Friday, June 05, 2015

'The Fellowship' follows C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and friends through their defense of fantasy

This valuable group biography tells the story of the Inklings, the mid-20th century group of Oxford fantasists, scholars, and poets fascinated by religion, poetry, mythology, and magic.

ISIS and the Tijuana Drug-Smuggling Tunnels
June 5, 2015

Mexico drug tunnels
A makeshift cart with containers is seen at a suspected drug tunnel under construction in Tijuana on 7 April 2015

The United States faces a clear and present danger. It is not theoretical, it is actual. The pieces are in place. The relationships are established. The will and capability have been clearly demonstrated. And, if that’s not enough to keep you up at night, a full dress rehearsal was staged less than a year ago. 

Indeed, to be more precise, some half a dozen full dress rehearsals were staged less than a year ago.
My name is Dan Gordon. I am a screenwriter and author by trade, but I am also a Reserve officer in the Israel Defense Forces, and a veteran of six Middle Eastern conflicts, including last summer’s Hamas/Israel terrorist tunnel war, in which Hamas demonstrated their capability to attempt a mass-casualty terrorist attack by means of tunnels dug beneath the internationally recognized border from Gaza into southern Israel.  If you’d like to see what the first one looked like, click here for a link to a video. You will see thirteen Hamas terrorists rising up, like zombies coming out of their graves, in a recently harvested wheat field only a few hundred meters from the children’s house of the civilian agricultural community they intended to attack. Each one of them was armed with anti-tank missiles, machine guns, grenades, thousands of rounds of ammunition, handcuffs, and tranquilizer shots. The latter two were for the men, women and children, civilian hostages, they meant to take, and drag back through the tunnels, into underground cells in Gaza.

Happily, you will note three things; first, they are coming up in a wheat field which they had every reason to believe would camouflage their advance to the civilian community. Unfortunately for them, and by the grace of a merciful God, the wheat field had been harvested only a few days before, making the terrorists instantly visible to the myriad Israeli observation posts along the border with Gaza.

The second thing you will note is that, upon seeing that their wheat field had disappeared, and perhaps hearing the Israeli aerial military asset that was on patrol and instantly dispatched towards them, the terrorists decided that today was perhaps not the right day, after all, to carry out mass murder. And thus, having risen up from their terrorist attack tunnel, they made a hasty retreat back to what they hoped would be the safety of one of the dozens of tunnels they had spent five years building in preparation for last summer’s war.

The third thing you will note is that the Israeli military aerial asset fires a rocket, and the terrorists, and their tunnel opening, go boom.

None of that, however, alters the fact that Hamas had a spectacular plan, prepared for it meticulously for five years, and almost pulled it off. If you are a person of faith, you can attribute their failure to accomplish their goal to the abovementioned gracious and compassionate deity. If you are not a person of faith, you can attribute it to blind luck, and the professionalism and ever-present vigilance of the IDF.

But, here’s the scary part. That attack wasn’t the original plan. The original plan didn’t call for a dozen terrorists attacking one civilian target after an eight-day limited war with Israel. The original plan called for a sneak attack not preceded by any hostilities, in which literally hundreds of terrorists would have been dispatched through ALL of the terrorist attack tunnels in September, on a Jewish holiday, where literally thousands of people would have been gathered in each of the agricultural communities they intended to strike. It was the political leadership of Hamas that vetoed such an attack. That veto was not issued out of humanitarian concerns; it was issued because the plan violated a basic tenet of Hamas doctrine, which always calls for Hamas to be able to claim victimhood while carrying out terrorist rocket and land-based attacks. Such a sneak attack, the political leadership decided, would rob Hamas of the PR mantle of victimhood that enables them to reap literally tens of billions of dollars in “reconstruction aid” from an ever-gullible international community, which buys the victim thing hook, line, and sinker. Thus, the political leadership opted instead to kidnap and murder three Israeli schoolboys, in the hopes of dragging Israel into a war in which the terrorist tunnel attack could be seen as an answer to the Israeli Air Force’s genocidal bombardment of the helpless Palestinian people. As my Southern Christian friends are wont to say, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Now, why does this pose a threat to the United States? Because;

            A - ISIS has announced boldly, clearly, definitively and proudly, their intention to launch not just “Lone Wolf” attacks against the United States, but mass-casualty terrorist attacks, which will dwarf 9/11, and establish them as the preeminent terrorist army in the world, as befits the reborn Caliphate.

            B - Unlike Hamas, ISIS possesses no such doctrine of insisting upon the mantle of victimhood to justify their acts of barbarism. Indeed, the opposite is the case. ISIS rejoices in, glories in, is expert in, and uses as a recruiting tool, terrorist attacks that are the very height of barbarism. From beheading Christians, to burning a Moslem Jordanian pilot alive inside of a cage, ISIS knows no constraints in its barbarity.

            C - Unlike Hamas, ISIS does not need to dig tunnels between Tijuana and San Diego, or portions of Northern Mexico and Arizona and/or Texas. Those tunnels already exist, and are used by Mexican cartels to smuggle huge quantities of drugs beneath the international border, from Mexico, into the United States. The few tunnels that have already been discovered are easily capable of launching masses of terrorists, as well. Indeed, numbers of them bear signs of Middle Eastern construction. They feature reinforced concrete walls, electricity, airconditioning and, in some cases, railroad tracks, to transport heavy loads.

            D - The existence of close ties between terrorist networks and Mexican and South American drug cartels is a matter of record, and not conjecture. They have joined efforts for the sale of narcotics and military-grade weapons. The clearest example of this is Hezb’allah’s ties with numerous South American cartels. Just as the United States opposes Iran and its proxies in some areas of conflicts, and supports them in others, so too do the various terrorist organizations which, in certain areas, are at each other’s throats, join forces in other areas against the Great Satan. Namely, us.

I have recently published a book, which is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both print and e-book formats, and which will soon be a major motion picture from the same studio that did Act of Valor. The book is called Day of the Dead Book One: Gaza. If you’d like a fun, Tom Clancy-esque great summer read, I highly recommend it. I recommend it even more, however, if you care to see exactly how realistic the scenario of a mass-casualty terrorist attack, carried out by hundreds of ISIS terrorists against the United States of America via existing drug-smuggling tunnels, actually is.

In researching the book, I managed to get myself attached for several months to one of the most elite combat units in the Israel Defense Forces. That unit had the primary responsibility for locating and destroying the terrorist tunnels which pose no less than an existential threat to the state of Israel. During the period of that research, I was struck by reports that ISIS was already inside of Gaza and, indeed, had established ties in that much-to-be-pitied, terrorist-occupied enclave. Thus, ISIS was intimately aware of the tunnel warfare planned and carried out by Hamas, an organization which, like ISIS, seeks to establish a worldwide Caliphate, and regards Spain, as well as Tel Aviv, as occupied territory.

Contrary to the initial assessment of the present US Administration, it should be clear, to one and all by this point in time, that ISIS is not the “JV team in Kobe Bryant jerseys.” They have proven themselves to be adaptable, highly motivated and focused, extraordinarily well-led and organized, ruthlessly efficient in their barbarism, with a clear strategy and an ever-evolving set of tactics on the battlefield with which to assure that strategy’s success. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for those who oppose them.

The current Administration has moved from comparing them to NBA wannabes, to blithely assuring us, not unlike Baghdad Bob shortly before the demise of Saddam Hussein, that we are prevailing in our war against ISIS. That would indicate that our heads are either in the sand, or firmly implanted in an orifice in which no daylight is visible.

ISIS saw firsthand that terrorist tunnels are impervious to Western surveillance of any kind, whether from satellite, or drone, or even boots on the ground.  The drug-smuggling tunnels of Tijuana begin inside of homes, or commercial warehouses. They stretch beneath the international border, and come up, generally, inside commercial warehouses of one type or another. Thus, people are used to seeing trucks going in and out. Those digging the tunnels are invisible, and those who would use the tunnels, whether to smuggle drugs, or carry out mayhem, are dozens, if not hundreds of feet, belowground.
In Ramadhi, only last week, ISIS demonstrated the ability to convert captured US M-RAP armored vehicles into massive truck bombs, each one of which had the power of the bomb that killed and wounded hundreds of people in Oklahoma City. They showed their tactical ability to detonate a half dozen such mega-truck-bombs inside Ramadhi, instantly sowing chaos and confusion amongst the defenders of that city.

Imagine, then, the following scenario, which, I guarantee, is neither farfetched, nor difficult to achieve.
Step one: ISIS sends no more than a half dozen of the several thousand foreign fighters who have joined their ranks, many of whom possess passports which will allow them to enter the US without a visa. They are Westerners, in appearance and action. They go to San Diego, posing as tourists. Their mission is to identify targets, ingress and egress routes to same, reaction times of local authorities, and security arrangements at both the civilian and military installations which will be on their lists. This is the advance team, which gathers intelligence.

Step two: they identify their targets, and San Diego is nothing, if not a target-rich environment. Half the Pacific fleet is at anchor there. One half the Navy SEAL force of the United States of America is stationed there. Moreover, it will be noted that it is US policy that US military personnel not be allowed to carry weapons on US military bases. That is why a fat psychiatrist was able to kill and wound scores of soldiers in Fort Hood, Texas. Imagine, then, what a group of armed terrorists, with RPGs, machine guns, thousands of rounds of ammunition, handcuffs and tranquilizer shots could do against San Diego PD, Shore Patrol, and rent-a-cops? In addition, there are major sports and entertainment venues that, on a regular basis, are literally packed with thousands of civilians. There are mega-resorts, and shopping malls. And let there be no mistake, there are schools full of children, who will most definitely be a prime target for attack. Columbine could not stop two pimple-faced punks. What grammar school police presence do you honestly believe could put a dent in ISIS’s day?

Step three: infiltrate a terrorist force made up of hundreds of elite ISIS fighters from various European cities into various locations in South and Central America. Have them travel in small groups, so that none draws undue attention. Take weeks, or months, if you like, to infiltrate the North, to a system of prearranged safe houses in Tijuana. Lest you think otherwise, there is nothing unusual about a slum dwelling housing a dozen or more military-age men on the Mexican border. Indeed, it’s the norm, not the exception.

Step four: hire numbers of Ryder or Hertz trucks, from various locations, using your Western terrorists, and construct ammonium nitrate/diesel fuel truck bombs. If Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols could do it, it’s not rocket science.

Step five: organize a motor pool of rented vans and trucks, which will transport your invading terrorist force to the various attack points they have chosen throughout the city.

Step six: infiltrate your scores, if not hundreds, of terrorists from their safe houses in Mexico, into the various drug-smuggling tunnels they have arranged with the cartels. ISIS is the richest terrorist organization in history. They have billions. That’s a language cartels understand. Trust me, they will have no problem renting the use of one tunnel or another, for the hundreds of millions ISIS can afford, for that purpose. The tunnels will already have been stocked with the RPGs, machine guns, grenades, etc. for each terrorist, and the beauty is, none of them have to be smuggled into Mexico. They are already there, in plentiful supply.

Step seven: at Zero Hour, detonate half a dozen truck bombs throughout San Diego. First Responders will race to those scenes. At the same time, infiltrate your terrorists, by means of the drug-smuggling tunnels, to their exit points in San Diego, and have your motor pool of trucks and vans pick them up from the commercial warehouses, and dispatch them to their various civilian and military targets. Once again, the question is obvious: “Who will stop them?”

Not the San Diego PD. Not a neutered Border Patrol. The California National Guard will take several days to mobilize, and even if the president could be persuaded to arm and order into action the very capable combat units of the US Marines at Camp Pendleton and Navy SEALS on Coronado Island, it will take hours for even the best of them to suit up, form up, and deploy. When they do deploy, they can expect specialized units of terrorists with RPGs to be waiting to shoot down the helicopters in which they will be flown to the scene. The amount of damage that an ISIS terrorist army can accomplish, before the United States can mount a viable defense, is catastrophic. It should also be remembered that neither death, nor capture, is a deterrent for ISIS terrorists. Indeed, death, or “martyrdom,” is an incentive.

ISIS watched how effective the notion of terrorist tunnel attacks was against Israel. And, mind you, Israel had ground forces, including elite infantry, tanks, and aerial assets of every description already on patrol, locked and loaded, ready for action, and needing no presidential order to respond. Moreover, once the first terrorist tunnel attack occurred, Israel seized the initiative and invaded Gaza in order to neutralize the threat. Does anyone actually believe that the current Administration would authorize an invasion of Northern Mexico? That means that our security would effectively be outsourced to the Mexican government, which, in the best of times, does not control the areas from which the terrorist attacks would emanate.

It’s all fairly well and logically laid out in my book, Day of the Dead Book One: Gaza, and Day of the Dead Book Two: America. But ISIS does not need to read the books. ISIS, I guarantee you, is at the very least already considering the plan. At worst, they are finalizing it, and beginning its implementation.

Editor's note: The author will appear on Justice with Judge Jeanine Saturday to discuss this scenario.

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Why doctors quit, Chapter 2

By Charles Krauthammer
June 4, 2015

Pediatrician Tom Sullivan enters data he has just collected from a three-year-old patient into his computer at the Lorton office of All Pediatrics. (Dayna Smith/For the Washington Post)

I rarely do follow-up columns. I’m averaging one every 10 years. And while my last such exercise resulted in a written apology from the White House (for accusing me of making up facts over its removal of Churchill’s bust), today’s is not a complaint. It’s merely a recognition that the huge response elicited by last week’s column, “Why doctors quit ,” warrants both rebuttal and clarification.
Physicians who responded tended to agree with my claim that doctors are being driven out of the profession by the intrusions, interferences, regulations, mandates, constraints and sundry other degradations of their vocation that are the result of the bureaucratization of medicine. Chief among them is the imposition of electronic health records (EHR).
I’ve also heard from people who notice how much attention their doctor must devote to filling out EHR boxes on a computer screen rather than to engaging with them during an office visit. To the point where a heretofore-unheard-of profession has been invented — the “scribe” who just enters the data so the doctor can actually do doctoring.
On the other hand, my critics, vocal and many, had two major complaints. First, that I’m just a Luddite unwilling to adapt to the new digital world and looking for excuses not to. Second, that while I might have a point about the bureaucratization of medicine, could I not have made it without satisfying my anti-Obama tic and blaming it all on him, and my other itch and blaming it on liberalism?
First, I don’t oppose going digital. Properly used, it brings many benefits. The gains, however, are coming not from massive databases attempting to cover and extend to all of medicine but from far more narrow and tailored adaptations. In radiology, for example, one is dealing with artifacts — X-rays, CT scans, MRIs — that can be easily categorized, digitized, filed, transmitted and shared in a way impossible in the age of the shadowed X-ray film held up to backlight.
The problem with the EHR, however, is that the pretense of universality leads to information collection that is largely irrelevant to the patient. And, more fundamentally, that the EHR technology, being in its infancy, is hopelessly inefficient. Hospital physicians will tell you endless tales about the wastefulness of the data collection and how the lack of interoperability defeats the very purpose of data sharing.
As for my complaint about President Obama and his fellow liberals: Again, I don’t oppose going electronic. What I oppose is the liberal instinct to impose doing so, giving substance to that old saw that a liberal is someone who doesn’t care what you do, as long as it’s mandatory. Why could they not leave the decision of when and how to go electronic to those who use the technology and can best judge its ripeness and usefulness? Instead, the Obama administration decided arbitrarily six years ago that EHR should be universally in use by 2015. Time being up, doctors who did not conform are now penalized through partial loss of Medicare reimbursement.
In time, we will surely develop more tailored, specific and efficient data-collection systems that doctors and hospitals will adopt if only to keep up with the increasing efficiency of their digitized competitors. Why, then, the punitive mandate?
I was in no way arguing that the bureaucratization of medicine began with Obama. It is the inevitable and inexorable result of the industrialization of everything from cloth making to food service, now extended to health care. My point is that, given the consequent loss of autonomy and authority of doctors, why are we compounding their demoralization by forcing an EHR mandate that robs them of both time and the satisfaction of proper patient care?
Yes, in principle, vast record-collection will create mass databases that in theory could be mined to help administrators, and perhaps even to yield medical insights. But it is somewhat ironic that with incessant complaints about NSA collection of telephone metadata — as of last Sunday, now bannedin these United States — as an assault on privacy and civil liberties, we seem not at all disturbed by the current amassing of mountains of medical data about you and your insides, a literal and far more intrusive invasion of the self.
My argument is simple. If electronic records are such a great boon — as I believe they eventually will be — they will be adopted over time as the benefits begin to exceed costs. Let the market work. Let doctors breathe. And while you’re at it, drop the Medicare penalty.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

We Shall Never Surrender

By Bruce Walker
June 4, 2015

Today, June 4, 2015, marks the 75th anniversary of one of greatest speeches in the English language.  Churchill, facing the certain defeat of France and a desperate escape by the British Expeditionary Force from Dunkirk, gave the English-speaking world a remarkable declaration of moral purpose and political intention, the second and most vital of his three famous wartime addresses.

It is hard for us today to imagine just how weak Britain was on June 4, 1940.  Hitler’s closest and strongest friend, the Soviet Union, was doing all in its power to force Britain to make peace with Nazi Germany.  American Communists like Betty Friedan and Dalton Trumbo were slavishly following the Party Line, condemning Churchill for not making peace with Hitler.  Other friends like Fascist Italy and Imperial Japan were following this line as well.

Churchill had shaky control over Britain.  If Neville Chamberlain, leader of the Conservative Party, had not stood firmly beside Churchill, it is almost certain that Churchill would not have remained prime minister, and Britain would have made some sort of peace with Germany.  Chamberlain would be dead in six months. 

America in June 1940 was pathetically weak militarily.  Even if it had done what Britain and France wished and entered the war, America could hardy have helped Britain until at least 1942.  The Dominion democracies stood by the mother country, but that was all.  Britain stood alone.  Books and articles written in June 1940 gave little hope of ultimate victory. 

Churchill was an old man in June 1940.  All he could offer was his great courage and his magnificent eloquence.  Churchill used both well when on June 4, 1940 he told the British people and the English-speaking world: “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight on the hills; we shall never surrender.”   

There is a parallel between Churchill in 1940 and Reagan in 1980.  Both were utterly fearless, as Americans learned when Reagan, close to death from a would-be assassin’s bullet, joked with reporters.  Both men wrote and spoke with moral clarity and inspiration.  Both men – and this is what we need but lack today – grasped that moral equivocation and timidity are a death sentence for civilization.

What we need today is another Churchill or another Reagan, but what we have is Stanley Baldwin or Jimmy Carter in the dreary visage of Obama.  The evil forces that threaten our
world today – North Korea, Iran, ISIS, as well as the lurking power of Putin’s neo-tsarist empire and corrupt Red China – are not even defined as evil by Obama or his party or his flacks.

Instead, our dull and cowardly president tries appeasement, albeit with different terms.  Appeasing radical Islam or Russian aggression or North Korean paranoia is as morally bankrupt and gutless as was appeasing Hitler or Stalin or Brezhnev when those thugs sought cheap victories over moral societies. 

Instead, Obama acts as if the Iranian thugs or the North Korean goons are equivalent to their nations.  He ignores – or, perhaps, our Teleprompter-in-Chief simply does not know (never underestimate his ignorance) – that these rulers truly represent the captive peoples they rule.  So also helping the monsters who have reduced one of the most affluent and free Latin American nations, Cuba, into penury and slavery is somehow helping the “Cuban people.”  Churchill and Reagan knew better.  Their war was not against Germans or Russians, and their inspiring rhetoric makes clear that the overlords of evil, and not those wretches trapped within their spider web, were the enemy. 

These great men also knew that they were in a war (even before September 1939, Churchill grasped that vital fact) and that only victory or defeat was possible in the long run.  We have around the world brave leaders in Israel and Egypt and Britain and Jordan and Canada and Saudi Arabia who could be great allies in a war to defeat those whose purpose in life is our defeat.  We have the brave men in uniform who have joined and would join effectively in any such crusade.  What we lack, of course, is a Churchill or a Reagan.  What we lack is a leader who can tell us that we ought to win this global war and that we will.

But despair is poor counsel.  Seventy-five years ago, still new in office, Churchill showed a backbone that no British leader had before.  That was enough.

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Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Keep Hillary-Slayer Carly in this Thing

by Roger L Simon
June 2, 2015
I had been hearing for weeks that Carly Fiorina was the hottest speaker on the nascent Republican campaign circuit - except perhaps for Marco Rubio, but the senator’s formidable communications skills have been known for years .  Even the New York Times was trumpeting Fiorina’s appeal in a column describing the long lines to hear the former Hewlett-Packard CEO speak under the typically equivocal NYT headline “Carly Talks, Iowa Swoons and the Polls Shrug,” just to make sure nobody gets ahead of themselves.  
Well, maybe they won’t shrug at some point, but whatever the case, it was with some interest that I accepted an invitation to attend a luncheon at which Fiorina was speaking.  And I’m here to affirm what others have been saying.  This lady can communicate.  In fact, she’s exceptionally good at it.  Even more, she actually has something to say. And can answer questions.  Intelligently and without evading the subject even once.
But before I go further, I have to acknowledge what many of you may already suspect.  When Fiorina speaks there is another woman in the room.  A ghost.  And her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.  You can’t get the former secretary of state out of your mind as Carly is talking, because two versions of a modern woman are automatically being presented to you — one genuinely progressive in the true English-language sense of that simple word and one a metaphorical “progressive” in the Orwellian Democratic Party usage with which we are continually assaulted.  One answers questions about practically everything while the other avoids answering anything and on those rare occasions when she does, lies. 
Now I am aware the rap against Carly is that she lost to Barbara Boxer in the California Senate race. (She jokes about this, referring to how her husband of 30 years always says to her “I can’t believe you lost to Barbara Boxer!”) And I’m also aware she was fired from her job as CEO of Hewlett-Packard.  Having been a CEO of a tiny company (this one) for seven years, I’m not altogether sure what we learn from that and I might point out the most famous CEO of our era, Steve Jobs, was also fired from his post at that obscure company he started.  Whatever.
But I will say this, being a CEO of a company the size of HP is a damn sight harder and more complex job than being the governor of a state or a senator — and I say that with all due respect to governors and senators. There’s a reason CEOs make the skadillion dollars they do — sometimes anyway. They’re responsible to their stock holders and the board on a daily basis, not just every four or six years at election time when voters may or may not remember who they are or what they did.
Listening to Fiorina, I suspect she did a lot, since her overall knowledge of global situations was high. She had quite a balanced view of China, not regarding them as an enemy, but an “adversary” to be watched. She had personally been toe-to-toe with Putin, but offered him no reset button.  Instead, she would like to arm the Ukrainians. When it comes to the Middle East, I would call her a measured hawk.  He first phone call, she said,  after inauguration would be to Benjamin Netanyahu, reaffirming (or I should say reconstructing) our alliance with Israel.  All of our supposed allies would be listening in on that one, she noted, because how you deal with one of your closest allies would be replicated with all.  I think , by now, we all know how right she is about that.
On the domestic front, she had numerous practical proposals for drawing down the debt, including one not to hire new government employees for the positions of retiring baby boomers. Just let them expire.  She’d also like to have weekly televised sessions with the public to try to bypass the media and put pressure on legislators by having Americans vote for things on their cellphones, the way they do for The Voice.  For example, she said, is it okay to pay government employees for watching porn on their computers all day while others actually do their work?  Press one if… well, you get the idea.
But most important, I think, is that Carly stay in this thing, not be cut out by some arbitrary debate limit.  She is the anti-Hillary and by far the best positioned to put paid to the Witch of Chappaqua.  And not just because she is a woman, but because she is, as she says, “fearless.”
ONE MORE THING:  Speaking of Rubio, how about a Rubio-Fiorina ticket — or the other way around?  An Hispanic and a woman.  That would shake up the preconceptions of the liberal bourgeoisie.  And in my fantasy, if they won, they could make a joint inaugural address explaining to America that this was the end of  ”identity politics.” It’s reactionary, anti-democratic and against everything this country should stand for.  We’re all just Americans.  No more hyphens.

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Dismantling Liberal Myths: A Refresher Course on Ronald Reagan


Presidential historian H. W. Brands’s new biography of Ronald Reagan and his conclusion that modern American politics is best seen as “The Age of Reagan” has aroused liberals to circulate once again the hoariest myths about the man and his presidency, including the malicious charge that Reagan was deliberately indifferent to the lot of African Americans and other minorities. 

Liberal Myth No. 1: Reagan’s dangerously belligerent foreign policy had little to do with the disintegration of Soviet Communism. Mikhail Gorbachev was the leader most responsible for bringing the Cold War to a non-nuclear conclusion.

Reality: In the 1970s, as presidential scholar Kiron Skinner has written, Reagan formulated four key ideas about U.S.–Soviet relations and the Cold War. One, discussion of Soviet expansionism around the world had to precede any talk about arms control, not the reverse. Two, America was an “exceptional” nation obligated to match deeds with words in the promotion of freedom around the world. Three, because the Soviet Union was an “abnormal” nation with no popular base of support, it was prepared to foment global crises to maintain its control. Four, the Soviet Union’s inefficient economy and inferior technology “could not survive competition” with America. Once elected president, Reagan began carrying out a multifaceted victory strategy based on these ideas.
The Cold War ended in triumph for the idea of freedom because of Ronald Reagan, not Mikhail Gorbachev, who as late as 1988 quoted the Communist Manifesto when asked his position on private property.
Reagan ordered an across-the-board buildup of the defense establishment, including land-based weapons, new ships, and new medium-range missiles. He launched a psychological offensive, declaring that the Soviets’ “evil empire” was headed for “the ash heap of history.” He made SDI (the Strategic Defensive Initiative) the cornerstone of the Reagan Doctrine and would not surrender it, even at the Reykjavik summit. He strongly supported anti-Communist forces in Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Angola, and Cambodia.

He carried his crusade for freedom into the disintegrating Soviet empire. Standing before Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate in 1987, he directly challenged the Kremlin, saying, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” A little more than two years later, the wall came down and Communism in Eastern and Central Europe collapsed. Lech Walesa, Nobel laureate and founder of the Polish trade union Solidarity that confronted the Communist regime, said of President Reagan, “We in Poland . . . owe him our liberty.”

Democracy triumphed in the Cold War, Reagan wrote in his autobiography, because it was a battle of ideas — “between one system that gave preeminence to the state and another that gave preeminence to the individual and freedom.” The Cold War ended in triumph for the idea of freedom because of Ronald Reagan, not Mikhail Gorbachev, who as late as 1988 quoted the Communist Manifesto when asked his position on private property.

Liberal Myth No. 2: The Eighties were a decade of greed that benefited only the wealthy and overlooked the middle class.

Reality: Reagan inherited a dangerously weakened economy. High tax rates had severely limited jobs and investment and brought in less than expected government revenue. President Reagan reversed the process by cutting personal tax rates and government regulations, stabilizing the economy and encouraging entrepreneurs.

Following the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, unemployment in the succeeding years fell an estimated 45 percent. During the Eighties, the consumer price index rose only 17 percent, private domestic investment grew 77 percent, and economic growth averaged 4.6 percent annually. The real income of every stratum of Americans increased, and total tax collections rose from $500 billion in 1980 to $1 trillion in 1990 (in constant dollars).

At the same time, Reagan deregulated oil prices, making energy cheaper, and launched U.S.–Canadian free trade, setting the stage for NAFTA (the North American Free Trade Agreement). Perhaps most important of all, he created IRAs (individual retirement accounts) and 401(k) programs, giving birth to what has been called “the investor class.” New industries arose in computing, software, communications, and the Internet that streamlined and transformed the American economy.

Liberal Myth No. 3: The federal government continued to grow and expand under Reagan, who callously tripled the national debt.

Reality: During the Reagan years, overall domestic spending did increase, as the president battled with a Democratic House of Representatives led by a fiercely partisan Speaker Tip O’Neill. Spending on education, social services, medicine, and food almost doubled. However, federal outlays on regional development, commerce, and housing credit decreased by about 22 percent. And the size of the federal civilian workforce declined by about 5 percent, because of conservative managers such as Donald Devine, described by the Washington Post as “Reagan’s terrible swift sword of the civil service.” The annual federal deficit as a share of GDP fell significantly from 6.3 percent in 1983 to 2.9 percent in 1989. As Reagan left office, CBO (the Congressional Budget Office) projected that “deficits were on a path to fall to about 1 percent of GDP” by 1993.
Was it worth $1.72 trillion to build up America’s defenses so that Reagan could end the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield? Most Americans would not hesitate to emphatically answer, “Yes!”
The near tripling of the national debt was mostly due to Reagan’s defense spending. In President Carter’s last budget, America spent just under $160 billion on national defense. In 1988, the Reagan administration spent $304 billion, including more than twice as much on military hardware. During his years in office, Reagan expended a total of $1.72 trillion on national defense, an unprecedented amount that he stoutly defended.

Challenged in a cabinet meeting that he “couldn’t spend all of this money on the military” and that it would look bad to boost spending on guns while cutting the butter, Reagan replied: “Look, I am the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief. My primary responsibility is the security of the United States. . . . If we don’t have security, we’ll have no need for social programs.”

The essential question was, “What price peace?” Was it worth $1.72 trillion to build up America’s defenses so that Reagan could end the Cold War at the bargaining table and not on the battlefield? Most Americans would not hesitate to emphatically answer, “Yes!”

If we examine the economic report cards of postwar presidents from Truman through Reagan, according to Harvard economist Robert Barro, Reagan easily finishes first. Using the change each year in inflation, unemployment, interest rates, and growth in gross national product, Reagan ranks first. He engineered the largest reduction in the misery index (inflation plus unemployment) in history — 50 percent. The 1980s, says economist Richard B. McKenzie, were, up to then, “the most prosperous decade in American history.”

Liberal Myth No. 4: Reagan was a cynical, calculating politician who used “states’ rights” to win the 1980 election and paid little attention to African Americans as president.

Reality: The African-American columnist Joseph Perkins has calculated that black unemployment fell from 19.5 percent in 1983 to 11.4 percent in 1989. The income of black-owned businesses rose almost one-third between 1982 and 1987. The black middle class grew from 3.6 million to 4.8 million during the Reagan years, while the cash income of black households (adjusted for inflation) rose by 12 percent. By contrast, the median income of black households fell by 2.2 percent during the Obama years from 2010 to 2013.

Throughout the Seventies, Reagan exhorted fellow Republicans to address the party’s failure to attract black voters. At the 1977 Conservative Political Action Conference, he said, “We [Republicans] believe in treating all Americans as individuals and not as stereotypes or voting blocs.” Speaking to the Urban League in August 1980, after having won the GOP’s presidential nomination, Reagan said, “I am committed to the protection and enforcement of the civil rights of black Americans . . . into every phase of the programs I will propose.”

While marking Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday in 1983, President Reagan drew an arresting parallel between the first Republican president and the man Americans were honoring that day. “Abraham Lincoln freed the black man,” he noted. “In many ways, Dr. King freed the white man. . . . Where others — white and black — preached hatred, he taught the principles of love and nonviolence.”

Who better than Ronald Reagan to have the last word about which is the myth and which is the reality about his commitment to civil rights?

 — Lee Edwards is the Distinguished Fellow in Conservative Thought at the B. Kenneth Simon Center on Principles and Politics at the Heritage Foundation and the author of the first political biography of Ronald Reagan.

Monday, June 01, 2015

How Ty Cobb was framed as a racist

May 31, 2015

Mark Rucker/Getty Images

The two things everyone knows about Ty Cobb are that he was a phenomenal baseball player and that he was the worst racist ever to play the game.
But one of these things is mostly wrong.
Cobb, the first player voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the holder of more than 90 records upon his retirement and still the pace-setter with a .366 lifetime batting average, could be rude, but not nearly as nasty as you think. And far from being the most notorious racist in baseball history, he was an early and vocal supporter of integrating the big leagues.
In his new biography “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty” (Simon & Schuster), Charles Leerhsen opens with a comedy routine that details some of the many myths about the Detroit Tigers superstar.
Was he a wife-beater? “He was an everything beater,” offered comic Jim Norton. “A horrible racist. A Demerol addict . . . in 1907 Cobb fought a black groundskeeper . . . and ended up choking the man’s wife when she intervened.”
“On several occasions he brutally pistol-whipped African-American men whose only offense was to share a sidewalk with him,” wrote a biographer of Hall of Famer Tris Speaker.
In Ken Burns’ “Baseball,” Cobb is called “an embarrassment to the game.” Most notoriously, we all know that Cobb stabbed a black waiter in Cleveland and was a member of the Ku Klux Klan.
Except none of these allegations is true.

The Thinker

Cobb, contrary to legend, was not a Southern redneck but an upper-middle-class boy, often derided for acting aristocratic in the locker room, where he would read literary novels and biographies of Thomas Jefferson and Napoleon. Both of his parents were genteel. His father, a state senator and “something of a public intellectual” in Leerhsen’s words, once broke up a group of men plotting a lynching and was an outspoken advocate for the public education of black Americans.
When Cobb was 18, his mother shot and killed his father, mistaking him for an intruder after he returned unexpectedly from an out-of-town trip. At trial she was acquitted.
You might call Cobb the inventor of Moneyball — roughly, the idea that baseball is about smarts.
“He didn’t outhit the opposition and he didn’t outrun them,” said a teammate. “He out-thought them.”
In a hilariously unprofessional era when ballplayers would chase umpires they didn’t like off the field, Cobb took careful notes exploiting the weaknesses of other teams. Cobb noticed, for instance, that Walter Johnson was visibly upset whenever he hit a batter — so he stuck his skull out over the plate. Johnson, afraid of beaning Cobb, would walk him instead.
Cobb once scored the winning run by stealing third and home when the Yankees were busy arguing with an umpire. Cobb, noted baseball legend Casey Stengel, was the only player who could steal home on an infield pop-up: He’d make his break when the guy who caught the ball was lobbing the ball back to the pitcher. He noticed a tell in Cy Young’s pickoff move: the pitcher would hold his hands up close to his chin when he was going to throw to first. Cobb stole easily on him after that.
Cobb enthusiastically supported the integration of major league baseball when he was asked about Jackie Robinson in 1952. He told The Sporting News, “The negro has the right to compete in sports and who’s to say they have not?”
He called Roy Campanella a “great” player, said Willie Mays was “the only player I’d pay money to see” and after Campanella’s crippling car accident, praised Dodgers owner Walter O’Malley for holding a candlelit tribute “for this fine man.”
Even back in the 1920s, Cobb would befriend Negro League ballplayers such as Detroit Stars infielder Bobby Robinson, who said “there wasn’t a hint of prejudice in Cobb’s attitude.”
One of several blacks employed by Cobb, Alex Rivers, named his son after the ballplayer and said, “I love the man.”

The Hitter

Cobb did brawl often — a pastime so common in his era that Dr. Spock actually recommended little boys enjoy at least one fight a day and the head of the American Psychological Association encouraged fights. On the Bowery in the early 1900s, “black-eye repair shops” offered makeup treatments to men bruised in barroom battle.
For his first couple of seasons on the Tigers, Cobb was subjected to sustained hazing by his teammates, several of whom despised him. In 1907, on his way to the clubhouse, Cobb shoved a black groundskeeper who, under the influence of alcohol, got in Cobb’s face and made a jokey greeting that the latter evidently found annoying.
There is no indication that race had anything to do with the encounter. A moment later, Cobb was attacked by a catcher on his own team, a much larger man who had a habit of beating up Cobb.
The catcher told sportswriters Cobb had previously assaulted the black groundskeeper and his wife, but this story is likely untrue. Cobb hotly denied the claim and no one asked the groundskeeper if it was true, nor were charges filed.
The catcher, his manager later admitted, was in the midst of a badmouthing campaign intended to get Cobb traded, so he was at best a questionable witness.
In 1908, among many other brawls Cobb participated in, he ignored an order from a black man laying asphalt in Detroit to stop walking, then after the two argued, Cobb started a vicious fistfight and was overheard to use the N-word against the road paver.
Today that behavior would certainly brand you as a racist, but racial slurs were commonplace then, even published in the papers.
Balance that ugly fight against Cobb’s behavior toward a 16-year-old black team mascot, Ulysses Harrison. Ballboys were badly treated at the time, paid pennies and sometimes unceremoniously dumped on road trips if they were thought to be bringing bad luck.
The Detroit News referred to Harrison as “a pickaninny” and “the Ethiopian.” But Cobb became the youth’s “main defender and patron” and on [segregated] sleeping trains let the kid sleep below his berth, hiding him from view with luggage so no one would detect him. He also let the kid share his room at segregated hotels.
After the baseball season, Cobb took Harrison back home to Georgia and gave him a job, and may well have gotten him a permanent job as a chauffeur to a Detroit construction tycoon.

Changing the story

The most famous story cited as evidence of Cobb’s racism actually had nothing to do with race. In 1909, Cobb got into a fight in a Cleveland hotel that, according to legend, led to the stabbing death of a black man.
That isn’t true. No one was killed. Cobb fought with the [white] security guard, whom he claimed he lightly raked across the back of the wrist with a pen knife, though the guard later said Cobb stabbed him in the shoulder and the hand. Cobb may have also struck a bellhop.
Race had nothing to do with this incident. Neither of the other men was ever described as black in the numerous newspaper reports at the time, though at the time reporters invariably and delightedly pointed out when someone was a “negro.” Leerhsen even dug up the census report that lists the watchman’s race as white.
Charles Alexander’s 1984 Cobb biography says both the watchman and the bellboy were black, but when asked by Leerhsen where he got that information, Alexander offered no specific source, offering vaguely that it was in news reports of the time. “It isn’t,” Leerhsen declares flatly.
Cobb eventually pleaded guilty to simple assault, paying a fine of $100 and a settlement of $115 to the watchman. Sometimes Alexander’s account is distorted beyond all recognition into a story that Cobb stabbed a black waiter in Cleveland “for being uppity.” That isn’t even close to the truth.
On another occasion, Cobb climbed into the stands to argue with a black fan (what was said is not recorded) and he once, notoriously, beat up a (white) heckler (who was missing seven fingers due to lax safety standards at his employer, The New York Times).
That wasn’t as unusual as it sounds either: pitcher Rube Waddell also went into the stands to beat up a fan, Babe Ruth in 1922 chased a fan through the seats and, when he couldn’t find him, challenged anybody nearby to a fight, and even the sainted Christy Mathewson, in 1905, popped a lemonade boy in the mouth, splitting his lip. Later, Cobb got in a fight with a grocer over an alleged insult to his wife, but the grocer was white, too — and in his biography Alexander again got it wrong, mistakenly reporting the man was black.

Who made the myth

Today’s Cobb hatred comes mainly from two sources: Alexander’s mistakes and Al Stump, the ghostwriter of Cobb’s autobiography, who produced a fictionalized account so full of lies that Cobb was preparing to sue to stop its publication when he died in 1961.
Stump was such a hack that he was banned from contributing to both TV Guide and The Saturday Evening Post. “One by one he alienated the kinds of magazines that had fact-checking departments,” said a writer of that era who knew him. “That’s because he produced fiction.”
Fact-checking Stump’s work, Leerhsen found it teeming with falsehoods. For instance, Stump claimed Cobb killed one of three men who tried to mug the superstar in a car in 1912, citing “an unidentified body” found in an alley shortly after the encounter. That body simply didn’t exist, as a report in the National Baseball Research Journal later discovered.
Stump was the source of the 1994 Tommy Lee Jones movie “Cobb,” whose director, Ron Shelton, told Leerhsen, “It’s well known that Cobb may have killed as many as three people.” Asked where he got this information, Shelton said only, “It’s well known.” Shelton admitted to Leerhsen that he and Stump simply fabricated a scene in which the elderly Cobb tries to rape a girl in Las Vegas but fails because of impotence.
The real Cobb, in later years, funded a hospital and started a college-education fund for kids. In response to fan mail, he’d send letters as long as five pages.
One kid who wrote him, Koosma Tarasoff, Cobb mentored to the point of getting him a tryout with the Pittsburgh Pirates. “He was a good human being,” Tarasoff said in 2004. Another young ballplayer Cobb mentored, and whose first contract Cobb helped negotiate, had better luck. His name was Joe DiMaggio.

Our punching bag

Why the determination to brand Cobb as the worst racist ever? Stump apparently believed a more sensational book would lead to more sales. But a large part of the story, Leerhsen notes, is simply that the accurate perception of Cobb as a hothead simply got mixed up with the fact that he was born in Georgia in 1886. Bad temper, southerner: Must have been a racist.
That’s both too broadly damning — not only were southerners not necessarily racist, Cobb’s own father fought for better treatment of blacks — and it lets us off the hook too easily.
Detecting sin in someone else is a way of announcing to the world, and to yourself, your own virtue.