Thursday, March 02, 2017

Ryan Adams’ ‘Prisoner’ Is An Ode To The 80’s

No matter what you’re doing, indie-rocker Ryan Adams’ new album “Prisoner” is the perfect soundtrack to play on your phone. Adams is back with an 80’s rock feel to give his listeners a taste of what they’ve been missing.
On Feb. 17, Adams debuted his 16th album, his first since his cover of Taylor Swift’s “1989” in its entirety two years ago. While he said on Twitter that “Prisoner” is about hope and forgiveness, he also confirmed in multiple interviews that the album took shape after his divorce with actress Mandy Moore in 2015. “Prisoner” is a heartbreak album, and Adams proves once again why he’s the master of heartbreak.
Not a newbie to the breakup album, Adams’ debut solo album, “Heartbreaker,” and 2004 album “Love Is Hell,” were masterful relationship angst albums. While nothing on “Prisoner” lives up to its predecessors, it does prove to be a solid rock album.
The opening song, “Do You Still Love Me?” sets the tone for rest of the album. The power ballads strongly resemble a 80’s rock song, and this song is one of many on the album that sound Bruce Springsteen-esque. Guitar- and drum-heavy, this energetic song with powerful vocals kicks off the album with a bang and makes listeners interested to hear the rest.
The next track, “Prisoner,” touches on being locked up in infatuation: “I know our love is wrong / I am a criminal / Mmm, I am a prisoner… / For your love.” The pounding guitar riffs and strong harmonica chords sell the song and make Adams’ lyrics relatable.
The harmonica continues to shine in the third song, “Doomsday,” where Adams shares his complicated feelings with his listeners. He says, “I could wait a thousand years, my love” but at the same time admits “… I don’t know / My love, how to let my feelings go.” He is conflicted, as he believes he is able to wait forever for his lover but knows that he can’t and has to let her go.
His distress continues on the mid-tempo, intriguing “Haunted House.” He talks about feeling alone and feeling like he has no one else in the world now: “Welcome to my haunted house / I live here alone, ain’t no one else.”
As listeners are carried through the album, we are brought through the different stages of Adams’ breakup. At the beginning, he knows love is lost and sings of regret he has in the relationship. He moves on to being disturbed and haunted by track five. He doesn’t hold back his heartache when he sings “I see you with some guy / Laughing like you never even knew I was alive” on the down-tempo “Shiver And Shake.” In this song, Adams’ strong, poignant vocals shine through.
“Anything I Say To You Now,” a highlight on the album, has the catchiest guitar chord sequences of any song on the album. A quintessential rock song, heavy electric guitar and drum usage with intense vocals, he shares his anger with his listeners: “Anything I say to you now is just a lie / Anything I say to you now but goodbye.” By the time Adams gets to this point in the album, he is ready to call the relationship off.
The next few tracks follow the pain and brokenness Adams feels, and the album ends with reflection on the aftermath of the relationship with the gorgeous “We Disappear.” “We Disappear” is a song that resembles another 80’s slow rock jam but includes Adams’ signature compelling vocals. Adams sings to sort out his broken heart: “Don’t know what’s the rubble / And the parts I want to save.” Despite this, he’s left at the end of the album to pick up the pieces of a lost love.
In an age where music is often created and manipulated through the use of electronic sounds and synths, it’s impressive that Adams produces music that is purely made up of crooning vocals, guitar, drums and the occasional harmonica and sax solos. Let’s face it: Ryan Adams makes great rock music.
With “Prisoner,” Adams proves both he and rock music are still alive and relevant. Heartbreak undoubtedly helps artists on their way to creating great albums, and it certainly works for him.

Today's Tune: Ryan Adams - Do You Still Love Me?

I Told You Testosterone Would Make Women’s Sports More Interesting

By Trevor Thomas
March 2, 2017

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Mack Beggs (AP)

To be fair—given the perverse transgender agenda of the modern left—my idea was that men (such as Bruce Jenner) would compete as “women.” My idea was not that female athletes who want to pretend that they are men (or boys)—and thus take athletic performance-enhancing drugs such as testosterone to help live such a deluded fantasy—would compete as females. I did not imagine this because (I thought) virtually every female athletic association would not allow such an advantage.

Of course, in most athletic associations this is the case, but at the high school level in the state of Texas, it seems there are exceptions. As has been widely reported recently, a female wrestler in Texas—Mack Beggs—has won the state championship in her division largely due to the fact that she has a significant competitive advantage: she’s taking steroids (testosterone).

Once upon a time, such behavior was widely considered cheating. In fact, some of the biggest scandals in sports history involve behavior virtually identical to that of Mack Beggs. (Alex Rodriguez took testosterone.) In fact, due to the widespread problem of “doping” (taking performance-enhancing drugs) in the world of athletics, in 1999, the World Anti-Doping Agency was created. Clearly (and always) on the list of banned substances: testosterone. In spite of being an endogenous (naturally occurring) anabolic androgenic (promotes male characteristics) steroid, testosterone use among athletes is prohibited if administered from outside the body.

In the modern era of sports, scandals involving performance-enhancing drugs are numerous. One of the largest examples (in terms of sheer volume of athletes and length of time) involves the Olympians of East Germany. In a tragic attempt to hide the real devastating effects of a communist government and a socialist economy, and instead to present itself as a strong, healthy nation, during the Cold War, the East German government began doping its athletes.

The primary drug administered to thousands of East German athletes as young as eight years old was Chlorodehydromethyltestosterone (CDMT)—a synthetic steroid and, as the name indicates, a synthetic “derivative of testosterone.” (This was the same drug that disgraced Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson took.) Unlike Mack Beggs and others who knowingly take performance-enhancing drugs, most of the East German athletes were duped into doping. Their coaches told them they were taking “vitamins.” In terms of medals—with more than 500 summer and winter Olympic medals between 1968 and 1988—the result of the doping, as in the case of Beggs (a record of 52-0), was a huge success.

However, as The Daily Mirror reported in 2015, the East German athletes paid a terrible price. As the Mirror notes,
The stars of yesterday suffered severe depression, heart conditions, degenerative bone disease and infertility. Some even changed sex because of the drugs. Many spiraled into drink and drug addictions, unable to find work.
Shot putter Heidi Krieger suffered the loss of her femininity. She had a “sex-change” operation (of course, it’s not really possible to change one’s sex) and now lives her life pretending she’s a man, “teaching youngsters the dangers of pumping steroids in a bid for sporting glory.” Concerned that the current situation with Olympic athletes in Russia mirrors that of East Germany, Ines Geipel, 55, a 1980s East German champion sprinter, warns:
It is more than 25 years ago now and yet there are so many parallels with the Russian situation and ours. It is about a state-controlled abuse.

It carried on until 1989. We are probably talking about 10,000 to 15,000 athletes in total. We saw kids as young as eight being doped. They were guinea pigs and we have seen the health impact down the generations, passed from grandfather to grandchild.

The bodies are broken, and so are the souls. Naturally there was great gynecological damage because the women were taking men’s hormones. We have seen stillbirths, infertility, and disabled children born to former athletes.

In other words, there are significant health risks—especially for women, in taking testosterone. Of course—like the oppressive East Germans—this is secondary to the perverse sexual agenda of the modern left. What’s more, whether those struggling with their gender identity take dangerous drugs, as Dr. Paul McHugh—University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School and the former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins Hospital—puts it:  
The idea that one’s sex is a feeling, not a fact, has permeated our culture and is leaving casualties in its wake. Gender dysphoria should be treated with psychotherapy, not surgery.
And when the perverse LGBT agenda invades the world of sports, the harm extends beyond the physical and mental damage done to the athlete who’s decided to indulge his or her delusions with drugs and surgeries. Whether it’s males competing as females—as in the case of Alaska’s Nattaphon Wangyot—or, as in the case of Beggs, a female taking testosterone, the ones who will suffer are the female athletes who have decided to play by the rules of sound science, morality, and the athletic associations that govern their sports.

Beggs’ case is just the latest example of this lunacy. Multiple organizations corrupted by liberalism have laid the groundwork for rendering women’s athletics a farce. As I noted last year,

Among many other crazy things, on “transgender and gender non-conforming students,” The National Center for Transgender Equality declares:
  • You have the right to equal educational opportunities regardless of your gender, including your gender identity or expression, or your race, nationality, or disability. This includes not being punished or excluded from school activities or events [read: sports] because you are transgender or gender non-conforming.
  • You have the right to use restrooms, locker rooms, and other facilities that are consistent with your gender identity, and can’t be forced to use separate facilities.
As early as five years ago the NCAA “Office of Inclusion” produced a document that, among many other crazy things, recommended allowing humans who were born male to compete as females. They piously and ignorantly declared that assumptions commonly made about humans born male who wish to pretend they are female “are not well founded.”
Ignoring sound science and common sense, the June 2016 edition of the “science” magazine Cosmos concluded that:
“It’s only a matter of time before trans female athletes compete in the Olympics,” and “they will not have an edge over the rest of the field.”
Given the physical advantages of men over women (as I’ve pointed out twice before—but which are obvious to those not corrupted by liberalism), male athletes will not suffer in this latest cause of liberalism, where, ironically, trophies and money will be taken from women and given to men. A real feminist would fight against such an injustice, but modern feminism is beholden to the sexual agenda of modern liberalism.

So beholden that, in spite of all that science and common sense reveal, prior to Beggs beginning her quest for a state championship, The Washington Post began its piece on her story with:
On Friday, Mack Beggs, an undefeated high school wrestler from Texas, will compete at the girls’ state tournament in suburban Houston.
But unlike the rest of the teen’s female competitors, Beggs, 17, is a boy.
Pause for a moment and consider the stupendous stupidity of that last sentence. Nothing in sound science or morality allows for that conclusion, yet one of the supposed premier news organizations in the world—the paper that helped bring down a U.S. President—printed that sentence.

Additionally, after Beggs’ story broke, “trans athlete and activist” Chris Mosier, via Twitter, declared,
High school athletic association policies for trans athletes should allow for participation by gender identity, not by birth certificate.
So again, by this perverse logic, males “identifying” as females would be allowed to take trophies from real girls or women.

The University Interscholastic League (UIL), the governing body for public school athletics in the state of Texas, requires student athletes to compete as the gender listed on their birth certificate. With support of about 95 percent of Texas school superintendents, the wise rule change was made last year, no doubt in response to cases like that of Nattaphon Wangyot’s. Yet UIL rules also allow the use of steroids if “dispensed, prescribed, delivered and administered by a medical practitioner for a valid medical purpose.” Thus, the UIL and the state of Texas should have further ruled that, since “gender identity” is a disorder, and since it is not possible for a female to “transition” to a male, the “roided-up” Beggs should not have been allowed to compete in any division.

Again, these people need serious physical, mental, and spiritual help. They do not need accommodation in living a lie.

Trevor Thomas is the author of the new book The Miracle and Magnificence of America and can be reached at His website is

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By Ann Coulter
March 1, 2017

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The first sentence of Congress' Obamacare repeal should read: "There shall be a free market in health insurance.” 

Right there, I've solved the health insurance crisis for 90 percent of Americans. Unfortunately, no one can imagine what a free market in health care looks like because we haven't had one for nearly a century. 

On NBC's "Meet the Press" this weekend, for example, Chuck Todd told Sen. Tom Cotton that his proposal to create affordable health care that would be widely available, "sounds good," but "do you understand why some people think that's an impossible promise to keep?” 

(The "do you understand ...?" formulation is a condescension reserved only for conservatives, whose disagreement with liberals is taken as a sign of stupidity.) 

Todd continued: "To make it affordable, making it wider, I mean, that just seems like -- you know, it seems like you're selling something that can't be done realistically.” 

Dream Sequence: Chuck Todd on Russia's "Meet the Press" after the fall of the Soviet Union: "Do you understand why some people think that's an impossible promise to keep? To make bread affordable, making it wider, I mean, that just seems like -- you know, it seems like you're selling something that can't be done realistically.” 

It turns out that, outside of a communist dictatorship, all sorts of products are affordable AND widely available! We don't need Congress to "provide" us with health care any more than we need them to "provide" us with bread. What we need is for health insurance to be available on the free market. 

With lots of companies competing for your business, basic health insurance would cost about $50 a month. We know the cost because Christian groups got a waiver from Obamacare, and that's how much their insurance costs right now. (Under the law, it can't be called "insurance," but that's what it is.)

Even young, healthy people would buy insurance at that price, expanding the "risk-sharing pools" and probably bringing the cost down to $20 or $30 a month. 

In a free market, there would be an endless variety of consumer-driven plans, from catastrophic care for the risk-oblivious to extravagant plans for the risk-averse. 

You know -- just like every other product in America. 

You should visit America sometime, Chuck! The orange juice aisle in a Texas grocery store knocked the socks off Russian president Boris Yeltsin. (Imagine how cheap a double screwdriver must be in America!

Just as there are rows of different types of orange juice in the grocery store –- and loads of grocery stores -- there will be loads of health insurance plans and insurance companies offering them. 

Americans would finally be able to buy whatever insurance plans they liked, as easily as they currently buy flat-screen TVs, cellphones and -- what's that product with the cute gecko in its commercials? I remember now! CAR INSURANCE! 

Evidently, insurance is not impervious to the iron law of economics that every product sold on the free market gets better and cheaper over time. 

The only complicated part of fixing health care is figuring out how to take care of the other 10 percent of Americans -- the poor, the irresponsible and the unlucky. And the only reason that is complicated is because of fraud. 

Needless to say, the modern nanny state already guarantees that no one will die on the street in America. The taxpayer spends more than a trillion dollars every year on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security disability insurance so that everyone's health is taken care of, from cradle to grave. 

Unfortunately, probably at least half of that sum is fraud. 

Policing fraud is difficult because: (1) the bureaucrats dispensing government benefits believe there is no fraud and, if there is, it's a good thing because it redistributes income; and (2) we keep bringing in immigrants for whom fraud is a way of life. (See "Adios, America! The Left's Plan to Turn Our Country Into a Third World Hellhole.”) 

Consequently, after the first sentence establishing a free market in health insurance, the entire rest of the bill should be nothing but fraud prevention measures to ensure that only the truly deserving -- and the truly American -- are accessing taxpayer-supported health care programs. 

I'd recommend sending as much as possible back to the states, and also paying bounties to anyone who exposes a fraud against Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. Anyone caught committing health care fraud should get 10 years. Not in prison, in a Medicaid doctor's waiting room. 

But I'm sure you guys in Congress have come up with lots of great ideas for policing fraud in the SEVEN YEARS you've had to think about it. (Hello? Is he breathing? Dammit, I'm not getting a pulse!!

Then, Congress can start removing all the bad stuff from the U.S. Code, such as: 

-- the requirement that hospitals provide "free" care to anyone who shows up (how about separate health clinics for poor people with the sniffles?); 

-- the exemption of insurance companies from the antitrust laws (where all our problems began); and 

-- the tax breaks only for employer-provided health insurance (viciously and arbitrarily punishing the self-employed). 

The goal of "universal health care" is very simple to achieve, just as the goal of "universal wearing of clothing" seems to have been taken care of. 

The government can provide for those who can't provide for themselves, but the rest of us need to be allowed to buy health insurance on the free market -- an innovation that has made America the richest, most consumer-friendly country in the world. 

It's taken 50 years, but, thanks to Hillary's losing the election, we finally have liberals on the record opposing the Soviet Union. Can't all of Washington come together and end our soviet health care system? 


Pope cuts penalties for paedophile priests

25 February 2017

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Pope Francis leads his Wednesday general audience at Paul VI auditorium hall in Vatican City February 8, 2017.(REUTERS/Tony Gentile)

Pope Francis has been slammed by church officials and sex abuse survivors for cutting penalties for paedophile priests.

The Pope is said to be applying his vision of a 'merciful church' to sex offenders by reducing punishments to weaker sentences, such as a lifetime of prayer and penance.

It has been revealed by church officials that Pope Francis overruled advice given to him by the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith about two priests  - allowing them to be punished by a lifetime of prayer.

One of the priests was the Reverend Mauro Inzoli, who was found guilty of abusing young boys by the Vatican in 2012 and was ordered to be defrocked.

However, he appealed, and in 2014 Francis reduced the penalty to a lifetime of prayer, prohibiting him from celebrating Mass in public or being near children, barring him from his diocese and ordering five years of psychotherapy.

Rev Inzoli was then convicted by an Italian criminal court for his sex crimes against five children as young as 12.

He is now facing a second church trial after new evidence emerged against him.

A church official has said some paedophile priests and their high-ranking friends appealed to Pope Francis by citing the pope's own words about mercy in their petitions.

They said: 'With all this emphasis on mercy ... he is creating the environment for such initiatives.' 

Marie Collins, an abuse survivor and founding member of Francis' sex-abuse advisory commission, expressed dismay that the congregation's recommended penalties were being weakened.

She said: 'All who abuse have made a conscious decision to do so. Even those who are paedophiles, experts will tell you, are still responsible for their actions. They can resist their inclinations.'

Many canon lawyers and church authorities argue that defrocking paedophiles can put society at greater risk because the church no longer exerts control over them.

They argue that keeping the men in restricted ministry, away from children, enables superiors to exert some degree of supervision.

But Ms Collins said the church must also take into account the message that reduced canonical sentences sends to both survivors and abusers.

'While mercy is important, justice for all parties is equally important,' she said.
'If there is seen to be any weakness about proper penalties, then it might well send the wrong message to those who would abuse.'

Comparatively, his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, rarely granted clemency petitions and defrocked 800 priests, who had raped and molested children, during his eight-year papacy. 

According to the church official, Pope Francis also ordered three staffers to be dismissed – two of whom worked for the discipline section that handles sex abuse cases.

But Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said they will be replaced and staffing is set to be strengthened after the Pope approved hiring more officials.

He said: 'The speed with which cases are handled is a serious matter and the Holy Father continues to encourage improvements in this area.'

He also dispelled rumours that sex-abuse cases would no longer be handled by the congregation, saying the strengthened office would handle all submitted cases.

Mr Burke added the Pope's emphasis on mercy applied to 'even those who are guilty of heinous crimes' and priests who are found to be abusers are permanently removed from the ministry but are not necessarily defrocked.

He said: 'The Holy Father understands that many victims and survivors can find any sign of mercy in this area difficult, but he knows that the Gospel message of mercy is ultimately a source of powerful healing and of grace.' 

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Is February 28, 2017, 'The Night the Democratic Party Died'?

February 28, 2017

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Carryn Owens reacts as Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner (R), applaud. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

I was once a Democrat.  In those days, I thought I was on the team of truth, justice, and the American way. It was fun to be a Democrat then.  But... Bye, bye Miss American Pie.  Drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.  I woke up.

I'm no longer a Democrat (it's been many years now), and though on the rarest of occasions I worried I'd made a mistake, Tuesday night watching the shell-shocked faces of the Democrats on the floor of Congress while Donald Trump delivered his magnificent speech, I knew I had made no error.  I even wondered what was going on in my head in those isolated moments I doubted myself.

The Democratic Party members watching that speech looked like a party of the living dead.  They didn't know how to react.  They didn't know if they were Americans.  They didn't know who they were.

Every time Trump called for bipartisanship for the good of our country, they winced.  They couldn't stand it and didn't know how to react because they are the least bipartisan people in the world and they scarcely know what cooperating is.  Working together is not in their natures.  Yes, they talk about it endlessly but they never do it. (See: the history of the Soviet Union) Maybe it's not in their DNA.  (I should check mine.)

When the speech was over -- after there was no longer a dry eye in the house from the introduction of the widow of the Navy SEAL -- they left the room faster than fans of the losing team after the Super Bowl, only in this case they left so stunned you had to wonder if they would ever win the game again or even compete.

The Democrats -- the silly ladies dressed in white and all the others -- bet the house that Trump would make a fool of himself and Donald cut the legs out from under them. And when you bet the house and lose, you go home bankrupt.  And without a home to go to.

He cut the Democrats' legs out in the worst way, exposing them for the empty party they are with nothing going for them but identity politics. Yet, it is becoming increasingly obvious that if anyone does anything for the inner cities, it will be Trump the builder, not the Democrats who had a chance for fifty or sixty years and did nothing.  Bye, bye, identity politics.   No wonder Maxine Waters is so apoplectic.

Yes, Trump delivered a speech for the ages.  Tucker Carlson, who is solidifying his position as the most perceptive pundit on television, again got it right, saying the president had "set the template" for future presidential addresses.  He had. Bravo to him and to speechwriter Stephen Miller, who is rapidly becoming the most distinguished graduate ever of Santa Monica High, where he was supposedly persona non grata while he attended.

Now I know Democrats are praying Donald will start tweeting and say something outrageous they can make fun of or at the very least deliberately misconstrue.  And you can trust CNN and the rest to pick apart a million things.  Where's the money going to come from for this and that?  But it's not going to matter that much.  Trump is a great American optimist and we saw Tuesday night that he is more than capable of bringing the country along with him.

We are in a new era. I'm 95% excited but 5% blue about what is happening -- not because I have even an iota of regret about leaving liberalism, especially now.  But because, as Trump himself said the other day, we need a two-party system and I strongly suspect, even with the unlimited pockets of George Soros, the Democratic Party, at least as we know it, is dying.  All those crazy protests at town halls and the mass demonstrations of women racing around in vagina hats are the death throes of a movement with nothing to say.

The question is, will history look at February 28, 2017, as "The Night the Democratic Party Died" or at the very least the beginning of the end?  No one can be certain, but I wouldn't be surprised if it does.

Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media.  His latest book is I Know Best:  How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If  It Hasn't Already. You can follow him on Twitter @rogerlsimon. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today's Tune: Lord Huron - La Belle Fleur Sauvage

President Trump Was Right about Sweden

The country is experiencing an immigration crisis, and pretending otherwise just won’t do.

By Annika Hernroth-Rothstein — February 27, 2017
Police in Sweden
(Getty Images)

In September, I met with Ami Horowitz for an interview about Sweden and immigration, for a documentary he was making on the topic. Horowitz had heard of the work I had done on the issue, such as my reports in the Washington Examiner on the recent mass sexual attacks at music festivals in Sweden that the media and police covered up, as well as my essays on Sweden’s growing problem of jihadi tourism.

Horowitz and I met up in a sleepy Swedish town and spoke for almost half an hour, of which four minutes ended up in the final cut of his documentary, Stockholm Syndrome. The film also includes an interview with two Swedish policemen and the director’s own running commentary. The documentary received some attention at the time it was released, but not much more than the occasional link appearing in my newsfeed. But — as we now know — that has since changed.

President Trump mentioned Sweden in a speech in Florida on February 18. I first learned about it from my father, who called me early the next morning to ask whether I was perhaps involved in an international incident. As soon as I went on Twitter and saw the outrage, I started to connect the dots. After sifting through the many angry tweets, I could conclude that not only had the international media severely misconstrued what Donald Trump had said about Sweden but also that the newly elected president had put his finger on exactly what ails Sweden as well as the entire European continent.

For the past week, I have been under tremendous pressure to rescind my statements and to swear off not only Amy Horowitz but also the entire premise that Sweden has problems relating to its immigration policies. Trump’s statement, however confusing, highlighted the most taboo topic in Swedish society and the well-oiled apparatus that does its utmost to keep it under wraps. And now that the world has its collective eye fixed on our country, the Swedish establishment is fighting hard to convey the party line.

Part of the reason for the outrage is that Sweden has a long-standing, complicated, love-hate relationship with the United States, defined by an equal mix of envy and disdain — the U.S. being both that place we are better than and the country we secretly long to be. Sweden’s self-image is that of a country with solid liberal values, institutionalized equality, and social justice. Having an American president question that is a direct affront to the one thing we had going for us: our carefully cultivated sense of moral and intellectual superiority. The solution to this conundrum is to belittle and mock President Trump, making him seem ignorant and racist, poking fun at his statements through a barrage of colorful memes. But what all of these methods fail to address is the underlying issue and the truth at the heart of the president’s words.

As Swedish-Iranian economist Tino Sanandaji observed at NRO last week, we see a remarkable lack of statistics showing a correlation between immigration and crime in Sweden — not because there is no such correlation, but because there are no statistics. There are no statistics because the government has consistently chosen not to release them or bring the issue to light. This secrecy has sparked the rise of a populist right in Sweden, and it has also failed the most vulnerable — the immigrants subjected to extremism and crime in urban neighborhoods where the pundits and politicians never go — sacrificing them on the altar of political correctness.

Because the truth is that Donald Trump was right to compare the Swedish crisis to that of the rest of Europe, and the reactions to his words were out of panic rather than persuasion. Something has come undone in Sweden, and that is the fault not of an American president but of the failed policies of the political establishment, going on 25 years. The results of these policies are now visible in individual lives and on city streets, and we see them clearly in ballots. The far-right party Sverigedemokraterna (The Sweden Democrats) has tripled in popularity in three elections and is now the second-largest party in the country. Most of the votes it has gained have migrated from the Social Democrats, the working-class party, suggesting that the political climate in Sweden is far less removed from its American counterpart than the Swedish political and intellectual establishment would have us believe.

While Sweden is not, as hyperbolic far-right sites claim, the “rape capitol of the world,” it is suffering from a serious social and economic crisis that is related to the influx of immigrants. It’s not anti-immigrant to debate this and to criticize the policies that led to this crisis; it’s a defense of classic liberal values at a time when they are under attack. In 2015 and 2016, Sweden took in 150,000 immigrants from countries whose populations have views on women, sexuality, equality, and the separation of church and state that are starkly different from the views that Swedish society claims to protect and uphold.

There is an inevitable clash of values, and the refusal to acknowledge that clash is only intensifying it, victimizing those who are least likely to have their voices heard. We now find ourselves with societies within the society, policed by gangs and plagued by violence; we see honor killings on the rise, sexual assaults being covered up by the police and the media, and public bathhouses gender-segregated to accommodate religious fervor. These are issues that deserve to be brought to light, and refusing to do so does nothing but spread the darkness.

In the week since Trump’s infamous Sweden-gate, I have reflected on the irony of the Swedish media’s criticizing him for silencing certain media outlets — after all, conservative voices in Sweden have been consistently silenced for as long as I can remember. And rather than face the evident problems caused by systemic political mismanagement in Sweden, the establishment is using President Trump as a bogey man; he is a welcome diversion from the failure of its own ideological paradigm.

Swedish pundits and politicians are now describing a war between two images of Sweden, but that very thesis perfectly encapsulates the core of the problem. Sweden is not the dystopian hell shown in Horowitz’s documentary, but it is also not the perfect liberal society touted by people furiously defending Swedish honor from Trumpian insults. A country with two such competing images of itself is in danger of becoming exactly what it condemns in others: a propaganda machine in defense of a false narrative.

Since the beginning of the immigration crisis, Sweden has cut 950 million U.S. dollars from its foreign aid to allocate to immigration services, and much more will have to be cut from other welfare programs to deal with a projected massive influx of refugees. No available studies show the current immigration as anything but a net loss for the country. The idea that immigration is noble has become a truth in Sweden and in much of Europe, and any critique against it is interpreted as racism. In this climate, we close our eyes to real solutions, such as devoting resources (military or financial or both) to aid individuals where they are. Western nations are now, at great expense, creating a problem within their own borders — to fulfill some sort of idea of themselves as being “good” countries — rather than doing actual good elsewhere. Europe is not dealing with the reason for the immigration crisis but is only delaying its solution indefinitely.

On November 12, 2015, the Swedish government announced that it would reinstate border control for the first time since joining the Schengen Agreement in 1996, a treaty that led to the creation of Schengen Area in Europe in which internal border checks have largely been abolished. In restoring border control, Sweden cited “threats to inner order and security.” This action, while sudden and drastic, does not change the right to seek asylum, nor is it guaranteed to stop or even lessen the influx or relieve the acute costs of settling refugees.

If we go by the current estimates, Sweden in two years will spend on immigration alone the equivalent of two annual defense budgets or the entire cost of unemployment benefits. There are no signs that the number of immigrants will diminish, and there is no plan to cut federal costs or raise taxes to pay for this. Our country is currently operating at a loss, both economically and socially, and the biggest losers are those farthest from the halls of power and the newsrooms that laud this failure as a success. That is why I stand by my statements in Ami Horowitz’s documentary and why I give President Trump credit for putting his finger on the issue we’ve been avoiding for far too long.

The Swedish debate on immigration is so contentious that even relaying statistics can lead to one’s being branded a bigot, which might be why journalists and politicians often insist that immigration is good for the country, creating jobs and paying for itself in the long run. When the reality of people’s daily life fails to comport with the picture painted by reporters and lawmakers, it creates a disconnect between the people and the powerful, and it stokes anger among voters.

The ongoing crisis is changing the political landscape, intensifying social tensions and causing a rise in crime — eerily reminiscent of days past. The inability to address the root cause of the problem or even to utter its name is pushing Sweden toward disaster, full steam ahead.
After World War II, Europe rejected borders and decided on a brave new world, based on an idea. What European leaders failed to understand, though, is that no matter how much they wished that the divisions had forever died in the war, the divisions still mattered. What we are now witnessing is a continent scrambling to rebuild something it long ago deemed obsolete. Trump won, at least in part, because he recognized that a nation has a right to control its borders. Europe is losing its soul as a result of its denial, giving up on a liberalism that has been its essence since the Enlightenment.

The immigration crisis highlights the grave problems in Sweden’s and Europe’s immigration policies, problems that may very well cause the eventual dissolution of the EU. The European peace project has ended up exacerbating the refugee crisis while abandoning the Syrian people on the ground, the Kurds in the hills, and the children dying to reach a European dream — a dream that never really existed beyond the pages of a post-war manifesto.

— Annika Hernroth-Rothstein is a political consultant and writer who lives in Sweden.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Agitator

{A classic piece on the great Oriana Fallaci from The New Yorker in 2006...she died just three months later. - jtf}
JUNE 5, 2006 ISSUE

Oriana Fallaci is the subject of Lawrence Wright's new play "Fallaci," which has its world premiere at Berkeley Rep.

"Yesterday, I was hysterical,” the Italian journalist and novelist Oriana Fallaci said. She was telling me a story about a local dog owner and the liberties he’d allowed his animal to take in front of Fallaci’s town house, on the Upper East Side. Big mistake. “I no longer have the energy to get really angry, like I used to,” she added. It called to mind what the journalist Robert Scheer said about Fallaci after interviewing her for Playboy, in 1981: “For the first time in my life, I found myself feeling sorry for the likes of Khomeini, Qaddafi, the Shah of Iran, and Kissinger—all of whom had been the objects of her wrath—the people she described as interviewing ‘with a thousand feelings of rage.’ "

For two decades, from the mid-nineteen-sixties to the mid-nineteen-eighties, Fallaci was one of the sharpest political interviewers in the world. Her subjects were among the world’s most powerful figures: Yasir Arafat, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Haile Selassie, Deng Xiaoping. Henry Kissinger, who later wrote that his 1972 interview with her was “the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press,” said that he had been flattered into granting it by the company he’d be keeping as part of Fallaci’s “journalistic pantheon.” It was more like a collection of pelts: Fallaci never left her subjects unskinned.

Fallaci’s manner of interviewing was deliberately unsettling: she approached each encounter with studied aggressiveness, made frequent nods to European existentialism (she often disarmed her subjects with bald questions about death, God, and pity), and displayed a sinuous, crafty intelligence. It didn’t hurt that she was petite and beautiful, with straight, smooth hair that she wore parted in the middle or in pigtails; melancholy blue-gray eyes, set off by eyeliner; a cigarette-cured voice; and an adorable Italian accent. During the Vietnam War, she was sometimes photographed in fatigues and a helmet; her rucksack bore handwritten instructions to return her body to the Italian Ambassador “if K.I.A.” In these images she looked as slight and vulnerable as a child. When she was shot, in 1968, while reporting on the student demonstrations in Mexico City, and then confined by the police with the wounded and the dying on one floor of an apartment building, the first impulse of the students around her was to protect her; one boy gave her his sweater, in order to cover her face from the drip of a sewage pipe. Her essential toughness never stopped taking people—men, especially—by surprise.

Fallaci’s journalism, at first conducted for the Italian magazine L’Europeo and later published in translation throughout the world, was infused with a “mythic sense of political evil,” as the writer Vivian Gornick once put it—an almost adolescent aversion to power, which suited the temperament of the times. As Fallaci explained in her preface to “Interview with History,” a 1976 collection of Q. & A.s, “Whether it comes from a despotic sovereign or an elected president, from a murderous general or a beloved leader, I see power as an inhuman and hateful phenomenon. . . . I have always looked on disobedience toward the oppressive as the only way to use the miracle of having been born.” In Fallaci’s interview with Kissinger, she told him that he had become known as “Nixon’s mental wet nurse,” and lured him into boasting that Americans admired him because he “always acted alone”—like “the cowboy who leads the wagon train by riding ahead alone on his horse, the cowboy who rides all alone into the town.” Political cartoonists mercilessly lampooned this remark, and, according to Kissinger’s memoirs, the quote soured his relations with Nixon. (Kissinger claimed that she had taken his words out of context.) But the most remarkable moment in the interview came when Fallaci bluntly asked him, about Vietnam, “Don’t you find, Dr. Kissinger, that it’s been a useless war?,” and Kissinger began his reply with the words “On this, I can agree.”

Fallaci’s interview with Khomeini, which appeared in the Times on October 7, 1979, soon after the Iranian revolution, was the most exhilarating example of her pugilistic approach. Fallaci had travelled to Qum to try to secure an interview with Khomeini, and she waited ten days before he received her. She had followed instructions from the new Islamist regime, and arrived at the Ayatollah’s home barefoot and wrapped in a chador. Almost immediately, she unleashed a barrage of questions about the closing of opposition newspapers, the treatment of Iran’s Kurdish minority, and the summary executions performed by the new regime. When Khomeini defended these practices, noting that some of the people killed had been brutal servants of the Shah, Fallaci demanded, “Is it right to shoot the poor prostitute or a woman who is unfaithful to her husband, or a man who loves another man?” The Ayatollah answered with a pair of remorseless metaphors. “If your finger suffers from gangrene, what do you do? Do you let the whole hand, and then the body, become filled with gangrene, or do you cut the finger off? What brings corruption to an entire country and its people must be pulled up like the weeds that infest a field of wheat.”

Fallaci continued posing indignant questions about the treatment of women in the new Islamic state. Why, she asked, did Khomeini compel women to “hide themselves, all bundled up,” when they had proved their equal stature by helping to bring about the Islamic revolution? Khomeini replied that the women who “contributed to the revolution were, and are, women with the Islamic dress”; they weren’t women like Fallaci, who “go around all uncovered, dragging behind them a tail of men.” A few minutes later, Fallaci asked a more insolent question: “How do you swim in a chador?” Khomeini snapped, “Our customs are none of your business. If you do not like Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women.” Fallaci saw an opening, and charged in. “That’s very kind of you, Imam. And since you said so, I’m going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now.” She yanked off her chador.

In a recent e-mail, Fallaci said of Khomeini, “At that point, it was he who acted offended. He got up like a cat, as agile as a cat, an agility I would never expect in a man as old as he was, and he left me. In fact, I had to wait for twenty-four hours (or forty-eight?) to see him again and conclude the interview.” When Khomeini let her return, his son Ahmed gave Fallaci some advice: his father was still very angry, so she’d better not even mention the word “chador.” Fallaci turned the tape recorder back on and immediately revisited the subject. “First he looked at me in astonishment,” she said. “Total astonishment. Then his lips moved in a shadow of a smile. Then the shadow of a smile became a real smile. And finally it became a laugh. He laughed, yes. And, when the interview was over, Ahmed whispered to me, ‘Believe me, I never saw my father laugh. I think you are the only person in this world who made him laugh.’ “

Fallaci recalled that she found Khomeini intelligent, and “the most handsome old man I had ever met in my life. He resembled the ‘Moses’ sculpted by Michelangelo.” And, she said, Khomeini was “not a puppet like Arafat or Qaddafi or the many other dictators I met in the Islamic world. He was a sort of Pope, a sort of king—a real leader. And it did not take long to realize that in spite of his quiet appearance he represented the Robespierre or the Lenin of something which would go very far and would poison the world. People loved him too much. They saw in him another Prophet. Worse: a God.”

Upon leaving Khomeini’s house after her first interview, Fallaci was besieged by Iranians who wanted to touch her because she’d been in the Ayatollah’s presence. “The sleeves of my shirt were all torn off, my slacks, too,” she recalled. “My arms were full of bruises, and hands, too. Do believe me: everything started with Khomeini. Without Khomeini, we would not be where we are. What a pity that, when pregnant with him, his mother did not choose to have an abortion.”

Today, Fallaci believes, the Western world is in danger of being engulfed by radical Islam. Since September 11, 2001, she has written three short, angry books advancing this argument. Two of them, “The Rage and the Pride” and “The Force of Reason,” have been translated into idiosyncratic English by Fallaci herself. (She has had difficult relationships with translators in the past.) A third, “The Apocalypse,” was recently published in Europe, in a volume that also includes a lengthy self-interview. She writes that Muslim immigration is turning Europe into “a colony of Islam,” an abject place that she calls “Eurabia,” which will soon “end up with minarets in place of the bell-towers, with the burka in place of the mini-skirt.” Fallaci argues that Islam has always had designs on Europe, invoking the siege of Constantinople in the seventh century, and the brutal incursions of the Ottoman Empire in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. She contends that contemporary immigration from Muslim countries to Europe amounts to the same thing—invasion—only this time with “children and boats” instead of “troops and cannons.” And, as Fallaci sees it, the “art of invading and conquering and subjugating” is “the only art at which the sons of Allah have always excelled.” Italy, unlike America, has never been a melting pot, or a “mosaic of diversities glued together by a citizenship. Because our cultural identity has been well defined for thousands of years we cannot bear a migratory wave of people who have nothing to do with us . . . who, on the contrary, aim to absorb us.” Muslim immigrants—with their burkas, their chadors, their separate schools—have no desire to assimilate, she believes. And European leaders, in their muddleheaded multiculturalism, have made absurd accommodations to them: allowing Muslim women to be photographed for identity documents with their heads covered; looking the other way when Muslim men violate the law by taking multiple wives or defend the abuse of women on supposedly Islamic grounds. (European governments are, in fact, hardening on these matters: France recently deported a Muslim cleric in Lyons who advocated wife-beating and the stoning of adulterous women.)

According to Fallaci, Europeans, particularly those on the political left, subject people who criticize Muslim customs to a double standard. “If you speak your mind on the Vatican, on the Catholic Church, on the Pope, on the Virgin Mary or Jesus or the saints, nobody touches your ‘right of thought and expression.’ But if you do the same with Islam, the Koran, the Prophet Muhammad, some son of Allah, you are called a xenophobic blasphemer who has committed an act of racial discrimination. If you kick the ass of a Chinese or an Eskimo or a Norwegian who has hissed at you an obscenity, nothing happens. On the contrary, you get a ‘Well done, good for you.’ But if under the same circumstances you kick the ass of an Algerian or a Moroccan or a Nigerian or a Sudanese, you get lynched.” The rhetoric of Fallaci’s trilogy is intentionally intemperate and frequently offensive: in the first volume, she writes that Muslims “breed like rats”; in the second, she writes that this statement was “a little brutal” but “indisputably accurate.” She ascribes behavior to bloodlines—Spain, she writes, has been overly acquiescent to Muslim immigrants because “too many Spaniards still have the Koran in the blood”—and her political views are often expressed in the language of disgust. Images of soiling recur in the books: at one point in “The Rage and the Pride” she complains about Somali Muslims leaving “yellow streaks of urine that profaned the millenary marbles of the Baptistery” in Florence. “Good Heavens!” she writes. “They really take long shots, these sons of Allah! How could they succeed in hitting so well that target protected by a balcony and more than two yards distant from their urinary apparatus?” Six pages later, she describes urine streaks in the Piazza San Marco, in Venice, and wonders if Muslim men will one day “shit in the Sistine Chapel.”

These books have brought Fallaci, who will turn seventy-seven later this month, and who has had cancer for more than a decade, to a strange place in her life. Much of the Italian intelligentsia now shuns her. (The German press has been highly critical, too.) A 2003 article in the left-wing newspaper La Repubblicacalled her “ignorantissima,” an “exhibitionist posing as the Joan of Arc of the West.” A fashionable gallery in Milan recently showed a large portrait of her—beheaded. After the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera published the long article that became “The Rage and the Pride,” La Repubblica ran a reply from Umberto Eco, which did not mention Fallaci by name but denounced cultural chauvinism and called for tolerance. “We are a pluralistic society because we permit mosques to be built in our own home, and we cannot give this up just because in Kabul they put evangelical Christians in jail,” he wrote. “If we did, we would become Taliban ourselves.”

Fallaci has repeatedly fallen afoul of some of Europe’s strict laws against vilifying religions or inciting racial hatred. (In Europe, the prevailing impulse toward certain kinds of outré opinions is to ban their expression.) In 2002, a French group, Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Between Peoples, tried unsuccessfully to get “The Rage and the Pride” banned. The following year, Swiss officials, under pressure from Muslim groups in that country, asked that she be extradited for trial; the Italian Minister of Justice refused the request. And she currently faces trial in Italy, on charges that amount to blasphemy, of all things. Last year, Adel Smith, a convert to Islam who heads a group called the Muslim Union of Italy, and who had previously sued the government to have a crucifix removed from his sons’ classroom, persuaded a judge in Bergamo to allow him to charge Fallaci with defaming Islam. A Mussolini-era criminal code holds that “whoever offends the state’s religion, by defaming those who profess it, will be punished with up to two years of imprisonment.” Though the code was written to protect the Catholic Church, it has been successively amended in the past ten years, so that it encompasses any “religion acknowledged by the state.” The complaint against Fallaci marks the first time that the code has been invoked on behalf of any religion but Catholicism. (In January, Fallaci’s supporters in the Italian Senate pushed through an amendment to the code, reducing the maximum penalty to five thousand euros.)

Yet Fallaci’s recent books, and the specious trial that she is facing as a result—her books may offend, but it is no less offensive to prosecute her for them—have also made her a beloved figure to many Europeans. The books have been best-sellers in Italy; together they have sold four million copies. To her admirers, she is an aging Cassandra, summoning her strength for one final prophecy. In September, she had a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo, his summer residence outside Rome. She had criticized John Paul II for making overtures to Muslims, and for not condemning terrorism heartily enough, but she has hopes for Joseph Ratzinger. (The meeting was something of a scandal in Italy, since Fallaci has always said that she is an atheist; more recently, she has called herself a “Christian atheist,” out of respect for Italy’s Catholic tradition.) Last December, the Italian government presented her with a gold medal for “cultural achievement.”

Image result for oriana fallaci

Fallaci’s arguments appeal to many Europeans on a visceral level. The murder of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, the “honor killings” of young women in England and Sweden, and the controversy in France over whether girls may wear head scarves to school have underscored the enormous clash in values between secular Europeans and fundamentalist Muslim immigrants. In Holland, immigration officials have begun showing potential immigrants films and brochures that detail certain “European” values, including equality of the sexes and tolerance of homosexuality. The implicit suggestion is that in order to live in Europe you must accept these ideas. Such clumsy efforts betray the frustration and confusion that many Europeans have felt since the riots that broke out in the suburbs of Paris last fall—perhaps the most spectacular sign that the assimilation of Western Europe’s fifteen million Muslims has stalled in many places, and never started in others.

Some European intellectuals have given Fallaci credit for offering an enraged, articulate voice to people who are genuinely bewildered and dismayed by the challenges of assimilating Islamic immigrants. In 2002, writing in the Italian weekly Panorama, Lucia Annunziata, a former foreign correspondent and columnist, and Carlo Rossella, then the magazine’s editor, argued that “The Rage and the Pride” had “redefined Italy’s conception of the current conflict between the Western world and the Islamic world. . . . Oriana Fallaci has confronted the issue with ironclad simplicity: We are different, she has said. And, at this point, we are incompatible.” The French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, writing in Le Point, said that Fallaci “went too far,” reducing all “Sons of Allah to their worst elements,” yet he commended her for taking “the discourse and the actions of our adversaries” at their word and—in the wake of September 11th, the execution of Daniel Pearl, the destruction of Buddhas in Afghanistan, and other atrocities committed in the name of Islam—not being intimidated by the “penitential narcissism that makes the West guilty of even that which victimizes it.”

Last year, a support committee for Fallaci collected some letters that it had received from people across Italy and presented them as a testimonial to her. A Florentine couple wrote, “Brava, Oriana. You had the courage and the pride to speak in the name of most Italians (who are perhaps too silent) who still have not sold out the social, moral, and religious values that belong to us. . . . If [immigrants] do not share our ideas, then why do they come to Italy? Why should we endure arrogance and interference by those who have no desire to integrate into our system and who are darkened by anti-Western hatred? We welcome them as guests, but immediately they act like the owners.” Another fan wrote, “In this tragic and historic moment, only one voice has been raised high to speak for the conscience of most Westerners. . . . That is why we are impotently witnessing the breakdown and decline of a civilization whose values are now ridiculed by those who are in charge of protecting them. . . . Thank you, Oriana.”

Fallaci owns an apartment in Florence and has an estate in the Tuscan countryside. But she spends most of the year in New York, where she leads a fairly solitary life and, necessarily, spends a lot of time visiting doctors. In November, when she delivered an acceptance speech for an award given by the conservative Center for the Study of Popular Culture, it was a rare public appearance.

“Darling,” she growled over the phone the first time we spoke, “as you well know, I never give interviews.” Strictly speaking, this isn’t true. Over the years, she’s given many of them, sometimes with embarrassing results—in Scheer’s 1981Playboy interview, she complained about homosexuals who “swagger and strut and wag their tails” and “fat” women reporters who didn’t like her. When I visited her on a rainy Saturday afternoon in April, and again the next day, I found her voluble and dramatic, capable of leaping to her feet to illustrate a point, and shouting when she felt the point warranted it—which was often. She smoked little brown Nat Sherman cigarettes; smoking, she believes, “disinfects” her.

Fallaci’s New York residence is a handsome nineteenth-century brownstone, painted white, with a walled garden in the back. She had longed for such a house since childhood; as a young girl in Italy during the Second World War, she’d found a Collier’s magazine in a care package dropped by U.S. military pilots, and fallen in love with a photo essay about American houses. “It’s funny to say that, with the marvellous architecture we have in Italy, I desired a house like this,” she said. “I grew up with this obsession of a white house with a black door.” Inside, the second-floor rooms, where we talked, had a scholarly, slightly worn elegance. The bookshelves held translations of Fallaci’s books and leather-bound early editions of Dickens, Voltaire, and Shakespeare. There were eighteenth- and nineteenth-century oil paintings on the walls; an old-fashioned cream-colored dial phone sat on a small table with a stained-glass lamp. It was the sort of setting where you could imagine retired professors sipping port and sparring genially over Greek participles. It was not the sort of setting where you expected to find a woman of Fallaci’s age yelling “Mamma mia! ” and threatening to break various people’s heads and blow things up.

We sat down next to a table piled with newspaper clippings from Italy, which chronicled Fallaci’s anti-Islamic crusade: articles by her and articles about her, often on the front page. The Italian press is, as she puts it, “ob-sess-ed” with her. One article, “Reading Oriana in Tehran,” which had run in La Stampa, claimed that Fallaci was a legend among independent-minded women in Iran. “That’s damn good!” she said. Fallaci’s earlier books are widely available in Iran, but the trilogy has been banned. “You know what these women did?” she said. “They got copies in English and in French, and they photocopied them, chapter by chapter, and distributed them to others. They can go to jail for that.” The reporter for La Stampa had mainly found women who admired Fallaci for her earlier work: two female university students noted that Fallaci had been equally tough on the Shah and on Khomeini, and that she’d shown up to get her Iranian visa wearing nail polish and jeans.

On the day I visited, Fallaci was dressed like a refined European lady: tweed skirt, leaf-green sweater, handsome antique jewelry, suède pumps. She wore her hair tied neatly at the nape of her neck rather than long and loose, as she used to, but she still looked beautiful—she has a perfect oval face and robust cheekbones. She put on a pair of jewel-rimmed reading glasses as she brandished another clipping, and said with satisfaction, “Ah, this is the scandal!” The conservative newspaper Libero had campaigned, unsuccessfully, for Fallaci to be made a Senator for Life, an honor conferred by the Italian President. According to the paper, the outgoing President, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, had considered giving Fallaci the title, but lost his nerve. “To me, in a sense, it was a relief,” Fallaci said. “I didn’t want to be Senator for Life, and stay in Rome. I would not know where to sit.” She hopped up to demonstrate, pointing to the left and the right sides of an imaginary aisle—she belonged to no political side. Nevertheless, with evident delight, she noted that Ciampi’s “wife was infuriated at him” for the decision. “For some time, she didn’t speak to him. Three days after Christmas, she managed to have me receive a bouquet of white flowers. That was cute.”

I visited Fallaci on the day before the Italian election, in which Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was defeated by the center-left candidate, Romano Prodi. Fallaci told me that she had not sent in an absentee ballot. She loved referenda: “Do you want the hunter to go hunting under your window? No! Do you want the Koran in your schools? No!” “No” was something Fallaci was happy to say. But Berlusconi and Prodi were “two fucking idiots,” she said. “Why do the people humiliate themselves by voting? I didn’t vote. No! Because I have dignity. . . . If, at a certain moment, I had closed my nose and voted for one of them, I would spit on my own face.”

Many of the clippings on Fallaci’s table focussed on Adel Smith’s lawsuit against her. She said that she would not attend the trial, which is scheduled for later this month. Although she is no longer at risk of incarceration, she invoked the possibility. “Because, you know, I am a danger to myself if I get angry,” she said. “If they were thinking to give me three years in jail, I will say or do something for which they give me nine years! I am capable of everything if I get angry.”

I'd always thought of Fallaci as an icon of the nineteen-sixties—one of those women who had lived an emancipated life without ever calling herself a feminist, an insouciant heroine out of “The Golden Notebook” or “Bonjour Tristesse.” She denigrated marriage, got thrown out of nice restaurants for wearing slacks, and hung out with Anna Magnani and Ingrid Bergman. Her autobiographical novel “Letter to a Child Never Born” (1975) was a free woman’s despairing confession of ambivalence about bearing a child. “A Man” (1979) was a fictional tribute to her great love, the Greek resistance fighter Alexandros Panagoulis, who died in a suspicious automobile accident in Athens three years after they met. Panagoulis had been imprisoned, and endured torture, for his failed attempt on the life of the Greek junta leader George Papadopoulos, in 1968. “I didn’t want to kill a man,” he told Fallaci in an interview. “I’m not capable of killing a man. I wanted to kill a tyrant.” As a political prisoner, Panagoulis was defiant toward his captors and wrote poetry in his own blood; Fallaci considered him a model of what it is to be a man. I thought of her as a product of that heady time when big and bloody political matters were still at stake in Europe (dictators ruled Spain, Portugal, and Greece), but small, sophisticated cultural rebellions (movies, hair styles, poetic manifestos) made life chic and interesting. There’s some truth to this image, but Fallaci’s sensibility is a product less of the sixties than of the forties, and the struggle against Fascism in the Second World War.

Fallaci was born in Florence in 1929, to a family with a long history of rebellion. Her mother, Tosca, she said, was the orphaned daughter of an anarchist—“and I tell you those were people with balls! With balls! And they were the first ones to be executed.” On both sides of her family, she said, she had relatives who fought for the Risorgimento—“people who were always in jail.” Fallaci was an avid reader as a child (her parents lived modestly but splurged on books), and a favorite author was Jack London. His tales of brave acts in the face of savage nature inspired her to become a writer. She describes her father, Edoardo—a craftsman who became a leader in the anti-Fascist movement in Tuscany, and who served time in prison for it—as a sweet man. “Heroes can be sweet,” she said, adding that Panagoulis had been that way, too. But both of Fallaci’s parents prized courage and toughness in their three daughters. In “The Rage and the Pride,” she tells a story about the Allied bombardment of Florence on September 25, 1943. She and her family took refuge in a church as the bombs began to fall. The walls were shaking—the priest cried out, “Help us, Jesus!”—and Oriana, who was the eldest, at fourteen, began to cry. “In a silent, composed way, mind you,” she writes. “No moans, no hiccups. But Father noticed it all the same, and, in order to help me, to calm me down, poor Father, he did the wrong thing. He gave me a powerful slap—he stared me in the eyes and said, ‘A girl does not, must not, cry.’ “ Fallaci says that she’s never cried since—not even when Panagoulis died.

As a teen-ager, Fallaci did clandestine work for the anti-Fascist underground—she had her own nom de guerre, Emilia, and she carried explosives and delivered messages. After Italy surrendered, in September, 1943, and American and British prisoners began escaping from prison camps, one of her tasks was to accompany them “past the lines” and to safe refuge. Fallaci was chosen because she wore her hair in pigtails and looked deceptively innocent. “It was so scary, because there were minefields, and you never knew where the mines were,” she recalled. “When my mother read that in a book later, she said, to my father, ‘You would have sacrificed newly born children! You and your ideas.’ And then she said, ‘Well, but I had a feeling you were doing something like that.’ “

Fallaci’s parents looked upon the Americans as their particular friends, and when she was in high school they insisted that she learn English when her classmates were studying French. It was the beginning of a lifelong affinity for America, even when, as during the Vietnam War, she was sharply critical of its policies. “In my old age, I have been thinking about this, and I have reached the conclusion that those who have physical courage also have moral courage,” she said. “Physical courage is a great test.” She added, “I know I have courage. But I’m not alone. My sister Neera was like me. And my second sister, Paola, too. It came from the education my parents gave us.”

She proudly told a story about her mother, which, like other recollections, sounded as if it might have been polished over time. “When my father was arrested, we didn’t know where they had him, so she went everywhere for two days and finally she found him, at the house of torture. It was called Villa Triste. They killed people there. And the Fascist major was named Mario Carità—Major Charity. Mother—I don’t know how she did it—she went to the office of Major Charity, passing a room that was full of blood on the floor, the blood of three men who had been arrested and tied together, and one of them was my father. Carità says, ‘Madam. I have no time to lose. Your husband will be executed tomorrow morning at six. You can dress in black.’ My mother got up—and I always imagine the scene this way, as if she were the Statue of Liberty—and my mother said, ‘Mario Carità, tomorrow morning I shall dress in black, like you said. But if you are born from the womb of a woman, ask your mother to do the same, because your day will come very soon.’ You could think for a year before you came up with something like that—to her, it came.” Her mother was pregnant at the time, Fallaci went on. “She mounted on her bicycle, and all at once she had pains so terrible. She entered into a beautiful building and, in the atrium, she lost the child. She put it in, I don’t know, a handkerchief or something. She mounted the bicycle again. She rode home. I opened the door, and there was mother, as pale as snow. And before she entered she said, ‘Father will be executed tomorrow morning at six, and Elena’—that was the name she had given the baby—‘is dead.’ No tears.” In the end, Edoardo Fallaci was spared, though he spent additional time in jail. Fallaci’s sister Neera became a writer, and died of cancer; Paola is a perfectionist gardener—imagine a cross between Martha Stewart and Oriana—who raises prize-quality chickens on Fallaci’s property in rural Tuscany.

Fallaci sees the threat of Islamic fundamentalism as a revival of the Fascism that she and her sisters grew up fighting. She told me, “I am convinced that the situation is politically substantially the same as in 1938, with the pact in Munich, when England and France did not understand a thing. With the Muslims, we have done the same thing.” She elaborated, in an e-mail, “Look at the Muslims: in Europe they go on with their chadors and their burkas and their djellabahs. They go on with the habits preached by the Koran, they go on with mistreating their wives and daughters. They refuse our culture, in short, and try to impose their culture, or so-called culture, on us. . . . I reject them, and this is not only my duty toward my culture. Toward my values, my principles, my civilization. It is not only my duty toward my Christian roots. It is my duty toward freedom and toward the freedom fighter I am since I was a little girl fighting as a partisan against Nazi-Fascism. Islamism is the new Nazi-Fascism. With Nazi-Fascism, no compromise is possible. No hypocritical tolerance. And those who do not understand this simple reality are feeding the suicide of the West.”

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Fallaci refuses to recognize the limitations of this metaphor—say, the fact that Muslim immigration is not the same as an annexation by another state. And although European countries should indeed refuse to countenance certain cultural practices—polygamy, “honor killings,” and anti-Semitic teachings, for example—Fallaci tends to portray the worst practices of Islamic fundamentalists as representative of all Muslims. Certainly, European countries have made some foolish compromises in the name of placating Muslim residents. In Germany, where courts have ordered that Muslim religious instruction be offered in schools, just as Christian instruction is, critics have complained that the Islamic teaching often perpetuates a conservative version of Islam. The result, the historian Bernard Lewis argued, in a recent talk in Washington, is that “Islam as taught in Turkish schools is a sort of modernized, semi-secularized version of Islam, and Islam as taught in German schools is the full Wahhabi blast.” (This is a good reminder of why the American model of keeping religious instruction out of public schools facilitates assimilation.) Many of Fallaci’s objections, however, have more to do with her aesthetic sensibilities. For her, hearing Muslim prayers in Tuscany—she does her own wailing imitation—is a form of oppression. Yet such examples do not rise to the level of argument that she wants to make, which is that the native culture of Italy will collapse if Muslims keep immigrating.

“They live at our expense, because they’ve got schools, hospitals, everything,” she said at one point, beginning to shout. “And they want to build damn mosques everywhere.” She spoke of a new mosque and Islamic center planned for Colle di Val d’Elsa, near Siena. She vowed that it would not remain standing. “If I’m alive, I will go to my friends in Carrara—you know, where there is the marble. They are all anarchists. With them, I take the explosives. I make you juuump in the air. I blow it up! With the anarchists of Carrara. I do not want to see this mosque—it’s very near my house in Tuscany. I do not want to see a twenty-four-metre minaret in the landscape of Giotto. When I cannot even wear a cross or carry a Bible in their country! So I BLOW IT UP! ”

The magnificently rebellious Oriana Fallaci now cultivates, it seems, the prejudices of the petite bourgeoisie. She is opposed to abortion, unless she “were raped and made pregnant by a bin Laden or a Zarqawi.” She is fiercely opposed to gay marriage (“In the same way that the Muslims would like us all to become Muslims, they would like us all to become homosexuals”), and suspicious of immigration in general. The demonstrations by immigrants in the United States these past few months “disgust” her, especially when protesters displayed the Mexican flag. “I don’t love the Mexicans,” Fallaci said, invoking her nasty treatment at the hands of Mexican police in 1968. “If you hold a gun and say, ‘Choose who is worse between the Muslims and the Mexicans,’ I have a moment of hesitation. Then I choose the Muslims, because they have broken my balls.”

In “The Rage and the Pride,” Fallaci portrays the attacks of September 11th as a thunderclap that woke her from a quiet, novel-writing existence and transformed her, almost unwillingly, into an anti-Islamic rebel. But Fallaci’s distaste for Islam goes way back. Reasonable worries about the rise of Muslim fundamentalism were combined with a visceral revulsion and the need for a new enemy, in the post-Fascist, post-Communist world. Her interviews with Yasir Arafat (whom she loathed), Qaddafi (whom she also loathed), and even Muhammad Ali (whom she walked out on, she says, after he belched in her face) all fuelled her antipathy toward the Muslim world. So did her experiences in Beirut during its disintegration, in the nineteen-eighties—the basis for her 1990 novel, “Inshallah.”

I started wondering if Fallaci would tolerate any Muslim immigration, or any mosque in Europe, so I asked her these questions by e-mail, and she sent back lengthy replies. “The tolerance level was already surpassed fifteen or twenty years ago,” she wrote, “when the Left let the Muslims disembark on our coasts by the thousands. And it is well known . . . that I do not accept the mendacity of the so-called Moderate Islam. I do not believe that a Good Islam and a Bad Islam exist. Only Islam exists. And Islam is the Koran. And the Koran says what it says. Whatever its version. Of course there are exceptions. Also, considering the mathematical calculation of probabilities, some good Muslims must exist. I mean Muslims who appreciate freedom and democracy and secularism. But, as I say in the ‘Apocalypse,’ . . . good Muslims are few. So tragically few, in fact, that they must go around with bodyguards.” (Here she mentioned Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born former member of the Dutch parliament, whom Holland, shamefully, declared last month that it would strip of her citizenship, citing an irregularity in her 1997 asylum application.) She wrote that she found my question about whether she would tolerate any mosques in Europe “insidious” and “offensive,” because it “aims to portray me as the bloodthirsty fanatics, who during the French Revolution beheaded even the statues of the Holy Virgin and of Jesus Christ and the Saints. Or as the equally bloodthirsty fanatics of the Bolshevik Revolution, who burned the icons and executed the clergymen and used the churches as warehouses. Really, no honest person can suggest that my ideas belong to that kind of people. I am known for a life spent in the struggle for freedom, and freedom includes the freedom of religion. But the struggle for freedom does not include the submission to a religion which, like the Muslim religion, wants to annihilate other religions. Which wants to impose its ‘Mein Kampf,’ its Koran, on the whole planet. Which has done so for one thousand and four hundred years. That is, since its birth. Which, unlike any other religion, slaughters and decapitates or enslaves all those who live differently.”

My second meeting with Fallaci was a less inflammatory encounter. She is an excellent cook, and she made us lunch—cotechino sausage, polenta, mashed potatoes, and delicious little tarts with pine nuts and dried fruit—and served champagne. I’d never seen anyone approach certain kitchen tasks with such ferocity. “I must CRUSH the potatoes,” she declared. At one point, we spoke about populist leaders in Latin America, and the political left’s romance with them over the years; I mentioned Hugo Chávez, the President of Venezuela. “Mamma mia! Mamma mia! ” Fallaci shouted from the kitchen. “Listen,” she said more calmly. “You cannot govern, you cannot administrate, with an ignoramus.” When I left, she insisted on giving me a bag of chestnut flour and dictating a recipe for a dessert that she says children love. “If you make a mistake, you spoil everything,” she instructed, adding, “Get the good olive oil—not the kind they do in New Jersey.”

Fallaci was wearing a sweater and a skirt again that day. Late in life, she realized that skirts are more comfortable than the pants she had favored as a young woman. Besides, she wore pants when other women didn’t because she was “a person who had always gone against the current,” certainly since she started her writing career, at age sixteen, as a beat reporter for a Florentine newspaper. Now that everybody wore pants, what was the point? She had some evening dresses upstairs, relics from a brief period in her early thirties when she’d been a little less serious. But now they felt to her “like monuments”; where would she wear them? We talked about the historical novel that she had set aside after September 11th, when “this Islam business kidnapped me,” her regrets that she’s never had children, and her long illness. One of her doctors, she said, had asked her recently, “Why are you still alive?” Fallaci responded, “Dottore, don’t do that to me. Someday I break your head.” She added, “Another day, I smiled and said, ‘You tell me—you are the doctor.’ See, I got offended. ‘I don’t want to come here to hear about my death. Your duty is to speak to me about life, to keep me alive.’ “

She surprised me with a charming story about being a young writer in New York in the nineteen-sixties. At the time, she recalled, she’d had a chance to interview Greta Garbo—a mutual friend wanted to set it up. But Fallaci admired Garbo’s fierce and elegant privacy, and didn’t want to pursue the matter. And then one winter evening Fallaci was shopping at the Dover Delicatessen, on Fifty-seventh Street, and Garbo happened to be there: “You couldn’t notrecognize her. She was Greta Garbo. She was dressed like Greta Garbo—with the hair, the glasses. And she was choosing chicken with extreme care. She would look at a leg and toss it back, then the breast, and so on. And I felt ashamed of myself that I was observing her. I went in the other aisle, and I remember I got a lot of things, because I wanted her to go out and not go by me.” It was a rainy night and Fallaci had no umbrella. She recalled that Garbo, on her way out the door, stopped and held it open. “She said, ‘Here, Miss Fallaci.’ I looked like a poor, pitiful bird.” They walked together, under Garbo’s umbrella, to the corner of Third Avenue, and Fallaci—in a rare moment of restraint—barely said a word.

After I had interviewed Fallaci, I discovered two great examples of her journalism that I had not read before. In a witty 1963 article about Federico Fellini, Fallaci describes with wary, nervy thoroughness the many times and places that the great director kept her waiting. When she finally corners him, she begins by saying, “So then let us brace ourselves, Signor Fellini, and let us discuss Federico Fellini, just for a change. I know you find it hard: you are so withdrawing, so secretive, so modest. But it is our duty to discuss him, for the sake of the nation.” She goes on in this vein until Fellini cuts her off, saying, “Nasty liar. Rude little bitch.” In her introduction to the interview, she writes, “I used to be truly fond of Federico Fellini. Since our tragic encounter, I’m a lot less fond. To be exact, I’m no longer fond of him. That is, I don’t like him at all. Glory is a heavy burden, a murdering poison, and to bear it is an art. And to have that art is rare.” Equally absorbing, in a different way, was the section of her 1969 book, “Nothing, and So Be It,” in which she describes the events of October, 1968, in Mexico City, when soldiers shot and bayonetted hundreds of anti-government protesters. Fallaci was detained with a group of students, and was ultimately shot three times. “In war, you’ve really got a chance sometimes, but here we had none,” she writes. “The wall they’d put us up against was a place of execution; if you moved the police would execute you, if you didn’t move the soldiers would kill you, and for many nights afterward I was to have this nightmare, the nightmare of a scorpion surrounded by fire, unable even to try to jump through the fire because if it did so it would be pierced through.” Dragged down the stairs by her hair and left for dead, Fallaci was ultimately taken to a hospital, where she underwent surgery to remove the bullets. One of the doctors who cared for her came close and murmured, “Write all you’ve seen. Write it!” She did, becoming a crucial witness to a massacre that the Mexican government denied for years.

These pieces showed Fallaci in her prime. In her e-mail, however, she told me that she didn’t really remember the interview with Fellini—only that she didn’t like him. And her memories of Mexico City in 1968 had largely devolved into a dislike of Mexicans. Fallaci’s virtues are the virtues that shine most brightly in stark circumstances: the ferocious courage, and the willingness to say anything, that can amount to a life force. But Fallaci never convinced me that Europe’s encounter with immigration is that sort of circumstance.

Not that it would matter to her. “You’ve got to get old, because you have nothing to lose,” she said over lunch that afternoon. “You have this respectability that is given to you, more or less. But you don’t give a damn. It is the ne plus ultra of freedom. And things that I didn’t used to say before—you know, there is in each of us a form of timidity, of cautiousness—now I open my big mouth. I say, ‘What are you going to do to me? You go fuck yourself—I say what I want.’ “