Friday, July 15, 2005

David Sancious Talks About BTR 30th Anniversary Set

Sancious discusses Born To Run 30th Anniversary Release

Early E Street keyboardist David Sancious spoke with Jay Lustig in today's Star-Ledger, in advance of tomorrow night's show at the Two River Theatre in Red Bank. Along the way, he mentioned his participation in an upcoming 30th Anniversary reissue of Born to Run -- a project that has been in the works more many a month and rumored aplenty, though there has yet to be an official announcement.

Sancious says, "A couple of months ago, I did an interview for a documentary that Bruce's company is making about the 30th anniversary of Born to Run. They got everybody down to New York City in a studio and filmed interviews with everybody who played on [the album], getting people to remember the sessions and tell stories about what went on."

While it's too early for set-in-stone details, the reissue is planned as a lavishly packaged multi-disc affair, including the remastered BTR CD along with bonus material including a long-awaited official DVD of performance footage from the era and the making-of documentary Sancious mentions. Look for a release date in late summer or fall, and we'll have more details right here as it approaches.- July 15, 2005

Bill DeYoung: Emmylou Too Vital For Branson

Friday, July 15, 2005

Guy Clark and Emmylou Harris at the 2005 Americana Awards

Harris performs with Elvis Costello & the Imposters at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Central Park SummerStage, Manhattan. Enter at 69th Street and Fifth Avenue. Tickets ($57.50 in advance, $60 day of show) available through Ticketmaster.

Thirty years after her debut album, "Pieces of the Sky," helped redefine the relationship between country, folk and rock-and-roll, vocalist Emmylou Harris is still breaking new ground.

Her summer projects include an album of duets with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler, songwriting sessions with Canadian folk artists Kate and Anna McGarrigle and a co-headlining tour with British rocker Elvis Costello - on which they'll harmonize on classic country tunes between solo sets.

She and John Prine sing together on the upcoming release by Rodney Crowell, Harris' longtime friend and collaborator.

"There are all these really interesting, exciting and inspiring projects. It's not just going and playing Branson - it's like really great stuff. If you had one of those in your career, it'd be pretty great."

Harris pauses and rephrases herself, eager to avoid insulting the folks in Branson, the Missouri town that battles the stereotype of being a country music retirement home.

"I use Branson as a metaphor for 'OK, your creative days are over. So let's just make it easy on ourselves,' she explains carefully.

"It's like retiring and going to Florida to just play golf. I love baseball, and I could be very happy just watching baseball for the rest of my life, so I understand that kind of passion. But I think you have to keep yourself involved, enthusiastic and excited about things. And I think it would be hard to stay excited about music in Branson, because I've played there. And for the audience, you were just one more ride in the amusement park between all-you-can-eat buffets."

Bob Klapisch: Dial 'R' for Roger

Friday, July 15, 2005

BOSTON - When Brian Cashman learned Monday that Chien-Ming Wang had blown out his shoulder, his first reflex was to call Joe Torre with the devastating news. Cashman started dialing his manager's cellphone, but then hung up when he remembered Torre was hosting a charity golf tournament in Westchester.

"I guess he was doing me a favor," is what Torre said with a rueful smile. It would be another 24 hours before Torre discovered Wang will be lost for the season, and that his Yankees are in their deepest pitching crisis in a decade.

Actually, it's a perfect storm of worst-case scenarios: With four starters on the disabled list, the Bombers can't possibly survive a brutal 11-game road trip (without any off-days), but they're too close to first place to justify handing the ball to the decomposing Tim Redding and/or Wayne Franklin.

Al Leiter will almost certainly be in pinstripes by Monday, but when asked to measure the former Met's rescue quotient, one Yankee elder just shook his head, unable to think of any false-hope response. Leiter has lost his fastball and cutter and would've never been set free by the Marlins if he had anything resembling his Shea-era stuff.

The Yankees are smart enough to know Leiter, Redding and Franklin could turn August (or even July) into a standings nightmare. In any other market, it might be the time and place to consider trading away the assets, like Tom Gordon and Gary Sheffield and replenish the naked farm system that's at the root of this emergency.

But George Steinbrenner needs to keep the Stadium's turnstiles in a steady blur. He'll draw close to 4 million fans this year, most of whom believe the Yankees are good enough to catch the Red Sox. Indeed, for all their early-season mediocrity, the Yankees arrived at Fenway on Thursday night just 2½ games out, and had hit 17 home runs in their past six games.

The Boss can't possibly call off the hunt just because there's no one left to pitch. Cashman is under orders to call anyone and everyone. "There's no name that's out of the question," is what the general manager said.
Including Roger Clemens'?
Cashman stared straight ahead, letting his silence act as an answer. The Yankees are convinced the Astros would never deal the Rocket, not now, not when they're back in the wild-card race. And with Clemens' teenage son Koby now officially a member of the organization, drafted and signed and on his way to rookie ball as an infielder, there's no way the Rocket would ever leave Houston.

Or would he? During the All-Star break, the right-hander put owner Drayton McLane on notice to find a replacement for Carlos Beltran before July 31. Clemens stopped short of directly threatening Astros management, but he's not exactly giving McLane unconditional love, either.
After all, Clemens has the lowest ERA of any pitcher this late in the season since Bob Gibson's 1.12 in 1968, yet the Astros still have a losing record in games he starts. Not only have the Astros not hit, they've diminished Clemens' Hall of Fame career.

That's the window of vulnerability the Yankees can exploit. They have to call the Astros today and be prepared to deal Robinson Cano and Eric Duncan and then start writing checks to McLane. And even then, the Yankees would need a complete and unconditional collapse by the Astros - nothing short of 10 straight losses that would make it virtually impossible for Clemens to get to the postseason.

At that point, the Bombers would still be facing the mother of long shots. Still, why not at least inquire? "Because they'd want a king's ransom, that's why" is what one major league scout said.

Of course they would. No one is in the business of helping the Yankees crawl out of the cesspool. There are general managers who are loving Cashman's predicament today - loving it. But the Yankees have to react intellectually, not with any macho defiance.

They shouldn't consider Cano an untouchable, even though they've spent the last two months building him up as a latter-day Rod Carew. He's a good, young player, athletic with a smattering of power, but he's no future superstar. It's possible the Yankees are seeing all they're ever going to get from Cano.

Trade him? Why not, if it means landing a front-line pitcher who can keep alive the possibility of getting the Yankees to the postseason. That savior obviously isn't Randy Johnson, who'll be under enormous pressure on Saturday, his start sandwiched between Redding's tonight and whatever desperation-move the Yankees make on Sunday.

Johnson is no longer the pitcher who threatens to throw a no-hitter every time he takes the ball. Mike Mussina has lost his aura of invincibility, too. With a chance to calm the Yankees' nerves on Thursday, Mussina allowed the Red Sox four runs before he even got two outs. So much for easing the crisis.

What the Yankees need is an arm - and a leader. They know where to find Clemens. They can start by picking up the phone. And this time, they shouldn't wait 24 hours.


Stephen Schwartz- London: The Pakistani Connection

Those paying attention to Britain's Jamaati culture shouldn't be surprised by London's home-grown terrorists.
07/13/2005 3:45:00 PM
The Weekly Standard

In the first dew days after the horror in London on July 7, media in Britain and abroad focused considerable attention on "Londonistan"--the local zoo of Islamist agitators, almost entirely Arab, who have made headlines for years with their extremist preaching. Analytical lines, many of them useful, were drawn to al Qaeda and Iraq, but almost nobody looked at domestic Muslim extremism in the United Kingdom.

Close observers of the British Islamic community, however, few of whom seem to have been consulted by reporters or the government, had been discussing for months a dramatic increase in radical agitation by Pakistani Muslim immigrants in Britain, as well as among their children.
According to the authoritative Muslim Council of Britain, the British Islamic population, totaling 1.5 million, has a plurality of 610,000 Pakistanis, with an additional 360,000 from Bangladesh and India, and 350,000 Arab and African. Unfortunately, Pakistan is the world's second most significant front-line state (after Iraq) in the global war on terror. Pakistan produced the Jama'at-i-Islami (Community of Islam) movement, founded by Abu'l Ala Mawdudi, a theologian who died in 1979, strangely enough, in Buffalo, New York, at age 76. Known as Jamaatis, the followers of Mawdudi have attained exceptional influence in the Pakistani army and intelligence services, and were a key element in the Pakistani-Saudi alliance to support the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

Western academics and journalists are often at pains to distinguish between the Jamaatis and Wahhabism, which is the state religion in Saudi Arabia. But differences in theological details,
although they do exist, are secondary; mainly, the Saudi Wahhabis hold to a deceptive alliance with the Western powers, while the Jamaatis were always frontally anti-Western. The Jamaatis study in Saudi Arabia and share with the Wahhabis a murderous hatred of Muslims who do not conform to their ideology, considering those who reject their teachings to be apostates from Islam. They regularly massacre Shia Muslims, in particular, in Pakistani cities. They also completely reject participation by Muslim immigrants in the political and social institutions of Western countries in which they live, and they consider suicide terror legitimate. Pakistan has very few energy resources, and the Saudis have used cheap oil to support Wahhabi infiltration. In the system of radical Islam, if Saudi Arabia may be compared with the former Soviet state, Pakistan could be a parallel to the former East Germany.

For these reasons, the identification of four British-born Muslims of Pakistani origin as the perpetrators of the London atrocity comes as no surprise to those who have been paying attention to these matters. The seething, ferocious rhetoric heard in Pakistani Sunni mosques, at Friday services every week in outlying cities such as Leeds, is far more insidious, as the London events may show, than the antics engaged in by Arab loudmouths like the Syrian Omar Bakri Muhammad, the hook-handed Egyptian Abu Hamza al-Masri, or the bogus Saudi dissident Saad al-Faqih, all of who mainly perform for non-Muslim media attention. Social marginalization and underemployment of second generation ethnic Pakistani youth in Britain may be cited as a cause for the extremist appeal among them; but the constant drumming of the Jamaati message from the pulpit is much more significant. It is interesting to hear first-generation Pakistani Sunnis in Britain claim shock and surprise at the presence of terrorists among them. Pakistani Islamist radicalism dominates British Islam much as the "Wahhabi Lobby" in America monopolizes the voice of the Muslim community on our shores.

Stephen Schwartz is a frequent contributor to The Weekly Standard.

Isaac Constantine: Signs of Intelligence?

What the neo-Darwinists don't understand about theories of Intelligent Design.
by Isaac Constantine
07/13/2005 12:00:00 AM

If you've been casting a sidelong glance at the world through the liberal press of late you've likely been alarmed by the latest faith-based assault on science and rationality. You might have been moved, despite your better instincts--born of the sad knowledge of hope's futility in the new Dark Age of George W. Bush's Evangelical Crusade at home and abroad--but perhaps you couldn't suppress the tepid delight at having your biases affirmed in the gallant counterassault on Darwin's religious assailants by Evolution's latter day devotees. The last defenders of Reason fight on in bold, quixotic determination, allied with the chattering presses, preaching to the choir in the name of their ancestral hero.

A recent editorial in the New York Times bemoans the legislative progress of the "dangerous" brood of creationists, barely disguised in the pseudo-scientific trappings of "intelligent design." The editors charge the movement, and anyone who questions Darwin on the basis of "supernatural explanations," with breaking the presumably unspoken code of positing forces beyond "the usual domain of science." The editor's at the Times don't seem concerned that many physicists, in light of the curious ability of subatomic particles to occupy infinite locations at once (one of those quirks in nature resistant to "natural" explanation), propose a "Many Worlds hypothesis" where people live infinite lives in infinite parallel universes--each hidden from each other--to account for every possible quantum outcome.

Maybe ideas like this are "scientific" as long as they're labeled "hypotheses." Once you've called your idea a theory, only then does metaphysical speculation seem to breach the purview of physics. But another impassioned stab at the "junk science" of intelligent design in the New Yorker by H. Allen Orr, a biologist at the University of Rochester, belies any claim to scientific rigor by the liberal media or, when ideology compensates for intellectual laziness, science itself.

The purpose of this argument is not to defend the science of intelligent design. With legions of biblical activists and conservative lawmakers among self-appointed experts coming out of the woodwork to testify to the "problems with Darwin's theory," ID hardly seems to need my help. And to be fair, the counterassault on evolution's detractors has been convincing in casting reasonable doubt against ID's methods. On the evidence presented intelligent design does come off as less than sufficiently coherent or validated as a "theory"--especially if Darwin's ingenious, broadly encompassing, experimentally bolstered body of work sets the bar. Based on Orr's sometimes cogent parsing out of the so-called intelligent design theory's lapses in logic and consistency, even theists are left suspicious of the fledgling movement's present fitness for the classroom.

But while the would-be Darwins might have succeeded in dismissing ID on scientific grounds, their argument has been less convincing in a secondary aim. Much of the controversy surrounding their hero derives from an aspect of Darwinism (as currently construed) that is itself unscientific; one might even say, if not "religious," distinctly political--Darwinism's vaguely defined but apparent relationship to atheism. As a caveat to its attack on ID the press denies any such relationship. The Times op-ed invokes "many empirical scientists" who are implied to dismiss ID in spite of their faith. These theistic scientists, the editorial claims, understand that "theories about how God interacts with the world" are "beyond the scope of their discipline," and by implication are disinclined to entertain challenges to Darwin based on questions of divine agency. So the Times's preference among scientists of a religious turn of mind are those who keep God in church or the closet where He belongs. It's okay to believe in God as long as God doesn't step on Darwin's toes--as long as you've reconciled your faith with Darwin's ostensibly infallible insights.

In the New Yorker, Orr takes a similar tack. In careful language he denies the notion that Darwinism is "yoked to atheism" listing the "five founding fathers of twentieth-century evolutionary biology," three of whom were religious (a fourth dabbled in Eastern mysticism). He goes on to mention the late Pope John Paul II's oft-touted recognition of evolution as "more than a hypothesis" and then appears to give a sly wink-nod to his fellow atheists in concluding "Whatever larger conclusions one thinks should follow from Darwinism . . . evolution and religion have often coexisted."

(Of course, had Orr attempted to unpack the precise implications of John Paul's admission, he would have had to conclude one of two possibilities: the Pope was either claiming that Darwin's theory was "true" down to the last detail, which would suggest that God, or the "miraculous," has no agency at all in human development; or, on the other hand, the Pope might have been acknowledging the obvious, confirmed truths surrounding evolution's insights--man was not created in his present form all at once, the fossil record stretches back more than 10,000 years, etc.--while leaving room to disagree with radical atheistic interpretations of Darwin, or with Darwin himself on specifics. This is just one instance where Orr ignores nuance and distorts logic for polemical convenience.)

It may be the case that evolution's founding fathers had no deliberate pact with atheism, but if the two are still unrelated why does the Atheist Alliance ("the only national democratic atheist organization in the United States" according to their website) partake in the annual celebration of "Darwin Day"? Why does the National Secular Society of Great Britain feature the face of Charles Darwin as part of a series of "Hero's of Atheism" coffee mugs and why was the father of evolution voted the overwhelming favorite hero by the organizations members?

And those groups are just the riff-raff. Respected intellectuals often make the same association--people like Oxford's Richard Dawkins, for instance, the biologist and "great popularizer" of evolution whom Orr mentions. In an interview on, Dawkins explains "why the world would be better off without religion." Dawkins compares religion to a computer virus; claims never to have met a "genuinely intelligent" person who was religious; and equates baptism with child abuse. The eminent British biologist envisions a "paradise on earth . . . ruled by enlightened rationality" and free of religion. Without religion, he reasons, there would be "a much better chance of no more war." "Obviously," he continues, "nothing like 9/11 [would happen], because that's clearly motivated by religion"; in the absence of religion "there would be less hatred, because a lot of the hatred in the world is sectarian hatred." If people lived "according to rationalism," says Dawkins, "There would be less waste of time. People would concentrate on really worthwhile things, instead of wasting time on religion, astrology, crystal-gazing, fortune-telling, things like that."

Dawkins, of course, would build his atheist "paradise" on the incorruptible moral foundations of science and art, as though Stalin, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Kim Jong Il had never reigned. But that's the world according to one of Darwinism's central figures today. Is this the stuff of science and enlightened rationalism?

Orr's ideas on evolution and religion, though less caustic and vulgar than Dawkins's, are no more scientific. His New Yorker essay is evasive enough that it's hard to pin down his atheism, but in the end he can't resist weighing in on divine influence. In dismissing the ideas of William A. Dembski, a mathematician and leading theorist of intelligent design, Orr argues the following:
Organisms aren't trying to match any "independently given pattern": evolution has no goal, and the history of life isn't trying to get anywhere . . . Despite all the loose talk about design and machines, organisms aren't striving to realize some engineer's blueprint; they're striving (if they can be said to strive at all) only to have more offspring than the next fellow.

All this coming from someone who in the same essay denies that Darwinism and atheism go hand in hand--whether or not they "should." And why should they? Well, according to Orr, evolutionary biology provides evidence that life evolved on its own with no purpose but survival. Specifically he points to the fact that species of fish and crustaceans found in dark caves often have degenerate eyes, or "eyes that begin to form only to be covered by skin" which he deems "crazy contraptions that no intelligent agent would design."

If Darwinists and liberals examined their own logic as scrupulously as that of everyone else, they might deem this line of argument, which speaks to "theories about how God interacts with the world" (if only in denying any such interaction) "beyond the scope" of science. It doesn't take a trained biologist to recognize Orr's statements as nothing more than assertions, inferences based on the speculation that no intelligence could account for what Orr perceives as the chaos and randomness of life. Half-hearted concessions to faith notwithstanding, Orr doesn't really care that four of the five founding fathers of 20th century evolutionary biology, and many scientists today, and the 80 percent of Americans whose faith he mocks, clearly disagree with him in one way or another. He's interested in his understanding of evolution alone.

Orr's assertion that life arose purely by accident and evolves by itself--with no goal but to prolong itself--is simply an atheist creation myth. It might not contradict anything observable (or at least established) in the known universe, but neither does the notion that invisible forces act upon the visible, natural process of evolution. The difference is Orr assumes that what we see is what we see, that nothing eludes our--or his--current understanding.

In defiance of the varied voices and perspectives in and apart from his field, Orr squints through a keyhole view of the world, interpreting what little he sees in quasi-rational isolation: While all reasonable parties can understand why scientists and teachers might be loath to overhaul their methods based on the scientific expertise of Rick Santorum, surely sensitive liberal editors and readers get why decent, intelligent Americans, who believing in God believe that God might have some part in the way atoms interact to form life, and the way individual lives interact to inform the evolution of species-why people who believe in a guiding principle beyond selfish survival might be reluctant to entrust their children's minds to an Orr, let alone a Dawkins. The latter, in a rare twist of near-clarity allows that although life arises and evolves from nothing besides this violent preservationist instinct, humans have reached a point where we can "escape" the ugliness of our origins.

Our brains have become so big, says Dawkins, that we can conjure order from chaos on our own. We can create "new goals, new purposes that are not directly related to natural selection at all." Though we are born for no good reason we've become smart enough to "seek more altruistic, sympathetic, artistic things that have nothing to do with the preservation of our selfish genes."
But as for why once-lifeless particles are compelled to coalesce in ways that give rise to life, why microscopic particles that don't need to worry about surviving evolve to take on such a burden, and why, if life becomes life by accident, for no purpose, why then does it hold onto to itself, prolonging the agony of survival when it could just as easily let go and return to quiet oblivion; if you can't help but wonder why, if not for some hidden purpose, would selfish, brutal, mindless life evolve to pursue beautiful abstractions that have no clear evolutionary function--what purpose does evolutionary purpose serve--well, don't ask. Buzzwords like "random mutation" will only get you so far.

Interestingly, much of what today's evolutionists claim is far from clear in Darwin's own writing.

"I see no good reason," writes Darwin in the conclusion of The Origin of Species, "why the views given in this volume should shock the religious feelings of anyone." Illustrating his point he goes on to describe a letter he received from a "celebrated author and divine" that had "gradually learned to see that it is just as noble a conception of the Deity to believe that He created a few original forms capable of self-development and needful forms, as to believe He required a fresh act of creation . . . " Darwin doesn't exactly endorse this theistic take on evolution right then and there, though he ends his treatise with the following: "There is a grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on . . . from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being evolved" [italics mine].

Darwin's lyrical crescendo calls to mind, among others, Michael J. Behe, the biochemist and intelligent design theorist claiming that, starting from the "irreducible complexity" of a cell (which itself must be designed by an unspecified intelligence), life might evolve on its own through Darwinian processes. Unlike the so-called "creationist" Behe, Darwin, to the discomfort of many of today's evolutionists, makes specific reference to "the Creator," only one of several references often ignored by those quoting Darwin.
So why, exactly, is intelligent design "squarely at odds with Darwin," as Orr claims in the New Yorker?

Granted this particular reference to the Creator, added after The Origin's first addition, might have been a pragmatic concession to the religious police of Darwin's time, an attempt at damage control. Or the reference might, as some suggest, have been added to keep peace within his home with his deeply devout wife. Maybe Darwin wrote what he did with tongue in cheek, confident that his ideas would revolutionize society and that people like Orr and Dawkins would one day come along to tell everyone what he really meant. It's unlikely, given Darwin's claim in his 1876 autobiography that he'd been convinced of God's existence when he first published his theory. But Darwin didn't end up religious in any tangible sense, and later in life his theistic conviction seemed to fade. Still it's somewhat confusing how he wound up with his face on an atheist coffee mug when he himself seems to have ended up an agnostic: In 1876 (six years before his death) he wrote "I cannot pretend to throw the least light on such abstruse problems [as the existence of God]. The mystery of the beginning of all things is impossible by us; and I for one must be content to remain an agnostic."

Not only did he claim not to know whether God existed, Darwin insisted that we can't know. So on what authority does Dawkins parade his atheism, and Orr hint slyly at his, if not Darwin's? Have they found definitive proof against God in evolution that Darwin missed? Dawkins and Orr could be said to depict the "neo-Darwinist" narrative of history, a vision of life and its origins that is less equivocal on God than Darwin's, taking his (almost) perfect theory to its "logical" conclusion. Given what we've seen of neo-Darwinist logic we might be safer sticking with Darwin's take on Darwin.

It's true that in the visible, known, world Darwin seemed to find no evidence of the Divine. He seemed to believe, like Dawkins and Orr, that life evolves without God. In the opening chapter of The Origin of Species Darwin, in tracing the roots of his theory, praises the natural scientist Lamark for "the eminent service of arousing attention to the probability of all change in the organic, as well as in the inorganic world, being the result of law, and not of miraculous interposition." In the conclusion he adds "Nothing at first can appear more difficult to believe than that the more complex organs and instincts have been perfected, not by means superior to, though analogous with, human reason, but by the innumerable slight variations . . . Nevertheless, this difficulty . . . cannot be considered real if we admit the following propositions . . . ." [Italics mine]

Darwin supports the view that life evolves autonomously with evidence of a "struggle for existence leading to the preservation of profitable deviations of structure or instinct." In other words organisms fend for themselves, and those that are strongest or most adaptable survive longer, passing on the distinguishing traits to their offspring, and they to theirs as weaker prototypes die off and a species evolves to look more like the elite minority with each successive generation. The evidence for this is overwhelming, and pretty much rules out the notion that God created man in his present form. Darwin, however, seems to jump from identifying the struggle to assuming it wholly unmediated.

Intelligent design's campaign against Darwin has been misdirected. ID's theorists concede too much in debating on neo-Darwinist terms, fighting assertion with assertion, or seeking to contradict evolution by way of obscure mathematics. In declaring one's intent to disprove Darwin one grants, based on all evidence until now, that Darwin had proven himself. And he did in many ways that most of us can agree on. But just because most of his theory remains sound and remarkably descriptive of the world as we now recognize it; just because he was right on so much doesn't mean we should take his every word for gospel.

Maybe changes that seem "random" to a neo-Darwinian fundamentalist, or to Darwin himself, might seem deliberate to a more evolved intelligence. How would Darwin's self-proclaimed legatees prove that we got here by sheer accident, with no inherent purpose and destined for nothing but extinction? If someone could explain this view without merely reciting Darwinian koans for "natural forces" that Darwin himself might not have thought through all the way--if Orr and Dawkins could prove all that I'd order my Darwin mug in the mail today and shoot myself tomorrow.

Imagine a world where high school students could not only absorb a fraction of Darwin's profound insights, but could discuss them critically. Imagine an open exchange of interpretations that make unembarrassed use of literature, philosophy, and even theology--ways of thinking beyond the limiting scope of science. All modes of thought and innovation come with their own set of limitations, blind spots which other disciplines can illuminate. If we read Darwin more carefully, or at all, and discussed his ideas in good faith to differing perspectives, atheists might be less anxious to claim his image for their anti-religious crusade and creationists might be slower to banish him and his modern minions to the fiery pits. The separation of church and state was intended to protect democracy and religious freedom from despots in holy robes, not to protect school children (or science) from religion. It is unbecoming of teachers to proselytize students on behalf of any particular faith or ethos, including atheism. If religious or theistic philosophies are deemed inappropriate to science curricula, so should any ideas that expressly contradict those philosophies. Neo-Darwinists, however, aren't interested in fairness or academic freedom. They'd rather take cheap shots at ideas that can't defend themselves. With the moral and propagandistic support of the media, they prefer to attack an argument at its weakest point instead of its strongest.

In the context of a serious, civilized debate a scientist like Dawkins might come to understand that religion, when properly invoked, is a vehicle for knowledge, progress, and humanistic unity like science and other rational disciplines. Religion is not inherently opposed to reason. At the same time, science often flirts with the mystical, veiled in the tortured gravitas of technical nomenclature; calling on the imagination but often reluctant to admit it.

If the current evolution debate is any indication science has hit a wall, reaching a point in its development where once-reliable paradigms will no longer suffice to keep up with the mysteries of existence, seeming greater and more numerous each day. Sorting it all out will take help from disciplines that have focused for centuries on the hidden dimensions of life that science has barely begun to acknowledge. One can only hope more scientists will find the humility to ask.

Isaac Constantine is a writer in New York City.
© Copyright 2005, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Steve Zipay: HBO Deftly Handles 'Mantle'

July 5, 2005
NY Newsday

With "Mantle," HBO Sports has produced the ultimate portrait of baseball's most tragic figure: the fair-haired American icon who was larger than life for a generation of fans but who never fully understood why he was so adored.

"He'd wonder, 'Why did they love me so much? I just played bleepin' baseball,'" sportswriter Skip Bayless recalls in the hour-long documentary that debuts Wednesday, July 13.

The enduring legacy of the Yankees star, of course, is much deeper than "bleepin' baseball," and "Mantle" explores the complex emotional maelstrom that swirled around him.

Much of Mantle's allure is familiar territory to a boy who was raised here in that golden age and understands what he meant to fans. Former Newsday sportswriter Marty Noble describes it in "Mantle" as "completely myopic hero worship" and WFAN's Mike Francesa notes, "There's a part of him that you carry with you your whole life."

But the exhaustive research - more than three dozen interviews and a bat rack full of footage and still photographs, all skillfully edited - lifts "Mantle" to another level and makes it resonate.

Above the subtle blend of dobro, guitar and fiddle, Mantle's relatives - including his wife, Merlyn - and childhood friends trace his upbringing in Commerce, Okla., through his painful demise due to liver problems and cancer.

Near the rusted metal barn where Mutt Mantle pitched to his son after school, cousin Max Mantle recalls Mickey's obsession with the game. Mickey's brother Ray recalls a day-long family trip to St. Louis to see the Cardinals - the first big-league game that Mickey saw - with Mutt never driving more than 35 miles an hour.

The memories are supplemented with previously unseen images from the family's private collection: Dust Bowl chronicles of Mutt's job in the deadly zinc mines to backyard football games between Mickey and his young sons in Dallas to blurry shots of the teenagers, beers in hand, partying with their father, because that was the easiest way to relate to their alcoholic dad. To someone versed only in Mantle's stats, these are telling images.

Mantle's athleticism and on-field accomplishments from the minors to the Bronx are adeptly chronicled in testimonials from former teammates ("He didn't need steroids," former teammate Johnny Blanchard said. "We didn't even know how to spell it back then") and sports commentators and celebrities such as Bob Costas and Billy Crystal, who have become touchstones for any Mantle-related endeavor.

They also remind us that Mantle, hounded by expectations as Joe DiMaggio's successor and driven by fear of an early death in a family shadowed by Hodgkin's disease, veered toward an out-of-control lifestyle. Blanchard recalls watching "The Honeymooners" with Mantle in the St. Moritz Hotel in the early 1950s when Mantle asked, "Hey Blanch, you ever think about dying?"

In the name of dignity, some off-the-field stories remain buried off-screen; former pitcher Whitey Ford declines to revisit some of the ribald antics that sportswriters of the time recall.

Yogi Berra confesses that he used to leave his smoking-and-drinking teammates at 11 p.m. because he had to catch the next day. Billy Martin Jr., the son of the pugnacious extrovert who was the carousing ringleader of the Yankees, remembers a harrowing late-night journey along the ledge of a Cleveland hotel by Mantle and Martin Sr. in an attempt to spy on a teammate's tryst in another room. Photos of a hung-over and beer-glazed Mantle, in uniform, suffice to illustrate the extent of the deterioration.

The immensely sad journey of "Mantle" continues with only one upturn: the peace that he felt during his final 18 months, reconciling his life with himself and his family and becoming a courageous figure for a second time, speaking out against alcoholism and promoting organ donations.

No games are played the night after the All-Star Game. It's a time for fans and players to reflect on the past and reassess the future.

Surely it's no coincidence that "Mantle" debuts that night at 9.

Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc.

David Carr- In Cold Print: The Genre Capote Started

July 13, 2005
The New York Times

It would please Truman Capote no end that there will be not one, but two, movies memorializing his life this year and next. Not only do "Capote" and "Have You Heard?" pivot around his favorite topic - Truman Capote - but the films' convergence, with the promise of conflict, adds a promise of deliciousness that he would have happily tied on a napkin for.

Fame and all of its discontents were persistent obsessions for Capote, which might explain why he seemed willing to do almost anything to obtain them. While reporting "In Cold Blood," the masterwork that serves as the frame for both films, Capote told some lies to tell a truth. As such, he became an object lesson in how journalistic truth is told and obtained. It is easy to forget in the current context of journalists willing to go to jail to protect sources that much of the profession involves less noble imperatives.

In the five years Capote worked on the project, which detailed the 1959 murders in Holcomb, Kan., of four members of a farm family by a pair of drifters, he developed an emotional attachment to both killers, especially Perry Smith, another tiny man who craved recognition. But that relationship did not prevent him from developing a rooting interest in their deaths, without which he would have no end for his most important work.

"Capote" pivots around Philip Seymour Hoffman's inhabitation of the Capote persona: the author was, as Mr. Hoffman demonstrates, his own darn thing, but came to embody larger issues. A novelist turned journalist, Capote knew that some eggs needed to be dropped to make his soufflé. "In Cold Blood," published in 1965, was reported and told with its own remorselessness: he won over two killers, convincing them to tell their story, and then sold them out, a motif that the writer Joan Didion has since suggested is the fundamental transaction of journalism.

"Capote is one of those people who represents something larger than himself," said Bennett Miller, the director of "Capote," which is to be distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. "I think that his ambition, his kind of success, and the downfall that followed are very contemporary."

It was apparently contemporary and resonant enough to interest two filmmakers. "Capote" is based on the Gerald Clarke biography of the same title (Random House, 1990), while "Have You Heard?" draws on George Plimpton's interviews in his book "Truman Capote: In Which Various Friends, Enemies, Acquaintances and Detractors Recall His Turbulent Career" (Nan A. Talese, 1997). But the basic differences end there. Each movie is framed by the reporting and writing of "In Cold Blood" and takes as its chief concerns Capote's motivation and methodology in telling that dark story.

"Capote," all but finished, is set for release on Sept. 30 (Capote's birthday), while "Have You Heard?," which stars Sandra Bullock, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sigourney Weaver, among others, is still being edited and has been pushed back to fall 2006 by its distributor, Warner Independent Pictures. While there may or may not be a market for both films - see "Valmont" and "Dangerous Liaisons," movies that depict a similar, albeit less charming, figure - there is plenty to turn over with a stick.

Both movies begin as Capote, a gay novelist from New York, drops improbably into rural Kansas to begin work on his story and watch as he sets about his spider-to-the-fly seduction. And both depict a talented but toxic storyteller, not a fabulist like Stephen Glass or a fabulist/plagiarist like Jayson Blair, but a writer who came up with a nonfiction novel that set the standard, for good or ill, for what came after it. It could easily be argued that there would be no "Armies of the Night," by Norman Mailer, or Bob Woodward's fly-on-the-wall series of contemporary historical books, without "In Cold Blood."

Most anyone who types today owes something to Capote. A novelist who developed a passing interest in real events, he transformed the hackwork of journalism into something far more literary and substantial.

"There was no one ever in American life who was remotely like Truman Capote," said Mr. Mailer, who once suggested that Capote was the best sentence writer alive. "Small wonder, then, if people are still fascinated by him."

From the beginning, Capote had an ambient neediness, a desire to be validated by anyone and almost everyone. Most journalists arrive at their profession with a similar bent - why take the gamble of making mistakes in public if not for the reward of recognition? But the profession requires cooperation: The subject must be enrolled in the enterprise, even though it is rarely in his or her express interest. Capote vividly demonstrated the faux footwork required - what is good for the writer is sold as good for the subject.

In doing so, he began a book genre, "literary journalism," which is built on intimacy. At its best, the author and, in turn, his readers learn what a subject thinks, feels, and fears. But the intimacy often requires a specific deceit: the journalist sits before the subject, all ears, endlessly sympathetic, determined to help the subject tell "his" (or "her") story. But it is never "his" story that is told, it is the one of the writer's choosing.

And once the pen hits the paper, all hell frequently breaks lose.

Jeffrey R. MacDonald, a former surgeon and captain in the Green Berets who was accused of murdering his family, found a seemingly sympathetic ear in Joe McGinniss, a nonfiction novelist who had written "The Selling of the President." He allowed Mr. McGinniss to sit in on his meetings with his defense team. But a funny thing happened on the way to the printing press with "Fatal Vision," Mr. McGinniss's account of the case - he came to believe that Mr. MacDonald had done precisely what he was accused of.

Janet Malcolm wrote an account of the journalistic seduction gone wrong in The New Yorker, suggesting that "the journalist must do his work in a kind of deliberately induced moral anarchy." Ms. Malcolm herself was later sued by a disappointed and enraged source.
There are dozens of other examples, but Capote's primary sources were at the wrong end of the rope to do much litigating. In the film "Capote," Perry Smith hears that Capote has given a much-heralded reading in New York of a story he has called "In Cold Blood." Capote tells Smith that it is a mistake, that his book will be called no such thing.

"In order to tell the story he told, it requires a crafty and quick-thinking person who is not above manipulating the other person's hopes and dreams," said Douglas McGrath, director of "Have You Heard?"

The public has a well-established mistrust for the press. It is the people who endure journalism, in all of its blunt and wily manifestations, who hold it in the lowest esteem. They have learned, often painfully, that a fraud is embedded not so much in the telling, but in the finding out.

Although Capote's journalistic output was slim, there were other travails, including an accusation from Marlon Brando that he had taken a long off-the-record interview in Japan and used it for a searing profile. Lillian Ross, a contemporary of Capote's at The New Yorker, said in an e-mail message that William Shawn, then editor of the magazine, viewed Capote's work as suspect.
Shawn, she wrote, "not only had his doubts and regrets about having published Capote's work, especially the Brando piece, but also 'In Cold Blood.' "

"His influence was not a literary one," she added. "He demonstrated pragmatically to many journalists how to make money."

Capote's success or methods - take your pick - offended many people, including critics and some of his competitors. Tom Wolfe, who took the fictional narrative approach to new heights with "The Bonfire of the Vanities," is not among them.

"I always thought that he was much underrated by the lit-ry world," Mr. Wolfe said, using the pronunciation for effect. "Because he was so universally popular, it did not endear him to writers who can't stand people making a living on their writing."

Capote's success came at significant consequence. His planned follow-up to "In Cold Blood," "Answered Prayers," became a taunt, a novel that he never managed to finish, partly because it predicted that achieving what you desire can be crippling, according to Mr. Clarke's biography.
Reluctantly, after much prodding, Capote witnessed the executions of his two "In Cold Blood" protagonists, but in doing so, he built his own gallows. He was apparently unable to reconcile the needs of his story with the fate of the men involved.

"Before 'In Cold Blood,' Truman was a normal, if ambitious, person," Mr. Clarke said in an interview. "He said at the time that the book scraped him down to the marrow of his bones. It changed him."

The Wall Street Journal: Karl Rove, Whistleblower

He told the truth about Joe Wilson.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005 12:01 a.m. EDT

Democrats and most of the Beltway press corps are baying for Karl Rove's head over his role in exposing a case of CIA nepotism involving Joe Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame. On the contrary, we'd say the White House political guru deserves a prize--perhaps the next iteration of the "Truth-Telling" award that The Nation magazine bestowed upon Mr. Wilson before the Senate Intelligence Committee exposed him as a fraud.

For Mr. Rove is turning out to be the real "whistleblower" in this whole sorry pseudo-scandal. He's the one who warned Time's Matthew Cooper and other reporters to be wary of Mr. Wilson's credibility. He's the one who told the press the truth that Mr. Wilson had been recommended for the CIA consulting gig by his wife, not by Vice President Dick Cheney as Mr. Wilson was asserting on the airwaves. In short, Mr. Rove provided important background so Americans could understand that Mr. Wilson wasn't a whistleblower but was a partisan trying to discredit the Iraq War in an election campaign. Thank you, Mr. Rove.

Media chants aside, there's no evidence that Mr. Rove broke any laws in telling reporters that Ms. Plame may have played a role in her husband's selection for a 2002 mission to investigate reports that Iraq was seeking uranium ore in Niger. To be prosecuted under the 1982 Intelligence Identities Protection Act, Mr. Rove would had to have deliberately and maliciously exposed Ms. Plame knowing that she was an undercover agent and using information he'd obtained in an official capacity. But it appears Mr. Rove didn't even know Ms. Plame's name and had only heard about her work at Langley from other journalists.

On the "no underlying crime" point, moreover, no less than the New York Times and Washington Post now agree. So do the 36 major news organizations that filed a legal brief in March aimed at keeping Mr. Cooper and the New York Times's Judith Miller out of jail.

"While an investigation of the leak was justified, it is far from clear--at least on the public record--that a crime took place," the Post noted the other day. Granted the media have come a bit late to this understanding, and then only to protect their own, but the logic of their argument is that Mr. Rove did nothing wrong either.

The same can't be said for Mr. Wilson, who first "outed" himself as a CIA consultant in a melodramatic New York Times op-ed in July 2003. At the time he claimed to have thoroughly debunked the Iraq-Niger yellowcake uranium connection that President Bush had mentioned in his now famous "16 words" on the subject in that year's State of the Union address.

Mr. Wilson also vehemently denied it when columnist Robert Novak first reported that his wife had played a role in selecting him for the Niger mission. He promptly signed up as adviser to the Kerry campaign and was feted almost everywhere in the media, including repeat appearances on NBC's "Meet the Press" and a photo spread (with Valerie) in Vanity Fair.

But his day in the political sun was short-lived. The bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report last July cited the note that Ms. Plame had sent recommending her husband for the Niger mission. "Interviews and documents provided to the Committee indicate that his wife, a CPD [Counterproliferation Division] employee, suggested his name for the trip," said the report.

The same bipartisan report also pointed out that the forged documents Mr. Wilson claimed to have discredited hadn't even entered intelligence channels until eight months after his trip. And it said the CIA interpreted the information he provided in his debrief as mildly supportive of the suspicion that Iraq had been seeking uranium in Niger.

About the same time, another inquiry headed by Britain's Lord Butler delivered its own verdict on the 16 words: "We conclude also that the statement in President Bush's State of the Union Address of 28 January 2003 that 'The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa' was well-founded."

In short, Joe Wilson hadn't told the truth about what he'd discovered in Africa, how he'd discovered it, what he'd told the CIA about it, or even why he was sent on the mission. The media and the Kerry campaign promptly abandoned him, though the former never did give as much prominence to his debunking as they did to his original accusations. But if anyone can remember another public figure so entirely and thoroughly discredited, let us know.

If there's any scandal at all here, it is that this entire episode has been allowed to waste so much government time and media attention, not to mention inspire a "special counsel" probe. The Bush Administration is also guilty on this count, since it went along with the appointment of prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in an election year in order to punt the issue down the road. But now Mr. Fitzgerald has become an unguided missile, holding reporters in contempt for not disclosing their sources even as it becomes clearer all the time that no underlying crime was at issue.

As for the press corps, rather than calling for Mr. Rove to be fired, they ought to be grateful to him for telling the truth.

Thomas Sowell: The Tragedy of Africa

July 12, 2005

The official declarations coming out of the G8 meetings in Scotland, as well as the raucous demonstrations surrounding those meetings, talk about saving Africa. But, looking back over the decades and generations, Africa has been "saved" so many times that you have to wonder why it still needs saving.

Desperate and tragic conditions afflict millions in Africa today and any humane person would like to help. But the repeated failures of previous help ought to make us at least question the particular manner in which Africa can be helped.

"Forgiveness" of foreign debts is always high on the agenda of those on the political left.

At any given moment, this would of course free up money that African governments could spend to help relieve their people's distress -- assuming that this is what they would spend it for. But why would anyone think that promoting irresponsible government borrowing by periodically "forgiving" their debts is going to help African countries in the long run?

As for the people of Africa, they have to survive in the short run in order to get to the long run. So emergency aid for emergency conditions makes far more sense than long-run "foreign aid" programs with an almost unbroken track record of failure, not only in Africa but around the world.

Years ago, a courageous economist in India pointed out that, however helpful it was to receive food from abroad during India's famines, the long-run policy of continually giving wheat to India was just reducing the ability of Indian farmers to grow wheat and sell it for a price that would cover their costs.

Eventually the policy of continually dumping wheat into India was stopped and today India produces so much wheat that it has been able to send some to Africa to deal with African famines.

Promoting dependency and irresponsible borrowing is not the way to help the poor internationally any more than these are ways of helping the poor at home. Such policies benefit the bureaucracies that administer foreign aid and enable vain people to see themselves as saviors, even when they are doing more harm than good.

Sub-Saharan Africa has some of the most tragic geographic handicaps of any region of the world. Navigable waterways, which have been crucial to the development of nations and of cultures, are severely limited in most of Africa. Poor soil and inadequate and undependable rainfall patterns shrink the possibilities still further.

Ideologues love to think of African poverty as caused by "exploitation" on the part of Western countries. But, with a few notable exceptions, Africa has had little to be exploited. Even at the height of European imperialism, there was far less foreign trade or foreign investment in the whole vast continent of Africa than in a little country like Belgium or Switzerland.

In more recent times, so-called "foreign aid" has left many monuments of futility in Africa, from rusting machinery and the ruins of many projects to cows sent from Europe that keeled over in the African heat.

With all its handicaps, Africa used to feed itself and even export agricultural produce to Europe. In some of the more geographically favored parts of sub-Saharan Africa, iron was smelted thousands of years ago.

During the first two decades after African nations gained their independence in the 1960s, one sub-Saharan nation that stood out with its economic prosperity and political stability amid economic disasters and social catastrophes among its neighbors was the Ivory Coast under President Felix Houphouet-Boigny.

Yet neither the Ivory Coast nor its leader attracted nearly as much attention, much less adulation, as was showered on Julius Nyerere in Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, or other big-name African leaders who led their countries into ruin.

The Ivory Coast in those days relied on markets instead of the kind of policies and rhetoric that the intelligentsia favored. When its policies changed, it became just another African basket case.
Today, too many people in the West continue to see Africa as an outlet for the visions and policies of the left that have failed in the West and are even more certain to fail in Africa.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Mark Steyn: Islam Does Incubate Terrorism

The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 12/07/2005)

'There are no Muslim terrorists. There are terrorists," Father Paul Hawkins of St Pancras parish church told his congregation on Sunday. "The people who carried out these attacks are victims of a false religion, be it false Christianity or false Islam."

Oh, dear. "Britain can take it" (as they said in the Blitz): that's never been in doubt. The question is whether Britain can still dish it out. When events such as last Thursday's occur, two things happen, usually within hours if not minutes: first, spokespersons for Islamic lobby groups issue warnings about an imminent backlash against Muslims.

In fairness to British organisations, I believe they were beaten to the punch by the head of the Canadian Islamic Congress whose instant response to the London bombings was to issue a statement calling for prayers that "Canadian Muslims will not pay a price for being found guilty by association".

In most circumstances it would be regarded as appallingly bad taste to deflect attention from an actual "hate crime" by scaremongering about a non-existent one. But it seems the real tragedy of every act of "intolerance" by Islamist bigots is that it might hypothetically provoke even more intolerance from us irredeemable white imperialist racists. My colleague Peter Simple must surely marvel at how the identity-group grievance industry has effortlessly diversified into pre-emptively complaining about acts of prejudice that have not yet occurred.

Among those of us who aren't Muslim, meanwhile, there's a stampede to be first to the microphone to say that "of course" we all know that "the vast majority of Muslims" are not terrorists but law-abiding peace-loving people who share our revulsion at these appalling events, etc.

Mr Blair won that contest on Thursday, followed closely by Brian Paddick and full supporting cast. If "of course" Mr Blair and Mr Paddick and the rest do indeed know that "the vast majority of Muslims" do not favour terrorism, is that because they've run the numbers and have a ballpark figure on the very very very slim minority of Muslims who do? And, if so, what is it? 0.02 per cent? Or two per cent? Or 20 per cent?

And, if they haven't run the numbers, why do they claim to speak with authority on this matter? If it were just a question of rhetorical sensitivity, I'd be happy to go along with Mr Paddick's multiculti pap and insist that "Islam and terrorism don't go together" - events in Beslan, Bali, Israel, Nigeria, Kashmir, etc, notwithstanding. But the danger in separating "Islam" from "terrorism" is that it leads the control-freaks of the nanny state into thinking that "terrorism" is something that can be dealt with by border security, ID cards, retinal scans, metal detectors. It can't.

Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if "martyrdom" were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local "martyrs" were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special "martyrdom" accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on "Why I want to grow up to be a martyr".

At this point, many readers will be indignantly protesting that this is all the fault of Israeli "occupation", but how does that explain suicide bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan, where there's not a Zionist oppressor for hundreds of miles? Islam has become the world's pre-eminent incubator of terrorism at its most depraved. Indeed, so far London has experienced only the lighter items on the bill of fare - random bombing of public transport rather than decapitation, child sacrifice and schoolhouse massacres.

Most of us instinctively understand that when a senior Metropolitan Police figure says bullishly that "Islam and terrorism don't go together", he's talking drivel.

Many of us excuse it on the grounds that, well, golly, it must be a bit embarrassing to be a Muslim on days like last Thursday and it doesn't do any harm to cheer 'em up a bit with some harmless feel-good blather. But is this so?

Why are we surprised that "Muslim moderates" rarely speak out against the evil committed by their co-religionists when the likes of Mr Paddick keep assuring us there's no problem? It requires great courage to be a dissenting Muslim in communities dominated by heavy-handed imams and lobby groups that function effectively as thought-police.

Yet all you hear from Mr Paddick is: "Move along, folks, there's nothing to see here." This is the same approach, incidentally, that the authorities took in their long refusal to investigate seriously the 120 or so "honour killings" among British Muslims.

Just as the police did poor Muslim girls no favours by their excessive cultural sensitivity, so they're now doing the broader Muslim community no favours. The Blair-Paddick strategy only provides a slathering of mindless multiculti fudge topping over the many layers of constraint that prevent Islam beginning an honest conversation with itself.

Unlike Malaya or the Mau-Mau or the IRA, this is a global counter-terrorism operation across widely differing terrain, geographical and psychological. We need to be able to kill, constrain, coerce or coax as appropriate.

Kill terrorists when the opportunity presents itself, as 1,200 "insurgents" were said to have been killed in one recent engagement on the Syria/Iraq border the other day. Constrain the ideology behind Thursday's bombing by outlawing Saudi funding of British mosques and other institutions. Coerce our more laggardly allies like General Musharraf into shutting down his section of the Saudi-Pakistani-Londonistan Wahhabist pipeline.

But the coaxing is what counts - wooing moderate Muslims into reclaiming their religion. We can take steps to prevent Islamic terrorists killing us, most of the time. But Islamic terrorists will only stop trying to kill us when their culture reviles them rather than celebrates them.

There are signs in the last week's Muslim newspapers, in London and abroad, that some eminent voices are beginning to speak out. At such a moment, Britain should be on the side of free speech and open debate. Instead, the state is attempting to steamroller through a grotesque law at the behest of already unduly influential Islamic lobby groups. One of its principal effects will be to inhibit Muslim reformers. Shame on us for championing Islamic thought-police over Western liberty.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Christopher Hitchens: Yes, London Can Take It

From the July 18, 2005 issue:
Pluck vs. defeatism after the bombs.
by Christopher Hitchens 07/18/2005, Volume 010, Issue 41


If one must have cliché and stereotype (and evidently one must) then I would nominate the sturdy phlegmatic Londoner as the stock character who deserves to survive for at least another generation. Woken in the dark on the early morning of 7 July, and given the news that I and all British people had been expecting for some time, I made haste to turn on the television and was confronted at once by a man in his 30s with a shirt-front coated in blood. He was bleeding from his scalp, but was quite evenly telling his excited interviewer that "the gentleman next to me"--who was slightly off-screen--might be a superior witness since he had seen more of the actual flash and bang.

Further vox populi encounters disclosed an identical, almost camera-ready, ability to emulate the stoic forebears. I was cynically thinking, yes, that's all very well, but I can imagine panic and nightmare in the "tube" underneath King's Cross station, when I received an email from a teacher at King's College who had been caught up in the most hideous of the underground train bombs. He recounted the almost pedantic willingness of citizens to make way and say "after you" as the doors finally opened and as emergency staff made an appearance on the platforms. As anyone who regularly uses Edgware Road station, or anyone who goes to soccer matches, can attest, Londoners don't normally behave this politely, so again I assume that there is a subliminal script that so to speak "kicks in" when things get nasty.

Much of this elusive script is based on Noel Coward's sentimental ditty "London Pride," which was dusted off and given a fair old revival in the press on the following morning. Nobody who has read any serious account of life under the Nazi blitz can believe a word of it. Between 1940 and 1945, Londoners ran away, panicked, sent their children off to the country with labels around their necks, trampled each other in the rush to make tube stations into air-raid shelters (which the government at first refused to allow) and blamed Jews for jumping queues and hoarding goods. The rich moved complainingly into well-fortified hotels, and the police and firemen helped themselves to the contents of bombed or abandoned homes. Toward the end of the war, as guided missiles began to rain down from Germany, morale became very bad indeed. Read, if you like, Stephen Spender's account of being a fireman, or any selection of George Orwell's wartime "London Letters" to Partisan Review.

For all that, both men did develop an admiration for the essential toughness and humor of the Londoner. And at least it could be said that one note was almost never struck in those days. There were no serious demands for capitulation. But last Thursday the blood wasn't dry on the wall of the British Medical Association in Bloomsbury, with the lower stairway covered in body parts, before the call for surrender was being raised.

First out of the trap was George Galloway, the renegade Member of Parliament who has been Saddam Hussein's chief propagandist in Britain. Within hours of the atrocities, he had diagnosed their cause, or causes. These included the presence of British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, the photographs from Abu Ghraib, and the state of affairs at Guantanamo. This can only mean that Galloway knows what was in the minds of the bombers, and knows that it was these subjects (and not, say, the Wahhabi hatred of unveiled women, or their fury at the liberation of East Timor) that had actually motivated the attacks. If he really knows that much about the killers, he should be asked to make a full disclosure of his sources to Scotland Yard. If he doesn't know, he should at least have waited until the blood was dry before opening his ugly mouth. Scant chance of the latter.

Galloway is an open supporter of the other side in this war, and at least doesn't try very hard to conceal the fact. Far more depressing are the insincere and inauthentic statements made by more "mainstream" types. The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone--another Blair-hater and another flirter with any local Imam who can bring him a few quick votes--managed to say that the murders were directed at "the working class," not the "powerful." That's true enough, but it doesn't avoid the implication that a jihadist bomb in, say, the Stock Exchange would have been less reprehensible. Another dismal statement, issued by the Muslim Council of Britain in concert with something called "Churches Together in Britain and Ireland," got as far as proclaiming that "no good purpose can be achieved by such an indiscriminate and cruel use of terror." This is to say too much and too little. It still hints that the purpose might be ill-served by the means. Further, it fails as an ecumenical statement in that it was evidently not submitted to Britain's large Jewish community for ratification. Why do I think that there were some in both the Muslim and Christian leaderships who thought that, in their proud "inclusiveness," they didn't need to go quite that far?

On the other hand, I must say that the leadership of "Imaan," a "social support group for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Muslims," managed to issue a condemnation that was not shaded or angled in any way, and consisted of a simple, unequivocal denunciation and a statement of solidarity with the victims. That's the stuff. At last, the Churchill touch!

"London can take it!" That's what the patriotic proles are supposed to have yelled from the bomb-sites when Churchill toured the battered East End. London can indeed take it. It is a huge and resilient city, and if there were ten thousand jihadist guerrillas operating full time within its precincts, they could scarcely make a dent before they were utterly defeated. Once I had guiltily assured myself of the safety of my own daughter, I allowed myself to think that the long-awaited attack had not been as bad as many of us had expected. It was planned to be worse, and the next assault may be worse still. The tube stations selected for the mayhem show beyond doubt that the perpetrators must have expected to kill quite a number of Muslims, just as their co-thinkers have been doing in Kabul and Baghdad.

But another reflection now deposes the preceding one. In 2001 there was an enemy to hit back at, and some business to conclude with the Taliban. Since then, there has been unfinished business with Saddam Hussein and his notorious fedayeen. But from now on, we must increasingly confront the fact that the war within Islam is also a war within Europe. It's highly probable that the assassins of 7 July are British born, as were several Taliban fighters in the first round in Afghanistan. And the mirror image also exists. Many Muslims take the side of civilization and many European fascists and Communists are sympathetic to jihad.

These are not the bright, clear lines that many people fondly imagine to be heritable from a heroic past. But the nature of the enemy is somewhat similar. Like the fascists that they are, the murderers boast that they love death more than we love life. They imagine that this yell of unreason is intimidating and impressive. We shall undoubtedly go forward and put these grave matters to the proof but, meanwhile: Death to them and Long Live London!

Christopher Hitchens is a columnist for Vanity Fair. His most recent book is Thomas Jefferson: Author of America.

Mark Steyn: Time For Stoic Brits to Come Out Swinging

The Chicago Sun-Times
July 10, 2005

One way of measuring any terrorist attack is to look at whether the killers accomplished everything they set out to. On Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaida set out to hijack four planes and succeeded in seizing every one. Had the killers attempted to take another 30 jets between 7:30 and 9 that morning, who can doubt that they'd have maintained their pristine 100 percent success rate? Throughout the IRA's long war against the British Crown, two generations of politicians pointed out that there would always be the odd ''crack in the system'' through which the determined terrorist would slip. But on 9/11 the failure of the system was total.

Thursday, al-Qaida hit three London Underground trains and one bus. Had they broadened their attentions from the Central Zone, had they attempted to blow up 30 trains across the furthest reaches of the Tube map, from Uxbridge to Upminster, who can doubt that they too would have been successful? In other words, the scale of the carnage was constrained only by the murderers' ambition and their manpower.

The difference is that 9/11 hit out of the blue -- literally and politically; 7/7 came after four years of Her Majesty's government prioritizing terrorism and ''security'' above all else -- and the failure rate was still 100 percent. After the Madrid bombing, I was struck by a spate of "comic" security breaches in London: two Greenpeace guys shin up St. Stephen's Tower at the Palace of Westminster, a Daily Mirror reporter bluffs his way into a servant's gig at Buckingham Palace a week before Bush comes to stay; an Osama lookalike gatecrashes Prince William's birthday party. As I wrote last March: "History repeats itself: farce, farce, farce, but sooner or later tragedy is bound to kick in. The inability of the state to secure even the three highest-profile targets in the realm -- the queen, her heir, her Parliament -- should remind us that a defensive war against terrorism will ensure terrorism.''

To three high-profile farces, we now have that high-profile tragedy, of impressive timing. The jihad, via one of its wholly owned but independently operated subsidiaries, scheduled an atrocity for the start of the G-8 summit and managed to pull it off -- at a time when the ports and airports and internal security of a small island were all supposed to be on heightened alert. That's quite a feat. The only good news is that the bombs were, by the standards of what's out there, small. One day they won't be.

Of course, many resources had been redeployed to Scotland to cope with elderly rocker Sir Bob Geldof's pathetic call for a million anti-globalist ninnies to descend on the G-8 summit and tie up the police with their pitiful narcissist preening: the papier-mache Bush and Blair puppets, the ersatz ethnic drumming, etc.

The choice for Britons now is whether they wish to be Australians post-Bali or Spaniards post-Madrid. That shouldn't be a tough call. But it's easy to stand before a news camera and sonorously declare that "the British people will never surrender to terrorism.'' In reality, unless it's clear a threat is primal, most democratic peoples and their political leaders prefer to regard bad news as a peripheral nuisance which can be negotiated away to the fringe of their concerns.

That's what Britain thought in the 1930s -- back when Hitler was slavering over Czechoslovakia, and Neville Chamberlain dismissed it as "a faraway country of which we know little." Today, the faraway country of which the British know little is Britain itself. Traditional terrorists -- the IRA, the Basque separatists -- operate close to home. Islamism projects itself long-range to any point of the planet with an ease most G-8 militaries can't manage. Small cells operate in the nooks and crannies of a free society while the political class seems all but unaware of their existence.

Did we learn enough, for example, from the case of Omar Sheikh? He's the fellow convicted of the kidnapping and beheading in Karachi, Pakistan, of the Wall Street Journal's Daniel Pearl. He's usually described as "Pakistani" but he is, in fact, a citizen of the United Kingdom, with as English a resume as you can get: born in Whips Cross Hospital, educated at Nightingale Primary School in Wanstead, the Forest School in Snaresbrook and the London School of Economics. He travels on a British passport.

Or take Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati, a senior al-Qaida member from Morocco killed by Saudi security forces in al Ras last April. One of al-Majati's wives is a Belgian citizen currently residing in Britain. In Pakistan, the jihadists speak openly of London as the terrorist bridgehead to Europe. Given the British jihadists who've been discovered in the thick of it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Israel, Chechnya and Bosnia, only a fool would believe they had no plans for anything closer to home -- or, rather, "home."

Most Britons can only speculate at the degree of Islamist penetration in the United Kingdom because they simply don't know, and multicultural pieties require that they keep themselves in the dark. It's not just the British left that's been skeptical of Washington's war on terror. Former Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and many other Conservative grandees have been openly scornful of the Bush doctrine. Lord Hurd would no doubt have preferred a policy of urbane aloofness, such as he promoted vis-a-vis the Balkans in the early '90s. He's probably still unaware that Omar Sheikh was a Westernized non-observant chess-playing pop-listening beer-drinking English student until he was radicalized by the massacres of Bosnian Muslims.

Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati was another Europeanized Muslim radicalized by the 250,000 corpses of Bosnia. The fact that most of us were unaware of the consequences of EU lethargy on Bosnia until that chicken policy came home to roost a decade later should be sobering: It was what Donald Rumsfeld, in a remark mocked by many snide media twerps, accurately characterized as an "unknown unknown": a vital factor so successfully immersed you don't even know you don't know it.

This is the beginning of a long existential struggle. It's hard not to be moved by the sight of Londoners calmly going about their business as usual in the face of terrorism. But, if the political class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a suicide cult. The question now is will the British return to the fantasy agenda of Bob Geldof or avenge their dead?