Friday, June 01, 2012

President Obama Shuns Lech Walesa

The Polish Solidarity leader is “too political” for the administration.

By Rory Cooper
June 1, 2012

Lech Walesa was once a trade-union activist. He was often arrested for speaking his mind against Communist oppression behind the Iron Curtain in Poland and for defying the Soviet Union. He was an electrician who, with no higher education, led one of the most profound freedom movements of the 20th century — Solidarity. He became president of Poland and swept in reforms, pushing the Soviet Union out of his homeland and moving the country toward a free-market economy and individual liberty. And President Obama doesn’t want him to set foot in the White House.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Polish officials requested that Walesa accept the Medal of Freedom on behalf of Jan Karski, a member of the Polish Underground during World War II who was being honored posthumously this week. The request makes sense. Walesa and Karski shared a burning desire to rid Poland of tyrannical subjugation. But President Obama said no.

Administration officials told the Journal that Walesa is too “political.” A man who was arrested by Soviet officials for dissenting against the government for being “political” is being shunned by the United States of America for the same reason 30 years later.

Meanwhile, one of the recipients of the Medal was Dolores Huerta, the honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America. So socialist politics are acceptable, but not the politics of a man who stood up and fought socialism.

This revelation follows an eruption of outrage in Poland after President Obama referred in his remarks at the Medal of Freedom ceremony to “Polish death camps,” a phrase that Poles have battled since the end of the Cold War. The phrase suggests that Poles were complicit in Nazi concentration camps, which of course is not the case. In fact, Poles were exterminated in the camps.

The White House’s flippant response to the uproar caused the Polish president and prime minister to demand more thoughtful and personal reactions. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday that the president has no plans to reach out to his Polish counterparts and has shrugged off the outrage in Poland.

Few observers are suggesting that President Obama’s written remarks noting “Polish death camps” were intentionally malicious. The comment was more likely a result of historical ignorance and careless inattention. This is the same ignorance and carelessness that would cause a president to turn away Lech Walesa and label him as “too political.”

Ironically, Lech Walesa shares a distinction with President Obama: They both won Nobel Peace Prizes. Walesa earned his in 1983 after years of fighting for peace and freedom, and being monitored, harassed, and jailed for it. President Obama received his award in 2009. Some may think that this would be enough of a bond for President Obama to set aside political differences for the greater good. But instead, President Obama treated Walesa the same way he treated the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who was ushered out the White House kitchen past piles of garbage in 2010.

The likelihood is that President Obama didn’t want Walesa in the White House because Walesa has made critical remarks toward the president’s policies and in 2010 warned that the United States was slipping toward socialism. But rather than taking the mature and diplomatic path and respecting Walesa’s right to have a differing perspective, Obama chose to shun his lifetime of achievements.

Congratulating Walesa on his Nobel Prize in 1983, President Ronald Reagan said: “For too long, the Polish government has tried to make Lech Walesa a non-person and destroy the free trade-union movement that he helped to create in Poland. But no government can destroy the hopes that burn in the hearts of a people. The people of Poland have shown in their support of Solidarity, just as they showed in their support of His Holiness Pope John Paul II during his visit to Poland, that the government of that nation cannot make Lech Walesa a non-person, and they can’t turn his ideas into non-ideas.”

The White House should not treat President Walesa as a non-person, and they cannot turn his ideas into non-ideas.

— Rory Cooper is director of communications at the Heritage Foundation. You can follow him on Twitter @rorycooper.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

New McGarrity book set in Tularosa Basin

By Elva K. Osterreich, Associate News Editor

Alamogordo Daily News
May 19, 2012

Michael McGarrity, an author well liked in the Tularosa Basin, has changed the direction of his writing talent from crime mystery to historical fiction.

Over the years, The New York Times bestselling author has written gritty, smart mystery stories around the main character Kevin Kerney, a New Mexico rancher/police officer who was born in the Tularosa Basin.

Now, McGarrity has brought together the "back story" of Kerney's family and their migration west into Texas and New Mexico. The book "Hard Country" is the first installment of an epic Western trilogy, according to a press release about the recently released book.

"McGarrity fictionalizes the history of the American Southwest from 1875 to 1918," the release says.
McGarrity said he lived in the Tularosa Basin, where much of the story takes place, many years ago. He got to know the area encompassed by White Sands Missile Range well as an enlisted man in the Army.

"I spent much time there," McGarrity said. "It became a place I love and embrace warmly."

Becoming enthralled with the landscape, history and people of the area, McGarrity created the Kerney character with his experience in the Basin.

"When I wrote my debut novel, I picked an protagonist with a deep and pervading connection with the land," he said. "I have been researching and researching and researching."

Initially, McGarrity went to his publisher with the idea to write a single book about the history of the Kerney family, but he soon realized there was too much he wanted to include and asked to write a trilogy. Fortunately, McGarrity said, his publisher knew him well enough and had seen enough of the new project that he agreed.

"I have this unique opportunity to create a trilogy with four generations of a fictional family," he said. "I don't know of any other writer who has accomplished a trilogy of a back story."

McGarrity said reviews coming out about "Hard Country" are already being compared to classics such as "Lonesome Dove," "Sea of Grass" and "Big Rock Candy Mountain."

"If those comparisons hold, in terms of the general public, I'm going to be very happy," he said.
While McGarrity had an idea of where he wanted the book to go when he started, he had a lot of research to get it done.

"I had to immerse myself in a historical era I could only begin to imagine," he said. "I had to learn the language of the period I was writing about. Even the physical landscape looked a lot different."
Not one to carefully plan out his books, McGarrity said he did have to start with an outline to present to his publisher.

"I had to do an outline but once I started writing I kind of threw that out," he said. "I kind of get a springboard idea and take off from there. Careful, cautious outlines are not the kind of storytelling I can do. I have to kind of follow my instinct."

When McGarrity was in the Army in the late 1950s and early '60s, he had no thought of becoming a writer.

The era was a very busy time at WSMR and many of the missile programs were in full swing at that time, he said. The world was in the midst of the Cold War.

"At that point I was considering a military career," He said. "But then I chose going to college."

But McGarrity always did a lot of professional writing and describes him self as a voracious reader.
In his late 40s, McGarrity had the chance to take a summer off and write a book.

"I wrote a novel," he said. "It was very bad, but a lot of fun. I found it fulfilling and kept doing it."
When McGarrity was 56 years old, his novel "Tularosa" came out. Today, after 12 bestselling Kevin Kerney crime mystery novels, "High Country" takes a new turn.

"I am very excited about 'Hard Country,'" he said.

At McGarrity's first "Hard County" signing in Albuquerque, the great-granddaughter and great-great-granddaughter of Albert J. Fountain came to meet him and have their books signed.

"To have them come to a book signing in Albuquerque, and have me sign books, was wonderful," McGarrity said. "I think if the folks of the Basin -- from Lincoln to Mayfield to Las Cruces -- will like this book, I am going to be totally delighted."

McGarrity will visit Alamogordo with two events during his southern New Mexico tour this week. On Thursday, he will present a Lunch and Learn program at the First National Bank Atrium beginning at 11:30 a.m. Reservations are required for this free event. Call 437-4880.

On Sunday, May 27, he will sign books at Hastings Books, Music and Video beginning at 3 p.m.

Contact Elva K. Osterreich at

Freud or Fiction?

Cowboys, Crime Novels and the CIA

Jackson Larson
Santa Fe Reporter
May 9, 2012

Michael McGarrity is a former deputy sheriff for Santa Fe County. For the release of his 13th novel, titled Hard Country: A Novel of the Old West, he asked Valerie Plame Wilson, a former CIA Operations Officer and author of Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House to interview him at Collected Works Bookstore.

In a telephone interview, McGarrity denies that any experiences he might share with Wilson will play into the exchange; nor will their seemingly similar approaches to law and justice. The truth is less exciting: Wilson is a longtime friend and fan, he says, and her credentials serve to verify his own.
“After all,” McGarrity tells me, “how many people are willing to risk having a trained CIA operative interrogate you in public?”
Hard Country is a well-researched portrait of New Mexico’s history from 1875 to the end of World War I, told through four generations of the Kerney family. Icons like Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid make appearances through casual dialogue and melodramatic scenes that create a visceral atmosphere of the untamed west, one of the points on which McGarrity rests his pride of authenticity.

The interrogation with Wilson “will give people a chance to find out what it takes to write a western novel without clichés,” McGarrity says.
No small task. My idea of the Old West resembles some Andy Warhol litho, in which the image deteriorates through abstraction and glamorization until it loses connection to the subject. It’s easy to dismiss the real history under the Hollywood façade.
One Old West cliché McGarrity identifies is the hot-tempered rebel-without-a-cause, whom he actually finds “comical.” His response is Kevin Kerney, whose cool, calm and calculated attitude resembles McGarrity’s over the phone.
A prequel to a 12-book crime fiction series, Hard Country explores Kerney’s roots, merging the roles of cop and rancher into a single iconic figure. I don’t find it a stretch, then, to assume that McGarrity’s background in law enforcement not only inspired him to write crime fiction in the first place, but also prompted him to draw attention to actual historical events, such as the unsolved mystery of Albert Jennings Fountain.

Nonetheless, McGarrity detained my Freudian inquisition into the motives of his book right away, claiming the idea that every writer opens up his psyche to the reader is “absolute ridiculousness.”

“I’m a very private person, and that goes nowhere,” he says.
Still, I have a hard time believing that a book containing a character whose life parallels McGarrity’s in law enforcement is in no way autobiographical. If not told from his experience, then his life at least informs his writing at the very outset—he does write crime fiction. To this point, McGarrity admits that every book is a “hodgepodge” of personal morals and perspectives, but he is a firm believer in the necessity of stepping away from oneself in order to write good novels.
So his books may not be a gateway to his psyche, but his experiences have spawned a deep interest in crime drama, experiences occult enough to require the attention of an exposed CIA officer.

Hard Country: Author Michael McGarrity with Valerie Plame Wilson, 6 pm Friday, May 11. Collected Works Bookstore, 202 Galisteo St., 988-4226

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Music legend Doc Watson dies

The News & Observer
May 30, 2012

Doc and Merle Watson in 1971.

Arthel “Doc” Watson, the legendary North Carolina guitarist and one of the most iconic American musicians of the 20th century, died Tuesday evening at Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem. He was 89 years old.

Watson had been ailing since having colon surgery on Thursday.

“Different systems were failing the last few days,” said David Holt, Watson’s longtime sideman. “But I got to say goodbye, even though he wasn’t conscious. Maybe he heard us. We told him how much we loved him, and how much other people loved him. We told him about all (the) letters and emails that were coming in from all over, just thanking him for being who he was.”

Watson was never a big record-seller, making the Billboard charts only once in his entire career (and then no higher than No. 193, in 1975 with the album “Memories”). But he transcended mainstream popularity, earning eight Grammy Awards, including a lifetime achievement award in 2004. From ’70s country-rock to ’90s jam bands and beyond, Watson’s influence was vast, on audiences as well as other musicians.

“He was a great and groundbreaking guitarist, but Doc was more than that,” said Wayne Martin, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council. “He made musical traditions of Western North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Mountains accessible to millions. His guitar was a powerful tool to get people’s attention, but I don’t think it was his greatest legacy.”

Watson was instrumental in transforming guitar from a background rhythm role to a lead instrument in acoustic music. Yet few players in any style came close to duplicating his elegantly flawless flatpicking style. Generations of acoustic guitarists would spend hours trying to match the grace and speed Watson combined as he played tunes such as “Black Mountain Rag” and “Billy in the Lowground.”

All the same, Watson never went out of his way to call attention to himself. Durham’s Barry Poss, who released 13 of Watson’s albums on his Sugar Hill Records label, used to get frustrated with Watson’s modesty in the recording studio.

“If there’s another guitar player around, he’ll almost always defer to that other player and lay back,” Poss said of Watson in 2003. “He really has no interest in pretentiousness, showing off, ‘Here’s what I can do.’ It just never happens. In the studio, it can be hard to get him to take a hot lead.”

‘The good ol’ boy’

While he played all over the world, Watson still lived most of his life in the vicinity of the Deep Gap community where he was born in 1923. Blind since infancy, Watson’s first childhood instrument was harmonica. His father made him a banjo at age 10, and he learned the basics of guitar from a neighbor.

Watson was always pragmatic about music as a way to make a living. He began playing for money in the 1940s because, as a blind man, he had few other career options. Jack Lawrence, who played with Watson for more than a quarter-century, frequently said that Watson preferred home to being on the road and was less interested in being remembered for his music than as “the good ol’ boy down the road.”

By the 1950s, Watson was playing electric guitar in a rockabilly band. Thanks to an unreliable fiddle player who didn’t always show up for gigs, Watson had to improvise, learning to transpose fiddle parts to guitar – a technique he later applied to old-time fiddle tunes.

In the wake of the Kingston Trio’s 1958 hit “Tom Dooley,” a folk-music boom swept American college campuses in the early 1960s. That was when folklorist Ralph Rinzler discovered Watson, playing behind old-time banjo player Clarence “Tom” Ashley.

Rinzler convinced Watson to go back to acoustic guitar and the traditional mountain songs he’d grown up with. Playing lightning-fast versions of “Railroad Bill,” “Deep River Blues” and other old-time songs, Watson was an immediate sensation on the folk-festival circuit.

“Doc has been an influence on every player of traditional music that I know,” said Joe Newberry, who works for the state arts council and plays in various ensembles. “I used to say that Doc is what North Carolina sounds like. But somebody posted on my Facebook wall, no, Doc is what America sounds like. He’s been a good face to the world for North Carolina.”

Father and son

Watson’s teenage son Merle Watson joined the act in the late 1960s, and they were folk-festival fixtures until the mid-1980s. Their mainstream peak came in 1972, when they played on the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s country-rock landmark “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” – an intergenerational summit pairing rock musicians with country and folk elders including Maybelle Carter, Roy Acuff and Earl Scruggs. The album sold more than a million copies.

Merle died at age 36 in a 1985 tractor accident, and the elder Watson nearly gave up touring. But the story goes that Merle appeared to Doc in a dream, urging him to keep playing. So Watson returned to the road.

Recent years found Watson cutting back his touring schedule, but he never gave it up completely. In 2008, Watson underwent surgery to remove a growth from a lung. Remarkably, he was back out playing shows scarcely a month later.

“I think the only way he’d retire was if he just couldn’t physically do it anymore,” said Holt, his playing partner at the time. “He loves to play. It’s what he does, and he’s still so great at it. And it’s not too bad to have a couple thousand people patting you on the back with handclaps. That’s always good for the spirit.”

Watson leaves behind a legacy of numerous accolades, including a National Heritage Fellowship in 1988. Perhaps his most visible legacy is Merlefest, the annual bluegrass festival that began in 1988 in memory of Merle Watson.

With Doc serving as master of ceremonies, Merlefest has grown into one of the top acoustic-music events in the country. He played there again this year. But even in Doc’s absence, Merlefest will continue next year and beyond. Also going foward is a June 30 date at Raleigh’s N.C. Museum of Art, “Celebrating Doc,” featuring Holt, Deep River Rising and other like-minded acts.
Menconi: 919-829-4759 or

Doc Watson, Blind Guitar Wizard Who Influenced Generations, Dies at 89

The New York Times
May 30, 2012

Doc Watson, the guitarist and folk singer whose flat-picking style elevated the acoustic guitar to solo status in bluegrass and country music, and whose interpretations of traditional American music profoundly influenced generations of folk and rock guitarists, died on Tuesday in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 89.
Mr. Watson, who had been blind since he was a baby, died in a hospital after recently undergoing abdominal surgery, The Associated Press quoted a hospital spokesman as saying. On Thursday his daughter, Nancy Ellen Watson, said he had been hospitalized after falling at his home in Deep Gap, N.C., adding that he did not break any bones but was very ill.
Mr. Watson, who came to national attention during the folk music revival of the early 1960s, injected a note of authenticity into a movement awash in protest songs and bland renditions of traditional tunes. In a sweetly resonant, slightly husky baritone, he sang old hymns, ballads and country blues he had learned growing up in the northwestern corner of North Carolina, which has produced fiddlers, banjo pickers and folk singers for generations.
His mountain music came as a revelation to the folk audience, as did his virtuoso guitar playing. Unlike most country and bluegrass musicians, who thought of the guitar as a secondary instrument for providing rhythmic backup, Mr. Watson executed the kind of flashy, rapid-fire melodies normally played by a fiddle or a banjo. His style influenced a generation of young musicians learning to play the guitar as folk music achieved national popularity.
“He is single-handedly responsible for the extraordinary increase in acoustic flat-picking and fingerpicking guitar performance,” said Ralph Rinzler, the folklorist who discovered Mr. Watson in 1960. “His flat-picking style has no precedent in earlier country music history.”
Arthel Lane Watson was born in Stoney Fork, N.C., the sixth of nine children, on March 3, 1923. His father, General Dixon Watson, was a farmer and day laborer who led the singing at the local Baptist church. His mother, Annie, sang old-time ballads while doing household chores and at night sang the children to sleep.
When Mr. Watson was still an infant an eye infection left him blind, and the few years of formal schooling he received were at the Raleigh School for the Blind. His musical training, typical for the region, began in early childhood. At the age of 5 or 6 he received his first harmonica as a Christmas gift, and at 11 his father made him a fretless banjo with a head made from the skin of a family cat that had just died.
Arthel dropped out of school in the seventh grade and began working for his father, who helped him get past his disability. “I would not have been worth the salt that went in my bread if my dad hadn’t put me at the end of a crosscut saw to show me that there was not a reason in the world that I couldn’t pull my own weight and help to do my part in some of the hard work,” he told Frets magazine in 1979.
By then, Arthel had moved beyond the banjo. His father, hearing him plucking chords on a borrowed guitar, promised to buy him his own guitar if he could teach himself a song by the end of the day. The boy taught himself the Carter Family’s “When the Roses Bloom in Dixieland,” and a week later he was the proud owner of a $12 Stella guitar.
Mr. Watson initially employed a thumb-picking style, in which the thumb establishes a bass line on the lower strings while the rest of the fingers pick out a melody or chords. That soon changed.
“I began listening to Jimmie Rodgers recordings seriously and I figured, ‘Hey, he must be doing that with one of them straight picks,’ ” he told Dirty Linen magazine in 1995. “So I got me one and began to work at it. Then I began to learn the Jimmie Rodgers licks on the guitar, then all at once I began to figure out, ‘Hey, I could play that Carter stuff a lot better with a flat pick.’ ”
To pay for a new Martin guitar bought on the installment plan, Mr. Watson played for tips at a cab stand in Lenoir, N.C. Before long he was appearing at amateur contests and fiddlers’ conventions. One day, as he prepared to play for a radio show being broadcast from a furniture store, the announcer decided that the young guitarist needed a snappier name and appealed to the audience for suggestions. A woman yelled out, “Doc!,” and the name stuck. (Last year, a life-size statue of Mr. Watson was dedicated in Boone, N.C., at another spot where he had once played for tips to support his family. At his request the inscription read, “Just One of the People.”)
In 1947 he married Rosa Lee Carlton, the daughter of a local fiddler. The couple’s first child, Merle, took up the guitar and began performing with his father in 1964. Their partnership, which produced 20 albums, ended with Merle Watson’s death at 36 in a tractor accident in Lenoir in 1985. Mr. Watson is survived by his wife; his daughter, Nancy Ellen; a brother, David; two grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
In 1953, Mr. Watson began playing electric guitar with a country dance band, Jack Williams and the Country Gentlemen. The band usually played without a fiddle, so Mr. Watson learned how to play lead fiddle parts on the guitar, often complicated melodies executed at top speed. This technique, which he carried over to the acoustic guitar, became a hallmark, exemplified by his much imitated version of “Black Mountain Rag.”
In 1960 Mr. Rinzler, the folklorist, was attending a fiddlers’ convention in Union Grove, N.C., when he encountered Clarence Ashley, an old-time folk musician better known as Tom Ashley, whom he persuaded to sit for a recording session. Mr. Ashley put together a group of top local musicians that included Mr. Watson on banjo and guitar. Impressed, Mr. Rinzler went to Mr. Watson’s home and recorded him with family members, including his father-in-law, Gaither Carlton.
A year later Mr. Watson, Mr. Ashley and several other musicians gave a concert at P.S. 41 in Greenwich Village sponsored by the Friends of Old Time Music. The performance led to appearances at colleges and folk festivals and a solo career for Mr. Watson, who became a star attraction at clubs like Gerdes Folk City and an audience favorite for his folksy, humorous banter onstage. He was invited to appear at the Newport Folk Festival in 1963 and 1964. In 1963 he performed at Town Hall in Manhattan with the bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe.
In the meantime Folkways released “Old Time Music at Clarence Ashley’s” and “The Watson Family,” and Vanguard released Mr. Watson’s first solo album, “Doc Watson.” His recordings for Folkways and Vanguard in the 1960s are regarded as classics.
Despite his image, Mr. Watson was not a folk-music purist. Even as a child he absorbed big-band jazz and the guitar playing of Django Reinhardt, whose records he heard at school. “I can’t be put in a box,” he told Fred Metting, the author of “The Life, Work, and Music of the American Folk Artist Doc Watson” (2006). “I play traditional music and whatever else I’m drawn to.”
His catholic tastes expressed themselves on albums like “Good Deal!” (1968), recorded in Nashville with mainstream country musicians; “Docabilly” (1995), a return to the kind of rock ’n’ roll he had played in the 1950s; and the eclectic “Memories” (1975), which included “field hollers, black blues, sacred music, mountain music, gospel, rhythm and blues, even traces of jazz,” the critic Chet Flippo wrote in his liner notes.
Folk audiences, however, saw Mr. Watson as a direct conduit to the roots music of Appalachia, which he played with conviction. “To me the old-time fiddling, the old-time ballads — there never was anything prettier and there never will be,” he said.
Mr. Watson found touring hard to bear. “For a green country man not really used to the city, it was a scary thing to come to New York and wonder, ‘Will that guy meet me there at the bus station, and will the bus driver help me change buses?’ and all that stuff, people not knowing you’re blind and stepping on your feet,” he told The Washington Post. “It’s scary, the road is.”
In 1964 Merle Watson, then 15, joined him as a rhythm guitarist and eased most of the burdens of the road from his father’s shoulders. The two performed together for 20 years, receiving Grammy Awards for the albums “Then and Now” in 1974, “Two Days in November” in 1975 and “Big Sandy/Leather Britches” in 1980. A sampling of their work was collected on “Watson Country: Doc and Merle Watson” (1996).
Waning interest in folk music slowed Mr. Watson’s career in the late 1960s, but in 1972 he was invited to contribute to “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” an album that paired the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band with country artists like Maybelle Carter, Merle Travis (Merle Watson’s namesake) and Earl Scruggs. The record’s success brought Mr. Watson a new audience, and he and Merle toured constantly until Merle’s death.
Mr. Watson returned to the road a week after the funeral. Merle, he said, had appeared to him in a dream and urged him to carry on. In his son’s honor, he helped found an annual music festival in Wilkesboro, N.C., now known as Merlefest.
In the post-Merle period, Mr. Watson won Grammys for the albums “Riding the Midnight Train” in 1987, “On Praying Ground” in 1991 and “Legacy” in 2003. His fingers were dexterous well into old age, as he showed on the track “Whiskey Before Breakfast,” recorded with the guitarist Bryan Sutton, which won a Grammy for best country instrumental performance in 2007. In concerts he was often joined on guitar by his grandson Richard, Merle’s son.
In 1997, President Bill Clinton presented Mr. Watson with the National Medal of Arts at the White House. “There may not be a serious, committed baby boomer alive who didn’t at some point in his or her youth try to spend a few minutes at least trying to learn to pick a guitar like Doc Watson,” Mr. Clinton said.
Quiet and unassuming offstage, Mr. Watson played down his virtuoso guitar playing as nothing more than “country pickin.’ ” He told interviewers that had he not been blind, he would have become an auto mechanic and been just as happy.
“He wants to be remembered as a pretty good old boy,” said the guitarist Jack Lawrence, who had played with Mr. Watson since the early 1980s. “He doesn’t put the fact that he plays the guitar as more than a skill.”

Photo: John Cohen/Getty Images

Yes, Michelle Obama is fair game

Michelle Obama’s “Civilian” Act Is Hard To Swallow

by Michelle Malkin
May 30, 2012

The first lady of the United States is on a whirlwind publicity tour for her hefty new food and gardening book ($30), which the White House hopes will bolster Team Obama’s favorability ratings. I’d say it’s a classic recipe for rank campaign hypocrisy and media double standards.

While journalists savor chummy chitchats with Mrs. Obama about beets and Beyonce, FLOTUS is once again escaping hard questions about her cronyism, junk science and generous junkets at taxpayer expense.

Mrs. Obama’s 2012 campaign media blitz has already brought her to daytime airwaves (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”), prime-time reality TV (“The Biggest Loser”) and children’s programming (“iCarly”). This week, she’s hitting up “Good Morning America,” “The View,” Rachael Ray’s cooking show, “LIVE! with Kelly (Ripa)” and Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Out: Let’s Move! In: Let’s Move … in front of the TV cameras!

My prediction? As soon as the fawning media frenzy dies down and Mrs. Obama’s book rises to the top of The New York Times best-seller list, POTUS will go back to claiming that FLOTUS is a “private citizen” who should be left alone. The Obamas’ Chicago strategists have long enjoyed invoking selective immunity for the first lady without challenge. Lapdog reporters have assisted in creating an impenetrable bubble of political protection around the profligate, policy-meddling first lady.

We’ve seen it before.

When conservatives challenged Mrs. O’s caustic 2008 campaign trail statements disparaging America and fear-mongering for votes, her hubby invoked the “civilian” shield. He threatened Republicans to “lay off his wife,” arguing that political spouses should not be subject to public scrutiny because they didn’t choose public life.

When Mrs. O’s lavish vacation in Spain — accompanied by an entourage of 70 Secret Service agents and 250 Spanish law enforcement officers — provoked a massive public backlash in 2010, then-White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs argued that the first lady was a “private citizen” who should be off-limits to tough questions about her behavior.


Obama’s outspoken bitter half conscientiously and deliberately inserted herself into the public square long before the family moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — whether it was organizing a Woods Fund panel with her husband and Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers, taking a publicly subsidized government job with Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, or parlaying her relationship with political mentor Valerie Jarrett into a cushy public job at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where she oversaw a patient-dumping scheme that benefited her political cronies.

As I reported earlier this month, Mrs. Obama’s signature program (now run by Obama’s best golfing buddy Dr. Eric Whitaker) just received a $6 million grant from an Obamacare agency with zero independent oversight. Taste the boodle.

Just a humble private mom raising her two daughters while Dad does all that hardball politics stuff? Pshaw. Let’s not forget that Mrs. Obama leveraged her hubby’s Senate victory to snag a lucrative seat on the corporate board of directors of TreeHouse Foods, Inc. despite having zero experience in the industry.

When her garden gloves are off, her political boxing gloves are on. Mrs. O famously has castigated other Americans’ choices in how they earn their money. She used her East Wing power to push Obamacare. She has exploited the bully pulpit to restrict food advertisers’ speech. She has served the SEIU’s legislative agenda of increasing the welfare state and padding membership rolls with more government school workers under the guise of fighting child obesity.

And she has relied on questionable science to declare war on so-called “food deserts” in poor neighborhoods where she claims only fast food is available. But according to two major peer-reviewed and published studies: 1) poor neighborhoods had nearly twice the number of supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile as wealthier neighborhoods, and 2) there is no correlation between what students in a large-scale California survey ate, what they weighed and what kinds of foot they ate within the immediate radius of their homes.

While she denies a Nanny State agenda, Mrs. Obama successfully has strong-armed several major restaurant chains into redesigning their menus to her exacting healthful standards. One of those targets is Darden Restaurants, which operates Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants across the country. At a time when most food service providers are struggling under the weight of increased taxes, health care mandates and regulations, Darden Restaurants just happens to be one of the few and fortunate businesses to obtain one of those coveted Obamacare waivers.

When Michelle Obama stops using her public office to push new Big Government power grabs and redistribute wealth to her cronies (flashback: Chicago Obama-lympics), stoke racial grievances, and meddle in Obama administration personnel decisions that lead to whistleblower firings (ask her about former AmeriCorps Inspector General Gerald Walpin), I’ll leave her alone.

Until then, someone’s got to deliver FLOTUS her just deserts.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The American Iron Lady

By Bruce Thornton
May 25, 2012

Peter Collier, Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick (Encounter Books). To order it, click here.

At a time when our foreign policy is in the hands of the feckless, delusional, and incompetent, it is bracing to have Peter Collier’s fascinating biography of Jeane Kirkpatrick, Ronald Reagan’s smart, no-nonsense, straight-talking ambassador to the U.N. Collier, along with his sometime co-author David Horowitz, is the Plutarch of American political biography, having authored earlier books on the Kennedys, Fords, Rockefellers, and Roosevelts. Himself a convert from left-wing dogma and delusion, he brings to Kirkpatrick’s life both flawless story-telling skills and a shrewd eye for the psychological, intellectual, and social detail that tracks Kirkpatrick’s development from a reflexive liberal Democrat to a formidable opponent of appeasement and the staunch defender of political freedom who became, in William Safire’s phrase, “the courage of Ronald Reagan’s convictions.”

Kirkpatrick’s life is a paean to the American heartland and its clear-eyed realism about human nature and the limits of the politically possible. She was born in 1926 in Duncan, Oklahoma to a New Deal, Yellow-Dog Democrat oil driller named Welcher “Fat” Jordan. In 1940 the family followed the oil boom to Mount Vernon, Illinois, where Jeane’s keen intellect and restless curiosity fomented dissatisfaction with the small-town limits on both her mind and gender. Her first stop was at Stephens College, a two-year girls’ school in Columbia, Missouri. A visit to New York City convinced her that her intellectual ambitions needed larger scope, so she enrolled at Barnard, “where women could take themselves seriously,” she would write later. On weekends she hung out in the Village, and knew James Baldwin well enough to call him “Jimmy.” Yet a trajectory that seemingly pointed to becoming a conventional left-wing New York intellectual was deflected by her critical mind, which was not satisfied with the received opinions of her milieu. Contrary to her professors and classmates, for example, a reading of the Alger Hiss trial transcripts convinced her of Hiss’s guilt. Likewise she supported Truman in the 1948 elections while the “romantic leftists,” as Collier calls them, voted for Henry Wallace.

Her independent intellectual development continued at Columbia University, where she studied political science. Her mentor was Franz Neumann, a German Jew who had been a lawyer in the Weimer government. Neumann was an independent Marxist who lacked the starry-eyed admiration for Stalin that afflicted many American leftists. Her study of the inner workings of Nazi governance, which taught her, as she said later, “the human capacity for evil,” changed her life. So too did meeting Evron Kirkpatrick in Washington D.C. in 1951, who hired her as his research assistant. “Kirk,” as he was called, worked in the State Department and was a close friend of Hubert Humphrey as well as an anti-communist New Deal Democrat. Fourteen years Jeane’s senior, he became “the Pygmalion who would intellectually sculpt her in a way that brought her fully to life,” Collier writes. Her first assignment was to edit some papers detailing daily life in the prewar Soviet Union. The experience of learning what Kirkpatrick called “a hell purposefully created by government” was another critical stage in her development as a warrior against totalitarianism and its appeasers.

Kirkpatrick’s next stop was Paris, where she traveled to escape a serious illness and a burgeoning romance with Kirk. Once more, a path that would have led a less critical intelligence into leftist orthodoxy was blocked by Kirkpatrick’s reaction to the famous quarrel between one-time comrades Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre over support for the Soviet Union and its permanent revolution. Reading Camus’ The Rebel and listening to his lectures convinced Kirkpatrick that Camus had both the facts on his side and the moral high ground. She was particularly impressed by what she called “his suspicion of abstract theory and its friendship with totalitarianism; his elevation of the human dimension over the political one; his focus on the impact of ideas and the personal consequences of ideologies.” As Collier describes this transformative experience, one begins to see emerging the champion of freedom and human dignity who three decades later would give moral and intellectual force to Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy.

Back from France, Kirkpatrick eventually married Kirk and settled in Georgetown, where she connected with others like herself, heartland refugees, “very American, yet slightly alien among the elites” of postwar Washington, Collier describes them, bright people from modest backgrounds who “made their way by sheer intellectual force rather than by networks,” “pragmatic ‘show me’ people, and unapologetic in a patriotism that would not be shaken even during the turbulence of the Vietnam era.” She met other recovering leftists, like onetime Trotskyite James Burnham, and former communist Sidney Hook, both of whom later would become some of flabby liberalism’s most trenchant critics. As the sixties spiraled downward into left-wing thuggish intolerance, knee-jerk anti-Americanism, and apologetics for communist tyranny, she began to see the same conditions she had studied in other countries that had degenerated into totalitarianism from a lofty, abstract utopianism. The New Left’s assault on centrist liberalism––institutionalized in the 1972 highjacking of the Democratic party and its marginalization of lower-middle and working-class constituents in favor of a “new elite” of lawyers and other professionals––was to Jeane another sign that the old anti-communist, socially compassionate but pragmatic liberal Democrat no longer had a place in a party increasingly dominated by the sectarian left. Like many of those liberals who would get mugged by reality, Kirkpatrick had to find a more independent path.

She became a public intellectual, writing books on the changes in the Democratic Party, and essays for Commentary magazine. Disturbed by America’s foreign policy retreat and Soviet expansionism after Vietnam, she joined the Committee on the Present Danger and supported anti-communist Democratic Senator “Scoop” Jackson’s brief bid for the 1976 Democrat presidential candidacy. The disastrous presidency of Jimmy Carter, which saw a global epidemic of Soviet aggression, culminated in the annus terribilis of 1979, when Iran and Nicaragua, deemed insufficiently respectful of human rights by the Carter administration, were both allowed to fall to brutal, repressive regimes hostile to America’s interests. Kirkpatrick’s journey was now nearly complete, the dangers of American global retreat sharpening to urgency her personal intellectual and political development.
At this critical moment she wrote for Commentary the essay that earned her opprobrium as a fascist apologist from the left, and praise from traditional anti-communist liberals, “the signature piece of writing,” Collier writes, Kirkpatrick “would have to defend . . . for the rest of her life.” “Dictatorship and Double Standards” straightforwardly exposed the moral idiocy, delusional idealism, and self-abasement of the American foreign policy thinking that had led to the abandonment of flawed yet useful allies, and that had created openings to communist and totalitarian regimes much bloodier and more oppressive than the governments they replaced. As Kirkpatrick pointed out, autocracies can evolve into democracies, as was happening in Spain, Greece, and Portugal, but communist regimes never do so without enormous external pressure and resistance. Kirkpatrick also scorned the self-abasing double standards that condemned pro-American authoritarian regimes while history’s most murderous abuser of human rights, the Soviet Union, was given a pass. Nor did she suffer the “posture of continuous self-abasement and apology,” as she called it, “vis-à-vis the Third World,” a masochism “neither morally necessary not politically appropriate.” One has only to remember Obama’s disastrous apology tours abroad to feel the truth of Kirkpatrick’s insight.

The essay brought Kirkpatrick to the attention of Ronald Reagan, who made her his ambassador to the U.N. Her tenure at the U.N. was one of the great achievements of American diplomacy. She forcefully rejected that corrupt and venal body’s reflexive anti-Americanism and active hostility to U.S. interests, making it clear that the Reagan administration was keeping score and would remember its enemies when it came to doling out foreign aid and contributions to the U.N. budget. It wasn’t easy, particularly for a woman. She had to face resistance from her own State Department, who seemingly put the interests of the U.N. over those of the U.S. She battled the spineless European bloc, whose nations “have long since accepted their prescribed role” in the U.N., she said, and “grown accustomed to being ‘it’ in a global game of dunk-the-clown, and have opted to ‘understand’ the point of view of their Third World accusers.” She changed the way the U.S. conducted business, replacing a flabby one-world idealism with something more like “a political operation in Chicago,” Collier writes, “where tough deals cut on the basis of enlightened self-interest trumped the theater of idealistic rhetoric.” And she had no patience with the egregious double standards of the General Assembly, which, as she put it, judged the U.S. and Israel in particular “by the Sermon on the Mount and all other nations on the curve.”

Finally, Kirkpatrick was a stalwart friend of Israel, resisting the hatred heaped on that vulnerable nation, and fighting against what she called “a systematic totalitarian assault on language and meaning” that cast the Israelis as Nazis and the Palestinians as victims of genocide. Nor did she tolerate in silence a Security Council that in 60 meetings during 1981 had failed to do anything about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Vietnam’s invasion of Cambodia, Iraq’s invasion of Iran, or Libya’s of Chad, yet still found time at 45 meetings to take up Arab complaints about Israel. Kirkpatrick’s forceful leadership at the U.N. was a major factor in the recovery of American prestige that contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.

After internal White House politics led to her ouster from the Reagan administration, over the succeeding decade Kirkpatrick became a popular public speaker and newspaper columnist, continuing to warn against impractical idealism even when it came from her own side, and to counsel against “expansive, expensive” global projects that she believed eventually harmed American interests. This put her out of favor with the neoconservative ascendency and its program of spreading democracy, “as if,” she wrote, “democracy could imbue chaotic societies and unstable governments with a respect for what we respected: the rule of law, basic human rights and a peaceful world order.”
The sting of being summarily dismissed by the American Enterprise Institute that had long been her intellectual home was salved by the sale of her last book to HarperCollins. Unfortunately, she died in 2006, just before the publication of Making War to Keep Peace, an “inquiry into the use of the American military when vital national interests were not at stake,” Collier writes, and a “critique of the misuse of the American military in misbegotten multilateralist adventures, of internationalist power grabs of by the UN, and of futile efforts to plant democracy in barren soil.” Most of the book’s attention, however, came from its criticism of the Iraq War, which obscured the larger, more important argument.

Collier’s narrative of Jeane Kirkpatrick’s “big little life,” as she called it, is important not just for skillfully capturing the life, times, and independent mind of this quintessential American patriot, but for reminding us of a time when American foreign policy shed its internationalist infatuations, unwarranted self-abasement, and utopian nostrums, and restored to America a well-earned pride at being the greatest global force for freedom and goodness.

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Between The Covers with Peter Collier
May 29, 2012

Today’s Between the Covers podcast is with Peter Collier, author of Political Woman: The Big Little Life of Jeane Kirkpatrick. We talk about Kirkpatrick’s legacy as Reagan’s U.N. ambassador, whether she was the second most important woman in the Cold War (after Margaret Thatcher), and if she should be understood as a feminist.

Spurs-Heat is culture clash we need

By Jason Whitlock
May 28, 2012

Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker during their 101-98 victory over the Thunder in the opening game of the western conference finals on Saturday.

The biggest lie in sports is that the San Antonio Spurs are boring. Winning is never boring.

Golf is boring. But when Tiger Woods was winning every third tournament he played and making a bid to obliterate all of Jack Nicklaus’ records, golf was more spellbinding than porn.

Women’s basketball is boring. But when the media pretended Connecticut women’s basketball was going to surpass John Wooden’s UCLA winning streak, women’s hoops flirted with relevancy.

Horse racing is boring. But we’re suckered into the sport every time a 3-year-old puts together a two-race win streak that includes the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes.

Winning is the ultimate aphrodisiac. It always creates excitement, draws interest.

The Spurs are far from boring. Sunday evening, in the opener of the Western Conference finals, the Spurs stretched their playoff winning streak to nine games, their overall winning streak to 19, with an impressive 101-98, come-from-behind victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder in San Antonio.

Boring? Hardly. Manu Ginobili came off the Spurs bench and unleashed a dizzying array of twisting runners at the rim, fallaway jumpers from beyond the arc and midrange floaters that eventually overwhelmed the Thunder.

Boring? Hell no. The Spurs trailed by nine after three quarters. Fellow reserves Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal got the Spurs back into the game early in the fourth, sparking a 9-2 run to open the quarter.

The Spurs aren’t remotely boring. They’re poorly marketed by a commissioner and a league that overdosed on Michael Jordan and the celebration of individual over team. They’re poorly defined by media that are gutless, politically correct and lazy.

The popular theory is that a Miami-OKC, LeBron James-Kevin Durant NBA Finals is what is best for the league. The popular theory is wrong.

San Antonio-Miami is the culture-war showdown that could build on the momentum of last year’s terrific NBA Finals. San Antonio-Miami would represent team vs. stars, diligence and patience vs. instant gratification, humility vs. hype, international basketball culture vs. American basketball culture.

Tim Duncan (Virgin Islands), Tony Parker (France) and Manu Ginobili (Argentina), the San Antonio-drafted foundation of the Spurs team, did not grow up a part of traditional American basketball culture. Duncan grew up dreaming of being an Olympic swimmer. He stayed all four years at Wake Forest. Parker and Ginobili grew up playing international basketball.

San Antonio’s “Big Three” is quite a contrast to Miami’s. James, an Akron, Ohio, native, never attended college and orchestrated his move to Miami after seven seasons with the Cavaliers. Bosh, a Dallas native, left Georgia Tech after one season and bolted to Miami after seven seasons in Toronto. Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native, played two seasons at Marquette and was drafted by the Heat.

The Spurs share the ball and the scoring load, rely on a 10-man playing rotation and run an exquisitely precise offense. James and Wade, with the exception of the last three games against the Pacers, mostly go one-on-one for their points. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili rarely dunk. James and Wade are featured on "SportsCenter" nightly.

San Antonio-Miami could be a dream matchup. The NBA hasn’t had anything like this since Magic Johnson and Larry Bird clashed. There were racial undertones to those battles and the media were not afraid to explore those undertones. We were less politically correct in the 1980s.

The Spurs and their multiple championships on the backs of Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich are a repudiation of American, AAU basketball culture. James, Wade and Bosh are the ultimate manifestation of American, AAU basketball culture. They learned the game while being seduced by the shoe companies that finance summer basketball. The teenage summer circuit is what has made the modern American player value friendship more than competition. The best players now dream of teaming together rather than out-dueling each other.

They want to be like Nike . . . I mean Mike.

Who can blame them?

David Stern and his television partners have convinced the world that Michael Jordan invented basketball, that the individual player is far more valuable than a team.

The Spurs should be the NBA’s version of the Green Bay Packers. Yes, the Cowboys are more glamorous and the Steelers and the 49ers have won more Super Bowls. But little old Green Bay is “Titletown.” The Packers are a huge national television draw. No one would call the Packers boring.

The Spurs are not boring. Greatness is never boring. And if these Spurs go on to win the title, there will be no denying they’re one of the greatest teams in NBA history.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Christie Administration in NJ Concludes NYPD Surveillance Was Legal

By Andrew C. McCarthy
May 27, 2012

Imam Mustafa El-Amin, left, listens with Nadia Kahf, second right, attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in New Jersey, as Mohamed Younes, right, of Passaic, answers a question in Trenton, N.J., Thursday, May 24, 2012, after a meeting between New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and Muslim leaders. At rear, Mohamed El-Filali, right, of Paterson, and Imam Wahy-ud Deen Shareef, of Irvington, talk. Following a three-month review, Gov. Chris Christie's administration said Thursday that New York City police did not violate New Jersey laws when they conducted surveillance of Muslim businesses, mosques and student groups, rejecting demands by Muslim leaders for a formal investigation and a clampdown on cross-border police operations. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

As a number of readers are aware, I’ve had more than my fair share to say about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie of late, much of it on the negative side of the ledger — although I’d caution that that “ledger” is more about whether he is a “consistent conservative” (no) than about his quality as a governor (above average, particularly for a blue state). So it’s necessary to give credit where credit is due: The Christie administration is to be commended for conducting a fair and objective investigation of the New York City Police Department’s intelligence gathering efforts in the Garden State, which date back to at least 2007, when Gov. Christie was the state’s Bush-appointed U.S. attorney. New Jersey’s state Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa has concluded that the NYPD’s surveillance activities did not violate state law.

This is one of those situations where the inquiry could easily have been politicized to make the boss look good. Gov. Christie initially blasted the NYPD and got into a public spat with NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and Congressman Pete King (R., NY). Christie’s first statements echoed the CAIR Islamophobia talking points; nevertheless, the governor seemed to tone it down and argue that his quarrel was more with the fact that he had not been informed of the NYPD surveillance (while he was U.S. attorney) than over the fact that the surveillance had happened.

As I’ve noted, the substantive condemnation of the NYPD’s investigative activities is absurd — it is well established that mosques and Muslim businesses in fundamentalist Islamic communities (not all Muslim communities) have been hubs for the spreading of Islamic supremacist ideology and jihadist plotting. In addition, the governor’s “failure to inform” complaint is overwrought because there is immense reason to believe local police in Jersey were informed even if he and the other feds were not. (And if the feds were not, it is because the local Jersey police did not feed the information to the feds, just as the feds and cops in New York don’t always share.)

Obviously, the attorney general did not politicize the investigation — neither he nor the governor appears to have slanted things to bolster the governor’s previously expressed concerns. As the Associated Press reports (hat tip, Robert Spencer), the NYPD surveillance was spurred not by bigotry or profiling people just because they were Muslims; the cops were following leads (information or tips regarding suspicious and potentially threatening activity) whenever they investigated in the Garden State.

Given that the AP has spearheaded the jihad against the NYPD, channeling Islamic supremacist organizations like CAIR (which has notorious ties to Hamas and a history of championing terrorists), we should not be surprised to find that the AG’s rationale for concluding the surveillance was legal is buried several paragraphs into its story. Nor is it surprising that the story emphasizes the disappointment of Muslim community “leaders” rather than the propriety of the surveillance — and it is dismaying that state authorities, including the governor and the attorney general, feel the need to go to great “outreach” lengths not to offend these Muslim community activists (whose profession calls for them to be in a constant state of agitation).

It is especially unfortunate, moreover, that NYPD’s detractors (AP and Muslim activists in particular) continue to emphasize the fact that the surveillance activities focused on “students.” If journalists did their homework (or were not so Islamophilic), this would be a strong point in the NYPD’s favor.

As I detail in The Grand Jihad, the Muslim Students Association — which now has hundreds of chapters in North America — is the the first building block in the Muslim Brotherhood’s American infrastructure. It has a rigorous program in which students study the writings of such Islamic supremacist icons as Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Abul Ala al-Mawdudi, and participate in various forms of proselytism (dawa or what Robert Spencer aptly calls “stealth jihad”). There is extensive empirical evidence that many students who go through this Brotherhood-prescribed indoctrination end up sympathizing with, facilitating, or even participating in violent jihadism — to say nothing of promoting the sharia agenda that imperils American civil liberties. (See, e.g., this report from Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism.) If anybody in the Muslim community ought to be drawing the attention of the authorities and the public at large, it is the Muslims Student Association — which, by the way, evolved over the years into the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), the most important Islamist group in the United States, and one that was designated an unindicted coconspirator by the Justice Department in the Holy Land Foundation Hamas financing case because it was shown to have abetted the transfer of funds from the U.S. to Palestinian jihadists.

It is, of course, easy for me to cite these facts aloud. I am not seeking or holding public office in New Jersey, so it is of no moment to me, as it obviously is to the Christie administration, that New Jersey has a large, politically active Muslim population. Nonetheless, my unsolicited advice (which I’m sure the governor is just dying to hear) is that good policy makes good politics: It is better to convey the strong message to the Muslim community that it is obliged to help us discredit sharia supremacism than to convey the strong message that we are obliged to walk on eggshells around the Muslim community. Stop worrying about Islamist organizations like CAIR, ISNA and MPAC — they don’t speak for most rank-and-file American Muslims, so don’t confuse their popularity in the left-leaning media with popularity generally.

The self-ordained “leaders” of the Muslim community went predictably berserk over Attorney General Chiesa’s conclusions. It is unfortunate that he felt the need to announce the establishment of a “Muslim community outreach committee” to appease this insatiable grievance enterprise. But that said, kudos to the Christie administration for doing the right thing and acknowledging the legality and propriety of the NYPD surveillance. Thanks, also, to Gov. Christie for not sticking his thumb on the scale against the NYPD despite the public bickering between him and New York officials — many lesser public officials would not have been as scrupulous.

WWII Hero Wins Presidential Medal of Freedom

Jan Karski was one of the first to tell the West about the Final Solution.

By Deroy Murdock
May 28, 2012

In a White House ceremony Tuesday, President Obama will bestow the Medal of Freedom posthumously on the late Jan Karski, Ph.D. America’s highest civilian honor will go to this Polish-born World War II hero, whose daring deserves universal acclaim.
Speaking April 23 at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Obama praised Jan Karski, calling him “a young Polish Catholic who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.”

I am fortunate enough to have been among Dr. Karski’s students at Georgetown University. I spent my senior fall semester in his “Theory of Communism” class in a brick building called Old North. George Washington once spoke there.

Dr. Karski’s students found him fascinating and often very funny. He also was incredibly modest. Indeed, most of his students had heard little more than rumors about his life during wartime.
As his second-to-last lecture began, we begged him to tell us about his actions during that era. He was reluctant, but we insisted.

Dr. Karski then kept us spellbound for 90 minutes, detailing how he saw the Nazis attack his horse-drawn artillery unit on the morning of September 1, 1939. He fled as the Nazi Blitzkrieg overran the Polish Army. He later was captured by the Red Army as the Soviet Union implemented the Hitler-Stalin pact and invaded Poland from the east.

Jan Karski talked his way out of a troop movement that ended in one of the war’s most notorious atrocities, the Katyn Forest Massacre, in which Russian soldiers slaughtered some 8,000 Polish officers. Having escaped execution there, Karski jumped from a Nazi train soon thereafter as it sped through the Polish countryside.

He fled into the woods and, before long, joined the Polish Underground, for which he served as a courier. He carried coded messages from Warsaw across Europe to the Polish government-in-exile, then based in still-free France.

The Gestapo captured Karski on one of his missions. Nazi agents tortured him, but he neither would identify his colleagues nor confess other secrets. Karski feared, though, that he could not survive another day of torture without cracking and telling everything he knew. So he reached into the sole of his shoe, withdrew a small razor blade, and slashed his wrists.

The Nazis found him before he bled to death and took him to a hospital so that he could recover enough for them to torture him anew.

Karski spoke with a visiting priest who told a member of the Underground that Witold — Karski’s code name — was in the hospital. Disguised as a nun, another Underground agent came to Karski’s bedside, fluffed up his pillows, and told him that the guards had been bribed to take tranquilizers and fall asleep as he leapt from an open window that evening.

Thus Karski slipped out of Nazi custody and returned to the Polish Underground.

On his last mission, Karski posed as a Jew. Wearing a yellow Star of David, he penetrated the Warsaw Ghetto and witnessed its horrid conditions. Days later, he impersonated a pro-Nazi Ukrainian guard, complete with a borrowed uniform and identification documents. In the fall of 1942, he visited Izbica, a sorting point for the Belzec extermination camp.

After witnessing Nazi genocide, Jan Karski prepared to alert the free world.

A dentist with the Polish Underground injected a saline solution into his gums to make them swell temporarily, mimicking the aftereffects of oral surgery. This gave Karski a perfect excuse for not speaking, which would have exposed his telltale Polish accent.

Using papers acquired from a migrant French worker, he boarded a German passenger train that traversed Nazi-occupied Europe. Karski reached France, traveled over the Pyrenees and through Spain, then reached Gibraltar, where a Royal Air Force plane whisked him to London.

That’s when Jan Karski became one of the first to reveal the Final Solution.

He briefed members of the British War Cabinet. Then he came to America and shared his experiences with Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter — the most powerful American Jewish official at that time — and, finally, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Unfortunately, these leaders were skeptical of Karski’s report. They did not grasp the totality of Hitler’s hatred or believe he was murdering Jews and others by the millions.

So Jan Karski went public with his story.

He delivered some 200 lectures and wrote a best-selling book, The Story of a Secret State, in 1944. He did this not for personal grandeur but to inform the civilized world about the unbridled barbarism then devouring Europe. (Also, in 1996, E. Thomas Wood wrote Karksi: How One Man Tried to Stop the Holocaust, a nonfiction page-turner reminiscent of the finest spy fiction.)

In the years after the Nazis were crushed, Dr. Karski spoke little about his wartime experiences. He studied and taught at Georgetown for the rest of his career.

Jan Karski was a humble man who — when the times required it — became one of Hitler’s most heroic enemies.

“Jan Karski did not cave; he stood steadfast,” says Wanda Urbanska, director of the Jan Karski U.S. Centennial Campaign, which is holding a number of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Dr. Karksi’s birth on April 24, 1912. “He went on to a distinguished career as an educator,” she adds, “one who was not bitter but who reached out to the better angels in us all, advocating for tolerance, for being active agents of good in the world, for building bridges between communities at odds with each other.”

Urbanska’s group plans a variety of educational and cultural activities to increase awareness of Dr. Karski’s life and deeds. A major motion picture about Karski’s life may also be in the works. In the right hands, it should be both morally uplifting and riveting.

As Americans and others search for people whose actions can inspire us, few examples surpass that of Jan Karski.

— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.

The Polish Consulate has installed a statue of Jan Karski, a famous member of Poland’s World War II underground, outside its residence in Midtown Manhattan. It’s an understated monument, a lifesize depiction of Karski in an interrupted chess game.

Memorial Day Challenge: Ryan's Story

Today's Tune: Big Country - Where The Rose Is Sown/Come Back To Me (Live)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Today's Tune: Bruce Springsteen - Rocky Ground

Christie Is Not One of Us

New Jersey could do much worse, but he is not conservative.

By Andrew C. McCarthy
May 26, 2012

I feel something washing over me. I’m standing in New Jersey, so it’s probably red ink. No, wait a minute — it’s glowing ink! It could only be one thing: more conservative hagiography about the Garden State’s GOP governor.

Chris Christie is so not one of us that articles like “Christie Is One of Us” — a new contribution to the genre, from National Review’s Noah Glyn — are churned out regularly as the governor’s smitten admirers, from Ann Coulter to NR staffers, labor to convince us of what they’ve convinced themselves of: that an ostensibly gruff, internally milquetoast, progressive-lite, pro-Islamist Republican must be the second coming of Ronald Reagan because he has managed to make a basket-case blue state marginally less of a basket case. And “marginally” is the operative word. Glyn’s valentine to Christie is unfortunately timed. It was published just as Moody’s declared that Christie’s claim to have put New Jersey’s fiscal house in order is grossly overstated. More on that in a bit.
Mr. Glyn contends that I was “unfair” in portraying Mr. Christie as a “tough-talking moderate” whose record does not match his rhetoric. I’d realize Christie is really a “tough-talking conservative,” Glyn asserts, if only I were one of “the citizens of New Jersey who know him best.”

As it happens, I am a citizen of New Jersey, so my reasons for examining his record closely go beyond my day job. It is based on that examination that I see Christie as wildly overrated. Sure, his YouTube smackdowns of overmatched lefty hacks are catnip for the Right. The routine gets old fast, though. The tantrums have become as mundane as “Pass the salt.” Christie now erupts not only at teachers’ union drones but at NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, New York congressman Pete King, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, anti-sharia “crazies” who resist Islamic supremacism, all those “completely intellectually dishonest” conservatives who think Romneycare may not have been a fabulous idea, and, one infers, just about anyone who happens by when Governor Grumpy is having a bad day . . . which seems to be often. Plus, there’s not much rain in them big winds: Christie’s bully-boy études do not drown out his nonstop symphony to “bipartisanship,” nor obscure that it is “compromise” with the Left that sends him into (not infrequent) frissons of self-adulation.
To be sure, Christie is a very talented politician and a deft extemporaneous speaker. He has done some good things in a heavily Democratic state dominated by municipal unions. He is certainly, as blue-state governors go, better than average. That does not make him a conservative, much less the “consistent conservative” of Glyn’s portrayal.

On that score, Glyn’s reliance on Quinnipiac’s recent poll misses the point. The university was polling the governor’s job approval, not his adherence to conservative principles. I have my problems with Christie, but I’d probably have been among the 59 percent of New Jerseyans who approve of the job he’s done.

But job approval is relative. When Christie sought the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2009, I preferred Steve Lonegan, who actually is a consistent conservative. I was deeply disappointed when Christie made like a Democrat and attacked Lonegan’s conservative proposals: a flat tax, a $5 billion spending cut, and the shuttering of government agencies. It was what you’d expect from a cardboard cut-out northeastern GOP moderate proponent of progressive taxation and the welfare state — which is exactly what Christie has proven to be. Still, Christie was clearly preferable to the loathsome incumbent Democrat (and now part-time Obama bundler, full-time embezzlement suspect), Jon Corzine.

Politics is not about getting everything you want; it’s about choosing between available alternatives. My choice in New Jersey, a union-dominated Democratic-machine state, is the hard Left’s unsustainable statism or the more realistic Christie’s moderate (but ultimately unsustainable) statism. That’s no contest. But neither is public approval (especially in this state) a testament to Christie’s conservatism. At a new high of 59 percent, a plateau at which he surely will not stay (Farleigh Dickinson puts it at 56 percent), Christie’s approval rating is just a few points higher than the national approval rating of President Obama, who also remains popular in our blue, blue Garden State.

In the post Glyn targets, my point was that Christie would be a poor choice as Mitt Romney’s running mate — a conclusion with which Glyn actually agrees. If the objective in making the pick is to improve Romney’s chances by balancing the ticket with someone more conservative than Romney, that purpose would not be served by selecting a near-clone of Romney. Another moderate northeastern GOP governor with a soft spot for socialized medicine is not going to energize tea partiers and other Romney-indifferent conservatives. Furthermore, my principal contention in the post, not mentioned by Glyn, was that Christie has been adamant about not being ready to be president. Given that readiness to assume the office is generally taken to be the salient qualification for the No. 2 slot, Christie would seem to be unsuitable on his own account. In any event, my main purpose was not to trash Governor Christie — as a governor for New Jersey, he may be the best we can do at the moment. My post addressed the claim, still making the rounds, that he’d make a good veep choice.

But if Mr. Glyn wants to make this about Christie’s record, fine. Let’s begin with the centerpiece of Glyn’s critique, which purports to address my complaints about what he gently calls “Christie’s differing views on Islam in America” — but what would more accurately be described as Christie’s Islamist sympathies.

I have to say Glyn “purports” to address my complaints because, although he correctly says they are my “main bone of contention,” he studiously avoids describing them. As Glyn must know — because it is linked to in my post — I have laid out my objections to Christie’s (literal) embrace of Islamic supremacists in exacting detail. To summarize, not only did Christie appoint to the state bench a lawyer named Sohail Mohammed, who, besides slandering the Justice Department’s prosecutions of (now convicted) jihadists, served as a board member of an Islamic-supremacist organization (the American Muslim Union); as U.S. attorney, Christie also personally championed a Hamas operative named Mohammed Qatanani and, more shockingly, put his federal office in the service of that operative, in opposition to the federal government’s worthy effort to deport him. Reportedly, U.S. Attorney Christie physically embraced Qatanani, praising him as “a man of great good will,” at an Islamic center in Passaic that was closely linked to the Holy Land Foundation Hamas-financing case — which the Bush Justice Department was prosecuting at that very time. (Indeed, Qatanani’s predecessor as imam of the mosque was one of the defendants convicted in the HLF case — and Qatanani praised and prayed for all those defendants while calling for the end of the “occupation” by Israel and the U.S. of, respectively, Palestine and Iraq.)

Instead of outlining the extensive case I’ve made, Glyn changes the subject to Pamela Geller’s bracing declaration that Christie has taken the Garden State on “its first step to becoming a sharia state” — as if that were an accurate synopsis of what I’ve said. Was Ms. Geller’s statement bombastic? Well, no more so than Christie’s typically sulfurous outburst, upon being called on the Sohail Mohammed appointment, that those who dared question him were bigoted sharia “crazies” who opposed the appointee just because he is a Muslim. But regardless, the case I made was not bombast. It was built on facts that Glyn fails even to mention, much less attempt to refute.

Glyn’s account of the objections lodged against Christie in a recent NRO column by Daniel Pipes and Steve Emerson, two conservative experts on Islamic supremacism, is incomplete. Glyn implies that Pipes and Emerson took issue only with Christie’s bloviating against the NYPD’s surveillance of New Jersey Muslims.

In reality, the NYPD issue was only one facet of a broad indictment against Christie’s Islamist sympathies, which Pipes and Emerson corroborated with extensive citations to supporting materials, as is their wont. It also included Christie’s aforementioned support of Qatanani; his appointment of Sohail Mohammed; and his endorsement of the firing of a state employee for burning three pages of the Koran while off duty at a demonstration (the employee got his job back upon successfully suing the state for violating his constitutional rights). Pipes and Emerson did not merely “disapprove of Christie’s outspokenness against the NYPD’s surveillance of Muslim college students in New Jersey,” as Glyn puts it. Here’s what they actually said:
Christie has hugged a terrorist-organization member, abridged free-speech rights, scorned concern over Islamization, and opposed law-enforcement counterterrorism efforts. Whenever an issue touching on Islam arises, Christie takes the Islamist side against those — the [Department of Homeland Security], state senators, the NYPD, even the ACLU — who worry about lawful Islamism eroding the fabric of American life.
Glyn even gets wrong the sliver of the Pipes-Emerson column he discusses. Christie blasted the NYPD surveillance in a manner that, as Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin points out, echoed the objections of Islamist organizations like CAIR — complaining about the law-enforcement attention given to Muslim businesses and mosques. I suppose it is understandable that a pol who hugs a Hamas guy at a Hamas-friendly mosque would feel that way. But to most of the “us” that Glyn claims Christie is “one of,” the NYPD surveillance seems like a pretty good idea. Yet, when New York Republican Pete King said as much, Christie (natch) said King was just a know-nothing congressman who was using Christie’s name to get himself on TV, not a famous former prosecutor of terrorists like Christie.

Well, maybe I don’t know as much about prosecuting terrorists as does the governor, with his all his vast experience, but I vaguely remember that defendants often connected at Muslim businesses and were urged to commit terrorist atrocities at mosques — where, in addition to plotting attacks, jihadists also stored and exchanged weapons. I also seem to recall local police and FBI agents’ being upbraided by an angry public after both the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and 9/11 because they failed — out of fear of being accused of profiling, bigotry, etc. — to investigate what was going on in certain Islamic communities that everyone knew were hotbeds of fundamentalism.

Maybe Christie started to remember that, too; or maybe he just calculated that he’d gotten himself on the wrong side of the surveillance debate. Whatever the case, he retreated, lamely implying that his beef was not really with what NYPD did but with the fact that they’d failed to inform him — Christie having been Jersey’s U.S. attorney when the NYPD surveillance began.

Glyn buys this feint hook, line, and sinker. This is the other side of the story: Even if Christie did not know what the NYPD was up to, the local police in New Jersey did. NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly has explained that Newark police officers accompanied NYPD cops on the surveillance operations and were fully briefed. (The then-director of Newark’s police department denies that his officers participated but admits that he received NYPD’s extensive report; his former deputy admits that the locals showed the NYPD around Newark but — shock, shock — claims they had no idea why they were doing it.)

Christie’s beef is the same one the FBI and the Justice Department grouse about constantly: The NYPD insists on operating outside the federally controlled Joint Terrorism Task Force structure. That is, because New York City remains the jihad’s top terror target, because the failure of the feds to share intelligence is legendary, and because many terror plots targeting the city are hatched outside the city (such as the 1993 WTC bombing, almost all preparations for which were carried out in, yes, New Jersey), Ray Kelly’s department does not permit the FBI and the Justice Department to control or limit its counterterrorism investigations. At best, even if we give Christie the benefit of the doubt on channeling CAIR’s “Islamophobia” campaign, he is being petty over a turf battle.

Most of Glyn’s remaining portrayal of Christie as a “consistent conservative” is mistaken — even apart from its conspicuous failure to mention Christie’s squishiness on illegal immigration and Second Amendment rights. Yes, Christie is to be commended for state-pension reforms, but he has neither dealt realistically with the magnitude of the problem nor actually balanced the budget.

New Jersey has an unfunded pension liability of over $41 billion. To “balance” the budget (as the state constitution requires), Christie is doing what his spendaholic predecessors have done: He is pretending that he is not required to make the state’s full pension payment. (What do you suppose would happen to a CEO in a private-sector, SEC-regulated business who tried that?) He has skimped on more than $5 billion — money he is spending on government programs (or, as he puts it, “core services”). The pension bomb is kicked down the road, to explode on some future governor, who will have to make the tough choice Christie is ducking: pay the mounting debt, slash pension benefits, or drastically cut other spending.

Christie also claims to have “balanced” the budget without raising taxes. That is true only insofar as income taxes are concerned. But the real problem in Jersey is property taxes. They are among the highest in the country and have risen sharply on Christie’s watch. To be fair, Christie was right to slash state rebates that lessened the pain: Property taxes are a local issue, and the rebates effectively subsidized the out-of-control municipal spending. By reducing the rebates, Christie appropriately encourages property owners to rein in their local governments. That’s as it ought to be. Moreover, as Glyn notes, Christie got the legislature to cap local property-tax increases at 2 percent — not exactly a boon to home owners who need tax decreases, but better than we were doing under Christie’s predecessors. But it is disingenuous to tell homeowners who are paying more that their taxes haven’t been raised. And it is irresponsible to pretend, as Christie does, that New Jersey can reduce taxes and achieve fiscal sanity without paying down its mushrooming debt and radically slashing the size and scope of government.

Truly laughable is Glyn’s claim that Christie’s response to Obamacare shows he is a “consistent conservative.” Unlike Republican governors across the country, Christie declined to sign New Jersey onto the multi-state lawsuit against the “Affordable Care Act” (now being weighed by the Supreme Court). His handwringing about needing more time to study the 2,000-page statute and being reluctant to expend state funds on the suit was insincere: Christie is an accomplished lawyer, the issues are well known, and the filing fee would have set the state back by only $1,000.

The dirty little secret is that Christie is an Obamacare enthusiast — which is no doubt why he so staunchly defends Romneycare. As recently detailed by Mike Proto of Americans for Prosperity (whose New Jersey chapter is run by Christie’s aforementioned nemesis, Steve Lonegan), the governor has walked the tightrope of quietly facilitating Obamacare without overtly embarrassing his conservative rah-rah chorus. Not only has Christie shrunk from the court challenge; before the ink from Obama’s signature was dry, Christie joined Democratic governors in the rush to claim federal funds that Obamacare doles out to states that set up its hyper-regulated “high-risk” insurance pools. Apparently, Christie had studied the statute enough to know New Jersey’s haul could be $141 million; but with conservatives demanding a fight to overturn Obamacare, most Republican governors refused to apply.

The health-insurance-exchange legislation that Glyn applauds Christie for vetoing was passed, in part, because Christie had signaled support for Obamacare — which is also why Obama’s Health and Human Services Department sent seemingly compliant New Jersey an $8.5 million down payment. Christie’s veto came on the last possible day, only after weeks of conservative grumbling, and with a conciliatory message to Obama that “my Administration . . . stands ready to implement the Affordable Care Act if its provisions are ultimately upheld” by the Supreme Court. As Cato’s Michael Cannon observes, even if the justices uphold Obamacare, there is no requirement that states create its pernicious “exchange” bureaucracies. But Christie’s eagerness to submit is no surprise to Garden State conservatives. Proto notes that Christie speeches echo Obama’s desire for universal health insurance, and the governor consistently supports funding increases for “FamilyCare” — New Jersey’s version of the “public option,” which now extends taxpayer subsidies to families at 350 percent of the federal poverty level.

The brute fact is that, while Christie is not a hardcore statist, he is a mild progressive — which is to say, a “compassionate conservative” in the Bush mold who wants to make government “work,” not drastically reduce its size and scope. The governor likes government, particularly its “investments” in everything from green-energy boondoggles like his Offshore Wind Economic Development Act (because “climate change is real” and it is time to “defer to the experts” who say it is anthropogenic) to the creation of new state bureaucracies within existing state bureaucracies to provide government services for children and the elderly.

Thus, though New Jersey’s fiscal outlook continues to be bleak, with looming tens of billions in unfunded liabilities, Christie has just proposed to increase government spending. Not to worry though, because the governor insists, “We have left the dark times.”

Well . . . not exactly. To justify his increased spending, Christie did what progressives do: He declared we can afford all this government (and soon more) because, thanks to his bipartisan leadership, Jersey’s condition is so improved that growth will soon soar to 7.4 percent, with tax revenues consequently surging. This week, however, Moody’s burst his balloon. The investors’ service projected growth at only 3 percent for fiscal year 2013 — about what it is now — and surmised that the governor had significantly overstated revenues in trumpeting the state’s supposed recovery. (In 2011, Christie’s second year in office, both Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s downgraded New Jersey’s credit rating to Aa3 — only California and Illinois rank lower.)

Then the next shoe dropped: The state’s legislative budget officer (New Jersey’s analogue to the federal CBO) announced that revenue would fall $1.3 billion short of Christie’s projections — prompting the governor, with his usual grace, to inveigh, “Why would anybody with a functioning brain believe this guy?” and to belittle the budget officer as “the Dr. Kevorkian of the numbers.” By the next day, at least some functioning brains decided “Dr. Kevorkian” wasn’t so inept after all: Christie’s state treasurer conceded that revenues would come up nearly $700 million short of what Christie projected just two months ago. The treasurer also mentioned in passing that Christie will fill part of the gaping budget hole by diverting $260 million in transportation funds to other spending needs . . . and then borrowing $260 million in order to preserve the transportation spending. Christie, in fine Keynesian fettle, explains that this government spending cannot be cut because it is necessary to put people to work — New Jersey’s unemployment rate, at 9.1 percent, being even worse than the nation’s.

Borrowing more millions to pay current operating expenses — heaping more exorbitant debt, with interest, onto the backs of New Jersey’s children — is exactly the practice Christie lambasted his statist predecessor over. He promised to bring it to an end. But now the dilemma: Christie wants to keep his conservative cheerleaders cheering by cutting income taxes while preserving his “reach across the aisle” cred by not only maintaining but expanding the welfare state. As always, the “have it all” fantasy relies on the mirage of epic growth. When that growth inevitably fails to materialize, a governor can either get real or start playing budget voodoo with borrowed money. The “consistent conservative” has made his choice.

I’m far from the first to observe that there is much less to Chris Christie than meets the conservative ear. A blue state could — and usually does — do a lot worse than Christie for its governor. But if “Christie is one of us,” then a lot of “us” aren’t.

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