Friday, November 25, 2005

Gretzky: Still Intense Behind the Bench

November 25, 2005
The Propensity for Intensity Is Still His Style
The New York Times

GLENDALE, Ariz. - More than a month into his first season as an N.H.L. coach, Wayne Gretzky said, he is asked most often whether he has the urge to jump over the boards. Gretzky, the greatest offensive player in the history of the game, is coaching one of the league's most offensively challenged teams, the
href="">Phoenix Coyotes
The Coyotes scored 65 goals in their first 24 games. Gretzky alone once scored 50 goals in 39 games.
But the Coyotes have improved, and Gretzky, 44, seems to be holding his own behind the bench. The team opened the season 1-4-1 but has won 10 of its last 18 games.
"I've really enjoyed each and very day on the bench," Gretzky said recently. "I've enjoyed the practices and the players."

Steve Ellman, the team's principal owner, spoke about Gretzky's influence with the team beyond coaching. "Wayne's been magical for our franchise," he said.

A group led by Ellman, Gretzky and Jerry Moyes bought the Coyotes in February 2001. For Ellman, the team was essential to his $850 million real estate development next door to Glendale Arena, the Coyotes' new $220 million home. The attention that Gretzky brings to the franchise helps, Ellman said.
"We've doubled our season-ticket sales; I think a lot of that has to do with Wayne," said Ellman, who added that Gretzky - whose salary as coach is about $1 million a season - could coach the team as long as he wanted.
Ellman said that having Gretzky behind the bench had given the Coyotes national exposure that the franchise would not have with another coach.

"It's like being partners with Babe Ruth in baseball; it gave us instant credibility," Ellman said.
In addition to Ellman's real estate development, Glendale Arena abuts, and is dwarfed by, a multipurpose stadium that will house the N.F.L.'s Arizona Cardinals. The stadium will also hold college football's Fiesta Bowl, the 2007 Bowl Championship Series national-title game and the 2008 Super Bowl.
Three years ago, Ellman said, the land on which his development is rising was used to grow cotton. Cotton fields still abut Glendale Arena on three sides.

Inside the arena on Nov. 10, Gretzky's face was still flushed from yelling at the officials 20 minutes after a 4-3 loss to Calgary.
"That was my personality as a player: that I was going to do whatever it took to win the hockey game," Gretzky said, discussing his intensity as coach. "That's why I scored 87 empty-net goals. I was, for people who didn't know me, probably more tenacious than people kind of thought."

Calgary's Jarome Iginla, who played for Gretzky on the Canadian national team at the Salt Lake Olympics in 2002, said: "We don't get to see that a lot at the Olympics and stuff. He's always very calm. But you can see he has intensity on the bench.
"That's probably what made him the greatest player that ever played - that inner thing. It's probably just coming out again. And I think it's good to see, because he probably was like that in his playing days."

Before ending his playing days in 1999, Gretzky held 61 N.H.L. records. Cliff Fletcher, the Coyotes' senior executive vice president for hockey operations, recalled the reaction when Gretzky decided to coach. "I know a lot of people suggested to him that he was crazy," he said.
Was Fletcher, who was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame last year, one of them?

"Initially, I felt: 'Why, Wayne, why? What have you got to gain from this?' " he said. "I mean, the greatest player who ever played the game. Impeccable résumé, reputation. And that's just why he wanted to do it. He wanted to prove he could do it."
Gretzky's oldest son, Ty, lives with him in the Phoenix area and plays high school hockey. Janet Gretzky, his wife, and their four other children live in Southern California.
"I don't think I wanted him out of the house," Janet Gretzky said during a recent visit here. "But it was definitely a joint decision, because it was a big change for the family. And I was definitely 120 percent behind it."

Gretzky also has professional obligations. He is the Coyotes' managing partner and the executive director for the Canadian Olympic team, which will defend its gold medal at the Turin Games in February. Among his many business endeavors is a fantasy camp he held in the Phoenix area in mid-November.
While juggling all that, Gretzky has also faced some challenges as coach. During his first month on the job, he informed Brett Hull, his close friend, that his ice time would be limited. That led to Hull's retirement in October.

Gretzky then traded Jeff Taffe, who is engaged to Janet Gretzky's niece.
To complete the hat trick, Gretzky made Mike Comrie a healthy scratch for a game in Anaheim that Comrie's father attended; Comrie's father, Bill, is also a close friend of Gretzky's.
"Those are the three hardest things I've gone through in a long time," Gretzky said.

Hull said those were also the kinds of decisions that Gretzky must make to be successful.
"He's so level-headed, he knows the game and he doesn't care who you are," Hull said in a telephone interview from Dallas. "If you're not playing well, you're not going to play. He proved that with me."

Curtis Joseph, a veteran goaltender who has been the Coyotes' best player this season, played against Gretzky for several seasons.
"Obviously, as coach he demands respect, whatever he says," Joseph said. "Everybody listens and doesn't question. I've played on teams where you have healthy discussions with the coach. Sometimes there are heated battles on the bench. But I don't foresee any of that here."

Gretzky said he had encouraged his players to talk to him. Joseph was asked whether that would be intimidating.
"For sure," Joseph said. "But he wants you to go to him and tell him what you see, or how can we get better. He's all for open discussion. It's just probably that initial step for some guys to get over. But he does have a big advantage over most coaches."

Gretzky said: "It's a hard thing for me, too. I don't want to intimidate guys. And I don't want to be a complete idiot to them. I want to talk to them. And I think more and more guys are getting comfortable now."
Gretzky inherited a Coyotes team that did not qualify for the playoffs in three of the past four seasons.

Since the franchise moved from Winnipeg to Phoenix before the 1996-97 season, the Coyotes have failed to advance past the first round. And since the Winnipeg Jets left the World Hockey Association and joined the N.H.L. before the 1979-80 season, the franchise has never advanced past the second round of the playoffs. The last time the franchise made it to the second round was 1987.
Considering that history, Gretzky was asked what he would consider success in his first season as coach.
"First place," he said. "I don't think of anything else. I tell the players every day our goal is to finish first in our division."

Great athletes in the four major professional sports in North America have not fared well when they have converted to coaching.
Larry Bird, who directed the Indiana Pacers to the N.B.A. finals in 2000, was perhaps the most successful. But Bird, who was also named the N.B.A.'s coach of the year in 1998, won three championships as a player - three more than he won as a coach.

"Joe Torre was an M.V.P.," Gretzky said, referring to the manager who has guided the Yankees to four World Series titles.
But Torre, the 1971 National League most valuable player, is not considered one of the greatest baseball players ever. Ted Williams may be a better example.

Williams was named the American League's manager of the year with the Washington Senators in 1969. By 1973, however, Williams was out of baseball, his teams never finishing better than fourth.
"Maybe in some ways I'm a little bit different," Gretzky said. "I felt like as a player, I was successful because I worked my way to become a player. And so as a coach, that's the way I feel. I think that way."

Besides, Gretzky said, "People always thought I coached the teams that I played on."

Joe Starkey: Concrete Charlie

Joe Starkey
Thursday, November 24, 2005

Don't get Chuck Bednarik started on the modern-day NFL, which has become so specialized that it's one man's job just to snap the ball on kicks.

See, they didn't have tight ends coaches, third-down backs or designated "long snappers" when Bednarik played 58 minutes in the 1960 NFL Championship. That was the game he tackled Jim Taylor just short of the goal line as time expired, clinching the Philadelphia Eagles' 17-13 victory over the Green Bay Packers (the Eagles haven't won it all since).

Bednarik was the NFL's last true, full-time player.

"I'm 80 years old, and I could snap the ball on punts, extra points and field goals, for godsakes," he says. "I call this game 'pussycat football.' Good gracious. They're a bunch of overpaid, underplayed jerks."

Like I said, don't get him started. This was a phone interview, by the way. A couple of them. One conducted a few months back, one Wednesday afternoon.

Bednarik spoke from his home in Coopersburg, Pa., where he lives with his wife of 56 years, Emma, and tends to his two-acre plot of land.

"These linemen are so overweight," he said. "In my era, nobody played at 360-370 pounds. Can you picture these guys playing football the way it originated? They'd die. For Christ's sake. It stinks. Pussycat football.

"You can quote me on that."

If you're detecting a trace of bitterness, well, Bednarik doesn't deny it. He never made as much as $28,000 in a year during his NFL career and worked a side job selling concrete. Hence the nickname "Concrete Charlie."

He's no fan of big-time college football, either, but he'll stay up tonight way past his normal bedtime of about 8:30 p.m. in order to watch the Backyard Brawl.

Bednarik will root for West Virginia, because his third cousin, Adam Bednarik, plays quarterback there. Adam, a redshirt sophomore, was getting most of the snaps this until he was injured late against Louisville on Oct. 15.

Redshirt freshman Pat White led an incredible comeback that day and has been playing well ever since, but it's likely Adam will get into the game tonight.

Adam and Chuck don't know each other well but have visited a few times, once when Adam trekked to Coopersburg. Chuck gave him an autographed, framed copy of the famous photo depicting Chuck -- then a center/linebacker/ special teams ace -- standing over a fallen and broken Frank Gifford.

The message on the photo: "Good Luck to Adam Bednarik. Be careful."

Adam has lived up to the family name, playing through several injuries and practicing throughout 2004 with what he later learned was a completely torn rotator cuff.
And when he scrambles, rest assured, he'd just as soon drop dead as slide.
"I'm proud of him," Chuck says. "I pray for him."

Chuck believes a key to his longevity is a routine that includes church every morning at 8 a.m., followed by a glass of wine at 8:30. Tracking 10 grandchildren helps keep him spry, too. He and Emma have five daughters, no sons.

"There must be a reason why God did that," Bednarik said. "I would like to have had a son, but God knows, I might have been too tough on him."
Ya' think?

Joe Starkey is a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He can be reached at

Victor Davis Hanson: Saddam, al-Qaeda Linked

[Anyone wishing to really get the 'inside baseball" version of what's going on in Iraq should read Yossef Bodansky's book "The Secret History of the Iraq War"...Bodansky heads the Congressional Task Force on Counterterrorism and Unconventional Warfare and his book on Iraq is packed with information. I also highly recommend his other books: "bin Laden: The Man Who Targeted America" (published in 1999) and "The High Cost of Peace".

I have no use for how the war in Iraq is being conducted and I have no illussions about how successful we will be in turning the Middle East into Renaissance-era Western Europe...but anyone who thinks that Saddam did not have plenty of WMDs and ties with al-Qaeda just doesn't know the facts. - jtf]

Posted on: Friday, November 25, 2005
The Honolulu Advertiser
No hype needed: Saddam, al-Qaida linked
By Victor Davis Hanson

As American casualties mount in Iraq, politicians at home now fight over who said what and when about weapons of mass destruction and the need for going to war. One of the most frequent charges is that President Bush hyped a non-existent link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida — and that as a result, we diverted our efforts from finishing off the real terrorists to start a new and costly war to replace a secular dictator.

This charge is false for several reasons — and illogical for even more. Almost every responsible U.S. government body had long warned about Saddam's links to al-Qaida terrorists. In 1998, for example, when the Clinton Justice Department indicted bin Laden, the writ read: "In addition, al-Qaida reached an understanding with the Government of Iraq that al-Qaida would not work against that government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development, al-Qaida would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq."

Then in October 2002, George Tenet, the Clinton-appointed CIA director, warned the Senate in similar terms: "We have solid reporting of senior-level contacts between Iraq and al-Qaida going back a decade." Seventy-seven senators apparently agreed — including a majority of Democrats — and cited just that connection a few days later as a cause to go to war against Saddam: " ... Whereas members of al-Qaida, an organization bearing responsibility for attacks on the United States, its citizens, and interests, including the attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, are known to be in Iraq."

The bipartisan consensus about this unholy alliance was not based on intriguing but unconfirmed rumors of meetings between Saddam's intelligence agents and al-Qaida operatives such as Sept. 11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Nor did the senators or the president ever claim that Saddam himself planned the Sept. 11 attacks. Instead, the Justice Department, the Senate and two administrations were alarmed by terrorist groups like Ansar al-Islam, an al-Qaida affiliate that established bases in Iraqi Kurdistan.

More importantly, one of the masterminds of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center, Abdul Rahman Yasin, fled to Baghdad to find sanctuary with Saddam after the attack. And after the U.S.'s successful war against the Taliban, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the present murderous al-Qaida leader in Iraq, reportedly escaped from Afghanistan to gain a reprieve from Saddam.
All of this is understandable since Saddam had a long history of promoting and sheltering anti-Western terrorists. That's why both Abu Nidal and Abu Abbas — terrorist banes of the 1970s and 1980s — were in Baghdad prior to the U.S. invasion and why the families of West Bank suicide bombers were given $25,000 rewards by the Iraqi government.

Saddam worried little over the agendas of these diverse terrorist groups, only that they shared his own generic hatred of Western governments. This kind of support from leaders such as Saddam has proven crucial to radical, violent Islamicists' efforts.

After Sept. 11, it became clear that these enemies can only resort to terrorism to weaken American resolve and gain concessions — and can't even do that without the clandestine help of illegitimate regimes (from Saddam in Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan, the theocracy in Iran, Bashar Assad in Syria and others) who provide money and sanctuary while denying culpability.
Middle Eastern terrorists and tyrants feed on one another. The Saddams and Assads of the region — and to a less extent the Saudi royal family and the Mubarak dynasty — deflected popular anger over their own failures onto the United States by allowing terrorists to scapegoat the Americans.

Yet, for a quarter-century, oil, professed anti-communism and loud promises to "fight terror" earned various reprieves from the West for these dictatorships, who were deathly afraid that one day America might catch on and do something other than shoot a cruise missile at enemies while sternly lecturing "friends."

That day came after Sept. 11. To end the old pathology, we took out the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, pressured the Syrians to leave Lebanon, encouraged Lebanese democracy, hectored the Egyptians about elections, told Libya's Moammar Gaddafi to come clean about his nuclear plans, and risked oil supplies by jawboning the Persian Gulf monarchies to liberalize.

The theory behind all these messy and often caricatured efforts was not the desire for endless war — we removed by force only the two worst regimes, in Afghanistan and Iraq — but to allow Middle Easterners a third alternative between Islamic radicalism and secular dictatorship. No wonder that wherever there are elections in the Middle East — Afghanistan and Iraq — legitimate governments there have the moral authority and the desire to fight Islamic terrorism.

Americans can blame one another all we want over the cost in lives and treasure in Iraq. But the irony is that not long ago everyone from Bill Clinton to George Bush, senators, CIA directors and federal prosecutors all agreed that Saddam had offered assistance to al-Qaida, the organization that murdered 3,000 Americans. That was one of the many reasons we went into Iraq, why Zarqawi and ex-Baathists side-by-side now attack American soldiers — and why an elected Iraqi government is fighting with us.

William F. Buckley: Christians Afoot

November 25, 2005

I am mindful that Samuel Johnson enjoined the preachers of his time not to inveigh against those who were absent from church on Sundays by scolding those who were not absent. Notwithstanding Dr. Johnson's stricture, I here berate those who fail to heed the atrocities in China and North Korea, by appealing to those who have heeded these barbarisms, drawing attention to the inattention that the Christian world seems to be paying them. There is no means of putting away from memory the experience of the Jews in the last century, objects of discrimination of various and imaginative kinds, culminating in genocide.

Meghan Clyne of the New York Sun cites a report on North Korea compiled by David Hawk, the author of "Hidden Gulag: Exposing North Korea's Prison Camps." Hawk and his South Korean researchers obtained dozens of eyewitness accounts of persecutions of Christians.
President Bush, in his speech in Japan last week, didn't say that Christians in North Korea were in large numbers imprisoned, but he spoke of "satellite maps of North Korea (that showed) prison camps the size of whole cities."

Michael Cromartie, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which issued Hawk's report, "called on Mr. Bush to include the specific findings of the North Korean report in his diplomatic discussions with Chinese and South Korean officials ... and to urge leaders of both Asian nations to take a firmer stand against their communist neighbor." He is proud of the report, citing the difficulty in bringing together reliable information from within that ideological mudhole.

The report tells, among many other accounts, of a woman in her 20s who was washing clothes in a river. A fellow washerwoman saw a small Bible fall out of her basket and reported her to the authorities. She was executed by firing squad.

That martyr got off lightly. Nine years ago in South Pyongan province, a unit of the North Korean army was assigned the job of widening a highway connecting Pyongyang to the nearest seaport. Demolition of a house standing in the way revealed, hidden between two bricks, a Bible and a list of 25 names: a Christian pastor, two assistant pastors, two elders and 20 parishioners. The 25 were all detained and, later that month, brought to the road construction site, where spectators had been arranged in neat rows. The parishioners were grouped off to one side while the pastor, the assistant pastors and the elders were bound hand and foot and made to lie down in front of a steamroller. As if following a script written in early Roman history, they were told they could escape death by denying their faith and pledging to serve Dear Leader Kim Jong II and Great Leader Kim Il Sung. They chose death.

Ms. Clyne quotes Mr. Hawk's report: "Some of the parishioners ... cried, screamed out, or fainted when the skulls made a popping sound as they were crushed beneath the steamroller."
Anti-Christian activity is not as rabid in China, but it is everywhere evident, and it has not been noticeably reduced by recent rumors that the Vatican may withdraw the papal nuncio from Taipei and move him to Beijing. The Vatican has so far persisted in recognizing the state of Taiwan, which is something most other diplomatic entities shrink from doing. As everyone knows, the determination by the Chinese to obtain sovereignty over Taiwan is of a pitch comparable to the Vatican's devotion to St. Peter's Basilica.

The Vatican's desire for diplomatic relations with Beijing makes almost difficult any remonstrance over Chinese treatment of Catholics, though such is being attempted, as when the Italian newsweekly L'Espresso published a two-page article based on an interview with two Chinese priests. The article had not identified the priests, out of fear for their safety, but authorities interrogated the reporter's interpreter to learn their names. The priests have since been arrested.

In the interview one of the priests spoke of a previous detention, during which attempts were made by Chinese authorities "to evaluate whether I had become patriotic." China is officially and aggressively atheist, and such Christianity as is vestigially permitted is doctrinally emasculated. (Christ did not rise from the dead; his mother was not a virgin.) Worship is allowed, according to one Associated Press dispatch, "only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops. Catholic Chinese who meet outside sanctioned churches are frequently harassed, fined, and sometimes sent to labor camps."

The government's Catholic Church claims 34 million believers. The Cardinal Kung Foundation, a U.S.-based religious monitoring group, says the unofficial church of Chinese loyal to Rome has 12 million followers.
How ought western diplomats to have treated Nazi officials in pre-war Germany? There is enduring speculation on that subject, but none, we'd guess, that argues that simply to ignore religious persecution is one acceptable way to confront it.

Copyright 2005 Universal Press Syndicate

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving

FromTouchstone Magazine's 'Daily Reflections'

Thanksgiving Day: Although this is a civil holiday, unknown to the history of Christian liturgicl calendars, Thanksgiving Day was originally inspired by Bible-beliving Christians and established with the support of sentiments deeply informed by Christian memory. More than all other people, Christians are under the constant obligation to give thanks.

"To give thanks," let us note, and not "be thankful." Holy Scripture nowhere tells us to "be thankful." It exhorts us, rather, to "give thanks." It is the act that is commanded, not the sentiment. That is to say, we are to give thanks, whether we feel like it or not. The Bible does not tell us, with respect to thanksgiving, to consult our sentiments but our memories.

This latter exercise is called "counting our blessings," and among those blessings, surely, is our ability to count, our capacity for thought and reflection. This faculty is what separates us from all other beings that walk the earth. Even those who fancy that animals can think have never seen an animal "say grace" before it settles down to its meal. Whatever else animals may do, they do not give thanks. And when we give thanks, as we are told to do--always, everywhere, and in all things--let us truly count the many things we have by reason of God's kindness.

Let us start, perhaps, with our very life. We do not deserve even to be. God did not owe us an existence. Let us thank him for each of our limbs, remembering that not all human beings have been so blessed. And if we are missing a limb or two, let us give Him thanks for the limbs we have. And if we have no limbs, let us give Him thanks for our minds that are able to count that loss.

Let us give thanks to Him for our various faculties, both of body and soul. Let us bless His name for our parents, our brothers and sisters, all our relatives and the myriad people who enrich our lives. Let us give thanks to the Lord our God for our spouses and our children and our grandchildren. Let us thank Him for our homes and the means to support and sustain them.

Let us thank our Father too for our citizenship in this greatest of all countries, a beacon of hope in a world of cruelty and despair. Let us thank Him for the men and women who are not with their families on this Thanksgiving Day, being occupied in foreign lands for the defense of our nation and the support of its friends and allies. Let us give thanks to HGod on this day when many Americans may neglect to do so.

Above all, let us give thanks to Him for our salvation in the Son that He sent to redeem us from sin and death. Let us thank Him for the means of grace and the hope of glory. In all things, let us give thanks to the Lord our God, for it is meet and right that we should give Him thanks and praise.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Thomas Sowell: Tortured Reasoning

November 22, 2005
Thomas Sowell

Some people seem to see nothing between zero and infinity. Things are either categorically all right or they are categorically off-limits. This kind of reasoning -- if it can be called reasoning -- is reflected in the stampede to ban torture by Congressional legislation.

As far as a general policy is concerned, there is no torture to ban. Isolated individuals here and there may abuse their authority and violate existing laws and policies by their treatment of prisoners but the point is that these are in fact violations.

When some individuals violate laws against murder, no one thinks that requires Congressional legislation to add to the existing laws against murder. What it calls for is enforcement of existing laws.

Banning torture categorically by federal legislation takes on a new dimension in an era of international terrorist networks that may, within the lifetime of this generation, have nuclear weapons.

If a captured terrorist knows where a nuclear bomb has been planted in some American city, and when it is timed to go off, are millions of Americans to be allowed to be incinerated because we have become too squeamish to get that information out of him by whatever means are necessary?

What a price to pay for moral exhibitionism or political grandstanding!

Even in less extreme circumstances, and even if we don't intend to torture the captured terrorist, does that mean that we need to reduce our leverage by informing all terrorists around the world in advance that they can stonewall indefinitely when captured, without fear of that fate?

This is not only an era of international terrorist networks but also an era of runaway litigation and runaway judges. Do we really want a federal law that will enable captured terrorists to be able to take their cases to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?

Regardless of what the free-wheeling judges in that unpredictable body may end up deciding, they are not likely to decide it soon. Anybody can call anything "torture" at virtually no cost to themselves but at huge costs in money and delay to the efforts to protect Americans from terrorism.

There is no penalty for false claims but potentially deadly consequences for letting international terrorists tie up our legal system by exercising rights granted to American citizens and now thoughtlessly extended to people who are not American citizens and who are bent on killing American citizens and destroying American society.

After decades of ignoring the fact that rights and responsibilities go together, it was perhaps inevitable that an under-educated and easily confused generation should include some who do not understand that the rights granted to captured troops by the Geneva Convention apply to those who have accepted the terms of the Geneva Convention. It does not apply to people who are not troops and who have blatantly violated the whole framework of that convention.

For more than two centuries there has been a tendency on the political left, here and overseas, to make wrong-doers look like victims rather than people who are victimizing others. So it was perhaps inevitable that some would extend this attitude from criminals to terrorists.

But it was not inevitable that most would carry things this far or that so many others would be taken in by the rhetoric of moral superiority -- or be oblivious to the implications of an international network of cut-throats bent on destroying us even at the cost of their own lives.

Think of those implications. During the last election, Osama bin Laden warned Americans that those places that voted for President Bush would be targeted for terrorist reprisals.

We could ignore him then. But will our children and grandchildren be able to ignore similar threats after the terrorists are given nuclear weapons by Iran or sold nuclear weapons by North Korea?

This is a chilling prospect under the best circumstances. It is madness to tie our hands in any way in trying to forestall or counter the catastrophic potential of international terrorism.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate

Mark Steyn: Listen to the Word on the 'Arab Street'

The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 22/11/2005)

Rumours of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death may be exaggerated. He was reported by several Arab TV networks to have been among eight terrorists who self-detonated in Mosul on Sunday. Still, whether or not he's sleeping with the fishes or the 72 virgins, he's already outlived whatever usefulness he had to the jihad.

On Friday, the allegedly explosive "Arab street" finally exploded, in the largest demonstration against al-Qa'eda or its affiliates seen in the Middle East. "Zarqawi," shouted 200,000 Jordanians, "from Amman we say to you, you are a coward!" Also "the enemy of Allah" - which, for a jihadist, isn't what they call on Broadway a money review.

The old head-hacker was sufficiently rattled by the critical pans of his Jordanian hotel bombings that he issued the first IRA-style apology in al-Qa'eda's history. "People of Jordan, we did not undertake to blow up any wedding parties," he said. "For those Muslims who were killed, we ask God to show them mercy, for they were not targets." Yeah, right. Tell it to the non-Marines. It was perfectly obvious to Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari and his missus what was going on when they strolled into the ballroom of the Radisson Hotel.

Still, Mr Zarqawi has now announced his intention to decapitate King Abdullah. "Your star is fading," he declared. "You will not escape your fate, you descendant of traitors. We will be able to reach your head and chop it off."

Good luck, pal. I don't know what Islamist Suicide-Bombing For Dummies defines as a "soft target" but a Jordanian-Palestinian wedding in the public area of an hotel in a Muslim country with no infidel troops must come pretty close to the softest target of all time. Even more revealing, look at who Zarqawi dispatched to blow up his brother Muslims: why would he send Ali Hussein Ali al-Shamari, one of his most trusted lieutenants, to die in an operation requiring practically no skill?

Well, by definition it's hard to get suicide bombers with experience. But Mr Shamari's presence suggests at the very least that the "insurgency" is having a hard time meeting its recruitment targets. Though it's much admired in the salons of the West, armchair insurgents such as Michael Moore seem to have no desire to walk the walk. Mr Moore compared the Zarqawi crowd to the "Minutemen" of America's revolution, pledged to take to the field of battle at a minute's notice. Alas, the concept of self-destructing Minutemen depends on the often misplaced optimism of the London bus stop: there'll be another one along in a minute.

Mrs Shamari's brother, Thamir al-Rashawi, Zarqawi's right-hand man and the "Emir of al-Anbar" (i.e., the Sunni Triangle), was killed by US troops in Fallujah last year. Her other two brothers and her brother-in-law all died in engagements with the enemy this year. Sending a surviving member of your rapidly dwindling inner circle to blow up a Palestinian wedding is not a sign of strength.

True, he did manage to kill a couple of dozen Muslims. But what's the strategic value of that? Presumably, it's an old-fashioned mob heavy's way of keeping the locals in line. And that worked out well, didn't it? Hundreds of thousands of Zarqawi's fellow Jordanians fill the streets to demand his death.

Did they show that on the BBC? Or are demonstrations only news when they're anti-Bush and anti-Blair? And look at it this way: if the "occupation" is so unpopular in Iraq, where are the mass demonstrations against that? I'm not talking 200,000, or even 100 or 50,000. But, if there were just 1,500 folks shouting "Great Satan, go home!" in Baghdad or Mosul, it would be large enough for the media to do that little trick where they film the demo close up so it looks like the place is packed. Yet no such demonstrations take place.

Happily for Mr Zarqawi, no matter how desperate the head-hackers get, the Western defeatists can always top them. A Democrat Congressman, Jack Murtha, has called for immediate US withdrawal from Iraq. He's a Vietnam veteran, so naturally the media are insisting that his views warrant special deference, military experience in a war America lost being the only military experience the Democrats and the press value these days. Hence, the demand for the President to come up with an "exit strategy".

In war, there are usually only two exit strategies: victory or defeat. The latter's easier. Just say, whoa, we're the world's pre-eminent power but we can't handle an unprecedently low level of casualties, so if you don't mind we'd just as soon get off at the next stop.

Demonstrating the will to lose as clearly as America did in Vietnam wasn't such a smart move, but since the media can't seem to get beyond this ancient jungle war it may be worth underlining the principal difference: Osama is not Ho Chi Minh, and al-Qa'eda are not the Viet Cong. If you exit, they'll follow. And Americans will die - in foreign embassies, barracks, warships, as they did through the Nineties, and eventually on the streets of US cities, too.

As 9/11 fades into the past, that's an increasingly hard argument to make. Taking your ball and going home is a seductive argument in a paradoxical superpower whose inclinations on the Right have a strong isolationist streak and on the Left a strong transnational streak - which is isolationism with a sappy face and biennial black-tie banquets in EU capitals. Transnationalism means poseur solutions - the Kyotification of foreign policy.

So, just as things are looking up on the distant, eastern front, they're wobbling badly on the home front. Anti-Bush Continentals who would welcome a perceived American defeat in Iraq ought to remember the third front in this war: Europe is both a home front and a foreign battleground - as the Dutch have learnt, watching the land of the bicycling Queen transformed into 24-hour armed security for even minor municipal officials. In this war, for Europeans the faraway country of which they know little turns out to be their own. Much as the Guardian and Le Monde would enjoy it, an America that turns its back on the world is the last thing you need.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Concert Review: Springsteen in Hollywood, Florida

Posted on Sun, Nov. 20, 2005

Solo Springsteen improves on past
Bruce Springsteen was larger than life, even as a one-man band, Saturday night in Hollywood.
The Miami Herald

Never really understood precisely why Bruce Springsteen came to be known as The Boss. He even joked about the nickname's hazy origin Saturday night in concert.

But Springsteen really took the job title to heart on his latest tour, which had a belated South Florida stop Saturday night at the Hard Rock Live near Hollywood. The solo tour was to play Sunrise's larger BankAtlantic Center last month but Hurricane Wilma proved a bigger boss.

Among Springsteen's rules Saturday, printed on fliers and handed to patrons:

• No talking.

• All guests must be seated by the start of the first song.

• No visits to the concession stands.

• All seating will be done only between songs.

And the star would not tolerate rule breakers. Three songs in, a stern Springsteen launched an expletive laced tirade at fans who expressed too much zeal. ``I can get along without being cheered at.''

The 5,000 or so fans were allowed to breathe, an allowance for which we are grateful. And sometimes that breath would merit an impressed gasp. Some of Springsteen's quietest meditations proved quite moving. The 1980 LP track Fade Away was considerably more emotional, sans band, with Springsteen employing a breathy tag to the end of his lines for effect.

Clearly, this was not an E Street Band show although South Florida was given a bonus thanks to the appearance of E Streeters Steven Van Zant (guitar/vocals) and sax man Clarence Clemons. The pair, earning a standing ovation simply for being there, brought beauty to Drive All Night as Springsteen played piano.

This Devils & Dust solo acoustic tour, its name taken from his somber new CD, is a show that requires -- and rewards -- careful listening, not fist-pumping and sing-a-longs. Intimacy was the idea, not rock 'n' roll.

Springsteen performed, and improved upon, several numbers from the album -- the title track, warmer in this context, the graphic Nevada hooker story Reno felt even more cinematic -- but he wisely chose to focus on his whole career in selecting songs, not necessarily the hit singles, either, and rethought them to fit the format.

He also eschewed the sole acoustic format by strapping on an electric guitar for a metallic rockabilly run through the 1987 Tunnel of Love LP track, Ain't Got You, and turned toward the electric keyboard for the tender Fade Away. But not everything could succeed in this format.
The barnstorming Born in the U.S.A. and Johnny 99 both featured a vocal distorter. U.S.A., which also featured a drum pad on the floor, was fearless and captivating. For about half the song. The distortion became grating, even moreso on Johnny 99, now turned into a rusty blues workout.

The anthemic The Rising, the title track of a post-Sept. 11 album that grows ever larger in value as it ages, needs the E Street muscle behind it to generate goose bumps although Springsteen deftly supplied his own backing vocals, stepping a foot or two from the mike to punch in the phrase ''dream of life'' repeatedly. Two Hearts, from 1980's The River, would seem to fall flat when sung by one man, even one man with plenty of heart, so The Boss brought out Van Zant to share harmonies.

Numerous monologues about Springsteen's hometown, including a humorous take on the Irish and Italian sides of his family, lent a living-room flavor to this tour, similar to successful bare-bones recent ventures by Jackson Browne and Carole King. Wilma can't be praised for many things but forcing this show into a smaller venue improved it. In an arena, this performance would feel dwarfed. The sound at the Hard Rock was rich, clear and the sightlines were ideal.

Few could pull off this kind of show; certainly none of MTV's pop stars who need a stage full of dancers and pyrotechnics to cover vocal and songcraft lapses would dare appear on stage unadorned. Minor flaws aside, it worked wonders for Springsteen. But, hey, that's why he's The Boss.

Shawn Macomber: North Korean Apologists Should Apologize

November 21, 2005, 8:26 a.m.
Real Revelations

Now that CNN has collected and aired footage of the various depredations, indignities, and violent acts committed against North Koreans by their own government with Undercover in the Secret State, it seems as apt a time as any to ask the National Lawyers Guild to apologize for "North Korea: The Grand Deception Revealed," a Kim Jung Il whitewash so virulently anti-American it makes Fahrenheit 9/11 look like a commercial for the John Birch Society.

Some background: In late 2003 the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) — an amalgamation of far-left lawyers and law students ostensibly "dedicated to the need for basic and progressive change in the structure of our political and economic system" — sent a delegation to North Korea and determined that the country "was not the Orwellian society George Bush and much of the media is trying to portray."

Unfortunately, this verdict was no surprise. While the NLG's beginnings as a civil-rights-focused alternative to then-segregated American Bar Association in 1937 were quite noble, the organization's affinity for oppressors and terrorists since has been more than a little troubling.
The NLG downright swoons when it comes to Castro's Cuba, for example, going so far as to vigorously defend five Cuban spies convicted of espionage in Miami and link approvingly to Castro speeches. The NLG also continues to gnash their collective teeth and wail over Haiti's deposed Jean-Bertrand Aristide, "The Left's Favorite Thug". Post-Sept. 11 the Guild printed the pamphlet "Know Your Rights," helpfully warning Middle Eastern immigrants that, "Talking to the FBI or other agents can be dangerous. The FBI is not just trying to find terrorists, but is gathering information on immigrants and activists who have done nothing wrong." Such were just a few of the reasons I gave to young, well-intentioned NLG volunteer observers when refusing their offers of assistance during my own arrest at last year's Republican National Convention.

The North Korean lovefest begins at the airport before the delegation has even entered the Hermit Kingdom proper. "It was not a highly charged and intimidating scene, and was more relaxed than most U.S. airport security," the delegation noted, adding "The contrast between North Korea and its lack of policeman and North America in which armed police in bulletproof vests are commonplace was more than striking — it was startling. If the presence or absence of armed policemen is a criterion for a free society then it speaks volumes about the nature of the two societies." It isn't, of course. The true criterion is what a society does with those armed police, a distinction the NLG seems to have chosen to willfully, blissfully ignore.

As world citizens we feel obliged to reveal the truth and take steps to build, rather than destroy, relationships, even with those whom we may disagree," the delegation declares once in country, yet it seems there were precious few actual disagreements. North Korea's unionized workforce, military, healthcare, education and legal systems are all effusively praised, frequently via derisive comparisons to the United States.

"The delegation feels that the U.S. government cannot advocate the rule of law and democracy, when it fails to model it itself," the group writes, for example, before coming astonishingly close to holding up North Korea as a model democracy. "The absence of other parties is not considered a failing, as the entire society is socialist," they note, claiming straight-faced that Kim Jung Il "was not immediately appointed after his father's death" and that the "Korean Worker's Party and National Assembly took much time allegedly engaged in extensive discussion before electing him." Apparently the policy of imprisonment and state sanctioned murder of anyone who publicly challenges has evolved since Kim Jung Il took office.

No matter. To the NLG delegation the most heavily fortified border in the world as a sort of wayward tourist destination for environmentalists. "The beautiful hills of the DMZ, along with the five rivers that poor [sic] into the lush landscape, make it more suited for an eco-park than a war staging ground." That is, if it weren't for the ugly Americans who "continuously blared propaganda and music from speakers on the south side." The delegation stops shortly thereafter for a picnic, busting out impromptu versions of "We Shall Overcome" and other "old anti-war and protest songs," for North Koreans, who then graced them with apples. "Little did we know upon going to this country, where its populace was allegedly being starved, that we would have our pockets stuff with produce!" Then again, being propaganda tools of a bloodthirsty authoritarian regime does come with certain perks.

Thus, the delegation duly urges the "ill-informed people of the West" to be exposed to "another truth about the North Korean war." Basically this means taking all the evidence of U.S. war crimes at the Victorious Fatherland Liberation War Museum at face value — including the conspiracy theory that the Korean War was "a cover for the attempt by the United States to conquer and occupy North Korea with a potential toward potential invasions of Manchuria and Siberia" — while browbeating George W. Bush for making "insulting and discriminatory" comments about Kim Jung Il's lack of physical stature.

That official statements of the DPRK have referred to Bush as "a man bereft of an elementary reason or a politically backward child" doesn't seem to bother the NLG. Nor is the delegation's scolding America that, "We cannot be respected unless we respect others," tempered any by the DPRK's colorful contention that the United States is the "the root cause of all sorts of our nation's disasters and misfortunes; an empire of evil that even ruthlessly tramples on the people's religions; and the stronghold that spreads a degenerate age's corrupt culture of perversion, corruption, violence, and lust." If there is any justice in the world, the authors of this report will happen upon this CNN special. Hopefully they catch footage of children forced by Communist-party officials to watch the summary execution of men who tried to help others escape to freedom and feel shame for not two years ago heaping slavish praise on the North Korea's "progressive" legal system, applauding the nation's supposed "lack of a death penalty" as "a sign of a civilized nation." Everyone knows Texas is worse than North Korea, right?

When they see men risking everything — their freedom, their lives, the lives of their family members — to paste up a single poster critical of Kim Jung Il, will the delegation members feel a nagging guilt for breathlessly concluding that North Koreans "appear to have genuine respect for the insights and actions of the 'Dear Leader' who is guiding their country"? Will they stand by their collective statement that, "Under the current climate in the United States with the Patriot Act, domestic spying and the 'with us or against us' rhetoric, it is sadly ironic that we are the ones afraid to speak freely"? After watching a video of an old woman being savagely beaten unprovoked on a train by a army officer, will they still boast that North Korean women are "not objectified in the same ways they sometimes are in the West"?

The short answer is: Whatever the evidence, probably not. Communism is sort of like love that way: It means never having to say you're sorry.

"As trial lawyers we have substantial experience and training in telling when someone is being evasive or untruthful," they write. "As a group we concluded that we were not being misled, nor were answers intended to divert us from deeper inquiry." Grand deception, indeed.

— Shawn Macomber is a writer living in Boston. He runs the website

Daniel Pipes Speaks on Palestinian-Israeli War in San Fransisco

By Abraham H. Miller
November 21, 2005

Standing around the library of San Francisco's Commonwealth Club while waiting for the reception for Daniel Pipe's November 16th lecture to begin, I noticed an elderly woman hastily walking back and forth, while simultaneously trying to scribble on a piece of folded paper. "What are you doing?" someone who obviously knew her shouted with a tone of dismay across the open, glass-framed room with ceilings that seemed unreachable with one's eyes. "I'm writing some angry questions for Pipes!" she shot back. Her tone and intensity seemed incongruous with her age and small frame.

At least you might want to listen to the lecture first, I thought to myself, realizing that such statements would have no impact on someone who brought their anger to a lecture as one might bring their lunch to the workplace, all wrapped up and ready to be chewed on. San Francisco's Bay Area is full of anti-Israel advocates, from Arabs to aging wannabe communist revolutionaries. Indymedia, the local radical website, had run a call to arms from Paul LaRudee, the head of Norcal ISM, for people to attend with pots and pans to bang during Pipe's speech to make sure nobody could hear him. The call misquoted Pipes from articles in a magazine published by Saudi Arabia.

LaRudee even listed his own phone number to organize everyone. This failed to happen though, thanks to good security and the fact that something unusual happened: most of LaRudee's minions were a no show. Perhaps it was due to the recent suicide bombings in Jordan, or simply too short notice, but the speech went forward without significant interruption.

One thing is still certain. Dr. Daniel Pipes inspires anger! And that is one of his most engaging features.

With Pipes there is no obfuscation, no purposeful ambiguity and no misrepresentation. Pipes doesn't even leave himself room for plausible denial. But then he doesn't afford his audience that intellectual deception either.

As a scholar, Pipes is eminently aware of how the definition of any political situation creates tacit premises. He is exacting in his use of words. The title of his speech was the "Palestinian-Israeli War." It wasn't "The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict" – or "problem" or "issue."

"War" not only defines the "mode and intensity of the conflict," as we political scientists like to say, but for Pipes it defines his paradigm.

And this, for me at least, defines Pipes. You see, it is possible to hear dozens of speakers take numerous courses and never understand the assumptions that underline a person's positions. Oh yes, you can understand where they stand on the issue; usually you discover that in the first ten seconds. And yes, you will know their interpretation of the history of the Middle East and their view of the causes of the conflict. But there are always those troubling theoretical lacunae that are filled in with some admixture of ideological syrup and a garnish of hope – hope, that is, that one's ideology is triumphant. Even so many sophisticated people, those who were educated at a time when universities were serious places, can't retain the distinction between explanation and justification.

Pipes, in contrast, began with an intellectual paradigm – war. It is not the paradigm that many want to hear. It is not a paradigm that derives from Pipes' ideology, or his aspirations, but from his analysis of the situation.

I don't know if Pipes ever read the work of the social psychologist Donald Campbell, but Campbell was an incredibly gifted social scientist, for he understood that all around us are behaviors that are unobtrusive indicators of what we are trying to explain. We just have to understand that such indicators are there and how to organize them.

When it comes to the Middle East most observers don't process data, they process denial. When almost immediately after Oslo, Arafat stopped in a Stockholm mosque to repudiate the Accords and was subsequently caught, he denied what he had said. Those who could not see beyond Oslo were eager to accept his denial. When the PLO did not formally change its position on Israel's existence, those who wanted to believe it had done so, simply saying that the formalities didn't make a difference.

Pipes clarified the issue further:

The PLO's maps without Israel, the textbooks spinning hate, and the creation of a culture of death – these are the realities of an ongoing terror war against Israel. But those who want to believe that the PLO has changed, see all of this as something separate or peripheral.

Pipes asked what if the paradigm were different? What if the Palestinians were really engaged in a war? How then would they behave?

The answer was patently obvious to any rational person in the audience.

They'd behave exactly as they do; more importantly, they'd behave exactly as they continue to do under Mahmoud Abbas.

In this, Pipes forces you to give up the ether of confusion that has been created around this war.
And most people cannot bear to part with it. Compelled to think in ways that are different, they get angry.

Pipes thereby challenges his audience to face reality. His paradigm requires that we look at the Palestinian-Israeli War as it is, not as some may wish it was.

As Pipes explained, the reality is that diplomacy hasn't worked. Oslo made the situation worse because it was based on the premise that in the end if you could provide the Palestinians with equality and autonomy and the Israelis with recognition and security, you could have peace. You can't have peace as long as the Palestinians believe that ultimately they can and will destroy Israel. Then, Oslo becomes not a means to peace but a means to attaining strategic advantage.

After Arafat, the consensus view was that the conflict changed. I too recall such unbridled enthusiasm among Jewish liberals for the dawning of a new era. From the leadership of Jewish organizations in San Francisco to Berkeley's Rabbi Stuart Kelman, who admonished his congregation about attending an interfaith rally against terrorism that brought Jerusalem Bus 19 to Berkeley to show the carnage, the mantra was the same. Arafat was gone. There was new leadership among the Palestinians. They should not be reminded of past acts of violence (such as having to confront the burned out shell of a homicide-bombed bus) when the way is now open to "negotiations."

Pipes submits that the paradigm has not changed, and the behavior of the Palestinians only confirms this.

President Bush has articulated a vision of the end of the conflict, but, as Pipes notes, President Bush is unclear as to how to get there short of rewarding the Palestinians and restraining Israel.

The current negotiations are based on the premise that if you reward the Palestinians, then their leadership gains credibility and the masses will follow them to the negotiating table.

Pipes sees two flawed assumptions here: first, that the goals of the Palestinian leadership have changed simply because some of their rhetoric and tactics have changed; second, that the present leadership can deliver the Palestinian population.

Pipes noted that the masses in Egypt got most concerned about the Arab-Israeli conflict after the Camp David agreement with Sadat, and that all the aspirations of trade, tourism and cultural exchange between Egypt and Israel that were to flow from that agreement have still not materialized because the Egyptian population is not interested and the leadership cannot bring them along-even if it so desired.

For the Palestinians, seven years of negotiations have transformed a once dispirited population to one that sees victory in the offing. Oslo has brought violence and death as dual tragedies to be suffered by both Israelis and Palestinians.

The only way to win a war is to have a final, indisputable and complete victory in Pipes' view. That means getting the Palestinians to accept that they cannot destroy Israel, that Israel is
there to stay, and that they must accept its existence. They must be deprived of immersion in a process that rewards their violence and gives them hope to fight another day for Israel's destruction.

The way to achieve this can be militarily, but it can also be through other means according to Pipes. The essence is to convince the Palestinians that the goal of Israel's destruction is not achievable.

There are only two outcomes to this war in Pipes' view: Either Israel will conclude that the hostility of Arab nations and their European sympathizers bought with petrodollars makes the Zionist vision untenable and Israel will not survive; or, the Palestinians will find that their goal of destroying Israel is not attainable and it only perpetuates an intolerable situation for them and their children.
These are the only two long-term solutions.
As for the current rounds of diplomacy, Pipes argued that diplomacy in time of war is doomed to failure, especially when one side seeks the destruction of the other without cessation.

Until the Palestinians cease their fixation on the destruction of Israel, there should be no financial aid, no recognition of a Palestinian state, and no quick fixes that provide short-term rewards for Palestinian violence. Pipes also sees current aid, recognition and the amelioration of conditions as positive reinforcement for terrorist violence.

Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and the Palestinians' ensuing orgiastic celebration that brought a total destruction of the infrastructure the departing Israelis left them is just such a case in point. The festivity over Israel's withdrawal in the form of celebratory violence transforms a move toward peace into both a sign of weakness and the symbolic triumph of terrorism.

The celebratory violence of Israel's withdrawal from Gaza further underscores the irrationality of the Palestinian mindset. It is better to destroy what the Israelis left them than to risk using it to improve their lives and the quality of life of their children.

Listening to Pipes, one is intellectually compelled to ask his opponents to offer their own paradigm to explain the conflict and its resolution.

Instead of feeding their own anger and denial like the woman I saw before the speech, they might confront the reality that while they are engaged in dismissing each act of Palestinian violence, seeing each celebration of suicide bombing as peripheral, and referring to every attempt at building a Palestinian military response as inconsequential, they have created not an intellectual framework of explanation but a self-indulgent delusion that panders to their own emotional needs.

It was a great speech.

Abraham H. Miller is a contributing writer to the Israel Resource News Agency, an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati and a former consultant to the National Institute of Justice on political violence and terrorism.

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Debbie Schlussel: Must Smear TV

[I believe that the Sacramento Kings' pre-game depictions of Detroit on the arena's video screen were in poor taste...I don't believe that Ms. Schlussel is standing up for such behavior...I believe that she is showing the difference as to what is an acceptable offense regarding such depictions.]

Debbie Schlussel
November 21, 2005

TV teaches you a lot about what you can and can't say in America, these days.

On Wednesday Night's NBC line-up, Christians were portrayed as violent fanatics who try to blow up a Detroit mosque. The Minutemen, citizens who patrol our borders, are portrayed as cold-blooded murderers.

But the only ones who are apologizing are the billionaire Maloof brothers who own the NBA's Sacramento Kings, for daring to show the real Detroit. Jimmy Kimmel had to apologize, too, for making fun of Detroit on his ABC late-night show.

What's wrong with this picture?

In the case of the Maloof brothers, they recently showed the real picture, before an NBA home game between their Sacramento Kings and the Detroit Pistons. But, unlike NBC's TV line-up, it wasn't fiction or even carefully crafted "Reality TV."

The Maloofs' team showed a series of real images of burning cars and burned out homes in the City of Detroit. And despite the fact that Detroiters just re-elected Pimp Daddy Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick--who sent Detroit to the brink of receivership while the married mayor used his 21 bodyguards to hustle girlfriends, strippers, and other assorted paramours--Detroiters are mad that Californian billionaire siblings dare expose what's really happening in the rustiest, most failing major city in the rust belt.

The Maloof brothers didn't just suffer angry rants of sports columnists and editorialists in the Detroit media. They were just fined $30,000.00 for daring to display the visual truths I see regularly as I drive through the city. Burning cars? Detroit cops have the evidence they're not supposed to show the media.

Anytime a Detroit sports team (minus hockey) wins a major game or championship, things are set on fire in the city. Then there is Detroit's infamous "Devils' Night." Despite a decrease in the number of torched crack houses burning on the night before Halloween, the fact remains that homes still burn on that night in Motown. No other major city in the Western Hemisphere needs to near-quintuple law enforcement manpower, as Detroit does, on the night of October 30th, every single year.

But you can't say that. It's not acceptable, not politically correct to tell the truth about Detroit. Why? Because Detroit is a Black-dominated city. Therefore, any criticism of the city is off-limits. It's "racist."

So racist, that no-one had the guts to point out a few things:

* If the Pistons are so proud about Detroit, why is the team located many, many miles outside the city in the lily White, upper middle class suburb of Auburn Hills, where things are far safer?

* Pistons owner Bill Davidson, to whom the Maloof brothers apologized in full-page ads, doesn't even live in Detroit. He lives in ritzy Bloomfield Hills, far outside Detroit--and again far safer. He'd NEVER live in Detroit, for the very reasons the Maloofs presented and for which they are now apologizing.

Similar video of burned-out, empty-building, boarded-up business Detroit was shown Wednesday Night at the beginning of the low-rated Benjamin Bratt show "E-Ring," which is supposed to be a show about Pentagon and Army operatives involved in Special Operations to save Americans. But that's not what Wednesday Night's episode was about.

In fact, the politically correct topic of "E-Ring" made the Detroit burn-out pics okay: Muslim Americans as victims of Christian Americans.

"E-Ring" showed a gang of Christian thugs (is there such a thing?) capturing a Detroit area mosque, killing mosque members, and trying to blow the place up. Like that ever happened--or would. (The Christians also murder FBI agents who are surveilling the mosque, as if the FBI in Detroit is actually monitoring, instead of kowtowing to, extremist mosques. It isn't.)

But where are the calls for NBC, Bratt, and the show's producers to apologize in full-page ads like the Maloof brothers did?

Dream on.

Then, there is NBC's franchise player, "Law and Order"--a show, which can always be counted on to support America's enemies and attack American patriots, soldiers, and any reasonable policy designed to help America in the War on Terror.

On Wednesday Night, the show portrayed the Minutemen--unarmed civilians who patrol the border looking for illegal aliens and report sightings to Border Patrol--as bigoted murderers. Of course, to avoid a lawsuit, the show didn't use the name, "Minutemen." But with a name like, "Countrymen Border Watch of America," it's clear whom the L&O scriptwriters were depicting.

The show even depicted a patriotic ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agent, who favored the border watchers, as a corrupt, evil lout and co-conspirator to mass murder of illegals. Not that it would ever be believable, but, laughably, L&O actors constantly referred to the agency by enunciating its letters, "I--C--E." Attention Sam Waterston: The agency's name is pronounced, "ice," as in frozen H2O.

What's really frozen is society's new standards on what you can and can't say in America. Time for a quick thaw of this turkey.

UPDATE: Check out Jay's excellent post on "Law & Order's" defamation of the Minutemen at Stop the ACLU.

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Visit Debbie Schlussel's website at She can be reached at

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Richard Corliss Reviews 'Walk the Line'

A Phoenix in the Ring of Fire

'Man in Black' explores the darkness of Johnny Cash

Time Magazine
Posted Friday, Nov. 18, 2005

The Man in Black: that simple phrase, applied to the look and sound of the man it described, contained the heaven-and-hell contradictions in the personality of Johnny Cash. He could be a backwoods minister, warning of the Apocalypse in an Old Testament voice, or Satan himself, smiling sourly at the world's capacity for hurting itself.

Whether he was both of these characters, or neither, Cash brought the outlaw presence to pop music. The authenticity in his quavering baritone attested to a life of bitter experience. In those ballads of hard traveling, careless love and felonious assault, the words he sang were places he'd been, got hurt in and learned from. That startling line in “Folsom Prison Blues” — “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” — is followed by “When I hear that whistle blowin', I hang my head and cry.” First the bad-man boast, then the sinner's remorse.

And, finally, the born-again vindication. James Mangold's mostly excellent Walk the Line is designed as a Christian epic. In this particular it diverges from last year's exemplary musical bio-pic, Ray, which depicted Ray Charles as a roiling spirit who conquered his demons on his own. This movie's Johnny Cash — in a scary-good turn by Joaquin Phoenix — is a haunted man who is redeemed by a good woman, June Carter.

The young Cash was such a huge and instructively troubled figure that, in any movie about him, other characters are inevitably supporting. That's the case with Walk the Line, even though it means to trace the growing love story that snuck up on him and June Carter, princess of the singing Carter Family. Carter was Cash's polar opposite: sun to his shadow, a pixie to his wraith, as chatty as he was withdrawn, a natural comic at home in the limelight — whereas he seemed to have been dragged on stage to testify to the crimes and heartbreaks in his songs. (As she well knew, having co-written “Ring of Fire” for Cash.) Reese Witherspoon captures Carter's raised-in-showbiz canniness, and with it a woman's no-nonsense resolve to get her man suited up for salvation.

Witherspoon has been pinwheeling this spunky charm for ages. Phoenix's triumph is even more substantial. Though his singing voice (he and Witherspoon do their own vocals) can't approach Cash in its lonesome depths, he has the gift of finding a home in this troubled mind, of moving in and living there. When he stands before an audience, unleashes the dread Cash stare and holds his guitar like a machine gun, you wonder if he's going to open fire on the crowd or himself. If Witherspoon has the gift of residing in her character, of moving in and living there, Phoenix seems voluntarily consigned to the Folsom Prison of Johnny's darkness.

A lot of credit for Phoenix's performance has to go to Mangold, who has always been good at finding the bleak melodrama in taciturn souls: Pruitt Taylor Vince's short-order cook in Heavy, Sly Stallone's tired sheriff in Cop Land. If Mangold's new movie has a problem, it's that he and co-screenwriter Gill Dennis sometimes walk the lines of the inspirational biography too rigorously. John's father, Ray Cash (Robert Patrick), is a one-note ogre who blames John for surviving his more adored younger brother, and whose condemnation of the singer lasts way longer than is dramatically necessary.

John's first wife Vivien (Ginnifer Goodwin) — “a wonderful lady” who “went through a lot of hell with him,” in the recollection of Cash's buddy and fellow Country Music Hall of Famer George Jones — is reduced to a small-minded sort with selfish middle-class dreams. “My mom was basically a nonentity in the entire film except for the mad little psycho who hated his career,” Vivien and John's daughter Kathy Cash told AP this week. “That's not true. She loved his career and was proud of him until he started taking drugs and stopped coming home.”

The screenwriters probably didn't mean to demean her; they just needed to show a failed marriage before the perfect one comes along. The rules of movie romance forbid a hero from having two true loves.

But the subsidiary conventions finally don't matter. This is a solo dirge that becomes a love-song duet. And as such it's as down-home and true as the image of John and June singing their hearts out for their fans and themselves — a destiny to which she was born, and he was fated.

Deb Saunders: A Strong Argument for the Death Penalty

November 20, 2005
Debra Saunders
The San Fransisco Chronicle

Clarence Ray Allen provides the strongest argument I've seen for the death penalty. Allen is slated to be executed on Jan. 17. He ordered the death of several witnesses who had testified against him from prison while he was serving a sentence of life without parole for the murder of another witness. As a result, three innocent people are dead. They've been dead for 25 years.

"This is probably the paradigm of a death-penalty case, in which really no lesser punishment would be appropriate," noted state Deputy Attorney General Ward Campbell last week.

The ugly saga starts in 1974. Allen owned a security company. According to court documents, he enlisted the help of his own son Roger and two employees to rob Fran's Market, a store east of Fresno owned by the Schletewitz family, whom Allen had known for years.

Roger Allen invited the Schletewitz son, Bryon, to a party. While Bryon was swimming, someone took his keys. The Allen gang robbed the store. Later, Roger's 17-year-old girlfriend, Mary Sue Kitts, confessed to Bryon that she helped cash money orders stolen from the market.

Bryon confronted Roger Allen and also confirmed that Kitts had told him what happened.
Clarence Ray Allen then ordered that Kitts be murdered. Between threatening phone calls from Allen, an accomplice strangled the poor girl. When Bryon learned Kitts was missing, he went to authorities.

After a 1977 trial, a jury convicted Allen of burglary, conspiracy and first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole.

In Folsom State Prison, Allen cooked up a scheme to kill the witnesses who testified against him so that he could appeal his conviction and then be freed because any witnesses were dead -- or scared silent. After Allen's buddy, Billy Ray Hamilton, was paroled, Allen's other son supplied Hamilton with guns and ammo.

Accompanied by a girlfriend, Hamilton visited Fran's Market, brandished a sawed-off shotgun and led Bryon and other employees into the stockroom as he searched for a safe. As the Fresno Bee reported, Hamilton shot Bryon to death.

He killed Douglas White, 18. Then he shot a crying Josephine Rocha, 17, through the heart, lung and stomach.

"When you hear the details, it's hard," Teresa Daniele, Rocha's big sister, told me over the phone. Some 25 years later, "it's still very raw." Hamilton also shot a 17-year-old clerk, who was left for dead but miraculously survived, and a neighbor who heard the shotgun blasts and went to investigate. After being shot, the neighbor then shot Hamilton.

Days later, a wounded Hamilton was arrested while robbing a liquor store. Police found a list of names and information for eight people who had testified against Allen, including Bryon Schletewitz and his father, Ray Schletewitz.

In 1982, a jury convicted Allen and sentenced him to Death Row. (A jury also sent Hamilton to Death Row.) The evidence had been overwhelming. As U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote in a three-judge Ninth Circuit court decision that rejected Allen's appeal, the most damning evidence "came directly from Allen."

First, there was the list and the fact that Allen's son helped Hamilton. Then, there was the fact that Allen had been vocal in letting people know he would kill any "rat." As Wardlaw wrote: "By committing a capital crime while having already been maximally punished and while behind walls thought to protect society, Allen has proven that he is beyond redemption and that he will continue to pose a threat to society."

And: Allen "has shown himself more than capable of arranging murders from behind bars. If the death penalty is to serve any purpose at all, it is to prevent the very sort of murderous conduct for which Allen was convicted."

While Allen showed no mercy for his victims, the system has been quite kind to Allen. Three execution dates were set -- then stayed. In September, Allen had a heart attack, then angioplasty. With his execution looming, he may yet have open-heart surgery.

Now, his attorney, Michael Satris, is using Allen's old age -- which his victims failed to attain -- and poor health as a reason to put off the execution. I kid you not. Satris argued: "Allen's health is too fragile for the setting of an execution date at this time because of the risk that the setting of a date and the procedures that will attend such will cause him to have a heart attack."

Meanwhile, the families of his victims are dying off. Allen has outlived Josephine's father, Joseph Rocha, and Douglas White's brother, George. I'm told that the Kitt parents are dead. Bryon's mother, Fran, died in 2002. His father wanted to witness Allen's execution, but died in March. Bryon's sister is the only surviving member of the family. She wants to see justice done.

If Allen is executed as scheduled, the sister, Patricia Pendergrass, told me, "there finally will be truth in sentencing, even though so many years have passed." She thinks of the "very vicious, cruel death" forced upon Bryon and Josephine and Douglas, and sees Allen's execution as infinitely kinder.

If the state can't execute a man who has killed innocent people from prison while serving a life sentence without parole for murder, then no one is safe.

Except Clarence Ray Allen.

Copyright 2005 Creators Syndicate