Saturday, March 17, 2012

Review: Once more into that Cold War

By Karen Virag
Edmonton Journal
March 3, 2012

Agent 6
Tom Rob Smith
Grand Central Publishing
467 pp; $28.99

Josef Stalin perfected the art of unfriending long before Mark Zuckerberg came along, though, admittedly, the Facebook experience is markedly more pleasant than the technique employed in the USSR through the 1940s. Back then you would have received a midnight visit from the secret police followed by swift execution or exile, as well as your official removal from the record books. Indeed, the clumsily doctored photographs from that particularly mad time in Russian history, with their ghostly shadows where once a human stood, would be funny if they were weren’t so tragic.

British author Tom Rob Smith burst onto the literary scene in 2008 with Child 44, a novel whose protagonist, Leo Demidov, is a star of Stalin’s state security police, the MGB (the precursor to the KGB). Demidov was someone who had a hand in unfriending — or in another verbalization for our times, disappearing — any number of dangerous people, like school teachers and secretaries. Eventually, though, he comes to see what a big ideological dupe he has been, a realization that causes Stalin to dispatch him with a one-way ticket to Siberia. At the same time, a series of horrific child murders is taking place (Smith used the actual case of Andrei Chikatilo, a serial murderer of children, as a point of departure), except that the government will not admit that a serial killer can exist in Uncle Joe’s communist paradise. The murders continue until Leo solves them and achieves some measure of redemption. In the second book of the Sovet series, The Secret Speech, the new president, Nikita Khrushchev, has just issued his famous 1956 address denouncing Stalin and promising to right his wrongs. (And we all know how that turned out.) Meanwhile, someone with a grudge is threatening Leo and his family, and the story trips from the Siberian gulag to the revolution in Budapest, which the supposedly reformed USSR brutally suppressed.

This description of two books not under review here is a fairly unsubtle way of saying that you shouldn’t read Agent 6 without reading the other two novels first. You need to know the full background to appreciate the complicated story that unravels in Agent 6, which takes us ahead a few years to the early 1960s. The Cold War is in full bloom. Leo’s wife, Raisa, and their two adopted daughters travel to New York City as part of a peace tour, purportedly to foster better relations between the USSR and the US. Leo is forbidden to accompany his family, which sets his spidey sense a-tingle. Why has his family been invited? What is this trip really all about? When things go awry in New York his suspicions are confirmed. His request to travel to the U.S. to investigate the mishap is refused, and he tries to take matters into his own hands. The novel shifts across decades and continents, from an urban wasteland in the slums of New York City to another kind of wasteland — the one the Russians made out of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Leo will stop at nothing as he hunts the mysterious Agent 6, the only person who knows what really happened in New York.

Agent 6 is about such weighty themes as personal responsibility, guilt, shame, duty, decency and allegiance to ideology. It should be said that by the third novel, Leo and his increasingly dramatic and unlikely escapes from death start to remind you more of a Russian Jason Bourne than a literary hero, but this is a minor peccadillo. Smith writes a great thriller — he gives us a brooding, flawed but appealing main character and a gripping multilayered plot that takes place in a particularly dramatic period in world history. And although the Soviet system looks pretty bad, the U.S. government, with its hypocrisy and skulduggery, doesn’t come up smelling like roses either.

Child 44 was longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize (somewhat unusually, given its genre) and won seven international awards, including the 2008 Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for best thriller of the year. All three books in the trilogy are international bestsellers. Intelligent, riveting and horrifying, the whole series is quite unputdownable. Let’s hope Stalin is rolling in his grave.

Karen Virag is a local freelance reviewer.

© Copyright (c) The Edmonton Journal

Worse Than a Powder Keg

By Andrew C. McCarthy
March 17, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta leaves after visiting with troops from the Georgian Army on Wednesday at Foward Operating Base Shukvani, Afghanistan. The man who drove a truck onto the runway as Panetta's plane was landing in Afghanistan died of burn wounds. (Scott Olson / Getty Images)

We have met the enemy and we are they. That is certainly the message the Obama administration has conveyed to the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan this week.

Our troops have been the target of serial sneak attacks by the Afghans with whom they are forced to “partner.” Nevertheless, our Marines were ordered to disarm before being admitted into the presence of Obama’s defense secretary, Leon Panetta. Yes, you read that correctly: Our Marines were stripped of their arms.

Panetta was at Camp Leatherneck on a “surprise” visit, hoping to calm the disastrous situation in the combat theater. Turns out not to have been much of a surprise: One of our Afghan “partners” — a contract interpreter hired to help our armed forces in deadly Helmand province — seamlessly converted to Islamist suicide assassin. His contacts clued him in on the surprise, so much so that he managed to speed a stolen truck toward the runway, just as Panetta’s hush-hush flight was about to land. He just missed smashing the contingent of Marines waiting to receive the secretary — that is to say, to whisk the secretary away to safer quarters, if there is any longer such a thing in this hell-hole, where 90,000 American troops are now stationed, compared with the 5,200 who conclusively routed al-Qaeda a decade ago, which you may recall as the mission they were sent to accomplish.

“We don’t know what his intent was,” the American commander, Army Lieutenant General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, said of the assassin. No, of course not. After all, we wouldn’t want to speculate that perhaps our cherished partnership with the Afghans is an abject failure — over 99 percent of the population being Muslim, steeped in the Wahhabist tradition that inculcates abhorrence of infidel occupiers.

The situation might be called a “powder keg,” except that is what one says in anticipation of a future explosion. In Afghanistan, the explosions are already happening, their pace and ferocity on the rise. Afghans went on a murderous rampage after some Korans were accidentally burned, Korans that jihadists had used to incite each other by adding handwritten messages reaffirming hatred of Americans. Among nearly three dozen killed when the mayhem began were two American soldiers, murdered by a treacherous Afghan “soldier” they were training.

Soon after, two more U.S. officers were shot in the back of the head by Afghan “security” personnel at the interior ministry in Kabul. A few days later, two more American soldiers were killed by Afghan “soldiers” at a base in Kandahar. In fact, our “partners” have turned their guns on scores of our troops in the last five years, killing 70, wounding many more. Those are just the U.S. casualty figures. British forces and other NATO personnel are also being assassinated with regularity.

Still, our forces are expected to trust these faithless partners. Trust them and, at the premeditated cost of American lives, protect Afghan civilians — tribal Islamists rife with Taliban and other terrorist sympathizers. There is a reason al-Qaeda was so comfortable in Afghanistan: It is nigh impossible to know who is a civilian. The Taliban, the Haqqani terror network, and assorted other jihadists do not wear uniforms — the better to blend into the population after doing their bloody business. Yet our troops operate under stifling rules of engagement that quite intentionally prioritize the prevention of civilian casualties over force protection. When under attack, they are denied adequate air cover out of concern, again, about the possibility of harming Afghans.

Last weekend, an unidentified U.S. Army staff sergeant snapped. He is said to have massacred 16 civilians in a small village. In this decade-long war, the burden of which has been borne exclusively by a few hundred thousand military families while the rest of the nation yawns, the staff sergeant was in his fourth combat tour.

The first three were in Iraq, a nation whose Muslim population similarly despises its American liberators, a nation where we left behind no trace of America’s eight-year sacrifice. We were sold a “freedom agenda” bill of goods about creating a stable democracy that would be a reliable American counterterrorism ally. What we actually purchased, at a cost of over 4,000 lives, over 30,000 wounded, and over $700 billion, is a sharia state beholden to Iran. The new Iraq calls for Arab solidarity against Israel amid pro-Hamas demonstrations. Its specialty is the persecution of Christians and homosexuals. It even features a Saudi-style “Moral Police,” sharia shock troops whose latest specialty is the stoning of teenagers for the crime of wearing their hair in the “emo” style.

Beyond a gaudy, $750 million palace of an embassy that, at 104 acres (bigger than Vatican City), will be too vast for our skeletal security force to protect, Iraq will have no American imprint. But it left its mark on the staff sergeant, a highly decorated combat veteran. During tour number three in 2010 — i.e., seven years after our principal objective of deposing Saddam Hussein was achieved — he lost part of one foot in an explosion and suffered a traumatic brain injury when his vehicle flipped over.

No matter. Islamic democracy-building’s forward march of freedom waits for no man: The staff sergeant was patched up and sent off to Afghanistan for tour number four. Now he has gone on a shooting spree. Hamid Karzai, who owes not just his presidency but his continued existence on this planet to the unwavering dedication of America’s armed forces, was barely finished demanding sharia justice for the Koran burners when he started screaming for the staff sergeant to be tried in Afghan court. (The Army has moved him out of the country, and he will eventually face a U.S. court-martial.)

This was the chaos into which Secretary Panetta descended. After dodging the assassination attempt, he was to address American forces and their Afghan trainees in a tent where the only security would be the United States Marines. Yet the Marines were ordered to disarm before entering. From on high came the directive: They were to check their automatic rifles and pistols outside the tent. Only then would Panetta appear.

It is hard to decide which explanation for this is more infuriating. There is the one the Marines were given: Since it would have been insane to allow Afghan soldiers, whose treachery is notorious, to be armed, the always faithful Marines had to be disarmed in order to show that our government considers them no better than their Afghan “partners.” The Marines would know this rationale is fraudulent: It is entirely ordinary for them to remain armed, and for Afghans not to be armed in the first place, during a visit from the secretary of defense to a combat theater.

Hence the explanation the Marines were tacitly left to ponder: As shameful Afghan officials castigated the American troops on whom they depend, and the Taliban hurled charges of “genocide,” American commanders — taking their cues from the apologizer-in-chief — disarmed the Marines to show that we take such bloviating seriously.

While Panetta addressed our defrocked troops, the savages were up to their usual grisly business. Tim Lynch, a retired Marine now embedded in Afghanistan, summed it up well in an e-mail to journalist Michael Yon: “The Taliban killed 13 women and children today with an IED in Uruzgan and I think they got 8 yesterday — but that’s all cool here because they’re the Taliban and we’re the big, fat, retarded kid on the block who gets bullied everyday but still shows up to fork over even more lunch money while assuming at some point everyone will like us because we’re so [deleted] generous.”

Toward what end are we putting our best young people through this agony? On Capitol Hill, hawks such as Representative Buck McKeon (R., Calif.) insist that we need to see the war through because “the reason we liberated Afghanistan in 2001 was right then, and it is the same reason we fight today to keep it liberated.”

Ridiculous. We did not send our troops to liberate Afghanistan. We sent them to rout al-Qaeda, which they did with spectacular speed and effectiveness. There is nothing in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) about liberating anyone. The American people would never have supported such a thankless, implausible mission.

In point of fact, President Bush was fully prepared to leave the Taliban in place as the Afghan regime if they had agreed to his demand that they surrender bin Laden and his confederates. The Taliban was toppled not because they were tyrannizing their people, but because they spurned us. There was no fervor in post-9/11 America to build a new Afghanistan. In the main, the Afghans are Muslims in the thrall of Wahhabism, the fundamentalist Islam of Saudi Arabia. As such, they cannot be liberated — they have chosen their own tyranny.

In the meantime, not only have Mr. McKeon and his colleagues failed, in the eleven ensuing years, to specify the Taliban in the AUMF as the enemy of the United States, but we can’t even get the State Department to designate them as a terrorist organization (although, in 2002, President Bush amended the relevant executive order, No. 13224, to label them a global terrorist organization). Three years ago, the then–theater commander, General Stanley McChrystal, asserted that Afghanistan is not our war: “This is their war. . . . This conflict and country are [theirs] to win — not mine.” Now, the Obama administration has no stomach to fight them; as the Taliban mock us and threaten to behead our troops, the president applauds their new diplomatic mission in Qatar. Obama is pleading with them to negotiate — reportedly even offering to release Taliban war criminals detained at Gitmo if that is what it takes to get a deal.

The only reason for our troops to be in a barbaric country is to vanquish the barbarians. Obviously, we are not trying to do that in Afghanistan; we are biding time, putting our young men and women at grave risk, so that Obama can manage a withdrawal, so the non-war against our non-enemy looks like a non-surrender.

In Yemen, where there are no U.S. troops on the ground, Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports that our government killed dozens of al-Qaeda operatives by air strikes in just the last week. In Pakistan, where there are no U.S. troops on the ground, the Obama administration has stepped up the Bush-era pace of drone attacks, killing numerous jihadists. The name of the game with terrorists is to deny them safe haven to train and plot. As retired general Paul Vallely has been arguing for years, our troops have so damaged al-Qaeda at this point that, without committing massive ground forces in hostile Islamic countries, we can strike the enemy from “Lily Pads” — established land or seaborne bases in safe areas.

Our troops should be out of Afghanistan. Yesterday.

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

Who's Obama sneering at?

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
March 16, 2012

Our lesson for today comes from George and Ira Gershwin:

"They all laughed at Christopher Columbus

When he said the world was round

They all laughed when Edison recorded sound

They all laughed at Wilbur and his brother

When they said that man could fly

They told Marconi wireless was a phony..."

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sang it in the film "Shall We Dance?" (1937) Seventy-five years on, the president revived it to tap-dance around his rising gas prices and falling approval numbers. Delivering his big speech on energy at Prince George's Community College, he insisted the American economy will be going gangbusters again just as soon as we start running it on algae and windmills. He noted that, as with Wilbur and his brother, there were those inclined to titter:

"Let me tell you something. If some of these folks were around when Columbus set sail – [Laughter] – they must have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society [Laughter]. They would not have believed that the world was round [Applause]. We've heard these folks in the past. They probably would have agreed with one of the pioneers of the radio who said, 'Television won't last. It's a flash in the pan' [Laughter]. One of Henry Ford's advisers was quoted as saying, 'The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a fad' [Laughter]."

The crowd loved it. But President Algy Solyndra wasn't done:

"There always have been folks who are the naysayers and don't believe in the future, and don't believe in trying to do things differently. One of my predecessors, Rutherford B. Hayes, reportedly said about the telephone, 'It's a great invention, but who would ever want to use one?' [Laughter]. That's why he's not on Mount Rushmore – [laughter and applause] – because he's looking backwards. He's not looking forwards [Applause]. He's explaining why we can't do something, instead of why we can do something."

It fell to Nan Card of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center in Ohio to inform the website Talking Points Memo that the quotation was apocryphal. Hayes had the first telephone in the White House, and the first typewriter, and Edison visited him to demonstrate the phonograph.

But obviously Rutherford B. Hayes isn't as "forward-looking" as a 21st century president who believes in Jimmy Carter malaise, 1970s Eurostatist industrial policy, 1940s British health care reforms, 1930s New Deal-size entitlements premised on mid-20th century birth rates and life expectancy, and all paid for by a budget with more zeroes than anybody's seen since the Weimar Republic. If that's not a shoo-in for Mount Rushmore, I don't know what is.

I was interested in the rest of Barack Obama's yukfest of history's biggest idiots. Considering that he is (in the words of historian Michael Beschloss) "the smartest guy ever to become president," the entire passage sounded as if it was plucked straight from one of those "Top Twenty Useful Quotes for Forward-Looking Inspirational Speakers" websites. And whaddayaknow? Rutherford B. Hayes, the TV flash in the pan, the horse is here to stay – they're all at the Wikiquote page on "Incorrect Predictions." Fancy that! You can also find his selected examples at the web page "Some Really Really Bad Predictions About the Future" and a bazillion others.

Given that the ol' Hayes telephone sidesplitter turned out to be a bust, I wondered about the others. The line about television being a "flash in the pan" is generally attributed to "Mary Somerville, pioneer of radio educational broadcasts, 1948." She was a New Zealand-born lass who while at Oxford wrote to the newly founded BBC with some ideas on using radio in schools. By the Seventies, the educational programming she had invented and developed was used in 90 percent of UK schools, and across the British Commonwealth from the Caribbean to Africa to the Pacific. She apparently used the flash-in-the-pan line in a private conversation recounted some years after her death by her fellow BBC executive, Grace Wyndham Goldie, a lady I knew very slightly. It was in the context of why she was pessimistic about early attempts at educational television. Mary Somerville would not have been surprised by "American Idol" or "Desperate Housewives," but she thought TV's possibilities for scholarly study were limited. If you remember Leonard Bernstein giving live illustrated music lectures on Beethoven on CBS in the Fifties, and you've lived long enough to see "quality public television" on PBS dwindle down to dreary boomer nostalgia, lousy Brit sitcoms, Laurence Welk reruns and therapeutic infomercials, you might be inclined to agree that TV as an educational tool certainly proved "a flash in the pan." And that's before your grandkid gets home from school and complains he's had to sit through Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" again.

What was Obama's other thigh-slapper? Oh, yes. "The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a fad." The line is generally attributed to "the president of the Michigan Savings Bank" in 1903. That would be George Peck, born in 1834 on a hardscrabble farm in Connecticut. Due to a boyhood accident, he was unable to use one arm and so was no good for agricultural labor. So at the age of 16 he started as the lowest-paid clerk in a Utica dry goods store. From this unpromising start, Peck built one of the largest dry-goods businesses in Michigan. Was he, as the president said, one of those men "who don't believe in the future"? Not at all. He was president of the Edison Illuminating Co., named for the guy who invented that light bulb the United States Government has banned. Henry Ford was Peck's chief engineer. Peck set his son and Ford up in a shop on Park Place in Detroit to work on their prototype horseless carriages. After Ford departed, the first porcelain spark plug was baked in Peck's shop.

Christopher Columbus? Once upon a time, your average well-informed high-schooler, never mind the smartest president in history, understood that Columbus was laughed at not because everyone believed the world was round: Educated Europeans of his day accepted that the Earth was spherical and had done so since Aristotle's time. They laughed because they thought he was taking the long way round to the East Indies. Which he was.

So let's see. The president sneers at the ignorance of 15th century Spaniards when, in fact, he is the one entirely ignorant of them. A man who has enjoyed a million dollars of elite education yet has never created a dime of wealth in his life sneers at a crippled farm boy with an eighth-grade schooling who establishes a successful business and introduces electrical distribution across Michigan all the way up to Sault Ste Marie. A man sneers at one of the pioneering women in broadcasting, a lady who brought the voices of T.S. Eliot, G.K. Chesterton and others into the farthest-flung classrooms and would surely have rejected Obama's own dismal speech as being too obviously reliant on "Half-A-Dozen Surefire Cheap Cracks For Lazy Public Speakers." A man whose own budget officials predict the collapse of the entire U.S. economy by 2027 sneers at a solvent predecessor for being insufficiently "forward-looking."

A great nation needs successful self-made businessmen like George Peck, and purveyors of scholarly excellence like Mary Somerville. It's not clear why it needs a smug over-credentialed President Solyndra to recycle "Crowd-Pleasing For Dummies" as a keynote address.

They all laughed at Christopher Columbus, they all laughed at Edison... How does that song continue? "They laughed at me..."

At Prince George's Community College they didn't. But history will, and they will laugh at us for ever taking him seriously.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Obama’s oil flimflam

The Washington Post
March 16, 2012

Yes, of course, presidents have no direct control over gas prices. But the American people know something about this president and his disdain for oil. The “fuel of the past,” he contemptuously calls it. To the American worker who doesn’t commute by government motorcade and is getting fleeced every week at the pump, oil seems very much a fuel of the present — and of the foreseeable future.

President Obama incessantly claims energy open-mindedness, insisting that his policy is “all of the above.” Except, of course, for drilling:

●off the Mid-Atlantic coast (as Virginia, for example, wants);

●off the Florida Gulf Coast (instead, the Castro brothers will drill near there);

●in the broader Gulf of Mexico (where drilling in 2012 is expected to drop 30 percent below pre-moratorium forecasts);

●in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (more than half the size of England, the drilling footprint being the size of Dulles International Airport);

●on federal lands in the Rockies (where leases are down 70 percent since Obama took office).

But the event that drove home the extent of Obama’s antipathy to nearby, abundant, available oil was his veto of the Keystone pipeline, after the most extensive environmental vetting of any pipeline in U.S. history. It gave the game away because the case for Keystone is so obvious and overwhelming. Vetoing it gratuitously prolongs our dependence on outside powers, kills thousands of shovel-ready jobs, forfeits a major strategic resource to China, damages relations with our closest ally, and sends billions of oil dollars to Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin and already obscenely wealthy sheiks.

Obama boasts that, on his watch, production is up and imports down. True, but truly deceptive. These increases have occurred in spite of his restrictive policies. They are the result of Clinton- and Bush-era permitting. This has been accompanied by a gold rush of natural gas production resulting from new fracking technology that has nothing at all to do with Obama.

“The American people aren’t stupid,” Obama said (Feb. 23), mocking “Drill, baby, drill.” The “only solution,” he averred in yet another major energy speech last week, is that “we start using less — that lowers the demand, prices come down.” Yet five paragraphs later he claimed that regardless of “how much oil we produce at home . . . that’s not going to set the price of gas worldwide.”

So: Decreasing U.S. demand will lower oil prices, but increasing U.S. supply will not? This is ridiculous. Either both do or neither does. Does Obama read his own speeches?

Obama says of drilling: “That’s not a plan.” Of course it’s a plan. We import nearly half of our oil, thereby exporting enormous amounts of U.S. wealth. Almost 60 percent of our trade deficit — $332 billion out of $560 billion — is shipped overseas to buy crude.

Drill here and you stanch the hemorrhage. You keep those dollars within the U.S. economy, repatriating not just wealth but jobs and denying them to foreign unfriendlies. Drilling is the single most important thing we can do to spur growth at home while strengthening our hand abroad.

Instead, Obama offers what he fancies to be the fuels of the future. You would think that he’d be a tad more modest today about his powers of divination after the Solyndra bankruptcy, the collapse of government-subsidized Ener1 (past makers of the batteries of the future) and GM’s suspension of production — for lack of demand — of another federally dictated confection, the flammable Chevy Volt.

Deterred? Hardly. Our undaunted seer of the energy future has come up with his own miracle fuel: algae.

Why, explained Obama, “we can grow it right here in the United States.” (Sounds like a miraculous local find — except that it grows just about everywhere on earth.) Accordingly, yet another $14 million of taxpayer money will be sprinkled on algae research by Steven Chu’s Energy Department.

This is the very same Dr. Chu who famously said in 2008 that he wanted U.S. gas prices to rise to European levels of $8-$10 a gallon — and who on Tuesday, eight months before Election Day, publicly recanted before Congress, Galileo-style.

Who do they think they’re fooling? An oil crisis looms, prices are spiking — and our president is extolling algae. After Solyndra, Keystone and promises of seaweed in their gas tanks, Americans sense a president so ideologically antipathetic to fossil fuels — which we possess in staggering abundance — that he is utterly unserious about the real world of oil in which the rest of us live.

High gasoline prices are a major political problem for Obama. They are not just a pain at the pump, however. They are a constant reminder of three years of a rigid, fatuous, fantasy-driven energy policy that has rendered us scandalously dependent and excessively vulnerable.

Bruce Springsteen Delivers South By Southwest Keynote

Artist mixes humor and music history for stirring speech
By Steve Baltin
March 15, 2012 3:40 PM ET

Right before Bruce Springsteen took the stage at 12:30 p.m. CDT Thursday for his keynote speech at South By Southwest, a half-hour later than expected, conference co-founder Roland Swanson joked, "That's why they call him the boss."

As Springsteen himself later said, when referencing a Danny & The Juniors hit, "Rock & Roll Is Here To Stay," "They had no idea how terrifyingly fucking right they were."

Working the crowd like a master performer who's spent well more than half his life on stage, Springsteen delivered what a few audience members on the way out called the greatest keynote they'd ever seen.

Dressed in jeans and a button down shirt, holding his speech like your coolest professor, Springsteen began with a comment about the hour of the speech. "Good morning, why are we up so fucking early? How important can this speech be if we’re getting up at noon," he joked to loud laughter. "Every decent musician in town is asleep, or they will be before I’m done with this."

As Springsteen also demonstrated during his recent Jimmy Fallon performance of LMFAO's "I'm Sexy And I Know It," the guy has shown a deft sense of humor on stage for years, with his cheerfulness and wit being a big part of the revival feeling of the live shows.

He used that very well during the keynote, poking fun at the dissension among music fans by pointing out you can take any band and having the following disagreement: "Bruce Springsteen – natural born voice of the common man, the future of rock and roll," or, "He sucks."

But like his Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame induction speeches, Springsteen used the occasion to celebrate the music he loves and school everyone in the crowd on rock history, often tying it into his own music.

For example, he explained how the music of the Animals infused his own Darkness On The Edge Of Town. "Youngsters watch this one," he said, playing a riff from "Don't Let Be Misunderstood," then immediately following with "Badlands." "It’s the same fucking riff, man."

He found a guitar and played several snippets of songs, including "Backstreets." But his full version of "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place," eyes closed, guitar held almost straight in the air, was transfixing.

And afterwards he again broke the place up. "That’s every song I’ve ever written," he said, "I’m not kidding, that’s all of ‘em."

Most of his revelations, though, were in talking about other musicians. "Underrated, still underrated," he said of James Brown, then shared a story of being brought on stage with Brown, which he animated by mimicking running.

When he wrapped up at 1:30 p.m., he took a bow, waved to the crowd and walked off stage to a deserved standing ovation.

Bruce Springsteen - 2012 SXSW - Keynote Address

Obama's Health Rationer-in-Chief

White House health-care adviser Ezekiel Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the 'overuse' of medical care.

The Wall Street Journal
August 27, 2009

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, health adviser to President Barack Obama, is under scrutiny. As a bioethicist, he has written extensively about who should get medical care, who should decide, and whose life is worth saving. Dr. Emanuel is part of a school of thought that redefines a physician’s duty, insisting that it includes working for the greater good of society instead of focusing only on a patient’s needs. Many physicians find that view dangerous, and most Americans are likely to agree.

The health bills being pushed through Congress put important decisions in the hands of presidential appointees like Dr. Emanuel. They will decide what insurance plans cover, how much leeway your doctor will have, and what seniors get under Medicare. Dr. Emanuel, brother of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, has already been appointed to two key positions: health-policy adviser at the Office of Management and Budget and a member of the Federal Council on Comparative Effectiveness Research. He clearly will play a role guiding the White House's health initiative.

Dr. Emanuel says that health reform will not be pain free, and that the usual recommendations for cutting medical spending (often urged by the president) are mere window dressing. As he wrote in the Feb. 27, 2008, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): "Vague promises of savings from cutting waste, enhancing prevention and wellness, installing electronic medical records and improving quality of care are merely 'lipstick' cost control, more for show and public relations than for true change."

True reform, he argues, must include redefining doctors' ethical obligations. In the June 18, 2008, issue of JAMA, Dr. Emanuel blames the Hippocratic Oath for the "overuse" of medical care: "Medical school education and post graduate education emphasize thoroughness," he writes. "This culture is further reinforced by a unique understanding of professional obligations, specifically the Hippocratic Oath's admonition to 'use my power to help the sick to the best of my ability and judgment' as an imperative to do everything for the patient regardless of cost or effect on others."

In numerous writings, Dr. Emanuel chastises physicians for thinking only about their own patient's needs. He describes it as an intractable problem: "Patients were to receive whatever services they needed, regardless of its cost. Reasoning based on cost has been strenuously resisted; it violated the Hippocratic Oath, was associated with rationing, and derided as putting a price on life. . . . Indeed, many physicians were willing to lie to get patients what they needed from insurance companies that were trying to hold down costs." (JAMA, May 16, 2007).

Of course, patients hope their doctors will have that single-minded devotion. But Dr. Emanuel believes doctors should serve two masters, the patient and society, and that medical students should be trained "to provide socially sustainable, cost-effective care." One sign of progress he sees: "the progression in end-of-life care mentality from 'do everything' to more palliative care shows that change in physician norms and practices is possible." (JAMA, June 18, 2008).

"In the next decade every country will face very hard choices about how to allocate scarce medical resources. There is no consensus about what substantive principles should be used to establish priorities for allocations," he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, Sept. 19, 2002. Yet Dr. Emanuel writes at length about who should set the rules, who should get care, and who should be at the back of the line.

"You can't avoid these questions," Dr. Emanuel said in an Aug. 16 Washington Post interview. "We had a big controversy in the United States when there was a limited number of dialysis machines. In Seattle, they appointed what they called a 'God committee' to choose who should get it, and that committee was eventually abandoned. Society ended up paying the whole bill for dialysis instead of having people make those decisions."

Dr. Emanuel argues that to make such decisions, the focus cannot be only on the worth of the individual. He proposes adding the communitarian perspective to ensure that medical resources will be allocated in a way that keeps society going: "Substantively, it suggests services that promote the continuation of the polity—those that ensure healthy future generations, ensure development of practical reasoning skills, and ensure full and active participation by citizens in public deliberations—are to be socially guaranteed as basic. Covering services provided to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens are not basic, and should not be guaranteed. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia." (Hastings Center Report, November-December, 1996)

"Principles for Allocation of Scarce Medical Interventions" The Lancet, January 31, 2009

The Reaper Curve: Ezekiel Emanuel used the above chart in a Lancet article to illustrate the ages on which health spending should be focused.

In the Lancet, Jan. 31, 2009, Dr. Emanuel and co-authors presented a "complete lives system" for the allocation of very scarce resources, such as kidneys, vaccines, dialysis machines, intensive care beds, and others. "One maximizing strategy involves saving the most individual lives, and it has motivated policies on allocation of influenza vaccines and responses to bioterrorism. . . . Other things being equal, we should always save five lives rather than one.

"However, other things are rarely equal—whether to save one 20-year-old, who might live another 60 years, if saved, or three 70-year-olds, who could only live for another 10 years each—is unclear." In fact, Dr. Emanuel makes a clear choice: "When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve on which individuals aged roughly 15 and 40 years get the most substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get changes that are attenuated (see Dr. Emanuel's chart above).

Dr. Emanuel concedes that his plan appears to discriminate against older people, but he explains: "Unlike allocation by sex or race, allocation by age is not invidious discrimination. . . . Treating 65 year olds differently because of stereotypes or falsehoods would be ageist; treating them differently because they have already had more life-years is not."

The youngest are also put at the back of the line: "Adolescents have received substantial education and parental care, investments that will be wasted without a complete life. Infants, by contrast, have not yet received these investments. . . . As the legal philosopher Ronald Dworkin argues, 'It is terrible when an infant dies, but worse, most people think, when a three-year-old dies and worse still when an adolescent does,' this argument is supported by empirical surveys." (, Jan. 31, 2009).

To reduce health-insurance costs, Dr. Emanuel argues that insurance companies should pay for new treatments only when the evidence demonstrates that the drug will work for most patients. He says the "major contributor" to rapid increases in health spending is "the constant introduction of new medical technologies, including new drugs, devices, and procedures. . . . With very few exceptions, both public and private insurers in the United States cover and pay for any beneficial new technology without considering its cost. . . ." He writes that one drug "used to treat metastatic colon cancer, extends medial survival for an additional two to five months, at a cost of approximately $50,000 for an average course of therapy." (JAMA, June 13, 2007).

Medians, of course, obscure the individual cases where the drug significantly extended or saved a life. Dr. Emanuel says the United States should erect a decision-making body similar to the United Kingdom's rationing body—the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)—to slow the adoption of new medications and set limits on how much will be paid to lengthen a life.

Dr. Emanuel's assessment of American medical care is summed up in a Nov. 23, 2008, Washington Post op-ed he co-authored: "The United States is No. 1 in only one sense: the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag behind many developed nations on virtually every health statistic you can name."

This is untrue, though sadly it's parroted at town-hall meetings across the country. Moreover, it's an odd factual error coming from an oncologist. According to an August 2009 report from the National Bureau of Economic Research, patients diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. have a better chance of surviving the disease than anywhere else. The World Health Organization also rates the U.S. No. 1 out of 191 countries for responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient. That attention to the individual is imperiled by Dr. Emanuel's views.

Dr. Emanuel has fought for a government takeover of health care for over a decade. In 1993, he urged that President Bill Clinton impose a wage and price freeze on health care to force parties to the table. "The desire to be rid of the freeze will do much to concentrate the mind," he wrote with another author in a Feb. 8, 1993, Washington Post op-ed. Now he recommends arm-twisting Chicago style. "Every favor to a constituency should be linked to support for the health-care reform agenda," he wrote last Nov. 16 in the Health Care Watch Blog. "If the automakers want a bailout, then they and their suppliers have to agree to support and lobby for the administration's health-reform effort."

Is this what Americans want?

Ms. McCaughey is chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths and a former lieutenant governor of New York state.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


By Ann Coulter
March 14, 2012

Did I miss the deadline for alternative opinions on Sandra Fluke?

What with liberal women constantly talking about their vaginas suddenly pretending to be offended by the word "slut," and conservatives pretending to be as pussified as liberals about the nasty names they've been called, I never got an answer to the most pressing question about Sandra Fluke: Who are you again?

Was Fluke dragged out of obscurity after the women of America took a vote and chose her as our spokeswoman? Please, Sandra, we know how deeply private, publicity-shy and terribly busy with law school you are, but we need you to speak for us!

I don't think that happened. Rather, Fluke is the latest in a long line of my absolute favorite liberal typology: hysterical drama queens.

From Murphy Brown to the Jersey Girls, Cindy Sheehan, Joe Wilson and the New School's Jean Rohe, these fantasists inject themselves into a boiling-hot public debate and then claim victim status when anyone criticizes them.

At least since I've been keeping score, liberals had their first brush with the dark night of fascism in 1992, when Dan Quayle said of a fictional TV character: "It doesn't help matters when prime-time TV has Murphy Brown ... mocking the importance of fathers by bearing a child alone and calling it just another lifestyle choice."

Suddenly, it was 1939 Germany and multimillionaire Hollywood elites were the Jews.

At the Emmy Awards ceremony that year, the creator of "Murphy Brown," Diane English, took the occasion to say: "I would like to thank our sponsors for hanging in there when it was getting really dangerous."

Really dangerous? You want "really dangerous"? Try being a pedestrian crossing Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica when Diane English is being driven to the airport! (A year earlier, English's husband mowed down the matriarch of Santa Monica's Chez Jay, killing her, while driving his wife to the airport.)

Marge Tabankin, executive director of the Hollywood Women's Political Committee, said: "The community feels targeted. It's created a chill and fear reminiscent of the '50s. Let's face it: We feel we're being used as whipping boys."

Yes, Hollywood liberals have got balls to spare, and that's why I admire them so much.

But the Academy Award winners of liberal martyrdom are the Dixie Chicks. In 2003, Chick Natalie Maines sucked up to a Bush-hating London audience by saying, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

What an odd coincidence that the only city Maines attacked Bush in was London! In a way, it was lucky for the band that, in their entire 60-city world tour, Maines claimed to be embarrassed by Bush only in London and not, say, Lubbock, Texas.

But at least we had heard of Murphy Brown and the Dixie Chicks before they demanded we all stand in awe of their raw courage.

Fluke was an absolute nobody who simply thrust herself into the limelight. She's more the Jean Rohe iteration of the liberal drama queen.

Rohe, you will recall, was the student speaker at the 2006 New School commencement proceedings, who bravely insulted the official speaker, Sen. John McCain.

As Rohe described her decision to attack the invited speaker, every person she talked to the day before the ceremony hated McCain with blind fury. At two graduation ceremonies a day earlier, attacks on McCain brought wild cheers from the audience.

Rohe's resolve to tell the audience what it wanted to hear was only hardened when she was told there would be media at the event.

Sensing that fake heroism was within her grasp, Rohe explained: "It was something I didn't want to do, but knew I had to out of an obligation to my own values" -- such as the value of being popular, of getting a standing ovation and of being praised for her courage.

Liberals' idea of questioning authority is to check with the authorities to see if a "Question Authority" bumper sticker would be popular.

So, back to Fluke: Who is she, and how did she become the spokesperson for American womanhood? If we're allowed to submit names, I think we can do better than a Georgetown law student whose claim to fame is that she belongs to a college club on "reproductive justice."

Pursuing a typical path to liberal heroics, Fluke was an utter nobody whom the Democrats substituted in a last-minute witness-switch to testify about contraception -- as if her haircut isn't birth control enough -- at a hearing on "religious liberty."

Despite her credentials as a heretofore unheard-of "birth control activist," the Oversight and Government Reform Committee declined to accept this 11th-hour witness on the grounds that Fluke did not have appropriate credentials for any congressional hearing, much less one on religious liberty.

That was the Republicans' first foray into "silencing" Fluke's "voice."

Nancy Pelosi used an even less appropriate committee to ensure that Fluke's "voice" would be heard -- the Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee, the normal function of which is to give House Democrats committee assignments.

One longtime Democratic operative admitted privately that Fluke was the least-qualified witness ever to appear before a congressional committee.

As a result of the huge commotion the Democrats' made of Fluke's "testimony," she was ridiculed the same way people in ridiculous situations often are. She was called some mean names: "slut," "prostitute," "law student" ...

In full indignation, Fluke said her critics were trying "to silence women's voices." She said this on ABC, CBS, NBC, MSNBC, CNN, NPR and a number of other national media outlets.

Thus, Fluke became a liberal hero even braver than an actress standing up for abortion rights in front of a Bill Maher audience.

President Obama called Fluke and told her that her parents should be proud of her and to make sure she was OK. Hillary Clinton said conservatives were trying to control women. Bill Clinton called her to see if she had any plans for the weekend.

(Fluke seems to be holding up wonderfully under the nightmare of constant TV appearances. In fact, if I didn't know better, I'd think she's enjoying herself tremendously.)

I don't care what liberals believe. Just please stop telling me they're courageous for saying exactly what every non-Fox media outlet in America is dying to hear, or I'll throw up harder than Rick Santorum did when he read John F. Kennedy's speech.


'The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle'

The weekend Bruce Springsteen loaded into the Armadillo World Headquarters

By Chase Hoffberger, Fri., March 16, 2012

Bruce Springsteen at the Armadillo World Headquarters
Photo by Nancy Goldfarb LeNoir

The South hadn't been kind to Bruce Springsteen.

An April 1973 gig opening for the Beach Boys in Atlanta sold 3,000 tickets in a room big enough for 16,000. In Fayetteville, N.C., there was a show supporting Chicago that he'd later describe as "a soul-destroying experience." Rich­mond, Va., followed, where Barbara Green for The News Leader wrote: "Bruce Springsteen is a curious performer. Thin and pale and dressed in black, he looks like a parody of early Bob Dylan. His voice is undistinguished, though it cannot be ignored in his songs, and his guitar playing is somewhere to the left of center of a bell curve."

Nearly a year later, before a February concert at the University of Kentucky supporting second album The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle, band manager Mike Appel got into an argument with drummer Vini Lopez. A day later, Springsteen asked for Lopez's resignation and the band was forced to cancel the rest of its regional run.

Springsteen addressed his Southern plight when he arrived in Texas in March 1974. On KLOL-FM, after the first of four nights at Houston's Liberty Hall, Springsteen said: "It's hard. We just did Atlanta, and we just did Nashville, and it was really zero. That was two zero gigs. In Nashville, people at that particular branch of the record company were like, 'Zzzzzz,' so the FM station didn't even know there was a second album out. There's no records in any of the stores.

"So you go down there and you play this big place, and you turn your microphone on and you face the band. You play to the band because no one else is there."

But the Bayou City was hip to Springsteen, largely because Appel had sent KLOL a demo of "The Fever," which had gotten play around town. The radio segment, an eight-song set bookended by a seven-minute interview, helped Springsteen conquer his first Southern city.

Five days later, on March 15, he arrived in Austin for a two-night stand at the Armadillo World Headquarters, which was razed in 1981. Both shows are remembered here today as the stuff of legend only the likes of Bruce Springsteen could create, concerts people still talk about 40 years later. The Chronicle met with a handful of attendees and those behind the scenes, combing through foggy memories to sort out what happened that weekend.

'It's Hard To Be a Saint in the City'

Eddie Wilson, owner, Armadillo/Thread­gill's: We'd been doing a number of Arma­dil­lo shows with Wild West Productions out of Houston. Those guys learned early on that they could make friends with an entertainer by talking him into playing the Armadillo. Since they were doing several dates, a number of times they'd put people in the Armadillo who couldn't make any money and sell it out wall-to-wall and maybe break even. To them, it was a feather in their cap because people thought better of them for it. At the end of the tour, bands would be talking about this one funky joint in Austin instead of empty municipal arenas and other places that they'd play.

Micael Priest, poster artist: We were still a fairly small community in those days, and before we started, the cowboys and the hippies stayed pretty far apart from each other – mostly out of fear for the unknown. We had continually tried to mix them up, and our Willie Nelson shows had really done that well. They finally realized that they had way more in common than they had to fight about. If you go far enough right and far enough left, they meet in the back.

Wilson: We booked Springsteen for a Friday and Saturday and were worried that it wasn't going to sell. We had the idea, and I'll credit Wild West. I had Alvin Crow & the Pleasant Valley Boys booked to play those two nights. Wild West suggested that we play Springsteen on Friday and just charge $1 and see if we could cause a frenzy on that first night to help us with the next. To do that, I had to change my deal with Alvin from a percentage of what came in to $300 to open up the show.

Alvin Crow, fiddler: We had a meeting in the beer garden to decide how much we were going to charge – Eddie, me, and Springsteen's manager [Appel]. Eddie's going, "How much should we charge?" The guy goes, "Well, let's talk about the first night first. Five dollars, how about that?" Eddie goes, "That's too much." So the guy goes, "Well, we don't need to make a whole lot of money. We're promoting on this thing. How about $3?" Eddie goes, "That's too much." We ended up at $1 for the first and $1.50 for the Saturday show.

Wilson: Tiny McFarland had driven all night to get here from Lubbock, where he had just left the Joe Ely Band. He'd played with Alvin before – they were all Texas guys – and Alvin said to him, "You can play on this gig at the Armadillo." So bam, it was booked and he was here. He got to the Armadillo and Alvin said to him, "Sorry, Tiny. You can't start tonight. It's just not a break-in kind of night. There's a guy that we're opening for who's supposed to be really hot shit, someone named Bruce Silverstein. And we're gonna show him how good we are and how tight we are." Alvin proceeded to just absolutely rock the place out.

Well, Mr. Threadgill was at the Armadillo that night, and he was standing next to Tiny McFarland while Alvin played his set. Springsteen was back there watching from the side, and he was pacing back and forth. I think I read in one of the reviews that Bruce admitted to being nervous because he had never seen a country audience make the switch to that kind of music so quickly. He's pacing around and Mr. Threadgill leans in to Tiny and says, "That young fella pacing back and forth, he's as nervous as a coon trying to pass a peach pit."

A Mad Dog's Promenade

A September 1974 issue of Rolling Stone tells us that Springsteen opened the first night with "New York City Serenade," the 10-minute opus of classical, folk, and soul that closes The Wild, the Innocent & the E Street Shuffle. Pat Knight wrote: "Before the first number ended, the audience was giving Springsteen a standing ovation. Not bad when you consider most of those southern-fried kids had never heard of this boy from the Jersey swamps."

Wilson: Springsteen came out and from the first note just leveled everybody.

John Kunz, owner, Waterloo Records: I remember seeing all these folks from the crowd lining up for these two wooden-style phone booths at the back of the Armadillo, in the back of the hall near the door that led out to the beer garden, right in the middle of the first song. You could see it in their faces as they were talking in the booths to their friends: "You gotta get here right now!" I don't ever recall a situation like that. On the one hand, I felt sorry for those people because they were waiting in a line to call a friend. At the same time, I knew exactly why they were doing what they were doing. Everybody got the message loud and clear. I turned around a little later and thought, "Holy shit. This place went from one-third full to overfull."

Denny Angelle, blogger, 30 Days Out: The Armadillo always put up a bunch of folding chairs in the middle of the hall, and they left the sides open so that all the hippies could sit on the floor. Halfway through "Spirit in the Night," all the chairs got pushed out of the middle.

Priest: All of the cowboys in the room were standing up on their chairs. And I've otherwise only seen this in movies, but they threw their hats. They started throwing their hats. The boys onstage were so excited they didn't know what to do. But everybody's screaming for them, so they played "Blinded by the Light." By the time they finished "Blinded by the Light," the bartenders were standing on the bars. Everybody was dancing. It was uncanny. They blew the lid right off the place, and with an audience full of serious country music fans. But that was when rock & roll was still a participatory sport, before the pot got good and it became a spectator sport. It was actually designed to be a participatory sport.

Twist and Shout

Kunz: The interplay between Bruce and the band, it still exists today, but the relationship he had with those guys .... You just felt like it was a bunch of best friends hanging out with each other, and it made you want to be part of the gang.

Hank Aldrich, Armadillo owner: His obvious connection to community – where, when, and how he and grown up in New Jersey – gave him the quality of a kind of folk music. I agree with Mark Rubin in his definition of what folk music is beyond industry marketing categories. It's the music of a culture, of a community, expressed by those in that community. Springsteen was coming from a place like that. His band was as instrumental as he was at every position. Clarence [Clemons] was their awesome visage, and the power of his delivery on the sax, it was very impressive. It had a very heavy impact. And the fact that he was such a huge guy, and black, in the midst of those smaller white kids, it was a wonderful thing.

Priest: They were just so funny, these little, bitty city boys. It always struck me peculiar back then that we didn't realize the reason English musicians were so little: It's because they come out of a place that had terrible famines. There was no food, so kids got born little. Those East Coast boys were byproducts of that. Here we were all the beneficiaries of bovine growth hormone and adversary nuclear testing and antibiotics all our lives. We were all big, hulking beasts and these guys were little and tiny.

Angelle: You got up close, and you realize they look really badass. Springsteen was the star of the show, and he looked like he slept in the gutter. He was all hair, he was all wiry, and he had busted jeans. But the one thing that stuck in my mind was the dude rocked these Converse black-and-white Chuck Taylor tennis shoes. And he wore the low-tops, which I thought was kind of funny. The next week, I took $13 and went and bought a pair of these Converse Chuck Taylors. And I swear to God that I have never been without a pair since.

Aldrich: Springsteen's energy was fascinating. We'd had a lot of experience with Van Morrison. At that point in his career, Van was hyperactive onstage, almost to the point of being frantic. Springsteen moved on the stage a lot, but it wasn't frantic. It was more like a lion on the prowl, the way a cat looks over in an area to locate its prey. His energy was really high but beautifully focused. Beyond Springsteen, there was the obvious reality that this was a hell of a band, and they were indeed a band. It was not just a bunch of hired guys that were backing the guy that the record company signed. They dug into their material together. All the elements of the way the songs were produced on the record were there, but they stretched the solos. They clearly were a performing band. There was nothing cramped about the way they were going about it.

Kunz: There must have been half a dozen times that I thought he'd break his neck because he would jump up on top of the piano and climb up onto a stack of amps. Then he'd jump from one stack of amps to the next and to the next. He'd have his guitar strapped around him and he'd be surfing on these stacks of amps. He had this shit-eating grin once he had it under control.

Aldrich: There was one moment when Clarence was up there just tearing into this solo, and Springsteen was moving around the stage, obviously driven by the power of this saxophone. He went around behind Clarence, and he's just about gone. He was completely obscured except that Bruce had his arms straight out at his side, and it looked like some weird cross with a black post and white arms. And then he sort of slid down Clarence's back. It was a trippy thing to look at.

Kunz: At a certain point, it almost became like a James Brown vamping thing, like, "I just can't go on any more." But everyone in the room was really amped up, and you just knew he was, too. So he's down on the stage, like "I can't go on any more" and "I should have listened to my doctor. He told me not to do 'Twist and Shout,' but it's all those cheeseburgers I eat. I eat lots of cheeseburgers and they're loaded with cholesterol." And I remember him getting down and then jumping up and saying, "But that's OK. I can do it anyway!" And the crowd's going wild.

Wilson: He had some sort of hassle with the song "The Fever." I guess a bootleg had been put out or something. There was some sort of wrangle going on, and he wasn't supposed to play it. The audience was hollering at him over and over again to play "The Fever," but he couldn't. So there was sort of this long silence and somebody shouted, "Play anything you want!" One of the people there that night was the future Laura Bush, who was there with her best friend Regan Gammon from the fourth grade. Years later, I heard that was something they'd shout at the White House: "Awww, play anything you want!"

Springsteen and the band hightailed it for Dallas Sunday morning, bound for four shows at Gertie's before hitting Phoenix and heading home in April. Preliminary work on third album Born To Run began immediately.

Bruce Springsteen delivers the South by South­west 2012 Music Festival keynote speech at noon on Thursday, March 15, at the Austin Convention Center, Ballroom D. He performs that night at ACL Live at the Moody Theater.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

U.K. Thought Police Send Man to Prison

By Bruce Bawer
March 14, 2012

A few days ago I did some reflecting here on the steady rise of sharia in Britain, as exemplified by the BBC’s frank admission of its unwillingness to mock Islam, the harassment of an air passenger for an innocuous remark about hijab, and the see-no-evil response of a BBC reporter to mass displays of pro-sharia aggression in Luton.

Alas, the evidence of Britain’s decline and fall in the face of Islam just keeps on coming. This week’s case in point is that of Darren Conway (pictured above), who on March 6 was sentenced to a year in prison for posting anti-Islamic materials in the window of his ground-floor apartment in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire. As the BBC puts it, he was “convicted of a religiously aggravated public order offence for putting anti-Islamic literature in his window.”

For once, the language used by the BBC was restrained and objective in comparison with the rhetoric employed by local news organizations covering the story. Here’s how the website This is Lincolnshire began its report:
A Gainsborough man who plastered his front window with vile anti-Islamic hate literature has been jailed for a year.

Darren Conway, a self-confessed supporter of right-wing organisations, was given a 12-months’ sentence at Lincoln Crown Court.
Note the way in which the reporter deploys the words vile and self-confessed. The very inclusion of such language in a supposedly objective news report means that what we are reading here is not, in fact, anything of the kind; what it is, rather, is an effort by the writer and the website to signal to their audience that they’re on the “right” side of this issue. The use of such language is a gesture of dhimmitude, an implicit statement of submissiveness, a tacit communication of acceptance of the sharia-based notion that, yes, criticism of Islam is vile and should be punished. And it is a plea: don’t hurt us. Similarly, note the use of the words offensive, inflammatory, and racist in this opening sentence of the article about Conway in the Worksop Guardian:
The offensive actions of a Gainsborough man were blasted by a judge as he was jailed for displaying inflammatory racist posters in the front window of his flat.
The word racist occurs frequently in the articles about the Conway case. Although most of the descriptions of the items posted in Conway’s window are very sketchy, there is nothing in any of them to indicate that any of the materials were genuinely racist; it seems pretty clear that when the reporters writing about Conway employ the word racist, they are making the now familiar equation of Islam criticism with racism.

Exactly what did Conway post in his windows? The most extensive description I could find was in the Worksop Guardian, which said that he had put up “posters, literature and photographs which attacked the Prophet Mohammed and the Muslim religion,” “slogans such as ‘Jihad works both ways,’ ‘no surrender,’ ‘Muslims are the most hateful of them all’ and a letter confirming that he was a member of the BNP.” Another source tells us that the materials “contained derogatory comments about Islam” and “promoted the BNP,” while “one poster showed a picture of an English Defence League demonstration.”

It would be useful to actually see the items Conway posted, so as to determine for oneself just how “vile” they were, to discover whether anything was, in fact, racist, and to find out if Conway called for acts of aggression or for somebody’s murder or anything like that. If he did incite violence, there might be good reason to put him behind bars; but I have not found any suggestion anywhere that this was the case. (Conway himself has been quoted as saying, “I have no problem with Muslims, although I do believe the Islamic faith is very much flawed but as for people who follow it I have no personal problem with.”)

In any event, just as nearly all the major Western news organizations refused to show the Danish Muhammed cartoons, none of the media reporting on the Conway case have dared to vouchsafe readers a glimpse of the materials he posted. No, we’re simply expected to take their and the prosecutors’ word that the stuff was, indeed, vile. One prosecutor, Edward Johnson, is reported to have “described the material…as grossly offensive towards the Muslim faith.” Meanwhile the Crown Prosecution Service’s own website has posted an extensive statement on the matter by Judith Walker, Chief Crown Prosecutor for the CPS East Midlands:
Everyone has the right to live free from harassment in a tolerant society. Darren Conway displayed highly offensive posters in his window targeted at the Muslim community. Although they were targeted at Muslims, they would cause offence to virtually anyone that saw them.

Today’s conviction sends a strong message that targeting groups in society in this deliberately offensive way has no place in our community and will not be tolerated. The words and images used by Conway were particularly disgusting, so it was important to bring this case to court and ensure that he faced the full consequences of his actions.

The Crown Prosecution Service will continue to treat cases based on hatred with the utmost seriousness. It is essential that everyone in our community is free to live without harassment and that anyone who jeopardises that freedom will face prosecution.
We all owe Walker a debt of gratitude, for in this statement she takes us right to the heart of the matter, giving us a crystal-clear picture of how these people think. To place in the window of your home slogans and pictures that add up to a criticism of Islamic ideology is not to exercise your freedom of speech; it is to commit an act of “harassment” that has no place “in a tolerant society” and that must therefore be punished.

Note Walker’s chillingly Orwellian understanding of the concept of freedom, which has its roots not in Magna Carta or the Enlightenment but in sharia. When she says that it is “essential that everyone in our community is free to live without harassment,” she means nothing more or less than this: that it is the right of Muslims in Britain to live in a society free of criticism of their religion. And when she says that “anyone who jeopardises that freedom will face prosecution,” she means this: that any British citizen who thinks that he enjoys the right under British law to criticize anything, including Islam, is mistaken; he does not have any such right; and if he acts as if he does, he will be incarcerated.

Walker’s pretense to the contrary, there is, needless to say, a colossal double standard at the heart of her thinking. The recent history of Britain has shown that a great variety of statements and actions by British Muslims that many non-members of their faith might well consider exceedingly vile and offensive, and might legitimately regard as acts of harassment – including a number of the statements and actions recorded in the above-mentioned BBC report on Luton – are in little or no danger of leading to prosecution or imprisonment. Such is the kind of legal thinking, and juridical practice, that, more and more every day, is shaping the destiny of the land of John Stuart Mill and Winston Churchill.

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The Real Entitlement Mentality

Posted By Roger Kimball
On March 11, 2012 @ 7:30 am In Uncategorized | 107 Comments

As regular readers know, I admire the headlines Matt Drudge chooses for the articles he links to on the Drudge Report. He is especially cunning, I think, in the way he juxtaposes headlines [1]:

* Michelle Obama Cites “Remarkable Progress” On Economy…

* AMERICAN AIRLINES to cut 13,000 jobs…

* NYC goes on hiring spree — for people to work its welfare offices…

Nice, eh?

I was disappointed, though, with today’s featured headline:


The link is to a Rasmussen poll, and the implication, I believe, is that readers will be shocked at the news that Mitt Romney is ahead. (In fact, Rasmussen reports that Rick Santorum also leads Obama, though he trails Romney.)

What is really shocking, though, is that the difference is so small. By any rational metric, Obama has presided over a national disaster. Consider how he has mishandled

* the economy (real unemployment north of 9%)

* the deficit ($1.6 trillion annually)

* the prestige of the Untied States abroad

* our national security

Consider also

* the looming train wreck that is ObamaCare

* Solyndra and kindred adventures in crony capitalism, emetic utopianism, and fiscal irresponsibility

* The GM “bailout,” coming to a tax bill near you (buy a Volt, get a taxpayer-subsidized break of $7000)

* the regulatory nightmare that Obama’s EPA has foisted upon American business

* the malevolent joke that is the Obama Department of Justice (Fast and Furious, the Black Panther case, etc.)

And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. What’s shocking is not that Mitt Romney is ahead. A syphilitic camel should be ahead. What’s shocking is that the distance is only 5 points.

Assuming Mitt can hold it together, his advantage should widen. He is, after all, running against one of the most vulnerable presidents with one of the worst records in American history.

Mitt’s biggest challenge, apart from what George Will identified as his inveterate “Romneyness [3],” is countering Obama’s sly, Alinskyite mastery of the levers of power [4]. In 2008, Obama campaigned as a political outsider, someone who would challenge the system and shake up an entrenched bureaucracy. What was not sufficiently understood was the extent to which that whole narrative was a deliberate ruse, promulgated by a politically radical machine in order to usurp power. That, in fact, is Obama’s one real area of mastery: the “long march through the institutions” in which the democratic dispersal of power is replaced with a top-down, commissar-style of governing. What he has managed to accomplish in this regard in a mere three years is remarkable.

And that brings me to the title of this column. I take it from an essay by the pollster Scott Rasmussen [5], linked on the page reporting Romney’s surge in the polls.

Republicans, as Rasmussen notes, are often heard grumbling about the “entitlement mentality.” I sing in that chorus myself. Usually, the song dilates on the growing habit of dependency and appetite for, as Rasmussen puts it, “goodies provided by the government and financed by taxpayers.” (Herewith a plug for Charles Sykes’s new book A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing [6].)

It would be hard to overestimate that aspect of the problem. It is a corollary of that “psychological change” in a people that Friedrich von Hayek diagnosed in The Road to Serfdom: a transformation from the practice of autonomy and self-reliance to the habit of dependency. It was, Hayek noted, both a regular result and precondition of “extensive government control.” Cause and effect fed upon and abetted each other. It was (as Hayek also noted) a textbook case of what Tocqueville described in his famous paragraphs on “democratic despotism.” How would despotism come to a modern democracy? Tocqueville asked. Not through the imposition of old-fashioned tyranny. No, that instrument is too blunt, too crude for modern democratic regimes. Much more effective is the disguised tyranny of infantilization. Turn government into the sole provider of all those “goodies” and you enslave the population far more effectively than an old-style tyranny ever managed.

All this is true, and it deserves our constant attention. But Scott Rasmussen shifts his focus to the other side of the equation, one which I tried to adumbrate last week in my column “Wards and Warders [7].” In order to work, the dependency agenda needs not only to cultivate the sheep, a population of dependents. It also needs to foster a population of controlling bureaucrats, the shepherds or warders of the system. And this brings us to what Rasmussen calls “the real entitlement mentality that threatens to bankrupt the nation: A political class that feels entitled to rule over the rest of us.”

Let’s pause over that observation: “real entitlement mentality” revolves around “a political class that feels entitled to rule over the rest of us.”

As Rasmussen notes, this mentality is not solely a Democratic or a Republican trait. It affects — or infects — “the nation’s political leaders of both parties.” Hence the intractability of the problem. It’s not just our habits of dependency that need to be broken. The habits of control and penchant for feeding dependency on the part of our political leaders also need to be curbed. Rasmussen is right: “While most voters view excessive government spending as the problem, those who feel entitled to rule over the rest of us see the voters as the problem. And that’s the real entitlement crisis facing the nation today. The political class wants to govern like it’s 1775, a time when kings were kings and consent of the governed didn’t matter.”

Our job is to remind them, as vividly as possible, that it matters quite a lot. Tea party, anyone?

Also read:

The Zombie Dilemma: Should We Unite? [8]

Article printed from Roger’s Rules:
URL to article:

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[6] A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Today's Tune: Johnny Cash & Marty Stuart - Doing My Time

There Ain’t No ‘Busses Runnin’ From the Bank to Mandalay

Over the weekend, America’s secretary of state spoke in New York at the Women in the World summit:
Clinton specifically mentioned Georgetown contraception activist Sandra Fluke while praising women “who are assuming the risks that come with sticking your neck out, whether you are a democracy activist in Burma or a Georgetown law student in the United States.”
I wonder if Mrs. Clinton gave a moment’s thought to how revoltingly insulting that comparison is to “democracy activists in Burma.” On the one hand, Zin Mar Aung, who spent eleven years in jail for writing a letter. On the other, one of the eternal children of American entitlement, attending an elite law school whose graduates proceed smoothly to jobs with a starting salary of $160,000 yet demanding the government pick up the tab for her birth control — which, even if one accepts her absurd figure of $3,000, amounts to less than the first week’s salary of that first job.

John J. Miller below quotes Steven Landsburg saying Miss Fluke’s position “deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered.” We should save some of that ridicule, mockery, and jeering for the hideous parochial decadence of Mrs. Clinton’s ludicrous equation — and the audience that applauded it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Today's Tune: Steve Earle and The Del McCoury Band - The Mountain

Erving’s Record Forgotten, but Not Gone

The New York Times
March 10, 2012

“Deron Williams scored a franchise-record 57 points to lift the visiting Nets to a 104-101 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.” That is how one news agency began an article about Williams’s performance last Sunday. The news was repeated in newspapers and on television and radio, where it was also reported that Williams “broke the Nets’ N.B.A. franchise record.”

“You really don’t pay attention to it,” Williams, the Nets’ dynamic point guard, said to reporters. “It’s just one of those games where you start feeling good and let it go.”

Like Williams, I didn’t pay much attention to it, either. After all, Williams did not in fact set a franchise scoring record that night.

Once upon a tomahawk dunk, a sky-walking superstar named Julius Erving set the Nets’ single-game scoring mark. Erving, who floated above the competition wearing a tall Afro hairstyle and a star-spangled tank top and shorts, accomplished the feat while he and the Nets were a part of the American Basketball Association, an upstart professional league that began in 1967 and competed for players, fans and television audiences with the older, more established N.B.A.

Dr. J, as Erving was known in his electrifying, gravity-defying A.B.A. days in the 1970s, scored 63 points against the San Diego Conquistadors on Feb. 14, 1975. A crowd of 2,916 at San Diego Sports Arena witnessed one of the Doctor’s most legendary house calls, a four-overtime thriller that San Diego eventually won, 176-166 — a game filled with 72 personal fouls and 128 rebounds. (The scoring total remained a record until Dec. 13, 1983, when the Detroit Pistons, led by Isiah Thomas’s 47 points, squeaked past the Nuggets, 186-184, in a triple-overtime N.B.A. game in Denver.)

“It’s disheartening to lose when you have put so much into it,” Erving, his feet buried in ice bags, said after the San Diego game, in which he played 66 of 68 minutes, made 25 of 51 shots, and pulled down 23 of the Nets’ 57 rebounds.

“I hope I’m never in one like this again,” Erving said, “unless we win.”

It was the longest game in the nine-year history of the A.B.A., a league known for its many gimmicks, including a red-white-and-blue basketball, a 3-point shot and a no-foul-out rule.

Although the renegade league had many great players — Moses Malone; Rick Barry; Artis Gilmore; and the Iceman, George Gervin, immediately come to mind — it had no greater attraction than Erving, the Michael Jordan of the bell-bottom generation. Erving’s high-flying, crowd-pleasing play, which became the stuff of legend in the days before ESPN, left the N.B.A. with practically no choice but to absorb the Nets — along with the Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers — when the leagues merged for the 1976-77 season.

As a result of the merger, A.B.A. statistics, records and championships are acknowledged, if not officially recognized, by the N.B.A.

The Nets would have little history if not for the Long-Island born Dr. J, who led the franchise to its only championships — yes, A.B.A. championships — in the 1973-74 and 1975-76 seasons. Erving, who is in the Hall of Fame and was chosen as one of the 50 greatest players in N.B.A. history, remains one of five players to score more than 30,000 points in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387), Karl Malone (36,928), Jordan (32,292) and Wilt Chamberlain (31,419). He scored 11,662 of his 30,026 points in five combined years with the Virginia Squires and the Nets of the A.B.A, and the rest as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers, whom he led to the N.B.A. title in 1983.

Julius Winfield Erving is to the Nets franchise what George Herman Ruth is to the Yankees franchise. Across the Nets’ much-traveled history — which began in Teaneck, N.J., as the New Jersey Americans in 1967, and later moved from Long Island Arena in Commack to Island Garden in West Hempstead, N.Y., to Nassau Coliseum before heading back to New Jersey — no player has been greater.

In April 1987, in Erving’s last season, a capacity crowd of 20,149 attended a Nets tribute to him in East Rutherford, N.J. During an emotional 30-minute pregame ceremony, Erving cried as the arena darkened and the spotlights focused on a banner with his No. 32 jersey, the first number retired by the Nets.

“A tree without roots cannot stand,” Erving said that night. “The fans here need to know about me and the Nets of Long Island.”

I wonder how many of those fans were searching or listening for Erving’s name shortly after Williams scored 57. Instead, Williams’s name was widely mentioned in the same breath as Mike Newlin and Ray Williams, who each scored 52 in a Nets uniform. Vince Carter (51), John Williamson (50) and Stephon Marbury (50) were also mentioned.

But sadly, little notice was given to Julius Erving, the legendary Dr. J.

As the Nets prepare to move to Brooklyn next season, they must remember to take their colorful history along for the ride across the Hudson River.

As the face of their franchise once said, “A tree without roots cannot stand.”

Vincent M. Mallozzi, a reporter for The Times, is the author of “Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving.”