Saturday, November 26, 2011

Today's Tune: Rolling Stones - Shattered (Live)

SS Spendaholic sailing into debt abyss

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
November 25, 2011

I see Andrea True died earlier this month. The late disco diva enjoyed a brief moment of global celebrity in 1976 with her ubiquitous glitterball favorite:

"More, More, More

How do you like it?

How do you like it?

More, More, More

How do you like it?

How do you like it?"

In honor of Andrea's passing, I have asked my congressman to propose the adoption of this song as the U.S. national anthem. True, Miss True wrote the number as an autobiographical reflection on her days as a porn movie actress but, consciously or not, it accurately distills the essence of American governmental philosophy in the early 21st century: Excess even unto oblivion.

When it comes to spending and the size of government, only the Democrats are officially panting orgasmically, "More, More, More; How do you like it?" while the Republicans are formally committed to "Less less less." This makes for many dramatic showdowns on the evening news. In the summer, it was the "looming" "deadline" to raise the debt ceiling. In the fall, it was the "looming" "deadline" for the alleged supercommittee to agree $1.2 trillion of cuts. The supercommittee was set up as a last-minute deal for raising the debt ceiling. Now that the supercommittee's flopped out, "automatic" mandatory cuts to defense and discretionary spending are supposed to kick in – by 2013. But no doubt as that looming deadline looms the can of worms will be effortlessly kicked down the room another looming deadline or two.

In return for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling (and, by the way, that's the wrong way of looking at it: more accurately, we're lowering the debt abyss), John Boehner bragged that he'd got a deal for "a real, enforceable cut" of supposedly $7 billion from fiscal year 2012. After running the numbers themselves, the Congressional Budget Office said it only cut $1 billion from FY 2012.

Which of these numbers is accurate?

The correct answer is: Who cares? The government of the United States currently spends $188 million it doesn't have every hour of every day. So, if it's $1 billion in "real, enforceable cuts," in the time it takes to roast a 20-pound stuffed turkey for your Thanksgiving dinner, the government's already borrowed back all those painstakingly negotiated savings. If it's $7 billion in "real, enforceable cuts," in the time it takes you to defrost the bird, the cuts have all been borrowed back.

Bonus question: How "real" and "enforceable" are all those real, enforceable cuts? By the time the relevant bill passed the Senate earlier this month, the 2012 austerity budget with its brutal, savage cuts to government services actually increased spending by $10 billion. More, more, more, how do you like it?

But don't worry. Aside from spending the summer negotiating a deal that increases runaway federal spending, those stingy, cheeseparing Republicans also forced the Democrats to agree to create that big ol' supercommittee that would save $1.2 trillion -- over the course of 10 years.

Anywhere else on the planet that would be a significant chunk of change. But the government of the United States is planning to spend $44 trillion in the next decade. So $1.2 trillion is about 2.7 percent. Any businessman could cut 2.7 percent from his budget in his sleep. But not congressional supercommittees of supermen with superpowers thrashing it out across the table for three months. So there will be no 2.7 percent cut.

That means the "sequestration" from defense and discretionary spending will now be enforced, starting in 2013. That would be so brutal and slashing that by 2021 it would reduce U.S. public debt by $153 billion! Which sounds kinda big if you say it in a Dr. Evil voice and give a menacing mwa-ha-ha laugh, but in fact boils down to about what we borrow currently every month.

But don't worry. Slashing a month's worth of spending over a decade is way too extreme. So that's not going to happen, either. Instead, CNN and "Meet The Press" will just interview big-shot senators and congressmen about it day in, day out, and then normal service will resume: More, more, more, how do you like it?

In the course of a typical day I usually receive at least a couple of emails from readers lamenting that America is now the Titanic. This is grossly unfair to the Titanic, a state-of-the-art ship whose problem was that it only had lifeboat space for about half its passengers. By contrast, the SS Spendaholic is a rusting hulk encrusted with barnacles, there are no lifeboats, and the ship's officers are locked in a debate about whether to use a thimble or an eggcup.

A second downgrade is now inevitable. Aw, so what? We had the first back in the summer, and the ceiling didn't fall in, did it? And everyone knows those ratings agencies are a racket, right? And say what you like about our rotten finances, but Greece's are worse. And Italy's. And, er, Zimbabwe's. Probably.

The advantage the United States enjoys is that, unlike Greece, it can print the currency in which its debt is denominated. But, even so, it still needs someone to buy it. The failure of Germany's bond auction on Wednesday suggests that the world is running out of buyers for western sovereign debt at historically low interest rates. And, were interest rates to return to their 1990-2010 average (5.7 percent), debt service alone would consume about 40 percent of federal revenues by mid-decade. That's not paying down the debt, but just staying current on the interest payments.

And yet, when it comes to spending and stimulus and entitlements and agencies and regulations and bureaucrats, "more, more, more/how do you like it?" remains the way to bet. Will a Republican president make a difference to this grim trajectory? I would doubt it. Unless the public conversation shifts significantly, neither President Romney nor President Insert-Name-Of-This-Week's-UnRomney-Here will have a mandate for the measures necessary to save the republic.

As for Andrea True, back in 1976 she made a commercial in Jamaica. To protest the then Prime Minister's flirtation with Castro, Uncle Sam had imposed economic sanctions against Her Majesty's government in Kingston. Miss True was unable to bring her earnings home. So, for want of anything better to do with them, she went into a Jamaican recording studio and made a demo of a song: "More, More, More." Sure, 35 years later Fidel's still around, but at least the world got a disco hit out of it, which is more than you can say for the Iranian sanctions.

We're approaching a state in which the government spends $4 trillion but only raises $2 trillion. Which is an existential threat to the nation, but at least has the advantage of being one whose arithmetic is simple enough even for politicians: Try to imagine every aspect of government having to make do with half of what it currently has.

That's the scale of reform necessary to save America from a future as a bankrupt, violent, Third World ruin. More, more, more, how do you like it? More poverty, more crime, more corruption, more decay: how do you like that?

Flirting with Castroite policies? Maybe Washington could impose economic sanctions against itself.

Friday, November 25, 2011

‘They Stole Our Land’ vs. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem

By David Meir-Levi
November 25, 2011

Hajj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini with Adolf Hitler (Berlin 1941)

The cornerstone argument in the Arab narrative against Israel is that the Zionists in the 19th and early 20th centuries came to the Land of Israel and stole Arab land. This is a very simple assertion, easy to visualize, seemingly logical and amenable to a brief presentation: after all, Zionists did come from Europe to what was then Palestine, and the Arabs were already living there. So obviously when the Jews came they took Arab land.

Although there exists voluminous evidence to the contrary in Arab and Turkish and British sources indicating the exact opposite, it is difficult to present this contrary evidence and explain its importance in as brief and simple a manner as is done with the Arab assertion. There are too many variables: Arab demographics, Jewish demographics, Zionist agrarian reclamation technology, land purchases, crown land vs. privately owned land, absentee landlords, etc. This imbalance puts the advocate on behalf of Zionism and Israel at a disadvantage, even though the evidence supporting the Israeli narrative and contradicting the Arab narrative is vast and thoroughly vetted. For an excellent compilation and analysis of this evidence, see Kenneth Stein, The Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939 (University of North Carolina Press, 1984, reviewed here and here).

However, there is one testimony from an unimpeachable source stating that the Jews stole no land, but rather bought land in vast quantities from willing sellers who were the legal owners of the land that was sold. This unimpeachable source is so unarguably innocent of any pro-Israel or pro-Jewish or pro-Zionist sentiment that there can be no rational question regarding the veracity of his testimony. That source is the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the Hajj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini (1895 to 1974).

El-Husseini was a key figure in the creation of the concept of Palestinian nationalism and the most high-profile leader of violent and incendiary opposition to Zionism from the 1920’s onward, until the creation of the State of Israel rendered his leadership irrelevant. He used his powerful political and religious position as the Grand Mufti (supreme religious leader) of Jerusalem to promote Arab nationalism, incite violence against the British, and preach Jew-hatred and the annihilation of the Jews of British Mandatory Palestine. He was an ally of Hitler before and during World War II, recruited Muslim legions in Bosnia to serve on the eastern front in Hitler’s Weirmacht, and developed full-blown plans for concentration camps in Palestine in imitation of the German “final solution.” During the 1948 Israel-Arab war, he represented the Arab Higher Committee and rejected the UN partition plan of November 29, 1947 (for a brief biography of el-Husseini and a list of book-length biographies see here).

As the highest official representative of the Arabs of British Mandatory Palestine, el-Husseini was interviewed by the Palestine Royal Commission led by Earl William Robert Wellesley Peel, hence known as the Peel Commission.

The Peel Commission was a Royal Commission of inquiry sent to British Mandatory Palestine in November of 1936 for the purpose of examining and reporting on the causes of the Arab-Jewish violence in Palestine and suggesting possible resolutions. After months of research and interviews of major Zionist and Arab leaders, the Commission published its report in July of 1937. The report recommended a partition plan for separate Arab and Jewish states; but this plan was never implemented, although the Zionists accepted it, due to vociferous Arab opposition.

The Peel Commission report had some very salutary things to say about the Zionists and their impact on the land and on Arab society and economy. One of the most important for debunking Arab anti-Israel accusations is:
“The Arab population shows a remarkable increase since 1920, and it has had some share in the increased prosperity of Palestine. Many Arab landowners have benefited from the sale of land and the profitable investment of the purchase money. The fellaheen (Arab peasants) are better off on the whole than they were in 1920. This Arab progress has been partly due to the import of Jewish capital into Palestine and other factors associated with the growth of the (Jewish) National Home. In particular, the Arabs have benefited from social services which could not have been provided on the existing scale without the revenue obtained from the Jews…Much of the land (being farmed by the Jews) now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamp and uncultivated when it was purchased…There was at the time of the earlier sales little evidence that the owners possessed either the resources or training needed to develop the land.” The land shortage decried by the Arabs “…was due less to the amount of land acquired by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population.” (Chapter V in the report).
El-Husseini’s interview on January 12, 1937 was preserved in the Commission’s notes and referenced, although not published, in the full report. It has been summarized by a number of scholars, including Kenneth Stein, The Land Question in Palestine 1917-1939 (Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2009) and Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel from the Rise of Zionism to our Time (Alfred A. Knopf, 1976); and a detailed analysis with quotations from the interview can be found in Aaron Kleiman’s The Palestine Royal Commission, 1937 (Garland Publications, 1987, pp. 298ff.).

The selections from the interview presented below can be found on line here and here. Sir Laurie Hammond, a member of the Peel Commission, interviewed the Mufti about his insistence to the Commission that Zionists were stealing Arab land and driving peasants into homelessness. He spoke through an interpreter.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Would you give me the figures again for the land. I want to know how much land was held by the Jews before the Occupation.

MUFTI: At the time of the Occupation the Jews held about 100,000 dunams.

SIR L. HAMMOND: What year?

MUFTI: At the date of the British Occupation.

SIR L. HAMMOND: And now they hold how much?

MUFTI: About 1,500,000 dunams: 1,200,000 dunams already registered in the name of the Jewish holders, but there are 300,000 dunams which are the subject of written agreements, and which have not yet been registered in the Land Registry. That does not, of course, include the land which was assigned, about 100,000 dunams.

SIR L. HAMMOND: What 100,000 dunams was assigned? Is that not included in, the 1,200,000 dunams? The point is this. He says that in 1920 at the time of the Occupation, the Jews only held 100,000 dunams, is that so? I asked the figures from the Land Registry, how much land the Jews owned at the time of the Occupation. Would he be surprised to hear that the figure is not 100,000 but 650,000 dunams?

MUFTI: It may be that the difference was due to the fact that many lands were bought by contract which were not registered.

SIR L. HAMMOND: There is a lot of difference between 100,000 and 650,000.

MUFTI: In one case they sold about 400,000 dunams in one lot.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Who? An Arab?

MUFTI: Sarsuk. An Arab of Beyrouth.

SIR L. HAMMOND: His Eminence gave us a picture of the Arabs being evicted from their land and villages being wiped out. What I want to know is, did the Government of Palestine, the Administration, acquire the land and then hand it over to the Jews?

MUFTI: In most cases the lands were acquired.

SIR L. HAMMOND: I mean forcibly acquired-compulsory acquisition as land would be acquired for public purposes?

MUFTI: No, it wasn’t.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Not taken by compulsory acquisition?


SIR L. HAMMOND: But these lands amounting to some 700,000 dunams were actually sold?

MUFTI: Yes, they were sold, but the country was placed in such conditions as would facilitate such purchases.

SIR I HAMMOND: I don’t quite understand what you mean by that. They were sold. Who sold them?

MUFTI: Land owners.


MUFTI: In most cases they were Arabs.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Was any compulsion put on them to sell? If so, by whom?

MUFTI: As in other countries, there are people who by force of circumstances, economic forces, sell their land.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Is that all he said?

MUFTI: A large part of these lands belong to absentee landlords who sold the land over the heads of their tenants, who were forcibly evicted. The majority of these landlords were absentees who sold their land over the heads of their tenants. Not Palestinians but Lebanese.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Is His Eminence in a position to give the Commission a list of the people, the Arabs who have sold lands, apart from those absentee landlords?

MUFTI: It is possible for me to supply such a list.

SIR L. HAMMOND: I ask him now this: does he think that as compared with the standard of life under the Turkish rule the position of the fellahin in the villages has improved or deteriorated?

MUFTI: Generally speaking I think their situation has got worse.

SIR L. HAMMOND: Is taxation heavier or lighter?

MUFTI: Taxation was much heavier then, but now there are additional burdens.

SIR L. HAMMOND: I am asking him if it is now, the present day, as we are sitting together here, is it a fact that the fellahin has a much lighter tax than he had under the Turkish rule? Or is he taxed more heavily?

MUFTI: The present taxation is lighter, but the Arabs nevertheless have now other taxation, for instance, customs.

LORD PEEL: And the condition of the fellahin as regards, for example, education. Are there more schools or fewer schools now?

MUFTI: They may have more schools, comparatively, but at the same time there has been an increase in their numbers.

The Hajj Amin el-Husseini, the intractable opponent of Zionism, a Jew-hater on par with Hitler, admitted under questioning that no Arab land was stolen; no Arabs were wiped out, no villages destroyed. Rather, the Jews bought hundreds of thousands of dunam (about ¼ of an acre) of land from willing sellers, often from absentee Arab landowners. Moreover, thanks in part to the Zionists and the British, the quality of life for Palestine’s Arab peasantry was vastly improved, with less taxation, more schools, and an increase in Arab population.

The next time someone spouts the Arab line about how Zionists came and stole Arab land and drove Arabs out, just quote the Mufti.

Women's volleyball player stays positive throughout career

By Stephen Pianovich
Collegian Staff Writer
November 18, 2011

Katie Kabbes (L) with Arielle Wilson in 2009. (Daily Collegian)

No matter if Katie Kabbes is competing on the floor, or watching her teammates from the sideline, she has the same smile on her face.

And for the last time in the regular season for her collegiate career, Kabbes will bring that smile to Rec Hall this weekend.

No. 12 Penn State will face Indiana at 7 tonight and then square off with No. 8 Purdue Saturday at the same time for senior night.

Kabbes is one the Nittany Lions’ two seniors, along with defensive specialist Megan Shifflett, and the duo are part of an exclusive club of college athletes that have won at least three national championships.

“It’s kind of surreal that it’s coming to an end, it’s flown by. But it’s been far more than I’ve ever expected,” Kabbes said. “To compete at a high level of volleyball at a great university, and to represent this school has been a dream for me.”

The outside hitter from Raleigh, N.C. has played behind Penn State greats and All-Americans throughout her career, and Kabbes has been in and out of coach Russ Rose’s starting lineup this season. But Rose noted that Kabbes always brings a positive attitude to the team.

“The thing I like most about Katie is that she still has the same smile on her face and she still has that little sparkle in her eye that means she's up to something,” Rose said. “And she's been that way every day.”

Standing at 6-foot-4 and with two older sisters, Lindsey and Kelly, that both played collegiate volleyball, the sports would seem like a no-brainer for Kabbes. However, that was not the case for Kabbes, who got into dancing early in life and didn’t really get into sports until she was in middle school.

Dawn Kabbes, Katie’s mother, said her daughter started playing basketball and was surprised on how dominant she was in community leagues. Then, in sixth grade, Katie began playing volleyball and eventually it became her sport.

“We never even thought she had that competitive bone. Then, all of a sudden, she came home one day and said ‘I want to play basketball,’ ” Dawn said. “She obviously learned something from following her siblings around a gym, then it gravitated towards volleyball.”

Penn State's Ariel Scott, left, Katie Slay, and Katie Kabbs go up for a block during a game against Minnesota at Rec Hall on Saturday, October 1, 2011. Penn State won 3-0. CDT/Joshua Sykes

Kabbes stared at Cardinal Gibbons High School where she helped her team win three straight state championships from 2005-07. She ended up being the school’s career leader in kills with 1,500 and had her jersey retired.

In addition to playing in high school, Kabbes also competed in club volleyball and was on the Junior Olympic National Team, competing with and against some of the country’s best young volleyball players. Kabbes was able to keep a solid relationship with many of the girls she played with and now faces at the college level, which impresses her mother.

“The thing that stands out the most to me is how she’s maintained those friendships. Usually those girls are competing against each other so much, that they don’t really like each other,” Dawn said. “But it’s just the opposite with Katie, and that’s what's fun for me, it’s those friendships.”

After high school and club, Kabbes decided to come to Happy Valley and play for Rose and Penn State. So far over her career she has recorded 190 kills and has exactly 100 total blocks in a Penn State uniform. Her teammates say that Kabbes contributes both on and off the court.

“Katie has played with some great players that have come through the program, so she understands the hard work they did and she can pass it on to us,” sophomore middle hitter Katie Slay said. “Off the court, Katie never ceases to make me laugh. She's always having a good time; she's just like the bright part of your day.”

When asked what her favorite moment at Penn State was, Kabbes had to think very hard about it, and eventually decided on the 2009 national championship match when the Lions battled out of an 0-2 hole to defeat Texas 3-2 and win the title.

Kabbes had an even tougher time coming up with her favorite memory with Shifflett, and couldn’t pinpoint one single memory because she said there were too many.

The two competed against one another in club volleyball before they arrived at Penn State and have been living together since their freshman year. Kabbes also said the two sometimes take road trips together on weekends when they’re not playing.

“It’s sad that after this we’ll be parting ways. But we’ll always be close because we’ve been through four years of lots of ups and downs and she’s always been there for me. She’s my best friend here,” Kabbes said. “It’s going to be really bittersweet to go through senior night with her.”

Katie’s mother said that Katie was born four weeks early and “hit the ground running from the minute she arrived.” Dawn also mentioned Katie has the ability to make everyone around her laugh and has only seen her daughter cry three or four times in her life.

“She’s positive in everything,” Dawn said. “She’s full of life, full of humor. That’s Katie. I’ve always said the world is her stage.”

Kabbes is scheduled to graduate in December and wants to continue her volleyball career after graduating by playing professionally somewhere abroad. Kabbes also said that if volleyball doesn’t work out she might attend graduate school or attempt coaching the sport she loves.

Regardless of what happens after college, Kabbes said she has enjoyed her time Penn State and the relationships she has built with her coaches and teammates.

“This whole experience is bigger than me and I think that are some key attitudes to have a successful team. I knew coming here that I would have to fight for everything that I got and I’ve learned so much about myself as a person doing that and I didn’t want anything to be handed to me,” Kabbes said. “I’ve been on the bench and I’ve been a starter, so I’ve really had the whole spectrum of Penn State volleyball. You get to choose how your attitude is every day when you come into practice and if you have a bad attitude, it’s going to be miserable, and that’s not my outlook on life. I want to make the most out of everything I’m doing, and it’s easy when I’m with girls that I love and coaches that I love and the sport that I love. I could never have a bad attitude about anything in this program.”

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Book review: 'Rome' by Robert Hughes

The art critic brings his usual attention to detail to a personal history of the Eternal City, told largely through its art.

By Suzanne Muchnic, Special to the Los Angeles Times
November 6, 2011

Robert Hughes wastes no time luring readers into his love affair with Rome. After tracking the infatuation to his youth in Australia, he's off and running in the Eternal City. At his favorite piazza, the Campo Dei Fiori, he expounds upon its bronze statue of Giordano Bruno, a Renaissance hero burned alive as a heretic, then quickly moves on to glorify fountains, analyze an equestrian sculpture of emperor Marcus Aurelius and offer tips on cooking fried salt cod and Jewish-style artichokes.

Recalling the intellectual and aesthetic force of the city as he first encountered it, Hughes presents Rome as a guide to the past and the future. For the impressionable young writer who paid his first visit in 1959, it was the perfect place to learn how to look backward as well as forward. He saw a continuum of beauty and ugliness, triumph and tragedy as never before. More important, he writes, the experience "gave physical form to the idea of art." Rome made art and history real.

And that's just the prologue.

Overwhelming as the first 14 pages may be, they will not surprise followers of Hughes' work. Chief art critic of Time from 1970 to 2001, he also has written a dozen books — on modern art, the history of Australia, the city of Barcelona and artists Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Francisco Goya. Like the Rome of his description, Hughes is driven by appetites and passions. His big books are feasts of information, opinion and fascinating detail — too much to digest but nourishing even in small bites.

"Rome" is one of those. It's a sweeping, personal history that races from the city's beginnings to its current state as a woefully crowded tourist attraction. Fortunately, the author pauses for Hughes-style reflection. No ordinary tour guide, he makes the story compelling by focusing on art. With typical bravado, wit and rage, he puts art and architecture in sharp social, political, religious and historical context.

Early on, he introduces the first Roman emperor not as a man but as "Augustus of Prima Porta," a marble sculpture, circa AD 15, that exemplifies artistic propaganda. The work may not be a masterpiece, but it conveys an important message. Portrayed as a military hero who projects "calm, self-sufficient power," in Hughes' words, and accompanied by a tiny figure of the love god Eros, Augustus was meant to be seen as a living god descended from Venus.

Like many other classical Roman portraits, the statue may be the work of a Greek artist and possibly produced in a factory-like system nearly 2,000 years before Andy Warhol churned out images of celebrities and heads of state. Delighting in such then-and-now correspondences, Hughes likens ancient Rome's inflated prices of fine art to today's "hysterical, grotesque pricing of Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns." Rome's loss of the papacy to Avignon, in the 14th century, was something like "what might happen to modern Los Angeles if the whole entertainment industry, the production and promotion of movies, TV, pop music, were suddenly wiped out."

As centuries fly by, Hughes singles out Roman cultural landmarks, including Raphael's work in the Vatican, for praise and critical analysis. The author sees Santa Maria Maggiore, an early pilgrimage church, as an emblem of the papacy's triumph over the aging Roman Empire. The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, painted by Michelangelo, contains "the most powerful ... series of images of the human figure in the whole history of European art." Baroque sculptor Gian Lorenzo Bernini was an artistic embodiment of the Counter-Reformation, "the marble megaphone of papal orthodoxy in the seventeenth century."

Rome was a magnet for wealthy English travelers in the 18th century and for foreign artists in the 19th century. But in Hughes' view, Giorgio de Chirico was among the last influential painters to emerge in 20th century Italy. "It is depressing, but hardly unfair, to admit that, by the beginning of the 1960s, Rome, the city that had produced and fostered so many geniuses in the visual arts across the centuries, had none left — not, certainly, in the domains of painting, sculpture, or architecture," he writes. A few pages later he adds that filmmaker Federico Fellini (1920-93) "may well have been the last completely articulate genius Italy produced in the domain of the visual arts."

Hughes' laments about Rome's artistic demise and "the huge and ruthless takeover of mass tourism and mass media" ring sadly true. But as he mourns the waning of a love affair, he can't dismiss the city's connection to the past or its enduring attraction. "The Rome we have today," he writes, "is an enormous concretion of human glory and human error."

A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History

By Robert Hughes
Alfred A. Knopf: 512 pp., $35

A former Times staff writer, Muchnic is the author of "Odd Man In: Norton Simon and the Pursuit of Culture."

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

Rome by Robert Hughes – review

Mary Beard regrets that an elegant history of Rome is marred by howlers
By Mary Beard
The Guardian                                         

Does modern art matter? In 1980, in The Shock of the New – a BBC television series-turned-book – Robert Hughes convinced millions of sceptics that it did. Shock was a powerful antidote to the Kenneth Clark style of TV art history. Hughes was a straight-talking Australian; there was no posh, languid reverence in his presentation. His message was that you didn't have to like 20th-century art (in fact he happily pointed the finger at some that was pretentious, overvalued and bad); but you did need to see how art contributed to the great debates of the period, from technology to the politics of social change.

It must have been a hard act to follow. Since 1980 Hughes has continued to work as a critic; he has written, among other things, a bestselling account of British transportation of convicts to Australia (The Fatal Shore) and a volume of memoirs; and he has weathered accusations of plagiarism, a near-fatal car-crash and years of litigation that followed. Now in his 70s, he has brought out Rome, a cultural history of the city he first visited in 1959; it is a narrative that stretches from Romulus and Remus to Berlusconi.

Reader, be warned. Skip the first 200 pages and start this book at chapter six, "The Renaissance". By the time Hughes reaches this point, he is well in command of his material and is on characteristically cracking form. He offers some delicious pen portraits of the artists and architects who designed and made what are now the tourist high-spots of the city: the Sistine chapel, the Piazza Navona, St Peter's basilica, the Campidoglio. Particularly vivid is his discussion of Bernini, "the marble megaphone of papal orthodoxy" – who was loathed by most visitors in the 19th century ("intolerable abortions" was Charles Dickens's description of Bernini's monuments), but increasingly admired in the 20th. And he nicely captures the spirit of the 18th-century grand tour. The desire of the young milords to discover the grandeur of ancient culture was only one side of the story. Sex tourism was the other. Rome was, as Hughes observes, the Thailand of the period, and he includes plenty of revealing stories about the brash bigwigs who turned up in the city: Lord Baltimore, with his harem of eight women, or Colonel William Gordon, who (if Batoni's famous portrait is anything to go by) pranced around the Mediterranean in a kilt and swaths of his family tartan. What on earth did the locals make of these people?

In his epilogue, Hughes, the modern cultural critic, elegantly savages the mass tourism and commercial culture of Berlusconi's Italy. A visit to the overcrowded Sistine chapel has become, he insists, close to unbearable, "a kind of living death for high culture" – which can only get worse "when post-communist prosperity has taken hold in China", and the Chinese flood in by the million. The same, he might have added, is also true of St Peter's basilica itself. It may be large enough inside to hold huge numbers of visitors in relative comfort, but they now have to go through a metal detector to get into the place. When I tried to visit one afternoon last December only two of these machines were working, and people in the queue winding around the piazza would have been waiting for more than an hour.

So what is the answer if you really do want to see the Sistine chapel in some peace and quiet? It is "to pay what is in effect a hefty ransom to the Vatican". For you can now book a two-hour visit to the museum plus chapel in a small group after closing time (with a guide "whose silence", as Hughes ruefully notes, "is not guaranteed"). This gives you a full 30 minutes to view the Michelangelo ceiling, in the company of no more than 20 other people. The only trouble is that it costs €300 a head, and the enterprise is run by outside contractors who are presumably splitting the profits with the church. This is, of course, typical of 21st-century Italy's approach to its heritage (the new director of the Ministry of Culture is apparently "a former chief of McDonald's" and the restoration of the Colosseum is to be sponsored by an upmarket footwear company). "If you don't like it," Hughes shrugs, "you can always write to the Pope; or else buy some postcards and study those in the calm and quiet of your hotel."

So far, so good. In fact, the second half of the book is an engaging history of this wondrous city, very much in the tradition of The Shock of the New, packed full of sharp observation and trenchant one-liners, artfully and fearlessly told. The first half of the book, especially the three chapters dealing with the early history of Rome, from Romulus to the end of pagan antiquity, is little short of a disgrace – to both author and publisher. It is riddled with errors and misunderstandings that will mislead the innocent and infuriate the specialist.

True, the occasional mistake in detail can sometimes be a price worth paying for the kind of long view that Hughes attempts to take here, covering almost 3,000 years of history. If a book is brave enough to think big, we can perhaps forgive a few errors with the proper names (of which there are several in Rome – "Miltiades" the famous fifth-century Athenian general, for example, being curiously substituted on one occasion for "Mithridates", the first-century king of Pontus). But Hughes has made more than a few pardonable slips. The "ancient" parts of this book are littered with howlers.
Sometimes, for example, CE and BCE are confused (so that Julius Caesar's Gallic enemy Vercingetorix is said to have been beheaded in 46CE, almost a hundred years after Caesar himself was assassinated), or the correct chronology is flagrantly reversed ("a succession of autocrats, starting with Augustus himself and continuing onwards through Pompey and Julius Caesar", he writes, when in fact Pompey and Caesar preceded the emperor Augustus). On other occasions, the identity of the characters is hopelessly muddled. Hughes clearly has not been able to distinguish "Pompey the Great" from his (very different) father, also inconveniently called "Pompey".

Beyond such basic errors, there are also plenty of wider historical misunderstandings. Hughes somehow manages to attribute the foundation of the Colosseum to the wicked emperor Nero, when in fact the whole point about the Colosseum is that it was founded by Nero's successors as a propaganda coup against him. (Vespasian and Titus built it, with the spoils of the Jewish war, as a place of popular entertainment, open to all, on the very spot in the centre of Rome where Nero had established his exclusive and very private pleasure gardens.)

His characterisation of Roman pagan religion as full of "nature spirits" until the poet Ovid invented deities with personalities in the first century BC is a caricature even of the views of the antiquated text books he cites in his bibliography; and no decent scholar of Roman religion has suggested anything like that for half a century. In one of the most gratuitous howlers, he claims that the great altar of Pergamon (in modern Turkey), now on display in Berlin, was "torn asunder and looted by German archaeologists in the 19th and early 20th centuries and shipped, section by damaged section, to Berlin" – as if we should be imagining its desecration by a bunch of Teutonic Lord Elgins. In fact, the altar had been ruined for centuries when the German archaeologists arrived; they set about finding and gathering together its widely scattered fragments.

The list could go on.

We often talk about the decline of interest in the classical world. But, so far as I can see, interest in antiquity is as strong as ever (and, to give him his due, Hughes has seen that it is impossible to talk about modern Rome without acknowledging its dialogue with the ancient city). What has declined is any sense of obligation to write about the classical world with care and knowledge. Any old stuff will do and almost no one notices.

If a book about the history of the 20th century had as many mistakes as this one, I am tempted to think that it would have been pulped and corrected. It certainly would not have been widely praised and enthusiastically recommended as Rome has been.

Mary Beard's Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town is published by Profile.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Film Reviews: "Take Shelter"

By Roger Ebert
October 5, 2011

Here is a frightening thriller based not on special effects gimmicks but on a dread that seems quietly spreading in the land: that the good days are ending, and climate changes or other sinister forces will sweep away our safety. "Take Shelter" unfolds in a quiet Ohio countryside with big skies and flat horizons, and involves a happy family whose life seems contented.

It is the gift of actor Michael Shannon as Curtis LaForche that while appearing to be a stable husband and father with a good job in construction, he also can evoke by his eyes and manner a deep unease. Curtis has what he needs to be happy. He fears he will lose it. His dreams begin to be visited by unusually vivid nightmares: The family dog attacks him, for example, or storms destroy his home.

To the puzzlement of his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), and their hearing-impaired daughter, Hannah (Tova Stewart), he builds a pen in the backyard for the dog, which had been living peacefully indoors. The storm dreams are not so easily managed. Ominous black clouds gather, their heavy raindrops brown and oily, and so subtle is the direction of Jeff Nichols that some of this poisoned rain seems to be real, not imaginary. They live on the outskirts of town, in an area which is swept from time to time with tornadoes.

His behavior begins to concern his best friend and workmate, Dewart (Shea Whigham), who helps him as much as he can. Their friendship dramatizes the thin ice beneath so many people these days, when employment is threatened by uncontrolled forces, and if you lose a job, there may not be another one. Stories about Curtis begin to spread in the community, and Curtis is not paranoid when he thinks people are talking about him. His explosion at a community benefit dinner is terrifying in its energy.

This is the second collaboration by writer-director and star, whose powerful "Shotgun Stories" (2007), established Nichols as a gifted new filmmaker and further cemented Shannon's growing reputation as an actor of uncommon force: the young Christopher Walken, my wife says, and he does embody the same shifting air of disquiet. As his wife, Jessica Chastain is effective in her seventh major role this year; since "The Tree of Life," has any young actress ever put together such a series of roles?

A few jolting shots early in the film establish the possibility that bad things could happen. But Nichols builds his suspense carefully. Curtis is tormented but intelligent; fearing the family's history of mental illness, he visits his schizophrenic mother (Kathy Baker) in a care facility to ask if she had ever been troubled by bad dreams. He checks books out of the library. He turns to the area's obviously inadequate public health facilities.

But he also acts as if his warnings should be taken seriously, He is driven to guard the family he loves. He borrows money from the bank and equipment from work to greatly expand an old storm shelter in his backyard. His wife grows frightened by his behavior. His job and health insurance are threatened.

And then a storm comes. Its nature need not be discussed here. It leads to a scene of searing power, in which Samantha tells Curtis that it is safe once again to return to the surface — that it is a step he must take personally. The story seems somewhat resolved. Then the film concludes not with a "surprise ending" but with a series of shots that brilliantly summarize all that has gone before. This is masterful filmmaking.

In films like "Shotgun Stories," William Friedkin's "Bug," Sam Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" and Werner Herzog's "My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done," Shannon has attracted the best directors with his uncanny power. His performance in the play "Mistakes Were Made," was one of the most amazing performances I've ever seen. Thinking again over what he does in "Take Shelter," I think an Oscar nomination for best actor would be well-deserved.

Cast & Credits
Curtis - Michael Shannon
Samantha - Jessica Chastain
Dewart - Shea Whigham
Hannah - Tova Stewart
Kyle - Ray McKinnon
Sarah - Kathy Baker
Kendra - Lisa Gay Hamilton
Jim - Robert Longstreet

Sony Pictures Classics presents a film written and directed by Jeff Nichols. Running time: 124 minutes. Rated R (for language).

Movie Review - "Take Shelter"

Digging deep

By Ty Burr
The Boston Globe
October 21, 2011

In “Take Shelter,’’ Michael Shannon plays Curtis LaForche, an Ohio husband and father who wakes up one day and smells evil on the wind. He senses it even before he wakes, in recurrent nightmares that render him mute with dread. Writer-director Jeff Nichols stages these dreams as time-lapse premonitions of apocalypse: a family dog turning on its master, flocks of birds massing in mysterious patterns, thick rain falling like oil, and shadowy figures that lunge through car windows at Curtis’s loved ones.

Because he’s a Midwesterner and a family man - because he’s responsible - Curtis initially keeps his visions to himself. The drama of this slow, inexorable stunner - Kafka in the heartland - is in watching a blessedly normal guy give in to paranoia, first in baby steps and then with something like relief. At first, Curtis just suspects. By the final scenes, he knows, and in knowing he assumes a wrath of nearly biblical proportions. He’s a modern-day Noah looking desperately for a boat.

It’s Ohio, though, and the oceans are far away. Curtis’s backyard looks out on an endless expanse of grass and clouds and, off in the distance, other people’s houses. It’s the promise of the frontier fulfilled. So instead of an ark, he starts building himself a fallout shelter, “borrowing’’ the equipment from the sand-mining company for which he works and outfitting the shelter for the long haul. Each of Curtis’s acts takes him further from the dull slipstream of Middle American life, and people start to notice: his wife, Samantha (Jessica Chastain), his best friend and work-crew companion, Dewart (Shea Whigham), and then out into the concentric rings of their small community.

What does Curtis see? The chilling genius of “Take Shelter’’ isn’t that the threat is never specified but that it doesn’t need to be. There’s a broken economy behind those roiling clouds, and terrorism, and a planet spinning toward meltdown. There’s a faceless bureaucracy that takes forever to schedule cochlear-implant surgery for the couple’s hearing-impaired daughter (Tova Stewart) and that hangs Curtis out to dry when he seeks medical help. There’s the time-bomb in our genes: He worries that he has inherited the schizophrenia that has turned his mother (Kathy Baker) into a husk. There are mortgages and bills, the looming sense that an angry God or an unheeding universe could snuff us out like fleas. What isn’t there in this world to unman us at any moment?

Michael Shannon is one of our best working actors, but he keeps getting typecast as a squirrelly outsider, like the outpatient in “Revolutionary Road’’ or the gonzo record producer in “The Runaways.’’ (He even makes his Prohibition agent in HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire’’ a figure of demented righteousness.) He has a much greater range, of course, and “Take Shelter’’ allows him to traverse almost all of it. Curtis is a good man with a good life, as Dewart is careful to remind him, and Shannon roots the character in a plainspoken decency that feels American and true. You can smell the sweat on this man’s work shirt and you know he comes by it honestly.

As the demons press in, though, Shannon lets Curtis’s terror build in increments, the open face hardening and the eyes staring at things the rest of us can’t see. He’s working toward detonation, and when it comes, it’s with a rage that’s almost beautiful in its purity. Because this is Michael Shannon, you know the hero has to flip out sooner or later, but the scene itself is indelible, iconic - a great movie moment - and much of its power lies in the image of small, scared humans shrinking from the prophet revealed in their midst.

This is also very much Chastain’s film. The actress has had quite a year, with roles in no less than six films including “The Tree of Life,’’ “The Debt,’’ and “The Help,’’ but this is the performance that makes good on her promise. Samantha is similar to but much more particularized than the mother in “Tree of Life’’ - she’s nobody’s metaphor. There’s sinew beneath the character’s weary grace, and when Sam finally realizes she has to take charge of her fraying family, her determination coexists with her gentleness in ways that break your heart.

“Take Shelter’’ plays Curtis’s unraveling at daring length. The film will be too slow and dark for some, and it’s definitely overlong. Its biggest flaw is the final scene, in which Nichols decides he has to resolve the matter. Is Curtis crazy or is he right? The tension of not knowing - the gnawing uncertainty both we and the hero feel - is the spring that keeps this movie running, and when the filmmaker chooses one answer over the other (it almost doesn’t matter which), “Take Shelter’’ suddenly becomes a lesser thing.

It’s still a remarkable work and one that addresses anxieties rarely acknowledged in our culture. “Take Shelter’’ speaks elliptically but directly to the fears most men have (and keep fiercely to themselves) that they don’t have what it takes - that when disaster comes, as it must, they will be pitifully helpless to protect those in their care. I’m not even sure you can feel the full impact of Nichols’s vision if you don’t have a family of your own to provide for.

Watching the film, I was reminded of one of the most moving works of art I know, Egon Schiele’s 1918 painting “The Family,’’ in which a nameless man, woman, and child huddle against the darkness, gazing out past the frame with expressions stuck between uneasiness and hope. If you have children, you know that look in the father’s eyes. So, clearly, does Curtis. “Take Shelter’’ is a horror movie for grown men, and it hits many of us exactly where we live.

Ty Burr can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @tyburr.

The chutes and ladders of The Chicago Way

While Obama climbs high, his onetime pal Rezko is slip-slidin' away

By John Kass
The Chicago Tribune
November 23, 2011

The old Antoin "Tony" Rezko, center, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building after making bond. (Tribune photo 2006 / October 19, 2006 )

The federal sentencing hearing for convicted influence peddler Antoin "Tony" Rezko — once a friend and personal real estate fairy to President Barack Obama— had just begun in Chicago.

It was just after 9:30 a.m. Tuesday when U.S. District Court Judge Amy St. Eve motioned to the marshal to bring Rezko into the courtroom. A door in the wall opened to a sparse corridor where prisoners often wait.

But there was no Rezko. A half a minute passed. Still no Rezko. Then another half minute, like a magic trick gone bad.

And then came that loud flushing sound.

It was thunderous, the federal waters in epic reverberation, echoing through the courtroom as if by some Hollywood trick of speakers and amplifiers. It was so loud that Obama surely must have heard it in New Hampshire, where he campaigned Tuesday, pretending to be an anti-tax politician.

"Don't be a Grinch. Don't vote to raise taxes on working Americans during the holidays," said Obama the Chicago pol in Manchester, flashing teeth, dazzling them with his wit and charm.

But his old friend Tony Rezko wasn't dazzling anybody, even when he finally appeared in that prisoner's corridor in that courtroom in Chicago. He stood blinking, a skinny ghost of the old Rezko.

The old Rezko was sleek and obvious, as genuine as an alderman's handshake. He was the guy who knew guys and a way around almost anything. He was the wizard who bought that enchanted strip of land that was good for nothing except that it allowed the Obamas to get that dream house they couldn't afford.

The old Rezko had helped Obama take those first few steps along The Chicago Way, a dangerous tango that the president himself once described as "boneheaded" but not criminal. Rezko could samba with Democrats like Gov. Rod Blagojevich one day, then foxtrot with top Illinois Republican bosses like convicted William Cellini the next. They were all part of the Illinois Combine, which knows no party, only appetites.

The new Rezko on Tuesday was thin and meek. He wore government khaki slacks and a green scrub shirt and bright plastic orange clogs on his feet. One look at those Bozo shoes and you knew that Tony Rezko would never dance on The Chicago Way again.

His ankles were shackled. The chain dragged on the carpet between his feet. He shuffled to the defense table.

Rezko's wife sat in the front row. Their three kids seemed just about college age. In a couple hours his longhaired daughter would bury her face in her mother's arms and sob her breath away. His two stone-faced sons would sit quietly, their black eyes deep-set, young hawks angry and wounded. I could see their father in them.

Watching the boys I thought about what Rezko must have been like years ago, at 19, coming out of Syria hungry and broke, with nothing but ambition. It didn't take him long in Chicago to see how things were done, how crooked politics are here, played as politics are played in the Middle East and everywhere else.

Everywhere, that is, but in those embarrassing Obama creation myths spun by myth masters from Chicago's City Hall, all about hope and change and Barack transcending the broken politics of the past.

Rezko was of the old broken politics, which is the same as the new, hopeful politics. Human nature doesn't change and politics has always been about leverage, about stacking government boards and commissions with your allies to direct the spending of billions if not trillions of public dollars. The rest is pixie dust. It is the great game of who gets what, and how much. The larger the government, the greater the prize.

Obama is at the top of that heap. Rezko is at bottom, and before the judge he was contrite. They all seem contrite up there at the end, self-declared sinners seeking compassion from the court and from God.

"I deeply regret my conduct," Rezko said when the lawyers were done. "I take full responsibility for my actions … I come to ask for God's forgiveness and the court's mercy. My family has suffered enough."

Judge St. Eve curtly reminded him that the people of Illinois have suffered too, that they're tired of their politicians being bought and their governments being sold.

"It is time that enough is enough, and that corruption in the Illinois state government has got to stop," she said. And then she dropped it on him: Ten and a half years in prison, with a few years off for time served since his 2008 conviction.

I'm glad I didn't see Rod Blagojevich's face when he heard the news about his good friend Tony. Ten years is just the baseline now, and Blago should get even more. You could just imagine Gov. Dead Meat staring at himself in the mirror, combing and recombing that famous hair, soothing himself, whispering to himself that everything will work out, and then his lip begins quivering, hinting at terrors to come.

Obama will campaign for re-election, and with the media's help, he'll levitate above Chicago politics, unstained, as if his feet never got dirty here.

And Rezko? He'll sit in a federal cell, silenced, waiting, hoping for a presidential pardon, buried beneath The Chicago Way.

Paterno's legacy growing more clouded

By Mark Madden
Beaver County Times
November 22, 2011

In this AP file photo taken Oct. 22, 2011, Penn State coach Joe Paterno walks off the field after warmups before Penn State's NCAA college football game against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

Before he got fired, I considered Joe Paterno to be the finest coach in college sports history. He won often and won clean.

My opinion stands. But that memory of Paterno is fading fast.

Paterno isn't evil. Far from it. His acts of philanthropy go into the multi-millions, and far beyond those known. The ill-advised open loyalty he inspires among ex-players like Franco Harris speaks volumes. Even when it costs them money and credibility, many still support Paterno with fervor both idiotic and inspiring.

To quote Jason Sudeikis playing Satan on Saturday Night Live: "I know you love JoePa, but you've got to get out of the way on this one!"

So, what happened?

Paterno's fall came largely because he stuck around too long. A product of a different generation, he became a stranger in a strange land.

The Internet, social media, tabloid journalism -- Paterno was a superstar coach before any of that existed, and he chose to not embrace (or even acknowledge) any of it. Adding further to his metaphoric isolation was Penn State's literal isolation. State College is a self-contained hamlet in the middle of nowhere, its entire economy dependent on the university, everything aided and abetted by friendly local media and police.

Paterno is from a time when you could successfully keep secrets. What the neighbors thought mattered. Deal with everything internally. Keep it in the family.

But I still have no idea why Paterno chose to keep Jerry Sandusky's shameful contact a secret. I can't see Paterno protecting Sandusky. Their friendship seems to have dissolved around the time Sandusky's twisted proclivities first came to light.

For Paterno, it's always been about the program and the university. Paterno was shielding those entities from shame and scandal. Not Sandusky. Not himself.

It didn't work. Only someone of Paterno's generation -- or incredibly stupid -- would have thought this could be buried indefinitely. Paterno's accomplices in this cover-up were morons. Paterno was merely clueless.

But there's no way to not blame Paterno. The argument that he did as required by reporting to his superiors is ludicrous. Paterno hasn't had "superiors" in decades. Morally, Paterno himself admits he didn't do enough. For a man of his conceit, confidence and self-righteousness, that admission carries the biggest shame of all.

Had Paterno and Penn State gone to the police in 1998, or 2000, or 2002, the scandal would have been bad, but brief. At the end, Paterno's legend would have burned even brighter.

By 2011, there was no good way out.

At 84, Paterno was clearly too old and vulnerable to deal with the onslaught of the last two weeks. That was probably also true when he was 70 or so and first had to face the prospect of staring down this unseemly issue.

Would a younger, more dynamic coach have handled the situation properly? Would Tom Bradley have handled the situation properly? It seems a good bet.

Bradley, 55, should have succeeded Paterno a decade ago. But now the clock is ticking on Bradley's time at Penn State. He's coached there since 1979, and is handling his job as Paterno's interim successor with courage, class and chutzpah.

That doesn't matter: Bradley will be fired at season's end along with the rest of the staff. Every vestige of the scandal must be purged.

As for the statue of Paterno that stands outside Beaver Stadium, debate rages about its future. One suggestion: Turn it around, so Joe can look the other way.

Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hurrah for Philip! Wind power is the most ruinous folly of our age

By Melanie Phillips
The Daily Mail
21 November 2011
Outburst: Prince Philip has branded wind turbines 'absolutely useless' and said their supporters 'believe in fairytales'

Once again, Prince Philip has performed an invaluable national service by tilting at windmills — or to be more precise in this case, wind turbines.

In private remarks that found their way into the Press, he apparently said wind turbines were ‘absolutely useless’, completely reliant on subsidies and that those who claimed they were one of the most cost-effective forms of renewable energy believed in ‘fairytales’.

The Prince’s outburst may have been impolitic but many will be cheering his words. Indeed, he understated his case. For the Government’s promotion of wind-farms is simply off-the-wall crazy from every conceivable point of view.

Not only are these turbines hugely expensive to build and operate but also — surprise, surprise — they produce zero energy if the wind is not blowing.

Conversely, when the wind blows too hard they have to be shut down. So wind power has to be supplemented by gas-fired power stations — which push into the atmosphere yet more of the dreaded carbon dioxide that the turbines are meant to help diminish.

This supposedly green development is actually environmentally unfriendly. For the turbines are not just an eyesore, but on many wind-farms they have had to be turned off after locals complained that the noise they made left them unable to sleep and even needing to wear ear-defenders in their gardens.

For these and other miseries, the population is having to pay through the nose. Public subsidies make wind power three times more expensive than normal-tariff electricity. And since such subsidies drain investment away from new conventional power plants, the risk of power cuts grows greater.


Meanwhile, a government adviser has calculated that even if 10 per cent of the country were to be covered with wind turbines, they would still generate only one-sixth of the nation’s energy needs.

Does one laugh or weep at such a farce masquerading as government policy?

More ludicrous still, it is becoming clearer by the day that the premise upon which these wind-farms are based, that increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are producing a catastrophic warming of the planet, has been shot to pieces.

Eyesore: Supposedly-green wind turbines are, in many ways, environmentally unfriendly

For years, the scientific and political establishment has claimed that there is a ‘consensus’ that ‘the science is settled’ and that man-made global warming is beyond challenge.

But now the organisation at the very heart of this claim has sidled out a tacit admission that this is untrue — while trying to conceal that this is not in fact the mother and father of U-turns.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC as it is known, is the body which has driven man-made global warming theory for more than 20 years.

Despite the fact that hundreds of eminent scientists have challenged this theory, with some who have worked for the IPCC even attesting to the errors, manipulation and downright fraud at the heart of its purported ‘research’, it has never deviated from its alarmist predictions.

Until now. Suddenly, according to leaks from a new report, it is saying that it is not possible to predict changes in the Earth’s weather systems for at least the next three decades because of ‘natural climate variability’.

In other words, it might get warmer — or it might get colder. The IPCC doesn’t know which because there are too many unknowns in nature.
Well might you scratch your head. For these are the same people who have told the world that the climate will without a shadow of a doubt get so hot that the planet will fry, drown, succumb to terrible diseases, hurricanes, extinction of species and a general environmental apocalypse.

So is there something special about the next three decades which has suddenly served to halt the apocalypse in its tracks?

Of course not. The unknowns about the climate have always been there, just as the sceptics have always said — and the warmists’ terrifying predictions were always no more than a load of hot air.

What’s changed is that they know the game is now up. For even though carbon dioxide levels have been increasing, there has been no increase in global temperature for the past decade or so.

And that destroys the entire theory of man-made global warming, which is that carbon emissions inevitably and inexorably drive up temperature.

So the people who have demonised climate-change sceptics as ‘climate change deniers’ or ‘flat-earthers’ are now telling us, in a coy and roundabout kind of way, that actually no one has a clue how the climate will turn out.

If man-made global warming were merely a nonsensical idea which had taken hold of the scientific establishment entailing fraud, deception and the wholesale bullying and intimidation of all who dared speak the truth — which is indeed what has taken place over the past two decades — that would be bad enough.

But this is far, far worse even than that. For the theory which this world scientific body is now quietly trying to slide away from has driven the politics and economies of the West off the axis of reason altogether.

In its core aim to reduce carbon emissions, it has done untold damage to western prosperity. And it is Britain that has taken a leading role in exporting this madness.

By the Government’s own estimate, it would cost £404 billion to implement its Climate Change Act — £760 per household every year for four decades.

The Act included a voluntary commitment to reduce Britain’s carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent of their 1990 level by 2050 — a target generally acknowledged to be achievable only by shutting down most of the economy — in an effort to demonstrate ‘global leadership’.

This green zealotry has made the already grave economic crisis very much worse.

Not only are energy bills set to soar by some 60 per cent as a result, deepening fuel poverty for ordinary people, but green taxes are hampering the industrial progress on which Britain crucially depends for its economic recovery.


It has been estimated that Britain’s policy of setting a minimum price for carbon credits instead of allowing the market to decide will cost British industry at least £1 billion and drive manufacturers offshore as firms that cannot pass on their costs move abroad.

Indeed, only a few days ago, the mining giant Rio Tinto announced that new environmental taxes and red tape were partly to blame for the closure of its Lynemouth aluminium smelter in Northumberland, risking the loss of 600 jobs.

And for similar reasons, chemical multinationals are now looking to move their production to places such as South Africa, India and China.

Now Chancellor George Osborne has said he will reduce Britain’s carbon reduction target to the EU level of a mere 20 per cent cut in emissions. But in view of the lunacy of the whole policy, this is hardly an appropriate response.

For the climate change obsession of which the wind-farms are such an egregious example has been a weapon with which to sabotage the economy, vandalise the environment and drive politics to what would once have been considered the extreme of the anti-capitalist Left.

Don Quixote comically mistook the windmills at which he tilted for giant enemies. But as Prince Philip has helped us perceive, it is the wind turbines and the sham climate theory they represent which have tilted Britain and the Western world into a farce of truly lethal dimensions.

Read Melanie Phillips RightMinds blog here

The Islamic Feminism of All-American Muslim

By Daniel Greenfield
November 22, 2011

Suehaila Amen is featured in "All-American Muslim." (Adam Rose / TLC)

Once upon a time there used to be billboards for Virginia Slims cigarettes with the slogans, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” The billboards are gone now, but in their place are billboards for All-American Muslim which substitute the hijab for the cigarette. The same left which was outraged at a company marketing cigarettes as a form of female empowerment is completely supportive of marketing 7th century Islamic misogyny as female empowerment.

“The Fast and the Furious,” the second episode of TLC’s All-American Muslim, plays out like a hijab commercial, along with a pitch for the Ramadan fast. But what is missing is any acknowledgement of the violent means by which the hijab is imposed on Muslim and non-Muslim women around the world. For many women, even in North America, the consequences of not wearing the hijab can be fatal.

Sixteen-year-old Aqsa Parvaz was strangled to death by her father because she refused to wear a hijab… not somewhere in Pakistan, but in Ontario. In that same city, Mohammad Shafia killed his three daughters, ranging in age from 13 to 19, over their refusal to wear hijabs. There is no way to know if Virginia Slims or the hijab killed more women, but we do know that today it is unacceptable to show women smoking, but it is acceptable to promote treating them as chattel.

All-American Muslim had set out to show that Muslims weren’t terrorists, that they are just the neighbors next door. What a pity then that the second episode features a terrorist supporting cleric providing hijab counseling to one of the show’s stars.

Imam Abdul Latif Berry spoke at a 2009 commemoration ceremony for the Ayatollah Khomeini which took place at his own Islamic Institute of Knowledge. And he’s also quite a feminist. His website features an opinion that a husband can deny his wife a divorce if she does not return the dowry and in another appears to justify marital rape.
So, the wife must obey her husband by giving him his physical rights which he asks from her; she has to make herself available to him when he wants her; she has no right to abstain unless she has her period, a medical condition, or a difficulty that keeps her from responding favorably to him. If he demands his right and obliges her, this would not be rape in the Islamic Law, but something basic in the concept of marriage contract. Otherwise, what would marriage be without mating?
What about beating your wife? Imam Abdul Latif Berry has the answer for how to deal with a wife who won’t perform her “marital duties.”
When all peaceful methods have been exhausted and attempts to fix the problem have failed, and if this is the only means for reform, practice disciplinary confrontation with the rebellious wife. Again, Islam poses extreme conditions on this last step. The confrontation must not lead to injury or leave bruises. It must not be done in revenge or be based on hatred which trespasses the set limits, but instead be prescribed like the bitter medicine with calculated dosages to speed reform while still protect from harming the self and others.
What about marrying thirteen year olds?
The girl’s menstrual period is a natural sign that her body qualifies her for fertility, pregnancy, or reproduction. Islam does not contradict the natural aspect of life. Therefore, it does not oppose marriage at a younger age when the girl is naturally ready. However, American civil laws prohibit such marriage but could allow it in some states with parental consent and with the approval of a civil judge after verifying that the girl is qualified to wed.
This is the Islamic feminism that lurks behind the scenes of the placid life of All-American Muslim’s Dearborn, Michigan. When the cameras stop rolling, this is the religious authority that governs the lives of the “All-American Muslims” on the show. A man who praises the Butcher of Tehran and treats marital rape and wife beating as legitimate forms of behavior.

How does TLC feel about promoting a man who preaches such ugly doctrines? We’ll never know until they are actually challenged on it and until the show’s sponsors, which include Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Clinique are actually called upon to explain their relationship with the program.

The presence of Imam Abdul Latif Berry peels back the veil to reveal what is really underneath the smiling faces in their hijabs — a misogynistic religious authority that uses the Koran to demean and subjugate women. And Berry’s presence is a shadow on more than just the episode; it is a shadow on the entire premise of All-American Muslim.

All-American Muslim pretends that we can best learn about Islam, not by looking at a Koran, but at the ordinary lives of Muslims. But devout Muslims are not in charge of their own lives. It is men like Imam Berry who control their lives by controlling their religion.

Americans have grown used to taking decentralized religious authority for granted, but in Islam that is not the case; religious authority is not decentralized. Everything from deciding whether to beat your wife or to divorce her depends on the will and whim of men like Imam Berry.

We cannot understand what Islam in America means without also understanding the role played by Islamic religious authorities who are transforming their mosques into the nucleus of a theocracy. And so by the words of the Koran women are beaten, young girls are married off to older men and Sharia courts reduce women to the status of second-class citizens. All of this happens under the red, white and blue, and all of it is ignored or brushed aside in the name of tolerance.

There are two Islams in America. The ideal Islam and the real Islam. The ideal Islam is the religion of peace that so many Americans wish it could be. But the real Islam is the one that defines rules for beating your wife. And to look away from that Islam is to look away from the honor-killings and the subjugation of women.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Happy Halal Thanksgiving

November 21, 2011

Did you know that the turkey you're going to enjoy on Thanksgiving Day this Thursday is probably halal? If it's a Butterball turkey, then it certainly is -- whether you like it or not.
In my book Stop the Islamization of America: A Practical Guide to the Resistance, I report at length on the meat industry's halal scandal: its established practice of not separating halal meat from non-halal meat, and not labeling halal meat as such. And back in October 2010, I reported more little-noted but explosive new revelations: that much of the meat in Europe and the United States is being processed as halal without the knowledge of the non-Muslim consumers who buy it.
I discovered that only two plants in the U.S. that perform halal slaughter keep the halal meat separated from the non-halal meat, and they only do so because plant managers thought it was right to do so. At other meat-packing plants, animals are slaughtered following halal requirements, but then only a small bit of the meat is actually labeled halal.
Now here is yet more poisonous fruit of that scandal.
A citizen activist and reader of my website wrote to Butterball, one of the most popular producers of Thanksgiving turkeys in the United States, asking them if their turkeys were halal. Wendy Howze, a Butterball Consumer Response Representative, responded: "Our whole turkeys are certified halal."
In a little-known strike against freedom, yet again, we are being forced into consuming meat slaughtered by means of a torturous method: Islamic slaughter.
Halal slaughter involves cutting the trachea, the esophagus, and the jugular vein, and letting the blood drain out while saying "Bismillah allahu akbar" -- in the name of Allah the greatest. Many people refuse to eat it on religious grounds. Many Christians, Hindus or Sikhs and Jews find it offensive to eat meat slaughtered according to Islamic ritual (although observant Jews are less likely to be exposed to such meat, because they eat kosher).
Others object because of the cruelty to animals that halal slaughter necessitates. Where are the PETA clowns and the ridiculous celebs who pose naked on giant billboards for PETA and "animal rights"? They would rather see people die of cancer or AIDS than see animals used in drug testing, but torturous and painful Islamic slaughter is OK.
Still others refuse to do so on principle: why should we be forced to conform to Islamic norms? It's Islamic supremacism on the march, yet again.
Non-Muslims in America and Europe don't deserve to have halal turkey forced upon them in this way, without their knowledge or consent. So this Thanksgiving, fight for your freedom. Find a non-halal, non-Butterball turkey to celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. And write to Butterball and request, politely but firmly, that they stop selling only halal turkeys, and make non-halal turkeys available to Americans who still value our freedoms.
Stephanie Styons at Butterball Corporate is the contact for those who want to let the company know their feelings about stealth halal turkeys. Also here is the Butterball website for plant locations, which lists whole turkeys as being produced at their North Carolina and Arkansas plants.
Across this great country, on Thanksgiving tables nationwide, infidel Americans are unwittingly going to be serving halal turkeys to their families this Thursday. Turkeys that are halal certified -- who wants that, especially on a day on which we are giving thanks to G-d for our freedom? I wouldn't knowingly buy a halal turkey -- would you? Halal turkey, slaughtered according to the rules of Islamic law, is just the opposite of what Thanksgiving represents: freedom and inclusiveness, neither of which are allowed for under that same Islamic law.
The same Islamic law that mandates that animals be cruelly slaughtered according to halal requirements also teaches hatred of and warfare against unbelievers, the oppression of women, the extinguishing of free speech, and much more that is inimical to our freedom. Don't support it on this celebration of freedom. Join our Facebook group, 'Boycott Butterball'.
Don't buy a Butterball turkey for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Today's Tune: The Gaslight Anthem - Here's Looking at You Kid (Live)

Bob Knight still plays by his rules

The Kansas City Star
November 20, 2011

Bob Knight will do this his way. Of course he will. He will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in downtown Kansas City tonight, finally, and he’ll do it according to his own rules.

How fitting. Especially for him. Especially now.

Hall of Fame inductions are about legacies and memories, and after the past few weeks nothing is more relevant in college sports than coaching legacies. The perfectly appropriate thing about Knight is that, as he cedes the NCAA Division I wins record to a protégé and is given the game’s highest honor in the span of a week, his legacy is exactly what he’s made it to be.

Brilliant coach. Stubborn man. One of the sport’s greats, who by all accounts kept the same admirable priorities even as the game and the people around him changed.

He is principled. Immature. Honest.

And so much more.

He is impossible to label with any simple description, difficult to describe with any single incident. And perhaps more than any other college coach, he has overcome a potentially defining misstep.

Knight is, yes, the guy who head-butted one player and grabbed another by the throat and eventually got fired from Indiana after overreacting to a student goading him with, “Hey, Knight, what’s up?”

But he is also the man who generated enough respect that 4,000 students protested outside the school president’s office after his firing, whose graduation rates consistently exceeded the rest of the student body’s, who was never found guilty of a major rules violation, who helped raise millions for education and cancer research, and who was among the first public figures to back the fight against AIDS.

In his post-coaching life, he has become the gruff broadcaster preaching the shot-fake and ball movement, and last week, the gracious teacher who praised his former point guard Mike Krzyzewski for passing him as the game’s all-time winningest coach.

Part of him can be defined by controversy, but most of him needs something else entirely.

Hopefully, the fans at tonight’s induction at the Midland Theatre will see the engaging and fascinating side of Knight.

He has been particularly busy recently with his broadcasting schedule and Krzyzewski’s record chase. Knight’s flight lands this afternoon, so event organizers hope he can arrive in time to answer a few questions before the ceremony.

He’s been to a handful of these events, and always shines. This is his element, in ways that traditional news conferences and even broadcasting games just cannot match.

Knight is part of college basketball history, but he is also among its greatest advocates. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony is better with Knight, and the same thing can be said in reverse.

One of the best moments in the event’s short history came when Knight introduced Bill Russell. John Thompson was supposed to be the one talking, but the old Georgetown coach got sick and had to cancel at the last minute.

Knight did it instead, and was fabulous, even without preparation, and even without notes. He called Russell “the greatest champion of all-time,” a touching compliment from perhaps its greatest coach.

It’s not just the legends, either. He’s a go-to voice on lesser-celebrated pioneers, men like Bill Wall (who shaped international basketball) and Walter Byers (who drove the NCAA Tournament into becoming a major event).

The quickie definitions of Knight are the images of a chair tossed across the court, his hilarious mocking of a reporter’s question about “game faces,” and the unfortunate line to Connie Chung about rape.

But the truer definition of him takes more effort. He can be legendarily brash when bothered, but also incredibly generous with his intellect.

For instance, Kansas State coach Frank Martin is still grateful for the time Knight pulled him aside after calling a game a few years ago to offer some tips. At least one of them — the angle on screens — is something Martin still emphasizes today.

This isn’t how he expected it to be, you know. Knight wanted to retire at Indiana and live the rest of his life there. He liked it in Bloomington, and the people there liked him.

So he wanted to spend his retirement raising money for the school, being sure not to interfere with the new coach, and give whatever money he generated from a book or appearances to the athletic department.

That’s the way he envisioned it, anyway, before it all went famously wrong.

Knight can hold a grudge, of course, so he skipped his induction to the Indiana University Hall of Fame two years ago (though he did speak at an event shortly after).

Now, Knight lives in Lubbock, Texas, where he finished his coaching career, with new friends and a new life with a new schedule that revolves around broadcasts on ESPN.

It’s interesting that Knight once said he would have preferred to live in the Wild West, in the 19th century, when arguments were settled by which man had the quicker draw. Maybe that would’ve been a better fit.

But for a man who so often has been stubborn and unwilling to compromise, he’s adjusted just fine.

To reach Sam Mellinger, call 816-234-4365, send email to or follow For previous columns, go to