Saturday, April 07, 2012

Today's Tune: Johnny Cash - Were You There (When They Crucified My Lord)?

Obama Funds the Egyptian Government

A Muslim Brotherhood–controlled government gets $1.5 billion.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
April 7, 2012

Khairat el-Shater

In October 2010, on the eve of the Islamic revolution that the media fancies as “the Arab Spring,” the Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood called for jihad against the United States.

You might think that this all but unnoticed bombshell would be of some importance to policymakers in Washington. It was not. It is not. This week, the Obama administration quietly released $1.5 billion in foreign aid to the new Egyptian government, now dominated by a Brotherhood-led coalition in parliament — soon to be joined by an Ikhwan (i.e., Brotherhood) luminary as president.

It is not easy to find the announcement. With the legacy media having joined the Obama reelection campaign, we must turn for such news to outlets like the Kuwait News Agency. There, we learn that, having dug our nation into a $16 trillion debt hole, President Obama has nevertheless decided to borrow more money from unfriendly powers like China so he can give it to an outfit that views the United States as an enemy to be destroyed.

This pot of gold for Islamic supremacists is the spoils of a Brotherhood charm offensive. Given the organization’s unabashed goals and hostility towards the West, it was U.S. policy, until recently, to avoid formal contacts with the Brotherhood — although agents of the intelligence community and the State Department have long engaged in off-line communications with individual MB members. By contrast, the Obama administration from its first days has embraced the Ikhwan — both the mothership, whose leaders were invited to attend Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo despite its then-status as a banned organization under Egyptian law, and the Brotherhood’s American satellites, which have been invited to advise administration policymakers despite their notorious record of championing violent jihadists and repressive sharia.

Obama has overlooked the MB’s intimate ties to Hamas, which self-identifies as the Ikhwan’s Palestinian branch and is formally designated a terrorist organization under American law. Administration officials have absurdly portrayed the Brothers as “secular” and “moderate,” although the organization, from its founding in the 1920s, has never retreated an inch from its professed mission to establish Islam’s global hegemony.

The administration further hailed the Brotherhood’s triumph in post-Mubarak legislative elections and made a point of abandoning the policy against formal MB contacts — though, in now-familiar Obama fashion, it simultaneously claimed that this “outreach” broke no new ground. And this week, the White House hosted a Brotherhood delegation to “broaden our engagement” with Egypt’s new political actors, as an administration spokesman put it. In this, Obama officials were quick to exploit the cover they’ve gotten from the transnational-progressive wing of the Republican party: The administration spokesman stressed that “Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and others have met with members of the MB during their visits to Egypt.”

The useful-idiot brigade also includes the “House Democracy Partnership,” a bipartisan cadre of congressmen that traipsed over to Egypt on its recent tour of the “Arab Spring” countries. On the agenda was a confab with Khairat el-Shater, the Brotherhood’s newly announced presidential candidate.

Shater is Washington’s new darling. That much is clear from an unintentionally hilarious dispatch from the New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick, who portrays the Brotherhood as America’s “indispensable ally against Egypt’s ultraconservatives.” Sure, they may be the world’s leading exemplar of what Kirkpatrick gently calls “political Islam,” but our policy geniuses reckon the Brothers are much to be preferred over the “Salafis” — reputedly, the more hardcore Islamic supremacists. As the Times elaborates, the Obama administration is alarmed by the rise of a charismatic Salafist, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, who has shot to second place in the polls. Shater, the theory goes, could overtake Ismail and lead Egypt in the Brotherhood’s more “pragmatic direction.”

What the Times neglects to tell you is that Ismail, the extremist, is actually an Ikhwan guy. His father was a popular Islamist and he has already run for office twice as a Brotherhood candidate. These impeccable Islamist credentials make him broadly appealing not only to Salafists but to Brotherhood enthusiasts, as the Hudson Institute’s Samuel Tadros details in the best report to date on state of the Brotherhood in the aftermath of the revolution. (It is found in the latest edition of the essential series, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.) There is little substantive daylight between Ismail and Shater — the Brotherhood and Salafists disagree mainly on the pace of change, not the direction.

And what about Shater? The Times dutifully reports that he embodies “the Brotherhood’s pragmatic focus on stable relations with the United States and Israel and free-market economics.” But what is most pragmatic about him and his Brothers is their understanding of Western opinion elites — gullible, biddable, and desperate to believe Middle Eastern Islam, which the Brotherhood exemplifies, is unthreatening. The Brotherhood’s actual agenda is to destabilize the United States and destroy Israel. And touching as the Times’ newfound fondness for free-market economics may be, the Brotherhood’s goal is to smash the Western model and impose sharia economics — a major component in a program whose totalitarian elements may have some allure for the Obama Left but which few Americans would regard as “free.”

Shater is the MB’s “Deputy Guide.” He is a revered figure: jailed by the Mubarak Regime for much of the past two decades and regarded as the “Iron Man” of the Brotherhood movement. Naturally, the Western press — the folks who package the Brothers as “moderates,” “pragmatists,” and even “secularists” — render Shater as a “businessman.” But he happens to be the businessman the Brotherhood has tasked to shape its comprehensive strategy for post-Mubarak Egypt. The Ikhwan refer to this as “the Nahda Project” — the Islamic Renaissance.

It turns out that a year ago in Alexandria, Shater delivered a lengthy, remarkable lecture, “Features of Nahda: Gains of the Revolution and the Horizons for Developing.” The Hudson Institute learned of the lecture, which is now available on YouTube, and this week released the first installment of a translation. Speaking in Arabic to like-minded Islamists rather than credulous Congress critters, Shater was emphatic that the Brotherhood’s fundamental principles and goals never change — only the tactics by which they are pursued. “You all know that our main and overall mission as Muslim Brothers is to empower God’s religion on earth, to organize our life and the lives of the people on the basis of Islam, to establish the Nahda [i.e., the ‘renaissance’ or ‘rise’] of the Ummah [the notional global Muslim nation] and its civilization on the basis of Islam, and to subjugate people to God on earth.” He went on to reaffirm the time-honored plan of the Brotherhood’s founder, Hassan al-Banna, stressing the need for both personal piety and internal organizational discipline in pursuing the goal of worldwide Islamic hegemony.

Moreover, even as the Times portrayed him as America’s salvation from a Salafi-controlled Egypt, Shater was cutting a deal with what the Associated Press described as “hard-line Salafi scholars and clerics.” In exchange for their support, he promised to form a “council of clerics” that would review all legislation to ensure that it complies with sharia.

No one should be remotely surprised. As Samuel Tadros outlines in his essay, the Egyptian Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, has released a 93-page platform that proposes to put every aspect of human life under sharia-compliant state regulation. The document is unmistakably anti-Western and virulently anti-Israeli in its orientation — structuring civil society on the foundation of “Arab and Islamic unity”; making the “strengthen[ing] of Arab and Islamic identity” the “goal of education”; making treaties (including, of course, the Camp David accords, by which the secular, pro-American Sadat regime made peace with Israel) subject to approval by the population (i.e., the same people who just elected Islamists by a landslide); and describes Israel, “the Zionist entity [as] an aggressive, expansionist, racist and settler entity.”

This is the Muslim Brotherhood — the rabidly anti-American organization President Obama has courted for nearly four years and on whom he just decided to rain down a billion-and-a-half more American taxpayer dollars. It was two years into Obama’s term that Shater’s superior, MB Supreme Guide Muhammad Badi, delivered a fiery sermon — in Arabic, of course — reminding Muslims of “Allah’s commandment to wage jihad for His sake with [their] money and lives, so that Allah’s word will reign supreme and the infidels’ word will be inferior.” Applying this injunction, Badi exclaimed that jihad — which he called “resistance” — “is the only solution against the Zio-American arrogance and tyranny.” Wounded by jihadists in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States, Badi pronounced, “is now experiencing the beginning of its end, and is heading towards its demise.”

Sounds like an indispensable ally to me.

Andrew C. McCarthy is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Wait and see how flexible Obama will be

By Mark Steyn
The Orange County Register
April 6, 2012

As Bob Hope and Bing Crosby observed in "The Road To Bali":

"He gets his shirts straight from Paris

Cigarettes from the Nile

He talks like a highbrow

But he plays Chicago style..."

I've no idea where President Barack Obama gets his shirts and smokes, but he certainly talks like a highbrow, sufficiently so to persuade presidential historian Michael Beschloss to pronounce him the day after the 2008 election "the smartest president ever." Yet, in the end, he plays Chicago style. You can take the community organizer out of Chicago, but you can't take the Chicago out of the community organizer. Or as the Agence France-Presse headline put it, "Combative Obama Warns Supreme Court On Health Law."

Headlines in which the executive "warns" the courts are usually the province of places like Balochistan, where powerful Cabinet ministers are currently fuming at the Chief Justice's determination to stop them kidnapping citizens and holding them for ransom – literally, that is, not merely figuratively, as in America. But, here as there, when Obama "warns" the Supreme Court "over health law," it's their health prospects he has in mind. He cautioned the justices – "an unelected group of people" – not to take the "unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."

The eunuchs of the palace media gleefully piled on: as the New York Times sees it, were the justices to take an "unprecedented" step so unprecedented there are two centuries' worth of precedents going back to 1803, they would be fatally damaging "the Court's legitimacy."

All that's unprecedented here is the spectacle of the president of the United States, while the judges are deliberating, idly swinging his tire iron and saying, "Nice little Supreme Court you got here. Shame if anything were to happen to it."

A nation can have formal "checks and balances," but in the end free societies depend on a certain deference to the proprieties. If you're willing to disdain those, you can drive a coach and horses through accepted norms very easily. The bit about "a democratically elected Congress" was an especially exquisite touch given Obama's recently professed respect for the democratic process: as he assured Vladimir Putin's sock puppet the other day, he'll have "more flexibility" to accommodate foreign interests after he's got his "last election" and all that tedious democracy business out of the way. His "last election," I hasten to add, not America's.

Aside from his contempt for judicial review and those rube voters, what other checks and balances doesn't he have time for? Well, he makes "recess appointments" when the Senate isn't in recess, thus circumventing the dreary business of confirmation by that "democratically elected" legislature he likes so much. But, hey, it's only members of the National Labor Relations Board and the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, so why get hung up on constitutional niceties?

By the way, have you heard of this Consumer Financial Protection Bureau? No? Don't worry, no big deal, it's just a new federal agency. Because we can always use another of those, right? What's one more acronym jostling in the ever more crowded alphabet soup of federal regulation? CFTC, CPSC, CNPP and now CFPB. Not to be confused with CFPB-FM, the Inuit radio station just south of the Arctic Circle in the Nunavut village of Kugaaruk, where in 1975 the world's all-time coldest wind chill was recorded: minus 135 degrees Fahrenheit.

Where was I? Oh, yes: the world's all-time coldest wind chill. That's what you're going to be feeling at this point in an Obama second term. If you like his contempt for judicial review, parliamentary scrutiny and representative democracy now, wait'll you see how "flexible" he'll get starting in January 2013. The CFPB appointment is not a small thing. Indeed, its new director, one Richard Cordray, embodies what's gone so disastrously wrong with American government: you'll have to be in compliance with him, but he doesn't have to be in compliance with anybody, whether the Senate or the Constitution. As I say somewhere in my recent book, you don't need a president-for-life if you've got a bureaucracy-for-life. More and more aspects of the citizen's daily existence are regulated by rules and officials both of which are ever more disconnected from any meaningful accountability to the people's representatives. As the president says, look for even more "flexibility" in a second term: more non-recess recess appointments, more executive orders, more bewildering innovations from the commissars of the hyper-regulatory state.

Which brings us to another aspect of government that Obama apparently finds a frightful bore: budgets. In free societies, the executive is subject to the creative tensions of popular restraint, legislative restraint, judicial restraint and fiscal restraint. All these the president has artfully sidestepped. In the past three years, the United States has ceased to have any meaningful budgeting at the national level, with the consequence that Washington piles on roughly a trillion dollars of new debt every seven or eight months. This week, before the fawning toadies at the Associated Press luncheon, Obama attacked Congressman Paul Ryan's plan to prevent America plunging into the debt abyss and at least keep its fingernails clawing at the clumps on the cliff edge for a couple more decades. Don't believe him, sneered the president. "Hundreds of national parks" will close. Parts of the country will see "complete elimination of air traffic control." We will be unable to "combat violent crime." Two million mothers and young children will wind up without "access to healthy food". Anything else? You bet. The Ryan plan will doom everything everywhere – "the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food that we eat."

"This is not conjecture," said the president. "These are facts."

Speaking of facts, in the past year the federal government has added the equivalent of the GDP of Canada in new debt. Who's buying it? The Chinese? Not so much. They've got pretty much all the Washington IOU's they need. Sixty-one percent of debt issued by the Treasury is bought by the Federal Reserve – which is to say the left hand of the U.S. Government is lending money to the right hand of the US Government. That's one reason the dollar is in steep decline against every major currency. Indeed, had it not been for the French and Germans et al inaugurating the new century by inventing a currency for an artificial jurisdiction with even less connection to economic reality (the European Union), it's likely that the markets would have yanked the rug out from under the dollar by now.

Nonetheless, in a land where every mewling babe in the American nursery is born with a debt burden of just under $200,000, the president brags that only his party is "compassionate" to have no plan whatsoever even to attempt to do anything about this, no way, no how, not now, not ever.

Last week, the head of the General Services Administration, the federal agency that picks out the office furniture for the other federal agencies, had to resign after a bureaucrats' junket to Vegas that included a lavish party with clowns and a $3,200 mind reader. The clowns seem surplus to requirements, but I'd love to know what that mind reader found. Obama-sized government ends nowhere good, and in his Chicago-style contempt for checks and balances he's telling us that, if you enjoyed the first term, you ain't seen nuthin' yet.


Friday, April 06, 2012

Lent: Good Friday

And well may God with the serving folk
Cast in His dreadful lot.
Is not He too a servant,
And is not He forgot?


Wherefore was God in Golgotha
Slain as a serf is slain;
And hate He had of prince and peer,
And love He had and made good cheer,
Of them that, like this woman here,
Go powerfully in pain.

~G.K. Chesterton: 'Ballad of the White Horse.'

Artwork: Crucifixion, by Raphael. 1502-1503. Oil on panel. National Gallery, London, UK.

When Redemption Is Real

Chuck Colson didn’t fall from grace, he ascended to it.

By Rich Lowry
April 6, 2012

Photo courtesy of Prison Fellowship and BreakPoint

For the first time in 34 years, Chuck Colson won’t be in a prison for Easter. The famous Watergate figure and Christian convert usually spends the day ministering to prisoners, but is recovering from surgery to remove a blood clot on his brain.

Colson, 80, is a giant of our time. He is a reminder of the true meaning of redemption, a concept that has been debased in our Tilt-a-Whirl media culture that can’t distinguish between notoriety and fame. In contemporary America, redemption begins sometime between the first check-in into rehab and the first cable-TV interview, and reaches completion when everyone gets distracted by someone else’s attention-grabbing disgrace.

Colson’s personal redemption was wrenchingly sincere, a shattering experience that brought him through that great narrative arc of conversion: worldly success, crushing humiliation, and then victory in terms he never would have imagined when he was at the pinnacle of power by the side of the leader of the free world.

Colson was known, in the words of a Wall Street Journal headline that stuck with him, as Nixon’s “hatchet man.” He helped build the sinews of the Silent Majority with outreach to constituencies such as labor, and was an all-around fixer. Nixon loved his ruthlessness. Colson had every reason to feel proud of his status. He was in the swim of events, a big man, a tough guy, talked about, respected, and feared. But pride is the great villain in Colson’s classic autobiography, Born Again.

When he gave the valedictory at his high school in Cambridge, Mass., he emphasized pride. When he turned down a full scholarship to Harvard, he did it out of pride — to stick it to all the swells. In the Nixon White House, he served a man drunk on pride.

Colson left government after Nixon’s reelection, feeling exhausted and empty. As the furor over Watergate grew, he visited a friend one night, a successful businessman who had converted to Christianity. The friend read a passage from C. S. Lewis: “Pride always means enmity — it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.” Later, Colson sat in his car outside the house weeping alone in the darkness, not tears of sadness nor of joy, but “of relief.”

When he realized that the exigencies of his legal defense were inconsistent with the forthrightness entailed by his new faith, he pleaded guilty and became Prisoner 23226 at Maxwell Federal Prison Camp in Alabama, stripped of “power, prestige, freedom, even my identity.” Critics doubted and mocked Colson’s conversion. His Nixon administration adversary, former Attorney General John Mitchell, jibed that if Colson were a Christian, “I’ll take my chances with the lions.”

Colson was forced, as he told James Rosen of Fox News a few years ago, to see “the world through the eyes of people who were disadvantaged and marginalized and rejected, the outcasts in society, the untouchables in American life.” Although in prison less than a year, he never quite left. He started his group, Prison Fellowship, which is now active in most American prisons, conducting Bible-study groups, sponsoring pen pals, and providing gifts to the children of inmates.

A devotee of the great English reformer and abolitionist William Wilberforce, Colson is one of the nation’s foremost voices for checking the excesses of America’s prison-industrial complex. He long ago came full circle from the enforcer of a “law and order” administration to an advocate of mercy and restraint. He doesn’t mind telling uncomfortable truths. He stirred up some of his fellow evangelicals when, in the 1990s, he promoted reconciliation with Catholics. He maddens the Left with his unbending social conservatism.

What seemed to be Chuck Colson’s fall from grace in the mid-1970s was really the opposite. It was the first step on an ascension to true courage and service. His life is a testament to how redemption, so often debased and abused in a 24/7 news cycle obsessed with celebrity and scandal, can be astonishingly powerful and real.

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: © 2012 by King Features Syndicate

Obama v. SCOTUS

The Washington Post
April 6, 2012

“I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

— Barack Obama, on the constitutional challenge to his health-care law, April 2

“Unprecedented”? Judicial review has been the centerpiece of the American constitutional system since Marbury v. Madison in 1803. “Strong majority”? The House has 435 members. In March 2010, Democrats held a 75-seat majority. Obamacare passed by seven votes.

In his next-day walk back, the president implied that he was merely talking about the normal “restraint and deference” the courts owe the legislative branch. This concern would be touching if it weren’t coming from the leader of a party so deeply devoted to the ultimate judicial usurpation — Roe v. Wade, which struck down the abortion laws of 46 states — that fealty to it is the party’s litmus test for service on the Supreme Court.

With Obamacare remaking one-sixth of the economy, it would be unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation so broad and sweeping. On the other hand, it is far more unusual to pass such a fundamentally transformative law on such a narrow, partisan basis.

Obamacare passed the Congress without a single vote from the opposition party — in contradistinction to Social Security, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, similarly grand legislation, all of which enjoyed substantial bipartisan support. In the Senate, moreover, Obamacare squeaked by through a parliamentary maneuver called reconciliation that was never intended for anything so sweeping. The fundamental deviation from custom and practice is not the legal challenge to Obamacare but the very manner of its enactment.

The president’s preemptive attack on the court was in direct reaction to Obamacare’s three days of oral argument. It was a shock. After years of contemptuously dismissing the very idea of a legal challenge, Democrats suddenly realized there actually is a serious constitutional argument to be made against Obamacare — and they are losing it.

Here were highly sophisticated conservative thinkers — lawyers and justices — making the case for limited government, and liberals weren’t even prepared for the obvious constitutional question: If Congress can force the individual into a private contract by authority of the commerce clause, what can it not force the individual to do? Without a limiting principle, the central premise of our constitutional system — a government of enumerated powers — evaporates. What, then, is the limiting principle?

Liberals were quick to blame the administration’s bumbling solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, for blowing the answer. But Clarence Darrow couldn’t have given it. There is none.

Justice Stephen Breyer tried to rescue the hapless Verrilli by suggesting that by virtue of being born, one enters into the “market for health care.” To which plaintiffs’ lawyer Michael Carvin devastatingly replied: If birth means entering the market, Congress is omnipotent, authorized by the commerce clause to regulate “every human activity from cradle to grave.”


Having lost the argument, what to do? Bully. The New York Times loftily warned the Supreme Court that it would forfeit its legitimacy if it ruled against Obamacare because with the “five Republican-appointed justices supporting the challenge led by 26 Republican governors, the court will mark itself as driven by politics.”

Really? The administration’s case for the constitutionality of Obamacare was so thoroughly demolished in oral argument that one liberal observer called it “a train wreck.” It is perfectly natural, therefore, that a majority of the court should side with the argument that had so clearly prevailed on its merits. That’s not partisanship. That’s logic. Partisanship is four Democrat-appointed justices giving lock-step support to a law passed by a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president — after the case for its constitutionality had been reduced to rubble.

Democrats are reeling. Obama was so taken aback, he hasn’t even drawn up contingency plans should his cherished reform be struck down. Liberals still cannot grasp what’s happened — the mild revival of constitutionalism in a country they’ve grown so used to ordering about regardless. When asked about Obamacare’s constitutionality, Nancy Pelosi famously replied: “Are you serious?” She was genuinely puzzled.

As was Rep. Phil Hare (D-Ill.). As Michael Barone notes, when Hare was similarly challenged at a 2010 town hall, he replied: “I don’t worry about the Constitution.” Hare is now retired, having been shortly thereafter defeated for reelection by the more constitutionally attuned owner of an East Moline pizza shop.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Exploitation of Trayvon Martin

The absurdity of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.

The Wall Street Journal
April 5, 2012

Two tragedies are apparent in the Trayvon Martin case. The first is obvious: A teenager—unarmed and committing no crime—was shot dead. Dressed in a "hoodie," a costume of menace, he crossed paths with a man on the hunt for precisely such clich├ęs of menace. Added to this—and here is the rub—was the fact of his dark skin.

Maybe it was more the hood than the dark skin, but who could argue that the skin did not enhance the menace of the hood at night and in the eyes of someone watching for crime. (Fifty-five percent of all federal prisoners are black though we are only 12% of the population.) Would Trayvon be alive today had he been walking home—Skittles and ice tea in hand—wearing a polo shirt with an alligator logo? Possibly. And does this make the ugly point that dark skin late at night needs to have its menace softened by some show of Waspy Americana? Possibly.

What is fundamentally tragic here is that these two young males first encountered each other as provocations. Males are males, and threat often evokes a narcissistic anger that skips right past reason and into a will to annihilate: "I will take you out!" There was a terrible fight. Trayvon apparently got the drop on George Zimmerman, but ultimately the man with the gun prevailed. Annihilation was achieved.

If this was all there was to it, the Trayvon/Zimmerman story would be no more than a cautionary tale, yet another admonition against the hair-trigger male ego. But this story brought reaction from the White House: "If I had a son he would look like Trayvon," said the president. The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, ubiquitous icons of black protest, virtually battled each other to stand at the bereaved family's side—Mr. Jackson, in a moment of inadvertent honesty, saying, "There is power in blood . . . we must turn a moment into a movement." And then there was the spectacle of black Democrats in Congress holding hearings on racial profiling with Trayvon's parents featured as celebrities.

In fact Trayvon's sad fate clearly sent a quiver of perverse happiness all across America's civil rights establishment, and throughout the mainstream media as well. His death was vindication of the "poetic truth" that these establishments live by. Poetic truth is like poetic license where one breaks grammatical rules for effect. Better to break the rule than lose the effect. Poetic truth lies just a little; it bends the actual truth in order to highlight what it believes is a larger and more important truth.

The civil rights community and the liberal media live by the poetic truth that America is still a reflexively racist society, and that this remains the great barrier to black equality. But this "truth" has a lot of lie in it. America has greatly evolved since the 1960s. There are no longer any respectable advocates of racial segregation. And blacks today are nine times more likely to be killed by other blacks than by whites.

If Trayvon Martin was a victim of white racism (hard to conceive since the shooter is apparently Hispanic), his murder would be an anomaly, not a commonplace. It would be a bizarre exception to the way so many young black males are murdered today. If there must be a generalization in all this—a call "to turn the moment into a movement"—it would have to be a movement against blacks who kill other blacks. The absurdity of Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton is that they want to make a movement out of an anomaly. Black teenagers today are afraid of other black teenagers, not whites.

So the idea that Trayvon Martin is today's Emmett Till, as the Rev. Jackson has said, suggests nothing less than a stubborn nostalgia for America's racist past. In that bygone era civil rights leaders and white liberals stood on the highest moral ground. They literally knew themselves—given their genuine longing to see racism overcome—as historically transformative people. If the world resisted them, as it surely did, it only made them larger than life.

It was a time when standing on the side of the good required true selflessness and so it ennobled people. And this chance to ennoble oneself through a courageous moral stand is what so many blacks and white liberals miss today—now that white racism is such a defeated idea. There is a nostalgia for that time when posture alone ennobled. So today even the hint of old-fashioned raw racism excites with its potential for ennoblement.

For the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton, for the increasingly redundant civil rights establishment, for liberal blacks and the broader American left, the poetic truth that white racism is somehow the real culprit in this tragedy is redemption itself. The reason Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have become such disreputable figures on our cultural landscape is that they are such quick purveyors of poetic truth rather than literal truth.

The great trick of poetic truth is to pass itself off as the deep and essential truth so that hard facts that refute it must be dismissed in the name of truth. O.J. Simpson was innocent by the poetic truth that the justice system is stacked against blacks. Trayvon was a victim of racist stereotyping—though the shooter never mentioned his race until asked to do so.

There is now a long litany of racial dust-ups—from Tawana Brawley to the Duke University lacrosse players to the white Cambridge police officer who arrested Harvard professor Skip Gates a summer ago—in which the poetic truth of white racism and black victimization is invoked so that the actual truth becomes dismissible as yet more racism.

When the Cambridge cop or the Duke lacrosse players or the men accused of raping Tawana Brawley tried to defend themselves, they were already so stained by poetic truth as to never be entirely redeemed. No matter the facts—whether Trayvon Martin was his victim or his assailant—George Zimmerman will also never be entirely redeemed.

And this points to the second tragedy that Trayvon's sad demise highlights. Before the 1960s the black American identity (though no one ever used the word) was based on our common humanity, on the idea that race was always an artificial and exploitive division between people. After the '60s—in a society guilty for its long abuse of us—we took our historical victimization as the central theme of our group identity. We could not have made a worse mistake.

It has given us a generation of ambulance-chasing leaders, and the illusion that our greatest power lies in the manipulation of white guilt. The tragedy surrounding Trayvon's death is not in the possibility that it might have something to do with white racism; the tragedy is in the lustfulness with which so many black leaders, in conjunction with the media, have leapt to exploit his demise for their own power.

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

A version of this article appeared April 5, 2012, on page A15 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: The Exploitation of Trayvon Martin.


By Ann Coulter
April 4, 2012

The reason tea partiers carried signs saying "Read the Constitution!" was that we were hoping people would read the Constitution.

Alas, we still have Rick Santorum saying Obamacare is the same as what he calls "Romneycare"; the otherwise brilliant Mickey Kaus sniffing that if states can mandate insurance purchases, then we're "not talking about some basic individual liberty to not purchase stuff" (no, just the nation's founding document, which protects "basic individual liberties" by putting constraints on Congress); and the former law professor, Barack Obama, alleging that a "good example" of judicial activism would be the Supreme Court (in his words, "a group of people") overturning "a duly constituted and passed law."

I don't know how a court could overturn a law that hasn't been "passed." Otherwise, it wouldn't be a law, it would be a bill. If it hasn't even been "constituted," it wouldn't be anything at all.

Of course the courts can overturn laws -- constituted and passed alike! If anything, the Supreme Court isn't striking down enough laws.

Suppose Congress passed a law (after constituting it) prohibiting the publication of books about Hillary Clinton. That would be a violation of the First Amendment and the courts should strike it down. Failing to strike down such a law would be judicial activism.

That's the judiciary's job, which has been pretty well established since the 1803 case, Marbury v. Madison, heretofore the second most sacred opinion in the liberal canon. (Roe v. Wade is the first most sacred.)

Marbury captured the imagination of liberals only relatively recently when they realized that, simply as a procedural matter, the courts have the last word.

The judicial branch isn't above the other two branches -- much less the states or the people. It is (one of my favorite words) "co-equal" to the other branches. Indeed, the judiciary was laughably described by Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist Papers as the "least dangerous" branch.

Anticipating nearly every form of government corruption, our framers specifically designed the Constitution to prevent tyranny. But they never imagined the perfidy of 20th-century liberals. (Probably because the framers didn't have NBC.)

What liberals figured out -- and were mendacious enough to exploit -- is that there is no obvious recourse for the other branches if the Supreme Court issues an insane ruling. So, beginning in the 1960s, liberals on the court started issuing insane rulings on a regular basis. Rather than referring to the Constitution, some of their opinions were apparently based on the dream journal of Andrea Dworkin.

Soon every law student could recite in his sleep Chief Justice John Marshall's line in Marbury: "It is emphatically the province and duty of the Judicial Department to say what the law is." So shut up and go home.

To take one example of a ludicrous ruling, at random, off the top of my head: In 1973, the Supreme Court announced that the Constitution mandates a right to abortion.

The Constitution says nothing about reproduction, contraception, fetuses, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, morning sickness -- much less abortion. (As the tea partiers say: Read the Constitution!)

It does, however, expressly grant to the states those powers not reserved to the people (such as the right to bear arms) or explicitly given to Congress (such as the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations, among the several states and with the Indian tribes).

Obviously, therefore, the Constitution implicitly entrusted abortion laws to the states.

One hint that a "constitutional" right to abortion is not based on anything in the Constitution is that during oral argument, as the lawyer arguing for this apocryphal right ticked off the constitutional provisions allegedly supporting it -- the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the Ninth Amendment, "and a variety of others" -- the entire courtroom burst into laughter.

The ruling in Roe, incidentally, struck down the duly constituted and passed laws of all 50 states. (But that is soooo 53 million abortions ago ...)

When conservatives complain about "judicial activism," this is what they're talking about: Decisions not plausibly based on anything in the Constitution.

Curiously, the only court opinions liberals really get excited about are the ones having nothing to do with the Constitution: abortion, nude dancing, gay marriage, pornography, coddling criminals, etc., etc.

Liberals try to hide their treachery by pretending that what conservatives are really upset about is the Supreme Court striking down any law passed by any legislature. This is a preposterous lie that could fool only the irredeemably credulous.

Which brings us to the brilliant ex-law professor, who manifestly doesn't have the faintest understanding of the Constitution.

On Monday, President Obama shocked even his fellow liberals when he claimed that it would be "an unprecedented, extraordinary step" for the Supreme Court to overturn "a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress." (Which Obamacare wasn't.)

He added: "I'd just remind conservative commentators that for years what we've heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint."

I guess now we know why Obama won't release his college and law school transcripts!

It was so embarrassing that Obama attempted a clarification on Tuesday, but only made things worse. He said: "We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue, like health care," since the '30s.

Except in 1995. And then again in 2000. (Do we know for a fact that this guy went to Columbia and Harvard Law?)

In the former case, U.S. v. Lopez, the Supreme Court struck down the Gun-Free School Zone Act -- which was, by the way, a "duly constituted and passed law"! And then the court did it again in U.S. v. Morrison, when it overturned another "duly constituted and passed law," the Violence Against Women Act.

Both laws were defended by the Clinton administration as "economic" regulations, passed by Congress pursuant to the Commerce Clause with arguments as stretched as the ones used to defend Obamacare. The Gun-Free School Zone Act, for example, was said to address the economic hardship, health care costs, insurance costs and unwillingness to travel created by violent crime.

Conservatives want the rule of law, not silence from the judges. Not striking down an unconstitutional law is judicial activism every bit as much as invalidating a constitutional one.


The Messages of Toulouse

Lone-wolf terrorists are a growing threat moderate Muslims shouldn’t ignore.

By Clifford D. May
April 5, 2012

An undated grab from a video broadcast on French national television channel France 2, on 21 March 2012, shows 24 year-old gunman Mohamed Mehra, who perpetrated the shootings which killed three children and a rabbi on 19 March 2012 at 'Ozar Hatorah' Jewish school, as well as three French soldiers earlier in the week, in Toulouse, France, 22 March 2012. (EPA/FRANCE 2 TELEVISION/HANDOUT)

To those who proclaim themselves jihadis, Mohamed Merah is a hero and a martyr. He became a hero last month when he attacked a Jewish school in Toulouse, murdering Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his two young sons, Gabriel and Arieh, and a seven-year-old girl, Myriam Monsonego, whom he pulled by the hair and then shot in the head. He became a martyr when, after a 33-hour standoff, he was killed by French commandos.

This part of the story has received too little attention: Merah, the 23-year-old son of Algerian immigrants, began his killing spree by gunning down French paratrooper Sergeant Imad Ibn Ziaten and, four days later, two more uniformed paratroopers, Corporal Abel Chennouf and Private Mohamed Legouad. All three were Muslims.

The clear message Merah was sending his co-religionists in France and other Western nations: “If you are good citizens of the infidel lands in which you have settled, if you are not waging war against the unbelievers or supporting those who do, you are traitors. And one of these days, Allah willing, you too will get the justice you deserve.” In France, graffiti in support of Merah characterizes those he slaughtered as “Zionists” and “false Muslims.”

Merah’s connections to well-known terrorist organizations are sketchy — perhaps by design. A strategy paper produced by al-Qaeda’s senior leadership was recently uncovered by German authorities. As summarized by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross and Daniel Trombly, researchers at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, it “outlines the group’s war-of-attrition strategy: a combination of both complex, multi-member operations and also smaller attacks, perhaps executed by so-called ‘lone wolves.’”

Gartenstein-Ross and Trombly note also (in a study soon to be published) that less than a year ago, al Sahab, al-Qaeda’s media production arm, “released a one-hundred-minute video urging Muslims to undertake individual jihad” against infidels.

Extremist websites call upon Muslims to take up the sword against Jews, Christians, and those Muslims who do not toe the jihadi line. Such appeals are made as well in mosques — some, not all. Think, for example, of Anwar al-Awlaki: Born in the U.S.A., he ran the Dar al Hijrah mosque in Virginia, where he posed as a moderate. Eventually, he took off for Yemen, where he became an al-Qaeda leader with a global online presence. (His career was cut short by a U.S. drone strike in September 2011.)

A growing list of lone-wolf terrorists includes Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, who shot and killed two Israelis at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport; Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, who shot two soldiers who were on a smoke break outside a military-recruiting center in Little Rock, Arkansas; Major Nidal Hasan, who carried out the most deadly shooting spree on a U.S. military base in history; wannabe-car-bomber Faisal Shazad, whose explosive device malfunctioned in New York City’s Times Square; and “underpants bomber” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who, thanks to courage and quick thinking by passengers on his flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, succeeded only in damaging his own crotch.

Imagine you are a young American Muslim wondering what to make of all this. You might go to the websites of some of the well-funded and well-connected organizations that claim to speak on behalf of Muslims in America. And there you would find . . . next to nothing. For example, on the website of ASMA (the American Society for Muslim Advancement), led by Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam who has vowed to build an Islamic center at Ground Zero in New York City, I find no mention of Merah. What is highlighted instead is the dubious assertion that “Islamophobia is America’s real enemy.” I also find not a word about Toulouse on the CAIR (Council on American-Islamic Relations), ISNA (Islamic Society of North America), ICNA (the Islamic Circle of North America), and MSA (Muslim Students Association) websites.

The leaders of these organizations will indignantly object that they should not be held accountable for terrorists who happen to be Muslims. That’s right, but it misses the point: Surely, America’s Muslim leaders have an obligation to warn against the hateful, homicidal, and genocidal ideology that drives terrorists such as Merah — an ideology that, its proponents insist, is simply Islam in its purest form. And if three French Muslim paratroopers had been murdered by a Jew or a Christian, do you think they’d have nothing to say about it?

In France, Mohammed Moussaoui, the president of the French Council for the Muslim Faith, said: “These acts are in total contradiction with the foundations of this religion.” But he then used the occasion to object to the term “Islamism,” saying its use “feeds the confusion between Islam and terrorism and brings suffering to millions of Muslims who feel it important to defend the dignity of their faith and their religion.” In fact, the term is meant to distinguish Islamic supremacists from Muslims who have no interest in forcing non-Muslims to submit to Islamic law. Similarly, former French justice minister Rachida Dati told a radio audience that using the word “jihadist” to describe Merah risked “stigmatizing our [Muslim] French compatriots.” Isn’t it terrorists who claim to be “soldiers of Allah” who stigmatize Muslims?

Most of the Muslims of Toulouse surely do not regard Merah as a hero. But he was not the only extremist in town. There is a jihadi network known as the Toulouse Group. And Merah’s older brother, Abdelkader, has been linked to Salafis — ultra-fundamentalist Muslims — and he has now been indicted as an accomplice. And someone arranged for him to travel abroad — including to Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he may have received terrorist training.

If one understands this context, one also must grasp that it is not Islamophobia that impels those charged with preventing terrorism to keep an eye on what is going on within Muslim communities. Yet Daisy Khan, the wife of Imam Feisal, recently condemned such intelligence gathering by New York City police officers, calling it an “aggressive policy of spying on American citizens.” In the same article, Khan asserted that American Muslims want to be “full and equal partners in the fight against extremism.”

Would that not require, at a minimum, some candid commentary from her and the imam when such extremism leads Muslims such as Merah to massacre patriotic French Muslims along with Jewish children? Should they not be drawing lessons for the Islamic communities whose interests they claim to champion and the more diverse communities they seek to influence? Are they afraid to do so? Or is there another explanation for their conspicuous silence?

— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Johnny Cash, 'Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth' Spotlights Legend's Love for Gospel Music

by Vernell Hackett
April 2, 2012

A new 51-track collection of Johnny Cash songs is coming this week in honor of the continuing celebration of his 80th birthday. 'Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth' brings together the singer's gospel and spiritual recordings from the 1970s and 80s.

The two-CD collection includes a selection of previously unreleased traditional hymns, folk songs and original tunes written by the Man in Black and other songwriters. The various songs were recorded in several different places, including Columbia Studios in Nashville and the House of Cash in Hendersonville. These recordings were done at a time, according to his son John Carter Cash, when his life was on an even keel. "He (had an) excitement for his faith," the younger Cash says in the liner notes.

Some of the songs were released on the iconic entertainer's albums including 1979's 'A Believer Sings the Truth,' 'I Believe' and 'Johnny Cash -- Gospel Singer.' Gospel music was always a part of the singer's life, from his days in his hometown of Dyess, Ark., through his long journey to Nashville and beyond. John Carter writes in the liner notes that "the music set a foundation for J. R. Cash and upon it he established the motivation for his existence. With the songs of the gospel came faith, and along with faith, a fortitude and persistence that would not be denied. If you were convinced of my Dad's honesty, it is because he was confident of his purpose, and that purpose was defined by gospel music. Though he would sing many kinds of music in his life, he was never truer than when he sang songs of faith."

The album's closing track, 'Truth,' is based on a poem that boxing legend Muhammad Ali reportedly gave to John. The singer had recorded it but never released it. The poem was written by Sufi leader Hazrat Inayat Khan, and one of its lines, 'The soul of truth is God,' gave the 1979 album its title.

Johnny was seemingly always singing gospel music with someone and, fittingly, there are several special guests on the album. His wife, June Carter Cash, sings with him on 'He's Alive,' 'This Train Is Bound for Glory' and 'Far Side Banks of Jordan.' Daughters Rosanne Cash and Cindy Cash join him on 'When He Comes' and 'Lay Me Down in Dixie,' respectively. Johnny and sister-in-law Anita Carter sing 'Over the Next Hill (We'll Be Home),' while another sister-in-law, Helen Carter, sings with him on the Carter Family's 'Way Worn Traveler.' Rodney Crowell guests on 'You'll Get Yours and I'll Get Mine' and 'He Touched Me;' Jessi Colter sings on 'The Old Rugged Cross.'

"At the very heart of this faith was gospel music," John Carter concludes. "I invite you to join me, and get to know the man John R. Cash as I remember him. You will hear him in these treasured recordings. Listen carefully: Spirit, Faith, Gospel. The very source of his vision."

The preceding 'Bootleg' collections include 'Personal File,' 'From Memphis to Hollywood' and 'Live Around the World.' 'Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth' will be released tomorrow (Tuesday, April 3) on Sony Legacy.

CD Review
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
April 3, 2012

Johnny Cash
Bootleg Vol. IV: The Soul of Truth
Sony Legacy

It's been nearly nine years since Johnny Cash's death, but the wealth of music he created in his 50-year career continues to unfold. Filled with hard-to-find releases and some seldom- or never-heard music, the "Bootleg" series has previously uncovered Cash's solo homemade recordings, early work from Memphis and Los Angeles, and live tapes from across the globe.

"Bootleg Vol. 4: The Soul of Truth" turns the focus to Cash's gospel work. While the musician struggled with the demons of drug abuse across long stretches of his life, he was a man of strong faith. Sacred music was a thread that ran throughout his recording career.

The first disc is centered on the 1979 album "A Believer Sings the Truth." Among its 20 tracks and five additional unreleased songs, Cash offers a bouncy southern rockabilly pace on "Gospel Boogie (A Wonderful Time Up There)" and joins wife June Carter Cash on the upbeat piano melodies of "I'll Have a New Life."

The real treat, though, comes on disc two, where a never-released set of 12 tracks is paired with the out-of-print 1983 album "Johnny Cash - Gospel Singer." The former is led by the beautiful string and guitar melody of "Back in the Fold." On the latter, Cash's baritone vocals blend beautifully with Jessi Colter on the spare acoustic strains of "The Old Rugged Cross."

- Erik Ernst, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Review: Johnny Cash, “Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth”

The Second Disc
April 3, 2012

“John, let’s do a shot for the warden,” photographer Jim Marshall reportedly implored Johnny Cash during the singer’s 1969 performance at San Quentin Prison. Cash’s snarling response, with his middle finger in air, made for one of the most famous music photographs of all time. Cropping up on T-shirts, posters and the like, Marshall captured the outlaw side of Johnny Cash like no photographer before or since. Though it might have, indeed, been worth a thousand words, the image still only revealed part of the story of John R. Cash. At the foundation of Cash’s life and music-making was his spiritual fervor, ingrained in him from an early age. His devotion to gospel music stayed with him throughout his career, from one of his earliest albums (1959’s Hymns with Johnny Cash) through one of his very last (2003’s posthumous My Mother’s Hymn Book). Late in life, The Man in Black even recorded the entire New Testament as a spoken-word multi-CD set. Columbia/Legacy’s fourth installment of Cash’s Bootleg Series is entirely devoted to this aspect of the Cash canon, and as such, The Soul of Truth (88697 98538 2, 2012) may be the most raw, personal entry in the series yet.

The Bootleg Series launched in 2006 with Personal File’s 49 previously unissued home-recorded songs, belatedly resuming four years later with From Memphis to Hollywood. Its 57 rare tracks included 16 wholly unreleased titles spanning the period of 1954-1969. 2011’s Live Around the World focused solely on live recordings, with 39 of 51 tracks previously unreleased. This fourth volume takes a different approach, reissuing three long out-of-print albums in full and adding appropriate outtakes and rare, related material.

Bootleg IV’s first disc contains the twenty tracks recorded for Cachet Records’ 1979 double album A Believer Sings the Truth. (Half of its songs were reprised under the same name in 1982 on Priority Records, Columbia’s boutique gospel imprint.) Arrival Records’ 1984 LP I Believe… also drew on tracks from A Believer, adding four more recordings. Those four songs are now appended to the original twenty. The final cut on the first disc gives the new compilation its title. “Truth” is believed to have been based on a poem written by The Greatest, Muhammad Ali. He presented the poem to Cash, who set it to music but never released the track. The poem was, in fact, written by Sufi leader Hazrat Inayat Khan and contains the pivotal line, “The soul of truth is God.” It makes its debut here.

The second disc starts off with twelve tracks recorded in 1975 for an untitled LP. Two of these tracks have appeared on compilations over the past five years, but the album was never released until now in its intended form. (It may have been shelved because Cash already had released one gospel album in 1975, Sings Precious Memories.) Disc 2 continues with the ten tracks from Word Records’ 1986 release Believe in Him, but in their original sequence as selected for Priority’s withdrawn 1983 release Gospel Singer. Four previously unissued outtakes from the same sessions complete this disc.

A Believer Sings the Truth (1979) is this set’s rightful centerpiece. A lengthy, sprawling double album that encompasses many musical styles, it features a large group of musicians including, of course, Bob Wootton, Marshall Grant and W.S. “Fluke” Holland as well as Jack Clement, The Carter Family and the 21st Century Singers. The great majority of the songs here are originals, either by Cash or others, rather than adaptations of traditional religious standards. Themes of family, heritage and America run side by side with spirituality in Cash’s world. In “Lay Me Down in Dixie,” a duet with daughter Cindy Cash, Johnny and Cindy wax rhapsodic about the sound of a southern drawl! Like his secular songs, these tracks reflect the artist’s core values. As Cash’s son John Carter Cash admits in the liner notes, “[he] had never stopped professing or singing about his faith, but he had wandered away from it” in the throes of pill addiction in 1967. At that time and for the rest of his life, he found the strength to express those values in music even during the periods when life’s temptations kept him from embracing them in practice.

“Wings in the Morning,” a Cash original, has mariachi brass recalling “Ring of Fire,” and there’s even a train song with the familiar Cash rhythm in the form of Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “This Train is Bound for Glory.” Cash introduces it with “We’re gonna ride the Bible train now!” and few would decline his invitation to board. There’s no shortage of jaunty melodies, whether the boogie-woogie of “(I’ve Got Jesus and) That’s Enough” or the accurately-named “Gospel Boogie.” The hoedown stomp of “Jesus in My Soul” is bolstered by flavorful horns. Cash’s well-documented troubles keep him from sounding too pious on these recordings, many of which have a good-time feel . The man exuded honesty whenever he sang, and these very personal expressions of faith are no exception.

Quieter moments are plentiful, too. The young Rosanne Cash harmonizes with her father on 1979’s “When He Comes” and Rosanne’s then-husband Rodney Crowell lends subtle support to W.J. Gaither’s “He Touched Me.” The gentle ballad “O, Come, Angel Band” is enhanced by the presence of the gospel choir, and they’re particularly soulful on “Strange Things Are Happening Every Day” alongside bleating horns and even electric guitar. There’s none of the gloss associated with the genre now known as “contemporary Christian.” These songs are fully-produced yet still possessing raw power. Even the previously unreleased adaptation of the Hazrat Inayat Khan poem “Truth” is far from heavy-handed, with Cash reciting it over the piano-driven track and vocal harmony: “The sign of the truth is Christ, the soul of truth is God.”

The songs of the long-lost 1975 Hendersonville sessions cover similar territory, juxtaposing good-time, twangy country gospel with lush balladry. This time, however, a 13-strong string section makes pivotal appearances on those ballads such as Marijohn Wilkin’s “Back in the Fold.” Stalwart session man Bergen White contributed piano while The Oak Ridge Boys provided backing vocals. The best track might just be “Sanctified,” which was first aired on Legacy’s Ultimate Gospel compilation. Cash can’t help but sound knowingly ironic on this fun musical dialogue in which he musically resists temptation from a variety of voices. It’s hard to believe this rollicking track sat in a vault until 2007! There’s a sweet, down-home feel on “I Was There When It Happened,” and a boom-chicka-boom duet with June Carter Cash on “The Far Banks of Jordan.”

Wootton and Holland joined Cash for the 1982 Nashville sessions intended for the Gospel Singer LP; by this point, Marshall Grant had acrimoniously departed the band. Pete Drake (steel guitar), Jerry Douglas (dobro), David Briggs and Bobby Whitlock (keyboards), Earle Pool Ball and Hargus “Pig” Robbins (piano) and the Cathedral Quartet (backing vocals) all made a distinct impression on the album’s tracks. Cash revisited his own “Belshazzar,” and sounds passionate sharing “The Old Rugged Cross” with Jessi Colter.

Though such a style is perhaps intrinsic to the material, Cash is humble and tender on these songs, turning in a heartfelt vocal on Mark R. Germino’s “God Ain’t No Stained Glass Window” (“There’s so much I don’t know/I don’t understand why the summer’s so hot/I don’t understand why an apple core rots/And I have no idea when I’ll see a rainbow/But there’s one thing I do know/I know that God ain’t no stained glass window…”).

He’s equally joyous on “Over There” (“I believe we’ll be together/When we reach the other side!”), as strong an expression of his resolute faith as on any of these songs. In his own “What is Man,” the singer ponders his place in the grand design to the Creator, asking “What is man? What has he done? What is man that you would care?” Rodney Crowell’s “Wildwood in the Pines” reaffirmed the younger Crowell’s place in the traditional country pantheon that has long seen artists exploring both their secular and spiritual muses. Crowell’s grand thoughts (“I believe that Jesus loves me/I can feel it in my soul”) are expressed simply and directly.

Bootleg IV: The Soul of Truth marks the first release of Columbia/Legacy’s Cash 80 birthday program; the singer would have reached that birthday milestone this past February 26. Vic Anesini has remastered each track for splendid sound, and essays are provided by John Carter Cash and producer Gregg Geller. This release is an auspicious start for sure, illuminating an aspect of the artist that’s often overlooked in favor of his outlaw persona. And the artist likely understood why the image of the aggressive loner “Man in Black” had come to define him to many. Johnny Cash knew all too well what it meant to simply be human, and he was never afraid of expressing that condition in song, with all its manifold contradictions.

President Petulant

Obama makes Berkeley liberals look like statesmen.

By John Fund
April 4, 2012

I spoke last night at a symposium on “The Obama Presidency” at the University of California at Berkeley. In a radical city known sometimes for its liberal anger, it won’t surprise you, many of those in the audience were upset at the prospect of the Supreme Court’s overturning part or all of Obamacare. After all, Berkeley voted 88 percent for Obama in 2008. But almost no one present at the symposium was as petulant as President Obama was yesterday, when he incorrectly claimed that if the Court rules against his landmark legislation it would be taking “an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

The implication of his statement was that he hasn’t heard of Marbury v. Madison, in which the Supreme Court laid down the doctrine of judicial review in 1803, and by which the Court can strike down unconstitutional laws. Indeed, since 1981, the Court has struck down 57 specific legislative acts of Congress, an average of two per year.

The president’s statement was so extraordinary that a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered the Justice Department to answer by Thursday whether the administration indeed respects the right of court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional. As CBS’s Jan Crawford reported, Judge Jerry Smith became “very stern,” telling the lawyers arguing a separate case on the constitutionality of Obamacare that it was not clear to “many of us” whether the president believes such a right exists. He also noted Obama’s remarks yesterday in the Rose Garden about judges being an “unelected group of people.” The court was clearly not amused.

There appear to be few limits on how far President Obama will distort facts. In truth, his health-care plan passed the House by only 219 to 212, despite that body’s overwhelming Democratic majority. It was the first major piece of social legislation within memory to pass Congress without a single vote from the opposition party.

Even some liberals believe the president went too far yesterday. Ruth Marcus, an editorial writer who covers the Supreme Court for the Washington Post, said Obama’s assault “stopped me cold . . . for the president to imply that the only explanation for a constitutional conclusion contrary to his own would be out-of-control conservative justices does the court a disservice.” It was a mistake for Obama to “declare war” on the court, says Jon Meacham, a contributing editor of Time magazine. Voters don’t like hearing assaults on the Supreme Court itself, probably because Americans believe “life needs umpires, even ones who blow calls now and then.”

So it is surreal for Obama, a former constitutional-law professor and president of the Harvard Law Review, to go after the court as if he were a demagogue seeking reelection. As the Wall Street Journal put it: “Obama’s inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.”

Nor is this the first time the president has stepped out of line. During a joint session of Congress in January 2010, Obama lectured the Supreme Court justices sitting in front of him that they got it wrong in the Citizens United case, which swept away key campaign-finance restrictions on First Amendment grounds. “Last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections. Well I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, and worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people, and that’s why I’m urging Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to right this wrong.” Obama’s statement that the Court’s ruling allowed political contributions by foreigners was plainly incorrect, earning a “Mostly False” rating from the PolitiFact website. No wonder that Justice Samuel Alito was observed by lipreaders mouthing the words “Not true” after Obama’s groundless attack.

No one believes the Supreme Court will rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare based on bush-league attacks on its integrity. But Obama’s misstep is only the latest in a series of blunders that further undermine his position. The presentation by Solicitor General Donald Verrelli last week before the Supreme Court was widely panned by legal scholars as weak and evasive. Verrelli caused even some liberal lawyers in the audience to wince when he preposterously claimed that Congress has passed Obamacare to deal with a serious problem “after long study and careful deliberation.” Whatever you want to call the chaotic, late-night brow beating of reluctant members to pass something — anything — to reform health care two years ago, it wasn’t pretty and it was far from careful. Recall that Senate Democrats forgot to include a standard severability clause in their drafting of the bill, which would allow the entire law to stand even if one provision is deemed unconstitutional.

And when it got to the legal substance, the Obama Justice Department didn’t do much better. “The court began where it should have begun with limiting principles (to the federal government’s power),” noted Jonathan Turley, a well-known liberal law professor at George Washington University. “And what was remarkable is that the administration seemed almost unprepared or unwilling to answer those questions with any clarity.”

The incoherence with which the Obama administration has addressed the entire issue of its signature domestic achievement continued yesterday when the president began a spat with the judiciary that was factually wrong, fatuous, and one he can’t possibly win. Several of the liberals I spoke with at Berkeley last night could only shake their head at how the man they voted for on the basis of ”hope and change” in 2008 looks like he’s in over his political head.

— John Fund, a writer based in New York, is the author of Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

A nation arms itself -- for what?

by Patrick J. Buchanan
April 3, 2012

With the shooting death of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer who was legally carrying a 9-millimeter handgun, the familiar wail has arisen from our cultural and media elite:

America has too many guns!

"Open carry" and "concealed carry" laws should be repealed.

Florida's "Stand-your-ground" law, replicated in two dozen states, threatens to turn America into the Tombstone of Doc Hiday and Wyatt Earp. This is insane!

The United Nations agrees. This year, the world body takes up the global control of firearms, including small arms in the hands of citizens.

According to Sen. Rand Paul, the U.N. "Small Arms Treaty" will almost surely mandate tougher licensing requirements to own a gun, require the confiscation and destruction of unauthorized civilian firearms, call for a ban on the trade, sale and private ownership of semi-automatic weapons, and create an international gun registry.

No more Colt .45s in the top drawer or M-1 rifles in the closet.

Memo to the U.N.: Lots of luck.

Forty-five Republican and 12 Democratic senators have declared their opposition to any such U.N. treaty, which means it is dead in the water the moment it is launched from Turtle Bay.

For when it comes to Second Amendment rights, Middle America has spoken -- at the ballot box and the gun store. And Congress, most state legislatures and the federal courts have all come down on the side of the Silent Majority.

In District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), the Supreme Court struck down one of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, assuring district citizens of their right to keep a gun in the home.

U.S. Judge Benson E. Legg just struck down the section of Maryland's gun law that left it to local authorities to decide if a citizen could carry a gun outside his house.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, mentioned as a running mate for Mitt Romney, just signed a law striking down a 20-year ban that kept residents from buying more than one pistol per month. In Virginia's legislature in 1993, McDonnell had voted in favor of the one-gun-per-month rule.

The new law ignited New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who calls Virginia "the No. 1 out-of-state source of crime guns in New York and one of the top suppliers of crime guns nationally."

Two New York cops have been shot this year, one fatally, with guns from Virginia.

But there is another side to the gun story, and University of Houston Professor Larry Bell relates it:

"Law-abiding citizens in America used guns in self-defense 2.5 million times in 1993 (about 6,825 times per day), and actually shot and killed two and a half times as many criminals as police did (1,527 to 606). These self-defense shootings resulted in less than one-fifth as many incidents as police where an innocent person was mistakenly identified as a criminal (2 percent versus 11 percent)."

The figures tell the story. Along with rising incarceration rates, the proliferation of guns in the hands of the law-abiding has been a factor in the nation's falling crime rate.

And that proliferation has accelerated under President Obama.

According to, tax revenues from the sale of firearms and ammunition have gone up 48 percent since 2008, with Iowa, North Carolina and Utah registering revenue gains of over 100 percent.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, there were 129,666 background checks of individuals seeking to buy a gun, the highest one-day search in history. This exceeded by 32,000 the number of background checks by gun dealers on Black Friday 2010.

Background searches in December broke the all-time monthly record set in November, as 1,534,414 inquiries were made to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System about prospective gun-buyers.

Half a million inquiries came in the six days before Christmas.

Why are Americans arming themselves?

More and more citizens, says the National Rifle Association, fear that if or when they confront a threat to their family, lives or property, the police will not be there.

Reports of home invasions and flash mobs have firmed up the market for firearms. After the 1992 Los Angeles riot, when Californians found themselves defenseless in homes and shops, gun sales soared.

Others argue that a fear of new laws in an Obama second term, or even the possible confiscation of handguns, is driving sales.

Gun-control organizations claim that gun ownership is actually declining, that fewer and fewer people are buying more and more of these guns.

But the numbers seem to contradict the gun controllers.

A 2005 Gallup survey found that three in 10 Americans own a gun, that 40 percent had a gun in the house, that nearly half of all men own a gun, as do one in seven women. Two-thirds of all gun-owners gave as a reason they own a gun: protection against crime.

America is an armed camp, with the South and Midwest the most heavily armed. Yet, still, Americans buy guns in the millions every year.

Why? Whatever the answer, it is our business, not the U.N.'s.

- Patrick J. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, The Death of the West, The Great Betrayal, A Republic, Not an Empire,Where the Right Went Wrong, and most recently Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? 

Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Obama Welcomes Brotherhood Run for Egyptian Presidency

By Ryan Mauro
April 3, 2012

Khairat al-Shater, the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate for the Egyptian presidency. Photograph: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA

The Muslim Brotherhood swore up and down that it wouldn’t seek the Egyptian presidency as proof of its desire for a pluralistic society. At the last minute, the Brotherhood nominated Khairat el-Shater. According to the New York Times, State Department officials actually look at this as a good thing that could stop the more puritanical Salafists from winning.

“State Department officials said they were untroubled and even optimistic about the Brotherhood’s reversal of its pledge not to seek the presidency,” the Times reports.

Shater has had extensive contact with U.S. officials and has convinced them that he’s not to be feared. Apparently, these U.S. officials have forgotten about (or never were informed of) the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology and history.

The Brotherhood’s leaders preach a strategy of “gradualism” towards “mastership of the world.” Hamas has officially added “a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood-Palestine” to its name. The Vice Chairman of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party says Hamas is a “resistance group” and that Cairo should host one of its offices. The Brotherhood’s leaders are not shy about their goal of destroying Israel and its internal documents refer to its “work in America as a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying Western civilization from within.”

In November, a Brotherhood spokesman stated without equivocation, “The Sharia, the Muslim legal framework, must be the foundation for everything.” On November 24, senior Brotherhood leaders publicly preached violent jihad, and the International Union of Muslim Scholars, a Brotherhood entity, declared that it is time to “revive the duty of jihad in all its forms.” One top leader, Mohamad Katatni, predicts that the revolution in Egypt would lead to the elimination of the state of Israel.

The State Department’s welcoming of Shater’s candidacy is partly due to fear of the Salafist candidate, Hazem Salah Abu Ismail. He is outwardly hostile to the West. The Salafists shocked the West when they won nearly one-fourth of the vote in Egypt’s elections. The latest poll shows that Ismail leaped forward from as low as fifth place to second place at 22%, about 10% behind the secularist presidential frontrunner, Amr Moussa.

Ismail is happy about Shater’s candidacy. He believes that it will take votes away from Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a Muslim Brotherhood leader whose membership was suspended when he ran for president against the leadership’s wishes. He’s currently polling at 8%. The election is held in May, and if no single candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a run-off is held between the top two candidates the next month. If it comes down to Moussa and Ismail, the Islamists will rally behind Ismail and give him a landslide victory.

Three long-standing Brotherhood officials resigned in protest of Shater’s campaign. One of them, Kamal el-Helbawi, suspects that a deal has been struck between the ruling military council and the Brotherhood. He points out that the council declared Shater innocent of all charges brought against him. Shater serves as an important liaison between the military council and the Brotherhood.

Dr. Daniel Pipes and Cynthia Farahat believe that the military council has a power-sharing arrangement with the Islamists that will allow the generals to justify their rule. There were widespread allegations of fraud in the elections and reports that the military council even funded and supplied the Islamists.

Another reason for the welcoming of the Brotherhood’s presidential campaign by some senior U.S. officials is that it is looked upon as a “moderate Islamist” group that can counter Al-Qaeda and similar jihadists.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said in January that “Al-Qaeda probably will find it difficult to compete for local support with groups like the Muslim Brotherhood” and that “non-violent, pro-democracy demonstrations challenge Al-Qaeda’s violent jihadist ideology and might yield increased political power for secular or moderate Islamist parties.”

When the Brotherhood’s second-in-command said it would “not recognize Israel under circumstances and might put the peace treaty up to a referendum,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland brushed it off as the opinion of just one Brotherhood member. “We have had other assurances from the party with regard to their commitment not only to universal human rights, but to the international obligations that the government of Egypt has undertaken,” she said.

William Taylor, the State Department official overseeing U.S. aid to the countries affected by the Arab Spring, struck a similar tone when he was asked about why his office was giving election training to Brotherhood members. “What we need to do is judge people and parties and movements on what they do, not what they’re called,” he replied.

The second part of Taylor’s answer exposed his ignorance of what the Brotherhood preaches. He said, “as long as parties, entities do not espouse or conduct violence, we’ll work with them.” The U.S. “should not be afraid of [the Brotherhood]. We should deal with them,” he feels. All indications are that the options are not good for the direction of Egypt. Islamic theocracy is the ultimate destination — the only question is whether the country will arrive there by street car or speeding train. And so far, the Obama administration’s role has only been to make this transition more expeditious.

- Ryan Mauro is a fellow with, the founder of and a frequent national security analyst for Fox News Channel. He can be contacted at

Carbon Emissions Are Good

It is erroneous to think that humans cannot change the environment for good.

By Robert Zubrin
April 3, 2012

Coal power plant in Datteln (Germany) at the Dortmund-Ems-Kanal
Image by Arnold Paul cropped by Gralo

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its intention to enforce regulations that would effectively ban new coal-fired power plants in the United States. As coal is by far America’s cheapest and most plentiful fossil fuel, and coal-fired power stations account for 45 percent of all electricity generated in the U.S., the destructive economic effects of this edict can hardly be overstated. It is therefore imperative to subject the EPA’s logic to a searching examination.

According to the EPA, despite their disastrous economic effects, regulations to prevent the U.S. from making use of its coal resources are necessary, because coal combustion produces carbon dioxide, which allegedly will cause global warming, which would allegedly be harmful to the Earth’s biosphere and human society. Others, wishing to avoid an environmentalist-created economic catastrophe, have challenged this argument’s first premise, to wit, that global warming is really occurring. Since there is no actual global temperature, but only an average of many different constantly changing local temperatures, this approach has led to convoluted debates revolving around data sets that can easily be based upon an unrepresentative mix of measurements.

This has left the EPA’s second premise — that global warming would be a harmful development — largely unchallenged. This is unfortunate, because while it is entirely possible that the earth may be warming — as it has done so many times in the past — there is no rational basis whatsoever to support the contention that carbon-dioxide-driven global warming would be on the whole harmful to life and civilization. Quite the contrary: All available evidence supports the contention that human CO2 emissions offer great benefits to the earth’s community of life.

Putting aside for the moment the question of whether human industrial CO2 emissions are having an effect on climate, it is quite clear that they are raising atmospheric CO2 levels. As a result, they are having a strong and markedly positive effect on plant growth worldwide. There is no doubt about this. NASA satellite observations taken from orbit since 1958 show that, concurrent with the 19 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past half century, the rate of plant growth in the continental United States has increased by 14 percent. Studies done at Oak Ridge National Lab on forest trees have shown that increasing the carbon dioxide level 50 percent, to the 550 parts per million level projected to prevail at the end of the 21 century, will likely increase photosynthetic productivity by a further 24 percent. This is readily reproducible laboratory science. If CO2 levels are increased, the rate of plant growth will accelerate.

Now let us consider the question of warming: If it is occurring — and I believe it is, based not on disputable temperature measurements but on sea levels, which have risen two inches in two decades — is it a good thing or a bad thing? Answer: It is a very good thing. Global warming would increase the rate of evaporation from the oceans. This would increase rainfall worldwide. In addition, global warming would lengthen the growing season, thereby increasing still further the bounty of both agriculture and nature.

In other words, from any rational point of view, global warming would be a very good thing. By enriching the carbon-dioxide content of the atmosphere from its impoverished pre-industrial levels, human beings have increased the productivity of the entire biosphere — so much so that roughly one out of every seven living things on the planet owes its existence to the marvelous improvement in nature that humans have effected. Through our CO2 emissions we are making the earth a more fertile world.

There is no reason to fear a more clement climate. A thousand years ago, the world was significantly warmer than it is today. A thousand years ago, the snow line in the Rockies was a thousand feet higher than it is now, and Canadian forests flourished tens of kilometers farther north. A thousand years ago, oats and barley were grown in Iceland, wheat in Norway, hay in Greenland, and the vineyards of England produced fine wines as far north as York. These warm temperatures were no disaster. On the contrary, persisting through the twelfth century, they are believed by historians to have contributed materially to the significant growth of population and prosperity in Europe during the High Middle Ages (roughly the years 1000 to 1300).

If we wish to look at a longer span of the earth’s history, average global temperatures can be estimated by examining sea-floor material. Looking at the data, we see significant global cooling since the time of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), which occurred 55 million years ago. The atmosphere contained 2,000 parts per million carbon dioxide, more than five times the 380 parts per million that is does today. New species of plants evolved that were capable of using carbon dioxide more efficiently. The most important of these were the grasses, which, originating at the end of the Paleocene about 58 million years ago, drove temperatures sharply down. Things then stabilized in the Oligocene, until the mid-Miocene, about 15 million years ago, when additional types of grasses appeared. These more advanced grasses were much more efficient at carbon-dioxide utilization, and as they replaced their predecessors, they drove atmospheric carbon-dioxide levels below 300 parts per million for the first time in the earth’s history. In the process, they sent the planet’s climate plunging into a glacial age that has continued to the present day.

Twenty million years ago, vast regions of what are today frozen polar deserts in the Arctic and Antarctic were forests, inhabited by vibrant communities of animal life. Today these regions are close to dead, made uninhabitable by the failure of the wild biosphere to maintain sufficient levels of atmospheric CO2.

The fact that the earth’s atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration was about 280 parts per million shortly before the industrial revolution implies that this value is close to the minimum acceptable equilibrium level for the modern biosphere. As human industrial activity pushes carbon-dioxide levels above this impoverished state, we increase plant productivity, causing the biosphere to push back like a spring, with the force of its push becoming ever stronger the further the system is displaced from equilibrium. The more fossil fuels we burn, the more carbon resources we make available for plant growth, and the more productive the biosphere becomes.

During the 1970s, the earth experienced a short-term cooling trend, and as a result many of the current cast of global-warming alarmists then predicted an icy doom unless human industrial and population expansion (which they blamed for the phenomenon) could be brought under strict control. This history has exposed them to some mockery, but in fact their previous stand was more to their credit. The global-cooling doomsayers of the 1970s may have been wrong, but at least they were yelling about something that, had it been real, would have been bad. Global cooling would indeed have been a disaster, leading to a drier, more sterile planet. Had the threat of another ice age actually been valid, a forceful government effort to avert such a catastrophe might well have been justified. But as the blame for global cooling could not be conclusively assigned to humanity, the case held little of enduring interest to humanity’s prosecutors.

In contrast, the role of humanity in raising global CO2 levels is relatively clear, and power allegedly needed to suppress it is enormous. The problem may be the direct opposite of what was previously alleged, but the solution is the same — more control. The fact that increased CO2 is constructive and highly beneficial to both mankind and the natural world is ignored.

This is deeply irrational. Indeed, consider for a moment what the situation would be if not only temperatures, but atmospheric CO2 levels, were to resume falling. That would truly be a cause for alarm, as it would imperil all life on earth.

But for those seeking the power to oppress humanity, any change in nature effected by humans, no matter how beneficial, is criminal by assumption. Thus all anthropogenic CO2 releases must be harmful to nature, by definition. Furthermore, since all human activity must, perforce, release CO2, all human existence partakes of crime against nature. Therefore nothing we can do is right, and controllers must be empowered to make sure we do as little as possible. Such is the case for the EPA.

— Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a member of the steering committee of Americans for Energy, and the author of Energy Victory. His next book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, has just been published by Encounter Books.