. So don't worry, it's not welfare, it's "stimulus." As Fox News put it, "A U.S. congresswoman in Connecticut wants to boost the economy by offering free diapers to low-income families." And, given that sinking bazillions of dollars into green-jobs schemes to build eco-cars in Finland and a federal program to buy guns for Mexican drug cartels and all the other fascinating innovations of the Obama administration haven't worked, who's to say borrowing money from the Chinese Politburo and sticking it in your kid's diaper isn't the kind of outside-the-box thinking that won't do the trick?

In fact, the Federal Government already provides free diapers for at least one lucky American. Stanley Thornton Jr. of California receives Supplementary Security Income disability checks from the Social Security Administration in order to sit around the house all day, wearing a giant diaper and a giant onesie, sucking on a giant pacifier and playing with a giant baby rattle. Stanley Jr. runs a website for fellow "adult babies" called I believe I first heard of the "adult baby" phenomenon some years ago in London. If memory serves, there was a club, and the members lay around in giant cribs being read bedtime stories by a bosomy nanny. Minor celebrities and possibly backbench Tory Members of Parliament may have been involved. In those days, it was what we called a "fetish" and you had to do it on your own dime. Now it's a "disability" and the United States Government picks up the tab. And, if that's not progress, what is?

Sen. Tom Coburn happened to catch Stan with his baby sitter and fellow disability-check recipient on a reality show, and wondered how a chap capable of running a popular website and doing such complicated carpentry jobs as his own giant high chair could be legitimately classified as "disabled." But the Social Security Administration said Junior qualifies, and Sen. Coburn was condemned as heartless: Why, if those mean Republicans got their way, the streets would be crawling with giant babies, bawling, "I want my Mommy!" Conversely, if Congresswoman DeLauro gets her way, and the stampede for government Huggies gets going, Stanley Thornton Jr. will still be entitled to park his giant pedal car in the disabled space while the penniless single mom from Hartford has to leave the Toyota at the back of the lot and hike in.

An able-bodied man paid by the government of the United States to lie in a giant crib, wetting his diaper week in week out, is almost too poignant an emblem of the republic at twilight. But, as Hillaire Belloc wrote, "Always keep a hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse." Only last week, ABC News reported:

"At a million-dollar San Francisco fundraiser today, President Obama warned his recession-battered supporters that if he loses the 2012 election it could herald a new, painful era of self-reliance in America."

Oh, no! The horror!

"Self-reliance" is now a pejorative? Nice to have that clarified. And San Francisco, a city that registers more dogs than it has kids enrolled in its schools and in which adults are perforce the children they never bothered having, seems as good a place as any to make it official. In less enlightened times, "self-reliance" was the great animating principle of the American experiment. By the standards of the day, George III was one of the most benign, caring rulers on Earth: You were his mewling charges, and he was the regal babysitter. Then a bunch of settlers in small towns clinging to wilderness and thousands of miles from His Majesty The Nanny decided they didn't need him and they could stand on their own. What's the word for that? Oh, yeah: self-reliance.

Is it too late for a Self-Reliance Awareness Day? No, there's no ribbons. Make your own damn ribbon. If that's too much to hope for, how about a Multi-Trillion-Dollar Debt Awareness Day? The ribbon starts out black but turns deeper and deeper red. How about a We've Spent All The Money Including The Money For An Awareness-Raising Ribbon Day? An Impending Societal Collapse Awareness Day?

Yes, yes. I'm aware the cost of diapers adds up over a month, and you can't use your food stamps to pay for them. Tough. This country's broke. As I said last week, it has to pay back $15 trillion just to get back to having nothing at all. And that's more money than anyone ever has had to pay back. Were you aware of that? Distressingly large numbers of Americans still pining for ever more swaddling in the government cradle seem entirely unaware.

Congresswoman DeLauro is thinking too small: Maybe we could all be issued with free diapers. As a casual glance at the headlines suggests, there's almost nothing you can't get government to pay for, but that's no reason not to demand more. At its core, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement (in the political rather than the diaper-filling sense) is a plea for ever more extended adolescence funded at public expense. Don't knock it. Dozing around listening to drum circles all day is more dangerous than it looks. Last week, several dozen members of "Occupy Las Vegas" occupying land located under the final approach to Runway 19 at McCarran International Airport narrowly missed being hit by a 50-pound slab of what's euphemistically known as "blue ice" that fell from the bathroom of the president's plane. Perhaps, as a symbol of the new post-self-reliant America of adult babies, Air Force One should be fitted with a giant diaper.


Friday, October 28, 2011

Today's Tune: Ennio Morricone - On Earth as it is in Heaven ("The Mission" Soundtrack)

Religion Flocks to Wall Street

The Occupy movement is enjoying predictable if unsolicited support from religious believers in government redistribution and social resentments.

By on 10.28.11
The American Spectator

A man dressed as Jesus sits amongst other protestors holding placards on the steps of Saint Paul's cathedral in central London on October 15, 2011 as part of the now-global Occupy Wall Street protests. (LEON NEAL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

Because they are Americans, the Wall Street Occupiers are suffused with messianic purpose, as are nearly all our nation's American political crusades. But the often raggedy Occupiers themselves do not seem specifically oriented towards organized religion.

Not to worry. Religious Leftists of all sorts have rallied to the Occupiers' bedraggled banners. Guided by the Social Gospel's emphasis on social justice over theological details, these religionists discern God's Kingdom among the squatters' tents and sleeping bags. One group of clergy visited while carrying a mock golden idol shaped like the dreaded Wall Street Bull, the very incarnation of greed.

Praising the Occupation is a gamble for liberal evangelicals, who have tried so hard to appear centrist in recent years, anxious to softly persuade suburban churchgoers to abandon their conservative voting habits. Oldline Protestant elites, along with left-wing Catholic activists, of course welcome the Occupation as a long overdue 1960s revival.

The Executive Council of the once prestigious Episcopal Church publicly declared recently "that the growing movement of peaceful protests in public spaces in the United States and throughout the world in resistance to the exploitation of people for profit or power bears faithful witness in the tradition of Jesus to the sinful inequities in society."

There was a time, not too long ago, when Wall Street and the Episcopal Church were viewed, not unfairly, as almost interchangeable. J. Pierpoint Morgan once famously carried his denomination's bishops on his private train to the Episcopal Church General Convention. It's doubtful that Episcopal Diocese of Long Island Bishop Lawrence Provenzano, who personally paid homage to the Wall Street Occupation, will be getting any train rides from prominent financiers. After his pilgrimage, the bishop met at nearby historic Trinity Episcopal Church, Wall Street, with interfaith leaders to discuss how religions can back the Occupation's goals, whatever they are.

Meanwhile, the top Presbyterian Church USA lobbyist on Capitol Hill also has enthusiastically backed Occupy Wall Street. The Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, director of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Office of Public Witness, fresh from his October trial for being arrested this summer in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda protesting federal budget limits, is now touting the Occupation as the next trendy cause to rouse ordinarily staid Presbyterians.

"One of the things I am convinced of is that faith has a role to play in the leadership of these movements," the Rev. Nelson recently enthused to a newspaper. "There are people who are angry because they may not be able to go to school ... angry because they have been locked out and left out for years," he explained. "When we begin to talk about a constitutional right to protest ... there will be a time where people will resist," he even warned, adding "We could be looking at a Tunisia or Egypt."

Such dramatic language, predicting Occupy Wall Street could start to look like the "Arab Spring," with violent government crackdowns, and turmoil. Rev. Nelson implied that peaceful church prelates could offer counsel on how to keep the lid on while still pursuing the Occupation's supposedly laudable but vague goals.

United Church of Christ President Geoffrey Black hailed a popular picture showing Jesus cleansing the temple of money changes as "The Original 'Occupy Wall Street' Protester." The reverend insisted this illustration is "helpful," "gives people of faith a frame with which to assess what is going on with this movement," and "makes the relationship between Christian faith and the quest for economic justice clear for all to see."

Not to be outdone, the ever left-wing United Methodist Women's Division, during their directors meeting in New York City, even marched down to Wall Street to join the Occupation. Funded by local church bake sales and church bazaars, they carried their own protest placards endorsing the Occupation's assorted demands, which typically include cancellation of all private debt, open borders, massive tax hikes, elimination of credit rating agencies, complete government control of health care, and free college for everyone.

This call towards utopia, enshrouded simultaneously in grievance, entitlement, idealism, and youthful naiveté, has understandably seduced old-style street activists like Jim Wallis of Sojourners, or even Brian McLaren of the emergent church movement. "When they stand with the poor, they stand with Jesus," Wallis has pronounced, even before himself visiting the Occupation, which doubtless only amplified his excited nostalgia. "'The occupation of God has begun'" might inspire the same fear and hope among people today as 'the Kingdom of God is at hand' inspired in the first century," gushed McLaren, after attending his own local Occupation protest.

Representing a newer generation of Evangelical liberal is Shane Claiborne, a winsome young white man who typically sports dreadlocks, a bandana, and a rustic smock, while proclaiming good news for the poor to attentive middle class evangelical students. "In a world where 1 percent of the world owns half the world's stuff, we are beginning to realize that there is enough for everyone's need, but there is not enough for everyone's greed," he recently insisted. "Lots of folks are beginning to say, 'Maybe God has a different dream for the world than the Wall Street dream.'"

The dubious statistic about the wicked "1 percent" aside, Claiborne speaks some truth. But he and the other religious enthusiasts for Wall Street aren't calling for individuals to shed their wealth for God's Kingdom. Of course, they primarily want an all powerful state to seize and redistribute wealth according to some imagined just formula, after which the lion will lie peaceably with the lamb. It's a utopian dream, not based on the Gospels, always monstrous when attempted, and premised more on resentment than godly generosity. But it's a message that will always have an audience in a covetous world.

About the Author

Mark Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C. and author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

The Divider vs. the Thinker

While Obama readies an ugly campaign, Paul Ryan gives a serious account of what ails America.

By Peggy Noonan
The Wall Street Journal
October 28, 2011

People are increasingly fearing the divisions within, even the potential coming apart of, our country. Rich/poor, black/white, young/old, red/blue: The things that divide us are not new, yet there's a sense now that the glue that held us together for more than two centuries has thinned and cracked with age. That it was allowed to thin and crack, that the modern era wore it out.

What was the glue? A love of country based on a shared knowledge of how and why it began; a broad feeling among our citizens that there was something providential in our beginnings; a gratitude that left us with a sense that we should comport ourselves in a way unlike the other nations of the world, that more was expected of us, and not unjustly—"To whom much is given much is expected"; a general understanding that we were something new in history, a nation founded on ideals and aspirations—liberty, equality—and not mere grunting tribal wants. We were from Europe but would not be European: No formal class structure here, no limits, from the time you touched ground all roads would lead forward. You would be treated not as your father was but as you deserved. That's from "The Killer Angels," a historical novel about the civil war fought to right a wrong the Founders didn't right. We did in time, and at great cost. What a country.

But there is a broad fear out there that we are coming apart, or rather living through the moment we'll look back on as the beginning of the Great Coming Apart. Economic crisis, cultural stresses: "Half the country isn't speaking to the other half," a moderate Democrat said the other day. She was referring to liberals of her acquaintance who know little of the South and who don't wish to know of it, who write it off as apart from them, maybe beneath them.

To add to the unease, in New York at least, there's a lot of cognitive dissonance. If you are a New Yorker, chances are pretty high you hate what the great investment firms did the past 15 years or so to upend the economy. Yet you feel on some level like you have to be protective of them, because Wall Street pays the bills of the City of New York. Wall Street tax receipts and Wall Street business—restaurants, stores—keep the city afloat. So you want them up and operating and vital, you don't want them to leave—that would only make things worse for people in trouble, people just getting by, and young people starting out. You know you have to preserve them just when you'd most like to deck them.


Where is the president in all this? He doesn't seem to be as worried about his country's continuance as his own. He's out campaigning and talking of our problems, but he seems oddly oblivious to or detached from America's deeper fears. And so he feels free to exploit divisions. It's all the rich versus the rest, and there are a lot more of the latter.

Twenty twelve won't be "as sexy" as 2008, he said this week. It will be all brute force. Which will only add to the feeling of unease.

Occupy Wall Street makes an economic critique that echoes the president's, though more bluntly: the rich are bad, down with the elites. It's all ad hoc, more poetry slam than platform. Too bad it's not serious in its substance.

There's a lot to rebel against, to want to throw off. If they want to make a serious economic and political critique, they should make the one Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner make in "Reckless Endangerment": that real elites in Washington rigged the system for themselves and their friends, became rich and powerful, caused the great catering, and then "slipped quietly from the scene."

It is a blow-by-blow recounting of how politicians—Democrats and Republicans—passed the laws that encouraged the banks to make the loans that would never be repaid, and that would result in your lost job. Specifically it is the story of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage insurers, and how their politically connected CEOs, especially Fannie's Franklin Raines and James Johnson, took actions that tanked the American economy and walked away rich. It began in the early 1990s, in the Clinton administration, and continued under the Bush administration, with the help of an entrenched Congress that wanted only two things: to receive campaign contributions and to be re-elected.

The story is a scandal, and the book should be the bible of Occupy Wall Street. But they seem as incapable of seeing government as part of the problem as Republicans seem of seeing business as part of the problem.

Which gets us to Rep. Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan receives much praise, but I don't think his role in the current moment has been fully recognized. He is doing something unique in national politics. He thinks. He studies. He reads. Then he comes forward to speak, calmly and at some length, about what he believes to be true. He defines a problem and offers solutions, often providing the intellectual and philosophical rationale behind them. Conservatives naturally like him—they agree with him—but liberals and journalists inclined to disagree with him take him seriously and treat him with respect.

This week he spoke on "The American Idea" at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. He scored the president as too small for the moment, as "petty" in his arguments and avoidant of the decisions entailed in leadership. At times like this, he said, "the temptation to exploit fear and envy returns." Politicians divide in order to "evade responsibility for their failures" and to advance their interests.

The president, he said, has made a shift in his appeal to the electorate. "Instead of appealing to the hope and optimism that were hallmarks of his first campaign, he has launched his second campaign by preying on the emotions of fear, envy and resentment."

But Republicans, in their desire to defend free economic activity, shouldn't be snookered by unthinking fealty to big business. They should never defend—they should actively oppose—the kind of economic activity that has contributed so heavily to the crisis. Here Mr. Ryan slammed "corporate welfare and crony capitalism."

"Why have we extended an endless supply of taxpayer credit to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, instead of demanding that their government guarantee be wound down and their taxpayer subsidies ended?" Why are tax dollars being wasted on bankrupt, politically connected solar energy firms like Solyndra? "Why is Washington wasting your money on entrenched agribusiness?"

Rather than raise taxes on individuals, we should "lower the amount of government spending the wealthy now receive." The "true sources of inequity in this country," he continued, are "corporate welfare that enriches the powerful, and empty promises that betray the powerless." The real class warfare that threatens us is "a class of bureaucrats and connected crony capitalists trying to rise above the rest of us, call the shots, rig the rules, and preserve their place atop society."

If more Republicans thought—and spoke—like this, the party would flourish. People would be less fearful for the future. And Mr. Obama wouldn't be seeing his numbers go up.

Illustration: Martin Kozlowski

Thursday, October 27, 2011


By Ann Coulter
October 26, 2011

If I were a liberal, I would have spent the last week in shock that a Democratic audience in Flint, Mich., cheered Vice President Joe Biden's description of a policeman being killed. (And if I were a liberal desperately striving to keep my job on MSNBC, I'd say the Democrats looked "hot and horny" for dead cops -- as Chris Matthews said of a Republican audience that cheered for the death penalty.)

Biden's audience whooped and applauded last week in Flint when he said that without Obama's jobs bill, police will be "outgunned and outmanned." (Wild applause!)

I suppose liberals would claim they were applauding because they believe Obama's jobs bill will prevent these murders. Which reminds me: Republicans believe the death penalty prevents murders!

Which belief bears more relationship to reality?

In a case I have previously mentioned, Kenneth McDuff was released from death row soon after the Supreme Court overturned the death penalty in 1972 and went on to murder more than a dozen people.

William Jordan and Anthony Prevatte were sentenced to death in 1974 for abducting a teacher, murdering him and stealing his car. They came under suspicion when they were caught throwing the murder weapon from the stolen vehicle in a high-speed car chase with the cops and because they were in possession of the dead man's wallet, briefcase and watch.

The Georgia Supreme Court overturned their capital sentences in an opinion by Robert H. Hall, who was appointed by Gov. Jimmy Carter.

Hall said that the death sentences had to be set aside on the idiotic grounds that the jurors had overheard the prosecutor say that the judge and state supreme court would have the opportunity to review a death sentence, which might have caused them to take their sentencing role less seriously.

(If the facts had been the reverse, the court would have overturned the death sentences on the grounds that the jurors did not take their sentencing decision seriously, under the misapprehension that no judge or court would second-guess them.)

Prevatte was later released from "life in prison" and proceeded to murder his girlfriend. Jordan escaped and has never been found.

As president, Carter appointed Hall to a federal district court.

Darryl Kemp was sentenced to death in California in 1960 for the rape and murder of Marjorie Hipperson and also convicted for raping two other women. But he sat on death row long enough -- 12 years -- for the death penalty to be declared unconstitutional. He was paroled five years later and, within four months, had raped and murdered Armida Wiltsey, a 40-year-old wife and mother.

Kemp wasn't caught at the time, so he spent the next quarter-century raping (and probably murdering) a string of women. In 2002, his DNA was matched to blood found on the fingernails of Wiltsey's dead body. Although Kemp was serving a "life sentence" for rape in a Texas prison, he was months away from being paroled when he was brought back to California for the murder of Wiltsey.

His attorney argued that he was too old for the death penalty. He lost that argument, and in 2009, Kemp was again given a capital sentence. He now sits on death row, perhaps long enough for the death penalty to be declared unconstitutional again, so he can be released to commit more rapes and murders.

Dozens and dozens of prisoners released from death row have gone on to murder again. No one knows exactly how many, but it's a lot more than the number of innocent men who have been executed in America, which, at least since 1950, is zero.

What is liberals' evidence that there will be more rapes and murders if Obama's jobs bill doesn't pass? Biden claims that, without it, there won't be enough cops to interrupt a woman being raped in her own home -- which would be an amazing bit of police work/psychic talent, if it had ever happened. (That's why Americans like guns, liberals.)

Obama's jobs bill tackles the problem of rape and murder by giving the states $30 billion ... for public school teachers.

Only $5 billion is even allotted to the police, but all we keep hearing about are the rapes and murders that Democrats are suddenly against (as long as being "against" rape and murder means funding public school teachers and not imprisoning or executing rapists and murderers).

Finally, did Flint use any money from Obama's last trillion-dollar stimulus bill to hire more police in order to prevent rape and murder? No, Flint spent its $2.2 million from the first stimulus bill on buying two electric buses.

Even if what Flint really needed was buses and not cops, for $2.2 million, the city could have bought seven brand-new diesel buses and had $100,000 left over for streetlights.

Rather than reducing the rate of rape and murder, blowing money on "green" buses is likely to increase crime, since people will be forced to spend a lot more time waiting at bus stops for those two buses.

It's going to be a long wait: The "green" buses were never delivered because the company went out of business -- despite a $1.6 million loan from the American taxpayer.

But if I were a liberal, I wouldn't acknowledge these facts, or any facts. I would close my eyes, cover my ears, demand that MSNBC fire Pat Buchanan and the FCC pull the plug on Fox, and pretend to believe that taxpayer-funded "green" projects and an ever-increasing supply of public school teachers were the only things that separated us from Armageddon.


Our Libyan Adventure

Qaddafi’s dictatorship was preferable to an Islamist Libya.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
October 27, 2011

Are you suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect?” asked Chris Wallace, browbeating presidential candidate Michele Bachmann.

And why shouldn’t he? After all, the Fox News anchor had just gotten Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Lindsey Graham to perform the requisite “Arab Spring” cartwheels over the demise of Libyan strongman Moammar Qaddafi. Apparently, when leading from behind ends up leading to a vicious murder at the hands of a wild-eyed mob, even folks who once got the sniffles over fastidiously non-lethal waterboarding can feel good about pulling out their party hats.

Imagine, then, the gall of Bachmann. The Minnesota Republican persisted in finding the cankers on the Arab Spring smiley face.

The most obviously ugly of these is that a throng of seething Islamists stripped, beat, paraded, and finally shot Qaddafi execution-style, all the while screaming the signature “Allahu Akbar!” battle cry with a fervor that would have made Mohamed Atta blush. They then shoved the despot’s corpse into a refrigerator — to maintain it for further triumphant display before thousands of gawking spectators. Too bad there was no official from the Obama administration’s Islamic Thought Police on hand to remind the mob of the Koran’s oft-quoted (but oftener ignored) teaching that to slay a single person is to slay all of mankind.

The murder was facilitated by NATO forces operating under false pretenses: Claiming they were merely protecting civilians, they set about hunting down Qaddafi, only to help usher in a new era of Islamist governance. The bill for NATO’s services was willfully footed by the Obama administration — which had previously funded the Libyan regime on the oft-repeated grounds that Qaddafi was a valuable counterterrorism ally, but which then initiated a war against Qaddafi in the absence of any provocation or American national-security interests. NATO’s war of aggression is already inuring to the benefit of America’s Islamist enemies. What’s not to celebrate?

Though Representative Bachmann made the case gamely, she eventually withered. Mr. Wallace has previously intimated that she is a “flake” (Wallace’s word), too often out of step with Beltway wisdom. And who wouldn’t want to be in step with Hillary Clinton, Lindsey Graham, and Barack Obama? Washington wisdom is fickle — one day you’re a Qaddafi booster, the next day you’re switching your bets to the Muslim Brotherhood. But no one wants to be a flake. So Bachmann finally got with the program and admitted, “The world certainly is better off without Qaddafi. I agree with Lindsey Graham.”

I don’t. Yes, Qaddafi was a creep. If we lived in a static, zero-sum world where the killing of a single creep equaled a net decrease in global creepiness, that might be cause for cartwheels. But the world is dynamic. When one leader is ousted, another takes his place. Even if the leader happened to be a tyrant with a yellowing résumé of anti-American terrorism, it matters what his status is when the Arab Spring comes a-callin’. It matters who replaces him and how that transition comes to pass. The changing threat environment matters. The example we set, what it tells others about our principles, matters.

To borrow Mr. Wallace’s phrase, I am not “suggesting that we would be better off with the Qaddafi dictatorship still in effect.” I am saying it outright. If the choice is between an emerging Islamist regime and a Qaddafi dictatorship that cooperates with the United States against Islamists, then I’ll take Qaddafi. If the choice is between tolerating the Qaddafi dictatorship and disgracing ourselves by lying about the reason for initiating a war and by turning a blind eye to the atrocities of our new Islamist friends — even as we pontificate about the responsibility to protect civilians — then give me the Qaddafi dictatorship every time.

Just to review what happened here: Qaddafi was not merely ousted. He was not “brought to justice,” as our government likes to put it when, say, the president of Iraq is captured and handed over to a foregone conclusion of a death-penalty tribunal; or when the emir of al-Qaeda gets the swifter due process of a ruthlessly efficient military strike. Those sorts of killings represent transparent wartime combat: The president makes the case that American national security is imperiled, Congress authorizes military attacks, and our armed forces violently subdue the enemy. It is not pretty, but it is honorable.

That cannot be said about Libya. In “leading from behind,” our government went rogue — to the evident satisfaction of the formerly antiwar Left. Obama claimed to be keeping the peace and protecting civilians while waging an unauthorized offensive war against Qaddafi’s government — a regime with which the United States was at peace; a regime with which the United States had made a great show of arriving at friendly relations; a regime to which the United States (urged on by such official emissaries as Sen. Lindsey Graham) had provided foreign aid, including assistance to prop up Qaddafi’s military; a regime to which the Obama administration, including Secretary Clinton’s State Department, had stepped up American taxpayer subsidies — including aid to Qaddafi’s military and contributions to charitable enterprises managed by Qaddafi’s children.

Protecting civilians? Please. We jumped in as a partisan on the side of the Islamists, who sported violent jihadists in their ranks and among their commanders — including al-Qaeda operatives whose dossiers included a stint at Guantanamo Bay and the recruitment of jihadists to fight a terror war against American troops in Iraq. While NATO targeted Qaddafi, the rebels rounded up black Africans, savagely killing many. (See, e.g., John Rosenthal’s reporting on summary executions, lynching, and a beheading — but be forewarned that the accompanying images are deeply disturbing.)

When the Islamists finally began seizing territory, which they could not have done without NATO, they raided weapons depots. In Qaddafi’s Libya, his regime controlled the materiel; once the “rebels” swept in, weapons started going out — to other Islamists, like al-Qaeda in Northwest Africa and Hamas in Gaza.

And now that the Islamists have won, the first order of business, naturally, was to install sharia — Islam’s politico-legal framework that oppresses non-Muslims, women, homosexuals, and apostates. To install sharia, by the way, is the reason jihadists engage in violence — it is the prerequisite for Islamizing a society. On Sunday, before a crowd still giddy over Qaddafi’s murder, Transitional National Council leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil proclaimed, “This revolution was looked after by Allah to achieve victory.” Allah will thus be honored, he elaborated, by making sharia the “basic source” of Libyan law. Polygamy for men has already been reestablished, and lenders have been banned from collecting interest on loans. Happy democracy!

Qaddafi had last attacked the United States almost a quarter-century ago. Before that, he’d endured punishing retaliation for his Reagan-era terror attacks. The Bush 43 administration had declared these hostilities settled. The two governments resolved outstanding claims — much to the chagrin of those of us outraged by the moral equivalence drawn between Qaddafi’s terrorist aggression and President Reagan’s righteous response.

But a deal is a deal — as the Left is quick to remind us whenever the U.S. makes international agreements that end up disserving American interests. In this instance, we were told the deal had been a good one. Qaddafi abandoned his advanced weapons programs and began providing what the Bush and Obama administrations regarded as vital intelligence — vital, no doubt, because Libya is rife with Islamists who despise America and the West. Indeed, on a per capita basis, more Libyans traveled to Iraq to join in the jihad against American troops than nationals from any other country. Our government even took Libya off the list of state sponsors of terrorism because, as the State Department put it in 2008, Libya had become “an increasingly valuable partner against terrorism.”

In the last several years, the Libyan regime never even threatened, much less attacked, American interests. Qaddafi spoke glowingly of Bush Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and of President Obama, the Bush and Obama administrations embraced him and supported his regime. There was nothing close to a casus belli for the United States to launch a war against his government. The rationalization about the regime attacking civilians is nonsense: Qaddafi never stopped repressing Libyans in the years we were allied with him, and our aid to him only increased; Libya is a brutal society in which Qaddafi’s demise will not stop the internecine savagery; and we don’t intervene when hostile governments in Iran, Syria, China, Russia, and elsewhere repress their citizens.

Yet, President Obama invaded without congressional authorization — just consultations with the Arab League and a Security Council resolution that called for a no-fly zone to protect civilians, not for war against Qaddafi or regime change. Even as Obama paid lip-service to this charade, promising Americans there would be no U.S. “boots on the ground,” he dispatched covert intelligence operatives to guide the Islamists. Senator Graham — Qaddafi’s tent guest and military-aid supporter in 2009 — wondered aloud why we couldn’t just “drop a bomb on” our erstwhile ally and “end this thing.” No congressional approval? No U.N. mandate? No problem. “I like coalitions,” Graham explained to CNN, “it’s good to have the U.N. involved. But the goal is to get rid of Qaddafi. . . . I would not let the U.N. mandate stop what is the right thing to do.”

The right thing to do? So hot was the senator to off the dictator that he even proposed that the president unilaterally declare Qaddafi as an enemy combatant so we could kill him without violating a longstanding executive order prohibiting the assassination of foreign leaders. That might have been a swell idea but for the inconvenience that Qaddafi did not qualify as an “enemy” or a “combatant” under the governing statute — a law that happens to have been written by Senator Graham. Of course, if there had been a case that Qaddafi’s regime had become America’s enemy and that war was needed to overthrow him, the administration could have made it to Congress. The president never even tried — such an argument would have been frivolous.

That is not to say the administration was above frivolous legal claims. President Obama overruled administration lawyers who ever so gently pointed out that his sustained war-making ran afoul of the War Powers Act — a suspect piece of legislation, but one the administration was loath to ignore given Obama’s support of it (at least until he became the president whose hands it tied). Not to worry: Obama reached outside his Justice Department to find his trusty State Department counsel Harold Koh — the former Yale Law School dean, War Powers Act enthusiast, and incessant critic of the cowboy militarism of George W. Bush (you may recall Bush as the president who used to get Congress’s blessing before attacking other countries). Presto: Koh rationalized that invading Libya, dropping bombs on it, and trying to kill its leader didn’t quite rise to the level of “hostilities” — suddenly, a very elusive concept. Party on, dudes!

Qaddafi’s escape from his last holdout was thus cut off by NATO airstrikes. Trapped and hidden in a sewer, he was dragged out and brutalized — not for intelligence, but for sport. There is video here if you can stomach it. What NATO abetted was not a military capture. It was an assassination. We will be worse off that it happened. And the way it happened should sicken us.

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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Welcome to the Islamist Middle East and It’s Not Going to Be Moderate

October 25, 2011 - 11:16 am - by Barry Rubin

A Kingdom of Libya flag is seen during a demonstration in support of the Bahraini people in Baghdad's Sadr city (Stringer Iraq/Courtesy Reuters)

Ladies and gentlemen, liberals and conservatives, Obama-lovers and Obama-haters, no matter what your race, creed, gender, national origin, or level of unpaid college loans, two things should be clear to all of you:

First, to describe the Obama administration’s Middle East policy as a disaster — I cannot think of a bigger, deadlier mess created by any U.S. foreign policy in the last century — is an understatement.

Second, the dominant analysis used by the media, academia, and the talking heads on television has proven dangerously wrong. This includes the ideas that revolutionary Islamism doesn’t exist, cannot be talked about, is not a threat, and that extreme radicals are really moderates.

I won’t review all the evidence here, but it amounts to a retreat for moderates, allies of the West, and American interests coupled with an advance for revolutionary Islamists.

On the morning of July 23, 1952, the Middle East entered a new era. The Free Officers Movement took over Egypt and there followed more than a half-century of war, anti-Western hysteria, terrorism, repression, social stagnation, and the basic Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse type stuff in the Middle East. That was the Era of Arab Nationalism.

On February 11, or October 23, or November 28, 2011, the Middle East entered a new era. Whether you date it to the fall of Mubarak, the Tunisian election, or the Egyptian election, what do you think is going to happen in the next half-century in the region? This is now — I call it officially — the Era of Revolutionary Islamism.

There is a great deal that will ensure the Islamists aren’t triumphant in the end, but there’s nothing that can stop them now from being dominant ideologically in the region and politically in the majority of countries between Tunisia and Iran, probably Afghanistan, and possibly Pakistan.

As early as the 1980s these trends were visible but the outcome was not inevitable.

There were four key elements in this victory for the Islamists.

First, the long, failed reign of Arab nationalist regimes went on in a downward spiral of increasingly less effective demagoguery, losing wars, and poor economic development performance as a demographic explosion took place.

Yet as late as 2000 the prospects for the Islamists looked poor. Almost a quarter-century after Iran’s revolution, they had not taken over in any other country except remote Afghanistan.

Then, second, the September 11 attacks revitalized the movement. Osama bin Laden lies moldering in the sea, but his movement goes marching on.

But while bin Laden lacked strategic flexibility, other Islamists were more effective.

And so, third, from Turkey came the idea of what might be called “stealth Islamism”: just pretend to be moderate and the suckers will buy it. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood guru, also contributed here: bin Laden is a fool, he said in effect, of course we should run in elections. We’ll win.

Reinforcing this, and fourth, came the idea of adapting Western rhetoric and public relations methods. After decades of bragging about how they would conquer and murder all their enemies, nothing changed in Arabic. In English, however, they spoke about being pitiable victims of imperialism, Zionism, Western racism, and so on. A key pioneer here was Edward Said, a man who hated the Islamists. They proved to be his best students.

And finally, there were disastrous Western policies and misconceptions, with the presidency of Barack Obama being the crowning catastrophe. For whatever reason, the Obama administration has empowered America’s enemies and the new oppressors of the local people. Appeasement is one thing; giving those who hate you most a boost into power goes far beyond that.

To summarize, I will merely say:

Egypt, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

Six countries or entities listed above have come — or are likely to come — under Islamist rule. Each is different.

But in all but the case of Turkey (where the administration ignored State Department reporting and has continually honored and excused an Islamist regime) and the Gaza Strip (where the administration helped entrench Hamas’s rule by forcing Israel to slash sanctions) they happened almost completely on Obama’s watch. Turkey and the Gaza Strip have become far worse on Obama’s watch.

The seventh, Syria, might merely remain under a repressive, pro-Iran, anti-American regime. And while there is a chance for a moderate democratic revolution, the White House is supporting the Islamists. If the State Department hadn’t revolted and the Saudis acted decisively, Bahrain would probably have been added to the above list.

There is no way to conceal this situation in October 2011, although it has been largely hidden, lied about, and misunderstood until this moment.

Even now, the nonsense continues. The article you are reading at this moment probably could not have been published in a single mass media newspaper. Libya’s new regime calls for Sharia to be “the main” source of law. That is what the Muslim Brotherhood has been seeking in Egypt for decades. Yet we are being told that this isn’t really so bad after all.

The title of the Washington Post‘s editorial, “Tunisia again points the way for Arab democracy,” can be considered merely ironic. It certainly points the way… toward Islamist dictatorship. And then there are the New York Times and BBC headlines on the Tunisian elections telling us it is a victory for “moderate Islamists.”

They aren’t moderate. They’re just pretending to be. And you who fall for it aren’t Middle East experts, competent policymakers, or serious journalists. You’re just pretending to be.

I’m putting those headlines in my file alongside Moderate Islamists Take Power in Iran; Moderate Islamists Take Power in the Gaza Strip, Moderate Islamists Take Power in Lebanon; and Moderate Islamists Take Power in Turkey.

Without taking any position on climate issues, let me put it this way: Why are people frantic about the possibility that the earth’s temperature might rise slightly in 50 years but see no problem in hundreds of millions of people and vast amounts of wealth and resources becoming totally controlled by people who think like those who carried out the September 11 attacks?

And that brings us to the Tunisian elections. In the words of the song “New York, New York,” if the Islamists in Tunisia can be “top of the list, king of the hill” in Tunisia, they can say, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.”

Next stop, Egypt.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Johnny Cash 'Bootleg III' In-Depth

by Rich Kienzle
October 25, 2011

I thought I'd explore the new Bootleg III double CD in greater detail, to supplement the generalized notes that came with the collection. To reiterate, I think this album is an important one, especially given the way Cash is often seen nowadays through distorted lenses. Some of that distortion is aggravated by the popularity of the Rick Rubin-produced American albums. Yes, some of them (like Unchained) are quite good. Yes, they introduced new audiences to Cash who might otherwise not have known of him. But it's a mistake—a major mistake—to define Cash by those craggy, lion-in-winter albums alone. Too often they eclipse the raw, explosive and unconventional artist that he was in his prime.

Sony Legacy's Cash "Bootleg" series is a curative to the distortion of the American albums. Bootleg Volume III consists of two discs of 1956-1979 live recordings, the vast majority never released, displaying the young, vital Cash who turned everyone's head around, projecting passion, energy and wit before and after his pill addiction. You also hear two polar opposites—Pete Seeger and Richard Nixon—introduce him at shows six years apart.

Let's go through each disc, part by part.


The Big 'D' Jamboree, 1956 (Previously issued)

The Big 'D' Jamboree (1956) was Dallas's answer to the Grand Ole Opry and WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. A weekly stage and radio program, it had its own cast of artists and welcomed various guests. Cash and the Tennessee Two (Marshall Grant, bass, Luther Perkins, guitar) were on the rise when they performed three of their Sun recordings, "I Walk the Line," "So Doggone Lonesome" and "Get Rhythm."

New River Ranch, 1962 (Previously unreleased)

This is an entire show from the famous Leon Kagarise collection of live country concert recordings. This show took place in Rising Sun, Maryland, just south of the Mason-Dixon Line. NRR was one of many outdoor country music parks that once existed from the 40's into the 1980's all over the East Coast. Kagarise, a young electronics technician, haunted NRR and Sunset, recording pristine copies of shows by Cash, Ray Price, Bill Monroe, the Stanley Brothers and many more. This is one of the few reissues of the Kagarise material available, impressive for sure.

With the addition of W. S. Holland's drums, making the band the Tennessee Three, Cash, whose extreme energy may well been by pharmaceutically enhanced, opens with "Country Boy," followed by "I Still Miss Someone" and the traditional folk favorite "Cotton Fields" before moving into "I Walk the Line." Comedy interludes were common in those days, and after Perkins unleashed some hot guitar (dubbed "Perkins Boogie,"), Cash did his usual impersonations before ending with "Rock Island Line," another folk tune he recorded at Sun and closes with his hit of the moment: "The Rebel-Johnny Yuma," tied to the TV series The Rebel starring Nick Adams.

Newport Folk Festival, 1964 (Previously released)

It's no real surprise Cash was invited to the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Not only did the folk crowd appreciate his songs, Cash was a longtime folk fan. Cash didn't tone it down at Newport. He kicks off with "Big River," followed by "Folsom Prison Blues," slows it down for "I Still Miss Someone" only to kick it up with "Rock Island Line." Cash, a longtime Dylan fan, met him at Newport. Perhaps in recognition, he sings "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" (he'd record it for Columbia that December), followed by "I Walk the Line."

Cash's single of that particular moment was Peter LaFarge's "The Ballad of Ira Hayes," the tragic tale of the Pima Indian/ Marine Medal of Honor winner who helped raise the flag on Iwo Jima. Haunted by his friends' combat deaths, in those days before post-traumatic stress treatment, Hayes drank heavily and died in 1955. The song was controversial at that time. Cash took out ads in music trade publications to cajole timid country disc jockeys into playing it (it reached # 3). The closer again spoke to the Newport audience: the Carter Family's "Keep on the Sunny Side."

Long Binh, Vietnam, 1969 (Previously unreleased)

Less than a year passed since Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison album made Cash one of the nation's hottest entertainment properties. If the Folsom audience was wildly enthusiastic, the military crowd at this NCO club in Long Binh were just as raucous. The band had changed a bit; guitarist Bob Wootton replaced Luther Perkins, who died in a 1967 house fire. Sun rockabilly Carl Perkins, part of Cash's stage show, also played electric guitar.

Introduced by June, his wife of less than a year, Cash and the Tennessee Three (joined by offer the usual show-opener "Big River" and keep things high energy the rest of the set with "Wreck of the Old 97," "Tennessee Flat Top Box," "Remember The Alamo" and "Cocaine Blues," the 20 year old Roy Hogsed hit that whipped up the Folsom audience. June takes the stage for smoking duets on their signature number "Jackson" and "Long Legged Guitar Pickin' Man." They wrap up with "Ring of Fire" and Cash's hit single of the day: the Perkins gospel number "Daddy Sang Bass."


The Nixon White House, 1970 (Previously unreleased)

This is a true piece of American history, a significant one at that. Late 60's America was nearly as divided as now over Vietnam and the counterculture. Merle Haggard's # 1 single "Okie from Muskogee" mocked hippies and antiwar protesters. 1970 brought the Top Ten "Welfare Cadilac" (sic). Written and recorded by elderly ex-painter Guy Drake, it ridiculed fictional welfare recipients who supposedly resided in tumbledown housing and drove Cadillacs (the "l" was deliberately dropped from "Cadillac" to avoid legal troubles with GM).

Republican strategists began seeing country as a part of the GOP's evolving "Southern Strategy," their ultimately successful attempt to turn Southern Democratic states to the GOP. To White House staffers, tying Nixon to Cash, the day's top country star (with a weekly ABC variety show) seemed smart thinking. Invited to perform for Nixon at the White House, Cash was told the President requested three songs, "A Boy Named Sue," "Okie" and "Welfare Cadilac."

Cash respected the Presidency regardless of who occupied the Oval Office, and initially his sister Reba told Rolling Stone before the concert Cash would fulfill all requests. But something changed. Neither "Okie" nor "Cadilac" remotely fit his world view. It's also doubtful Nixon, never a country fan, knew these songs well and more likely country fans on the White House staff requested them in his name. Cash respectfully but firmly declined to sing either, offering various explanations, most centered on the fact (a) they weren't his songs and (b) the requests were too late for him to have time to learn them, for which he seemed quite relieved.

The concert took place the day Apollo 13 splashed down after its heroic triumph over near-disaster enroute to the moon. On the album Nixon refers to that, then delivers a typically awkward introduction, alluding to the song flap by remarking "I'm not an expert on his music. I found that out when I began to tell him what to sing. I understand, incidentally, he owns a Cadillac but he won't sing about Cadillacs tonight."

Nixon also notes that country music is "American music." Well, duh!

With a meticulously planned repertoire, Cash walks on eggs from note one, opening with his 1969 hit "A Boy Named Sue," careful to avoid the "son of a bitch" line bleeped from the hit single. He delivers four songs about working people and farm life: his own "Pickin' Time," "Five Feet High and Rising," the ancient "Wreck of the Old 97" and Leon Payne's "Lumberjack" then moves to "Jesus Was A Carpenter," written by Christopher S. Wren, a New York Times reporter present in the audience, since he was writing the first-ever full-length Cash biography: Winners Got Scars Too.

Following that comes Cash's Daniel in the lion's den moment. Unaware Nixon was readying an incursion into Cambodia and a political assault meant to further demonize the youth movement, Cash sang his current hit, "What Is Truth," praising the very youth culture and protests Nixon, Agnew and company despised. Yes, Cash tempers the message in his introduction and at the end, diplomatically declares support for Nixon's Vietnam policy. Doesn't matter. He made the point, even if it went totally past the audience.

Perhaps to relieve any tension (if there was any, which is doubtful), the five final five numbers were hymns, "Peace in the Valley," "He Turned the Water into Wine," Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)," "Daddy Sang Bass," and "The Old Account," a traditional Southern hymn he often used to end shows in those days. Nixon couldn't co-opt Cash, but in 1974, desperate for cover as Watergate hemmed him in, he attended the opening of the new Grand Ole Opry House at Opryland. No one bought it then, either.

Osteraker Prison, 1972 (Previously released)

The remainder of the set assembles bits and pieces: three songs from his 1972 concert at Sweden's Osteraker Prison: Kris Kristofferson's Sunday Morning Comin' Down" (a 1970 # 1 for Cash), the classic 1920's Vernon Dalhart ballad "The Prisoner's Song," one of the early "country" songs to sell big, and Gene Autry's "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine."

CBS Records Convention, 1973 (Previously unissued)

Like many Nashville singers, Cash admired Chicago singer-songwriter Steve Goodman, and performed the tune seemingly most popular with country singers: "City of New Orleans," a pop hit for Arlo Guthrie's pop hit and 1984 country # 1 for Willie Nelson.

The Carter Fold, 1976 (Previously Unissued)

Cash hadn't had the success in the mid-1970s he'd had a few years earlier. It wasn't surprising. There was unevenness to his recordings during this period and with the weekly ABC show that lasted three seasons, there'd been a degree of saturation as well. This show was recorded at the Carter Fold in Hiltons, Virginia, in the middle of Carter Family country. The Fold itself is a performance hall founded by A.P. and Sara Carter's daughter Janette.

Cash performed two songs there: the patriotic number (this was Bicentennial year) "Ragged Old Flag" and the wonderfully goofy Wayne Kemp novelty "One Piece at a Time," which gave Cash his first # 1 single in six years.

Wheeling's Jamboree USA, 1976 (Previously Unissued)

These three songs, all Sun-era numbers ("Hey Porter," "There You Go" "Give My Love to Rose") are pretty self-explanatory, but energetic, aggressive performances.

Exit Inn, Nashville 1979 (Previously Unissued)

Backed by the Tennessee Three, with longtime friend Cowboy Jack Clement sitting in on guitar and pianist Earl Ball, later a member of Cash's band, he delivers his hit version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky," a 30-year old pop hit by crooner (a Jeannette native) Vaughan Monroe. The second tune, Billy Joe Shaver's "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal" went on to become a # 4 single for John Anderson in 1981.

Like other transcendent American cultural icons, Cash commands a high degree of reverence. But the Cash on Bootleg III is anything but reverent. This is the charismatic maverick seen in that memorable photo, flipping the bird during his 1969 San Quentin concert. Bootleg III reminds that without that Johnny Cash, the rest would be vapor.

Gaddafi's Death Gives Rise to a Sharia State

By Robert Spencer
October 25, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi is dead, and Barack Obama’s partisans are hailing the Brave New Libya as a triumph for his administration. Speaking about the Libyan revolution in March, Obama hailed “the rights of peaceful assembly, free speech, and the ability of the Libyan people to determine their own destiny,” saying now they have done it. It may, in fact, give him a boost in the polls, bolstering his manufactured image as a fearless anti-terror crusader, bagger of bin Laden, al-Awlaki, and now Gaddafi. But much less likely is the possibility that the end of Gaddafi’s regime will actually secure the rights of peaceful assembly and free speech for Libyans, or be any benefit to the United States.

This is hard for many people to believe. After all, Gaddafi has been waging war against the U.S. for so long that it was fully 25 years ago that Ronald Reagan​ dubbed him the “madman of the Middle East.” But following in Gaddafi’s wake is likely to be a Sharia regime that will be even more virulent in its anti-Americanism than he was—and much better connected internationally.

Supporters of Obama’s intervention in Libya generally assumed that the forces that were revolting against the Gaddafi regime were secular and oriented toward Western values. When Gaddafi was captured and killed, the victors were chanting “Allahu Akbar.” This is a common enough chant in Muslim countries, especially on such occasions, but in this case it was emblematic of the imminent replacement of Gaddafi’s bizarre Islamosocialist cult of personality with a straight Sharia regime populated by al-Qaeda elements.

It is likely that the new America-backed regime will compete with the Gaddafi regime in its hatred for America and the West, and become noted for being even more anti-American than he was. David Gerbi was one of the many who believed the mainstream media news stories about plucky Libyan revolutionaries fighting for freedom against a repressive regime. Gerbi, a Libyan Jew who had lived in exile in Italy for decades, took people like Barack Obama at their word and believed that what was happening in Libya was a wonderful throwing-off of oppression and reaffirmation of human rights. He decided to return to Libya to rebuild the synagogue in Tripoli, a once-grand structure that had been used as a garbage dump during the Gaddafi regime.

But when Gerbi arrived in the new Libya, he was in for a rude awakening. Demonstrators outside the synagogue revealed to him the brutal truth behind all the fog of political correctness: Carrying signs with inscriptions such as, “There is no place for Jews in Libya,” they made it abundantly clear that they believed that his attempt to rebuild the synagogue was yet another plot of the Zionism they detested, and the enlightened democratic revolutionaries called for Gerbi's deportation. Gerbi ultimately returned to Rome.

Gerbi’s case was not isolated. Islamic law mandates a humiliating second-class status for Jews that, among other discriminatory regulations, forbids them to repair old houses of worship or build new ones. And Islamic law is going to be the foundation of post-Gaddafi Libyan society. Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the head of Libya’s Transitional National Council, declared before a jubilant crowd in Tripoli in September that Sharia would henceforth be the “main source” for Libyan law. Likewise Sheikh Abdel Ghani Abu Ghrass, a popular imam in Libya, who told a crowd of thousands in Tripoli, “We must underline the Islamic character of the new Libyan state,” and that Libya “should be governed in conformity with Sharia.” Libya’s new draft constitution declares: “Islam is the Religion of the State, and the principal source of legislation is Islamic Jurisprudence [Sharia].”

Obama probably sees nothing amiss in all this. He has never shown any awareness of or concern about the possibility that Islamic states might in themselves constitute a threat to the United States.

Obama would do well to heed the words of the Egyptian Islamic jihad leader Sheikh Adel Shehato, who declared in August that the problem with Mubarak was that he did “not rule in accordance with the Sharia. ... As Muslims, we must believe that the Koran is our constitution, and that it is impossible for us to institute a Western democratic regime.” Shehato said that if a Sharia regime came to power in Egypt, “of course we will launch a campaign of Islamic conquest, throughout the world.”

Once those holding the same sentiments secure their power in Libya, more conflict with the U.S. is inevitable.

- 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).     

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pujols and Respect

By Joe Posnanski
October 23, 2011

ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 22: Albert Pujols(notes) #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals hits a solo home run in the ninth inning for his third home run of the night during Game Three of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 22, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

There are some athletes who thrive on being underestimated or disregarded or, in probably the most overused word in American sports over the last 10 or so years: disrespected.

There are some. But I don’t believe that there are as many as others think. For instance: I don’t think it works for Tiger Woods. I hear people all the time say that Tiger Woods will thrive on people underestimating him, but I don’t think so, and more, I don’t think that fits his story at all. Tiger, I think, thrived on being OVER-estimated. I think he thrived on people thinking that he was unbeatable, and he was amazing at living up to that impossible expectation. I remember feeling this strongly when he returned for his first tournament back after the car accident and Tabloid Tango, and he was visibly worried about being booed. I don’t think playing the villain is in his repertoire.

The story of Tiger’s descent, like all true stories, is much more complicated than generally acknowledged — it seems to me that it involves age and injuries and shame and reputation and swing changes and a less reliable putting stroke. But I do think that he is not driven to prove people wrong. I think he is driven to prove people, like his late father Earl Woods, RIGHT.

Another example: John Elway. To me, he also thrived on being overestimated. There was an aura about Elway in the fourth quarter, in a losing situation, an aura that everyone felt, including fans and players and coaches of the other team. Coaches would try goofy things to keep the ball away from Elway in the last two or three minutes. Defensive players would acknowledge that they needed to “do something special,” to prevent what had become known as a “patented Elway comeback.” Elway was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft when he came out. He could run, he was tough, he had one of the strongest arms in the history of the league. Nobody underestimated that guy. They played him as if they fully expected him to take off like a helicopter and chopper untouched into the end zone. Elway fed off that mood.

But it is true, I think, that some great athletes do need that mission of “proving people wrong.” That is perhaps the biggest thing that drives them, keeps them practicing a half hour longer than anyone else, gets them to do one more weightlifting sets than they had scheduled, keeps them in the gymnasium shooting jumpers at midnight, after the gym has closed, long after everybody has gone home and gone to bed. You notice how Tom Brady keeps referring back to how he wasn’t drafted until the sixth round? I think that minor slight (and really, it was a minor slight — Brady himself did not expect to go until the third or fourth round after an often-unfulfilling college career) inflames him. I think he needs it.

Michael Jordan needed it. That’s why you kept hearing that same overblown story, again and again and again, about how he was cut from his high school basketball team. That story was never as good as Jordan made it sound. He wasn’t exactly “cut” from the team. He was a sophomore and his high school coach thought it would be best if he played on the junior varsity team, where Jordan was such a star that varsity players would sneak out of the locker room just to watch him play.

But what else could inspire a personality like Jordan’s, a personality that hungered for slanders and libels? He was probably the top recruit in America coming out of high school. He was one of the few freshmen to ever start for North Carolina on Day 1, and that year he was the one who took and made the game-winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game. He became college basketball’s national player of the year, and though he was chosen third overall in the NBA draft (behind Hakeem Olajuwon and, absurdly, Sam Bowie), he was on the cover of The Sporting News with the subhead: “The Next Dr. J.”

And then, of course, he was an immediate sensation in the NBA, the first Nike superstar, and in time the richest athlete on earth and a six-time NBA champion.

All the while, it seems obvious, he hungered for challenges, for doubts, for cynicism to feed the fire. I think that’s a big part of what the baseball thing was all about. I’m sure there were countless factors in Jordan’s decision to play minor league baseball when he was the best basketball player in the world — his father’s tragic death among them. But I think one of those factors is that Jordan came to the point where the challenge of basketball no longer fueled the impossibly high ambition that coursed through him. Like Alexander the Great, he had no more worlds left to conquer. Baseball served him well on two fronts. One, it brought back the doubters in force — NOBODY thought he could make it as a baseball player, and I really think that’s exactly the kind of world where Michael Jordan feels most comfortable, a world in which he (and he alone) believes. He worked very hard to become a good baseball player, and he collected much-needed enemies along the way (such as Sports Illustrated), He played baseball better than anyone had any reason to expect, considering everything, but more than anything I think it re-energized him, it re-lit the pilot light, and when he came back to basketball, there actually WERE doubters, and he savaged them, destroyed them, mocked them, won three more championships and led perhaps the greatest team in the history of the NBA.

I would argue that when you are wired like that, when you need the doubters in your life to push you and drive you and make you feel alive, it’s hard to find peace. Ali kept coming back. Favre kept coming back. Mark Spitz, long after he won seven gold medals, jumped back in the pool. Pete Rose stalked the all-time hit record. Jim Brown talked often about coming back, and he challenged Franco Harris to a race that sullied him. And, of course, Jordan came back again to play for Washington, and this time the doubters had the upper hand. Jordan was too old to be great. Still, the hunger does not fade when the body does. At his Hall of Fame induction speech, Jordan talked about coming back again at 50. There was laughter. People thought it was a joke. Jordan said: “Don’t laugh.”

Of all the athletes I’ve ever written about extensively, I’d say that no one has needed the doubts and slights and slaps more than Albert Pujols. It could be pure coincidence that Pujols had the most productive offensive day in World Series history just two days after he was ripped in the press for committing an error that cost his team a World Series game and, even more, for not sticking around to explain himself to the press. It could be a coincidence, but I sort of doubt it. There are people who can channel their rage in amazing ways. Pujols, I think is one of those people.

Unlike Jordan and Tiger, Albert Pujols really was sold short for most of his life. He had come to Kansas City from the Dominican Republic when he was still a kid, and he hit baseballs so hard and had such an adult-looking body that it was assumed that he had lied about his age. This led to many side effects. He was a phenomenal high school hitter, but he was not even selected first team All-Metro by The Kansas City Star — this was in part because of his shaky defense as a shortstop, but there was also some real animosity toward him by other high school coaches because of the supposed age factor. He was not drafted out of high school, and again the retroactive reasoning is that he did not seem to have a natural defensive position, but it seems more likely that the age rumors had sunk him. He was legendary in his one year at Maple Woods Community College — it is believed that he did not strike out a single time, and he crushed monstrous home runs. The St. Louis Cardinals, famously, drafted him, but not until the 13th round.

And, though I’m sure that Pujols would have liked for it all to have worked out differently, I feel just as certain that this pain is a big part of what formed him. He worked so hard, at least in part, to prove people wrong. He drove himself to absurd extremes, both physically and mentally. A batting cage session with Albert Pujols, both then and now, is something resembling a holy experience, with every pitch being a life challenge, with every swing a heartfelt prayer. The intensity of Albert Pujols at work seems to just burn off him. What can drive a man to work that hard? To care that much? To push that far? That’s the story that biographers and writers search for, the story I’m searching for as I write my book about Joe Paterno, and it isn’t easy to find, and you can never be sure you actually DID find it. In Pujols’s case, I do think that a big part of his success comes from that heartfelt desire to crush every person who ever doubted him, who ever questioned his talent, who ever determined that he wasn’t good enough.

Pujols showed up at his first spring training after a spectacular single season in the minor leagues. And Cardinals manager Tony La Russa couldn’t take his eyes off Pujols. This made sense because Albert already was pretty close to a finished product as a hitter. But La Russa (like Paterno, I think) sees his sport more as art than science, more as something to be interpreted than figured out. And I believe him when he told me that he was drawn not to Pujols’ bat or his talent but to his hunger, his fierce determination, his drive to be great. Even just a few days into that training camp, La Russa was already telling people how he had never seen a player quite like Albert Pujols. He wanted Pujols on his team immediately. An injury allowed La Russa to bring Pujols to St. Louis. And Pujols hit .329/.403/.610 in his rookie season — one of the great rookie seasons in baseball history.

Once a player driven by doubters has great success, he or she has to figure out new ways to reenergize. After all, nobody has really doubted Albert Pujols over the last 10 years. But Pujols has never had any problem finding critics and doubters — he sees them everywhere. When he left after World Series Game 2 without talking to the media, that was not out of character. He does not like the media. He talks sparingly after games, and almost always with reluctance. A couple of years ago, I got to spend some time with Albert for a Sports Illustrated story, and he let some of his emotions loose. He feels like some in the media have tried to make him look bad. He feels that some in the media want him to fail. I did tell him that there have been many wonderful stories written about him, as both a player and a man, and he acknowledged that. But I was missing the point. The point is that Albert Pujols needs to be the best baseball player in the world. He needs that in ways that would be impossible for you or me or anybody else to understand. And having a cynical media out to get him serves that greater purpose. Maybe in those moments when he doesn’t want to take extra batting practice, when he wants to let his mind wander a little bit, when he wants to pull back just a touch, he can say to himself: “Yeah, that’s just what the media want me to do.”

I think Albert Pujols is a good person. I think he cares about people, I think the charity work he does is very much from the heart, I think faith drives his life. But I also think that Albert Pujols has to be a great baseball player; that cuts deep into who he is as a man. And to be a great baseball player, he needs doubts to drive him. So he is not always a NICE person. He is rarely an open person. I think he needs to feel close to the pain, needs to remember that nobody in the game wanted him, nobody drafted him, nobody believed in him. He needs to feel that if he rests for a minute, the media will bury him. I think he needs that the way fire needs oxygen.

Obviously, Saturday night’s remarkable World Series performance did not happen just because Albert Pujols was ticked off at the media for skewering him and wanted to make a point. Nobody’s that good. Saturday night happened in part because Albert Pujols is one of the greatest hitters who ever lived*, because it was a good night for hitting, because if you groove pitches over the middle of the plate, Albert Pujols knows how to hit them a long way.

*On Saturday, amid the roar of Pujols’ remarkable performance, my colleague Jon Heyman listed off his greatest hitters of all time. They were: (1) Babe Ruth; (2) Ted Williams; (3) Barry Bonds; (4) Lou Gehrig; (5) Albert Pujols. And Jon said that Pujols is the greatest right-handed hitter of all time. I think all of that is premature — Willie Mays and Hank Aaron, among others, merit respect — and I think that once again Stan Musial, among others, is too easy to overlook. But the larger point is the larger point. Pujols already is in the discussion.

But do I think Albert Pujols WANTED to prove a point? You bet I do. All of us are driven by countless motivations, many of them unknown even to ourselves. Some of us are trying to live up to our parents’ expectations. Some of us are trying to win over the girl or boy who spurned us years ago. Some of us want to be rich, to be famous, to be loved, to be admired, on and on and on and on, and all combinations in between. Whatever else drives Albert Pujols, I think he wants to prove a point to the doubters out there, every last one of them, real and imagined.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Spycraft Dispensed With Appropriate, Deliberate Speed

By Mike Hale
The New York Times
October 22, 2011

“DO you know what’s killing Western democracy, George? Greed. And constipation. Moral, political, aesthetic. I hate America very deeply. The economic repression of the masses institutionalized.” 

A diatribe overheard at Zuccotti Park during the Occupy Wall Street protests? No, think much earlier: a disenchanted British spy complaining about the state of the world in the late 1970s to his old colleague George Smiley in the much lauded television adaptation of John le Carré’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

With a new feature film of that novel scheduled to open in December, starring Gary Oldman as Smiley and Colin Firth as the America hater Bill Haydon, there’s still time to discover or revisit the 1979 TV version, which came out five years after the book. (Acorn Media is rereleasing the three-disc, 324-minute DVD set on Tuesday, with a list price of $49.99.)

Those too young to remember the post-Watergate years can get from the mini-series a flavor of the gloom and alienation that hung in the air on both sides of the Atlantic; in his review of the novel, Anatole Broyard of The New York Times wrote that no sociologist “has succeeded so well in dramatizing the sense of doom that pervades contemporary politics.”

The cynicism of Mr. le Carré’s spies has lost its power to shock over the intervening three decades. What may strike the first-time viewer of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” the most, especially if he has an image of it as a groundbreaking television production, is how slow moving and classically proportioned it is. Audiences used to the pace of the modern TV crime or espionage drama will need to reorient themselves.

The director John Irvin and the screenwriter Arthur Hopcraft did a lot of compressing and reordering to make Mr. le Carré’s complex 355-page novel about Smiley’s hunt for a mole at the highest levels of the British secret services work on screen. But the nearly five-and-a-half-hour running time of the mini-series still allowed for long, leisurely sequences demonstrating the mechanics of the spy trade.

The script preserves the novel’s back-and-forth-in-time structure, and Episode 2 begins with an uninterrupted half-hour flashback recalling the seduction of a Russian agent in Lisbon. It provides some necessary information (as well as the program’s only depiction of sex), but in dramatic terms it’s a complete digression, something that now would be covered in a quick montage or a few lines of dialogue.

Along with the deliberate speed comes a lack of physical action, reflecting Mr. le Carré’s emphasis on moral and political questions over suspense and derring-do. The mini-series begins with its one true action sequence (a canny decision by Hopcraft and Mr. Irvin); the next five hours are dominated by scenes of Smiley conferring with his small group of confidants and interviewing people who might be able to lead him toward the mole. A few scenes involving Smiley’s protégé, Guillam, pilfering information from headquarters stoke the tension, and the final confrontation with the villain involves guns and some running around. But even that scene is remarkably genteel by current standards.

The suspense-procedural style of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” with its echoes of “The Day of the Jackal” and the American conspiracy thrillers of the early 1970s, has continued to thrive in British television; notable examples include the mini-series “Edge of Darkness” (1985) and “State of Play” (2003), both remade as American feature films. There has been very little like it in American TV however. The closest recent comparisons, if only in terms of being quiet and slow, have been on the cable channel AMC: “Rubicon,” canceled after one season, and “The Killing,” which viewers appeared to lose patience with after a strong start.

Of course those shows didn’t have the ace in the hole that “Tinker, Tailor” did: the improbable presence of one of the 20th century’s great film actors, Alec Guinness, as Smiley.
It’s conventional wisdom that Guinness’s performance is a landmark in TV history, and you won’t get an argument here, though if you’re watching it for the first time, you may wonder at the start what all the fuss is about. But then you start to notice that Hopcraft’s dialogue tends to sound a bit starchy in the mouths of everyone but Smiley (even though the cast included top British stage and film actors like Ian Richardson, Ian Bannen and Michael Aldridge).

Early on, Smiley, who was the central character in five le Carré novels, passes along a lesson from his mentor: “Good intelligence work is gradual and rests on a kind of gentleness.” It’s an excellent description of how Guinness builds the character. Much of what we know about Smiley accumulates through his reactions to the lies and sad truths that he hears, in slight movements of the eyes and in his capacity for surprise, an analogue for the idealism, or perhaps just devotion to his craft, that drives him.

In a 2002 interview included in the DVD set Mr. le Carré famously said of “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”: “If I were going to keep one filmed version of my work, this would be it.” At that point several fine film adaptations of his work had come out — directors like John Boorman (“The Tailor of Panama”) and Fred Schepisi (“The Russia House”) had improved on the original material — but Mr. le Carré can be forgiven for preferring the production that was most faithful to his own vision, and the actor who so expertly embodied his most famous creation.