Friday, December 02, 2011

Arab Spring turning chilly for U.S.

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
December 2, 2011

Election officials in Cairo on Wednesday counted ballots that were cast in the first round of parliamentary elections this week. (Amr Nabil/Associated Press)

I've been alarmed by the latest polls. No, not from Iowa and New Hampshire, although they're unnerving enough. It's the polls from Egypt. Foreign policy has not played a part in the U.S. presidential campaign, mainly because we're so broke that the electorate seems minded to take the view that if government is going to throw trillions of dollars down the toilet they'd rather it was an Al Gore-compliant Kohler model in Des Moines or Poughkeepsie than an outhouse in Waziristan. Alas, reality does not arrange its affairs quite so neatly, and the world that is arising in the second decade of the 21st century is increasingly inimical to American interests, and likely to prove even more expensive to boot.

In that sense, Egypt is instructive. Even in the giddy live-from-Tahrir-Square heyday of the "Arab Spring" and "Facebook Revolution," I was something of a skeptic. Back in February, I chanced to be on Fox News with Megyn Kelly within an hour or so of Mubarak's resignation. Over on CNN, Anderson Cooper was interviewing telegenic youthful idealists cooing about the flowering of a new democratic Egypt. Back on Fox, sourpuss Steyn was telling Megyn that this was "the unraveling of the American Middle East" and the emergence of a post-Western order in the region. In those days, I was so much of a pessimist I thought that in any election the Muslim Brotherhood would get a third of the votes and be the largest party in parliament. By the time the actual first results came through last week, the Brothers had racked up 40 percent of the vote – in Cairo and Alexandria, the big cities wherein, insofar as they exist, the secular Facebooking Anderson Cooper types reside. In second place were their principal rivals the Nour party, with up to 15 percent of the ballots. "Nour" translates into English as "the Even More Muslim Brotherhood."

As the writer Barry Rubin pointed out, if that's how the urban sophisticates vote, wait till you see the upcountry results. By the time the rural vote emerges from the Nile Delta and Sinai early next month, the hard-core Islamists will be sitting pretty. In the so-called "Facebook Revolution," two-thirds of the Arab world's largest nation is voting for the hard, cruel, bigoted, misogynistic song of Shariah.

The short 90-year history of independent Egypt is that it got worse. Mubarak's Egypt was worse than King Farouk's Egypt, and what follows from last week's vote will be worse still. If you're a Westernized urban woman, a Coptic Christian or an Israeli diplomat with the goons pounding the doors of your embassy, you already know that. The Kingdom of Egypt in the three decades before the 1952 coup was flawed and ramshackle and corrupt, but it was closer to a free-ish pluralist society than anything in the years since. In 1923, its Finance Minister was a man called Joseph Cattaui, a Member of Parliament, and a Jew. Couldn't happen today. Mr. Cattaui's grandson wrote to me recently from France, where the family now lives. In the unlikely event the forthcoming Muslim Brotherhood government wish to appoint a Jew as Finance Minister, there are very few left available. Indeed, Jews are so thin on the ground that those youthful idealists in Tahrir Square looking for Jews to club to a pulp have been forced to make do with sexually assaulting hapless gentiles like the CBS News reporter Lara Logan. It doesn't fit the narrative, so even Miss Logan's network colleagues preferred to look away. We have got used to the fact that Egypt is now a land without Jews. Soon it will be a land without Copts. We'll get used to that, too.

Since the collapse of the Warsaw Pact two decades ago we have lived in a supposedly "unipolar" world. Yet somehow it doesn't seem like that, does it? The term Facebook Revolution presumes that technology marches in the cause of modernity. But in Khartoum a few years ago a citywide panic that shaking hands with infidels caused your penis to vanish was spread by text messaging. In London, young Muslim men used their cell phones to share Islamist snuff videos of Westerners being beheaded in Iraq. In les banlieues of France, satellite TV and the Internet enable third-generation Muslims to lead ever more dis-assimilated, segregated lives, immersed in an electronic pan-Islamic culture, to a degree that would have been impossible for their grandparents. To assume that Western technology in and of itself advances the cause of Western views on liberty or women's rights or gay rights is delusional.

Consider, for example, the "good" news from Afghanistan. A 19-year-old woman sentenced to 12 years in jail for the heinous crime of being brutally raped by a cousin was graciously released by President Karzai on condition that she marry her rapist. A few weeks ago, you may recall, I mentioned that the last Christian church in the nation had been razed to the ground last year, as the State Department noted in its report on "international" religious freedom. But Afghanistan is not "international" at all. It is an American client state whose repugnant leader is kept alive only by the protection of Western arms. Say what you like about Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood but at least their barbarous theocratic tyranny doesn't require vast numbers of NATO troops to build it.

I am not a Ron Paul isolationist. The United States has two reasonably benign neighbors, and the result is that 50 percent of Mexico's population has moved north of the border and 100 percent of every bad Canadian idea, from multiculturalism to government health care, has moved south of the border. So much for Fortress America. The idea of a 19th century isolationist republic holding the entire planet at bay is absurd. Indeed, even in the real 19th century, it was only possible because global order was maintained by the Royal Navy and Pax Britannica. If Ron Paul gets his way, who's going to pick up the slack for global order this time?

Nevertheless, my friends on the right currently fretting about potentially drastic cuts at the Pentagon need to look at that poor 19-year-old woman's wedding to her cousin rapist and ponder what it represents: In Afghanistan, the problem is not that we have spent insufficient money but that so much of it has been entirely wasted. History will be devastating in its indictment of us for our squandering of the "unipolar" moment. During those two decades, a China flush with American dollars has gobbled up global resources, a re-assertive Islam has used American military protection to advance its theocratic ambitions, the Mullahs in Tehran are going nuclear, knowing we lack the will to stop them, and even Russia is back in the game of geopolitical mischief-making. We are responsible for 43 percent of the planet's military spending. But if you spend on that scale without any strategic clarity or hardheaded calculation of your national interest, it is ultimately as decadent and useless as throwing money at Solyndra or Obamacare or any of the other domestic follies. A post-prosperity America will mean perforce a shrunken presence on the global stage. And we will not like the world we leave behind.


The Problem with China Envy

What liberals want to copy is the authoritarianism.

By Jonah Goldberg
December 2, 2011

From left to right, Barack Obama, Henry Nichola of the AFL-CIO, Anna Burger of SEIU and the most frequent visitor to the White House before he resigned, Obama/SEIU Andy Stern.

In 2008, I wrote a book called “Liberal Fascism.” That title came from H. G. Wells, one of the most important socialist writers in the English language. He believed, as did his fellow Fabian socialists, that Western democratic capitalism had outlived its usefulness.

What was needed was a new, bold, forward-thinking system run by experts with access to the most modern techniques. For Wells, the label for such a system mattered less than the imperative that we implement a revolution-from-above. He admired how the Germans, Italians, and Russians were getting things done. In 1932, he proposed calling his revolutionary movement “enlightened Nazism” or “liberal fascism.”

Wells was hardly alone. Such arguments were being made in all the Western democracies, under a thousand different banners. Most progressives rejected terms like “fascist” or “Communist,” but they still touted foreign tyrannies as superior to the outmoded democratic capitalism of the 19th century.

Lincoln Steffens, the muckraking journalist, was a great fan of both Italian fascism and Soviet Communism. He returned from a trip to Russia to proclaim, “I have seen the future, and it works!”

Some things never change.

Andy Stern announced recently that he’s been to the future, and it works. In this case, the future resides in China, which he says has a superior economic system. “The conservative-preferred, free-market fundamentalist, shareholder-only model — so successful in the 20th century — is being thrown onto the trash heap of history in the 21st century.”

Who’s Andy Stern? He’s just the guy who, until last year, ran the Service Employees International Union, which under his leadership spent more than any organization to get Obama elected in 2008, some $28 million. Comparatively, Stern’s influence in the Democratic party eclipses that of, say, the allegedly sinister Koch brothers or anti-tax activist Grover Norquist among Republicans. Stern himself visited the White House more than any other person during Obama’s first year in office (53 times).

Stern sees the Chinese government’s allegedly keen ability to “plan” its way to prosperity as the new model for America. It is an argument of profound asininity. China had five-year plans before it started getting rich. Under the old five-year plans, China killed tens of millions of its own people and remained mired in poverty. What made China rich wasn’t planning, it was the decision to switch to markets (albeit corrupt ones). The planners were merely in charge of distributing the wealth that markets created.

Indeed, rapid economic growth always makes government planners look like geniuses when the reality is that the planners are more like self-proclaimed rainmakers who started dancing only after it started raining. When the rain stops, which it will, they’ll have much to answer for.

Oh, and what about labor? There’s one labor union in China, and it’s run by the government. (The Nazis had pretty much the same system.) Stern doesn’t seem to care.

More intriguingly, SEIU is a huge supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which, taken at its word, is most concerned with income inequality and the back-room corruption that comes from “crony capitalism.” And Stern touts China as the model for how to fix things? China has 115 billionaires and at least 115 million people living on a dollar a day or less. Nearly all of those billionaires got rich gaming a corrupt political system.

Obviously, the core problem with China envy is not economic but moral. To the extent that China’s economic planning “works,” it does so because China is an authoritarian country. (Japan has been planning its economy within democratic restraints and has been dying on the economic vine for nearly 20 years.) You can hit your building quota a lot more easily when you can shoot inconvenient people and trample property rights at will. The Three Gorges Dam displaced more than a million people who were given three choices: move, jail, death.

Stern joins a long list of liberals who’ve seen China embrace authoritarian capitalism and conclude that the secret to that success had to be the authoritarianism. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, my usual whipping boy in this department, has written thousands of words rhapsodizing about his “envy” of China. President Obama himself has said he’s envious of China’s president and has touted China’s infrastructure spending as something to emulate.

If you want to copy China because its authoritarian capitalism is better than our democratic capitalism, it seems pretty obvious that what you envy is the authoritarianism. H. G. Wells had a phrase for that.

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

The Climate Cataclysm Is Not Nigh

“We have some room to breathe,” a scientist reports.

By Charles C. W. Cooke
December 2, 2011 4:00 A.M.

In 1783, William Pitt warned the British Parliament about the dangers of those who would reflexively employ “necessity” as an argument in favor of their preferences. “Necessity,” Pitt exclaimed, “is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves!” These are wise words indeed. But in a purely Machiavellian sense, the tactic is also a risky one. Those who shout “or else!” tend to be left in the role of the boy who cried wolf if their apocalypse fails to turn up on time.

The environmental Left has long neglected Pitt’s admonition and is starting to pay the price. Having careered wantonly from “global cooling” to “global warming” to “climate change,” the greenies eventually settled on the rather dramatic “global climate chaos,” a neatly eschatological term that has the delicious benefit of being so vague as to be unfalsifiable. For years now we have been told that this week, or month, or year — or conference, or junket — is our last chance to save the world.

Such an approach is rapidly losing its efficacy. What the global downturn has done for prioritization, science is doing for perspective. Enter Andreas Schmittner, a professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. Schmittner headed up a major study recently published in Science and funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, which baldly concludes that the sort of doomsday scenario readily thrown around by the scaremongers is simply not rooted in reality. Following publication, Schmittner put his findings succinctly in an interview with The Australian: “very large changes” — of the sort we have grown to love hearing about from the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — “can be ruled out [and] we have some room to breathe and time to figure out solutions to the problem.” (According to the study, that “problem” doesn’t seem to be too heinous, either. The international target is to keep temperature rises within 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century, by which point CO2 concentrations are expected to approximately double; Schmittner predicts that the probable outcome of doubling CO2 concentrations would be between 1.7 degrees Celsius and 2.6 degrees Celsius, not the 3–4 degree change predicted by the IPCC.)

Science has an established history of running new studies only when they significantly add to or contradict previously published work. While Schmittner is very clearly not arguing that global warming isn’t happening, nor that mankind does not play a role in changing the earth’s climate, there is simply no way to read the report without concluding that the apocalyptic narrative is dead in the water.

This determination is, in part, based upon the study’s less cynically selected frame of reference. “Many previous climate sensitivity studies have looked at the past only from 1850 through today, and not fully integrated paleoclimate data, especially on a global scale,” the research concludes, echoing a key and ever-present criticism leveled at alarmism. Put in layman’s terms, the conclusion is that if the climate were really so sensitive to change that doubled CO2 could yield cataclysmic warming, then, conversely, the low levels of carbon in the atmosphere 21,000 years ago should have precipitated a planet sufficiently icebound to extinguish all life. It didn’t.

“When you reconstruct sea and land surface temperatures from the peak of the last Ice Age 21,000 years ago — which is referred to as the Last Glacial Maximum — and compare it with climate model simulations of that period, you get a much different picture . . . If these paleoclimatic constraints apply to the future, as predicted by our model, the results imply less probability of extreme climatic change than previously thought.” In other words, we’re not all going to die.

By painting Armageddon as the price of inaction, the green lobby has sought to achieve two goals. First, focusing in on an extreme scenario allowed advocates more effectively to play the we-should-do-something-just-in-case card. Second, with all nuance removed from the discussion, even the slightest evidence in favor of an anthropogenic contribution to climate fluctuations could be tied to eschatological imagery, and “climate moderates” could be portrayed as being just as complicit in bringing about the end of the world as the evil deniers. “Necessity” would thus become the mother of intervention.

“The whole aim of practical politics,” wrote H. L. Mencken, “is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.” It is still a matter of debate whether there are any hobgoblins at all (the very existence of a “consensus” is rendered comical, given the existence of new papers such as Schmittner’s), but if they do exist, the tallest among them are disappearing at a rate of knots.

As they go, we must insist that so too do the invitations to be led to safety, for without necessity we have no reason to be slaves.

— Charles C. W. Cooke is an editorial associate of National Review.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


By Ann Coulter
November 30, 2011

Herman Cain, Karen Kraushaar, Ginger White and Sharon Bialek

With the mainstream media giddily reporting on an alleged affair involving Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, how long can it be before they break the news that their 2004 vice presidential candidate conceived a "love child" with his mistress, Rielle Hunter?

The left is trying to destroy Cain with a miasma of hazy accusations leveled by three troubled women. Considered individually, the accusations are utterly unbelievable. They are even less credible taken together. This is how liberals destroy a man, out of nothing.

After the first round of baseless accusations against Cain, an endless stream of pundits rolled out the cliche -- as if it were the height of originality -- "This isn't he said-she said; it's he-said, she-said, she-said, she-said, she–said."

Au contraire: We had two "shes" and only one "said."

Remember? Only two women were willing to give their names. And as soon as they did, we discovered that they were highly suspicious accusers with nothing more than their personal honor to support the allegations. Only one of the two would even say what Cain allegedly did.

The first one was Sharon Bialek, who claimed that Cain grabbed her crotch in a car.

Then we found out Bialek was in constant financial trouble, had been involved in a paternity lawsuit, was known as a "gold digger," had a string of debts and had twice filed for personal bankruptcy. Also, she admitted she knew Obama's dirty tricks specialist, David Axelrod, from living in the same building with him.

Her personal history is relevant because she produced no evidence. We had to take her word. (Which was not helped by seeing her standing with Gloria Allred.)

The second one, Karen Kraushaar, made unspecified allegations of a "hostile environment" when she was working for Cain, but refuses to say what those allegations were. This despite the fact that the National Restaurant Association waived her confidentiality agreement, thus allowing her to go public.

That's one "she," but no "said."

Cain said he had once told Kraushaar she was as tall as his wife -- which would be one of the more worthy sexual harassment claims settled by an American company in recent years.

Why won't she say? We're not talking about rape. Kraushaar can't say, "I don't want to relive being told I was the same height as his wife!" With all the nonsense that passes for a "hostile environment," either Kraushaar tells us what Cain allegedly did, or her blind accusation is worth less than nothing.

As if that weren't enough, then it turned out that Kraushaar had also filed a complaint at her next job just three years later, charging that a manager had circulated a sexually explicit joke email comparing computers to men and women. She demanded a raise and the right to work at home.

Maybe Kraushaar is the most unlucky woman in the world. But the simpler explanation is that she is not a credible witness on the workplace atmosphere.

And now we have Ginger White stepping forward to claim that she had a 13-year affair with Cain. Cain admits he was friends with White, but he categorically, adamantly denies having an affair with her.

White has the whole combo-platter of questionable accuser attributes: She's another financially troubled, twice-divorced, unemployed single mother, who has claimed sexual harassment in the past, declared bankruptcy once, was accused of stalking and had a libel judgment entered against her just this year. So far in 2011, she's had nine liens put on her property.

But we're supposed to ignore all of that because she's the third woman of questionable character to make an implausible allegation. Liberals say there's a pattern, but the only pattern is of their making far-fetched accusations of a sexual nature against Cain.

White's proof that she had a 13-year affair is that she has two of Cain's books signed by him -- one with the incriminating inscription, "Friends are forever! Everything else is a bonus," and the other, "Miss G, you have already made a 'big difference!' Stay focused as you pursue your next destination." (I know -- filthy!)

If that's proof of an affair, I've had thousands of them without even realizing it.

Also, White produced evidence that Cain had texted or called her cell phone 61 times during four non-consecutive months -- but did not reveal what those texts said. ("Would you please return my lawn mower?")

Again, if that's proof of an affair, I'm having hundreds of them at this very moment.

This is the sort of evidence you get with an actual sexual predator: Bill Clinton's accusers had gifts, taped phone conversations with him and a semen-stained dress.

Gennifer Flowers produced taped telephone calls with Clinton totaling thousands of words between them, with him counseling her on how to deny their affair: "If they ever hit you with it, just say no, and go on. There's nothing they can do ... But when they -- if somebody contacts you, I need to know ... All you got to do is deny it."

Paula Jones had multiple same-day witnesses -- including the state troopers who worked for Clinton and had already told the press about a "Paula" they brought to Clinton's hotel room. And that was for a single incident.

Monica Lewinsky had lots of gifts from Clinton, including a hat pin, two brooches, a marble bear figurine, a T-shirt from Martha's Vineyard and Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," all of which she mysteriously placed with Clinton's secretary, Betty Currie, during the investigation, as well as a semen-stained dress, which Monica kept.

Ginger White claims she had a 13-year affair with Cain -- and all she has are two books with inscriptions that could have been written to an auto mechanic who waited in line at a Cain book signing. Even her business partner during the alleged affair says White never mentioned Cain's name.

These women are like triple-A ball players with the stats being: number of bankruptcies, smallest bank account, number of liens, most false claims, number of children out of wedlock, degrees of separation from David Axelrod, total trips to human resources and so on.

That wouldn't be dispositive -- except for the fact that their only evidence is their word.

But this is how liberals dirty you up when they've got nothing: They launch a series of false accusations, knowing that Americans with busy lives won't follow each story to the end and notice that they were all blind alleys.

The liberal media is an old story, but it's still a big story when it comes to creating the impression of scandal out of thin air.

Most people say, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." I say, "Where there's smoke around a conservative, there are journalists furiously rubbing two sticks together."


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Today's Tune: Ryan Adams - Lucky Now

Barney, Banking and Brothels

by Jason Mattera

Barney Frank and Chris Dodd

The man who was complicit in bringing the American economy to its knees in 2008 won’t go down as, well, the man who was complicit in bringing the American economy to its knees.

Not if the “mainstream” media has anything to do with it, that is.

After his announcement that he won’t seek reelection, the Washington Post heralded the disheveled congressman Barney Frank as leaving a “legacy that crosses from legislative cornerstones to political confrontations to a historic place as the nation’s most prominent gay lawmaker.”

The paper continued: “On the left, Frank was a hero both for his effort to rein in the nation’s largest banks and for his role in promoting gay rights, having been the first member of Congress to declare his sexual orientation while in office.”

Then there’s the New York Times. To them, even Frank’s opponents carried a great deal of respect for the rambling Massachusetts politician. While “bankers often disagreed with Mr. Frank’s policies,” said the Times, “many respected his command of arcane areas of finance, a rarity on Capitol Hill.”

Get a room, boys.

The Times also noted that the “pugnacious lawmaker was quick to lambaste the industry in the aftermath of the financial crisis, and was loathe to apologize when bankers complained about the harsh tone.”

Unlike the Times, the Washington Post did mention Frank’s, er, interesting partner choices over the years, one that resulted in the infamous “allegations involving his relationship with a male prostitute who worked out of the lawmaker’s Capitol Hill townhouse.” (Side note: The Washington Post frames the boyfriend as someone who “worked” out of Barney’s house? I guess that’s one way to put it. Another was that Barney Frank’s Washington, D.C., apartment was also operating as gay brothel, of which Frank denies he had any knowledge. Snort.)

But what both the Times and the Post conveniently leave out is how Barney Frank was vociferously supportive of increasing home ownership among folks who should’ve never bought a home in the first place, a policy that injected steroids into the housing bubble and eventually collapsed the financial sector.

And because Barney’s boys in the mainstream media omit his role in the housing crisis that ricocheted across the world in 2008, it’s time for us to go back to the videotape.

When Barney was the ranking member of the House Financial Services Committee, he outright dismissed the fact that the two lending giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were facing grave solvency issues. To the contrary, he argued before the committee that such claims were embellishments.

“I worry, frankly, that there's a tension here. The more people, in my judgment, exaggerate a threat of safety and soundness, the more people conjure up the possibility of serious financial losses to the Treasury, which I do not see,” babbled Frank. “I think we see entities that are fundamentally sound financially and withstand some of the disaster scenarios.”

Fast-forward to today: The American people had to shell out $700 billion in bailout money, are still on the hook for Fannie and Freddie, and got a huge regulatory bomb called “Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection” dropped on an American economy already overtaxed and overregulated.

The media’s free pass to the slobbering congressman is even more egregious because Frank wasn’t just defending the status quo. He was pushing for Fannie and Freddie to accelerate the flow of risky loans.

“I would like to get Fannie and Freddie more deeply into low-income housing and possibly moving into something that is more explicitly a subsidy,” drooled Frank in a House Financial Services Committee hearing back in 2003. “I want to roll the dice a little bit more in this situation toward subsidized housing,” he added.

And when the GOP tried bringing attention to the fact that politicians should be more vigilant (not “roll the dice”) with taxpayer money, Frank allowed his comrades on the House Financial Services Committee to accuse Republicans of conducting a “political lynching” of Franklin Raines, the former chairman of Fannie Mae who engaged in accounting fraud and raked in a whopping $91 million in compensation and bonuses in the process.

Yes, this scam artist who nearly topped off $100 million at Fannie Mae by cooking its books was being “lynched” by Republicans for making inquiries into Fannie’s viability.

Now that’s some lib logic for you!

The media will blow wet kisses at Barney Frank’s political career, a sad fact considering that he spent his days in Washington gambling away the money you and I work for as though he were playing a cheap slot machine in the Vegas airport.

Mr. Mattera is the editor of HUMAN EVENTS and the author of Obama Zombies: How the Liberal Machine Brainwashed My Generation (Simon & Schuster). He also hosts The Jason Mattera Show on News Talk Radio 77WABC. Previously, he was the Spokesman for Young America's Foundation and a TV correspondent for Michelle Malkin. Follow Jason on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Exit Barney Frank

The Editors
November 29, 2011

Rep. Barney Frank will be remembered for three things: First, he was not only the first openly gay member of Congress but the first involved in a gay-prostitution scandal. Second, he said, “I do not want the same kind of focus on safety and soundness” regarding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as exercised with regard to other government-affiliated agencies, preferring, as he memorably put it, to “roll the dice a little bit.” Third, he was co-author of the Frank-Dodd financial-reform legislation. Which is to say, Representative Frank will be remembered as an embarrassment, a reckless gambler, and a legislative malefactor.

Representative Frank was not much of a crusader on gay-rights issues, which was just as well. On the substance of those issues, he was on the wrong side. As a symbol, he was toxic — a powerful politician whose homosexual orientation was hardly the most remarkable feature of his private life, which included involvement with a gay hustler and convicted drug dealer whom the congressman was paying for sex, and who ended up running a prostitution operation out of the congressman’s home. Representative Frank was reprimanded by the House for making misleading statements to a Virginia prosecutor on behalf of the prostitute — whom the congressman eventually put on his own payroll — and for having fixed dozens of parking tickets on his behalf. Americans are broadly tolerant of homosexuality; they are rightly less tolerant of prostitution and political corruption. The congressman’s self-pitying account of the episode made the bad situation worse.

But though his private life spilled over into his public duties, it is as a champion of a different kind of pay-for-play operation, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, that the congressman did the most damage to the country. The government-backed mortgage giants were at the center of the housing bubble and the subsequent financial crisis. Representative Frank was a stalwart defender of the organizations, even after the government uncovered “extensive” fraud at Fannie Mae and found that Freddie Mac had illegally channeled funds to its political benefactors. Again, Representative Frank’s personal life intruded into the story: He was sexually involved with a Fannie Mae executive during a time when he was voting on laws affecting the organization. The final cost of the Fannie/Freddie bailouts will run into the hundreds of billions of dollars, and the real damage that the organizations did to the U.S. economy — and the world economy, for that matter — probably is incalculable.

In response to a financial crisis in which he was a significant figure, Representative Frank helped to craft a financial-reform law that bears his name. The drafting of Dodd-Frank began as a punitive measure, evolved into a dispensary of political favors, and in the end did little or nothing to address the problems that led to the 2008–09 crisis or to prevent similar crises in the future. Which means that we may have Barney Frank partly to thank not only for the last financial crisis but for the next one.

From his relatively petty transgressions related to his personal life to his more consequential role in enabling Fannie and Freddie, Representative Frank personifies a great deal of what is wrong with American public life. Though a highly intelligent man, he made the wrong decisions at every turn, and compounded his policy errors with the petty and vindictive style of his politics. Republicans will not miss him. Neither should his Democratic colleagues, his constituents, or the American public that will be paying off the cost of his errors and those of his allies, with interest, for a great many years. We hope that he will find in the obscurity of retirement the grace and wisdom that eluded him as an elected official, but we do not assume that it will be so.

Film Reviews: "Hugo"

Hugo: Scorsese's Magnificent Dream Machine

Turning from violent men to a poignant waif, the director pays luminous tribute to old films—in his best new film of the millennium.

By Richard Corliss
November 22, 2011

The 3-D camera swoops over the rooftops of Paris, past the Eiffel Tower and toward Montmartre Station; it dips to cruise above the tracks and moves into the main hall, where an 11-year-old boy is forging his own furtive trek through the commuting crowds. No one knows that the boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield), is the station’s timekeeper: regulating the clocks, great and small, since his drunken uncle disappeared and left the job to a lad who must steal to live. Now the camera follows Hugo through the clockwork innards of Gare Montmartre, rushing to keep up but never losing pace or grace. The vertiginous ecstasy of these two magnificent tracking shots, no less than the boy’s solemn urgency, instantly alert moviegoers than Hugo is special, and so is Hugo.

Martin Scorsese made his rep as the fierce bard of American gangster machismo; from Mean Streets to The Departed he has sung the body choleric. (And, in his last feature film, Shutter Island, the mind chaotic.) So why would he make a movie of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Brian Selznick’s rhapsodically nostalgic children’s book?

Scorsese hasn’t put a kid at the center of one of his movies since the 1974 Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, with another 11-year-old (Alfred Lutter’s Tommy). But that boy felt suffocated by his single mom’s demanding love; he suffered from a surfeit of parenting. Hugo has no parent: he was orphaned after his beloved father (Jude Law) died in a fire. His dad had been repairing a mysterious automaton, and Hugo needs to connect with him by finishing the job. As Scorsese has said, “It’s a story about the boy and his relationship with his dead father.” The living take up the work of the dead and, by completing it, justify and fulfill their joint labors.

The child is also fascinated by mechanical marvels like clocks, metal robots and moving pictures. Hugo has a staunch sibling in Scorsese, a life-long lover and preserver of classic films. The 69-year-old director has never lost his infant wonder at the spectacle of giant images in a darkened movie palace. From his earliest movie memories comes a film evoking the very earliest films: the Lumière brothers’ 1896 Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, which so startled audiences with its immediacy that it can be called the first horror film, and Georges Méliès’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon, the legendary early fantasy film, in which a spaceship from Earth rockets onto the lunar surface and lodges, splat!, in the right eye of the Man in the Moon. Scorsese, sampling his eternal passion, encompasses a century and more of film legerdemain. That makes Hugo not only an act of devotion from a modern movie artist to the wizards who inspired him; it is also the director’s imaginary autobiography.

The young Marty suffered from asthma, which often kept him at home glued to old movies on TV. Hugo’s life is far more perilous. Fearful of being caught by the pompous station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), and with no way of cashing his uncle’s checks, Hugo works and hides in the clock tower, feeding himself by filching snacks from local shops. He also swipes machine parts from the toy store of stern, gloomy Papa Georges (Ben Kingsley). The boy’s friendship with Georges’ goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) will help him unwrap amazing secrets, including the invention of movie magic.

Scorsese and screenwriter John Logan share Selznick’s belief that movies are both the stuff dreams are made of and the product of supreme technological expertise. The camera is a machine that makes art. Clockworker, magician, filmmaker — each, at his best, is an inspired handyman, a tinker and tinkerer of genius. Like magicians, filmmakers create illusions; the very act of movie projection is a trick, fooling the eyes into believing that the still frames exposed in the shutter for 1/24th of a second are moving pictures. And any movie studio is the stage for splendid Rube Goldberg-machine complexity that ascends into fantasy. “If you ever wondered where your dreams come from,” a famous filmmaker says, “this is where they are made.” It’s as if directors were inside our sleeping brains, fiddling with the machinery like clockmaker-elves, tapping our unconscious to mine images that beguile, terrify and astound us.

Since everyone including Scorsese has revealed the story’s secret, I will as well: the gruff Papa Georges, played with such pain and delicacy by Kingsley, is Méliès himself. After a decade’s sensational success making hundreds of short movies that delighted in a magician’s sense of the impossible made visible, the director-entrepreneur went bankrupt and was forced to sell his films to a manufacturer who melted the celluloid stock to make shoe heels. Méliès thought his life’s work was lost; the world thought he died in the Great War. Instead, he survived by running a small store in a train station, where he was discovered by a devoted film fancier, who helped rescue some of the master’s work. A recent compilation by Flicker Alley contains about 175 Méliès films—a miracle of both his inspiration and historians’ restoration. The Méliès story is the mostly factual background for the fictional Hugo’s tale.

Most boys’ adventure stories send their young heroes on far-flung journeys of self-discovery. Hugo travels no more than a mile from the station. He is both a modern child, with an automaton instead of a computer as his obsessive machine, and a Dickensian hero: a beautiful boy in terrible circumstances with the nourishing memory of a wonderful, lost parent. And the Gare Montmartre is his home, school, workhouse, prison and Quasimodo bell tower. As designed by Dante Ferretti (on the Shepperton Studio soundstage), the station is a cathedral of Deco splendor, no less magical than King’s Cross Station and its Track 9-3/4, the launch point to Hogwarts for another 11-year-old orphan, Harry Potter.

This world-within-a-world is populated with curious folks playing out their own little dramas of disappointment and romance. Among them are an elderly gentleman (The History Boys‘ Richard Griffiths) and his dowager friend (that English stage treasure, Frances de la Tour). Even the Station Inspector, who in story terms in the hounding Javert to Hugo’s jeune Jean Valjean, is not entirely forbidding. Baron Cohen’s rendition summons specters of both the French comic-auteur Jacques Tati and — in a homage so explicit it must be intentional — the persnickety authority figure so often played by Dudley Moore’s comedy partner Peter Cook. The Inspector is given a potential mate in the lovely sad-sack Lisette (Emily Mortimer), whom he pursues in and out of the station’s swank café, with a dance band conducted by…wait, is that dapper gent Johnny Depp?

Selznick’s book, a 500-pager with more pictures than chapters, and readable in an enthralling hour or so, served as the movie’s storyboards, paper prints or flip-book. It was inspired by the films of Méliès, the Lumière brothers, Harold Lloyd and René Clair and, from a later generation of dreamers, François Truffaut’s debut feature, The 400 Blows; the book’s Hugo is a ringer for Jean-Pierre Léaud, the 15-year-old who played Truffaut’s ragamuffin truant Antoine Doinel. Hugo is no less desperate, but as animated by Butterfield’s idealized, pre-Raphaelite beauty, he is a lost saint, not a lost scoundrel. Hugo has a mission, which will bring him a home, the gratitude of parent-figures and the companionship of Isabelle, a girl no less resourceful than he — and, in her Louise Brooks haircut, a silent-film goddess in her own right.

Scorsese had two missions of his own. One was to use his first children’s-film project to push 3-D beyond gimmickry (though his climactic restaging of Arrival of a Train comes close). The sharper images and more beckoning depths, gorgeously captured by cinematographer Robert Richardson, reveal the Montparnasse station as a magnificent fantasy coexisting with Hugo’s poignant reality. Scorsese also wanted to open viewers’ eyes to the sacred sorcery of the first great films. In an ecstatic primer for the young, and a reminder for their elders, Hugo and Isabelle flip through a book of movie history and images spring to life: the films of Lumière, the Edison company, Buster Keaton, Louise Brooks — the whole fabulous parade. Suggestion for FOOFS (Friends Of Old Films): this weekend, take in a double feature of Hugo and The Artist, another splendid new film that means to rekindle a nearly-century-old love affair for silent movies.

But Hugo is more than a love letter to film preservation, a charitable donation to movie lovers, critics included. It is a fable as sensitive and powerful as any Scorsese film since The Age of Innocence nearly two decades ago. Bursting with earned emotion, Hugo is a mechanism that comes to life at the turn of a key in the shape of a heart.

Inventing a World, Just Like Clockwork

NYT Critics' Pick

The New York Times
Published: November 22, 2011

“Hugo,” an enchantment from Martin Scorsese, is the 3-D children’s movie that you might expect from the director of “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” It’s serious, beautiful, wise to the absurdity of life and in the embrace of a piercing longing. No one gets clubbed to death, but shadows loom, and a ferocious Doberman nearly lands in your lap. The movie is based on the book “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” but is also very much an expression of the filmmaker’s movie love. Surely the name of its author, Brian Selznick, caught his eye: Mr. Selznick is related to David O. Selznick, the producer of “Gone With the Wind” — kismet for a cinematic inventor like Mr. Scorsese.

Mr. Scorsese’s fidelity to Mr. Selznick’s original story is very nearly complete, though this is also, emphatically, his own work. Gracefully adapted by John Logan, the movie involves a lonely, melancholic orphan, Hugo (Asa Butterfield), who in the early 1930s tends all the clocks in a Parisian train station. Seemingly abandoned by his uncle, the station’s official timekeeper (Ray Winstone), Hugo lives alone, deep in the station’s interior, in a dark, dusty, secret apartment that was built for employees. There, amid clocks, gears, pulleys, jars and purloined toys, he putters and sleeps and naturally dreams, mostly of fixing a delicate automaton that his dead father, a clockmaker (Jude Law), found once upon a time. The automaton is all that remains of a happy past.

Hugo has been repairing the automaton with mechanical parts salvaged from the toys he has stolen from a toy store in the station. All that he needs now to bring the windup figure to life — it sits frozen, with a pen at the ready, as if waiting for inspiration — is the key that will open its heart-shaped lock. After assorted stops and starts and quick getaways, Hugo finds the key during an adventure involving the toy-store owner and his goddaughter, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz). A beloved, wanted child, she brings Hugo into her life, which is how he discovers that the cantankerous shopkeeper with the white goatee and sad, watchful eyes is Georges Méliès (a touching Ben Kingsley).

The name means nothing to Hugo and may not mean much to most contemporary viewers, but it means a great deal to this lovely movie. A magician turned moving-picture pioneer, Méliès (1861-1938) began his new career after seeing one of the first public film projections in Paris on Dec. 28, 1895. Until then, early moving pictures had been commercially exhibited on Kinetoscopes, peephole machines that enabled viewers to watch brief films, one person at a time. The image was tiny — less than two inches wide — and moving pictures didn’t become cinema as we know it until wizards like the French brothers Auguste and Louis Lumière created machines like the cinématographe, which projected larger-than-life images on screens that people watched as an audience.

While the Lumières dazzled with nonfiction films that they called actualités, Méliès enthralled with fantasies and trick films like “A Trip to the Moon” (1902). In this comic 16-minute science-fiction masterwork, a gaggle of scientists in knee breeches fly in a rocket to the Moon, where they encounter acrobatic creatures with lobster claws amid puffs of smoke and clever cinematic sleights of hand. In the film’s most famous image, the rocket lands splat in the eye of the Man in the Moon, causing him to squeeze out a fat tear. It was perhaps a prophetic image for Méliès, who, after falling out of fashion and into obscurity, ran a toy store in the Montparnasse station in Paris, which is where he was later rediscovered.

Mr. Selznick opens and closes his book with some soft pencil drawings of Earth’s Moon, that luminous disk on which so many human fantasies (the Man in the Moon included) have been projected. In the book the Moon is something of a screen against which Méliès’s most celebrated cinematic fantasy unfolds. Mr. Scorsese doesn’t exploit this lunar metaphor (perhaps he believes the Moon belongs to Méliès), yet he locates plenty of cinematic poetry here, particularly in the clock imagery, which comes to represent moviemaking itself. The secret is in the clockwork, Hugo’s father says to him in flashback, sounding like an auteurist. Time counts in “Hugo,” yes, but what matters more is that clocks are wound and oiled so that their numerous parts work together as one.

The movie itself is a well-lubricated machine, a trick entertainment and a wind-up toy, and it springs to life instantly in a series of sweeping opening aerial shots that plunge you into the choreographed bustle of the train station. The first time you see Hugo he’s peering out from behind a large wall clock at the human comedy in the station. He’s staring through a cutout in the clock face, an aperture through which he watches several characters who play supporting roles in a spectacle that is by turns slapstick, mystery, melodrama and romance, including the menacing station inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), a friendly flower vendor (Emily Mortimer), a woman with a dachshund (Frances de la Tour) and her suitor (Richard Griffiths). When Hugo gazes at them, he’s viewer and director both.

So much happens in this initial whoosh that it feels as if you’d hitched a ride on a rocket too. After the camera divebombs through the station, it follows Hugo as he speeds down halls, a ladder, a chute, a staircase and yet more halls, bringing to mind a Busby Berkeley set and Henry Hill’s long walk into the nightclub in “Goodfellas.” The camera keeps moving, as does Hugo, who, chased by the station master and his Doberman, sprints past James Joyce and Django Reinhardt lookalikes. It’s Paris of the Modernist imagination, though really it’s movieland, where gears loom like those in “Modern Times” and a man who’s part machine oils his bits like the Tin Man (while longing for a heart).

Mr. Scorsese caps this busy introductory section with Hugo looking wistfully at the world from a window high in the station. The image mirrors a stunning shot in his film “Kundun,” in which the young, isolated Dalai Lama looks out across the city, and it also evokes Mr. Scorsese’s well-known recollections about being an asthmatic child who watched life from windows — windows that of course put a frame around the world. This is a story shared by all children, who begin as observers and turn (if all goes well) into participants. But “Hugo” is specifically about those observers of life who, perhaps out of loneliness and with desire, explore reality through its moving images, which is why it’s also about the creation of a cinematic imagination — Hugo’s, Méliès’s, Mr. Scorsese’s, ours.

“Hugo” is the tale of a boy, one of fiction’s sentimental orphans, and the world he invents, yet, unsurprisingly, its most heartfelt passages are about Méliès. The old filmmaker is as broken and in need of revival as the automaton, and while you can guess what happens, it’s the getting there — how the clock is wound — that surprises and often delights. Waves of melancholy wash over the story and keep the treacle at bay, as do the spasms of broad comedy, much of it nimbly executed by Mr. Baron Cohen. There is something poignant and paradoxical about Mr. Scorsese’s honoring a film pioneer in digital (and in 3-D, no less), yet these moving pictures belong to the same land of dreams that Méliès once explored, left for a time and entered once again through the love of the audience.

“Hugo” is rated PG (Parental guidance suggested). The death of a parent, some child peril and a fierce dog.


Opens on Wednesday nationwide.

Directed by Martin Scorsese; written by John Logan, based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” by Brian Selznick; director of photography, Robert Richardson; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Howard Shore; production design by Dante Ferretti; costumes by Sandy Powell; visual effects supervisor, Rob Legato; produced by Graham King, Tim Headington, Mr. Scorsese and Johnny Depp; released by Paramount Pictures. Running time: 2 hours 6 minutes.
WITH: Ben Kingsley (Pappa Georges/Georges Méliès), Sacha Baron Cohen (Station Inspector), Asa Butterfield (Hugo Cabret), Chloë Grace Moretz (Isabelle), Ray Winstone (Uncle Claude), Emily Mortimer (Lisette), Helen McCrory (Mama Jeanne), Christopher Lee (Monsieur Labisse), Michael Stuhlbarg (René Tabard), Frances de la Tour (Madame Emilie), Richard Griffiths (Monsieur Frick) and Jude Law (Hugo’s Father).       


November 21, 2011

"Hugo" is unlike any other film Martin Scorsese has ever made, and yet possibly the closest to his heart: a big-budget, family epic in 3-D, and in some ways, a mirror of his own life. We feel a great artist has been given command of the tools and resources he needs to make a movie about — movies. That he also makes it a fable that will be fascinating for (some, not all) children is a measure of what feeling went into it.

In broad terms, the story of his hero, Hugo Cabret, is Scorsese's own story. In Paris of the '30s, a bright young boy spends his childhood looking out at the world from a well-placed window, and schooling himself in the workings of artistic mechanisms. Hugo's father is in charge of the clocks at a cavernous Parisian train station. His dream is to complete an automaton, an automated man he found in a museum. He dies with it left unperfected.

Rather than be treated as an orphan, the boy hides himself in the maze of ladders, catwalks, passages and gears of the clockworks themselves, keeping them running right on time. He feeds himself with croissants snatched from station shops and begins to sneak off to the movies.

His life in the station is made complicated by a toy shop owner named Georges Melies. Yes, this grumpy old man, played by Ben Kingsley, is none other than the immortal French film pioneer, who was also the original inventor of the automaton. Hugo has no idea of this. The real Melies was a magician who made his first movies to play tricks on his audiences.

Leave it to Scorsese to make his first 3-D movie about the man who invented special effects. There is a parallel with the asthmatic Scorsese, living in Little Italy but not of it, observing life from the windows of his apartment, soaking up the cinema from television and local theaters, adopting great directors as his mentors, and in the case of Michael Powell, rescuing their careers after years of neglect.

The way "Hugo" deals with Melies is enchanting in itself, but the film's first half is devoted to the escapades of its young hero. In the way the film uses CGI and other techniques to create the train station and the city, the movie is breathtaking. The opening shot swoops above the vast cityscape of Paris and ends with Hugo (Asa Butterfield) peering out of an opening in a clock face far above the station floor. We follow his Dickensian adventures as he stays one step ahead of the choleric Station Inspector (Sacha Baron Cohen), in chase sequences through crowds of travelers. Hugo always manages to escape back to his refuge behind the walls and above the ceiling of the station.

His father (Jude Law), seen in flashbacks, has left behind notebooks, including his plans to finish the automaton. Hugo seems somewhat a genius with gears, screws, springs and levers, and the mechanical man is himself a steampunk masterwork of shining steel and brass.

One day Hugo is able to share his secret with a girl named Isabelle (Chloe Grace Moretz), who also lives in the station, and was raised by old Melies and his wife. She is introduced to Hugo's secret world, and he to hers — the books in the cavernous libraries she explores. These two bright kids are miles apart from the cute little pint-sized goofballs in most family pictures.

For a lover of cinema, the best scenes will come in the second half, as flashbacks trace the history and career of Georges Melies. you may have seen his most famous short film, "A Trip to the Moon" (1902), in which space voyagers enter a ship that is shot from a cannon toward the moon; the vessel pokes the Man in the Moon in the eye.

Scorsese has made documentaries about great films and directors, and here he brings those skills to storytelling. We see Melies (who built the first movie studio) using fantastical sets and bizarre costumes to make films with magical effects ­— all of them hand-tinted, frame by frame. And as the plot makes unlikely connections, the old man is able to discover that he is not forgotten, but indeed is honored as worthy of the Pantheon.

Not long ago, I saw a 3-D children's film about penguins. I thought it was a simpleminded use of the medium. Scorsese uses 3-D here as it should be used, not as a gimmick but as an enhancement of the total effect. Notice in particular his re-creation of the famous little film "Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat" (1897), by the Lumiere brothers. You've probably heard its legend: As a train rushes toward the camera, the audience panics and struggles to get out of its way. That is a shot which demonstrates the proper use of 3-D, which the Lumieres might have used had it been available.

"Hugo" celebrates the birth of the cinema and dramatizes Scorsese's personal pet cause, the preservation of old films. In one heartbreaking scene, we learn that Melies, convinced his time had passed and his work had been forgotten, melted down countless films so that their celluloid could be used to manufacture the heels of women's shoes. But they weren't all melted, and at the end of "Hugo, " we see that thanks to this boy, they never will be. Now there's a happy ending for you.

Cast & Credits

Hugo Cabret - Asa Butterfield
Isabelle - Chloë Grace Moretz
Lisette - Emily Mortimer
Georges Méliès - Ben Kingsley
Hugo's Father - Jude Law
Station inspector - Sacha Baron Cohen
Uncle Claude - Ray Winstone
Monsieur Labisse - Christopher Lee
Mama Jeanne - Helen McCrory
Rene Tabard - Michael Stuhlbarg
Madame Emilie - Frances de la Tour
Monsieur Frick - Richard Griffiths

Paramount presents a film directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay by John Logan, based on the novel “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick. Running time: 130 minutes. MPAA rating: PG (for mild thematic material, some action/peril and smoking).

Monday, November 28, 2011

Scientists Behaving Badly

More nails for the coffin of man-made global warming

By Jim Lacey
November 28, 2011 4:00 A.M.

Global-warming skeptics spend much of their time knocking down the fatuous warmist claim that the science is settled. According to the warmists, this singular piece of settled science is attested to by hundreds or thousands of highly credentialed scientists. In truth, virtually the entire warmist edifice is built around a small, tightly knit coterie of persons (one hesitates to refer to folks with so little respect for the scientific method as scientists) willing to falsify data and manipulate findings; or, to put it bluntly, to lie in order to push a political agenda not supported by empirical evidence. This is what made the original release of the Climategate e-mails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia so valuable. They clearly identified the politicized core of climate watchers who were driving the entire warmist agenda. Following in their footsteps are all the other scientists who built their own research on top of the fraudulent data produced by the warmist core.

Last week over 5,000 new e-mails, already dubbed Climategate 2, were released. Anyone still desiring to contest the assertion that only a few persons controlled the entire warmist agenda will be brought up short by this note from one warmist protesting that his opinions were not getting the hearing they deserved: “It seems that a few people have a very strong say, and no matter how much talking goes on beforehand, the big decisions are made at the eleventh hour by a select core group.” Over the years this core group, led by Phil Jones at East Anglia and Michael Mann at Penn State, became so close that even those inclined toward more honest appraisals of the state of climate science were hesitant to rock the boat. As one warm-monger states: “I am not convinced that the ‘truth’ is always worth reaching if it is at the cost of damaged personal relationships.” Silly me, how many years have I wasted believing that the very point of science was to pursue the truth in the face of all obstacles. On the basis of this evidence the scientific method must be rewritten so as to state: “Science must be as objective as possible, unless it offends your friends.”

Unfortunately, from the very beginning, the core group at the heart of Climategate had no interest in “scientific truth.” As one states: “The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guide what’s included and what is left out.” In other words, let’s decide on a conclusion and then use only evidence that proves that point, discarding everything else. One scientist who seems to have been slightly troubled by these methods wrote: “I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it, which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.” In another note to Phil Jones, this same scientist complained: “Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest.”

Of course, nothing of the sort was done. As one e-mail states: “The figure you sent is very deceptive . . . there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change].” Too bad these so-called scientists felt they could tell the truth only to one another and not the public at large. Some of the other truths they shared only with one another are astounding. For instance, one writes: “I find myself in the strange position of being very skeptical of the quality of all present reconstructions, yet sounding like a pro greenhouse zealot here!” So, despite having no confidence in any of the models the IPCC was using in its reports, this scientist was ready to support the IPCC findings to the hilt. And why didn’t he believe the models? Easy: They were designed to tell the big lie. For example, when confronted with the problem that if all the data were included, the warming disappeared, Phil Jones turned to a novel method: He used only “[time] periods that showed warming.”

At one point, Jones admits that the “basic problem is that all of the models are wrong.” Of course, there is a simple reason for this. When the models do not show what the warmists want them to show, they simply apply “some tuning.” One scientist was worried enough about this “tuning” to write that he “doubt[ed] the modeling world will be able to get away with this much longer.” In this case, “tuning” means changing the model until it tells you what you want it to. When it became impossible to torture the models any further without making their uselessness apparent to all, the warmists resorted to changing the data.

The most efficient method of corrupting the models was to use data only from time periods when there was warming and discard others, as Jones admits to doing. This method helped one scientist reduce the cooling in the northern hemisphere between 1940 and 1970, so that he did not have to make up an excuse blaming it on sulphates, which could not be proven. Another complains that no matter how much he fiddles with the data, it is “very difficult to make the Medieval Warming Period go away.” Solving this problem in the modern era was much easier: The warmists merely changed the temperature readings for much of the 20th century and threw away the original data.

Why? One e-mail clearly explains what was at stake: ”I can’t overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the Government can give on climate change to help them tell their story. They want the story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.” In other words, all the scientific lying was a result of scientists trying to give their political masters a major issue they could use to control people’s lives and justify wasting trillions of dollars. Success, as one warmist stated, rested on somehow convincing the public that “limate change is extremely complicated, BUT to accept the dominant view that people are affecting it, and that impacts produces risk that needs careful and urgent attention.” In other words, climate science is too complex for the simpleton voters, who must be made to believe that unless we wreck the global economy the planet will bake. As Michael Mann says in one e-mail: “the important thing is to make sure they’re losing the PR battle.” Moving even further away from their original calling as scientists, the warmists spend considerable time discussing the tactics of convincing the masses that global warming should be a major concern. For instance, one states: “Having established scale and urgency, the political challenge is then to turn this from an argument about the cost of cutting emissions — bad politics — to one about the value of a stable climate — much better politics. . . . the most valuable thing to do is to tell the story about abrupt change as vividly as possible.”

To win the public debate nothing was out of bounds. For instance, Mann, incensed that some skeptics had trashed his work, wrote to Jones, saying he had “been talking with folks in the states about finding an investigative journalist to investigate and expose McIntyre . . . perhaps the same needs to be done with this Kennan guy . . . I believe that the only way to stop these people is by exposing them and discrediting them.” Steve McIntyre and Doug Kennan are well-known skeptics. In fact, McIntyre’s work was crucial in proving that Mann’s infamous “hockey stick graph” — the heart of the United Nations’ IPCC-3 report — was a fraud. Rather than contest McIntyre’s findings with evidence and data, Mann decided that his best alternative was to smear his challenger’s reputation. Skeptics always had to be on the watch for Mann’s spiteful attacks. But what is interesting is that many of his fellow warmists had a low opinion of his work. Despite this, they were slow to criticize Mann — partly because they did not want to give the skeptics any more ammunition, but also because they were afraid of him. As one warmist wrote to Jones, Mann was a “serious enemy” and “vindictive.”

Worried that their e-mail discussions might turn a spotlight on their fraud, Jones and others were constantly advising one another on how to hide the evidence. For instance, Jones once sent out an e-mail stating: “I’ve been told that IPCC is above national FOI [Freedom of Information] Acts. One way to cover yourself and all those working in AR5 would be to delete all emails at the end of the process.” To which one warmist replied: “Phil, thanks for your thoughts — guarantee there will be no dirty laundry in the open.”

Still, none of this deception would be possible without the active collusion of much of the global press, which has swallowed the warmist agenda hook, line, and sinker. As one BBC journalist wrote to Phil Jones after running a piece slightly skeptical of the warmist position:

I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece. But we are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all, especially as you say with the COP [Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol] in the offing, and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats.

What is even more troubling is what appears to be the active collusion of government agencies charged with looking out for the public welfare. In one Jones e-mail, he discusses hiding data, making it clear that the U.S. Department of Energy was an active participant in his fraud: “Any work we have done in the past is done on the back of the research grants we get — and has to be well hidden. I’ve discussed this with the main funder (US Dept of Energy) in the past and they are happy about not releasing the original station data.” I hope someone in Congress is interested in why the Department of Energy was involved in hiding climate data. One might assume that it would be harder to make an investment in Solyndra if the global-warming threat was proven a fraud.

My favorite quote of all those uncovered was from the climate criminal who asked his colleagues what would happen to them if it was discovered that climate change was “mainly a multidecadal natural fluctuation,” as much of the evidence shows. He answers his own question: “They’ll kill us probably.”

Jim Lacey is professor of strategic studies at the Marine Corps War College. He is the author of the recently released The First Clash and Keep from All Thoughtful Men. The opinions presented here are entirely his own and do not represent those of the Department of Defense or any of its members

Sunday, November 27, 2011

"Achtung Baby" by U2: Twenty Years in the Rear-View Mirror

by J. Christian Adams
November 26, 2011

This month marks the 20th anniversary of one of the last great culturally and musically dominant albums of the rock era — Achtung Baby by U2. The album introduced a wild new industrial wall of sound, rhythm, and psychedelic swirl to the world. It sat on top of the charts for months, won the Grammy for album of the year, and regularly appears on critics’ lists of the best albums of all time. It may be my generation’s Sgt. Pepper.

Not long after Achtung Baby dominated the airwaves, the radio and music industry changed forever. Market micro-segmentation and the diminished relevance of terrestrial radio meant that no single album would again capture the rock nation as did Achtung Baby, and Nirvana’s Nevermind did earlier that fall. Sure, musical acts still explode to riches and some fame, but culturally unifying musical dominance doesn’t occur the way it once did.

There are no more Michael Jacksons or The Beatles, or groups like U2. These days, it is difficult to name any single contemporary song that the vast majority of Americans are familiar with as they were with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” in 1984 or U2’s “One” from Achtung Baby. Like our politics, our music has frayed apart.
“Well it’s too late, tonight
To drag the past out into the light
We’re one, but we’re not the same”
— “One,” Achtung Baby
The first time I heard “The Fly,” Achtung Baby’s first single, in November 1991, it was sonically radical. It was an unfamiliar but delightful experience, similar to what the first listen to “Love Me Do” by the Beatles in 1963 must have been. U2’s new radical sound was intentional. Faced with creative stagnation after Rattle and Hum in 1988, U2 sought to reinvent themselves. To record Achtung Baby they traveled to Berlin, a city that was undergoing its own reinvention in the fall of 1990.

Aided by Brian Eno, the aural master of little known but spectacular works like Here Come the Warm Jets, U2 set up in Berlin’s Hansa Studios. Eno and Bono sought to push the album toward an industrial, rhythmic, and distinctive continental European sound. Others in the band resisted the radical new direction, but eventually they hit upon genius. The post-punk guitar explosions, a giant dancehall bass, and drums thrust to the forefront created something never done before, and never done since.

Simply, Achtung Baby was one of those rare moments in the rock era like Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys or Rubber Soul by the Beatles. Achtung Baby sounded like nothing else.
“Time is a train — makes the future the past
Leaves you standing in the station
Your face pressed up against the glass”
— “Zoo Station,” Achtung Baby.
For lovers of deep tracks, the album even produced a fantastic array of B-side special releases including “Lady with the Spinning Head.” (Find it! It’s on the newly released two-disc deluxe version of Achtung Baby.) In all, five of the 12 songs hit the charts in the United States and the Zoo TV tour filled football stadiums around the world.

It was during this tour that I had an unforgettable moment. U2 was scheduled to play in Columbia, South Carolina, when I received a call from a friend: “U2 is flying into Eagle Aviation, want to go meet them at the plane?”

Right. I had my share of celebrity near-misses. When I worked at as a rock DJ before law school, I had one particular freak who would call the radio station claiming to be Max Weinberg’s (E Street Band) sister. She set up more than one scheduled trip by “Bruce Springsteen” to the radio station that resulted only in increasingly bizarre excuses. So I was skeptical.

We breezed through the lobby at Eagle Aviation, a small private general aviation portal at Columbia’s airport and went straight onto the tarmac. A wink from an employee friend gave us access. A black limo waited on the empty tarmac as a 727 with “MGM” painted on the side landed and taxied to us. We were the only two people on the tarmac apart from a man who pushed a stairway up to the jet’s door. Larry Mullen, Adam Clayton, then The Edge, and finally Bono emerged from the jet.

Since we were the only two people on the tarmac, they must have assumed we were there to officially greet and guide them, so they approached us, not the other way around. I greeted them with a Sharpie and CD cover to sign and disabused them of that assumption. They kindly signed our stuff and shook our hands before climbing into the limo. It was a story few would have believed except I still have the CDs and some photos of them deplaning before I ran out of film. It was unforgettable.
“We’re free to fly the crimson sky
The sun won’t melt our wings tonight”
— “Even Better Than the Real Thing,” Achtung Baby
Now, twenty years later after Achtung Baby’s release, even film is gone. Relevant terrestrial radio is gone. So are world-dominating acts like U2, except perhaps for U2. And along with it, we’ve lost yet another shared common American cultural experience.