Saturday, January 04, 2014

Heading South

By Mark Steyn
from National Review's Happy WarriorJanuary 3, 2014

Whether or not Nelson Mandela was emblematic of the new South Africa, his memorial service certainly was. Thamsanqa Jantjie, the lovable laugh-a-minute sign-language fraud who stood alongside President Obama gesticulating meaninglessly to the delight of all, was exposed in the days that followed as a far darker character. A violent schizophrenic charged over the years with burglary, rape, kidnapping, and murder, he was also a member of a "necklacing" gang — necklacing being the practice of placing a gasoline-filled tire over the head of the victim and setting it alight.

Nevertheless, Mr. Jantjie was merely the ne plus ultra of the South African state's shambolic security operation for the service. My fellow congregants at National Review have been arguing in recent weeks over whether Mandela was a great man (Deroy Murdock) or a Commie terrorist (Andrew McCarthy) or on balance a mild disappointment (Conrad Black). But beyond such assessments is the daily reality that a lot of things in South Africa simply don't function anymore. As revealing as Mr. Jantjie's extensive and violent criminal background is the fact that the National Prosecuting Authority cannot reliably state which offenses he has been convicted of, and, for the one crime for which he seems definitively to have been sentenced, whether in fact he served the sentence.

Before Mandela's, the last South African funeral to have commanded international attention was that of Field Marshal Smuts, the greatest South African of the pre-apartheid era and the only man to sign the treaties ending both the First and Second World Wars. He is a forgotten figure now, but he was the only South African with a statue in Parliament Square at Westminster until Mandela's was put up, and his funeral in 1950 attracted numbers comparable to and perhaps even surpassing those in Soweto. Smuts would have been astonished by the chaos and ill discipline of Mandela's farewell six decades later. He took it for granted that South Africa was a First World nation, on a par with her sister dominions in Canada and Australia. The line between these two funerals is one of racial progress, and precipitous decline by every other measure.

Since the 1990s, life expectancy has fallen back to where it was in Smuts's day. South Africa is the murder capital of the world, with around 50 homicides every day. In a 2011 survey, one in three women claimed they had been raped in the past year. South Africa's current leader, Jacob Zuma, was accused of raping an HIV-positive woman, but replied that he took a shower afterwards to "minimize the risk of contracting the disease." This is one of the more rational self-administered treatments. It is widely believed among Mr. Zuma's compatriots that sex with a virgin will cure you of AIDS, which, virgins being somewhat thin on the ground, has led to an epidemic of child rape, including victims as young as eight months old.

Not all of this, or even very much of it, can be laid at Mandela's door. In that sense, his leadership is more of a lesson in the limitations of the great-man theory of history. His predecessor, F. W. de Klerk, South Africa's last white leader, was also a great and generous man, who understood that the regime he had served all his life could not be preserved. Yet, as the years go by, it seems to me that the comradely de Klerk and Mandela are less symbolic of the new South Africa than were their wives. Marike de Klerk wound up getting murdered; Winnie Mandela was a murderer — or, at any rate, found by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to have been personally responsible for multiple murders. Either role would be unusual for an American first lady, as it would have been for a prime-ministerial consort in Smuts's day. Mrs. de Klerk was stabbed and strangled in 2001 by a domestic servant — just another of those 50 murders a day; no motive, nothing was taken; she was killed because that's just the way it is.

Upon her death, Winnie Mandela said, "As a woman I can identify with the exhaustion of her emotional resources in shaping her former husband's career." That's one way of putting it. Mrs. Mandela coped with her own emotional exhaustion by having her security detail kidnap 14-year-old Stompie Moeketsi on suspicion of being an informer, slit his throat, and dump his body in a field. Her most famous contribution to the dictionary of quotations was a celebration of the aforementioned practice of black-on-black "necklacing": "With our boxes of matches and our necklaces we shall liberate this country."

In the end, she never got the chance. The Cold War ended, which meant that Moscow was too internally distracted to subvert South Africa the way it had the rest of the continent. So Mandela was gracious and dignified, and content to cut himself and the ANC in on the crony capitalism of the old National Party. Even so, South Africa has been living off the capital of its racist past these last two decades, even as all its social indicators head remorselessly south and a fifth of the white population has fled.

Jan Smuts and Nelson Mandela met just the once, when the general came to Mandela's college to talk up Britain's cause in the war against Germany. It would amaze Smuts, who had fought in the Boer War against Britain and whose comrades had clung fiercely to their identity during the enforced Britishization that followed, to see how swiftly even the most tenacious culture can be swept away. Yet Mandela's benign rule in the 1990s was likewise only an interlude. South Africa is disintegrating, and what's left is headed nowhere good.

from National Review's Happy WarriorJanuary 3, 2014

Friday, January 03, 2014

The Great Equalizers

De Blasio has it wrong. The rich aren’t the problem in the “inequality crisis.” 

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio gave a kind of St. Crispin’s Day speech for progressives at his New Year’s Day inauguration ceremony. He evoked a city ravaged by a crisis of inequality. What Rudy Giuliani was to out-of-control crime, de Blasio wants to be to rampant inequality — its scourge and vanquisher. 

Yet for all his impassioned egalitarianism, the new mayor neglected the great equalizers, those qualities that are the bedrock of success in America and the key to mobility. Like so many others on the left, de Blasio is loath to detract from the false but ideologically congenial narrative of the rich dispossessing the poor. So he gives short shrift to the basics of marriage, education, and work — all grounded in an ethic of personal responsibility — that make it possible for people to escape and avoid poverty.

Anyone can be a victim of bad luck — especially in a weak economy — but the essential formula for eluding poverty isn’t complicated: Graduate from high school, get a job, and get married before having children. Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution writes in the journal National Affairs, “Census data show that if all Americans finished high school, worked full time at whatever job they then qualified for with their education, and married at the same rate as Americans had married in 1970, the poverty rate would be cut by around 70 percent — without additional government spending.”

The breakdown of marriage, in particular, drives impoverishment. The poverty rate is about six times higher for single-parent families than two-parent families. About 70 percent of all poor families with children are single-parent families. According to Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation, if single mothers were to marry the fathers of the children, about two-thirds of them would no longer be poor, in a stupendously effective anti-poverty program.

Then there’s education. A college degree is a rocket booster on income mobility. Among children from families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution, 84 percent of those who go on to get a college degree will escape the bottom fifth, and 19 percent will make it all the way to the top fifth, according to Haskins. Among kids from those families who don’t get a degree, 45 percent will remain in the bottom fifth. (In his speech, de Blasio did cite his highest-profile educational initiative, more funding for pre-K education.)

And, finally, there’s work. “Even in good economic times,” Robert Rector writes, “the average poor family with children has only 800 hours of total parental work per year — the equivalent of one adult working 16 hours per week. The math is fairly simple: Little work equals little income, which equals poverty. If the amount of work performed by poor families with children was increased to the equivalent of one adult working full time throughout the year, the poverty rate among these families would drop by two-thirds.”

The bottom line is success ultimately depends on habits that money can’t buy. In a book-length study of the influence of parental income on the prospects of children, Susan Mayer found a complicated picture. She writes that “parental characteristics that employers value and are willing to pay for, such as skills, diligence, honesty, good health, and reliability, also improve children’s life chances, independent of their effect on parents’ income. Children of parents with these attributes do well even when their parents do not have much income.”

This is the rub — and the dishonesty at the center of de Blasio’s vision. The rich aren’t causing anyone to have children out of wedlock, or drop out of high school, or stop looking for a job. They aren’t undermining discipline or eroding industriousness. They have nothing to do with failing schools or dangerous neighborhoods. Even if you believe their incomes are too high and their taxes too low, they don’t make it harder for anyone else to get ahead.

In other words, they don’t cut anyone off from the foundations of success that are the country’s great equalizers.

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

New York's Divider in Chief

Bill de Blasio's inaugural address took every opportunity to jab at those who aren't on the margins.

By Peggy Noonan
January 2, 2014
Cities sometimes make swerves. That's what New York did in November when it elected a left-wing Democrat, Bill de Blasio, as mayor. The city was saying, "Enough with the past, let's try something new." There's no doubt they will get it.
Mayors Rudy Giuliani (1994-2001) and Mike Bloomberg (2002-13) led a renaissance of the city, which had half-killed itself in the 1960s, '70s and '80s with bankruptcy, labor unrest and high crime rates. The city was thought to be unworkable, finished. For Mayor Giuliani the job was to stabilize, get the criminals off the street, let people feel safe again. Once that was done New York's natural hunger and high spirits would reassert themselves, businesses would thrive and hire. He left behind a safer, more prosperous city. And there was the parting gift of his last days as mayor, during 9/11 and its aftermath, when—love him or hate him—he showed what a leader looked like.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers his inaugural address outside City Hall, Jan. 1. Associated Press
Mike Bloomberg, sworn in weeks later, had to lead the city as it righted itself, got over the trauma and refound its confidence. His job was to shake off the ashes and dust, expand and diversify the economy, help create jobs, lower crime rates even further, move forward. He succeeded. The other night at his last dinner as mayor, one of his daughters' eyes filled with tears as she thanked him, in a toast, for leaving behind a city that her son could be proud of, love, and live in forever.
These imperfect men with their imperfect administrations and their big mistakes—they made a masterpiece. In the past 20 years, other American cities were going down—Detroit most famously—while New York not only became again what it was, the greatest city on the face of the Earth, but it looked like it, and felt like it.


Why did New York swerve from that path instead of continuing on it? A lot of reasons. You have to have some years on you to remember New York when it didn't work—to even know that it's not magically ordained that it will. You have to be older than 30 or so to remember when it wasn't safe.
In 1991, there were 2,245 murders in New York. In 2013, there were 333. If you're a 20-year-old voter, or a 40-year-old voter who came to the city from elsewhere, you don't remember 1991, and how it felt. You don't remember garbage strikes and grime. Your vision of the city is as it was in the Giuliani-Bloomberg era, a city ever rising.
And New York is a Democratic town. Sooner or later it was going to swerve. Though the largely untold story is that voter turnout in November was historically low. Only about a million of 4.3 million registered voters showed up at the polls. Bill de Blasio won in landslide, but it was a landslide from a severely reduced pile of voters.


No one knows exactly what's coming, but Mr. de Blasio's inaugural address on Wednesday was not promising. Whether you are a conservative or a liberal, you can choose, as a leader, to be a uniter or a divider. Mr. de Blasio seems very much the latter. He is on the side of the poor and the marginalized, which is good, but he took every opportunity to jab at those who are not poor and don't live on the margins. "Big dreams are not a luxury of the privileged few," he said. Whoever said they were? He is a political descendant of those "who took on the elite." New York "is not the exclusive domain of the One Percent." Who said it was? His campaign promises—more spending, higher taxes—are not, he said, just "rhetoric." There was a repeated refrain: "We won't wait. We'll do it now."
This mayor will "reform" the stop-and-frisk policy of the New York Police Department. Exactly how, he didn't say. But stop, question and frisk has been part of the kind of policing that helped New York reduce crime.
"We will ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes so that we can offer full-day, universal pre-K and after-school programs for every middle school student." The wealthy should not complain. "Those earning between $500,000 and one million dollars a year, for instance, would see their taxes increase by an average of $973 a year. That's less than three bucks a day—about the cost of a small soy latte at your local Starbucks. "
Ah, those latte-swilling debutantes and malefactors of great wealth.
There was no mention of the most famous impediment to educational improvement and reform: the teachers unions.
Mr. de Blasio acknowledges that his "progressive vision" is not supported by everyone. "Some on the far right continue to preach the virtue of trickle-down economics. They believe that the way to move forward is to give more to the most fortunate, and that somehow the benefits will work their way down to everyone else. They sell their approach as the path of 'rugged individualism.' " But don't worry, he doesn't want to "punish success," he wants to "create more success stories."
It isn't hard to unpack this. Those who oppose Mr. de Blasio are greedy and uncaring. They don't offer a point of view, they "preach," and what they preach is that the poor should be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from the tables of the rich. They "sell" this argument—my goodness, they're trying to make money even while discussing politics—but the flawed product they peddle is "rugged individualism," a phrase that hasn't been used in this city in a century. But even rugged individualists, he quotes former New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia as saying, can't survive in the midst of "collective starvation." And you thought Mike Bloomberg left New York in pretty good shape.


An inaugural address is a big thing. It declares an agenda but also sets a tone. An attitude. The tone Mr. de Blasio set was that of a divider.
A uniter's approach would have been one that was both more morally generous and more honest. It wouldn't set one group against the other, it would have asserted that all New Yorkers are in this together. Something along this approach: "To those who earn half a million dollars or more a year, we know and understand that your weekly paycheck is already subject to federal, state and city taxes. Which means we know you already contribute a great deal, and not only through taxes. So many of our citizens are deeply civic-minded. They give their time and effort to helping their local churches and synagogues; to building civic organizations; to raising funds for the poor and the hungry; to volunteering for literacy programs; and donating their wealth to keep the arts and the museums going. In our town, much has always been asked of those to whom much has been given—and they have come through. They have helped build a ladder. And now we are going to make that ladder sturdier, stronger, higher and wider so more of our young can use it."
What was absent in Mr. de Blasio's remarks was a kind of civic courtesy, or grace. The kind that seeks to unite and build from shared strength, the kind that doesn't demonize. Instead, from our new mayor we got the snotty sound of us vs. them, of zero-sum politics.
It was not a promising beginning. Or rather what it promises is unfortunate. I already miss Mike

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Bill in the China Shop: ‘We Won’t Wait, We’ll Do It Now’

De Blasio’s inauguration was a left-wing celebration. 


Former President Clinton swears in New York City Mayor de Blasio on Wednesday at City Hall as the first family looks on. 

New York City — We all knew we were in for something completely different when the inauguration of self-described “progressive” Bill de Blasio as New York’s mayor began with a keynote from pro-Communist activist Harry Belafonte.

The 86-year-old singer has a history of extremism. He has been an infamous house guest of Fidel Castro, called Colin Powell and Condi Rice “house slaves” of the Bush administration, and last year compared the free-market Koch brothers to the Ku Klux Klan.

“We will be no longer a divided city,” he proclaimed as he compared today’s New York to a “Dickensian” nightmare, as departing mayor Mike Bloomberg looked on stone-faced. “We can become America’s DNA for the future.”

He was followed by the Reverend Fred Lucas Jr., whose talk was dominated by slavery metaphors and analogies. He compared New York’s five boroughs to a “plantation” and managed to cram into his short speech other references to slavery, such as “shackles,” “bondage,” “auction blocks,” “the Emancipation Proclamation,” the “Civil War,” and the “Reconstruction Era.”

It was almost a relief to then hear Letitia James, a former Legal Aid Society lawyer who is now the city’s new public advocate. She railed against “a gilded age of inequality,” “stop-and-frisk abuses,” and “land grabs for more luxury condos.” (There’s actually some truth in that last phrase.)

Bill Clinton then rose and tried to strike a little balance. But the crowd was having none of it. When he praised retiring mayor Bloomberg for leaving New York “stronger and healthier” after twelve years in office, there was dead silence.

The cheers were saved for de Blasio, who proclaimed a “new progressive direction” that will “take dead aim at the ‘Tale of Two Cities’” injustices he emphasized in his campaign.

He then recited the key elements of his platform: affordable-housing projects, an end to hospital closures, reform of the “broken” stop-and-frisk policy, and a tax on upper-income earners. After each item, he would say, “We won’t wait, we’ll do it now.”

Not content with promoting his own agenda, he had to take swipes at something called the “far right,” which he zinged for its agenda of “trickle-down economics” and giving “more to the most fortunate.” Luckily, much of de Blasio’s fiscal program will need approval from New York governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators — who, for all their faults, don’t appreciate the “Bill in the China Shop” approach of the new mayor.

Noah Rothman, a writer for, was taken aback by the tone and tenor of the speeches. He tweeted that “MSNBC [is] really missing a branding opportunity here. . . . We’re swearing in a new prime time host.” Indeed, we can only thank the schedulers for at least sparing us from having MSNBC’s Al Sharpton at the podium.

The speeches finally over, the crowd went into City Hall to celebrate the arrival of the New Progressivism. I noted that Bertha Lewis, the former national head of the scandal-ridden ACORN “community-organizing” group, was an honored guest. Last fall, the New York Post reported that, according to a Democratic insider, ACORN had long sought to put de Blasio into the mayor’s office. “Without exaggeration, ACORN’s long-range plan since 2001 was to elect de Blasio mayor,” the insider said. “De Blasio was a big ACORN project.”

For his part, de Blasio has always stood by ACORN, releasing a statement during last fall’s campaign that said: “Bertha Lewis is one of the city’s most passionate and effective progressive leaders, and I’m proud to have worked with her for years.”

He will almost certainly be working with her and all her friends for the next four years.
As Bette Davis said in the film All About Eve: “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.”

— John Fund is a national-affairs columnist for National Review Online.

Penn State needs Bill O'Brien II

By Dejan Kovacevic
Published: Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2014, 7:27 p.m.

Bill O'Brien wanted nothing to do with the breakfast on his plate or the conversation at hand. And just in case that needed cementing, he glanced down at his watch, looked back up at me and blurted out, “No offense, but at 9:30, when my time's up here, I go right back to preparing the New England Patriots to win this football game.”
OK, then.
That was Feb. 2, 2012, at one of many mandatory media sessions for Super Bowl XLVI, and this felt more mandatory than most. O'Brien had just accepted the Penn State job, but he had zero interest in any of the rah-rah speak so many at State College were craving — no, demanding — from him to begin healing the still-fresh wounds of the Jerry Sandusky scandal. O'Brien would brush off that topic, as well as anything to do with Joe Paterno. Everything was about Patriots vs. Giants.
Everything was football.
And that never changed. From O'Brien's don't-ask-me-I-wasn't-there introduction to the central Pennsylvania media to sprinting around Beaver Stadium to high-fiving some of the 107,884 fans after the four-OT triumph over Michigan to a 15-9 record over two years that few thought possible under crushing NCAA sanctions … everything was football.
So tell me why, in that context, any Penn State follower would be surprised — much less dismayed or disillusioned — when O'Brien's decision to pursue his dream of becoming an NFL head coach with the Houston Texans was about football?
If the Nittany Lions get that lucky with back-to-back hires, that's all the next guy will be about, too.
It could be Larry Johnson Sr., the veteran defensive line coach who took the job on an interim basis Wednesday. It could be another man with Penn State ties, whether Mike Munchak, Al Golden or Jim Caldwell. All are qualified, all schooled, all passionate about the university. And though I would bet against it, the new guy also could come from the outside again.
But whoever winds up taking the post, he would do well to follow the O'Brien model in keeping it all about football.
What Penn State doesn't need is a figurehead or false idol.
O'Brien got that. His players got that, too, judging by the overwhelming support they've shown him in the past 24 hours, including this from senior safety Jesse Della Valle: “Coach OB following his dreams just like I followed mine. Can't blame him for that.” Seems to me a good segment of the fan base got it, as well.
At the same time, there were still knuckleheads dubbing O'Brien “Lyin' Lion” and “BillLeave,” even after players and recruits stepped forward Wednesday to say the coach didn't blindside anyone, that he reached out to them personally before the Houston decision was announced.
One comment on The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' website: “Bill O'Brien is a lying, deceitful piece of human excrement unworthy of succeeding Joe Paterno, the greatest, most honorable coach in the history of the game. I wish nothing but the worst for this piece of vermin.”
Piece of vermin?
This has to stop. Apologies here to all the sane Penn Staters, but the cold fact is that Sandusky ensured your university's behavior will be judged more harshly than that of your peers. That's just how it is. And it's well past time, as O'Brien demonstrated, to see that a football coach should be nothing more than a football coach. If it's just a wacko minority saying such stuff, then maybe more folks should be shouting them down.
And yeah, that goes double for the Paterno wackos or whatever you want to call this small but obsessively vocal group that prioritizes Penn State's past over the present.
Did you happen to catch the viral O'Brien quotes being passed around the Internet from David Jones' Wednesday column in The Patriot-News?
Here's what Jones said O'Brien told him a month ago when informed that some Paterno loyalists were angry about the December departure of Paterno-era linebackers coach Ron Vanderlinden: “You can print that I don't really give a [expletive] what the ‘Paterno people' think about what I do with this program. I've done everything I can to show respect to Coach Paterno. Everything in my power. So I could really care less what the ‘Paterno faction,' or whatever you call them, think about what I do with the program. I'm tired of it. For any ‘Paterno person' to have any objection to what I'm doing, it makes me want to put my fist through this windshield right now.”
Bill O'Brien was tough, intemperate and intransigent. He didn't mince words. He didn't suffer fools. He didn't pay homage to cardboard cutouts. And he wanted nothing more than to win football games, which he did quite nicely.
That's what Penn State needed then and needs now.

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Today's Tune: 'Nashville' Cast - What If I Was Willing (feat. Chris Carmack)

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

A visit with Dick Butkus, who still gives as good as he gets

Over lunch in Malibu, the former Chicago Bears linebacker and TV actor reminisces and tells of his foundation's charity work.

December 31, 20135:15 p.m.

Dick Butkus - House Holds Hearing On Human Growth Hormone Testing In NFL
Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick Butkus testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Capitol Hill December 12, 2012 in Washington, DC. Butkus testified on the topic of "HGH (Human Growth Hormone) Testing in the NFL (National Football League): Is the Science Ready?"

Finally found Butkus, cornered him in Malibu after eight months of trying. Remember? Author Geoff Dyer had D.H. Lawrence to pursue; I had Butkus, the Lithuanian American kid from the South Side of Chicago, solid as a coal car, ornery as a hungry mule.

Talk about a disconnect. Outside the Malibu saloon, surfers float under fairy-tale skies. Inside, there's Dick Butkus. It's the same odd organics you'd get if a giant mermaid swallowed Sheboygan, Wis.

Nearly 40 years after retiring, the Hall of Fame linebacker still gets grumpy over Chicago Bears losses, especially the team's late collapse against the Packers on Sunday. The way defenders tackle these days — or mostly don't — is almost enough to keep him up nights.

"You gotta wrap guys up," he barks, then recalls how playing fullback in high school taught him the most effective way to tackle.

"What I tried to do [as a linebacker] was hit people high," he explains of his ferocious pops. "I tried to aim for the middle of the chest, and the head slides either way, sometimes it doesn't, OK, but you're not going for the head.

"So that was the whole deal of putting people on their back or hitting them hard, was to cause turnovers. Guy gets hit enough, and he's going to start thinking about it," Butkus says.

"I thought, well this will work in high school but not in college. But it happened there too. Well, I get to the pros, and I think it's not going to work there. It did work there."

In a decade with the Bears, he ruined more nice fall days than did the Marquis de Sade.

Already a legend at the high school level, Butkus became an All-American at Illinois. He came west by train with Pete Elliott's team to hammer Washington, 17-7, in the 1964 Rose Bowl. Played center and linebacker in the game, with an interception and a fumble recovery.

"You guys ready to order?" the waitress asks.

She's overly attentive now. The boss clued her in on who the gruff guy in the mustache is, the one whose legs spill over into the aisle like he doesn't care.

"What's the fish of the day?" Butkus asks. "Carp?"

He's funny and profane, and full of opinions on everything from concussions to Rodney Dangerfield (whom he worked with on the Miller Lite commercials).

At 71, he's still a swaggery character from a Sinatra lyric, hard-boiled and stubborn, occasionally even a little wistful, but with not a shred of self-pity.

"If I hadn't played football, probably would've been a mover," he says.

In fact, he tells great stories about working with his older brothers at a Chicago moving company at age 15, when they had to move five apartments a day and used to hurl couches from windows. Talk about unnecessary roughness.

Funny what an upcoming lunch with Butkus elicits:

"Ask him if he ever regrets hitting somebody harder than he had to in order to make a stop," my wife suggests.

No, sweetie, I won't ask him that.

"Does he have any concussion-related issues?" another friend wants to know.

Evidently not, though when he does grasp for a name, as 71-year-olds occasionally do, he often makes light of it. Hardly happens at all.

Another buddy wants to know: "Does Miller Lite taste great or is it less filling?"

Butkus, a Screen Actors Guild member, says he made more from those commercials, which ran 14 years, than he ever did in football. After retiring, he settled in Florida, then moved to Malibu when his television career took off. Eventually, he did 150 sitcom episodes.

Looks good these days. At 234 pounds, Butkus weighs the same as he did as a college sophomore. He credits an emphasis on juices — apple, orange, pomegranate, beet, spinach, carrot — and a glass of red wine or two as well.

He still follows the game closely. His charity, the Butkus Foundation, awards a trophy to the best college and high school linebackers each year, works with hospitals on the benefits of cardiac screenings and educates high schoolers on avoiding steroids.

In early February, he and Oracle Corp. founder Larry Ellison are hosting a major fundraiser for steroids awareness. Info:

You gotta give back, Butkus insists. And you gotta protect the kids.

He tells the story of a Pop Warner coach who had to order his team's parents to stop making their 9-year-olds chug Red Bull before games.

"Nine years old!" Butkus snaps, still a little peeved. "I mean, I thought we were going low with high school kids."

Twitter: @erskinetimes


First You Laugh: Rules for the Knockout Game

Posted By Colin Flaherty On January 1, 2014 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 21 Comments

They always laugh, these Knockout Game artists. That is why they call it a game. The fun is more important than the violence.

But lots of media reports ignore that.

The latest example of the Knockout Game in Charlottesville, Virginia illustrates  all of the features of this increasingly popular past time. Let’s start with the central organizing feature of the mayhem: First, the attackers were black.

Jeanne Doucette and her boyfriend Marc Adams were enjoying the holiday season in downtown Charlottesville when Adams tripped. As he tried to get up, three black people came upon them, one said something, perhaps even offering him a hand up.

Much like a similar episode of the Knockout Game last year in Springfield, Missouri: A bicyclist hit a pot hole near a black fraternity party, causing him to fly over the handlebars.  One of the party-goers came out to see if biker was alright. When he put his hand out to help him up, he punched the bicyclist in the face with the other hand.

Then walked away laughing.

Marc Adams is not clear about what his attacker said prior to the beginning of the Knockout Game.  According to the C-Ville Weekly, they
kicked Adams while he was on the ground, before being joined by his friends who beat Adams severely, breaking his ankle, cracking ribs and knocking out one of his teeth.
While Doucette suffered bruising to her head and tearing of the cartilage in her ear, Adams bore the brunt of the men’s aggression, sustaining broken bones and a concussion that he said has robbed him of any memory of the incident and its immediate aftermath.
All for no other reason than the attackers could attack and the victims could not resist.  The predators did not utter any racial epithets. None that the victims told police anyway. Without the magic words, it would not be correct to call this a hate crime.

But given that the overwhelming number of people who play this game are black, and most of the victims are not, it would be equally incorrect to say race has no role in the violence. Or that the violence is random. It is not.

The assault moved up the street as Adams and Doucette tried to escape their attackers. They screamed at passersby for help. They screamed at their attackers to stop. No one listened. The beating continued.

Then came the next identifying feature of the Knockout Game: The laughing.
they had no apparent interest in robbing her. Instead, she said, they seemed to delight in the brutality. 
“They were laughing, high-fiving, hugging, and then returning to kick him,” said Doucette. “There was some kind of camaraderie to it.”
The predators laugh. They are having fun. In Philadelphia, a businessman in a similar situation pleaded with his attackers to stop. He asked them: “Why are you doing this? Why?”
“Its not our fault you can’t fight,” they told him. Then the laughing started again.

In Milwaukee, when a group of 50 to 100  black people attacked a few white kids on a Fourth of July picnic, a black woman stood over a white woman during the attack and motioned to her friend, laughing: “White girl bleed a lot,” she said, laughing even louder.

Her friends thought that was funny too. Maybe because it was true.

The laughing predators are documented in White Girl Bleed a Lot: The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore it.

Eventually the violence ended when the attackers knocked Adams out. And they got tired of beating up the girlfriend. But not before Doucette took their pictures.

Then came the next traditional phase of the Knockout Game: The dismissal.  The disinterest. Doucette turned her photos over to police and waited for the full court press to catch the dangerous men who tried to kill her boyfriend. And her.

Not that anyone would call this a life threatening attack. That’s another part of the Knockout Game:  Police and reporters usually call the injuries “non-life threatening” or minor — when this kind of violence can shatter a life time for a long time.

And the perpetrators are rarely apprehended.

The victims — and their families – are now left wondering what happened. Why no one cares. And why they feel weird about talking about the fact that their attackers were black, and it has happened before. Many times.

That is what happened to Sherry Godfrey in Springfield, Missouri when her son was the victim of racial violence from people attending (another) black fraternity party in Springfield.  Police did not investigate, other than asking a few perfunctory questions of a few party-goers. And when, last year, Godfrey asked if her son was the victim of racial violence, officials at the school where the attackers attended and local met met her inquiries with impatience. Then silence.  Says Godfrey:
If you have never been to Springfield, there might be a reason: Not much happens here. It is the home of Brad Pitt and Bass Pro Shops. It is a quiet and safe place to raise a family. So we thought. 
After learning more about this epidemic of racial violence, I asked the police officers investigating the assault on my son if this had ever happened before in Springfield.
“All the time,” he said. 
But no stories in the paper.
Unhappy with the police and media indifference to her son’s beating, she put up a web site — — where she gathered all the police reports and other information about the attack on her son. The perpetrators have yet to be brought to justice, but she’s not giving up:
We know that people at the party know who is responsible. We are putting up this web site in the hope that telling the world who they are, they will tell the world what they know. Trevor never saw his attackers and was unable to defend himself,  but we are going to fight back by seeking justice.
And now Doucette and Adams are today where Sherry Godfrey was last year. Says the C-Ville Weekly:
Nearly two weeks after the attack, the physical wounds are healing, but both Doucette and Adams are troubled by what they see as a lack of response from the Charlottesville Police Department. 
“It’s like they don’t care,” said Doucette, who said she called police on December 29 to follow up on the investigation and was told that the case had been suspended due to a lack of information and had not been assigned to a detective. “I don’t understand why they couldn’t even have the courtesy to call and say we’re not even going to look for them,” she said.
That’s not how the Knockout Game is played, that’s why.

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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Terror Wave in Russia

Posted By Robert Spencer On December 31, 2013 @ 12:40 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 4 Comments

For the second consecutive day a terrorist a terrorist bombing has struck the city of Volgograd, this time killing 14 people aboard a bus. (Reuters)

There have now been three major jihad terror attacks in Russia in four days. The attacks are a grim reminder of how vulnerable crowded public places are worldwide to jihad mass murder — and an indication of what the United States could look like sooner or later.

The latest round of jihad mass murder began last Friday, when jihadists murdered three people with a car bomb in Pyatigorsk in southern Russia. Then on Sunday, a jihad/martyrdom suicide bomber murdered sixteen people at the train station in Volgograd – the city that, as Stalingrad, was the bloody site of the turning point of World War II. Then on Monday, a jihadist murdered fourteen more people on a trolley bus in the same city.

These were by no means the first jihad strikes in Russia in recent years. In September 2004, Islamic jihadists under the command of Chechen jihad leader Shamil Basayev took 1,300 hostages at a school in Beslan, a town in the Russian Republic of North Ossetia; ultimately the jihadists murdered well over 300 people.

Then in August 2009, jihadists claimed to have murdered over 24 people with a bomb at Siberia’s Sayno-Shushenskata hydro-electric plant in Siberia, although the Russian government claimed that there was no bomb at all, and that the explosion was an accident. On November 27, 2009, jihadists murdered 27 people with a bomb planted under the Nevsky Express train between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Then in March 2010, Islamic jihad/martyrdom suicide bombers murdered 39 people on the Moscow subway. In February 2011, another jihad/martyrdom suicide bomber murdered 36 people at Domodedovo International Airport in Moscow.

Another Chechen jihadist, Doku Umarov, the leader of a group that calls itself the Caucasus Emirate (Umarov styles himself the “Emir of the Caucasus”), told Russians in 2010: “I promise you that war will come to your streets and you will feel it in your lives, feel it on your own skin.” He later threatened that “more special operations” would soon follow, for “among us there are hundreds of brothers who are prepared to sacrifice themselves….We can at any time carry out operations where we want.”

He warned the Russians again last July, exhorting Muslims to wage jihad warfare against the Russians for daring to host the Winter Olympics in Sochi on the Black Sea coast. Umarov said that Muslims should “use maximum force on the path of Allah to disrupt this Satanic dancing” – by which Patrick Swayze-evoking locution he referred to the Games. The Russians, he said, “plan to hold the Olympics on the bones of our ancestors, on the bones of many, many dead Muslims buried on the territory of our land on the Black Sea, and we Mujahedeen are obliged not to permit that — using any methods allowed us by the almighty Allah.”

The Caucasus Emirate has not claimed responsibility for the jihad attacks this week, but given the threats Umarov has made against the Games, which are scheduled to begin February 6, it is understandable that suspicion has focused on this group. Vladimir Putin has tightened security, but Russian officials know that there is little he can do to prevent still more jihad terror. Alexei Filatov, whom Reuters describes as the “deputy head of the veterans’ association of the elite Alfa anti-terrorism unit,” observes: “We can expect more such attacks. The threat is greatest now because it is when terrorists can make the biggest impression. The security measures were beefed up long ago around Sochi, so terrorists will strike instead in these nearby cities like Volgograd.”

There is little doubt that Filatov is right: the area that requires protection is simply too vast, and the possible targets too many, to ensure that there will not be more jihad attacks in Volgograd or elsewhere. The situation is the same in the United States: while law enforcement agents so far have been able to stop most jihad plots from ever coming to murderous fruition, their luck is unlikely to hold – particularly since the Obama Administration has forbidden agencies to study Islam and jihad in connection with terrorism, thereby depriving them of the ability to understand the motives and goals of those who have vowed to destroy Western societies.

It is well within the realm of possibility, then, that sometime in the not-so-distant future, the United States could be the country that is reeling from three jihad attacks in four days, with an untold number of casualties. What is glaringly deficient, if not altogether absent, in both the Russian and American response to this reality is any serious attempt to prevent such attacks from being plotted in the first place. No one is challenging Muslim groups in the U.S. or Russia to reinterpret the Islamic texts and teachings that jihadists use to justify violence and supremacism, and to teach actively against the understanding of Islam that gives rise to such attacks.

To be sure, government and law enforcement officials in the U.S. work with Muslims they deem “moderate” against those they regard as “extremist”; however, since they lack a clear understanding (and are forbidden to gain one – to do so would be “Islamophobic”) of the roots of jihad violence in Islamic teaching, they tend to take disingenuous claims to “moderation” at naïve face value. Their delineation between the “extremist” and “moderate” is often superficial and leads them into self-defeating blind alleys.

One notorious example of this is how government and law-enforcement agencies continued to work with the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for several years after the Justice Department designated it an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case, and its Hamas ties were abundantly established. I myself several years ago gave a four-hour-long presentation to a roomful of FBI and intelligence agents that included, among many other things, evidence of CAIR’s ties to Hamas. Yet during the question-and-answer period an agent complained that some of his best contacts in the Muslim community were CAIR officials, and I was wrong to “stigmatize” them.

Of course, it was not I, but the Justice Department, that had done the “stigmatizing,” and one would think that this surpassingly naïve agent would have thought that forewarned was forearmed regarding how much he could trust his friends at CAIR, but he wouldn’t hear it: he knew they were friendly and “moderate,” and that was good enough for him.

This politically correct naïvete practically amounts to an invitation to Islamic jihadists to mount more jihad attacks. And so they will, in the U.S. as well as Russia – but this agent’s friends at CAIR will issue another pro-forma condemnation, and so all will be well.

Three jihad strikes in four days in Russia. They were warned. We have been warned as well. But we aren’t paying attention to those warnings. To heed them would be “Islamophobic.”

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Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: 'High Hopes' by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen's new album, High Hopes, is a collection of revamped and re-recorded lost songs – but it doesn't quite fit together

28 December 2013

3 out of 5 stars

As one of rock’s great storytellers, Bruce Springsteen usually makes albums with a strong narrative thrust binding the songs together. So what are we supposed to make of a new CD that opens with a rocky cover of a folk song about finding hope in a hopeless world, ends with an atmospheric take on the romantic Dream Baby Dream (originally by synth band Suicide) and, in between, roams across topics including institutional racism, Vietnam, 9/11 and the everlasting triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Although substantially re-recorded and presented as a new collection, these 12 tracks are odds and ends, “leftovers” from other sessions and new versions of songs that have taken different forms on the road. Springsteen has always written a lot of material which he shapes and filters, with some songs – ones that many fans consider classics – discarded from his sets as he goes. Previously, these sorts of rejects have surfaced on compilations, notably the excellent Tracks box set from 1998.
This time, he has revamped and re-recorded lost songs to bring them up to date. You can hear the old, meaty saxophone of Clarence Clemons (who died in 2011) and the rangy piano playing of Danny Federici (who died in 2008), but they’re combined with the new, slashing art-attack guitar of Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morello, who was brought in to expand the E Street Band line up in 2012.
Morello is the album’s guiding spirit. But while his agit-pop sensibility is a good fit with Springsteen’s socio-political conscience, his effects-laden guitar playing operates at odd angles to the deep roots sensibility of the E Street sound. He slashes and burns through American Skin (41 Shots), a raging, angry anthem inspired by the 1999 police shooting of immigrant Amadou Diallo, giving Springsteen the contemporary edge he has been looking for.
But Morello tips a revamped Ghost Of Tom Joad completely over the top, taking the quiet dignity of the acoustic 1995 original and turning it into a zany prog rock wig-out. The pieces of the song don’t quite fit together, and the same might be said of the whole album.
Particularly ill-fitting are songs of unambiguous Christian faith, presumably plucked from a gospel album Springsteen scrapped before 2012’s triumphant Wrecking Ball. There is a stiff didacticism in their Biblical language that sits poorly with Springsteen’s questioning humanism elsewhere.
Releasing this album at 64, Springsteen seems busier than ever. In a recent Rolling Stone interview he said, “It’s that old story, the light from the oncoming train focuses the mind”. Unfortunately, it hasn’t focused this record. Perhaps the real story of High Hopes is that Springsteen is only trying to keep busy. There’s a lot of great stuff on here, but it doesn’t hold together and doesn’t come close to being one of Springsteen’s great albums.