Friday, February 15, 2013

Withstanding the test of time

By Michael Wilbon
February 14, 2013

The unsettling thing about this whole Michael Jordan weeklong birthday celebration is that a great number of people, many of whom think of themselves as basketball fans, appear to have forgotten how impossibly great Jordan was as a player. They recognize the shoes and worship the jersey. They know the six NBA championships and that he was the star of the '92 Dream Team. They can identify historic clips, such as the shot over Craig Ehlo or the one over Bryon Russell or the signature dunks. But they have no handle whatsoever on the extent of his night-after-night basketball genius and competitive relentlessness.
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AP Photo/Kirthmon DozierThose stuck in the now may forget how dominant Michael Jordan was in 1986-87, when he averaged 37.1 points per game.
You'd have to be 35 years old minimum to remember the details of Jordan's insanely prolific season, 1986-87, when he averaged 37 points a game. And even some who are old enough to remember have instead locked themselves in the prison of now, perhaps worn down by the constant bombardment of right this moment, the overbearing and maddening insistence that anything that happened today is better. We have more information and more ways of accessing it than ever, yet seem increasingly less inclined to do so.
It's probably a good thing that what has been proclaimed as the greatest stretch of LeBron James' basketball career just happens to coincide with the celebration of Jordan's birthday.
You're not going to read a single negative word about LeBron here, and why would you? He's an athletic marvel in any generation whose physical, intellectual and emotional maturity have all come together at once to produce some of the best basketball we've ever seen.
But this notion that what LeBron has done over these past six games is the best stretch of basketball in the history of the sport is -- to use one of my favorite Bill Russell phrases -- "in error."
"SportsCenter" asked whether we'd ever seen a roll like the one LeBron is on: six straight games of 30 points, each carrying a shooting percentage better than 60 percent. And the answer was pretty simple: yes, of course. I obsessively followed Jordan's entire career, much of it live and in person as a sportswriter for The Washington Post. In 1989, when Jordan was probably at the height of his physical powers he recorded 10 triple-doubles in 11 games. He averaged 34 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on 51 percent shooting during that barrage.
One of my editors, a man who was a sportswriter in Chicago during most of Jordan's career, said when he first heard the stat Sunday afternoon, that Jordan had 10 triple-doubles in 11 games, his first thought was, "That can't be right."
It was my first thought too, because who does that in today's NBA? Not LeBron James, not Kobe Bryant, nobody. But there it is in black and white, from March 25 to April 14. Magic Johnson, who earlier in the day had said LeBron might be on the greatest roll he had ever seen, shook his head in disbelief and said, "I should know better. I should have known Michael would have had a stretch that was better."
I guess you can argue whether you'd rather average 30-plus points on 71 percent shooting or record 10 triple-doubles in 11 games. To me, it's not even close; the standard for all-around brilliance in modern-day basketball is the triple-double. You know what Jordan did in the game before his streak began? He put 34 points and 17 assists on the Trail Blazers in Portland.
The one game Jordan did not record a triple-double in that 11-game stretch? How about 40 points, 11 assists and 7 rebounds (on 61 percent FG shooting) in the second of back-to-back games against the Detroit Pistons, who would reach the NBA Finals in a few weeks & and that was 24 hours after he'd put 31 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds on the Pistons in Detroit. Five games, seven nights, four triple-doubles, and three rebounds from a fifth!
If a player put together that kind of stretch now, Twitter would explode.
And while Jordan's 50th is the impetus here for delving into a little NBA history it's not as though Jordan had a monopoly on greatness, or Jordan is the only player whose greatness we're forgetting. Not only did Wilt Chamberlain score 50 or more points 12 times in 13 games in his ungodly 1961-62 season, as an old geezer in 1967-68 Wilt recorded nine straight triple-doubles.
But before we get back to Jordan and LeBron, two quick things about Wilt's 1962 season. How about these point totals in consecutive games: 78, 61, 55, 54, 52, 43, 50, 57, 55, 59, 51, 53, 60. And on the night Wilt scored 78, he had 43 rebounds & against the Lakers. Later in that same season of '62, Wilt had nights of 67 points and 21 rebounds, 65 points and 23 rebounds, 61 and 28, 100 and 25, and 58 and 35.
If you like your greatness to show up in the postseason, consider that Magic once recorded double-digit assists in all 19 playoff games the Lakers played en route to the 1984-85 championship. To show it wasn't a fluke, in the very next postseason Magic dished out double-digit assists in 13 of 14 playoff games, and in the 14th game had nine assists. You know who doesn't know he did this? Magic. I told him I was going to find it and he said he didn't think such a streak existed. It does. We all forget.
The guy who really has to be chapped over all this is Oscar Robertson, who in that same 1962 season averaged 31 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists. Surely Mr. Robertson has to hear all this slobbering over LeBron (and even MJ 24 years ago) and think to himself, "Are you kidding me? They're praising these guys for doing less than a dozen times what I did every damned night?"
So, do we really need to consider whether LeBron's stretch of 30 points/60 percent is the greatest basketball ever played? The overstatement doesn't do any favors for LeBron, or Kobe for that matter, because neither compares favorably in so many ways to Jordan. Only Robertson, Wilt and Elgin Baylor really do statistically, and Bill Russell, of course, when it comes to winning championships. Bryant, in my book, will retire as one of the 10 greatest players in the history of the NBA. But that doesn't mean, as was frequently being pushed two years ago, that another title will make him the equal of Jordan. Once again, long-term memory is failing people.
Jordan was a better scorer than Kobe, by about five points per game, was a better rebounder (6.2 to 5.3), a better passer (5.3 assists to 4.7) and shot a better percentage (49.7 to 45.4). Jordan shot 50 percent or better five straight seasons. Kobe has yet to record his first 50 percent shooting season. The one place Kobe is better than MJ is three-point shooting, yet Kobe's career percentage from beyond the arc is 33.6 to Jordan's 32.7.
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Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty ImagesWith his unique and dominant skill set, there may be a time when LeBron James makes a comparison to Michael Jordan legitimate.
And to think there are current NBA coaches, who coached against Jordan, Kobe and LeBron, who will say privately -- though not publicly, so as not to offend the two killers they still have to play against -- that if Jordan had come of age in today's game with no handchecking and no Pistons-style body slamming high fliers, he'd easily average 40 points on 55 percent shooting.
LeBron, if he stays healthy and keeps playing for contending teams, could conceivably dominate his era and win enough championships to force a legitimate comparative conversation down the line. Conceivably.
LeBron's set of skills is as unique as Jordan's. He seems to be as complete as Jordan, plus two inches taller and, oh, 40 pounds heavier. But we still don't know whether LeBron, or anybody else in the coming years, will play night after night with Jordan's infamous relentlessness and, yes, ruthlessness.
Tim Legler, the ESPN analyst and former NBA guard who played against Jordan, marveled during a radio interview with Mike & Mike the other morning about LeBron, but allowed that the Heat might only now, midway through the season, be growing interested in the season. LeBron and the Heat, Legler said very accurately, might not yet be playing with that championship edge, having already won a title in June.
And see, that's probably what helped take Jordan to a place LeBron hasn't yet found, Kobe either. Jordan never lost his edge when he was on a basketball court. After winning three titles, he led a team to 72 wins, the league's best-ever record. And after doing that, he led a team to 69 wins, tying the league's second-best record. And then after that, he won again. Games were more a concert than competitive contests. Jordan won whenever he wanted, scored whenever he wanted, took the opposing player's best perimeter player for 40-plus minutes, not at the end of games or here and there.
Jordan has been very quiet about this entire 50th birthday thing, a fuss I imagine he couldn't possibly want. But I'd love to be a fly on the wall when he hears that other fuss, over LeBron James' fabulous stretch of basketball and the comparisons to him, Jordan, at his best.
More times than I can count, when young 20ish LeBron was going through his postseason struggles, I got messages from Jordan that amounted to, "Hey, leave that kid alone & he's going to kick everybody's ass one day and you'll feel dumb for criticizing him!"
But now that LeBron is doing just that, as Jordan and most others predicted, and people are forgetting just how MJ terrorized every player and thrilled every fan for years, I imagine that if Michael Jordan could give himself the ultimate birthday present, anything in the world, he'd turn 50 into 35, pull out a pair of those old Air Jordans, walk onto the court and remind people just how dumb it is to forget.

Asking for defense cuts

Last Updated:10:45 PM, February 14, 2013
Posted:10:38 PM, February 14, 2013
The looming budget sequestration imposes almost $50 billion in cuts on the Defense budget this year. It’s a terrible idea — and I’m for it.
This hatchet job trims not just fat, but muscle and bone, too. It’s going to be ugly. But as I’ve watched the Defense Department pull shameful stunts and listened to congressional blather attempting to block sequestration, this defense hawk has become one irate taxpayer.
The last straw came earlier this month when our Navy ostentatiously cancelled the deployment of the supercarrier USS Harry S Truman to the Persian Gulf, crying poverty. That’s like Donald Trump claiming he can’t afford a cab.
The Navy could have cut back other, less-sensitive deployments or acquisition programs. But the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chose to embarrass the White House and pressure Congress. He should have been fired.
Did the admiral eventhinkof the message he sent to Iran?
Dear admirals and generals: It’s your job to protect our country, not just your budgets.
As for Congress, its members agreed to this sequestration. The terms weren’t secret. Now panicked members act as if they’ve been innocent dupes.
Won’t wash. You voted for it. Now suck up the consequences.
To get a sense of the scare tactics rampant on the Hill, consider “What Sequestration Really Means,” from the House Armed Services Committee. It has all the integrity of a drunken teenager in a backseat with a cheerleader.
The paper makes four bogus claims about what “reductions at this level would mean”:
The smallest ground force since before World War II.We’re going to have that anyway, because our troops’ real friends on the Hill would fit in an aircraft lavatory. Congressmen love photo ops with soldiers, but when it comes budget time they’ll always sacrifice grunts to preserve home-district defense-contractor jobs, no matter how wasteful. Congress is going to slash troops whatever happens.
The smallest Navy since before World War II. It’s also a much more expensive Navy, with ships costing up to $4.5-billion raw from the shipyard. The Navy decided that fewer, more-expensive ships are better, with supercarriers our maritime-strategy centerpiece.
In fact, our Navyistoo small. Want a bigger one? Buy cheaper, smaller, faster ships. The next revolutionary shock in naval warfare is going to come when a second-rate power, such as Iran or North Korea, sinks one of our supercarriers.
The smallest tactical fighter force in the history of the Air Force. Again, this is a choice. Despite possessing incontestable air dominance over every other air force on earth, the “fighter pilot mafia” within our Air Force keeps pushing for extravagant hi-tech fighters. That means fewer airplanes.
Do some basic math. During the Korean War, our top fighter was the F-86D Sabre. It cost under $400,000 per plane. In 2013 dollars, that’s under $4 million. Our second-newest fighter, the F-22 — so troubled it hasn’t been sent on one combat mission — costs $200 million a copy (with R&D and downstream costs included, $350 million). So: For one F-22, you could buy 50 F-86Ds.
It gets worse: The F-22 requires 60 hours of maintenance for every flight hour; the F-86D needed five or fewer. So those 50 F-86Ds could fly600sorties to that single F-22’s one. Is the problem-plagued F-22 really 600 times better than the old Sabre?
And our newest fighter, the equally troubled F-35, has an estimated life-cycle cost of up to $1.5trillion. Want to guess where to start saving?
Of course, we don’t want our pilots flying 1950s aircraft (Oops: Wearestill flying the B-52s, which actually work).
The fat years are over. Our military needs to make hard choices, but refuses. Leaner reallycouldbe meaner — if Congress stopped protecting incompetent contractors.
The smallest civilian workforce in the history of the Defense Department. Why is it smaller? Because Congress went in for an orgy of outsourcing that raped the defense budget—while providing inferior services (the waste during the Iraq War was stomach-turning).
The true problem is that Congress has been giving the defense industry an endless supply of blank checks, with no real accountability — while CEOs wrap themselves in the flag on Capitol Hill. Patriots? In our recent wars, not one defense-industry CEO volunteered to be a dollar-a-year man as captains of industry did in World War II.
Sequestration will do serious harm. But our corrupt system has already done far worse. It’s time for a reckoning.
Ralph Peters is a retired Army officer and former enlisted man.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Calvin Coolidge, commander in brief

By Published: February 13

The Washington Post

Before Ronald Reagan traveled the 16 blocks to the White House after his first inaugural address, the White House curator had, at the new president’s instruction, hung in the Cabinet room a portrait of Calvin Coolidge. The Great Communicator knew that “Silent Cal” could use words powerfully — 15 of them made him a national figure — because he was economical in their use, as in all things.

Were Barack Obama, America’s most loquacious president (699 first-term teleprompter speeches), capable of learning from someone with whom he disagrees, he would profit from Amity Shlaes’s new biography of Coolidge, whom she calls “our great refrainer” with an “aptitude for brevity,” as when he said, “Inflation is repudiation.” She says that under his “minimalist” presidency, he “made a virtue of inaction.” As he said, “It is much more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones.” During the 67 months of his presidency, the national debt, the national government, the federal budget, unemployment (3.6 percent) and even consumer prices shrank. The GDP expanded 13.4 percent.

In 1898, at age 26, he won his first of 10 public offices, a seat on the city council of Northampton, Mass. Like Reagan, Coolidge benefited from being underestimated: The letter of reference he carried to Boston when elected to Massachusetts’s General Assembly said, “Like the singed cat, he is better than he looks.” Tougher, too. During the chaos of the 1919 Boston police strike, Gov. Coolidge electrified the nation with these 15 words: “There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time.”

Nine months later, Republican leaders in the famous “smoke-filled room” in Chicago’s Blackstone Hotel decided to nominate for president Ohio Sen.Warren Harding, whose dreadful rhetoric (“not nostrums, but normalcy . . . not surgery, but serenity”) drove H.L. Mencken to rhapsodies of disgust: “It reminds me of a string of wet sponges; it reminds me of tattered washing on the line; it reminds me of stale bean soup, of college yells, of dogs barking idiotically through endless nights.” The convention produced a rhetorically balanced ticket by stampeding for Coolidge as vice president. He wrote to his father: “I hope you will not mind.”

Harding was a reprobate with bad judgment about friends but good instincts about policy. The former produced unpleasantness about Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3, a.k.a. Wyoming’s Teapot Dome. The latter produced prosperity.

When Harding died in August 1923, Coolidge had not seen him since March, but the new president, assisted by a splendidly named former congressman, C. Bascom Slemp, continued Harding’s program of cutting taxes, tariffs and expenditures. “I am for economy. After that, I am for more economy,” said the 30th president, whose administration’s pencil policy was to issue one at a time to each bureaucrat, who if he or she did not entirely use it up had to return the stub. Coolidge and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon advocated “scientific taxation,” an early iteration of the supply-side economics theory that often lowering rates will stimulate the economy so that the government’s revenue loss will be much less than the taxpayers’ gain. Soon Coolidge was alarmed that economic growth was producing excessive revenue that might make government larger.

He met his wife, the vivacious Grace, after hearing her laughter when she saw through a window him shaving while wearing a hat. Shlaes’s biography would be even more engaging had she included this oft-repeated anecdote:

When President and Mrs. Coolidge were being given simultaneous but separate tours of a chicken farm, Grace asked her guide whether the rooster copulated more than once a day. “Dozens of times,” she was told. “Tell that to the president,” she said. When told, Coolidge asked, “Same hen every time?” When the guide said, “A different one each time,” the president said: “Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge.”

In 1924, after the lingering illness and death of his 16-year-old son from blood poisoning, Coolidge demonstrated — if only our confessional culture could comprehend this — the eloquence of reticence: “When he was suffering he begged me to help him. I could not.”
Coolidge, says Shlaes, thought his office “really was one of ‘president,’ literally one who presided.” And “the best monument to his kind of presidency was no monument at all.” This absence, however, is a kind of admonitory presence for him who said, “It is a great advantage to a president, and a major source of safety to the country, for him to know he is not a great man.” The 1933 funeral for this man of brevity lasted 22 minutes.

Read more from George F. Will’s archive.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Who Failed Chicago?

Who failed Chicago?

by Michelle Malkin

Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2013

On Tuesday, President Obama and the First Lady used the State of the Union spotlight to pay tribute to an innocent teenage girl shot and killed by Chicago gang thugs. On Friday, Obama will travel to the Windy City to decry violence and crusade for more gun laws in the town with the strictest gun laws and bloodiest gun-related death tolls in America.

Does the White House really want to open up a national conversation about the state of Chicago? Ok, let’s talk.

Obama, his wife, his campaign strategists, his closest cronies, and his biggest bundlers all hail from Chicago. Senior adviser and former Chicago real estate mogul/city planning commissioner Valerie Jarrett and her old boss, Richard Daley, presided over a massive “Plan for Transformation” in the mid-1990s to rescue taxpayer-subsidized public housing from its bloody hellhole. How’d that work out for you, Chicago?

Answer: This social justice experiment failed miserably. A Chicago Tribune investigation found that after Daley/Jarrett dumped nearly $500 million of federal funding into crime-ridden housing projects,
the housing complexes (including the infamous Altgeld-Murray homes) remained dangerous, drug-infested, racially segregated ghettos. Altgeld is a long-troubled public housing complex on Chicago’s South Side where youth violence has proven immune to “community organizing” solutions and the grand redevelopment schemes championed by Obama and company.

In fact, as I’ve reported previously, it’s the same nightmarish ‘hood where Obama cut his teeth as a community activist – and exaggerated his role in cleaning up asbestos in the neighborhood, according to fellow progressive foot soldiers. As always, Obama’s claims to success there were far more aspirational than concrete.

In the meantime, lucrative contracts went to politically-connected Daley pals in the developer world to “save” Chicago youth and families. Another ghetto housing project, the Grove Parc slum, was managed by Jarrett’s former real estate empire, Habitat, Inc. Jarrett refused to answer questions about the dilapidated housing development after ascending to the top consigliere in the Obama administration.

But as the Boston Globe’s Binyamin Appelbaum, who visited the slums several years ago, reported: “[F]ederal inspectors graded the condition of the complex an 11 on a 100-point scale—a score so bad the buildings now face demolition. . . . [Jarrett] co-managed an even larger subsidized complex in Chicago that was seized by the federal government in 2006, after city inspectors found widespread problems." Grove Parc and several other monumental housing flops “were developed and managed by Obama’s close friends and political supporters. Those people profited from the [federal] subsidies even as many of Obama’s constituents suffered.”

Democrats poured another $30 million in public money into the city’s public schools to curb youth violence over the last three years. The New York Times hailed the big government plan to fund more social
workers, community organizers, and mentors and create jobs for at-risk youth. But watchdogs on the ground exposed it as a wasteful “makework scheme.” One local activist nicknamed the boondoggle “Jobs for Jerks” because “it rewards some of the worst students in the school system with incredibly rare employment opportunities while leaving good students to fend for themselves.”

Obama and his ineffectual champions of Chicago’s youth will demand more taxpayer “investments” to throw at the problem. But money is no substitute for the soaring fatherlessness, illegitimacy, and family
disintegration that have characterized Chicago inner-city life since Obama’s hero Saul Alinsky pounded the pavement. As Heather MacDonald noted in a damning indictment of the do-gooders’ failures, “official silence about illegitimacy and its relation to youth violence remains as carefully preserved in today’s Chicago as it was during Obama’s organizing time there.”

Team Obama will find perverted ways to lay blame for Chicago’s youth violence crisis on the NRA, Sarah Palin, Fox News, George Bush, and the Tea Party. But as the community organizer-in-chief prepares to
evade responsibility again, he should remember: When you point one finger at everyone else, four other fingers point right back at you-know-who.

Cultural Deviancy, Not Guns

By Walter Williams
February 13, 2013

There's a story told about a Paris chief of police who was called to a department store to stop a burglary in progress. Upon his arrival, he reconnoitered the situation and ordered his men to surround the entrances of the building next door. When questioned about his actions, he replied that he didn't have enough men to cover the department store's many entrances but he did have enough for the building next door. Let's see whether there are similarities between his strategy and today's gun control strategy.
Last year, Chicago had 512 homicides; Detroit had 411; Philadelphia had 331; and Baltimore had 215. Those cities are joined by other dangerous cities -- such as St. Louis, Memphis, Tenn., Flint, Mich., and Camden, N.J. -- and they also lead the nation in shootings, assaults, rapes and robberies. Both the populations of those cities and their crime victims are predominantly black. Each year, more than 7,000 blacks are murdered. Close to 100 percent of the time, the murderer is another black person.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, between 1976 and 2011, there were 279,384 black murder victims. Though blacks are 13 percent of the nation's population, they account for more than 50 percent of homicide victims. Nationally, the black homicide victimization rate is six times that of whites, and in some cities, it's 22 times that of whites. Coupled with being most of the nation's homicide victims, blacks are also most of the victims of violent personal crimes, such as assault and robbery. The magnitude of this tragedy can be seen in another light. According to a Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute study, between 1882 and 1968, 3,446 blacks were lynched at the hands of whites.
What percentage of murders, irrespective of race, are committed with what are being called assault weapons? You'd be hard put to come up with an amount greater than 1 or 2 percent. In fact, according to FBI data from 2011, there were 323 murders committed with a rifle of any kind but 496 murders committed with a hammer or a club. But people who want to weaken our Second Amendment guarantees employ a strategy like that of the Paris chief of police. They can't do much about hammers, clubs, fists or pistols, but by exploiting public ignorance, they might have a bit of success getting an "assault weapon" ban that will have little impact on violent crime.
There are other measures these people employ in an attempt to end violence that border on lunacy. Massachusetts' Hyannis West Elementary recently warned a 5-year-old's parents that if their son made another gun from a Legos set, he'd be suspended. Elementary-school children have been suspended or otherwise disciplined for drawing a picture of a gun or pointing a finger and saying, "Bang, bang." I shudder to think about what would happen to kids in a schoolyard if they played, as I played nearly 70 years ago, "cops 'n' robbers" or "cowboys 'n' Indians." Maybe today's politically correct educators would cut the kids a bit of slack if they said they were playing "cowboys 'n' Native Americans."
What explains a lot of what we see today, which politicians and their liberal allies would never condemn, is growing cultural deviancy. Twenty-nine percent of white children, 53 percent of Hispanics and 73 percent of black children are born to unmarried women. The absence of a husband and father from the home is a strong contributing factor to poverty, school failure, crime, drug abuse, emotional disturbance and a host of other social problems. By the way, the low marriage rate among blacks is relatively new. Census data show that a slightly higher percentage of black adults had married than white adults from 1890 to 1940. In 2009, the poverty rate among married whites was 3.2 percent; for blacks, it was 7 percent, and for Hispanics, it was 13.2 percent. The higher poverty rates -- 22 percent for whites, 35.6 percent for blacks and 37.9 percent for Hispanics -- are among unmarried families.
Other forms of cultural deviancy are found in the kind of music accepted today that advocates killing and rape and other vile acts. Punishment for criminal behavior is lax. Today's Americans accept behavior that our parents and grandparents never would have accepted.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Obama's Benghazi Success

The Obama White House is to be congratulated. It has executed one of the most effective stonewalls in recent memory over the Benghazi attack last September 11 that killed our ambassador to Libya and three others. Its handling of the aftermath of the debacle is a model example of the power of obfuscation and delay. Future high-ranking officials please take note: This is how it is done.

All the smart PR gurus say it is best to release bad news as soon as possible “to get ahead of the story,” as the phrase goes. The Obama White House wasn’t foolish enough to follow this hackneyed advice. It advanced laughably implausible explanations for the attack from the first and has refused to provide a full accounting of its handling of it to this day.

The price it has paid for its lack of forthrightness is basically nil. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, a prominent mouthpiece for the initial spin (that the attacks were prompted by an offensive video), couldn’t become secretary of state, although that might not have been in the cards anyway. But every good stonewall needs someone willing to take one for the team. Thank you, Ambassador Rice.

The imperative for the White House was, first, to try to deny that the assault was a coordinated terrorist attack lest that undermine its anti-terror credentials and, second, to push further consideration of the matter past the November election. After that, there would be, by definition, no electoral consequences from more fallout. And it all would be “old news.”

So the Accountability Review Board report from the State Department was scheduled to hit . . . in December. When asked about Benghazi during the campaign, the president could aver, “Nobody wants to find out more what happened than what I do.” White House spokesman Jay Carney repeatedly said that the matter was under the fullest possible review by the Accountability Review Board, which would keep on reviewing all the way until the week before Christmas.

Of course, President Barack Obama always knew what he did or did not do during the course of the eight-hour attack that started at the consulate and continued at a safe house, where two security personnel were killed. If he had covered himself in glory, surely he or someone close to him would have let reporters know.

Instead, nothing. Time passed, and he won reelection. When Congress got around to its Benghazi hearings during the past few weeks, “Benghazi” had become a watchword for right-wing obsessiveness and lack of perspective. Polite commentators could barely suppress a snicker when uttering the word.

Last week, outgoing secretary of defense Leon Panetta revealed under questioning that after a previously scheduled meeting with the president at the White House at 5 p.m. at the outset of the attacks, he had no other communication from the president or anyone else at the White House the rest of the night. Neither, according to his own testimony, did chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey. This raises the question of what President Obama was doing during the long hours of an attack that killed a U.S. ambassador for the first time since 1979.

Or it should raise the question. The press isn’t much interested in asking it. Given the opportunity to query the president directly in his joint interview with President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Steve Kroft of 60 Minutesstuck to more pressing matters, like any sense of guilt Clinton might feel about not preventing the attacks.

Republican senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina vows to hold up Obama-administration nominees until he gets answers. His determination is admirable, but by now, no one really cares. The stonewall worked, alas. PR experts might want to rewrite their rules, at least for clients who can count on a compliant press. Benghazi was a fiasco. The handling of its aftermath by President Obama and his team was brilliant. I guess that’s why they call him the commander-in-chief. 

— Rich Lowry is the editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail: © 2013 King Features Syndicate

The Reluctant Pope

He served out of duty, not ambition.
On Benedict XVI’s papal coat of arms appears a beast of burden (a bear with a pack-saddle), a symbol of the reluctance and dutifulness with which Benedict served in the Vatican. In fact, he had once asked Pope John Paul II if he could leave Rome and return to Germany. But the pope asked him to stay and continue to serve as the Church’s head of doctrine.
After John Paul II’s death, Benedict emerged as the indispensable man, without the least bit of angling for that role. He didn’t seek the papacy; it simply fell upon him. He had hoped the college of cardinals would select someone else. But his acute intellect, grasp of the Church’s crisis, and closeness to John Paul II made him the obvious choice.
Given this background, his resignation appears more understandable. He entered the papacy humbly and now leaves it humbly. His resignation is a great loss for the Church and the world. He represented the unity of reason and faith at a moment when the world was fast losing both. Between the West’s culture of abortion and the East’s culture of jihad, he stood as the civilizational center for life.
The media verdicts so far on his supposedly inconsequential and failed pontificate have been useless, reflecting nothing more than the progressive prejudices of reporters and pundits. Long after their spiteful articles have yellowed, his encyclicals will be read.
The truth is that they didn’t like him from the start, treating the elevation of a believing Catholic to the papacy as somehow “controversial.” Bill Keller, the former executive editor of the New York Times, once blurted out that “the struggle within the church is interesting as part of a larger struggle within the human race, between the forces of tolerance and absolutism.” That is the only prism through which the media ever saw Benedict: he fell on the wrong side of the progressive “struggle” and so became a target for endless media bias.
All the coming coverage of the papal election, sure to be absurdly ill-informed and tedious, will turn on that same standard. Candidates who appear sympathetic to the “forces of tolerance” will receive glowing coverage for weeks while the Church is lectured about the need to “modernize” and avoid a “contentious” pope. Modern liberals simply can’t rest until the Church elects a liberal pope. Hijacking the Church for their own ideological purposes has long been their goal. They dream of a pope giving his imprimatur to the sexual revolution and socialism. Then at last the “forces of absolutism” will have been defeated!
By absolutism, the Kellers ultimately mean God. That’s the absolute authority they seek to overthrow. They numbered Benedict among their historical enemies for refusing to join them in removing God from religion. He wouldn’t swallow the secularist acids they dish up as “dialogue” and so he had to be dismissed.
But historians decades from now will take his pontificate seriously. It stands as an important step toward the restoration of order and orthodoxy within the Church after many years of scandal and foolishness. While plenty of dysfunction is still on display, Benedict did what he could to curb it. Contrary to the media’s spinning, he inherited these crises; he didn’t create them.
Indeed, the moments in his pontificate that the media has worked hardest to try and trivialize and discredit will hold up the best: his battles with the “dictatorship of relativism,” his promotion of wider use of the traditional Latin Mass, his reinstitution of the ban on the ordination of homosexuals to the priesthood, his historic overture to disaffected Anglicans, his voluminous stream of speeches and writings that aimed at repairing the catechetical collapse within the Church; his insistence on the “non-negotiable” character of the natural moral law in shaping politics and culture. 
He threw out an anchor to stop the doctrinal and disciplinary drift within the Church, which future generations will appreciate even if this one doesn’t. The pressure on modern popes, both from outside and inside the Church, to pander to the permissive society is enormous. He resisted that pressure, understanding that if the Church mirrors the morality and philosophy of the world she becomes just one more force for evil and delusion in it.
He was a reluctant pope but a conscientious one, whose legacy, like that of his namesake, will be to have scattered seeds of recovery along the dark fields of Europe and the world.

Swallow Your Pride, Save Your Child

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February 12, 2013

By Daren Jonescu

It is high time for parents who care about the future of their children, their community, and their civilization to stop telling themselves comforting lies about their power to combat the degradations of public education.  Believing that reason and morality can be restored while leaving the compulsory public school apparatus intact is like imagining you are going to raise your daughter to be Jane Austen while feeding her a daily diet of Beyoncé and Lady Gaga.
Sometimes, conditions in life become so bleak that telling ourselves little white lies about the nature of the situation becomes a survival mechanism.  We must not fail to distinguish, however, between giving ourselves hope and spitting into the wind. 
The modern public school's purpose, as described by its leading theorists, advocates, and power-brokers for more than a century, is to destroy ethical individualism, to undermine the natural human impulses toward knowledge and self-reliance, and to create a society of intellectually stunted, humble, conformist workers and voters for the progressive authoritarian state.  To blind oneself to this reality, and to the obvious success of this project in undoing modern morality and liberty, is unwittingly to facilitate the gradual smothering of the human spirit.
Having written about public education frequently of late, I have naturally encountered many objections to my supposedly radical recommendations on this subject.  The objection that disturbs me most, however, is that of conservatives who agree with my analysis of the subversive influence of public schools, but then dismiss my conclusion that the solution is to remove any child within your sphere of influence from the government school system as fully as possible, and to reject any political efforts to "reform" public education that would further circumscribe private alternatives (such as by imposing new compulsory "standards") and hence limit parental authority over the raising of children.
Many decent people stubbornly hope they can offset the negative effects of public education by spending "quality time" with their children at home, limiting their television viewing, and providing moral alternatives to the school's leftist nihilism. 
Let us assume that a family is doing all of these things consistently and earnestly.  Is this enough to ensure that the government's indoctrination program is not having at least some retarding effect on their child's moral and intellectual development?  Should parents be satisfied with merelyreducing the damage done to their child's soul?  Must they not seek to prevent all such damage, to the extent within their power?  Are they not morally obligated to do so?
Children, of course, do not only learn the lessons they are explicitly taught.  Far more important in the long run are the implied messages they absorb from their experience, and from the adults they admire most.  If those messages seem contradictory or confused, the effects may be very different from what the parents imagine they are teaching.  Children are not yet capable of examining all sides of an issue rationally.  Their special strength, which slowly gives way to reasoning as they mature (if this evolution is not deformed by progressive education), is an extraordinary sensitivity to unspoken signals, emotional resonances, and subtle irregularities in the order of things. 
Let us examine the case of a couple that sends a child to public school, and then hopes to undermine the school at home by discussing the child's lessons each evening with a view to correcting historical inaccuracies, providing an alternative moral perspective, and encouraging self-reliance and confidence where the government curriculum is promoting dependency and fear.  The parents tell themselves they are doing what they can to negate the harmful effects of the child's teachers, and of the mob rule social milieu of the school.  Hence, they feel justified in rejecting suggestions that they should remove their child from public school outright. 
But consider the lessons a child learns from being confined, for several hours a day, to a social setting wherein -- according to the parents who confined him there -- what he is learning is false.  Why, he must wonder, are Mom and Dad delivering me into the hands of people who are lying to me?  Should the parents explain to their child that most of his teachers are ignorant cogs in a corrupt system, low-achievers happy to have a comfortable and respectable job with salary, vacations, a very comfortable retirement, and medical benefits protected by a powerful union with a socialist agenda?  How is that supposed to make the child feel about the fact that his parents are forcing him into hours of confinement with those teachers every day?
And what if, on the contrary, the parents think it best to conceal the gross corruption and ineptitude of the public school's teachers and curriculum, so as not to harden their child to trust, optimism and goodwill?  What confusion will their daily undermining of the school's lessons and moral outlook foster in the child's mind under this condition?  Trying to protect him from cynicism, they encourage him to respect his teachers.  That respect will, given the natural effects upon children of daily dependence and proximity, develop into a certain degree of attachment and affection toward his teachers -- along with faith in the teachers' authority and knowledge. 
Thus, in the name of protecting their child's innocence, the parents will have painted themselves into a moral corner, giving their child emotional impetus to submit to his school's invocations to relativism, egalitarianism, and soul-sapping conformism -- and then hoping to undo all of this in the evening.  Out of the noblest motives, they will, in effect, have served their child to the lions.  To present themselves as an opposing voice now will likely make the child feel like a pawn in some sort of ideological rivalry between two factions of adults whom he admires and respects -- similar to the sad psychological effects of a nasty divorce upon young children. 
And then, of course, there is the question of whether it is possible to negate the most pernicious effects of public education at all.  There is, for example, no way to estimate the damage to a child's emotional and intellectual development of having his pubescent (or pre-pubescent) erotic impulses manhandled by progressivism's crude, animalistic, anti-spiritual reductions of the sexual realm.  No parent, however well-meaning, can everundo the soul-flattening effects of modern government education's cucumber birth control lessons, alternative lifestyle presentations, and feminist sloganeering -- not to mention the effects of daily exposure to the dehumanizing "sexual activity is no big deal" attitude encouraged by the school's social environment.  (Beyoncé kills Jane Austen, period.)
When I have had occasion to teach Plato's Symposium to university students, I have been painfully aware that my most difficult task was to teach the students the perspective that was merely the common, obvious starting point for Plato's readers of the previous twenty-three hundred years -- namely that Eros is the mystery of human existence, the source of our faint notions of immortality, eternity, and wisdom.  Young people whose erotic education was gained in a progressive cucumber class are hardly prepared to go seeking the meaning of life with Socrates and Aristophanes.
To summarize: parents who are capable of providing private or home schooling, but who leave their children in public school while hoping to undo the damage at home, are fooling themselves.  Some damage can never be undone, and even that which can be somewhat mitigated would be better avoided entirely.  Furthermore, setting yourself up as parental avenger against the government's indoctrination is setting your child up for confused feelings, resentments, and disillusionments that are both harmful to his sentimental development and completely unnecessary. 
Good parents: swallow your pride and save your children.  Your efforts to fight progressive education from within -- saving your pride while allowing your children to be swallowed -- are a microcosm of the Gramsci Plan for modern society's defeat.
Some people minimize the educational crisis by declaring that the public schools were good back in their day, and have merely gone off the rails within the past few decades.  False.  The "father of modern education," John Dewey, published his first major work, The School and Social Progress, in 1899.  He was an anti-rational, anti-freedom (and later Trotskyite) dissembler who saw socialism as the only corrective for society's ills, and promoted public education as the most effective means to socialism.  He has been the dominant intellectual force behind the development of Western education for a hundred years.  Furthermore, the reason for his quick rise to preeminence in education theory is that his "radical methods" were not fundamentally inconsistent with the goals of the earlier "philanthropic" advocates of public education, namely to produce a qualified but humble underclass that would not challenge the authority of an entrenched oligarchy.  (President Obama's crony Warren Buffet has recently remarked that in the name of fairness, private schools ought to be banned outright, and all children forcibly distributed to government schools by lottery.  Plus ça change....)
In short, the past century of public education displays the fate of today's well-intentioned public school parent writ large.  Civilization always was, in effect, mitigating the compulsory school's damage at home.  In the earlier stages, the progressive degradation was more subtle, but only because public education itself had not yet become a completely closed shop.  That is to say, a hundred years ago many parents had spent relatively few years in public schools themselves; many teachers and school administrators had received alternative forms of education, as had their own teachers and university professors; government schools were still somewhat under the sway of educational models adapted from the pre-public era; and the progressive schools had not yet entirely displaced family, religion, and great literature as the primary moral influences among the majority of the population.  Civilization therefore deteriorated slowly, rather than all at once.
But it did deteriorate: today's universal public education catastrophe is not a radical shift from the schools of "your day."  It is the inevitable, logical outcome of a long war between authoritarians who sought to mold a compliant underclass of amoral collectivists, and responsible adults who sought to promote a happy and moral life for their children. 
The lesson is clear: The authoritarians won.  They always will, in the end -- until they are forcibly denied the souls they wish to corrupt. 
Take your children out of public school now -- before today's heirs to Dewey, Marx, and the early self-serving oligarchs achieve their ultimate goal, which is to deny parents the freedom to take their children out at all.  Jane Austen had no government schooling, and received most of her education at home, reading books recommended by her father.  Try it.

Page Printed from: at February 12, 2013 - 05:45:24 AM CST