Saturday, September 08, 2007
Book Notices, January/February 2006
From Touchstone Magazine
By John Garth
Houghton Mifflin, 2003
(398 pages, $14.00, paperback)
As John Garth, London journalist, notes, “how strange it is that J. R. R. Tolkien should have embarked upon his monumental mythology in the midst of the First World War, the crisis of disenchantment that shaped the modern era.” In what A. N. Wilson calls, “Very much the best book about J. R. R. Tolkien that has yet been written,” Garth tells how Tolkien’s experience of love, friendship, and war, were woven into his developing “legendarium.”
“I believe,” Garth writes, “that in creating his mythology, Tolkien salvaged from the wreck of history much that is good still to have, but that he did more than merely preserve the traditions of Faerie: he transformed them and reinvigorated them for the modern age.” To explain this, the author relates Tolkien’s war experience in impressive and original detail, based on extensive historical research.
Tolkien and the Great War focuses on Tolkien’s friendships with school mates who formed a club, the Tea Club and Barrovian Society, or TCBS, which began as a schoolboy exercise in mischief and “drollery” but eventually was refined into an intense four-person order devoted to “fortitude and courage and alliance” that somehow “could change the world.” All four fought in World War I; two survived.
Why was Tolkien not “disenchanted” by this dreadful experience as were others — Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, among writers — of his generation? Garth argues that Tolkien did not see irony as a virtue and that he refused to jettison the past in despair. Tolkien said that life in the trenches was “animal horror,” but in his work, Garth observes, “makes despair or ‘disenchantment’ the prelude to a redemptive restoration of meaning.”
— Frank Freeman
You know her as the author of A Wrinkle in Time — possibly the best and most memorable young person's novel written in the United States since World War II. If you're lucky, you read or sampled a dozen or more of the 60-odd books she wrote for children and adults before passing away on Thursday at the age of 88.
Madeleine L'Engle was our neighbor growing up. She lived on the 9th floor at 924 West End Avenue in apartment 95; we lived on the 6th floor in apartment 65. There was one elevator for this line of apartments and therefore everybody in them came to know each other quite well, especially since the elevator had a habit of breaking down and trapping a few of us in it for 20 minutes at a time.
As a young boy, I knew her as the kind-faced and friendly woman with the two fluffy big nice dogs (in contrast to the constantly barking and lunging German Shepherds who lived on 12 and scared the bejeezus out of me and everybody else). Then, when I was 9 or 10, I read A Wrinkle in Time and my sister Naomi told me offhandedly that she was its author.
I wrote her the first fan letter of my life and, heart pounding, rode the elevator to 9 and slipped it under her door. Within hours a package was left at our door with an inscribed copy of its recently published sequel, A Wind at the Door, a box of baked chocolate chip cookies, and a response that was so appreciative I could hardly believe it, it was so gracious and thoughtful. I had grown up with writers whose friends were all writers and one thing I had learned even at that ludicrously tender age is that saying anything to any author about his or her work is to enter into an emotional minefield.
Madeleine had sold more copies of her work than any of my parents' friends, and probably had received more fan mail than any of them, but her letter had a tone of delight to it that not only suggested she understood how to write to a child, but also that she had about her an almost supernatural grace — suitable to someone who was a very serious churchgoing Episcopalian and the author of several novels for adults about the difficulties and joys of faith. I was particularly taken with The Love Letters, in which a young woman finds herself absorbed in the story of St. Teresa of Avila.
These were books I read the old-fashioned way — by finding them haphazardly at public libraries around New York over the years of my boyhood and adolescence. I would have 15 second discussions of them with her in the elevator as we traveled down or up. I was slightly abashed to be speaking so gushingly, and I think she sensed that and always made it seem as though I had made her day or her week.
Her late husband, Hugh Franklin, was as lovely as she — a working actor on soap operas and in theater around New York who would leave tickets at the box office for me whenever he was performing. This, needless to say, is not something most actor neighbors in New York would do.
My parents moved out of 924 West End Avenue in 1979, and I never saw Madeleine after that. But I still read her — she wrote a moving account of her marriage in a book called Two Part Invention that she published after Hugh's death in 1986. And I still knew she was around, still serving as the writer in residence at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine on 111th and Amsterdam — a New York landmark that appeared in several of her books set in our Upper West Side neighborhood.
So for those who were moved and affected by A Wrinkle in Time, or the Austins books, or her trilogy of memoirs about faith, I just wanted you to know that their author was a wonderful neighbor, a wonderful person, and a model of social and personal grace. I was profoundly lucky to have had the chance to spend time with her in an elevator that kept breaking down.
09/07 10:40 PM
The New York Times
Published: September 8, 2007
Madeleine L’Engle, an author whose childhood fables, religious meditations and fanciful science fiction transcended both genre and generation, most memorably in her children’s classic “A Wrinkle in Time,” died on Thursday in Litchfield, Conn. She was 88.
George M. Gutierrez
Madeleine L’Engle at home in New York in 2001.
Her death was announced yesterday by her publisher, Farrar, Straus & Giroux. A spokeswoman said Ms. L’Engle (pronounced LENG-el) had died of natural causes at a nursing home, which she entered three years ago. Before then the author had maintained homes in Manhattan and Goshen, Conn.
“A Wrinkle in Time” was rejected by 26 publishers before editors at Farrar, Straus & Giroux read it and enthusiastically accepted it. It proved to be her masterpiece, winning the John Newbery Medal as the best children’s book of 1963 and selling, so far, eight million copies. It is now in its 69th printing.
In the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Marygail G. Parker notes “a peculiar splendor” in Ms. L’Engle’s oeuvre, and some of that splendor is owed to sheer literary range. Her works included poetry, plays, autobiography and books on prayer, and almost all were deeply, quixotically personal.
But it was in her vivid children’s characters that readers most clearly glimpsed her passionate search for answers to the questions that mattered most. She sometimes spoke of her writing as if she were taking dictation from her subconscious.
“Of course I’m Meg,” Ms. L’Engle said about the beloved protagonist of “A Wrinkle in Time.”
The St. James Guide to Children’s Writers called Ms. L’Engle “one of the truly important writers of juvenile fiction in recent decades.” Such accolades did not come from pulling punches. “Wrinkle” has been one of the most banned books in the United States, accused by religious conservatives of offering an inaccurate portrayal of God and nurturing in the young an unholy belief in myth and fantasy.
Ms. L’Engle, who often wrote about her Christian faith, was taken aback by the attacks. “It seems people are willing to damn the book without reading it,” Ms. L’Engle said in an interview with The New York Times in 2001. “Nonsense about witchcraft and fantasy. First I felt horror, then anger, and finally I said, ‘Ah, the hell with it.’ It’s great publicity, really.”
The book begins, “It was a dark and stormy night,” repeating the line of a 19th-century novelist, Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. “Wrinkle” then takes off. Meg Murry, with help from her psychic baby brother, uses time travel and extrasensory perception to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from a planet controlled by the Dark Thing. She does so through the power of love.
The book uses concepts that Ms. L’Engle said she had plucked from Einstein’s theory of relativity and Planck’s quantum theory, almost flaunting her frequent assertion that children’s literature is literature too difficult for adults to understand.
“Wrinkle” is part of Ms. L’Engle’s Time series of children’s books, which includes “A Wind in the Door,” “A Swiftly Tilting Planet,” “Many Waters” and “An Acceptable Time.” The series combines elements of science fiction with insights into love and moral purpose.
Ms. L’Engle’s other famous series of books concerned another family. The first installment, “Meet the Austins,” which appeared in 1960, depicted an affectionate family whose members displayed enough warts to make them interesting. (Perhaps not enough for The Times Literary Supplement in London, though; it called the Austins “too good to be real.”)
By the fourth of the five Austin books, “A Ring of Endless Light,” any hint of Pollyanna was gone. It told of a 16-year-old girl’s first experience with death. Telepathic communication with dolphins eventually helps the girl, Vicky, acquire a new understanding of things.
“The cosmic battle between light and darkness, good and evil, love and indifference, personified in the mythic fantasies of the ‘Wrinkle in Time’ series, here is waged compellingly in its rightful place: within ourselves,” Carol Van Strum wrote in The Washington Post in 1980.
Madeleine L’Engle Camp was born in Manhattan on the snowy night of Nov. 29, 1918. The only child of Madeleine Hall Barnett and Charles Wadsworth Camp, she was named for her great-grandmother, who was also named Madeleine L’Engle.
Her mother came from Jacksonville, Fla., society and was a fine pianist; her father was a World War I veteran who worked as a foreign correspondent and later as drama and music critic for The New York Sun. He also knocked out potboiler novels.
The family lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Her parents had artistic friends, and Madeleine an English nanny. She felt unpopular at school. She said that an elementary school teacher — Miss Pepper or Miss Salt, she couldn’t remember which — regarded her as stupid.
Madeleine had written her first story at 5 and retreated into writing. When she won a poetry contest in the fifth grade, her teacher accused her of plagiarizing. Her mother intervened to prove her innocence, lugging a stack of her stories from home.
When she was 12, Madeleine was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, Chatelard, and at 15 to Ashley Hall, a boarding school in Charleston, S.C. Later she graduated from Smith College with honors in English. (She did not take science classes, which was often a surprise to readers impressed with her science fiction.)
Returning to New York, Ms. L’Engle began to get small acting parts. Several plays she had written were produced. She published her first novel, “The Small Rain,” in 1945. And she met the actor Hugh Franklin while they were touring in a production of Chekhov’s “Cherry Orchard.” They married in 1946, and their daughter Josephine was born the next year.
In 1951, when Ms. L’Engle became pregnant again, the family moved to the small town of Goshen, where they lived in a 200-year-old country house called Crosswicks, and bought and ran a general store. Their son, Bion, was born in 1952. In 1956, they adopted another daughter, Maria.
Mr. Franklin died in 1986 and Bion in 1999. Ms. L’Engle is survived by her daughters, Josephine F. Jones and Maria Rooney, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Ms. L’Engle’s writing career was going so badly in her 30s that she claimed she almost quit writing at 40. But then “Meet the Austins” was published in 1960, and she was already deeply into “Wrinkle.” The inspiration came to her during a 10-week family camping trip.
That was just the start. She once described herself as a French peasant cook who drops a carrot in one pot, a piece of potato in another and an onion and a piece of meat in another.
“At dinnertime, you look and see which pot smells best and pull it forward,” she was quoted as saying in a 2001 book, “Madeleine L’Engle (Herself): Reflections on a Writing Life,” compiled by Carole F. Chase.
“The same is true with writing,” she continued. “There are several pots on my backburners.”
Her deeper thoughts on writing were deliciously mysterious. She believed that experience and knowledge were subservient to the subconscious and perhaps larger, spiritual influences.
“I think that fantasy must possess the author and simply use him,” she said in an interview with Horn Book magazine in 1983. “I know that is true of ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ I cannot possibly tell you how I came to write it. It was simply a book I had to write. I had no choice.
“It was only after it was written that I realized what some of it meant.”
The family moved back to New York, where Hugh Franklin won fame as Dr. Charles Tyler on the popular soap opera “All My Children.” For more than three decades, starting in 1966, Ms. L’Engle served as librarian and writer in residence at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. One or two of her dogs often accompanied her to the cathedral library.
Much of her later work was autobiographical, although sometimes a bit idealized. Some books, like “A Stone for a Pillow: Journeys With Jacob” (1986) and “The Genesis Trilogy” (2001), combined autobiography and biblical themes. But she often said that her real truths were in her fiction.
“Why does anybody tell a story?” she once asked, even though she knew the answer.
“It does indeed have something to do with faith,” she said, “faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose or say or do matters, matters cosmically.”
Friday, September 07, 2007
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 7, 2007; Page C01
One hopes (I do, anyway) that "3:10 to Yuma" is a big hit. That means there will be more westerns, and we old goats can die happy, with our boots on, our guns holstered and the sun at our back, humming Ricky Nelson's "My Rifle, My Pony and Me" as we go to Jesus.
Too bad it's not better. It's a pretty frail reed on which to bank the genre's future, even with big guys Russell Crowe and Christian Bale at the center. Based on a '50s western (hardly a classic; the title song, sung by the great Frankie Laine, is better remembered than the actual movie), it features Crowe as Ben Wade, a charismatic killer who becomes the custody of small-fry rancher Dan Evans (Bale) on a journey to the nearest depot for that train of title. If Evans, way overmatched and opposed by Wade's gang as well as Wade himself, brings it off, he gets a reward that will let him save his ranch from bigger-fry business interests.
Well, already you have one relic from the '50s that most movies today lack: a motive. There's an actual reason for Evans's reluctant heroics, and you can throw in some other stuff: Evans's sons and wife think he's too passive and here's his chance to win some man points. The remake, directed by James Mangold, bothers to set this up, follow it through and watch it grow to obsession. Emotional coherence: More movies should try the gimmick. Amazing what the results would be.
But Delmer Daves, who directed the original back in '57, knew a thing or two. His stars were Glenn Ford and Van Heflin. Much smarter casting: Ford had a slyness under his famous earnestness and could alchemize to insincere charm projecting hidden menace, while Heflin, no looker, had a lumpy potato face but an innate decency, so the equation was right. Mangold reverses it, turns the lumpy potato-face guy into the slick psycho (Crowe, that is) and the male-modely pretty boy into the earnest rancher. Right from the start, it feels wrong. The handsome guy should be the bad guy, based on all our lumpenprole dislike of men who get women too easily.
The movie feels like an uneasy combination of new and old western stylings. For example, in the days before Sam Peckinpah's 1969 masterpiece "The Wild Bunch," it was usual for people to get shot in the stomach, pour a little water on it and go on with the movie. That's right, they shook off a sucking gut wound. In the post-"Wild Bunch" days, a bullet blew a magenta cloud of viscera in slo-mo out the exit wound. So in "3:10 to Yuma" you have a weird combination: a magenta cloud of pulverized viscera, followed by a little water and back in the movie. It really doesn't work, even if the subject of bullet and miracle cure is the ageless icon Peter Fonda, wasted in a role as a bounty hunter. (He would have been superb as Ben Wade or Dan Evans!)
The original resolved itself into a "High Noon" clone, ending up in a real-time scenario punctuated by clock close-ups until the whistle sounded, the train arrived and all hell broke loose, and we walked briskly to a happy ending in 93 minutes. It generated some real suspense as the two male archetypes -- predator and provider -- faced each other across eight feet of hotel room and a geological chasm between savagery and civilization. The remake adds 24 minutes and subtracts most of the suspense. There's no claustrophobia and despite the artificiality of the time boundary, little sense of urgency. The Stockholm-syndrome nonsense -- the bond between guys good and bad over their shared ordeal -- of the original is bloated toward total absurdity in an ending that taxes believability while pandering to modern tastes for nihilism.
Neither star seems to add much to his canon; oddly enough, a week after seeing the new movie in a theater on a giant screen and the old one on DVD, it's the old one that lingers in my mind. They had faces, then. Also, the old one had haunting cinematographic texture and some unusually aggressive camera moves -- crane shots, moving cameras, severe black-and-white cinematography that turned the final back-alley walk to the station almost to film noir. Nothing about it is singular. Mangold doesn't have Daves's gift for composition, or the color of dust rising in the desert, or the weight of steam spurting from the 3:10's locomotive.
About the only remarkable thing the film offers is the young actor Ben Foster as Wade's No. 2 gun, Charlie Prince (Richard Jaeckel played Charlie in the original). It's odd: As he aged, Jaeckel got better and better until he always registered and became one of Hollywood's leading character actors. But in the remake, Foster is the whole story. He was also in "Alpha Dog," a tough teen docudrama a few years back, and you may remember him for his eyes. He's got steely focus and a glare that could melt a bank vault door. When he's on screen, nobody else is visible. This could be a big breakthrough for him.
"3:10 to Yuma" (117 minutes, at area theaters) is rated R for violence.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Cyrus Nowrasteh, the writer/producer of the ABC 6-hour miniseries The Path to 9/11 which aired last September, 2006. He has worked in television and motion pictures for a number of years, won two PEN awards for Best Teleplay, and specializes in history and docudrama.
FP: Cyrus Nowrasteh, welcome back to Frontpage Interview.
Nowrasteh: Good to be with you.
FP: Well, it looks as though among the twenty television DVDs slated for nationwide release on Sept. 11, your film, The Path to 9/11, is not one of them. It couldn’t possibly be that your $40-million, five-hour ABC miniseries, which has received seven Emmy nominations and attracted an audience of 25 million people, has no interest. It definitely has more interest than a lot of the garbage on DVD shelves. What is happening here do you think?
Nowrasteh: I’ve been told by a top Disney/ABC exec that “if Hillary weren’t running for President this wouldn’t be a problem”, meaning the DVD would be out. This is to appease the Clintons, plain and simple.
FP: So if there are powerful forces operating out there to protect Bill Clinton's presidential legacy and to help, in turn, Hillary’s bid for the White House -- and to make sure she is not damaged in any way by this DVD, how would their “political pressure” work exactly? How does it operate?
Nowrasteh: Well, last year at this time it was a coordinated effort from the Clintons, Sandy Berger, the DNC, and the far-left loony blogosphere to swamp ABC with emails and phone calls and threats to get them to block the broadcast, or recut the movie. Since then it’s been more subtle. I know there have been phone calls to top execs at Disney from President Clinton himself, and friends of the Clintons, of which there are many in Hollywood.
FP: You received death threats before your miniseries ran didn’t you?
Nowrasteh: Multiple threats. Yes.
FP: If the DVD is killed because of the reasons you are pointing to, what kind of precedent does this set?
Nowrasteh: A very dangerous one. Politicians and the nuts on the far-left sites will see it as a victory -- and other nuts will use this example to coordinate and shut down other entertainment they don’t like. Oliver Stone is the only film-maker to step up and realize how dangerous this is. Where are the other voices? The WGA? The DGA? PEN, of which I’m a member and 2-time award winner? Where are they? This is blatant stifling of creative expression .
FP: Tell us a bit about The Path to 9/11 and why the Democrats were – and are – so furious about it. Didn’t ABC almost cancel it last year due to “pressures” and some “edits” were imposed?
Nowrasteh: They were upset because we hit on the hot-button truth they didn’t want exposed: Their poor record in dealing with Usama Bin Laden and terrorism in the 90s, as well as the lead-up to 9/11. Now, the miniseries was also harsh on the Bush administration, especially Condoleeza Rice, and we point out their many failures as well. So there’s no bias here and those who say there is haven’t watched the show.
FP: What is the meaning in all of this and what can concerned citizens do?
Nowrasteh: This is ominous for any film-maker who wants to look at history with a sharp eye -- what it says is that you can attack conservatives and Republicans all you want, but if you criticize Democrats or liberals you risk being censored by their friends in Hollywood. It’s the same thing that’s going on from the the Democratic Congress about the “Fairness Doctrine”.
Last year, concerned citizens on the Left flooded Disney/ABC with emails and phone calls and nearly shut down the miniseries. What people are willing to do now, I have no idea....
FP: Cyrus Nowrasteh, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Nowrasteh: Thank you.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's managing editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. He is also the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left and the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union (McGill-Queens University Press, 2002) and 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at email@example.com.
September 07, 2007
The Wall Street Journal
West Los Angeles Medical Center
Move over Bridge to Nowhere. Congress is back in town, and clearly back to business even uglier than usual.
It takes hard work to come up with an earmark more egregious than that infamous Alaskan bridge, but California's Dianne Feinstein is an industrious gal. Her latest pork--let's call it Rambo's View--deserves to be the poster child for everything wrong with today's greedy earmark process.
The senator's $4 billion handout (yes, you read that right) to wealthy West L.A. (yes, you read that right, too) is the ultimate example of how powerful members use earmarks to put their own parochial interests above national ones--in this case the needs of veterans. It's a case study in how Congress uses the appropriations process to substitute its petty wants for the considered judgments of agency professionals. And it's just the latest proof that, no matter how much outrage the American public might display over these deals--and no matter how often Congress promises to clean up its act--the elected have no intention of reforming the process.
The pork here revolves around the West Los Angeles Medical Center, though this is no average veterans' facility. Donated to the government in 1888, the center is 387 sprawling, prime real-estate acres in the middle of tony West L.A. More than twice the size of the National Mall, it is surrounded by the mansions and playgrounds of the city's elite, including the Bel Air Country Club and the Beverly Hills estates of Sylvester Stallone, Barry Bonds and Tim McGraw (to name a few).
Huge portions of the facility are also a veritable ghost town. It isn't just that 387 acres is an enormous space, and far larger than any one veteran's community in today's America might ever need. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Los Angeles County also falls on the lowest end in terms of the percentage of veterans living in the area. Nationally, veterans make up about 12.7% of people over the age of 18; the county's average is below 8.5%. Of 91 buildings on campus, 21 are today partially or wholly vacant. Meanwhile, the number of enrolled veterans in that facility is expected to decline by nearly a quarter over the next 20 years.
Which is why, when the Department of Veteran's Affairs set up a process in 2002 to study its infrastructure and rationalize its facilities, it designated the West L.A. center as one of 18 sites that might be downsized, any extra land being used to produce more revenue for veterans' needs. Under law, 108 acres of the L.A. site can't be touched, but the remaining 200-plus acres sit in the middle of a highly desirable real estate area and could yield significant financial gain. The VA has yet to make any decisions, but according to government estimates, even a modest reuse of the property--say leasing out excess acreage--could result in an extraordinary $4 billion for better care for veterans everywhere.
Given the recent uproar over Walter Reed, and Congress's many calls that we do more for the men and women returning home wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan, you'd think no elected representative could possibly have the chutzpah to impede the VA's considered attempts to inject efficiency into its facilities and provide better care for its constituents. Think ever so much again. It turns out the well-to-do in West L.A. consider the veteran's center grounds their own little rolling, personal park, and they want it to stay that way--thank you very much.
The area has in fact revved up a powerful lobby machine to ensure America's veterans don't get anything extra at the expense of their backyard. Ms. Feinstein, California Congressman Henry Waxman and other luminaries have united to publicly bash the VA's plans, and instead demand the "preservation" of the ground for local use. An overwrought Los Angeles Times weighed in, bemoaning that so few L.A. children live within "walking distance of a public place to play," and demanding this "treasured resource" not be ruined by "thoughtless" development. Word is that some Hollywood luminaries who live in Mr. Stallone's neck of the woods have also complained that any changes would impede views from their 15,000-square-foot manses.
Ms. Feinstein, who in the last election received some of her largest donations from the rich area, has been only too happy to come to its defense. She honed in on the military construction and veterans affairs bill--a sensitive spending vehicle that few Republicans would dare vote against, and that President Bush would be loath to veto. She then slipped in an earmark provision that would bar the VA from disposing or leasing any of the ground. Thus a potential $4 billion worth of help and aid for our nation's veterans goes bye-bye in the name of preserving a view for those Hollywood actors who play veterans in the movies.
The indefatigable earmark warrior, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, offered an amendment this week to strip Ms. Feinstein's earmark. California Sen. Barbara Boxer rose in righteous indignation on the Senate floor, and fizzed that she would never dream of leveling such a direct "attack" against South Carolina. The point of this speech was to remind her Senate colleagues that what's hers is hers, and that the penalty for voting against her and Ms. Feinstein's California pork would be the targeting of projects in their own states. They got the message. In the final vote, only 25 senators had the courage to put the nation's veterans above Ms. Feinstein's scenery, including just one Democrat (Sen. Russ Feingold).
Gory details aside, Ms. Feinstein has set a concerning new precedent. Up to now, Congress has had a healthy respect for the decisions of the VA's infrastructure review. That may well change, as more in Congress see Ms. Feinstein's success as an invitation to bring their own parochial concerns to the VA's decision-making process.
There is still one hope that some brave soul will take up this cause and attempt to get Rambo's View stripped from this bill during the House-Senate conference. Democrats have already reneged, and reneged again, on campaign pledges to clean up the earmark swamp, and in any event aren't likely to rally against a powerful member of their own party. But if Republicans had a collective IQ of even 70, they'd be making this particularly offensive pork item a rallying cry that they could use to demonstrate a renewed commitment to spending reform.
What is clear is that if this pork stands, no senator should again be allowed to bemoan a lack of veterans' funds without having this week's vote waved in his face.
Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board.
Thursday, September 06, 2007
September 5, 2007
If you've just returned from your Labor Day vacation and are scanning the headlines from last week's newspapers -- don't panic! America is not threatened by a category 5 hurricane named "Larry Craig."
Despite the 9/11-level coverage, Larry Craig is merely accused of "cruising while Republican." There is nothing liberals love more than gay-baiting, which they disguise as an attack on "hypocrisy."
Chris Matthews opened his "Hardball" program on Aug. 28 by saying Larry Craig had been "exposed as both a sexual deviant and a world-class hypocrite."
Normally, using the word "deviant" in reference to any form of sodomy would be a linguistic crime worse than calling someone a "nappy headed ho." Luckily, Craig is a Republican.
As a backup precaution, Matthews has worked to ensure that there is virtually no audience for "Hardball." I shudder to think of the damage such a remark might have done if uttered about a non-Republican on a TV show with actual viewers.
The New York Times ran 15 articles on Craig's guilty plea to "disorderly conduct" in a bathroom. The Washington Post ran 20 articles on Craig. MSNBC covered it like it was the first moon landing -- Three small taps for a man, one giant leap for public gay sex!
In other news last week, two Egyptian engineering students, Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed and Youssef Samir Megahed, were indicted in Tampa on charges of carrying pipe bombs across states lines. They were caught with the bombs in their car near a Navy base.
But back to the real news of the week: CNN's Dana Bash reported that the Larry Craig story was "everywhere and it is not going to let up."
If liberals were any happier, they'd be gay.
Just as liberals were reaching a fever-pitch of pretend shock and dismay at Larry Craig, it was announced that Craig was resigning. And there went MSNBC's fall program schedule.
Indignant that Craig had short-circuited their gleeful gay-baiting, liberals quickly switched to a new set of talking points. In the blink of an eye, they went from calling Craig a "deviant" to attacking Republicans for not insisting that Craig stay.
Liberals said the only reason Republicans were not blanketing the airwaves defending Craig -- maybe running him for president -- was because of Republican "homophobia." After howling with rage all week about gay Republicans, to turn around and call Republicans homophobes on Friday was nothing if not audacious.
But last Friday -- or, for short, "the day the two bomb-carrying Egyptian students were indicted and the mainstream media was too busy jeering at Larry Craig to notice" -- The New York Times editorialized:
"Underlying the (Republicans') hurry to disown the senator, of course, is the party's brutal agenda of trumpeting the gay-marriage issue. To the extent Sen. Craig, a stalwart in the family values caucus, might morph into a blatant hypocrite before the voters' eyes, he reflects on the party's record in demonizing homosexuality. The rush to cast him out betrays the party's intolerance, which is on display for the public in all of its ugliness."
Liberals don't even know what they mean by "hypocrite" anymore. It's just a word they throw out in a moment of womanly pique, like "extremist" -- or, come to think of it, "gay." How is Craig a "hypocrite," much less a "blatant hypocrite"?
Assuming the worst about Craig, the Senate has not held a vote on outlawing homosexual impulses. It voted on gay marriage. Craig not only opposes gay marriage, he's in a heterosexual marriage with kids. Talk about walking the walk!
Did Craig propose marriage to the undercover cop? If not, I'm not seeing the "hypocrisy."
And why is it "homophobic" for Senate Republicans to look askance at sex in public bathrooms? Is the Times claiming that sodomy in public bathrooms is the essence of being gay? I thought gays just wanted to get married to one another and settle down in the suburbs so they could visit each other in the hospital.
Liberals have no idea what they think about homosexuality, which is why their arguments are completely contradictory. They gay-bait Republicans with abandon -- and then turn around and complain about homophobia.
They call Larry Craig a "deviant" based on accusations that he attempted to solicit sex in a public bathroom -– and then ferociously attack efforts to prevent people from having sex in public bathrooms.
They say people are born gay -- and then they say it's the celibacy requirement that turns Catholic priests gay.
They tell us gays want nothing more than to get married -- and then say it's homophobic to oppose homosexual sex in public bathrooms.
Unlike liberals, the "family values caucus" that the Times loathes has only one position on homosexuality: Whatever your impulses are, don't engage in homosexual sex. In fact, don't have any sex at all unless it is between a husband and wife.
The Idaho Statesman spent eight months investigating a rumor that Craig was gay. They interviewed 300 people, going back to his college days. They walked around Union Station in Washington, D.C., with a picture of Craig, asking people if they had seen him loitering around the men's bathrooms.
And they produced nothing.
All they had was the original anonymous charge of sodomy in a bathroom at Union Station that started the eight-month investigation in the first place -- and his plea to "disorderly conduct" after an ambiguous encounter in a bathroom in Minneapolis. Even his enemies said they had never seen any inappropriate conduct by Craig.
If the charges against Craig are true -- and that is certainly in doubt -- he's a sinner (and barely that, according to The Idaho Statesman), but he is among the least hypocritical people in America.
By PETE THAMEL
The New York Times
Published: September 6, 2007
Joe and Sue Paterno have not seen a movie in a theater since “Titanic” and watch so little television that they were delighted to stumble upon a show this spring that they had not seen before.
“We discovered ‘M*A*S*H,’ ” Sue Paterno said, laughing. “I had heard about it, but I didn’t know what it was about.”
A national audience will tune in to Penn State’s game against Notre Dame at Beaver Stadium on Saturday and see Paterno’s classic tie, oversize glasses and black coaching shoes on the sideline for the 42nd consecutive season.
They will see an 80-year-old who in the last few years has overcome health problems, an attempted overthrow by his superiors and a dearth of talent that resulted in four losing seasons in five years. But thanks to days that begin at 3:30 a.m. and a resurgence in recruiting, Penn State’s place among college football’s elite has popped up like a familiar rerun.
After the chaos of the first week of the season, Penn State’s two toughest September opponents — Notre Dame and Michigan — look vulnerable after ugly losses. That means that Saturday’s game with the Fighting Irish could launch Penn State (1-0) into national title contention.
“I stay in it because of games like this,” Paterno said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s fun.”
It has not always been fun for the Paternos the last few years. There was Sue’s recovery from a broken femur while Penn State endured a 4-7 season in 2004. Then there were two awkward home visits later that fall from the university’s president, athletic director and other high-ranking university officials to try to force Joe to retire.
But there was no give in Paterno, who arrived at State College in 1950 as a 23-year-old assistant coach who made $3,600 a season. Since then he has helped spark Penn State’s growth into world-renowned university with a billion-dollar endowment.
And that was why the home visits to discuss an exit plan for Paterno hurt so much. The Paternos’ influence on the university transcends the athletic department; a library is named after them, and they have endowed numerous academic scholarships.
“My faith never wavered,” Sue Paterno said. “It doesn’t matter who the president is or the administration, no one can hurt my love for Penn State. And I think that’s where he was, too, that we really love this place. When he thinks that it’s better off without him, he’ll get out, he’ll go. Right now he loves it.”
Joe Paterno has seemingly not changed. He lives in the same cozy ranch-style house and, until recently, walked through campus to work. He turns in most nights around 10:30 while watching game film, pencil in hand. He does not have a cellphone, has never sent an e-mail message. He laughed when the N.C.A.A. banned text messaging between coaches and recruits this summer.
“I get a big kick out of all the fuss,” Paterno said. “I thought it was tech messaging — T-E-C-H.”
Sue Paterno is similarly unwavering. She volunteers at the university’s library and is a charitable leader, including for the local Special Olympics. And although she admits that she would rather be playing with her newest grandchild, the Paternos’ 16th, this week she has been baking cookies for recruits and preparing meatballs for the 40 to 50 visitors who will traipse through the Paterno residence before the game Saturday.
Indeed, the Paternos revel in family. Sue Paterno said their best friends are their five children and their families. For Joe’s 80th birthday in December, the most appreciated gift was a picture with handprints and signatures from all the grandchildren.
“I’m not a big celebrator,” Joe Paterno said. “Never have been and I’m not going to start now.”
Imagine Tommy Lasorda still kicking dirt on umpires, Sidney Poitier still lighting up the big screen or Harry Belafonte still touring sold-out arenas. They were born within a year of Paterno.
And while retirement questions have dogged Paterno for two decades, the latest set of doubts about his ability to endure came after his leg was broken in a gruesome sideline collision last November.
But once preseason practices started, the Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said, Paterno darted into the secondary on the first day to give the defensive backs individual instruction. There were balls flying and bodies moving, whipping through drills, and a fiery 80-year-old in the middle of it all.
“That’s when I knew he was fine,” Bradley said. “He’s the same.”
Sue Paterno jokes that her husband might not have been a model patient in his recovery. But as she fetched game films from his den for him to watch from his makeshift hospital bed set up in a side room of their house, she knew he would not retire.
“There’s no way to put a timetable on him,” Penn State’s director of athletic medicine, Dr. Wayne Sebastianelli, said of Paterno. “A guy with his gift and mental alertness and ingenuity, as far as I’m concerned, he can go as long as he wants.”
The members of Penn State’s board of directors now feel the same way. After the unsuccessful home visits by administrators in 2004 to try to persuade Paterno to retire, Paterno responded with an 11-1 record and No. 3 ranking after an Orange Bowl victory against Florida State in 2005, then another top-25 season capped by a bowl victory against Tennessee in 2006. Paterno is 364-121-3, and his job is safe.
“He clearly has the support of the board today,” said Steve Garban, the vice chairman of the board of trustees, who was one of those who visited Paterno to talk about retirement.
The latest controversy Paterno wrestled with was an off-campus fight in April involving numerous players. With their coach declaring that “we need to prove to people that we’re not a bunch of hoodlums,” about 100 Penn State players showed up at Beaver Stadium by 8 a.m. last Sunday to clean up after their 59-0 victory against Florida International. Paterno arrived around 9:15 to inspect their work, and ordered the players off the buses to continue cleaning because he did not think they had done a thorough enough job.
“A lot of times I just stare at him,” Florida Coach Urban Meyer said of Paterno. “He doesn’t give the Coach 101 junk. He’ll make his kids clean up the stadium after a game. That’s a good old guy doing the right thing.”
And Paterno is a guy who appears to be sticking around for a while. The only major change on tap for the Paternos appears to be in their television watching.
“They don’t show ‘M*A*S*H’ anymore,” Sue Paterno said. “But we haven’t seen ‘Cheers’ yet. Maybe we’ll find ‘Cheers’ soon.”
By Wallace Matthews
September 6, 2007
Just give him his money, OK?
The negotiations for the services of Alex Rodriguez ended last night at about 9 p.m, when he hit Jarrod Washburn's 3-and-2 fastball out of the park leading off the seventh to tie the Yankees-Mariners game at 2.
The price went up exponentially about a half-hour later when, batting for the second time in the inning, Rodriguez lined Brandon Morrow's first pitch into the lower leftfield seats to cap an eight-run explosion. His final line: One MRI, two home runs, two curtain calls in the same inning, a Yankee Stadium record that truly will never be broken - anyone care to try for three? - and one general manager at the mercy of a tenacious ballplayer with an even more tenacious agent.
And how much should we make the check out for, Mr. Boras?
In one of the most dramatic performances by a New York athlete since Reggie hit three homers on three pitches, A-Rod melded elements of Willis Reed, Kirk Gibson and Mr. October to create a September night to remember at Yankee Stadium.
Three hours before the game, he was limping on an ankle rendered swollen and sore by the bulk of Adrian Beltre, who had rolled over onto it Tuesday night. Soon afterward, he was being hustled, against his will, across the river to Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital, and at 5:15 p.m. was surrounded not by fans or teammates but by the inside of an MRI cylinder.
At 6 p.m., he was back at the Stadium jogging gingerly in the outfield, and at 6:05 p.m. he was skipping past a group of reporters gathered outside the door of the Yankees clubhouse, saying, "I got to go talk to the manager."
Rodriguez homers to lead off the seventh inning.
He was in the lineup, out of it, then back in it again, only this time as the DH, not the third baseman. And before his night was over, the guy who could barely walk was able to bound up the dugout steps twice to acknowledge the chants of "MVP!" from the crowd.
"I can't even relate to it," said Derek Jeter, who was reduced to open-mouthed fanhood, flapping his hands like a seal waiting for lunch as Rodriguez crossed the plate following the second home run. "It's unbelievable. I haven't seen anything like that in all my years of playing."
With the two homers, numbers 47 and 48, Rodriguez passed Mel Ott, another guy who hit off one foot, on the all-time home run list. More importantly for the Yankees, he established that for one of the few times in their history, the player will be in control when it comes time to hash out a deal.
A-Rod opted in yesterday and he will certainly opt-out at the end of this season, in which his third MVP seems assured and 60 home runs in reach.
Then it will be up to Brian Cashman and the Yankees, who have already declared they will not negotiate with A-Rod and Boras if they do, in fact, exercise the escape hatch in their contract, to swallow hard and produce the cash.
If Alex Rodriguez was worth a quarter of a billion dollars seven years ago, what will he be worth now?
The Yankees can only hope it will be a sum they can live with, because they no longer can afford not to pay it.
I know, I wrote that the Yankees would be better off letting Rodriguez walk and using the savings to shore up the pitching staff, but, like Cashman soon will, I reserve the right to change my mind.
To sell A-Rod the first time around, Boras wrote a 60-plus page prospectus detailing his assets. This time around, he may have to write the Encyclopedia Brittanica.
And Steve Phillips thought Boras had a lot of demands the last time? Wait till this time. He wanted a merchandising tent? How about an A-Rod store on Fifth Avenue. Private jet last time, Air Force One this time. An office on the stadium grounds last time? How about his name on the new stadium?
This time, Rodriguez and Boras are in the driver's seat, and they are about to drive right over the Yankees' front office. They've gotten away with murder for the first four years of Rodriguez's deal, relieved of $10 million of A-Rod's salary by the Rangers. That means they got the use of the best player in baseball for a little more than 60 cents on the dollar. All that will change.
To think there was a time when it was believed the Yankees could never win a championship with A-Rod. Now, it is obvious they aren't winning anything without him.
For that alone, the Yankees better give him what he wants, when he wants it.
September 05, 2007
"Mexico does not end at its borders. ... Where there is a Mexican, there is Mexico."
That astonishing claim, by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, in his state of the nation address at the National Palace Sunday, brought his audience wildly cheering to its feet. [Message to the Nation from the President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, on the occasion of his first State of the Nation Report]
Were the United States a serious nation, Calderon's claim that Mexico extends into the United States would have produced an instant demand from the U.S. ambassador for clarification.
Failing to receive it, he would have packed his bags, and the United States would be on the verge of severing diplomatic relations.
For this is not the first time an arrogant Mexican ruler has made a claim to extra-territorial rights inside the United States and, indeed, to U.S. territory. Mexico's presidents have gotten into a habit of suborning treason against the United States
In 1995, President Ernesto Zedillo told a Dallas audience of U.S. citizens of Mexican descent, "You are Mexicans, Mexicans who live north of the border." I.e., you owe loyalty to Mexico, not Uncle Sam.
In 1997, Zedillo brought a Chicago gathering of La Raza to its feet by exclaiming, "I have proudly affirmed that the Mexican nation extends beyond the territory enclosed by its borders." [He afirmado con orgullo que la Nación Mexicana se extiende más allá de sus fronteras y que los migrantes mexicanos son una parte importante de ella. July 23, 1997]
In 1998, Mexico changed its constitution to restore citizenship to Mexican-Americans who have taken an oath of allegiance to the United States and renounced loyalty to any other country.
Purpose: loosen their ties of loyalty to the United States, re-knit their ties of loyalty to Mexico, and persuade Mexican-Americans to vote Mexico's interests in the U.S.A. Put Mexico first, even if you have taken an oath of allegiance to the United States.
In June 2004, President Vicente Fox took the Zedillo road to the Mexican-American community in Chicago. There, he, too, declared: "We are Mexicans that live in our territories, and we are Mexicans that live in other territories. In reality, there are 120 million that live together and are working together to construct a nation."
President Fox was saying that the construction of his nation is taking place—inside our nation. Is that not sedition?
What these Mexican politicians are saying is that Mexico extends into the United States, and the first loyalty of all men and women of Mexican ancestry is, no matter where they live, to Mexico.
Mexico's rulers believe in a nation of history, blood and soil that pre-existed, and supersedes, any pledge of allegiance any Mexican may make to another country, especially to the United States.
Is George W. Bush vaguely aware of any of this?
At the Quebec summit, Bush mocked the idea of a merger of a North American Union as a fantasy of conspiracy theorists. "It's quite comical actually, to realize the difference between reality and what some people on TV are talking about." [Bush denies superstate rumors, By Jon Ward, Washington Times, August 22, 2007]
Calderon laughed it off, too. "I'd be happy with one foot in Mexicali and one in Tijuana." But in his state of the nation, Felipe is talking about one foot in Mexico and one in Los Angeles.
Is Bush oblivious to what his friend Vicente Fox laid down in Madrid in 2002 as the long-term strategy of Mexico?
"Eventually, our long-range objective is to establish with the United States ... an ensemble of connections and institutions similar to those created by the European Union, with the goal of attending to future themes as important as ... the freedom of movement of capital, goods, services and persons. The new framework we wish to construct is inspired in the example of the European Union." [Translation by Allan Wall: Does Dubya Know About Fox’s Madrid Speech?, Vdare.com, May 29, 2002, Original in Spanish here.]
Fox is talking about the erasure of borders.
Whether Bush is aware of this really makes no difference. For the real issue is not what the Mexican regime has in mind, but whether we can stop it, or whether we have passed a point of no return.
Today, already, there are 45 million Hispanics in the United States, perhaps half from Mexico, and 37 million immigrants.
Now, Steve Camarota of the Center for Immigration Studies projects—using official Census Bureau figures of 1.25 million legal and illegal immigrants entering and staying in the United States every year—a U.S. population of 468 million by 2060.
We will add as many people—167 million—in the next half-century as the entire population of the United States when JFK was elected.
Some 105 million of these folks will be immigrants and their children. That 105 million is equal to the entire population of Mexico, whence most of these folks will be coming.
No wonder Mexican presidents are coming out of the closet about what is up. They know the gringos can't stop it, for they have the American establishment on their side.
Buenas noches, America.
Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com.
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A stunning new book shows how elite culture made the Duke rape hoax possible.
BY ABIGAIL THERNSTROM
The Wall Street Journal
Thursday, September 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT
Privileged, rowdy white jocks at an elite, Southern college, a poor, young black stripper, and an alleged rape: It was a juicy, made-for-the-media story of race, class and sex, and it was told and retold for months with a ferocious, moralistic intensity. Reporters and pundits ripped into Duke University, the white race and the young lacrosse players at the center of the episode, and the local justice system quickly handed up indictments. But as Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson show in "Until Proven Innocent"--and as the facts themselves would show when they finally came to light--it was a false story, a toxic controversy built on lies and bad faith.
There was plenty of wrongdoing, of course, but it had very little to do with Duke's lacrosse players. It was perpetrated instead by a rogue district attorney determined to win re-election in a racially divided, town-gown city; ideologically driven reporters and their pseudo-expert sources; censorious faculty members driven by the imperatives of political correctness; a craven university president; and black community leaders seemingly ready to believe any charge of black victimization.
"Until Proven Innocent" is a stunning book. It recounts the Duke lacrosse case in fascinating detail and offers, along the way, a damning portrait of the institutions--legal, educational and journalistic--that do so much to shape contemporary American culture. Messrs. Taylor and Johnson make it clear that the Duke affair--the rabid prosecution, the skewed commentary, the distorted media storyline--was not some odd, outlier incident but the product of an elite culture's most treasured assumptions about American life, not least about America's supposed racial divide.
A bit of college-age stupidity triggered the sequence of events. The co-captains of the Duke lacrosse team held a house party in Durham, N.C., on March 13, 2006, and hired two strippers from an escort service for the occasion. The women who showed up--Crystal Mangum and Kim Roberts--happened to be black.
It turned out that Ms. Mangum--although the public would not learn of such details until very late in the life-span of the scandal--had a serious alcohol and narcotics problem. She had been diagnosed as bipolar and had spent a week in the state mental hospital the previous summer. Having arrived at the party late, she did not start dancing until midnight. Time-stamped photos show that her performance lasted only four minutes. By 12:30 she had passed out, as she often did--it was later discovered--at the Durham night club where she worked as an "exotic dancer." The other dancer, Ms. Roberts, eventually drove her to a grocery store and asked for help, and the security guard there called the police, who assumed that Ms. Mangum was "passed-out drunk."
In the custody of police, Ms. Mangum said nothing about a rape. (Ms. Roberts called the rape charge a "crock" when she first heard of it, until District Attorney Michael Nifong bribed her to say otherwise by reducing a bondsman's fee--from an earlier conviction--by roughly $2,000.) Ms. Mangum, fearing recommitment to a mental hospital, landed on rape as the explanation for her incoherent and generally woeful condition when she was prompted by a nurse-advocate at a mental-health processing facility. There was no medical evidence to substantiate the charge.
In a series of interviews with prosecutors, Ms. Mangum drew wildly different and implausible pictures of the alleged rape. DNA tests from swabs taken the night of the incident revealed that she had had recent sexual contact with as many as four men, none of whom were Duke lacrosse players. Defense lawyers discovered this damning detail only after combing through more than 1,800 pages of documents released by the district attorney months after the testing was done. The DNA cover-up was only one of the procedural travesties that eventually cost Mr. Nifong his job and law license and (last week) earned him a one-day jail sentence.
In two photo-identification lineups, Ms. Mangum couldn't identify anyone as her rapist. On a third try--before which Mr. Nifong announced to her that all the photos that she was about to see were of Duke lacrosse players--she suddenly fingered three: David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann. It was apparently of no consequence to Mr. Nifong that the lineup violated basic departmental rules and that none of the men she identified bore the slightest resemblance to the descriptions she had given police.
Time-stamped photos--at the party and at an ATM--along with cellphone and taxi records showed indisputably that Mr. Seligmann could not have participated in the 30-minute, three-orifice gang rape and vicious beating of which Ms. Mangum accused the three players. Messrs. Evans and Finnerty did not have such air-tight alibis, but each cooperated fully with the police, even offering to take lie-detector tests, and there was not a shred of evidence against them. The district attorney branded the defendants as "hooligans," but others--like Messrs. Taylor and Johnson here--described them in glowing terms, as earnest, hard-working students.
The state attorney general--after an agonizing yearlong investigation, culminating in Mr. Nifong's removal from the case--determined in April 2007 that Messrs. Evans, Finnerty and Seligmann were innocent of all charges. Nothing--absolutely nothing--had happened at the party. The players' innocence had been apparent to their own attorneys from the outset. It should have been apparent to Mr. Nifong, too, given all the exculpatory details he knew. But he was desperate to win a close primary election and needed black votes, so he proceeded with an unjustified prosecution and publicly vilified innocent young men.
In this fundamental injustice, he was aided and abetted by others in Durham. Richard Brodhead, the president of Duke, condemned the lacrosse players as if they had already been found guilty, demanded the resignation of their coach and studiously ignored the mounting evidence that Ms. Mangum's charge was false. He was clearly terrified of the racial and gender activists on his own faculty. Houston Baker, a noted professor of English, called the lacrosse players "white, violent, drunken men veritably given license to rape," men who could "claim innocence . . . safe under the cover of silent whiteness." Protesters on campus and in the city itself waved "castrate" banners, put up "wanted" posters and threatened the physical safety of the lacrosse players.
The vitriolic rhetoric of the faculty and Durham's "progressive" community--including the local chapter of the NAACP--helped to intensify the scandal and stoke the media fires. The New York Times' coverage was particularly egregious, as Messrs. Taylor and Johnson vividly show. It ran dozens of prominent stories and "analysis" articles trying to plumb the pathologies of the lacrosse players and of a campus culture that allowed swaggering white males to prey on poor, defenseless young black women. As one shrewd Times alumnus later wrote: "You couldn't invent a story so precisely tuned to the outrage frequency of the modern, metropolitan, bien pensant journalist." Such Nifong allies--unlike the district attorney himself--paid no price for their shocking indifference to the truth.
Ms. Thernstrom is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the recipient of a 2007 Bradley Award. You can buy "Until Proven Innocent" form the OpinionJournal bookstore.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
By Mike Lupica
New York Daily News
Wednesday, September 5th 2007, 4:00 AM
Whoopi Goldberg, whose career hasn't exactly been a rocket to the moon since she won her Academy Award for "Ghost," made her debut on "The View" yesterday, and within about 15 minutes a smart woman wasn't just defending Michael Vick, but making you miss Rosie O'Donnell the way the Yankees will miss Derek Jeter someday.
"There are certain things that are indicative to certain parts of the country," Goldberg said of dogfighting.
Then she said that where Vick comes from in the South - suddenly making Newport News, Va., sound like the setting for "Deliverance" - dogfighting isn't that unusual. Of course it's not. That's why we're constantly being bombarded by stories about people raised where Vick was raised doing what he did, taking the kind of fall he just took, occasionally even blowing $100 million deals in the process.
Who knows. Maybe Goldberg is under the impression that before Vick gave the sport such a bad name by drowning and electrocuting underperforming dogs, we might have been on our way to professional dogfighting leagues, fantasy dogfighting, maybe even some kind of dogfighting Super Bowl!
Goldberg also said that she thought it interesting how long it took Vick to realize he was up against serious charges.
"It seemed like a light went off in his head when he realized this was something that the entire country didn't appreciate," she said.
Maybe the light for Goldberg will go off sooner, even if she is getting exactly what she wants today, which is plenty of attention, here and everywhere else. One wire service story about Goldberg's comments said that she had "served notice that she won't shy away from controversy." This isn't a controversy. This just sounded like another call to sports-talk in the middle of the night.
Maybe Whoopi Goldberg has read the indictment against Vick, Quanis Phillips, Purnell Peace, Tony Taylor. If she hasn't, here are some good talking points for today's show, from Criminal Indictment No. 3:07CR 274:
* "In or about April 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick executed approximately eight dogs that did not perform well in 'testing' sessions at 1915 Moonlight Road by various methods, including hanging, drowning and slamming at least one dog's body to the ground.
* On or about April 25, 2007, Peace, Phillips and Vick possessed various items associated with continued operation of the dogfighting operation at 1915 Moonlight Road, including ... a "rape stand," a device in which a female dog who is too aggressive to submit to males for breeding is strapped down with her head held in place by a restraint; a "break" or "parting" stick used to pry open fighting dogs' mouths during fights ..."
When Christian Red of the Daily News went down to Virginia last week to report on the Vick story, he ended up at the Hanover County (Va.) Animal Control facility and saw 11 dogs seized from Vick's property with visible scars all over their bodies.
If this is something common to the region and common to the state, even Whoopi Goldberg, now an instant television expert on Vick and on dogfighting and the state of Virginia, would have to admit that the government is probably going to have to hire more people.
Whoopi Goldberg is allowed to defend whomever she wants in her new gig. She was hired to give her opinions. But come on. This sort of treatment of animals isn't "indicative" of any particular region. Just of a bunch of young guys who thought they could act like bums and get away with it. And, oh, by the way, it is a hideous treatment of animals about which Vick lied to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Falcons owner Arthur Blank.
And to us.
In July Vick stood on the courthouse steps and had his lawyer Billy Martin - a lawyer now representing another poor, misunderstood soul, outgoing (outgoing in all ways) Idaho Sen. Larry Craig - read a statement that told us that Vick had pleaded innocent to the charges against him and would immediately commence clearing his name. Then his pals at the Bad Newz Kennels rolled on Vick faster than he used to roll to his left and right and he was back in court pleading guilty, right before he made a long-overdue move toward the Lord.
In December he will be sentenced to what is expected to be at least a year in jail, perhaps more than that. And for the last time, this time for Whoopi Goldberg: The South didn't do this to Vick, having money didn't do this to him, being African-American didn't do this to him. Vick financed dogfighting and gambling on dogfighting, signed off on torturing and killing dogs. When you get caught doing that you go to jail.
Making this about geography is just another bubble-headed way for people to change the subject, make this about something other than torturing and killing dogs and calling it sport.
Whatever her motives, Goldberg gets the headlines she wants today, gets the attention that all actresses need, gets people to watch her show the day after a "controversy" like this the way Rosie did when she'd take out after somebody like Donald Trump and the headlines would go for days.
And look on the bright side. Even if things don't work out for Whoopi with Barbara Walters:
All they do to underperforming talk show hosts is cancel them.
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Mike Lupica is one of the best-known and widely read sports columnists in the United States. He began his newspaper career with the New York Post in 1975, at the age of 23, covering the Knicks. In 1977, he became the youngest columnist ever at a New York paper when he joined the Daily News. His work has also appeared in Newsday, The National, Esquire, Sport, World Tennis, Tennis, Travel & Leisure Golf, Playboy, Sports Illustrated and Parade. Lupica has written or co-written four previous nonfiction books: "Reggie," the autobiography of Reggie Jackson; "Parcells," an autobiography of former Giants and Patriots coach Bill Parcells; "Wait 'Till Next Year," co-written with William Goldman; and "Shooting From The Lip," a collection of columns. In addition, he has written a number of novels including "Dead Air," "Extra Credits," "Limited Partner," "Jump and Bump, "Run," "Full Court Press," "Red Zone, "Travel Team," "Heat" and the new "Miracle on 49th Street."
September 5, 2007
DEBATING capital punishment at an Ivy League university a few years ago, I was confronted with the claim that since death sentences are more often meted out in cases where the victim is white, the death penalty must be racially biased. It's a spurious argument, I replied. Whites commit fewer than half of all murders in the United States, yet more whites than blacks are sentenced to death and more whites than blacks are executed each year. If there is racial bias in the system, it clearly isn't in favor of whites.
But if you choose to focus on the race of victims, I added, remember that nearly all black homicide is intraracial - more than nine out of 10 black murder victims in the United States are killed by black murderers. So applying the death penalty in more cases where the victim is black would mean sending more black men to death row.
After the debate, a young black woman accosted me indignantly. Ninety-plus percent of black blood is shed by black hands? What about all the victims of white supremacists? Hadn't I heard of lynching? Hadn't I heard of James Byrd, who died so horribly in Jasper, Texas? When I assured her that Byrd's murder by whites was utterly untypical of most black homicide, she was dubious.
I thought of that young woman when I read recently about James Ford Seale, the former Mississippi Klansman sentenced last month to three life terms in prison for his role in murdering two black teenagers 43 years ago. The killing of Charles Moore and Henry Dee in 1964 was one of several unsolved civil-rights-era crimes that prosecutors in the South have reopened in recent years. Seale's trial was a vivid reminder of the days when racial contempt was a deadly fact of life in much of the country. His sentence proclaims even more vividly the transformation of America since then. White racism, once such a murderous force, is now associated mostly with feeble has-beens.
Yet many Americans, like the woman at my debate, still seem to view racial questions through an antediluvian haze. To them, white bigotry remains a clear and present danger, and the reason so many black Americans die before their time.
But the data aren't in dispute. Though outrage over "racism" is ever fashionable, African-Americans have long had far less to fear from the violence of racist whites than from the mayhem of the black underclass.
"Do you realize that the leading killer of young black males is young black males?" asked Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan 16 years ago. "As a black man and a father of three, this really shakes me to the core of my being."
From Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, came a similar cry of anguish. "Nothing in the long history of blacks in America," he lamented in 1994, "suggests the terrible destruction blacks are visiting upon each other today."
Happily, crime rates have declined from their 1990s peak. But it remains that the worst destruction in black America is self-inflicted.
In a new study, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics confirms once again that almost half the people murdered in the United States each year are black, and 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by someone of their own race. (For white homicide victims, the figure is 85 percent.) In other words, of the estimated 8,000 African-Americans murdered in 2005, more than 7,400 were cut down by other African-Americans. Though blacks account for just one-eighth of the US population, the BJS reports, they are six times more likely than whites to be victimized by homicide - and seven times more likely to commit homicide.
Such huge disproportions don't just happen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously warned 40 years ago that the collapse of black family life would mean rising chaos and crime in the black community. Today, as many as 70 percent of black children are raised in fatherless households. And as reams of research confirm, children raised without married parents and intact, stable families are more likely to engage in antisocial behavior.
High rates of black violent crime are a national tragedy, but it is the law-abiding black majority that suffers from them most. "There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life," Jesse Jackson said in 1993, "than to walk down the street and hear footsteps . . . then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved."
It isn't an insoluble problem. Americans overcame white racism; they can overcome black crime. But the first step, as always, is to face the facts.
Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.
Tuesday, September 04, 2007
Gerry Broome / AP
Conduct Unbecoming: Nifong is called a bully
By Evan Thomas
Sept. 10, 2007 issue - On March 28, 2006, the four co-captains of the Duke lacrosse team accused of gang-raping an exotic dancer met with university president Richard Brodhead. One of the captains, David Evans, emotionally protested that the team was innocent and apologized for the misbegotten stripper party. "Brodhead's eyes filled with tears," write Stuart Taylor Jr. and KC Johnson in their new book on the case, "Until Proven Innocent" (420 pages. Thomas Dunne Books. $26.95). Brodhead "said that the captains should think of how difficult it had been for him." The misbehavior of the players, said Duke's president, "had put him in a terrible position." Listening to Brodhead, Robert Ekstrand, a lawyer representing the captains and many of their teammates, "felt his blood starting to boil," write Taylor and Johnson. "Here, he thought, is a comfortable university president wallowing in self-pity in front of four students who are in grave danger of being falsely indicted on charges of gang rape, punishable by decades in prison."
It is possible to feel sympathy for Brodhead (who in an interview with Taylor denied he was tearful or self-pitying at the meeting). The president of a modern, elite university must be careful not to cross his politically correct faculty. Brodhead had already lost face with some professors (who dislike the admissions break given to athletes) by appearing to kowtow before Duke's iconic basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, to stop him from jumping to the pros. Brodhead had to worry about potential riots if he were seen as an apologist for the lacrosse players. They were white and the alleged victim was black; Duke is seen as a bastion of white privilege in its racially mixed hometown of Durham, N.C.
Still, as unforgivingly portrayed in "Until Proven Innocent," Brodhead appears weak-kneed. In their vivid, at times chilling account, the authors are contemptuous of prosecutor Mike Nifong, whom the North Carolina legal establishment disbarred for his by now well-documented misconduct. (Nifong's lawyer, David Freedman, says "there are a number of people who testified at the state bar proceeding that [Nifong] was a very caring career prosecutor.") But their most biting scorn is aimed at the "academic McCarthyism" that they say has infected top-rated American universities like Duke.
A much-beloved dean at Yale before Duke hired him away in 2004, Brodhead is shy and sensitive, dryly witty and poetic, the authors write. Nifong, the Durham D.A. (who was held in criminal contempt of court last week for lying to a judge while pursuing the case and sentenced to a day in jail), is depicted as a bully and blowhard. What the two men had in common was an almost willful disregard for the facts. Brodhead took a high-road stance: Duke could not take sides in a criminal matter. But, according to the authors, he rebuffed the offers of the players' families and lawyers to show him evidence. (The authors write, however, that Brodhead stressed the presumption of innocence in his public statements.)
Nifong never discussed the case with the accuser, the stripper who cried rape and whom he described as "my victim." Nifong knew he was on thin ice. According to police testimony, after hearing the holes in the evidence on March 27, he declared, "You know, we're f---ed." That was just before he told reporters the woman had been brutally raped and the team was a bunch of hooligans who were stonewalling. (Freedman says the comment was made in reference to the fact that there had been no immediate search warrant issued on the house where the party occurred.)
By and large, the press did not let the facts get in the way of a good race-class-sex-violence morality play. Thanks in part to the reporting and guidance of Taylor, a NEWSWEEK contributing editor, NEWSWEEK was the first major publication to pick apart the prosecution's case, in an article on June 29, 2006. But the magazine also put mug shots of two of the wrongly charged players on its cover on May 1 and, in the cover story I wrote, clucked at doting parents who do not want to see that their sons could turn into "thugs." Taylor and Johnson show that the players were crude and drank too much, but that they had no prior record of racism or sexual violence.
The authors make the Duke faculty look at once ridiculous and craven. For months, not one of the university's nearly 500-member faculty of arts and sciences stood up to question the rush to judgment against the lacrosse team. So much for the ideal of the liberal-arts university where scholars debate openly and seek the truth. ("This book provides one interpretation," says Duke spokesman John Burness.) The only group that shows any common sense in "Until Proven Innocent" is the student body. Aside from a few noisy activists who assumed the players were guilty, Duke undergrads mostly overlooked the political correctness of their professors.
With Roya Wolverson
As American Airlines Flight 11began heading toward the North Tower of the World Trade Center, Muhammad Atta announced to the passengers: “Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK….If you try to make any moves, you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.”
Bullies and thugs throughout the ages have told their victims, keep quiet, just go along, or things will go even worse for you. And of course the only effective response to the bullying of the weak by the powerful has always been not to keep quiet, but to speak out, to resist, and thereby to draw attention to the bullying and make life as uncomfortable as possible for the bully unless and until he stops. But human beings have had to relearn this lesson again and again. The impulse to appease bullies wasn’t invented by Neville Chamberlain: it is as old as human conflict itself, and is alive and well today.
And so it played out again in recent weeks, when Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, fired the New England regional director of the ADL, Andrew H. Tarsy. Tarsy’s crime? He recognized the 1915-1918 Turkish genocide of the Armenians, and expressed his support for H.R. 106, a Congressional resolution recognizing and deploring that genocide. After encountering a storm of disapproval, Foxman rehired Tarsy and conceded that the Turkish actions were “tantamount to genocide,” but still refused to throw the ADL’s support behind H.R. 106, calling the resolution “a counterproductive diversion” that “may put at risk the Turkish Jewish community.”
So we have to keep quiet about the Armenian genocide for fear that the Turkish government, which still refuses to acknowledge that it happened, will cause trouble for the Jews remaining in Turkey. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. And Foxman is not alone. Steven M. Goldberg of the Zionist Organization of America notes that “HR 106 already has 227 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and is supported by a majority of Jewish senators and congressmen across the nation…Most of the Jewish organizational establishment, however, is either waffling or desperately trying to avoid the issue. The facts are embarrassing.”
Indeed they are. Outside of the Turkish government and those who want to impress it, the reality of the Armenian genocide is not in serious doubt. On December 15, 1915, the New York Times reported a statement by the Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II: “The way to get rid of the Armenian Question is to get rid of the Armenians.” The massacres went on for several years, and were widely reported in the American press; the Literary Digest referred in 1921 to the “systematic destruction of Christian peoples in the Near East.” A million and a half Armenians were killed between 1915 and 1923.
What can be gained by remaining silent about these atrocities? Only a new boldness by those who would emulate the Turks – as Adolf Hitler said, “Our strength lies in our intensive attacks and our barbarity...After all, who today remembers the genocide of the Armenians?” Of all organizations, the ADL, which speaks out so strongly and eloquently against Holocaust denial, should recognize this.
But fearful and shameful silence in the face of barbarity is not the province of the ADL alone. Foxman’s refusal to endorse H.R. 106 is of a piece with a much larger denial: the refusal on the part of the mainstream media and government officials to examine the jihad ideology of Islamic supremacism that helped fuel the Armenian genocide, and fuels contemporary terrorism. Much of this refusal stems from an impulse similar to Foxman’s: a desire to avoid offending Muslims, so as to keep those who are not yet radicalized from becoming so.
But this, as Muhammad Atta’s advice to the passengers of American Airlines Flight 11 makes clear, only emboldens the jihadists. Those who stay quiet and avoid unpleasant realities in hopes of thereby appeasing the violent are in for a rude awakening. Their supine response will only make bullies step up their bullying, secure in the knowledge that decent people do not have the will to stop them.
Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)" and "The Truth About Muhammad" (both from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).
Appalachian State head football coach Jerry Moore gestures while answering a question at a news conference held at the ASU field house Sunday afternoon Sept. 2, 2007, in Boone, N.C. On Saturday, Appalachian State upset No. 5 Michigan 34-32. Seated with Moore are players, from left, Armanti Edwards, Corey Lynch and Dexter Jackson.
Special to washingtonpost.com
Monday, September 3, 2007; 4:32 PM
Because of the absolute glut of media outlets now in existence, especially in the realm of sports, there is a tendency to get carried away (to put it mildly) by what is happening in the here-and-now.
Tiger Woods must be the greatest golfer of all time. Roger Federer must be the greatest tennis player of all time. Bill Belichick must be the greatest NFL coach of all time. Charlie Weis must be the greatest college football coach of all time. (Oh wait, that's just Weis's opinion).
And, of course, Appalachian State over Michigan must be the greatest upset in the history of college football.
With apologies to Woods, Federer and Belichick, all of whom may someday go down as the absolute best at what they do, Saturday's game in Ann Arbor is, in fact, the greatest upset in the history of college football.
It is more stunning than Carlisle over Army in 1912; more shocking than Carnegie Tech over Notre Dame in 1926 and more amazing than Columbia over an Army team that was unbeaten in 32 straight games in 1947. It is even more remarkable than Duke over anyone in 2007.
Why? Because there are few things in the world more imbalanced than today's college football world. The BCS schools have every possible advantage when playing non-BCS schools that are division 1-A, much less when they play schools from 1-AA. (Note to the NCAA: you can try changing the names of your divisions all you want, some of us just aren't going to pay attention). To begin with, 1-A schools are allowed 22 more scholarships than 1-AA schools. They have more money than they can possibly know what to do with (spend it on weight rooms is usually the answer); they have vastly superior facilities; their players are treated like kings every day of their lives and they never would be caught dead playing a 1-AA school on the road.
When Carnegie Tech beat Notre Dame, 19-0, 81 years ago the game was at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh. Granted, Knute Rockne (the real one, not the current Irish coach who just thinks he's Rockne) took the game so lightly that he didn't bother to show up (seriously), and went to scout Army-Navy instead.
Lloyd Carr showed up to coach his team on Saturday, although the case can be made that he didn't do a very good job of it. Appalachian State won the game because it came into Michigan Stadium in an emotional frenzy, understanding that the game was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Michigan showed up wondering when it would be time to start looking at tape of Oregon.
Of course this happens frequently when little guy faces big guy. (Someone please hit me in the forehead with a rock if I bring up David and Goliath). Appalachian State is a well-coached, talented team that knows how to win, having won back-to-back division 1-AA national titles. Remember also, these are real national titles, where you have to play actual playoff games (three of them) to reach the championship game. The players and coaches know about pressure and they know how to win games.
When Michigan got its act together long enough on Saturday to rally and take the lead, and then get the ball back with the lead, the Mountaineers didn't panic. They got a stop, marched down the field to kick a field goal and then blocked a field goal on the game's final play. They made plays. This was no fluke. If the teams played again next week Michigan would probably win, but it wouldn't be easy. What's more, it doesn't matter. The game was played last Saturday and the better team on that day won.
There's only one bad thing about Appalachian State's victory: It will now give powerhouse schools an excuse to continue scheduling 1-AA teams. In truth, these games shouldn't be allowed because the kids from the 1-AA schools really don't have more than a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win the game or even compete in them. What's even worse is that the two football polls won't allow 1-AA teams to receive votes in their polls. If they're allowed to compete against 1-A teams, why in the world can't they be ranked if they're deserving? You think anyone in this week's top 25 would want to play the Mountaineers right about now? Think they'd want to play them at a neutral site after seeing them beat Michigan in front of 109,000 -- most in maize and blue -- last Saturday?
Duke, which last beat a Division 1-A team in 2004 (seriously) can receive a vote in the preseason coaches poll from Steve Spurrier, but Appalachian State, which would beat Duke by at least 40, can't receive a vote? Let's see how many voters in either poll continue to give Michigan a vote this week. You can bet there will be some who will do so, which is utterly ridiculous.
Really though, none of that matters. Saturday's game was one that will be brought up 50, 60, 70 years from now when extraordinary upsets occur. A little school from the mountains of North Carolina, located in a town with a population that is 96,000 people fewer than the capacity of Michigan Stadium, walked into one of college football's most hallowed venues and won.
One of the Michigan kids said after the game it wasn't really that big a deal? Really? Tell that to people 50 years from now when you're still being asked about it. Lloyd Carr, who is an outstanding coach by any definition, is officially a dead man walking. Unless he figures out a way to win every game for the rest of this season, he can't survive this. Beat Oregon? So what. Beat Notre Dame (which doesn't look quite as good these days with most of Tyrone Willingham's players gone, does it)? fine. Maybe if he beats Ohio State, he might survive.
But neither he nor his players will ever completely get past Appalachian State. Carr will always be remembered as the coach of the 1997 national championship team. He will also be remembered as the coach who lost to Appalachian State in 2007.
Chaminade over Virginia comes to mind on the list of all-time upsets, but at least that game was at Chaminade. The U.S. hockey team over the Soviets at Lake Placid also comes to mind but what would the score of that game have been if the game had been played in Moscow? Frances Ouimet over Walter Hagan at The Country Club in 1913? Remarkable, but again it was an American over a foreigner on American soil.
No, this might very well be the all-timer. You almost hesitate to say it because there will be three books (no, none written by me. wise-guys); four ESPN specials and a Sports Illustrated commemorative issue on sale by this time next week.
But this was as mind-bending an upset as any of us will ever see in our lifetimes. Unless you were a Michigan player, coach or fan, it was just pure fun to see a little guy knock off a true giant.
Appalachian State didn't have a rock. Just a lot of huge hearts. That was enough to create a memory likely to last just about as long as the story about the little guy, the giant and the rock.