Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Left's continuing war on women

By Ann Coulter
March 27, 2013

The New York Times caused a sensation with its kazillion-word, March 17 article by Michael Luo on the failures of state courts to get guns out of the hands of men in domestic violence situations.

The main purpose of the article was to tweak America's oldest civil rights organization, the National Rifle Association, for opposing some of the more rash anti-gun proposals being considered by state legislatures, such as allowing courts to take away a person's firearms on the basis of a temporary restraining order.

It's a new position for liberals to oppose the rights of the accused. Usually the Times is demanding that even convicted criminals be given voting rights, light sentences, sex-change operations and vegan meals in prison.

Another recent Times article about communities trying to keep sex offenders out of their neighborhoods quoted a liberal saying: "It's counterproductive to public safety, because when you have nothing to lose, you are much more likely to commit a crime than when you are rebuilding your life."

But that was about convicted child molesters. This is about guns, so all new rules apply.

As is usually the case when liberals start proposing gun restrictions, they assume only men will be disarmed by laws taking guns from those subjected to temporary restraining orders. But such orders aren't particularly difficult to get. It doesn't occur to liberals that an abusive man could also get one against his wife, whether his accusations are true or not.

Rather than helping victims of domestic abuse, this -- and other Times' proposals on guns -- only ensures that more women will get killed. A gun in the hand of an abused woman changes the power dynamic far more than keeping a gun out of the hands of her abuser, who generally can murder his wife in any number of ways.

The vast majority of rapists, for example, don't even bother using a gun because -- as renowned criminologist Gary Kleck notes -- they typically have a "substantial power advantage over the victim," making the use of a weapon redundant.

As the Times eventually admits around paragraph 400: "In fairness, it was not always clear that such an order (taking guns from the accused wife abuser) would have prevented the deaths."

No kidding. In one case the Times cites, Robert Wigg ripped a door off its hinges and heaved it at his wife, Deborah, after having thrown her to the floor by her hair.

Deborah Wigg moved out, got a protective order and filed for divorce. But doors were not an impediment to Robert Wigg. He showed up at her new house and, in short order, broke down the door and murdered her.

He happened to have used a gun, but he might as well have used his fists. Or an illegal gun, had the court taken away his legal guns. Or another door.

As her husband was breaking in, Deborah called her parents and 911. Her neighbors called 911, too. But the police didn't arrive in time. Even her parents got to the house before the cops did, only to find their daughter murdered.

The protective order didn't help Deborah Wigg; the police couldn't help; her neighbors and parents couldn't help. Only if she'd had a gun and knew how to use it -- after carefully disregarding everything Joe Biden has said on the subject -- might she have been able to save her own life.

Numerous studies, including one by the National Institute of Justice, show that crime victims who resist a criminal with a gun are less likely to be injured than those who do not resist at all or who resist without a gun. That's true even when the assailant is armed.

Liberals' advice to rape and domestic abuse victims is: Lie back and enjoy it. The Times' advice is: Get a protective order. The NRA's advice is: Blow the dirtbag's head off. Or, for the delicate: Resist with a gun, the only effective means to stop an attack.

Apparently a lot of abused women prefer not to lie back and take it. Looking at data from Detroit, Houston and Miami, Margo Wilson and Martin Daly found that the vast majority of wives who killed their husbands were not even indicted, much less convicted, because it was found they were acting in self-defense.

But the Times doesn't want abused women to have a fighting chance. Instead, it keeps pushing gun control policies that not only won't stop violent men from murdering their wives, but will disarm their intended victims.


Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Literature and the spirit of the age

Some insist that literature with a transcendent perspective is too constraining. They are wrong.

The Catholic World Report
Oscar Wilde, Flannery O'Connor, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien
There are frequent debates about what constitutes great literature, and no little disputation. Today, the prevailing and authoritative view combines an ideological filter with anthropological filter to separate “important” literature from the herd of common books. The ideological filter is materialism: only things that can be measured are real, and these operate according to fixed imperatives. The anthropological filter is psychological: human freedom is an illusion; psychosexual imperatives determine human behavior and beliefs.
In many literary quarters, the matter is settled. Any hint of the transcendent:realities that can’t be measured and human motives that can’t be psychosexually definedare rejected by one or both of these filters.
By these measures, the works of Charles Dickens, and many other once-esteemed authors, are “common books”. In the twentieth century, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis were filtered out of the pantheon of serious writers because their works are “guilty” of being steeped in transcendence, and deficient in ideological and anthropological orthodoxy.
Is there an alternate definition of great literature to today’s prevailing view?
Great literature starts with a true depiction of the human condition, but this true depiction is radically different from that of the materialists. Great literature must be well conceived, well crafted, and well written; a transcendent perspective by itself isn’t enough. The author needs to connect us with their fictional world in a way that provokes thought, reflection, and, as Tolkien argued, application to our own experiences.
Some insist that literature with a transcendent perspective is too constraining, that such stories are monotonously unoriginal, but the opposite is true. The ideological and anthropological filters used by modern literary critics require slavish adherence to materialist dogmas.
Prove it, scoffers would say.
Consider J. R. R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Harper Lee on the one hand (now that’s real diversity!), and Evelyn Waugh, Graham Greene, Flannery O’Connor, and Oscar Wilde on the other, all authors considered to have a transcendent perspective. Both “camps” depict evil and the consequences of evil in their works. The Tolkien camp depicts virtue in characters like Aragorn, Peter Pevensie, Alyosha Karamazov, and Atticus Finch. In the Waugh camp, noble characters are hard to find, or severely conflicted. Try to find virtuous characters in Waugh’s A Handful of Dust, Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, or O’Connor’s Wise Blood.
But isn’t this an argument that the Waugh camp lacks a transcendent perspective, that they have more in common with the materialists? Actually, the Waugh camp’s gritty, troubling, and often satirical, stories are honest about what a world without nobility and virtue looks like, and the reader is given the sense, though rarely explicitly stated, that something intended for this world is lacking, that something is out of kilter. This is radically different than the materialist view that desperation and disorder represent a deterministic or nihilistic “reality”.
Who would think to group Oscar Wilde with Tolkien, or Flannery O’Connor with Lewis? In the sense that these writers foreshadow a transcendent reality, there are more similarities than differences.
Is this merely a debate about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? In fact, many in our culture are formed, at least in part, by literature. At heart, this literary debate is about what it means to be human, a materialist definition or a transcendent one. Frodo Baggins is an absurdity in a materialist universe, not because he is a hobbit, but because what motivates him is absurd.
There is a place where an unequivocally materialistic ideology reigns in Middle Earth. It’s called Mordor.

Death to Freedom

By Mark Steyn

National Review's 'Happy Warrior'
March 26, 2013

The Threat of Islamic Betrayal

Return to the Article

March 27, 2013

The Threat of Islamic Betrayal

By Raymond Ibrahim
A recent assassination attempt in Turkey offers valuable lessons for the West concerning Islamist hate -- and the amount of deceit and betrayal that hate engenders towards non-Muslim "infidels."
Last January, an assassination plot against a Christian pastor in Turkey was thwarted when police arrested 14 suspects. Two of them had been part of the pastor's congregation for more than a year, feigning interest in Christianity. One went so far as to participate in a baptism. Three of the suspects were women. "These people had infiltrated our church and collected information about me, my family and the church and were preparing an attack against us," said the pastor in question, Emre Karaali, a native Turk: "Two of them attended our church for over a year and they were like family."
And their subversive tactics worked: "The 14 [suspects] had collected personal information, copies of personal documents, created maps of the church and the pastor's home, and had photos of those who had come to Izmit [church] to preach."
Consider the great lengths these Islamic supremacists went to in order to murder this Christian pastor: wholesale deception, attending non-Islamic places of worship and rites to the point that "they were like family" to the Christian they sought to betray and kill. While some may think such acts are indicative of un-Islamic behavior, they are, in fact, doctrinally permissible and historically demonstrative.
Islamic doctrine permits deceits, ruses, and dispensations. For an in-depth examination, read about the doctrines of taqiyya,tawriya, and taysir. Then there is Islam'soverarching idea of niyya (or "intention"), best captured by the famous Muslim axiom, "necessity makes permissible the prohibited." According to this teaching, the intentions behind Muslim actions determine whether said actions are permissible or not.
From here one may understand the many incongruities of Islam: lying is forbidden -- unless the intention is to empower Islam; killing women and children is forbidden -- but permissible during the jihad; suicide is forbidden -- unless the intention behind it is to kill infidels, in which case it becomes a "martyrdom operation."
Thus, feigning interest in Christianity, attending church for over a year, participating in Christian baptisms, and becoming "like family" to an infidel -- all things forbidden according to Islamic Sharia -- become permissible in the service of the jihad on Christian infidels.
History offers several examples of Muslims feigning friendship and loyalty to non-Muslims only to break faith at the opportune moment, beginning with Islam's founder. When a non-Muslim poet, Ka'b ibn Ashraf, offended Muhammad, the prophet exclaimed: "Who will kill this man who has hurt Allah and his prophet?" A young Muslim named Ibn Maslama volunteered on condition that, to get close enough to Ka'b to assassinate him, he be allowed to deceive the poet. The prophet agreed. Ibn Maslama went to Ka'b feigning friendship; the poet trusted his sincerity and took him into his confidence. Soon thereafter, the Muslim youth returned with a friend and, while the trusting poet's guard was down, they slaughtered him.
Likewise, Muhammad commanded a convert from an adversarial tribe to conceal his new Muslim identity and go back to his tribe -- which he cajoled with a perfidious "You are my stock and my family, the dearest of men to me" -- only to betray them to Islam.
Such are the lengths some Muslims -- past and present -- go to in order to win the trust of those infidels they mean to betray. For example, in October 2012 in Somalia, a nation that has nothing in common with Turkey, neither race, language, nor culture -- only Islam -- this same story of betrayal recently took place. When a Muslim sheikh became suspicious that a woman in his village had converted to Christianity, he sent his wife to the apostate, instructing her to pretend to be interested in learning about Christianity. The trusting Christian woman was only too happy to share the Gospel with the feigning Muslim woman. After it was verified that the woman was Christian, the sheikh and other Muslims went to her house andshot her dead.
Such betrayals can only be understood in the context of the growing hate felt for infidels, Christians at the top of the list. In Turkey alone -- a relatively "moderate" nation in comparison to other Muslim nations like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt -- recent incidents of hate include the slaying of an 85-year-old Christian Armenian woman, who was repeatedly stabbed to death in her apartment. A cross was carved onto her naked corpse. This is the fifth attack in the past two months against elderly Christian women (one lost an eye).
The Turkish pastor targeted for assassination also explained the great enmity felt for Christians: "There is hate and this hate feeling continues from people here." Muslim children often curse and throw rocks at his church and its congregation -- which consists of only 20 members.
Then of course there was the Malatya massacre.  In April 2007, several terrorists attacked a publishing house in Malatya, Turkey, for distributing Bibles.  They bound, tortured, and stabbed for several hours three of its Christian employeesbefore slitting their throats. Evidence also later emerged that the massacre was part of a much larger operation, including involvement of elements in Turkey's military.  One unidentified suspect later said: "We didn't do this for ourselves, but for our religion [Islam]....  Let this be a lesson to enemies of our religion."
Indeed, the true "lesson" is best captured by the following question: If some Muslims, including women, are willing to go to such lengths to eliminate the already ostracized and downtrodden non-Muslim minorities in their midst -- attending churches and becoming like "family members" to those infidels they intend to kill -- how much deceit and betrayal must some of the smiling Muslim activists of America, especially those in positions of power and influence, be engaging in to subvert and eliminate the most dangerous of all infidels, the original Great Satan?
And yet, according to the Obama administration, the only Islamic-related threat America needs to worry about is al-Qaeda --  open, bearded terrorists screaming "death to America" while toting their Kalashnikovs.

Raymond Ibrahim, a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum, is author of the new book Crucified Again: Exposing Islam's New War on Christians 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tiger Woods' Second Chance

Tiger Woods has found his game again — and we can all take pleasure in that

By Tuesday, March 26, 1:40 PM

The Washington Post

We all reserve the right to change our lives. That’s the underpinning of everything from self-help hustling to religious conversion to psychoanalysis to “The Biggest Loser” to many of the greatest novels. The New Me may be the biggest schlock business in the world or the deepest philosophy. Some of it’s bogus, some of it’s gold, who knows which is which, and to each his own. But nobody denies our right to a new leaf, a radical reinvention of ourselves or the correction of deep personal problems.
You take it where you find it. Tiger Woods seems to have found it, for the time being at least, and longer we can hope, in Buddhism, sex-addiction therapy, a putting tip from Steve Stricker and a romance with legendary skier Lindsay Vonn“It’s a strange, strange world we live in, Master Jack.”
If some people don’t identify with what Woods has been through for the last 40 months, then perhaps they’re lucky. But they’re also not like a lot of us. It’s hard to find a life that never blew up. If that weren’t true, all the helping professions would be out of work.
With his back-to-back, always-in-command two-stroke wins at Doral and the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Woods has now won six times in his last 20 PGA Tour events over a 53-week span and is, indeed, No. 1 on earth again.
Some of his post-victory quotes to the press almost sounded like they were meant to have double meanings. “It feels good right now. I’m getting there,” he said. “I’ve turned some of the weaknesses I had into strengths.”
When was the last time he was this happy with his golf game?
“It’s been a few years,” he said.
It’s hard not to wonder, or perhaps just hope, if he’s ever been this happy being himself. When you’re a golf prodigy at the age of 2, have a pair of dominant stage parents and never rebel against authority at any of the conventional ages that every parent recognizes, something’s going to give eventually — with plenty of damage all around.
Now we’re seeing the effects of healing, which needed a ton of time, on and off the course. “If I got healthy, I know I can play this game at a high level,” said Woods, now a 17-year vet at 37, after his win on Monday. “That was the first step in the process. Once I got there, then my game turned.”
Part of his recent success is insanely good putting, like his final lag putt from 73 feet on Monday that stopped one inch from the cup, almost more of an exclamation point than if it had plunged into the hole. Great putting may last for weeks or months, but it never stays indefinitely.
Though various parts of Woods’s game will disappear at times and need a search party to reclaim, Tiger is now back as the best player in the world. As Vonn tweeted: “Number 1” with 14 exclamation points. That’s about right.
Many will say Woods has to win another major championship to finish this whole cycle of crash, burn and recover since winning the 2008 U.S. Open. That’s true. However, it’s hard to imagine that Woods won’t win more majors, even if he fails to capture his fifth Masters in two weeks.
What we have all regained is a resumption of the greatest career-long saga in contemporary sports: Woods’s pursuit of Jack Nicklaus’s 18 major titles. That record went from unassailable to almost-sure-to-broken after Tiger got his 14th major at just 32. Now the probability of a 19th major may be teetering perfectly balanced on many knife points.
How many years will Woods’s injuries, and surgeries on top of old surgeries, especially to his left knee, allow him to play at his current level?
Will the new Woods, who has replaced everyone from his inner circle, who choked up while apologizing for his infidelities, who fell to 52nd in the world and who has collapsed when in contention in recent majors, have to go through the same wall as a far younger player trying for major No. 1?
Is the doubt-free, indomitable Old Tiger still available in moments of crisis to New Tiger? We all know the answer to that. He’s not. No Sunday at a major will ever look easy again for him. That just ups the drama.
Finally, does Woods believe, deep down, that he deserves golf’s greatest distinction? Guilt could trip him, even guilt toward the game he damaged more than that fire hydrant outside his home in 2009. But it’s just as likely that he feels pride in facing so many crises and emerging as his own re-formed man.
Many champions have said that a prerequisite to winning majors is the state of your golf; but the rest of the battle is the state of your psyche. Where is Tiger’s? A publicly acknowledged relationship with someone as accomplished and respected as Vonn, who’s also divorced, may hint that Woods is not sabotaging himself.
If Woods had never regained the golf gifts that most define him, it would have been a pitiable example of a fate so harsh it exceeded any of his misbehavior. Now, after more than four years of waiting, that has changed.
“I’m really excited about the rest of this year,” Woods said this week.
He means far more than that. His 40 months in a self-inflicted, mid-life re-examination have left Woods a more complex, flawed and vulnerable man, but a no less fascinating protagonist. Now, the golf world can’t wait for the rest of his year — no, his whole career — to resume once more.

Florida Atlantic University: Another Left-Wing Seminary

By Dennis Prager
March 26, 2013

Question: What is the difference between Christian seminaries and American universities?

Answer: Christian seminaries announce that their purpose is to produce committed Christians. 
American universities do not admit that their primary purpose is to produce committed leftists. They claim that their purpose is to open students' minds.

This month Florida Atlantic University provided yet another example of how universities have become left-wing seminaries.

An FAU professor told his students to write "JESUS" (in bold caps) on a piece of paper and then step on it.

One student who did not, a junior named Ryan Rotela, complained to the professor and then to the professor's supervisor. He explained that he had refused to do so because it violated his religious principles.

Two days later, Rotela was told not to attend the class anymore. The university then went on to defend the professor in an email to a local CBS TV station: "Faculty and students at academic institutions pursue knowledge and engage in open discourse. While at times the topics discussed may be sensitive, a university environment is a venue for such dialogue and debate."

FAU further pointed out that the stomping exercise -- to "discuss the importance of symbols in culture" -- came from a textbook titled "Intercultural Communication: A Contextual Approach."

After the story became national news, FAU issued an apology: "We sincerely apologize for any offense this has caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs."

Of course, this "apology" was meaningless. Apologizing for "giving offense" has nothing to do with condemning the act. Not to mention that kicking Rotela out of the class belied the university's claim of open discourse.

This story is significant because it provides yet another example of the deteriorated state of American higher education. There are some excellent professors in the so-called "social sciences" at American universities. But they are in the minority. The left has taken over American universities as well as most high schools, and like almost everything the left has influenced -- education, religion, the arts and the economies of most countries -- this influence has been destructive.

The argument that the professor represents no one but himself is refuted by the fact that the university defended the professor until it feared the national outcry that resulted.

Moreover, in another nationally reported incident, Northwestern University acted similarly in 2011. One of its professors invited his 600 students to stay after class to watch a live demonstration of female ejaculation, the subject of that day's class. A naked young woman (not a student) then used a motorized sex toy to come to orgasm. About 120 of the students watched.

When word got out, Northwestern defended the professor: "Northwestern University faculty members engage in teaching and research on a wide variety of topics, some of them controversial and at the leading edge of their respective disciplines. The university supports the efforts of its faculty to further the advancement of knowledge."

Like FAU, only after national condemnation increased did Northwestern "apologize."

Entire books have been written providing hundreds of examples of left-wing indoctrination having replaced education in American universities. FAU is just the latest example.

It is also instructive that the name to be stepped on was JESUS, not, for instance, MUHAMMAD, ALLAH or, for that matter, BILL CLINTON or MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.

Imagine the reaction at FAU if a professor had told students to step on the name MUHAMMAD. The professor would be condemned at huge rallies organized by the university to protest "Islamophobia." And he would fear for his life. Desecrate Christianity and you get tenure. Desecrate Islam and you get bodyguards.

Or, imagine if the name had been MARTIN LUTHER KING. FAU professors would have competed with one another in expressing outrage at this example of the racism that pervades the university and America. The president of the university would have issued a statement condemning the professor and distancing FAU from his action.
And is there one reader of this column who is surprised to learn that the FAU professor, Deandre Poole, is vice-chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party? Or that the party defended him?
This is why I founded Prager University ( to undo in five-minute courses the intellectual and moral damage that universities do over four years. And unlike FAU and Northwestern, PragerU is free.
The universities' damage is huge and enduring. And you don't have to believe in JESUS to recognize it.

Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a SRN radio show host, contributing columnist for and author of his newest book, Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph.

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Monday, March 25, 2013

The Meaning and Consequences of Israel's Apology to Turkey

Posted By Caroline Glick On March 25, 2013 @ 12:58 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 77 Comments
US President Barack Obama was on the line when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish protesters aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010.
For those who don’t remember, the Mavi Marmara was a Turkish ship that set sail in a bid to break Israel’s lawful maritime blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza’s coastline. When Israeli naval commandos boarded the ship to interdict it, passengers on deck attacked them – in breach of international maritime law. Soldiers were stabbed, bludgeoned and thrown overboard. In a misguided attempt to show the good faith of Israeli actions, the naval commandos were sent aboard the ship armed with paintball guns. As a consequence, the soldiers were hard-pressed to defend themselves. In the hand-to-hand combat that ensued, nine of the Turkish attackers were killed.
The Mavi Marmara was an eminently predictable fight. The Turkish group that hired the boat was an al-Qaeda-affiliated Turkish NGO named IHH. In 1999, the Turkish government was so wary of IHH that it barred the group from participating in relief efforts following a devastating earthquake.
IHH’s fortunes shifted with the rise of its fellow Islamists in the AKP Justice and Development Party led by Recep Tayip Erdogan. The AKP won the 2002 elections and has since been reelected twice.
By 2010, Prime Minster Erdogan had a long track record of anti-Israel actions. Indeed, by 2010, Erdogan had effectively destroyed the strategic alliance Israel had developed with Turkey since 1949. In 2006, Erdogan was the first major international leader and NATO member to host Hamas terror chief Ismail Haniyeh. The same year he allowed Iran to use Turkish territory to transfer weaponry to Hezbollah during the Second Lebanon War.
In 2008, Erdogan openly sided with Hamas against Israel in Operation Cast Lead. In 2009, he called President Shimon Peres a murderer to his face.
By the time the flotilla to Gaza was organized, Erdogan had used Turkey’s position as a NATO member to effectively end the US-led alliance’s cooperative relationship with Israel, by refusing to participate in military exercises with Israel.
Following the incident, rather than apologize for his allied NGO’s gross violation of international maritime law and acts of wanton aggression against Israeli forces, Erdogan doubled down. He removed Turkey’s ambassador from Israel. He demanded an apology as a condition for the restoration of relations. He had his court system open show trials against IDF soldiers and commanders. He stepped up his exploitation of Turkey’s NATO membership to block substantive military cooperation between Israel and NATO. And he cultivated close economic and political ties with Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood.
At the same time, Erdogan has cultivated close ties with President Barack Obama and his administration, and has spent millions of dollars on lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill to neutralize congressional opposition to his hostile behavior towards Israel and the US.
For three years Israel refused to apologize to Turkey. And then Obama came to Israel for a visit, and before he left the country, he had Netanyahu on the phone with Erdogan, apologizing for the loss of life of the Turkish protesters who stabbed and bludgeoned Israeli soldiers. Netanyahu also offered restitution to their families.
Israeli President Shimon Peres sought to silence the public outcry in Israel against Netanyahu’s action by soothingly saying that it was done to bury the past and move on to a better day in relations with Turkey. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz publicly backed Netanyahu’s actions, saying it was necessary to cultivate Turkish cooperation for dealing with the situation in Syria, which is rapidly spiraling out of control. Israeli and international concerns that all or parts of Syria’s massive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, as well as its ballistic missiles, will fall into the hands of jihadist forces have risen as jihadists, allied with al-Qaeda, have come to dominate the opposition to the Syrian regime.
Israel’s own concerns regarding the civil war in Syria have also escalated as rebel forces – affiliated with al-Qaeda — have taken over sections of the border region. UN observer forces deployed along Israel’s border with Syria since 1974 have been fleeing in droves, for Israel and Jordan. Earlier in the month, rebel forces took dozens of observer forces from the Philippines hostage for several days.
Given the situation, the main questions that arise from Israel’s apology to Turkey are as follows: Is it truly a declaration with little intrinsic meaning, as Peres intimated? Should it simply be viewed as a means of overcoming a technical block to renewing Israel’s strategic alliance with Turkey? In other words, will the apology facilitate Turkish cooperation in stemming the rise of jihadist forces in Syria, and blocking the transfer of chemical and biological weapons and ballistic missiles to such actors? Finally, what does Obama’s central role in producing Israel’s apology say about his relationship with the Jewish state and the consequences of his visit on Israel’s alliance with the US and its position in the region? And finally, what steps should Israel consider in light of these consequences?
On Saturday, the Arab League convened in Doha, Qatar and discussed Israel’s apology to Turkey and its ramifications for pan-Arab policy. The Arab League member states considered the prospect of demanding similar apologies for its military operations in Lebanon, Judea, Samaria and Gaza.
The Arab League’s discussions point to the true ramifications of the apology for Israel. By apologizing for responding lawfully to unlawful aggression against the State of Israel and its armed forces, Israel did two things. First, Israel humiliated itself and its soldiers, and so projected an image of profound weakness. Due to this projected image, Israel has opened itself up to further demands for it to apologize for its other responses to acts of unlawful war and aggression against the state, its territory and its citizens from other aggressors. The Arab League like most of its member nations is in an official state of war with Israel. The Arabs wish to see Israel destroyed. Kicking a nation when it is down is a perfectly rational way for states that wish other states ill to behave. And so the Arab League’s action was eminently predictable.
As for the future of Israel-Turkish cooperation on Syria, two things must be borne in mind. First, on Saturday Erdogan claimed that Netanyahu’s apology was insufficient to restore Turkish-Israel relations. He claimed that before he could take any concrete actions to restore relations, Israel would first have to compensate the families of the passengers from the Mavi Marmara killed while assaulting IDF soldiers with deadly force.
Beyond that, it is far from clear that Turkey shares Israel’s interests in preventing the rise of a jihadist regime in Syria allied with al-Qaeda. More than any other actor, Erdogan has played a central role in enabling the early jihadist penetration and domination of the ranks of the US-supported Syrian opposition forces. It is far from clear that the man who enabled these jihadists to rise to power shares Israel’s interest in preventing them from seizing Syria’s weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, if Turkey does share Israel’s interest in preventing the Syrian opposition from taking control over the said arsenals, it would cooperate with Israel in accomplishing this goal with or without an Israeli apology for its takeover of the Mavi Marmara.
So if interests, rather than sentiments dictate Turkey’s actions on Syria, as they dictate the interests of the Arab League in kicking Israel when it is perceived as being down, what does Obama’s central role in compelling Israel to apologize to Turkey tell us about his attitude towards Israel and how his attitude towards Israel is perceived by Israel’s neighbors, including Iran?
By forcing Israel to apologize to Turkey, Obama effectively forced Israel to acknowledge that it is in the wrong for lawful actions by its military taken in defense of international law and of Israel’s national security. That is, Obama sided with the aggressor – Turkey – over the victim – Israel. And in so doing, he signaled, deliberately or inadvertently, to the rest of Israel’s neighbors that the US is no longer siding with Israel in regional disputes. As a consequence, they now feel that it is reasonable for them to press their advantage and demand further Israeli apologies for daring to defend itself from their aggression.
Whether or not Obama meant to send this message, this is a direct consequence of his visit. Now Israel needs to consider its options for moving forward. For Israel’s allies in Congress, it is important to take a strong position on the issue. Members of Congress and Senate would do well to pass resolutions stating their conviction that Israel, while within its own rights to apologize, operated with reasonable force and wholly in accordance with international law in its interdiction of the Mavi Marmara, which was on an illegal voyage to provide aid and comfort for an internationally recognized terrorist organization in contravention of binding UN Security Council resolution 1379 from September 2001, which prohibits the proffering of such aid. Congress should enjoin the administration to issue a declaration noting US support for Israel in its actions to defend itself from aggression in all forms, including from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Second, Israel should scale back the level of military assistance it receives from the US. While Obama was in Israel, he pledged to expand US military assistance to Israel in the coming years. By unilaterally scaling back US assistance and developing its domestic military industries, Israel would send a strong signal to its neighbors that it is not completely dependent on the US and as a consequence, the level of US support for Israel does not determine Israel’s capacity to continue to defend itself.
On a wider level, it is important for Israel to develop the means to end its dependency on the US. Under Obama, despite the support of the great majority of the public, the US has become an undependable ally to Israel, and indeed to the rest of the US’s allies as well. The more quickly Israel can minimize its dependence, the better it will be for Israel, for the US and for the stability of the region. The apology to Turkey was a strategic error. To minimize its consequences, Israel must boldly assert its interests in Syria, Iran, and throughout the region.
See below: Latma’s “We Con the World” as a reminder of who we’re dealing with when it comes to the Gaza Flotilla participants:

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Review: 'The Americans'

Spies Like Us?

One almost-entirely-unguilty pleasure of watching The Americans — the strong new FX thriller that follows a “married” pair of KGB sleeper agents hiding in the Washington suburbs at the dawn of the Reagan era — is the frequent and mostly pathetic attempts of Mrs. Elizabeth Jennings (née Nadezhda, from Smolensk) to talk up the sclerotic USSR to her two American-born children, who have no idea that Mommy works for Directorate S.

When little Henry brags about meeting an Apollo astronaut at a school assembly, for example, Mrs. Jennings reminds him that the moon isn’t everything — just getting into space is a big deal! When daughter Paige relates her eighth-grade history teacher’s knocks on the Warsaw Pact, Mrs. Jennings wonders aloud how she can look at the geezer all day, what with his hare-lip.

They say the most interesting thing about The Americans is that it makes you root for the Soviets. And that’s true, insofar as you can’t help but like Keri Russell’s Elizabeth — who, though a dedicated Marxist-Leninist, a sworn enemy of the United States, and a murderer, is also impossibly compelling (and improbably beautiful), a kind of ur Tiger Mom, as relentlessly maternal as she is lethal.

Perhaps even more fun to watch is Phillip Jennings, who is at turns Elizabeth’s sham husband and her real lover, her superior officer and her wavering, Americanizing antagonist. Philip fully inhabits both the schleppy, polyestered travel agent that is his cover and the Jason Bourne–level badass beneath, both the able lothario who plies lonely secretaries for state secrets and the suffering romantic who tortures himself over Elizabeth’s own frequent infidelities. The fact that Phillip is played by Matthew Rhys, a Welshman, adds a minor but cool layer of verisimilitude — he speaks like a foreigner doing an aaaalmost perfect American accent.

But though the viewer is dragged into ambivalence over these two spies, there is no ambivalence about the cause to which they’re joined. As enjoyable as it is, the show never puts one in serious danger of “wanting the Soviets to win the Cold War,” which is how executive producer Joel Fields pitched it to TV critics (before bizarrely implying that maybe in a few years we’ll be ready to root for al-Qaeda).

This is because in the world of The Americans, the Soviets are not only frequently malevolent but also blindingly paranoid and hopelessly afraid and riven by internal factions. And even the sleeper agents — who’ve lived among us lo, so many years — so poorly understand the American psyche that the show could be a farce if it didn’t instead have tragedy in mind. To wit, the third episode of the season centers on the shooting of President Reagan. The Soviets, not insensibly, are worried that they will be blamed. So our protagonists’ overlords inform them, insensibly, that their number-one priority in the chaotic 24 hours that follow is to determine who is likeliest to “seize control of the U.S. government” should Reagan die. And an entire cell of crack KGB operatives sets to planning for guerrilla warfare in the event of the Alexander Haig coup d’état they consider as likely as it is not.

Nor is there much sympathetic about the spy network Phillip and Elizabeth have built in America, peopled as it is by scoundrels who are also, by definition, traitors. Among them is an aging black nationalist and SCLC volunteer who now runs surveillance for the Motherland and a Communist-turned-conservative journalist, in the mold of Whittaker Chambers or Christopher Hitchens, who in reality never left the Vanguard and leverages his cultural cachet to cozy up to Eastern-bloc dissidents before feeding them to his masters in Moscow.

And while there is plenty of sex in this world, little of it is sexy. Its mostly sad, sweaty bureaucrats living lives of quiet desperation, more than willing to leverage their meager particles of power into one-night stands and shabby affairs, and to — wittingly or unwittingly — trade sex for secrets. In a flashback to a grimy, sepia Soviet past, a would-be stepfather attempts to woo young Elizabeth’s widow mother by bringing her a crate full of coffee, sugar, and other staples “from the Committee storehouse.” The creepy, implied quid pro quo — Elizabeth’s mother refuses the offer and teaches her daughter a lesson about trusting men — captures the dreary relationship between sex and power in The Americans.
I don’t know the politics of the show’s creator — a former CIA officer named Joe Weisberg — and I don’t particularly care, either. Lefty viewers might read something into the fact that it’s the KGB’s discovery of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that ratchets up the bloodshed in the first season’s high-stakes game of spy-versus-spy. They might chuckle at the occasional Reagan crack, or indeed, at the occasional over-the-top Reagan praise. But if The Americans is supposed to have set up a moral equivalence between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., it has failed miserably.
In a tense conversation in the first episode, Phillip finally admits to Elizabeth that he has thought about defecting, for the sake of their children, who know nothing but the United States. Right after she slaps him, Elizabeth tells Phillip that she’s not finished educating the kids yet, that if not Communists, she can still make socialists out of them.
Phillip shakes his head, though we can’t tell whether in sadness or pride. “This place doesn’t turn out socialists,” he says.
Beyond all the international intrigue, what makes the show work is the internal battle between the skin the Jenningses had the poor moral luck of being born into, and the American skin that is becoming harder and harder to slip off. And what makes The Americans not just a thriller but a tragedy is the dramatic irony that we can see all the way from the cheap seats, but that the Jenningses won’t comprehend until it’s too late: that they have consecrated their lives to a doomed struggle for a perverted idea. That Mother Russia is doomed to lose. And to deserve to. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Who is Bruce Springsteen?

A Fortnightly Review of
by Peter Ames Carlin

Touchstone/Simon & Schuster | 512 pp | $28.00 / £20.00
 By Peter Knobler.
19 March 2013
Bruce, by Peter Ames Carlin. Reviewed by Peter Knobler.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN HAS been an American icon for almost 40 years.  He has sold more than 100 million records; he has the lyric ability to bring lives to life, the musical gift to create rock arias and anthems, and the stamina to prove it all night.  More than any rock ‘n’ roller in history, Springsteen has touched people to the core – without their actually knowing much about him.  They thought they knew, they were encouraged to think they knew, but they didn’t know. Bruce, Peter Ames Carlin’s impressively detailed hagiography, does its best to illuminate Springsteen’s character but often succumbs to the rock writer’s classic temptation and confuses access with insight, mistaking soot for soil.

Carlin has plenty of documentation.  He was granted access to the Springsteen family, and the details of its history and heritage are meant to illuminate some of Bruce’s darker impulses.  The death at age five of Douglas Springsteen’s sister Virginia had a profound effect on the man who would grow up to be Bruce’s father, and by implication contributed to Bruce’s own darkness and that of their relationship.  Carlin was also shown Springsteen’s high school composition notebooks, and gathered set lists from one of Bruce’s early bands, Steel Mill, as well as film outtakes and a load of authorized and bootleg audio familiar perhaps, if at all, only to Bruce zealots.  He has accumulated recollections and testimonials from the New Jersey locals who peopled Springsteen’s world before Bruce grew beyond it, and there is a vibrant energy in his relating of the wild times kids in and around Bruce’s bands had down the shore.
Clicking an image will launch a captioned slideshow. Thumbnail videos link to a youtube page.
Carlin takes the reader through detailed recreations of various moments of the boy and man’s creativity.  One is made to feel as if one is indeed present at the creation of some outstanding cultural moments, the comings and goings of musicians and friends and business acquaintances from the time he was in high school to the most recent tour, the recording of each Springsteen album, the hiring and firing of personnel, the wooing and losing of women.  Springsteen himself, while not authorizing or collaborating, cooperated with the writer.  One walks through Bruce’s life with Bruce.  It’s very seductive.
THE ACCUMULATION OF detail is prodigious.  Want to know the make and model car Springsteen’s first wife, Julianne, drove in high school, and where she was headed?  MG roadster, Macadam Boulevard to downtown Portland, Oregon.  When Janis Joplin played the Asbury Park Convention Hall on August 23, 1969, and let it be known through her manager that “Janis really wants to fuck Bruce,” what did Bruce say? “I’m gettin’ the fuck outta here!” What did Springsteen say to cause Father Gerald McCarron to walk out of a benefit performance for St. Rose of Lima elementary school, which Bruce had attended in Freehold, NJ? “Father, can I sing a song about cunny-lingus in your school?” It’s all here.

However, at crucial moments, when it comes time for the writer to make sense of the man’s life, Carlin absents himself. He recounts the sudden absence of a wedding ring but is not able to penetrate the veil of privacy and discover the keys to the Springsteen character that contributed to the failure of Bruce’s marriage. And he had the access.  Springsteen tells him, “The emotions of mine that were uncovered by trying to have an adult life with a partner and make that work uncovered a lot of things I’d avoided and tried not to deal with previously.”  This is a key revelation. What were those “things”? Carlin does not pursue them, apparently unable to successfully encourage Bruce to be more expansive, and unwilling or unable to illuminate the topic on his own.
When Springsteen goes into psychotherapy, Carlin quotes Bruce telling interviewer Jim Henke, “I crashed into myself and saw a lot of myself as I really was. I questioned all my motivations. Why am I writing what I’m writing? Why am I saying what I’m saying? Am I bullshitting? Am I just trying to be the most popular guy in town? I questioned everything I’d ever done, and it was good.” This is where a biography should begin! What are the answers to these vital questions? Carlin doesn’t say, he doesn’t even venture a guess. He gives the reader facts and then recounts a fortieth birthday concert at Tim McLoone’s Rum Runner bar in Sea Bright, NJ, where members of the E Street Band played, as Carlin writes, “in lockstep, with Bruce leading the way back to the glories of the past and the natural yearning to re-create moments that can never be relived.”
Springsteen in Germany, 1988. Image: Wiki/Thomas Uhlemann
Carlin’s writing is often florid and overwrought.  On Springsteen’s guitar work: “The sound razored the smoky air…his fingers spidering the frets…[riffs] going off like fireworks across a murky summer sky.”  He describes a tune with a “hurricanic climax,” a cross-country drive in a “two-car flotilla.”  He tries very hard.

It’s a common problem.  Springsteen is an inspiring performer, writers have forever tried to capture in words the feeling of his concerts, and Carlin takes his shot: “A chorus that describes both the essence of faith and the heart of the place Bruce’s songs had yearned for, questioned the existence of, and kept right on chasing”; his voice “imploring the skies for some sign of hope.” Springsteen’s writing process: “to keep throwing the sledge against the stone until the earth cracked open and God’s wisdom beamed out.” Mush.
Springsteen, on the other hand, is often revealed to be pleasantly plain-spoken. This is not a revelation – Springsteen’s stage persona is extremely down-to-earth – but in comparison to the purpleness of the prose surrounding him, Bruce comes directly into focus when he says, “I was always ambivalent about whatever I was doing…Always, if I’m here, I can’t be there. If I’m making this music, I can’t make that, you know.” That sounds like the Bruce we know because it is the part of Bruce that he has shown us, and a strong part of who he actually is.  Of the E Street Band’s first international trip: “We had four shows, got sandblasted, and scooted home.  You’re dealing with men who had never been anywhere.  We couldn’t find any cheeseburgers!” Springsteen is an able conversational counterpuncher.
And there is also silence. Carlin recounts a story in which Bruce bonds with his son by holding a book in his lap, “and then, after a minute or two of silence, [turning] the page so they could look at the next picture….” His wife, Patti, watching this, said, “‘You’re not reading it to him!’ Bruce shrugged. ‘This,’ he explained, ‘is how Springsteen men read.’”
And yet, when Bruce says, regarding his becoming a gym rat and developing his body, “I was a big fan of meaningless, repetitive behavior….There are probably other psychological reasons behind it, but…it was the perfect match for me.  The Sisyphean aspect of it just completely suited my personality,” Carlin does not pursue that lead.  Another insight unexamined.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with Kennedy Center Honorees in the Blue Room of the White House, Dec. 6, 2009. Bruce and Barack on the right.
SENATOR AND FORMER presidential candidate John Kerry says, “There’s an authenticity about Bruce that’s just incontrovertible…I think it’s because he’s so true to who he is, and people know it.” But who is he?  Is he the egalitarian liberal who sang the radical anti-private-property verse of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at President Barack Obama’s first inaugural, or is he the guy who allowed his band to be low-balled when offered contracts for a highly anticipated and financially rewarding “reunion tour”? “Ha-ha-ha, that’s right!  Stick it to ‘em!  That’s how it’s supposed to work!  Go for it!” he told Garry Tallent, with whom he had been playing music for 30 years, when the bassist rejected Bruce’s management’s offer and threatened to sit out the tour. Stick it to whom? Bruce was paying the bills! Carlin, to his credit, lays out the facts of these negotiations, but when it comes time for an opinion on what Bruce’s initial unwillingness to properly compensate his band says about his character, he is again nowhere to be found.

The major revelation of Bruce is that in 1983 Springsteen’s friends thought he was suicidal. Bruce Springsteen.  Beloved by millions, internationally influential, rich beyond imagining.  Suicidal.  Why?  What were the issues?  At least Carlin asked. Springsteen told him, “Things come from way down in the well.  It’s in your DNA, in the way your body cycles.  You’re going along fine and then, boom, it hits you…So I found a psychiatrist within days of getting to Los Angeles, then when I got back east I found another guy in New York City.”  He started taking antidepressants.
Springsteen’s DNA caused to him be suicidal?  What does this mean to a biographer who is plumbing the soul of his subject? Does he actually believe the Springsteen DNA was altered by the early death of Bruce’s aunt Virginia?  “Even now,” Carlin writes, “Bruce has a difficult time talking about what inspired his journey.”  Perfectly understandable, but Bruce is Carlin’s work, not Springsteen’s. What were the discoveries Springsteen arrived at? What were the revelations he reached? How did his analysis affect the course of his life? This is the central moment of the book and it passes in a paragraph. “Bruce continued to write and record more songs,” writes Carlin, and then we’re on to a discussion of song structure and recording technique. One comes away impressed with the book’s quantity of facts but unimpressed with its intellectual depth or vision.
And about those facts.
December '72: 'Who is Bruce Springsteen?'
FROM 1972 TO 1979 I was editor-in-chief of Crawdaddy, “the first magazine to take rock & roll seriously.” I wrote Bruce’s first profile, in December 1972. Crawdaddy is credited with “discovering” Springsteen for the rock press. In late autumn 1972 the magazine received a call that Bruce Springsteen was playing Sing Sing prison, would we like to attend. Springsteen’s first album had yet to be released, though we had heard it was coming.  The uprising at Attica was only fifteen months past, so this was a way of getting inside a maximum-security prison and seeing one of those “new Dylans” at the same time. My associate editor Greg Mitchell and I were the only members of the press to accept this invitation. The day was a revelation.

In the car with Bruce on the way up to the prison, his manager, Mike Appel, compared him in one breath to Wordsworth, Bob Dylan, Keats, Byron, and Shakespeare. Inside, the Sing Sing stage crew loved Clarence Clemons. Big, black, and free, he was everything they wanted to be.  The sound system was barely functional so the band played rhythm’n’ blues, specifically Buddy Miles’s “Them Changes”:
Well my mind is going through them changes
I feel just like committin’ a crime!
Bruce cranked his beat-up blonde Telecaster, Clarence swung his horn like it was a fat woman, and the crowd began to move.  Rumbling down the aisle like the law was after him came a short, squat, bald black man with bunched muscles.  He crossed down front and hit the stage at a gallop.  The convict jammed his right hand into his work shirt and pulled out…a saxophone!  And he was electric!  The man could wail!
All of this was written contemporaneously in Crawdaddy and is sourced and quoted in Carlin’s book…except he gets the song wrong.  Bruce the book says quite specifically, “Bruce called for a twelve-bar blues in the key of C.”  Seems like a small detail, but Springsteen’s choice of that song and that lyric revealed a playfulness, wit,  and social awareness that Carlin apparently missed. And Carlin misstates the facts with detailed assurance. Carlin misstates the name of an opening act at the Main Point club in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. He also makes mistakes of fact in his three-page note on sources. If he can’t get the facts of his sources right, one has to wonder about the veracity of the facts that came from those sources. Carlin’s work is built on these facts, it’s overflowing with them, and knowing this makes me less willing to accept them.
Carlin opens his book with a discussion of how Bruce came to be called The Boss.  According to the legend Carlin perpetuates, Springsteen created the nickname himself.  Steve Van Zandt, Bruce’s running partner and co-bandleader at the time, says no one took it seriously until Steve himself started using it.  Hearing this story, Springsteen doesn’t confirm, saying, “I’ll leave you with that.”  In fact, that’s not actually how it happened.
I was at 914 Sound Studios in Blauvelt, New York, the night Bruce became “The Boss”. It was not originally a loving nickname. The guys in the band were having a bad day, they had done 14 different takes of the track to “Jungleland” till 4 am the night before and not one was up to Bruce’s standards. In my years hanging with the band they had always appeared to be friends making music together, yet that night Bruce had been riding them hard and they began saying, “Yes, boss,” in that snarky way of employees yielding to unwelcome authority. It had been going on all day. “Yes, Boss. Yassir, Boss.” You could tell from the way the band was taking to it, repeating the phrase gleefully whenever he asked for anything, that clearly the nickname was going to stick and Bruce didn’t like it. It sounded particularly unsettling to me coming from Clarence, for all the obvious racial reasons.
The nickname has taken on a life of its own.  The respect for Bruce among band members, and their recognition that, like it or not, he truly is the boss in exactly the way they were chafing against, ultimately trumped the momentary power drive. Now it’s a very effective marketing tool. But even the most intense Springsteen fans don’t know its root, that being called “The Boss” was originally an insult.

Peter Knobler is a writer living in New York City. His collaboration with David N. Dinkins on the former New York City mayor’s autobiography will be published in August. Knobler is currently writing his first novel.