Saturday, April 03, 2010

Saying Goodbye To America's Post 9/11 TV Hero

By Claudia Rosett, 04.01.10, 12:01 AM ET

After eight seasons, the Fox series 24, starring Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer, America's one-man do-or-die counterterrorism force--is due to go off the air when the current season wraps up on May 24.

I'll miss Jack. It's only television, but I think he's summed up something important about the American spirit: a will to defend his country, against all attackers, no matter what the odds. That fighting spirit is still evident among American troops on the battlefield. But in Washington's political quagmires, over the nine years since Sept. 11, it's been substantially snuffed out. Instead, policy revolves endlessly around denial of real threats and the impulse to Mirandize enemies on foreign fields of war and bestow upon them the rights of U.S. citizens at home--even if that means releasing them to kill Americans again.

24 is a thriller wrapped around a gimmick: Each season presents a single, action-packed day, spread out across 24 one-hour episodes (occasionally doubled up for an extra kick), all supposed to take place "in real time." Each second of the ticking digital clock is meant to correspond to a second in yet another day from hell for hero Jack, as he battles to save America from scheming terrorists and their weapons of mass destruction.

Conceived before Sept. 11, and scheduled to air in the initial fall lineup of 2001, 24's premiere was briefly delayed. The producers were worried that the subject cut too close to the horrors of the real attacks. In November 2001, they went ahead. 24 was a hit. America was ready for a hero devoted round-the-clock to foiling terrorists.

When I first tuned in, with the pilot show, I found the real-time premise ridiculous. Jack was working for the "Counter-Terrorism Unit" (CTU) in Los Angeles. If the show had lived up (or down) to its billing of horological verisimilitude, he would have spent most of the episode stuck in L.A. traffic.

But I also found the show utterly addictive. It takes more than gridlock to stop Jack, who will do anything and everything to honor his word, defeat the terrorists and save America. Moving at a hectic clip, communicating via an endless supply of cellphones with the faithful tech-wiz Chloe (his most enduring sidekick), Jack tackles at least one deadly crisis per episode, and usually more. Meanwhile, the subplots proliferate into love interests, treachery, coup conspiracies, shootouts, inter-agency rivalries, anguished decisions and--always--some weapon of mass destruction being hauled around, dickered over and primed to go off. Since 2002, the show has rung all the changes on major WMD, some more than once, from chemical to biological to nuclear weapons.

This season the chief setting is New York City with trouble spilling out from a summit at the United Nations. The weapon, courtesy of Middle East politics and the Russian mob, is a rogue cargo of nuclear fuel. Over the past 14 hours, Jack has already been knocked flat by an exploding helicopter, stabbed in the belly, tortured with electrical shocks and, above all, impeded by the usual in-house idiocy and conniving of CTU's latest bosses. Yet he goes on, apparently recovering from his wounds during the commercial breaks.

But as the episodes have stacked up, so have the controversies and the scars, both on-screen and off. Though he struggles on, our hero is weary. It's not just the extras who bite the dust. Every so often, major characters die too--felled by everything from poisoned gas and car bombs to radiation and bullets. Part of the suspense is that you never quite know when something is going to go mortally wrong. Since the show began, Jack has seen his wife murdered and close friends killed. Jack himself has suffered heart attacks under torture, acquired (and kicked) a heroin addiction in order to infiltrate a WMD-dealing drug mob, and received what should have been a fatal whiff of a horrendous bioweapon that would have killed anyone else on the planet.

Meanwhile, out there in the real world, there have been protests over Jack's no-holds-barred interrogation techniques--never mind that this is just a TV show. The producers have been increasingly at pains to weigh down Jack with angst and provide a multicultural parade of villains, including stock Hollywood variations on the motif that the worst enemies are those within. A recurring theme is perfidy among trusted characters, with shadowy groups and ruthless traitors--including at one point Jack's own brother--plotting to attack the country and seize the White House.

Some of this has been far more inane than the real-time premise. What's redeemed it, repeatedly, is the Jack Bauer character. Played by Sutherland as a modest guy sporting a T-shirt and beat-up leather jacket, Jack is the man you want in your fox hole. When he goes to work to stop terrorists, he doesn't quit. No matter if his bosses betray him, his colleagues shun him, Congress tries to pillory him and the terrorists just keep coming. He finds a gun, phones Chloe for some hi-tech backup and soldiers on.

That job has been getting ever tougher. In Season 6, three years ago, Jack returned to the U.S. dazed and angry after an interlude in which Washington let him languish in a Chinese prison. When Season 7 opened, he had the U.S. law on his tail and was living in self-imposed exile in Africa. The current season began with Jack in New York, newly become a grandfather, declaring he was fed up with counter-terrorism, and wanted nothing more than to fly back to California with his daughter and her husband and spend his days in tranquil retirement, dandling his grandchild.

But each time a fresh crisis yanks him back into action. He is the only man who can stop the next attack. Except after May he will be gone. It seems there are plans for a Jack Bauer movie to follow, also starring Sutherland. But that won't be the same as that weekly hour of escape that since Sept. 11 has allowed us to forget the endless absurdities of real-world politics and watch a guy whose mission in life is to protect us, no matter what obstacles the bureaucrats and politicians--not to mention the terrorists--throw in his way. That might just be the definition of a modern hero.

Claudia Rosett, a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, writes a weekly column on foreign affairs for Forbes.

Parochially Post-American

It wasn’t the “reset” button President Obama hit; it was the ejector-seat button.

By Mark Steyn
April 3, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Hillary Clinton, America’s secretary of state, was in Canada last week. She criticized Ottawa for not inviting aboriginal groups to a meeting on the Arctic, and for not including the facilitation of abortion in the Canadian government’s “maternal health” initiative to developing countries. These might seem curious priorities for the global superpower at a time of war, but, with such a full plate over at the State Department, it’s no wonder that peripheral matters like Iranian nuclear deadlines seem to fall by the wayside.

Stephen Harper, prime minister of Canada, took U.S. criticisms in his stride. “Whether it comes to our role in Afghanistan, our sovereignty over our Arctic, or ultimately our foreign aid priorities, it is Canada and Canadians who will make Canadian decisions,” he said. Judging from the chill in the room at his and the secretary of state’s joint photo-op, the Canadian Arctic now extends pretty much to the U.S. border.

The Obama administration came into office promising to press the “reset” button with the rest of the world after eight years of the so-called arrogant, swaggering Texan cowboy blundering his way around the planet offending peoples from many lands. Instead, Obama pressed the ejector-seat button: Brits, Czechs, Israelis, Indians found themselves given the brush. I gather the Queen was “amused” by the president’s thoughtful gift of an iPod preloaded with Obama speeches — and, fortunately for Her Majesty, the 160GB model only has storage capacity for two of them, or three if you include one of his shorter perorations. But Gordon Brown would like to be liked by Barack Obama, and can’t understand why he isn’t.

There is much speculation on the “root cause” of presidential antipathy to America’s formerly closest ally. It is said his grandfather was ill treated by the authorities in colonial Kenya in the 1940s, which seems as good a basis as any on which to reorder 21st century bilateral relations, or at any rate as good as the proportion of the Canadian overseas-aid budget devoted to abortion promotion. But I doubt insensitive British policing two-thirds of a century ago weighs that heavy on the president. After all, his brother back in Kenya lives on twelve bucks a year, and that doesn’t seem to bother him, so it’s hard to see why ancient slights to his grandfather would — except insofar as they confirm the general biases of his collegiate-Left worldview.

In that sense, those who argue that, having been born in Hawaii and been at grade school in Indonesia, he lacks the instinctive Atlanticism of his predecessors are missing the point. Yes, he has no instinctive Atlanticism. But that’s not because of a childhood spent in the Pacific but because of an adulthood spent among the campus Left from Bill Ayers to Van Jones, not to mention Jeremiah Wright. That also conveniently explains not just the anti-Atlanticism but the anti-Zionism, at least until the scholars uncover some sinister Jewish banker in Nairobi who seized the family home after the braying Brit-imperialist toff tossed Grampa Obama behind bars. Perhaps a singing Mountie yodeling selections from Rose-Marie beneath his jailhouse window all night explains the president’s revulsion to Canadian Arctic policy. Perhaps the Gujarati fakir sharing his cell and keeping Grampa up all night with his snake charming accounts for Obama’s 18-month cold shoulder to India. And you can hardly blame him postponing his trip to Australia given the lingering resentments after Grampa was bitten by a rabid wombat down by the billabong who then ran off with his didgeridoo.

Fascinating as these psychological speculations are, we may be overthinking the situation. It’s not just the president. The entire administration suffers, to put it at its mildest, from systemic indifference to American allies. It wasn’t Obama but a mere aide who sneered to Fleet Street reporters that Britain was merely one of 200 countries in the world and shouldn’t expect any better treatment than any of the others. It wasn’t Obama but the State Department that leaked Hillary Clinton’s dressing down of Prime Minister Netanyahu. Ally-belittling comes so reflexively to this administration that it’s now doing drive-by bird-flipping. I doubt Secretary Clinton intended to change American policy when she was down in Argentina the other day and out of the blue demanded negotiations on the Falkland Islands. I would imagine she is entirely ignorant and indifferent on the subject, and calling for negotiations seemed the easy option — works for Iran and North Korea, right?

As to Canadian funding of Third World abortion, the secretary of state was simply defaulting to her own tropes: If she sounds more like the chair of Planned Parenthood than the principal spokesman for American foreign policy, well, hasn’t she always? In a 2003 autobiography almost as long and as unreadable as the health-care bill, she offered little on world affairs other than the following insights: France’s Bernadette Chirac is “an elegant, cultured woman.” Nicaragua’s Violeta Chamorro is “an elegant, striking woman.” Pakistan’s Benazir Bhutto is “a brilliant and striking woman.” Canada’s Aline Chrétien is “intelligent, sharply observant and elegant.” But Russia’s Naina Yeltsin is merely “personable and articulate.” Alas, since taking office, the Obama administration hasn’t found Gordon Brown, Stephen Harper, Binyamin Netanyahu, Nicolas Sarkozy, Václav Klaus, or Manmohan Singh the least bit elegant, cultured, striking, elegant, brilliant, elegant, striking, elegant, sharply observant, elegant, or even personable and articulate.

One of the oddest features of the scene is attributed to the president’s “cool,” which seems to be the euphemism of choice for what, in less stellar executives, would be regarded as an unappealing combination of coldness and self-absorption. I forget which long-ago foreign minister responded to an invitation to lunch with an adversary by saying “I’m not hungry,” but Obama seems to reserve the line for his “friends.” Visiting France, he declined to dine with the Sarkozys. Visiting Norway, he declined to dine with the king at a banquet thrown explicitly in Obama’s honor. The other day, the president declined to dine with Netanyahu even though the Israeli prime minister was his guest in the White House at the time. The British prime minister, five times rebuffed in his attempt to book a date, had to make do with a perfunctory walk ’n’ talk through the kitchens of the U.N. Obama’s shtick as a candidate was that he was the guy who’d talk to anyone, anytime, anywhere. Instead, he recoils from all but the most minimal contact with the world.

John Bolton calls him “the first post-American president” and is punctilious enough to add that he doesn’t mean “un-American” or “anti-American.” In his Berlin speech, he presented himself as a “citizen of the world,” which, whatever else it means, suggests an indifference to America’s role as guarantor of the global order. The postponement of his Australian trip in order to ram health care down the throats of the American people was a neat distillation of the reality of his priorities: A transformative domestic agenda must necessarily come at the price of America’s global role. One-worldism is often a convenient cover for ignorance: You’d be hard pressed to find a self-proclaimed “multiculturalist” who can tell you the capital of Lesotho or the principal exports of Bhutan. And so it is with liberal internationalism: The citoyen du monde is the most parochial president of modern times.

Final Four 2010: It's not so easy to tell Coach K and Dean Smith apart

By John Feinstein
The Washington Post
Saturday, April 3, 2010; D03

INDIANAPOLIS- In March 1993, Duke and North Carolina played each other in Chapel Hill in a game with all sorts of national ramifications. Duke was the defending national champion. North Carolina was ranked No. 1 in the country.

Early in the game the two coaches, Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith, both clearly uptight, were up on every whistle. After several minutes, lead referee Lenny Wirtz had seen and heard enough. He called Krzyzewski and Smith to the scorer's table.

"I know it's a big game," he said. "I know you're both a little hyper. But you have to calm down and let us work the game."

Smith nodded. Krzyzewski did not. "Lenny, there's 21,000 people in here who are all against me," he said. "You three guys are the only ones I can talk to."

Wirtz laughed. Smith did not. "Lenny, don't let him do that," he said. "He's trying to get you on his side."

Krzyzewski glared at Smith, who glared back. Krzyzewski stalked back to his bench and said to his assistant coaches, "If I ever start to act like him, don't ask a single question, just get a gun and shoot me."

Time to round up the guns.

HOUSTON - MARCH 26: Head coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils and the Blue Davils mascot watch as the Blue Devils take on the Purdue Boilermakers during the south regional semifinal of the 2010 NCAA men's basketball tournament at Reliant Stadium on March 26, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

That's not to say that Krzyzewski has morphed into his former arch rival, but as he has become older, more successful and more famous, it is clear that he has come to see the world through a prism far more similar to Smith than he might ever have imagined.

Consider some anecdotal evidence: Smith was famous for shining the spotlight on his seniors -- no matter who they were. In 1975, a North Carolina team led by Phil Ford, Walter Davis and Mitch Kupchak, won the ACC tournament. Smith's opening comment after the championship game was as follows: "Clearly the leadership we got from our seniors was the key to our winning this tournament."

Those senior leaders were Brad Hoffman, Ed Stahl and walk-on Mickey Bell.

Last Sunday, junior Nolan Smith was voted the MVP of the South Region after scoring 29 points in Duke's win over Baylor in the final. Duke's best player in the first three games of the tournament was Kyle Singler, another junior. The three Duke players in the Final Four interview room Friday for the practice day at Lucas Oil Stadium? Seniors Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas.

Dean Smith always made a point of lowering expectations every chance he got. He always said he would be glad to win any game by one point and would never take an NCAA bid for granted -- even while making the NCAA tournament the last 23 seasons of his coaching career.

Several years ago, after a win over Butler, Krzyzewski made this comment: "That's the kind of team we could play in the NCAA tournament . . . if we're lucky enough to make the tournament."

Duke was 22-2 at the time.

There is also the issue of officials. In 1984, after a difficult loss at home to North Carolina, Krzyzewski said there was a double standard for officiating in the ACC: one applied to Smith and North Carolina, the other applied to the rest of the league. Smith was furious -- for years -- over that comment. These days every coach in the ACC is convinced that the double standard has moved 11 miles down the road from Chapel Hill to Durham. Several years ago, Krzyzewski was reminded about the double-standard comment and laughed.

"Looking back, I can see why Dean was upset when I said that," he said. "There's always going to be a sense that a team on top gets the calls because it wins a lot. Good teams tend to win close games because they have players who make plays. We didn't lose to Carolina in 1984 because of the referees, we lost because of Michael Jordan and Sam Perkins."

Smith was always very protective of his players and went out of his way to credit them for victories while blaming himself for losses. Krzyzewski is exactly the same way. The Final Four "is the players' experience," he said Friday. "I'm just happy to be a part of their experience."

Roy Williams, Dean Smith and Michael Jordan at the 100-year anniversary UNC alumni game in 2009.

And then there was Smith's remarkable ability to take a question about how well his team had defended and turn it into a lecture on why the NCAA should crack down more on gambling, or why it was unfair to make his team miss class the day before a region semifinal game to fly in for an open practice and a news conference at the region site.

Friday, Krzyzewski was asked about the fact that nine players in his team's semifinal Saturday against West Virginia are from New York or New Jersey. His answer wandered from that subject to his belief the NCAA should allow coaches to work with their players during the offseason, to a lecture on his daughter taking piano lessons.

"If my daughter takes piano lessons, you don't cut her off from her teacher from April to September," he said. "Players shouldn't be cut off from working with their coaches from April to September either."

He made perfect sense. Smith always made perfect sense, too. At his last Final Four, which was here in 1997, he turned a question about Shammond Williams's poor shooting into a commentary on Larry Brown becoming a father again at the age of 56. Friday, Krzyzewski worked his seven grandchildren into a question about Duke being considered evil.

There's an old saying in the ACC: ABD -- Anybody But Duke. Of course that old saying replaced an older saying: ABC -- Anybody But Carolina. Smith always said that ABC was a compliment because it meant his team had been good for a long time. Friday, Krzyzewski said this: "It's good that people talk about us being back at the Final Four because it means we're here and we've been here before."

Yes they have. Krzyzewski has now reached 11 Final Fours -- as many as Smith. He's also won 12 ACC titles -- one less than Smith. He does have three national titles to two for Smith but that's because he gets all the calls. Oh wait, it was Smith who got all the calls.

Confused yet?

The point here is this: Becoming more like Dean Smith isn't a bad thing; it's a good thing. Smith was not only one of the greatest coaches who ever lived; his program stood for all that was good about college basketball. Krzyzewski has built a similar program at Duke, regardless of what people who have never met him write or say about him.

"We're not going to apologize for being good, for going to class and for wanting to win," Krzyzewski said. "I think doing all that is a good thing."

Smith's teams won games, went to class and wanted to win. Smith retired with 879 wins. Krzyzewski now has 866.

Of course their politics were always very different. Smith is a liberal Democrat, someone who took part in antiwar marches during the Vietnam War, took part in protests advocating a nuclear freeze and actively campaigned for years against Jesse Helms, the conservative former senator from North Carolina.

Krzyzewski is a lifelong Republican who voted for Ronald Reagan twice and for Bush, father and son, twice each.

Smith was thrilled when President Obama was elected in 2008. So was Krzyzewski.

He voted for Obama, too.

For more from the author, visit his blog at

Friday, April 02, 2010

What Is So Good About This Friday?

By on 4.2.10 @ 6:09AM
The American Spectator

We interrupt all otherwise necessary talk of political revenge for and repeal of Obamasnare medicine because of an even more traumatic event that happened 1,980 years ago, give or take a year or three. A man back then who was suffering and suffocating recalled a single line from a sacred poem of his religious tradition, known as Psalm 31, verse 5. "Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, o Lord God of truth."

Before he breathed his last, he echoed that line. "Father, into your hands, I commend my spirit."

Two millennia later, we are still taught to call that Friday "Good."

Caravaggio, Flagellation c1607

The moniker "Good Friday" is, of course, deliberately counterintuitive. Into an occasion of suffering and death, the moniker inserts the insistence that the suffering had significance -- a deep significance that became apparent only two days later, a significance that imbued the suffering itself with the meaning and blessing of what came afterwards. Nobody, and certainly no church, would celebrate the death without the unshakeable belief in the unspoken rest of the sentence left unuttered on the cross. The commitment of spirit was admirable, certainly, but what believers intuitively grasp is that it is the hope of what the Psalm says comes next -- "thou hast redeemed me" -- which is the lifeblood of their faith.

All of which is fine in retrospect, because we are soon told what happened next. We know, or at least know by faith, that the body taken down from the cross and laid in the tomb was gone from the tomb after the Sabbath had been observed. We know by faith that those who searched for but could not find the body were told to be not afraid. We know by faith that what had been lost was now found, what had been dead was now alive, what had been in agony was now redeemed and was now offering that redemption, or hope thereof, to others. Resurrection, renaissance, renewal, redemption. Very "good" indeed.

But we must remember that on that Friday afternoon at 3 p.m., none of that was known. What was known was that the man some called "Teacher" was dead. The soldier who pierced his side knew he was dead. Pontius Pilate knew he was dead. Joseph of Arimathea knew he was dead, and so did Nicodemus, and so did Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, the mother of James and Joses. The man had been betrayed, abandoned, mocked, flogged, spat upon, nailed to heavy wood, and hoisted up high enough that the weight of his own body would suffocate him to death. And he was dead. And some had even heard him say his God had forsaken him. In that moment, and for the next 40 hours, there was neither resurrection nor redemption, but only pain and loss.

And really, why should it have been any different? His suffering had been horrendous, but it was not unprecedented. Two common criminals suffered and died on crosses beside him. The Romans crucified lots of other people. From time immemorial, men have suffered at the hands of other men, or at the hands of unforgiving Nature. Thousands upon millions upon tens and hundreds of millions of people through the millennia have suffered far longer than Jesus of Nazareth suffered physically from late that Thursday night until the middle of Friday afternoon. People with cancer suffer excruciating pain for months on end. People with chronic diseases suffer for years. Despots and criminal mobs and drug cartels and individual murderous sadists torture people to death all the time in ways probably more excruciating, and longer-lasting, than anything Jesus endured from a purely physical standpoint.

For we who see such suffering, whose loved ones suffer, where or how are we supposed to find solace? We are in the position that Mary Magadelene was on that Friday afternoon, the position of grief and loss, of helplessness and despair. The dream is ended; long dies the dream.

There is nothing good about that.

Meanwhile, what we are offered as solace is a mere promise. This thing called heaven, this placed called paradise, this pledge of redemption, this assurance of grace and promise of joy, is to the objective and unfaithful eye and ear a mere weak fairy tale, a flat and tasteless repast, a mess of pottage. We do not hear directly from those who have gone before; we may believe but do not know that they experience eternal joy, for we have no empirical evidence to rely on. Empirically, as we see death and suffering that makes us at least temporarily insensate to all this Earth's beauty, all that we have is "the stink of the didee to the stench of the shroud." Except that our shrouds will not have the power of Almighty God to impress our images upon it for later generations to marvel at.

It isn't very reassuring.

And there surely wasn't much on Good Friday afternoon to reassure Joseph of Arimathea, either.

And yet.... and yet. Yet, unlike that Joseph or either Mary, unlike the centurion and unlike Peter, we have one thing onto which we can hold, one thing that is no fairy tale but is indisputable, historical fact. What we have is the evidence of 1,980 years. We have the fact that something happened of such weight and power, something so convincing and life-altering, that 11 male disciples and several women were able, by their witness alone, to convince first dozens and then hundreds and then the vast majority of Western civilization (and eventually large swaths of Oriental and African civilization as well) that what they had seen and experienced was very real, very potent, and profoundly redemptive. Jesus of Nazareth commanded no armies and conquered no territory. Jesus' followers had no political power, no physical might, no means of mass communication, and no particularly obvious claim to credibility. Yet they, those rejoicing but burdened few, who saw the empty tomb and the risen Christ, somehow became imbued with such charisma and spirit, such aura and such powers of persuasion, that they convinced those who heard them that their odd tale of a risen Christ was believable. Their handiwork, the handiwork of poor fishermen and laborers who became preachers and healers, is an incontrovertible fact of history. Their ministry happened. With the help of one Saul of Tarsus, who originally tried to wipe them out, their ministry grew. It grew, and it raised an entire civilization from the ashes.

The unspoken, devoutly believed and anticipated, second part of Christ's commitment of spirit from the cross is that we can be redeemed by our Lord, God of truth, and that our weak and suffering beings can be raised from our own ashes. It is through that faith that our suffering may have significance. And sometimes a fairy tale of sorts can express the meaning of that significance better than we otherwise could. At the end of The Last Battle of C.S. Lewis' Narnia, the faithful band is told that "all of you are -- as you used to call it in the Shadow-Lands -- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."

It is a morning, this special Friday, which glimmers with Good.

- Quin Hillyer is a senior editorial writer at the Washington Times and senior editor of The American Spectator. He can be reached at

The Same Old Drill

No country in the world with significant oil or gas resources is abstaining from exploiting them.

By Jonah Goldberg
April 2, 2010 12:00 A.M.

Too little, too late, too clever, and for the wrong reasons. That’s a good way to describe President Obama’s decision to allow a little offshore drilling.

Of course, most of the environmentalist base of the Democratic party sees it the other way around: too much, too soon (since “never” is their preferred timeline), too dumb, but for the right reasons.

Obama justified his decision to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the southern Atlantic, and some coastal regions of northern Alaska on the grounds that it would create jobs and serve as a “bridge” to the carbon-free Brigadoon we’ve long been promised. The reality is that his decision was entirely political. Aiming to win vital Republican support in the Senate for some kind of bipartisan cap-and-trade legislation, he lifted the ban where the polling was in favor of doing so. Sound science, energy policy, and economics were the last things on his mind. On that, there is widespread consensus.

Back when oil cost $140 per barrel, Pres. George W. Bush lifted the executive ban on offshore oil drilling. Once elected, Obama quietly reinstated it. Since then, Obama’s Interior Department has been doing just about everything it can to slow, hamper, and prevent oil and gas exploration in the U.S. and offshore. There’s no reason to believe the administration won’t keep doing that. Besides, Obama’s announcement actually bans more oil and gas reserves from exploration than it opens up: nothing in the Pacific, nothing in the western Gulf of Mexico, nothing in southern Alaska — all promising areas.

But there’s an unintended irony to Obama’s decision, one that he probably has not considered, since the passage of health-care reform has only reinforced his ideological hubris. The welfare state that Obama is trying to create needs money, desperately. The federal debt is currently around $12 trillion, and the Congressional Budget Office expects it to hit $20 trillion by 2020. Throw in the unfunded liabilities — i.e., promises to citizens — in our existing entitlements system and the debt creeps over $100 trillion.

The American Enterprise Institute’s Steven Hayward thinks this is something of a ticking time bomb for the Left’s overlapping coalition of environmentalists and welfare-state liberals. For years, environmentalists have been selling snake oil about energy policy, claiming that we can give up on nasty but affordable carbon-based energy such as coal, oil, and gas and embrace wind, solar, and geothermal (but not nuclear!) at little to no cost. In fact, if you listen to people such as New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, switching to solar panels and wind farms will make us richer and more competitive, if not cause unicorns to poop “green jobs” and rainbows for as far as the eye can see.

Obama’s arguments for health-care reform were similarly otherworldly. We can give 32 million more people coverage, without preconditions, and save money. It’s already clear that this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too pitch was bogus; big corporations are announcing that Obamacare will either cost them millions (if not billions) or force them to drop coverage.

It turns out that there’s no free lunch, not on health care and not on energy policy.

And that’s the irony. Obama and his Democratic successors will keep trying to squeeze the rich to pay for their schemes. But that won’t raise anything close to the revenue they need. They’ll try for a value-added tax, which will raise lots of money but also stifle growth. Eventually, if they want to avoid bankruptcy and keep the welfare state afloat, never mind pay for all of these environmental white elephants, they’ll need more revenue, and that’s where oil comes in.

Environmentalists who estimate that we only have six months’ worth of oil in the Arctic or offshore don’t know what they’re talking about, because nobody knows how much untapped oil we have.

Many of the estimates are 30 years old, and they were made before radical leaps in seismic exploration and drilling technology. We could have tens of trillions of dollars worth of oil and gas under our soil or off our coasts. (One American Petroleum Institute study suggests that government revenues alone from untapped resources could be $1.7 trillion over 20 years.) Oil-industry jobs already pay twice the national average and are pretty much impossible to send overseas.

Fossil fuels aren’t going anywhere for at least a few decades. Even if we don’t drill, other countries certainly will. No country in the world with significant oil or gas resources is abstaining from exploiting them — except for America. Environmentalists say that makes us a leader; the rest of the world says that makes us a sucker.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. © 2010 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Obama’s Greatest Crime

Posted by Ralph Peters on Apr 2nd, 2010

President Barack Obama’s greatest crime against our flag and the republic for which it stands isn’t his administration’s health-care theft bill. That’s mere shoplifting compared to what’s coming next.

Obama and the leftwing of the Democratic Party intend to turn ten to eleven million illegal immigrants into voters as expeditiously as possible, giving them a permanent national electoral majority based upon a beholden Lumpenproletariat. If they succeed, our country will face mob rule.

No individual who broke the law to enter this country should ever be allowed to decide who becomes our president, governor, senator—or town council member. If there is one message patriotic Americans must act upon during the remainder of Obama’s reign, it’s this: No voting rights for illegals.

No other issue of our time matters remotely as much—not our lukewarm struggle with Islamist terror or even our metastasizing deficits. This isn’t about tax increases or where to hold terror trials. It’s about preserving our democratic institutions for law-abiding citizens.

Inevitably, objections to handing immigration criminals the vote will be denounced as racist, anti-immigrant, inhumane and so on. Unable to argue on logical grounds, the left will resort to savage name-calling. And, of course, illegal immigrants will be compared to the legal immigrants of yesteryear, as if our laws are just burdensome annoyances that insist on silly distinctions.

As for the left’s all-purpose charge of racism, any illegal immigrant—Irish, Guatemalan or Nigerian—must never be granted the right to vote in a US election. “Illegal” means “not legal.” It means “criminal.” This is not a matter of nuance, and it isn’t color-coded.

(The single exception I would make would be to grant full citizenship to illegal immigrants who serve honorably in our military for a minimum of five years—but the left would hate that, too.)

As for being anti-immigrant, that’s nonsense, too. Legal immigration remains a great strength of our country (I’ve argued for years for more visas and a path to citizenship for hi-tech wonks and other highly skilled workers). Any immigrant who plays by the rules to enter this country, adjusts to our public values and obeys our laws should be allowed to earn the full rights of citizenship on schedule. But no phony waiting periods, or token fines, or pay-your-back-taxes scams can be allowed to buy voting rights for those who broke our laws to steal into our homeland.

And the “inhumane” charge is sheer hypocrisy. If the Democratic leadership and its organized protest mobs (such as the hate-group La Raza) genuinely cared about the plight of illegal immigrants, they’d argue only for a form of residency. Illegals themselves aren’t the ones demanding the vote. They’d be delighted just to be able to stay here. It’s political activists who claim to speak for them who make voting rights “a test of our nation’s sense of justice.” Playing the pity card, they pretend that legalization is all about keeping families together. It’s not. It’s about eleven million bought-and-paid-for votes. Anyway, millions of illegal immigrants weren’t worried about the unity of their families when they abandoned their homes for the USA.

But reason won’t matter. Anyone who challenges the free gift of voting rights to illegal immigrants is going to be charged as a bigot by the left. It’s an accusation that those who love our country will just have to shrug off.

Conservatives and independents are going to have to decide with precision what they’re going to fight for in this struggle. That means starting out by recognizing that we’re not going to line up eleven million illegals in a column of fours and march them back across the border. They’re here. Most are going to stay.

The crucial fight ahead is over those voting rights. Every other question arising from this issue is trivial in comparison. Those who love this country must focus on that single mantra, repeating it until the votes-for-illegals snake is dead: No voting rights for illegals, no voting rights for illegals, no voting rights for illegals.

The importance of this iron focus can’t be over-stressed, because left-wing activists in the administration and in Congress will try to lure our elected representatives into arguments over secondary issues, pretending to compromise on minor matters. There’ll be discussions over the deportation of criminal aliens, back taxes, waiting periods, health-care liability, fines and fees, and any other distractions that can be tossed into the mix. We must not let ourselves be drawn into debating such details as if the overall legalization process is a forgone conclusion.

What’s the right answer to the illegal-immigration crisis our government’s neglect has allowed to grow to such destructive proportions? Congress needs to create a new class of US residency for those illegals with no further criminal records and who can document a history of employment. That residency would provide basic social and economic rights. It would not give illegal immigrants the vote.

There is no reason, constitutional or moral, why Congress can’t do this. There are already multiple classes of non-citizen residents, from temporary workers to refugees. Of course, the Democratic leadership will howl and claim that anything short of full citizenship is an unacceptable injustice. But what would be unjust about allowing eleven million criminals (and yes, they are criminals, every one, by virtue of breaking the law to enter our home) to remain on our soil, with all of the daily privileges and protections accorded full citizens–except the right to choose those who govern the rest of us? Families (except of those who broke additional laws) would remain united. Workers could work openly (and pay taxes honestly). Children could go to school and apply for scholarships. They just couldn’t force their political prejudices on us—although their American-born children would acquire full voting rights, when of age.

This is a practical, ethical, patriotic and sensible approach. It will be attacked savagely by those who care more about blocks of votes than about the quality of human lives.

Born in 1952, I’ve lived through many national crises—more than a few of them exaggerated in their proclaimed importance at the time. But I view the question of voting rights for illegal immigrants as the most critical issue of my lifetime, as regards the protection of our republic. We had the American Revolution, not the French Revolution. We never have been, and never should be, ruled by mobs. But mob rule is the goal of today’s corrupt Democratic Party leadership. They view power as an end in itself. And they will do virtually anything to sustain, deepen and guarantee that power.

After a recent interview on security issues with talk-show host Laura Ingraham, we discussed this issue off-mike. When I said, “No votes for illegal immigrants,” Laura gave me that piercing look of hers and completed the line for me: “No votes for illegal immigrants—ever.”

This is the crucial battle of the Obama era. Independents, Republicans and Democrats of conscience must set aside all personal hobby horses and secondary issues, and avoid seductive compromises. To preserve the United States we love and revere, we must concentrate ferociously on one clear goal as the left attempts to subvert our future elections through the gift of votes to eleven million illegal immigrants: No vote for illegals—ever!

- Ralph Peters is the author of the new book Endless War: Middle-Eastern Islam vs. Western Civilization.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Plump's memory, joy never fade

By Bob Kravitz
Indianapolis Star
April 1, 2010

He sits in the perfect intersection of reality and celluloid fantasy, the real-life Hoosier, the architect of the Milan Miracle and one of the greatest players in Butler University basketball history. He is Bobby Plump, and with the Final Four in his town, with Butler doing something as unimaginable as a school of 161 students winning the 1954 Indiana high school basketball tournament, the gregarious 73-year-old is in his glory.

"Do you ever get tired of talking about it?" he was asked Tuesday as he sat behind his desk in a small office off Keystone Avenue and 56th Street.

He smiled. He was wearing a Butler T-shirt. And, of course, the ring from that 1954 championship.

"What year did you graduate high school?" Plump wondered. "How many people ask you about your high school career? I get asked all the time. It takes you back to a time when you were so alive. You think I get tired of that? No way."

Still a fan favorite: Bobby Plump signs an autograph for a fan Wednesday during a pep rally Downtown. - Charlie Nye / The Star

When the NCAA takes visiting reporters on a field trip today to Hinkle Fieldhouse, they should finish it off with a trip to see Plump at his restaurant/bar, Plump's Last Shot, in Broad Ripple. (They'll be opening early, at noon, if you're interested.)

A building like Hinkle can only tell so much of the history, but Plump is living history, a bottomless fount of stories about Milan and Marvin Wood, about Butler and the legendary Tony Hinkle. "Hoosiers" questions? Fire away:

How often has he seen the movie? (About 10 times.) What did he think the first time he saw it? (Loved it. Became so wrapped up in the semi-apocryphal story line, he quit looking for inaccuracies within five minutes.) Did they get the last shot right? (Absolutely. In fact, at the premiere, the movie's writer, Angelo Pizzo, asked Plump: "Did we get the last 18 seconds right?") Did he really say, "I'll make it," before taking the final shot against Muncie Central? (Heck no. He'd been 1-for-8 that game. "Worst game I'd played in two years." But it sounded good.) What did he like best about the movie? (The way it captured Indiana's love for the game.)

Plump always strikes you as the kind of guy who loves life every day he's breathing, but these days, he's really loving life. Are you kidding? Butler in the Final Four? Everybody talking about "Hoosiers?" A chance to have a barbecue lunch with Gov. Mitch Daniels before watching Saturday's games from the governor's suite?

Plump, of course, played for Hinkle, and when he looks at Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens now, he sees not only Hinkle but Wood, his Milan High School coach.

"Very, very similar in demeanor," Plump said. "I was watching the (Butler) game against Kansas State, Gordon Hayward pulled the string on a free throw and shot an air ball, and they showed Stevens on the sideline and he was laughing. That's how my coaches were. They didn't need to scream. If they raised their voices just a little bit, you knew they meant business.

"He's as good as anybody I've seen come down the pike in a long time. He proves you don't have to shout and stomp your feet. To me, he's in the mold of three of the greatest college coaches ever -- Mr. Hinkle, John Wooden and Dean Smith."

In an office filled with basketball mementos from a storied career, Plump has a two-page letter dated April 5, 1954. It's from then-coach Hinkle, who was recruiting the Milan star to come to Butler.

" . . . Bob, I want you to come to Butler. We have a swell school and I know you will be satisfied here. We have a bunch of good boys. Also I have a man who has taken an interest in you and wants to help you through school financially. . . . When can you come up?


Tony Hinkle

P.S. If any of the other (Milan High) boys want to come with you, bring them up also."

At the time, Plump was getting scholarship offers from IU, Purdue and Michigan State, and Butler didn't offer scholarships. But coming from Pierceville, Plump wanted to go someplace smaller, and he wanted to play as a freshman, which wasn't allowed in the Big Ten.

It worked out pretty well for Plump, and it's working out well for a bunch of Indiana kids -- and five out-of-staters -- who have taken the school to the biggest stage.

Butler is doing this for its school, for Indiana, but more, it's in a position to do this for, as they said in the movie, "all the little schools." Even if Butler isn't exactly Hickory, this is the smallest school to make the Final Four in several decades.

"Just so you know, we didn't do it for the little schools. We did it for ourselves," Plump said. "But it was a good line."

It keeps coming back to the same place. Back to Indiana. Back to Wooden and Hinkle, Butler and Plump and "Hoosiers." Who wrote this? Angelo? Is that you again?

Bobby Plump, the real Jimmy Chitwood, enjoying his second moment in the spotlight

By Mike Wise
The Washington Post
Thursday, April 1, 2010; D01

So itty-bitty Butler is playing in the Final Four this weekend, just a 15-minute drive from campus. And the country has been flooded -- flat-out, nauseatingly inundated -- with Indiana basketball nostalgia. And you're going to tell me with a straight face that the movie "Hoosiers" was an extremely dramatized account of a real high school basketball team and its star player in the 1950s?


You mean to say the coach wasn't a last-chance lifer with a shady past who looked like Gene Hackman?

No, sir. Marvin Wood was just 26 years old. He took over for Snort Grinstead, who was fired for ordering new uniforms against the superintendent's orders.

Did he at least court the hot teacher in homeroom by strolling beside cornfields?


Tell me they at least had an alcoholic assistant coach who ran the picket fence -- you know, Shooter, whose portrayal earned Dennis Hopper an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor?

Not true, either. The assistants were very good family men.

Did this Coach Wood at least sound like current Butler Coach Brad Stevens, who looks 33 going on 16, about as young as Ollie, the team manager-turned-player from "Hoosiers"?

No again.

Did he at least say "pop the ball" and preach four passes before each shot?

Hate to say it, but almost all of it is dramatized -- even the part where they say the coach had a player measure the rim and distance from the free throw line at Hinkle Fieldhouse at Butler. Now there was a guy on the team who said, "Could put a lot of hay in this place, couldn't they?" and that broke the tension of playing in such a big building.

And how would you know all these things "Hoosiers"?

Because I played for the Hickory Huskers. I'm Jimmy Chitwood.


I'm the guy at the end of the movie who made the last shot to beat the big school. I'm why Angelo Pizzo wrote the screenplay.

You're not Maris Valainis. He's a golf pro in Irvine, Calif.

No, I'm the real-life Jimmy Chitwood.

Bobby Plump is 73 today. His restaurant, Plump's Last Shot, is located in the Broad Ripple section of Indianapolis and features draft beer, lots of tender red meat and memorabilia from 1954, when Plump was a 6-foot-1 guard for the Milan (pronounced My-lin) High Indians, who defeated Goliath, a.k.a. Muncie Central, in the final of the Indiana high school state tournament.

You can actually still see the grainy footage of that shot at the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle. Nearly 25 years after the movie came out and more than five decades after he became as big a part of Hoosier lore as Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird or Bobby Knight, Bobby Plump is fine with the fictionalized account.

"Made sense," Plump said in an interview this week. "I mean, Angelo kept asking us for controversy and we had none. You can't have a movie just about hugs and kisses. You needed some controversy. I liked every minute of it. And the important thing is they got the last 18 seconds right."

Plump is in the national spotlight this week almost as much as his beloved Butler Bulldogs. But what really happened to the kid who said, "I'll make it," and swished that ball through the rim at the end of the movie?

He turned down the NBA after an all-American career at Butler, where his free throw record stood for nearly four decades. The industrial league, where he played for the Phillips 66 petroleum company, actually compensated him more than the nascent NBA in the late 1950s. After a few years, he hung up his Chuck Taylors, came back to Indiana and became an insurance salesman before parlaying that business into a financial-planning firm. He also wrote a book in 1997, appropriately titled "Last of the Small-Town Heroes."

He met a nice, pretty girl named Jenine at a sophomore dance in college. That night, both of them were dumped by somebody else. They fell in love and parented three children, including one boy who went on to star in high school and play junior college ball in Wyoming.

"All of us were born in April," said his daughter, Kelli. "Dad had June off when he played in the industrial league. Go figure that one."

His son now runs Plump's Last Shot. But it's his old man who's made a slew of appearances at the restaurant recently because, well, it's Butler and it's Bobby Plump. In Indiana this week, Mister, it don't get much bigger than that. Best thing of all? It never went to his head, which is now a thick thatch of white.

When you thank Bobby Plump for his time, he replies: "No, thank you for your time. It's just nice to be remembered after all these years." And he means it.

By the way, Bobby Plump likes Butler to win it all. What, you thought Jimmy Chitwood would take Duke? No chance. Never.

"Unless the university president and athletic director decided to change the name, they're not the Butler Underdogs," Plump said. "They're the Butler Bulldogs, and they might just bite."

Interestingly, Jack Nicholson was first asked to play the coach in "Hoosiers" but already had a filming commitment. And the real-life announcer in the 1954 championship game, Hillard Gates, is also the movie's announcer. The final scenes were all shot at Butler's Hinkle Fieldhouse. There was also no drama at the end as to who would take the last shot. Like Plump said, only the last 18 seconds were the absolute truth.

He said his movie consultancy only came in handy at that point, when he showed the director and the actor exactly where he began dribbling, how he rose, squared and fired -- shocking a state the moment that basketball pierced the cotton, making a Hoosier immortal out of a teenager in high tops.

"Every time I see the movie, I just thank heavens that that shot still goes in," Bobby Plump said.

50th Anniversary of the Milan Miracle

'Shot' Survives Test of Time

It's been 50 years since Milan stunned Muncie Central on Plump's last-second shot, but the legend has endured

By Mark Alesia
The Indianapolis Star
February 15, 2004

On nice days when he coached the Indiana Pacers, Isiah Thomas sometimes went to Plump's Last Shot, a restaurant in Broad Ripple, sat outside and had a drink, often with a cell phone pressed to his ear.

His world was the NBA, the salary cap, saturation media coverage. In other words, modern sports. A waitress at Plump's said Thomas once joked that his job was "babysitting young millionaires."

Bobby Plump (left), with former teammate Glenn Butte, starred on the 1954 Milan team. -- Star file photo

In today's hoops world, stars are identified in junior high school or earlier, coaches compete for their favor and they play hundreds of games over their high school summers.

Now step inside the restaurant and into another world.

Pictures, newspapers and an old letter jacket evoke an earlier era, one of buzz cuts, postwar optimism and Hoosier history: Milan High School, with an enrollment of only 161, winning the state basketball championship on a last-second shot by Bobby Plump. The date was March 20, 1954.

Fifty years later, the legend endures, magnified by the mythology of the 1986 movie "Hoosiers."

"My sense is that the David and Goliath business that was tacked onto this game was stereotyped, but it prevailed because of the movie," said Phil Raisor, a starter for Milan's opponent in the championship game, Muncie Central, and now an English professor at Old Dominion University.

"Milan had been to the State Finals the year before. They had played together most of their lives. They ran a sophisticated system and came into the game as the more seasoned team."

So Raisor had to laugh at a scene from "Hoosiers" in which the fictional Hickory (Milan) players stand in awe of Hinkle Fieldhouse after seeing it for the first time.

"That's me walking into it at (age) 15," Raisor said of his reaction. "I'm the one who did that."

That might explain some of the shots Raisor took. All four of them, which missed, will soon be on display for everyone to see.

ESPN Classic will replay the game in its entirety Saturday and then show this season's Milan-Muncie Central game live. A VHS tape and DVD of the 1954 game is available from the Indiana High School Athletic Association.

USA Today and Sports Illustrated are expected to weigh in on Milan (pronounced MY-lun), as will a host of others. The Indiana General Assembly, the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Pacers have plans to honor the team. MGM Studios is filming documentary material for a special edition release of the "Hoosiers" DVD.

It's the story of the tiny school beating a traditional power, 32-30. It's the story of Plump holding the ball interminably, stalling, while the crowd went wild.

On the 25th anniversary of the game, the late Bob Collins, former sports editor of The Star, wrote, "It was a preview of the world's first mass LSD freak-out. For four minutes and 14 seconds, absolutely nothing happened on the floor while some 15,000 citizens were helping themselves to every bit as much excitement as they could stand."

Ultimately, it's the story of Plump's jumper from the right wing to win the game. Until then, he was only 2-of-10 from the floor, with three turnovers and zero assists.

"In two years of tournament games, that was the worst game I played," said Plump, 67.


Over the years, the occasional "next Milan" popped up in the hinterlands of Indiana hoops, sometimes with national media watching.

In 1985, Lyons & Marco, otherwise known as L & M, a school that has since consolidated, landed in Sports Illustrated. In 1988, Oregon-Davis showed up on "Nightline" and in The New York Times.

"Everything we did, Milan was always around, which is fine," said Scott Blum, a former Indianapolis Star Indiana All-Star and player for Oregon-Davis. "They earned it."

It turns out that the national media was on to Milan 50 years ago, too, but with a different result.

"Look magazine, which was big back then, wanted to do a special on Milan and the team," Plump said. "(Coach) Marvin Wood turned them down, because he didn't want that publicity to affect what was going on. He didn't tell us that until much later."

Every year since 1954, the team has gathered for a reunion. There was usually golf, dinner and something else.

"We refined our stories," Plump said.

He was joking, but real-life Milan and the considerable dramatic license used in "Hoosiers" do tend to blur.

When people find out that Hamilton Southeastern High School football coach Rob Cutter is the son of Milan's Rollin Cutter, he's pretty sure a question about the movie is coming next.

"The first thing they ask is, 'Which one was your dad?' and 'Who was the drunk?' " Cutter said.

The answers: nobody in particular and the drunk, played by Dennis Hopper, was fictional.

More fiction? The idea that Milan could only play coach Wood's "cat and mouse" offense that helped the team defeat Muncie Central.

"He brought the four-corner offense that Dean Smith invented at Carolina in 1970. . . . We just borrowed it in '53 and '54," Plump said with a wry smile.

Milan scored 60 points in the semifinals and 65 in the semistate against sophomore Oscar Robertson and Crispus Attucks.

"I hated to stand out there and hold the ball, boys, but that's the only way we could do it," Wood was quoted as telling Muncie Central players in The Indianapolis News.

The idea of an idyllic time for everyone is, of course, fictional, too. The law of the land was still "separate but equal" until the U.S. Supreme Court decided Brown vs. Board of Education a few months after the 1954 state championship.

When Milan defeated all-black Attucks, Plump recalls fans using racial slurs and being overwhelmingly in favor of Milan, although the Tigers were an Indianapolis team playing in Indianapolis.

Raisor, who writes extensively about race in his memoir, "Outside Shooter," and Plump say race did not influence the 1954 state title game or the movie "Hoosiers." Muncie Central had three blacks among its top six players.

Attucks went on to win state titles in 1955 and 1956. Plump was asked if he thought any of the nostalgia for Milan is because of race.

"The fans, did they hang on to it because of that?" he said. "I would certainly hope not. But it could be."

Never again

Inevitably, any discussion about Milan leads to class basketball, the split of the state tournament into four divisions in 1998.

"My older brother said, 'Think of what it would have been like if you had class basketball when you played,' " said Blum of Oregon-Davis. "We would have beaten schools by 60. But I wouldn't have changed a thing."

For people with any connection to Milan's story, that's the general consensus. Plump's restaurant, which has the slogan "Always time for one more," was the nerve center for opposition to a multi-class tournament. It's a remodeled two-story house opened by his son in 1995. Among the items on the wall is a hand-drawn bracket from the 1928 Indiana state tournament, in which John Wooden and Martinsville lost in the title game.

"There are too many champions," said Cutter, who played on a team at Noblesville High School that went into the state tournament undefeated.
"The value of winning a state championship isn't the same."

In 1959, the Indiana School Reorganization Act consolidated school districts in an effort to raise educational standards. That decreased the number of small schools.

Those that remained had a tough act to follow. Plump said he and his teammates felt no such pressure.

"We had already done something no other team from Milan had done," Plump said. "We had won a game in the regional. We were a success. Hell, we had fans, fully clothed, showering with us, for God's sake, after we won a game in the regional.

"I think (the pressure) builds up. Milan probably had something to do with that, because people compared the small schools to Milan. 'Can you be another Milan?' There wasn't anybody we were compared to. We didn't have to live up to anybody else. We didn't have to hear, 'Well, maybe you can be a Milan if you do this.' "

Saturday's game will put a glaring spotlight on the current players at Milan and Muncie Central. But it isn't the first time since 1954 that the teams have played on television. During the NBA lockout, in December 1998, they had a televised game. Plump did commentary. Muncie Central won.

"I told 'em it didn't count," Plump joked. "Wasn't a tournament."

Plymouth High School, with more than five times as many students as Milan, had the smallest enrollment of a tournament champion after the Indians. Plymouth did it in 1982 with current Chicago Bulls coach Scott Skiles.

Plump, who works in financial planning and insurance, is married with three children and six grandchildren. He still plays over-50 basketball on Thursday nights.

"They say they don't see daylight under my shoes when I know I'm jumping," Plump said. "My brain tells me I am (jumping). But I can still get around any player who's there."

Call Star reporter Mark Alesia at (317) 444-6039.

Related content
'Shot' survives test of time
Milan's title vital part of its future
Had he missed shot, Plump might have missed life lesson
Where are they now?
Play-by-play recap of 1954 championship

1954 championship game
Milan 50 years later
Bobby Plump on the court again

Fossil Future

By Jonah Goldberg
April 1, 2010 7:00 A.M.

From the July 6, 2009, issue of National Review.

In the Gulf of Mexico — One of the first things you need to know when visiting an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is that a hard hat and safety goggles must be worn at all times. Another thing you might like to know is that the strippers on Bourbon Street prefer not to take Diners Club. But even before even that, you need to know how to remove your industrial jumpsuit underwater and turn it into a flotation device. I learned how to do that at a training facility on the outskirts of Houston, at the intersection of “Where the hell am I?” and “middle of nowhere.”

The jumpsuit maneuver, which requires tying your pants legs in a knot near the crotch and then inflating the torso section, is a bit more difficult than escaping from a crashed, upside-down, underwater helicopter — something else you must learn to do (albeit in a simulator in a swimming pool). But both procedures, in their own way, involve knottedness in the nether regions.

Having completed Underwater Helicopter Egress Training, you head over to New Orleans and get on the now terrifying helicopter and fly to a mobile drilling rig more than a hundred miles out in the Gulf of Mexico — but not before the safety instructor shows you a home movie of a family finishing a helicopter tour. The mother and stuffed-bunny-carrying daughter exit first; then the father, who, in a moment of wholesome excitement, raises his arms as if to say, “That was great!” and has both his hands sliced off while the wife shrieks in horror and blood splatters the lens and, presumably, the bunny. The video has the desired effect. Everyone in the room immediately issues a Memo to Self: “Do Not Raise Arms until Clear of the Helicopter and You Are Home on Your Couch, and Even Then, Be Careful.”

The thoroughness of the training course — which took twice as long as the rig tour itself — is both useful and instructive, and not only because National Review cruises do not teach you how to maximize the survivability of a leap off the Lido deck (you have an 11 percent chance of surviving a 200-foot jump into water if you lack my vital training). It reminds you how seriously the oil industry takes safety. Now, fans of the cable series Black Gold — one of the many TV shows that profile incredibly dangerous professions, along with Ice Road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, Grizzly Bear Teasers, and (no doubt coming soon) Gay Zionist Party Planners of Yemen — might object. In the show (which was much disparaged by the pros I talked with), wildcat oilmen constantly find themselves in death-defying predicaments, having their bodies smashed and twisted by huge oil-slathered apparatuses. But those operations are akin to the “pro wrestling” matches conducted by teenagers in basements and backyards and posted on YouTube.

At major oil installations, like the platforms in the Gulf of Mexico or on the North Slope of Alaska, the scene is more like NASA Flight Control. At Noble Paul Romano, a mobile drilling platform (i.e., one that’s not planted into the sea floor, but floats attached to enormous anchors) run by Marathon Oil, safety is an obsession (hence my Underwater Helicopter Egress Training), and they’ve won all sorts of awards to prove it. The last environmental “mishap” occurred nearly two years ago, in July of 2007, when a tiny amount of oil spilled in the air-compressor room. No oil hit the water. In fact, no significant spill has been recorded (and they record everything) since the Noble Paul Romano went into service a decade ago. And, as of this writing, they’d gone 361,768 man-hours injury- and accident-free. I asked what the last injury was. The answer: A guy smashed his finger with a hammer or some equipment. Now keep in mind: This is a massive contraption where chains, pipes, pulleys, and other moving parts hold hundreds of thousands of tons, and giant drilling doodads burrow through solid rock a couple of miles beneath roiling open seas to suck out oil and gas, almost literally without spilling a drop. That mankind can do such things with as much bloodshed as the average suburban male endures while building a tree house says something wonderful about human ingenuity.

Not surprisingly, opponents of offshore drilling often seem concerned more about the safety of the environment than that of oil workers. For instance, they assert that oil rigs discharge mercury into the Gulf of Mexico. That is possible, but the total amount would equal about 0.7 percent of the mercury poured into the Gulf by the Mississippi River, and the Florida Institute of Technology has found that methylmercury levels around oil rigs are indistinguishable from those in other areas. Other complaints include the claim that oil rigs are inherently risky because they lie in the path of hurricanes, which could cause oil spills. This is true up to a point — hurricanes are a major challenge, and they cause real damage. I asked a manager on the Noble Paul Romano what it is like onboard during a hurricane. He answered, “I don’t know and I really wouldn’t want to find out.” He doesn’t know because, days in advance of the hurricane, crews work tirelessly to secure the installation and leave. When they return, metal is often twisted, structures washed away. The metal stairs running alongside the exterior of another rig I visited, the Lobster, were badly buckled in spots from hurricane damage. Nonetheless, hurricanes don’t cause major spills. Roughly 75 percent of the rigs in the Gulf of Mexico were hit by two back-to-back Category 5 hurricanes, Katrina and Rita, in 2005. According to the Minerals Management Service, no major spills resulted.

The simple fact is that environmental safety, or “stewardship” — or, if you prefer, bad-publicity-and-trial-lawyer-phobic ass-covering — is something of a religion on these rigs. If your candy-bar wrapper blows overboard, or if you drop a ballpoint pen over the side, you have to file an incident report and prove to both management and numerous federal agencies that you did everything possible to retrieve it from the ocean. There’s zero tolerance for anything going in the water that’s not supposed to be there. This ethos is hardly unique to Gulf Coast operations. As I reported from the North Slope of Alaska (see “Ugh, Wilderness!” in the Aug. 6, 2001, issue of National Review), the image, popularized by greens, of rapacious oil companies’ staining Mother Nature’s knickers has long been myth rather than reality. “If I took a leak out there, I’d get fired,” an engineer told me on the North Slope. “In the winter, if you spill some coffee into the snow, you’d better go get a shovel and dig it up.”

Now, one does not want to traffic in negative stereotypes or make unfair generalizations about the Third World, but there’s good reason to believe that the rigs off the coast of Nigeria do not take safety and the environment as seriously. Likewise, one might venture to say that the no doubt nature-loving folk of the petrostate Putinstan, formerly known as Russia, do not generate reams of paperwork every time a pierogi wrapper accidentally goes overboard or the toe that goes wee-wee-wee all the way home is crunched in an accident. And given that China’s effort to lock up Africa’s natural resources has led it to turn such famous environmental stewards and lovers of humanity as Sudan and Zimbabwe into client states, it does not seem far-fetched to conjecture that occupational safety is not a passion among Chinese contractors either.

Truth be told, the American majors didn’t always take this stuff so seriously themselves. But that has changed. Since a platform blowout off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1969, there hasn’t been a large oil spill from offshore drilling in the United States. And, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, offshore drilling has had a 99.999 percent safety record since 1975. One-thousandth of 1 percent of the oil pumped since then has spilled, mostly in relatively tiny quantities that were easy to clean up. This contrasts sharply with the record of big oil tankers, which we increasingly rely on because we can’t drill domestically. Offshore drilling prevents spills in another way as well. Thanks to a National Academy of Sciences study, even conservation groups grudgingly admit that thalassic seepage, i.e. natural oozing — call it Gaian incontinence — is a greater source of oil pollution on America’s coasts than offshore drilling. In fact, peer-reviewed studies confirm that drilling for subsea oil reduces natural seepage, by alleviating the pressure on poor Mother Nature’s bladder. Needless to say, no one in the oil industry is waiting for a thank-you note from Greenpeace.

Still, you’d think environmentalists and regulators would try to take more credit for their fantastic transformation of oil exploration into one of the most environmentally sensitive endeavors in all of heavy industry. The “footprint” of oil rigs, on land and at sea, has been shrinking steadily over the last 40 years, thanks largely to directional drilling. Instead of sinking one pipe straight down, drills can now go out in all directions, like robotic octopus tentacles. In 1970, a 20-acre offshore oil rig could drill a mere 0.8 square miles at 10,000 feet. Today, an oil rig of just 2 acres can drill over 80 square miles — again, while spilling almost none of it.

One would think that’s good news. After all, the 1969 Santa Barbara spill was very, very expensive — though not so much in terms of the clean-up itself. Rather, the mishap gave birth to the environmental movement, particularly as it relates to the oil industry. An organization called GOO — Get Oil Out! — was formed in response to the accident. Ironically, its mission was to Leave Oil In. The following year we had the first Earth Day, and from there the Eco-Industrial Complex was up and running.

The timeline is worth remembering, because it shows that petrophobia long predates the current mania over global warming. It’s hardly a novel insight among conservatives that climate change is a near-perfect rationalization for a preexisting green agenda — with the glaring exception of environmentalists’ continuing objections to nuclear power (more on that in a moment). In fact, it’s hardly a novel insight for liberals either. In 1990 Sen. Tim Wirth (D., Colo.) famously said: “We’ve got to ride the global-warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing, in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

Shockingly, or at least dismayingly, this profoundly undemocratic framing of global warming remains a fixture of mainstream liberalism. Thomas Friedman recently explained on Meet the Press: “If climate change is a hoax, it’s the greatest [he means best, not biggest] hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America. Because everything we would do to get ready for climate change, to build this new green industry, would make us more respected, more entrepreneurial, more competitive, more healthy as a country.”

But is that true? Before we get to the real arguments, let’s brush aside the Democrats’ supposed concern for good jobs at good wages. They get teary-eyed about their mythical 5 million “green jobs,” most of which would involve temporary gigs weatherizing granny’s attic, replacing lightbulbs at the DMV, and hiring ACORN to shake down businesses that use too much air conditioning. Meanwhile, the oil industry is among the highest-paid professions in the United States (typical workers make double the national average). It employs 1.8 million people and indirectly supports another 4 million. A study commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (which sponsored my Gulf tour) estimates that if we opened the areas that have long been off-limits to drilling, it would generate some 160,000 new jobs over the next 20 years and raise $1.7 trillion in government revenue. That is a lot of cheese, possibly even enough to pay for Barack Obama’s health-care scheme.

The first serious argument one hears for reducing our petroleum consumption is that we must free ourselves from “foreign oil.” Deliberately left out of the conversation is that “foreign oil” is not the same as “Middle Eastern oil.” Regardless, we get about 40 percent of our oil from domestic production and the vast majority of our imported oil from non-Middle Eastern sources. (Canada sends us as much oil as the entire Persian Gulf region, and Mexico not much less.) But in any case, if “foreign oil” is a concern, why not drill in the United States? More oil from us means less from foreigners. Right?

The next anti-drilling argument: Either America or the world is running out of oil. Neither assertion is true. Okay, fine: Just as in the long run we’re all dead, in the long run we will run out of oil. In the long run, the sun will also burn out, and Joe Biden might even stop talking. In the more immediate term, say the next 30 to 90 years, oil (and, perhaps more important, coal) isn’t going away.

In the 1970s — again, long before global warming was the “greatest hoax” imaginable — the Club of Rome, a think tank, guaranteed that we’d run out of oil by now. Yet the amount of available oil has expanded greatly since then. According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, we’ve got just shy of 6 trillion barrels of oil or its equivalent. Ronald Bailey, Reason magazine’s science correspondent, writes that this means “82 percent of the world’s endowment of oil and gas resources remain to be used.” Bailey, who did a thorough survey of the “peak oil” debate, found that most of the world’s leading analysts and agencies simply do not think we are running out of oil.
The doomsaying/abundance cycle keeps repeating itself. In 1995 the USGS said that the Bakken formation, in North Dakota and Montana, had a modest amount of oil. It now believes there are 3 to 4 billion barrels there — 25 times the 1995 estimate. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) insisted in 1987 that there were a “mere” 9 billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Twenty years later that estimate is up to 45 billion. Prudhoe Bay in Alaska has already generated 15 billion barrels of oil and natural-gas liquids even though the government insisted the needle would hit empty at 9 billion. Right now, the MMS guesses that the Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) has 14.3 billion barrels of oil and 55 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But that number is almost surely very low, because the government has kept oil companies from taking a serious look at what’s down there, and they will spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars looking for oil only if there’s a good chance the government will let them drill for it.

One of the reasons the numbers keep going up is that we’ve gotten so much better at finding oil, thanks to seismic imaging and the like. Also, drills can extract oil from ever tighter spots, squeezing more and more from each field. The drills on the Noble Paul Romano have incredibly sophisticated sensors that send real-time data about what the drill bit is cutting through to monitors on deck. Ever-improving technology also allows us to get oil we once thought was too hard to reach. We haven’t figured out how to extract oil from shale in environmentally safe and economically feasible ways — yet — but estimates put the amount of shale oil in the Intermountain West at 1.2 to 1.8 trillion barrels. If we could recover 800 billion barrels of that, America would have three times Saudi Arabia’s oil stockpile. This would presumably aid the process of weaning ourselves from Middle Eastern oil (if that really were a serious concern).

Drilling opponents love to point out that we don’t have enough oil to be energy-independent. That’s a straw man. No one thinks we can or should be fully energy-independent. Canada may be annoying from time to time, but who’s scared of buying its oil? More important, oil markets are extremely sensitive, with the prices set at the margin. Small increases in supply have large effects on demand. But a larger and more diverse supply will reduce price volatility by making sudden disruptions (a war, a hurricane) less worrisome. One way to diversify and enlarge supply is to find more oil here in the U.S. — but that cannot happen if the government won’t allow it.

Which brings us to the futility of the “Stop Me Before I Drill Again” mentality that characterizes the Democratic party and the environmental movement. We are constantly told that America must “take the lead” on global warming in order to persuade the rest of the world to cut their own emissions. But America has restricted domestic drilling for decades. Has anyone — anywhere — followed our example? No. Everywhere in the world, governments jump for joy when they discover new oil fields to exploit. Tell a Brazilian official that he should stop drilling because drilling is just wrong, and, once he realizes you’re not joking, he’ll throw his caipirinha in your face.

No serious student of energy and development economics thinks that oil will become less important in at least the next several decades. Every forecast shows demand — domestic and worldwide — going up steadily, or even sharply. Perhaps more importantly, this is also true of coal. China, which is building a new coal-fired power plant every 10 days, has surpassed the U.S. to become the biggest CO2 emitter in the world, and very soon India and Brazil will overtake America as well. They have no intention of abandoning cheap, reliable, and powerful fossil fuels — that they own — in favor of incredibly inefficient, unproven, and expensive “alternative” energy that they’d have to buy from America or Europe. This is true not only because fossil-fuel energy is cost-effective in its own right, but also because they’ve already paid for the infrastructure.

Peter Huber writes in City Journal, “Ten countries ruled by nasty people control 80 percent of the planet’s oil reserves — about 1 trillion barrels, currently worth about $40 trillion.” Then he gets to the heart of the matter. “If $40 trillion worth of gold were located where most of the oil is, one could only scoff at any suggestion that we might somehow persuade the nasty people to leave the wealth buried. They can lift most of their oil at a cost well under $10 a barrel. They will drill. They will pump. And they will find buyers. Oil is all they’ve got.”

And continuing demand for fossil fuels isn’t just about “greed.” Especially in the case of coal, it is a matter of lifting people out of poverty. Saudi princes may need to keep pumping to make payments on their super-yachts in Monaco and Nice, but India is burning coal to feed, clothe, and educate hundreds of millions of people, and there’s no way “green” technology will replace coal for generations. Paul Maeder, a partner at Highland Capital who focuses on clean technology, said at a conference last spring that if you “increase the efficiency of coal by 1 percent, [you will] replace all the power from solar by a factor of 30.”

In short, Kyoto- and Waxman-Markey-style measures will do nothing to stem the greatest sources of carbon emissions (fossil fuels in developing countries) in years to come. They will, however, result in American industry’s outsourcing its work to countries with cheap energy (which is why the beatified souls at Google now build their server farms outside the U.S.).

“Drill, baby, drill” of course falls short of a serious energy policy. But a serious energy policy would certainly involve plenty of drilling — if economically feasible. Indeed, the best argument against more domestic drilling is that it’s too expensive. God in His majestic, mysterious wisdom gave the Saudis oil reserves that are very easy to get at. Our (remaining) oil tends to be harder to reach. A good rule of thumb is that the price of oil needs to be reliably above $50 per barrel to make complex drilling of the type that would be required on the Outer Continental Shelf economically sustainable.

In part, that’s because our oil production is still a private-sector affair, which makes us something of an exception to the global norm. One of the most significant trends in the last 40 years is that foreign oil companies have essentially become sovereign wealth funds. In 1970, 85 percent of oil reserves were controlled by investor-owned companies and 15 percent by national oil firms and Soviet “companies.” In 2007, investor-owned companies controlled just 6 percent of reserves while nationalized firms owned or substantially controlled 94 percent. The Saudi Arabian Oil Company controls 20 percent of the world’s reserves, the Iranian Oil Company 10 percent, Iraq’s National Oil Company 9 percent, and so on. ExxonMobil — our biggest oil company, and the poster boy of “Big Oil” — controls just over half of 1 percent (0.58 percent). Many of these national oil companies socialize their risk in oil exploration, while we — properly — ask our oil companies to carry the burden alone.

There’s an irony here. Given Obama’s penchant for nationalizing industries and sharing burdens in order to “create or save” jobs, he should want to subsidize and nationalize oil exploration here at home. Believers in the free market should oppose that (for starters, national oil companies are far more economically inefficient and environmentally harmful), but it would nonetheless be a more serious energy policy than what the Democrats support now. True, last summer’s high gas prices forced some Democrats to vote to lift the congressional moratorium on OCS drilling, but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is doing everything he can to prevent this while Waxman-Markey wends its way through Congress.

The notion that windmills, solar panels, and biofuels can easily replace fossil fuels is a joke, and so is the idea that you can tax American industry and consumers to solve global warming, or even put a dent in it. Still, conservatives and other realists can be more generous toward environmentalists. Greens are good at pointing out potential problems and at pressuring government and industry to come up with solutions — sometimes even the right solutions. They deserve significant credit for forcing industry to improve the safety of domestic oil drilling. But when they are allowed to make policy, they usually mess it up. For example, Huber notes that if greens hadn’t hamstrung the nuclear industry after the relatively minor Three Mile Island “disaster,” America would be in much better shape. In fact, we would be “in compliance with the Kyoto Protocol today if we could simply undo their handiwork and conjure back into existence the nuclear plants that were in the pipeline in nuclear power’s heyday.” Greens should be popping organic champagne at scores of nuclear-plant ribbon cuttings. Instead, they are shutting Yucca Mountain, further hobbling America’s nuclear industry.

Developing alternative energy sources and improving efficiency makes sense, but recognizing reality makes sense too. And the reality is that the world is going to keep burning fossil fuels for at least a generation. If climate change is a real threat, we should be investing in ways to mitigate it directly (ending agriculture subsidies in order to grow more carbon-inhaling forests would be a nice place to start). Instead we are knowingly and needlessly punishing ourselves, under the influence of “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the United States of America.”

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. This article originally appeared in the July 6, 2009, issue of National Review.


By Ann Coulter
March 31, 2010

On the "Today" show this Tuesday, President Obama claimed the massive government takeover of health care the Democrats passed without a single Republican vote was a "middle of the road" bill that incorporated many Republican ideas.

One Republican idea allegedly incorporated into the Democrats' health care monstrosity is "medical malpractice reform." Needless to say, the Democrats' idea of malpractice reform is less than nothing. Until trial lawyers are screaming bloody murder, there has been no medical malpractice reform.

The Democrats' "malpractice" section merely encourages the states to set up commissions to "study" tort reform, in the sense that frustrated mothers "encourage" their kids not to slouch. By "study," the Democrats mean "ignore."

So we get more taxpayer-funded government workers under the Democrats' "medical malpractice reform," but not one tittle of actual reform.

Democrats manifestly do not care about helping Americans get quality health care. If they did, they could not continue to support trial lawyers like John Edwards making $50 million by bringing junk lawsuits against doctors who are saving people's lives. (At least Edwards has not done anything else to publicly disgrace himself since then.)

At a minimum, any health care bill that purports to improve Americans' health, rather than trial lawyers' bank accounts, must include a loser-pays rule and a restriction on damages to actual losses -- as opposed to punitive damages, which mostly serve to enrich the John Edwardses of the world, and their mistresses.

The Democrats also lyingly claim their health care reform includes the Republican ideas of competition across state lines.

I know they're lying because -- well, first because I read the bill -- but also because Democrats are genetically incapable of understanding the free market. You might say it's a pre-existing condition with them.

True, you can buy insurance across state lines under the new health insurance law -- but only after the Democrats have created a national commission telling all insurance companies what they are required to cover.

That's not as bad as the current patchwork of state mandates -- it's worse!

At least before the passage of ObamaCare you could move to states such as Idaho or Kentucky, where all insurance plans aren't required to cover fertility treatment, restless leg syndrome and social anxiety disorder.

Under federal mandates, there will be no escape.

That's right, a single, one-size-fits-all, jammed-down-your-throat national plan is what the Democrats mean when they say their plan includes "competition across state lines."

How much do you want to bet that the national commission in Washington will mandate coverage for every form of shopping addiction treatment, body image therapy and sex-change operations with mandatory mental health counseling, but not injuries from hunting accidents or smoking-related illnesses?

The Democrats compare their new health care bill to entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid. But those are welfare, not health care. They may go to deserving welfare recipients, but they are a government-enforced gift from the young to the old (Medicare), and from the middle class to the poor (Medicaid).

There's no reason why most Americans shouldn't be able to buy our own medical insurance the same way we buy our own cell phones, hair care and cars.

And just incidentally, Medicare and Medicaid are projected to go bankrupt slightly before the United States of America is projected to go bankrupt. So turning all of health care into a larger Medicare program may need a little more thinking through.

These programs will have to be reconfigured at some point, but how society takes care of the old and the poor should be put in a separate box from how the non-elderly and non-poor should obtain health care.

Democrats want to turn the entire citizenry into welfare recipients.

A few weeks ago, The New York Times ran an editorial noting the amazing fact that, by the middle of this year, there will be an estimated 6.8 billion people on Earth -- and 5 billion will have cell phones! (Even more astounding, at least one of them is seated directly behind me every time I go to the movies.)

How did that happen without a Democrat president and Congress using bribes, parliamentary tricks and arcane non-voting maneuvers to pass a massive, hugely expensive National Cell Phone Reform Act?

How did that happen without Barney Frank and Henry Waxman personally designing the 3-foot-long, 26-pound, ugly green $4,000 cell phone we all have to use?

How did that happen without Obama signing the National Cell Phone Reform bill, as a poor 10-year-old black kid who couldn't afford to text-message his friends looked on?

The reason nearly everyone in the universe has a cell phone is that President Reagan did to telephones the exact opposite of what the Democrats have just done with health care.

Before Reagan came into office, we had one phone company, ridiculously expensive rates and one phone model. Reagan split up AT&T, deregulated phone service and gave America a competitive market in phones. The rest is history.

If you can grasp how inexpensive cell phones in a rainbow of colors and wonders like the iPhone could never have been created under a National Cell Phone Reform Act, you can understand what a disaster ObamaCare is going to be for health care in America.