Thursday, September 30, 2010

Secrecy News on Pentagon's Operation Dark Heart Censorship

Steven Aftergood's conclusion:
By censoring Anthony Shaffer’s new book “Operation Dark Heart” even though uncensored review copies are already available in the public domain, the Department of Defense has produced a genuinely unique product: a revealing snapshot of the way that the Obama Administration classifies national security information in 2010.

With both versions before them (excerpts), readers can see for themselves exactly what the Pentagon classifiers wanted to withhold, and can judge for themselves whether the secrecy they tried to impose can be justified on valid national security grounds. In the majority of instances, the results of such an inspection seem disappointing, if not very surprising, and they tend to confirm the most skeptical view of the operation of the classification system.

The most commonly repeated “redaction” in Operation Dark Heart is the author’s cover name, “Christopher Stryker,” that he used while serving in Afghanistan. Probably the second most common redactions are references to the National Security Agency, its heaquarters location at Fort Meade, Maryland, the familiar abbreviation SIGINT (referring to “signals intelligence”), and offhand remarks like “Guys on phones were always great sources of intel,” which is blacked out on the bottom of page 56.

Also frequently redacted are mentions of the term TAREX or “Target Exploitation,” referring to intelligence collection gathered at a sensitive site, and all references to low-profile organizations such as the Air Force Special Activities Center and the Joint Special Operations Command, as well as to foreign intelligence partners such as New Zealand. Task Force 121 gets renamed Task Force 1099. The code name Copper Green, referring to an “enhanced” interrogation program, is deleted.

Perhaps 10% of the redacted passages do have some conceivable security sensitivity, including the identity of the CIA chief of station in Kabul, who has been renamed “Jacob Walker” in the new version, and a physical description of the location and appearance of the CIA station itself, which has been censored.

Many other redactions are extremely tenuous. The name of character actor Ned Beatty is not properly classified in any known universe, yet it has been blacked out on page 15 of the book. (It still appears intact in the Index.)

In short, the book embodies the practice of national security classification as it exists in the United States today. It does not exactly command respect.
UPDATE: Meanwhile, David Swanson writes on Op-Ed News:
Shaffer and others in the military-spying complex knew about U.S. al Qaeda cells and leaders before 9-11 and were prevented from pursuing the matter. Shaffer believes they could have prevented 9-11. He so informed the 9-11 Commission, which ignored him. The Defense Intelligence Agency retaliated against Shaffer for having spoken up. We knew this, but the book adds context and details, and names names.

Russian TV Highlights Pentagon Book-Burning...(Heck of a PR Job, Sec. Gates!)

Meanwhile, Federal News Radio reports author Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel Tony Shaffer believes that the Pentagon's book burning had more to do with revenge, Wikileaks, and General McChrystal than protection of US National Security...

Joshua Foust: In Defense of Hamid Karzai

From Foreign Policy's AfPak Channel blog:
It’s not hard to imagine ousting Karzai; it’s much harder to conceive of anyone better at the moment. Gul Agha Sherzai, the current governor of Nangarhar and former governor of Kandahar; Abdul Rashid Dostum, an Uzbek militia commander from the North; and Ismail Khan, the former potentate of Herat, all command constituencies, though none with the same degree of multi-ethnic support as Karzai. Abdullah Abdullah, who contested the election last year, also has many supporters, though again, not as many as Karzai.

But even if one of these men were to unseat the Afghan president, there’s no guarantee that they would be any better. In fact, they could be worse. Imagine if Ismail Khan were president – could he exercise any real control outside of Herat? Similarly, Gul Agha Sherzai, the prominent government of Nangarhar, was hyped last year as a presidential contender… but if Karzai’s relationship to the narcotics industry is a problem, Sherzai is worse (he’s also much more violent, and allegedly has a large harem of “dancing boys” at his mansion -- surely not the man the U.S. would want in Kabul). Additionally, Sherzai’s tenure of Kandahar was so bad the Taliban were welcomed in 1994 as liberators from his violent, capricious style of rule. Western pundits also fawned over Dostum and Ashraf Ghani -- but neither has been able to secure more than scattered, occasional support from Afghan voters. Each one of these men face a critical shortcoming: they represent their communities, but not Afghanistan. Only Hamid Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah enjoyed broad support in the last election.

Complaints about Karzai are focused too much on the man and not enough on the presidency. Good man or no, having an office as poorly situated as the Afghan presidency makes any officeholder destined for failure. Were another president to step into the post, he would be faced by the same pressures -- forced to manage the same perilous balancing acts. So maybe it’s less a question about Karzai than about U.S. expectations. If those can’t be met, Washington has a much bigger problem on its hands.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Huffington Post Compares Censored Operation Dark Heart to Original

Marcus Baram based his story of Pentagon censorship on a Federation of American Scientists report by Steven Aftergood:
The most common redaction in the entire book is Shaffer's cover name, "Christopher Stryker," and other popular redactions are references to the National Security Agency, the abbreviation SIGINT (signals intelligence) and comments like "Guys on phones were always great sources of intel," notes Aftergood.

He also reports that only about 10% of the redacted passages, such as the identity of the CIA station chief in Kabul and a physical description of that station, have "some conceivable security sensitivity."

Among the more unnecessary redactions: the name of "Deliverance" star Ned Beatty -- "which is not properly classified in any known universe" -- but is blacked out on page 15 of the book. Overall, the national security classification exemplified in the new book "does not exactly command respect," writes Aftergood.
Here's a link to the FAS website's article:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pentagon Burns Books in Name of National Security...

The book is called Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Ops on the Frontlines of Afghanistan -- and the Path to Victory
by Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, and the Pentagon has bought the initial press run to burn before reading, according to this article in Digital Journal.

I just have one question: Has anyone considered the public diplomacy implications of this story for US credibility in relation to freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and so forth in the struggle against Islamist extremism?

IMHO, I'd say that after the handling of Abu Gharib torture pictures, this is the second worst P/R move I've seen since 9/11 from the United States government.

The author has been quoted as saying: "The whole premise smacks of retaliation. Someone buying 10,000 books to suppress a story in this digital age is ludicrous."

So is a publisher like St. Martin's for agreeing to such a repugnant deal. Of course, the story has already been picked up by Iran's Tehran Times...

PBS NewsHour Debates Obama Administration Internet Surveillance

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pamela Geller on 60 Minutes' Coverage of Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque

From Atlas Shrugs:
Considering it's CBS, yes it could have been worse, but it was pretty bad. I am called a "conspiracy theorist" for speaking the truth and investigating the stealth jihadists behind the mosque. You can write to CBS here.

Thug devleoper Sharif El- Gamal is treated with kid gloves. No mention of his rap sheet, his bullying of moderate Muslims against the mosque, or of the fact that he was just evicted from his office. He was a waiter a couple of years ago, and suddenly became a BSD developer on the medicare fraudster's dime: his financier, Hisham Elzanaty, was a large funder of Hamas (exposed in the Holy Land terror funding trial) while defrauding medicaid out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Worse still, Imam Feisal Rauf was packaged like a big fuzzy teddy bear. Nothing about his previous first performance on 60 minutes. It was right after 911, and Rauf blamed America for the 911 attacks. "Osama Bin Laden is made in the USA." Watch that video here.

He, too, was given a free pass. Nothing on his sanction of Hamas or his role in the jihad warship flotilla. Imam Rauf, the self-described "head coach" of the global strategic initiative -- audio here (his "players" include "the President of the United States, or the President of Malaysia, or the President of England" [sic]), said the following in tonight's 60 minutes episode:

"It's my duty as an American Muslim to stand between you, the American non-Muslim and the radicals trying to attack you."

More threats from this snake. He is going to save us ..... from jihadists? Who is going to save us from him? Please, Rauf, get out of the way, we'll save ourselves, thankyouverymuch.

His motive to build a mega mosque on Ground Zero was made painfully clear in this quote in the NY Times back in December 2009, announcing the Ground Zero mosque, and subsequently scrubbed from the article.

“New York is the capital of the world, and this location close to 9/11 is iconic,” Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” Imam Feisal added, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

How's that?

“Building so close is owning the tragedy."

Rauf is the self-described "head coach" of the global strategic initiative and I'm the "conspiracy theorist?"

Then again, CBS minutes thinks Oliver Stone is a ......... genius. So much for investigative journalism.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Agustin Blazquez's CHE: THE OTHER SIDE OF AN ICON to Premiere in Miami & Paris

My favorite Cuban-American filmmaker sent me this press release today:
---Agustin Blazquez

PRESS RELEASE, September 20, 2010

World premiere of the documentary CHE: THE OTHER SIDE OF AN ICON, produced & directed by Agustin Blazquez at the Miami-Dade College’s Tower Theater, on October 8 & 9 (6:45 pm) & 10 (4:30 pm), 2010. Sponsored in part by the Miami-Dade College. Also an screening at the University of Miami's Casa Bacardi on October 13, 2010 (6:30 pm) and a premiere at Maison de l'Amerique Latine in Paris, France, sponsored by Zoe Valdes, Ricardo Vega & Lunaticas Production,s on October 18, 2010 (9:00 pm).

This film profiles the life of the man killed in Bolivia, as well as "Che", the icon, who lives on today. It presents the real man behind the myth, his legacy and why he has become so popular among the youth, revolutionaries and terrorists of the world. It explores the dangers of believing in Che's carefully constructed fake public image--herein lies the real Che. This documentary is based on sources who worked directly with him, knew his family in Argentina and Havana --who were intimately acquainted with Che's personal and political trajectory as well as his academic scholars.

With the testimonies of:
Abel N. Morales, Agustin Alles Soberon, Antonio de la Cova, Armando M. Lago, Barbara Rangel Rojas, Barbara Rojas, Emilio Izquierdo, Ernesto Betancourt, Enrique Encinosa, Enrique Ros, Felix Ismael Rodriguez, Gustavo Mata, Humberto Fontova, Jaime Suchliki, Javier D. Souto, Jorge Beruff, Margot Menendez, Pedro Corzo, Roberto Bismarck, Rolando Castaño, Roberto Martin Perez & Sergio G. Muñiz

Narrator GUSTAVO REX, asistant & interviewer in English Jaums Sutton
interviewers in Spanish Ana Maria Lamar & Vivian Gude
final song You Don’t Know Che by STEVE PICHAN video on,
additional music Rodolfo Guzman, Virginia Alonso, Springfield United Methodist Church Choir, Caryl Traten Fisher, Rafael Monteagudo, Carlos Molina & Marisa Molina
Spanish & English subtitles / taped on HD & 16.9 widescreen / time 114 min.

distributed by

Tickets will be for sale two days before each show at the theater box office
1508 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33135, ph. 305 643-8706
$6 (General Admission), $5 (Students, Seniors, & members of the Miami Film Society),
$4 (individuales packages of 5 tickets for $20)

DVDs of CHE: THE OTHER SIDE OF AN IDOL will be for sale the days of the shows.
The proceedings will benefits the
A non-profit organization [501 (c)(3)]
All donations are tax deductible and your cancelled check is your receipt

NOTE: The Uncovering Cuba Educational Foundation Corporation (UCEF) is a Maryland tax-exempt non-stock corporation that held its first organizational meeting on August 18, 2003. Founded by Agustin Blazquez and James W. Sutton, it is an official non-profit corporation. The purpose is to educate the general public and the news media regarding the history of Cuba and current events within the island, particularly from the firsthand point of view of its citizens and Cuban Americans.
You can view clips from the film on YouTube, at this URL:

Fouad Ajami on the Bloomberg Ground Zero WTC Mosque

From today's Wall Street Journal:
It was in 1965, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf tells us, that he made his way to America as a young man. He and a vast migration would be here as American identity would undergo a drastic metamorphosis.
The prudence of days past was now a distant memory. These activists who came in the 1990s—the time of multiculturalism and of what the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. called the "disuniting of America"—would insist on a full-scale revision of the American creed. American liberalism had broken with American patriotism, and the self-styled activists would give themselves over to a militancy that would have shocked their forerunners. It is out of that larger history that this project at Ground Zero is born.

There is a great Arab and Islamic tale. It happened in the early years of Islam, but it speaks to this controversy. It took place in A.D. 638, the time of Islam's triumphs.The second successor to the Prophet, the Caliph Omar—to orthodox Muslims the most revered of the four Guided Caliphs for the great conquests that took place during his reign—had come to Jerusalem to accept the city's surrender. Patriarch Sophronius, the city's chief magistrate, is by his side for the ceremony of surrender. Prayer time comes for Omar while the patriarch is showing him the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The conqueror asks where he could spread out his prayer rug. Sophronius tells him that he could stay where he was. Omar refuses, because his followers, he said, might then claim for Islam the holy shrine of the Christians. Omar stepped outside for his prayer.

We don't always assert all the "rights" that we can get away with. The faith is honored when the faith bends to necessity and discretion.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Erin O'Connor on Jonathan Franzen

From her blog, Critical Mass:
Granted I have not finished the novel. And perhaps the tenderness and compassion will appear magically in the last few pages and will wash over me with such power that it will mitigate the pinched and cramped effects of the first 450 pages. But I’m having my doubts. Freedom is not a compassionate or tender novel. It’s angry, bitter, and deeply troubled. It’s written from a narrative perspective that struggles to see its central characters through anything other than a sour, sardonic lens. And, in titling the novel Freedom, it elevates this struggle–or tries to elevate it–to the level of philosophical meditation. The result is a jaundiced and dysphoric work that–while compulsively readable in the manner of The Corrections–is hardly a tender or compassionate account of “the many ironies of life under late capitalism.” Rather, it reads like a claustrophobic tautology: a blanket indictment of middle-class Americanness that sees Americanness as an ugly inevitable distortion of humanity caused by the irredeemably flawed premises of America itself.

Jay Wertz on Oren Jacoby's Lafayette: The Lost Hero

I saw a preview of Lafayette: The Lost Hero at the Society of Cincinnati last weekend, and enjoyed it before it aired on PBS Monday night...yet only now found an excerpt from this thoughtful review to share, by Jay Wertz from HistoryNet:
Leading a small command at the Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777, he was wounded in the leg but recovered quickly. Given command of a division shortly after his 20th birthday, he went on to earn the trust and admiration of George Washington, particularly through the long, hard winter of 1777–78 at Valley Forge.

These experiences and those that lay ahead in Lafayette's long life are told in a story that unravels through unique scenarios in the program. It's as if Jacoby went shopping in the mall of documentary techniques and put one of each in his basket. In Lafayette: The Lost Hero Jacoby bends and twists through different techniques to glide easily through the biography and make it entertaining. He shows a map with all the places named Lafayette in the U. S. A. and takes us to some of them; he uses clips from several Lafayette movies, etc.

Reenactors recreate battles in the film. Courtesy of Thomas Beckner - Storyville Films.The all-important first five minutes had me hooked as Revolutionary War reenactors arrive on a benign landscape to stage a scene for the documentary. The often folksy-sounding narrator reminds us that living history interpreters do so to try to understand how life was in times past. I concur and have been broadcasting that message for more than two decades, since I began filming authentic historical reenactments with the 200th anniversary Yorktown Victory Celebration. Jacoby's opening scene hooked me, and I was delighted that the style and content held my attention to the end.
Besides negotiating French arms, men and warships for the American war effort and leading a significant command at the Battle of Yorktown, Lafayette impressed the new nation in other ways. His love of liberty that brought him to the American cause extended in his mind to all citizens, and he encouraged the young nation to rid itself of the hypocritical scourge of slavery. He even bought the freedom of an African-American who acted as a military spy in his Yorktown command. Many of Lafayette's feelings and thoughts are revealed in excerpts from his memoirs, convincingly delivered in the show in a gently accented voice.

James R. Gaines, a Lafayette biographer, picks up much of the weight of the narrative early in the program. With Sabine Renault-Sabloniere, another biographer and Lafayette descendent, the audience is led through the Marquis' early life, long association with America, his uncomfortable and ultimately tragic role in the French revolution and the love bond he shared with his wife. Hearing her words are also among the more poignant moments in the program.

Although I enjoyed most of the cornucopia of techniques used in the program, the animated maps were a little creepy—literally; instead of animated arrows, color blobs creep down the maps. And when Mme. Renault-Sabloniere comes to the U. S. to visit that iconic symbol of French-American friendship, the Statue of Liberty, she is interviewed by Public Radio's Sarah Vowell. Vowell's dull-headed conversation with Lafayette's 6-times great-granddaughter could definitely be used as evidence in a French snob's derision of Americans. Garrison Keillor would have been better. These are minor aberrations, however, in a really engaging program about a remarkable man whom modern Americans have known precious little about.

Bruce Bawer on Rev. Terry Jones' Cancelled Koran-Burning

From City Journal:
It’s clear, of course, that Jones—who at the last minute canceled the bonfire, declaring that “God is telling us to stop”—is a nut. He’s apparently made a career of spewing hate at Jews, gays, and just about everybody else who doesn’t belong to his tiny church, which seems to be some kind of wacky cult.

But that’s neither here nor there. The real story here isn’t about Jones but about the rest of us and what we’ve allowed to happen to our civilization since 9/11. Who would have imagined, on the day the Twin Towers fell, that nine years later we’d be so scared of Muslim reactions that the plan of some crank to burn a few copies of the Koran would become the lead story on the evening news and cause the president himself to plead with the guy to call it off? Imagine a modern-day Rip Van Winkle who’d fallen asleep before 9/11 and awakened to all this nonsense. For such a person, the degree of attention accorded to Jones would have been nothing less than incomprehensible. What in God’s name, Rip would ask, had happened to America? How could we have become so timid, so terrified, so quickly? How could an American president, in the middle of war and economic crisis, give so much as a moment’s notice to such a piddling non-story?

Needless to say, the truly important things went unsaid on those network news reports. Nobody pointed out that we wouldn’t be fretting like this if there weren’t something very special about Islam. You could announce plans to burn a stack of Bibles, or the Bhagavad-Gita, or the Dhammapada, or the Book of Mormon, or Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, or a truckload of copies of The Watchtower, or any other non-Muslim religious text without making the White House and Pentagon call emergency meetings and put embassies around the world on alert. How little time it’s taken for us to get used to paying Islam a unique degree of “respect”!

One of the network news reports—I don’t remember which—showed an anti-American demonstration by Muslims in Kabul reacting to Jones’s planned Koran-burning. The demonstrators were burning an American flag and stomping on it. Neither the reporter nor the anchorperson commented on this fact. Plainly, in their view, the burning of an American flag was not worth remarking upon. After all, in recent years Muslims around the world have burned countless American flags, not to mention the flags of pretty much every other Western democracy. Since 9/11, we’ve grown used to seeing the revered symbols of Western democratic values routinely desecrated in the Muslim world.

And we’ve also grown used to the fact this is most assuredly not a two-way street. American flags can be burned by the hundreds, by huge crowds, in the major squares of Muslim capitals, and that’s apparently hunky-dory with us. But when a guy in Gainesville whom nobody ever heard of decides to burn a few Korans, everybody from the president on down begs him to reconsider. Obama to the contrary, this isn’t about “our values as Americans”; it’s not about “freedom and religious tolerance.” It’s about fear. Nine years after jihadists murdered 2,977 people on American soil, the sight of American leaders quaking in their boots at the thought of some clown’s offending the Muslim world is nothing less than obscene.

Rafael Medoff's Yom Kippur Al Chet

"For the Sin of Silence During the Holocaust"
by Rafael Medoff

On Yom Kippur, in synagogues throughout the country, American Jews will lightly strike their chests while reciting the Al Chet, the litany of confessions for sins committed during the previous year. "For the sin of lying.... For the sin of gossiping.... For the sin of being disrespectful...." and so on.

Some years ago, one of the most prominent rabbis in America made a startling suggestion--that American Jews should add an Al Chet to acknowledge the community's failure to respond adequately to news of the mass killing of European Jews during the Holocaust. Although the proposal evidently was never implemented, statements made recently by several prominent Jewish leaders have gone a long way in that direction.

The Al Chet suggestion came from Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993), longtime head of Yeshiva University's rabbinical school and a key figure in the shaping of Modern Orthodox Judaism. In a taped lecture at YU's Wurzweiler School of Social Work on December 24, 1973, Rabbi Soloveitchik remarked that "during the Holocaust period," many American Jews were not sufficiently concerned "with our brethren, with our fellow Jews, and we let millions of Jews go down the drain."

Therefore, he said, "to the list of Al Chets of the chatayim [sins] we enumerate on Yom Kippur, we should add another Al Chet. Perhaps it would be the worst, the most horrible one - Al chet shechatanu lefanecha bera'inu tzoras nafshoseihem shel acheinu bais Yisroel shehischananu eileinu v'lo shamanu['For the sin that we have sinned before You by seeing the suffering of our Jewish brethren who called to us and we did not listen']."

Statements of this sort were unheard of in the first decades after the war, when there was little public discussion among American Jews about their response to the Holocaust. Perhaps the memories and the wounds were too fresh. Perhaps the fact that many of the Jewish leaders whose records merited scrutiny still held positions of leadership discouraged a serious reckoning.

That began to change in the 1960s and 1970s, as a younger generation of American Jews started asking questions about the actions of their elders. Articles about the subject began appearing more frequently in Jewish periodicals. Activists in the Soviet Jewry movement cited American Jewry's lethargic response to the Holocaust as an impetus for their own protests. "We didn't want to repeat the mistakes of that generation," Glenn Richter, director of the Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry, recalls.

By 1981, there was sufficient interest in the topic to bring about the creation of the American Jewish Commission on the Holocaust, a committee of Jewish communal figures intending to produce the first comprehensive examination of US Jewry's Holocaust record. The acrimony that engulfed the commission's work and led to its dissolution revealed still-lingering sensitivities. Critics of the Jewish leadership cried whitewash, while defenders of the establishment circled the wagons. But the controversy did galvanize a healthy public discussion.

New scholarly research in the 1980s permanently reshaped the debate. Monty Penkower (The Jews Were Expendable, 1982), David Wyman (The Abandonment of the Jews, 1984), Haskel Lookstein (Were We Our Brothers' Keepers?, 1984) and others revealed unflattering new information about American Jewry and the Holocaust. They chronicled the missed opportunities to press for Allied rescue of refugees, the petty in-fighting between Jewish groups that sapped communal time and energy, the unsavory attacks by Jewish leaders against the activist Bergson Group. What the historians found essentially confirmed what the critics had suspected.

During the past several years, remarks made by several prominent Jewish leaders have dramatically illustrated how much attitudes have changed over the years. At a conference of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, Michael Miller, executive director of the New York Jewish Community Relations Council, and Seymour Reich, past president of B'nai B'rith and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, sharply criticized their predecessors' wartime record. Reich declared: " I have come here today, as a veteran of the Jewish establishment, to say unequivocally: the Jewish leaders in the 1940s were wrong."

Rabbi Dr. David Ellenson, president of Reform Judaism's Hebrew Union College, has gone so far as to assert that Rabbi Stephen Wise "failed miserably" in his response to the Holocaust. The news from Europe was certainly unprecedented, he said, but Jewish leaders such as Wise "had an obligation to be sufficiently flexible and imaginative to deal with unprecedented situations." Rabbi Ellenson's bold statement was significant not only because Wise was the most prominent American Jewish leader of the 1940s, but also because he was the founder and longtime leader of the very institution over which Ellenson himself now presides.

These Jewish leaders who have criticized the wartime Jewish establishment may not have phrased their remarks in the form of an Al Chet, but they certainly spoke in the spirit of the forthright acknowledgment Rabbi Soloveitchik evidently had in mind.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies,

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Schools Matter: Why Fenty Lost...Michelle Rhee!

From Jim Horn's Schools Matter blog:
With days to prepare for the inevitable, the Washington Post has a lengthy political obituary this morning for the defeated Fenty, and Michelle Rhee and the corporate ed deformers get two lines. The Post's editors would rather focus on Fenty's tin political ear and forget that the voters have soundly rejected the billionaire boys club (BBC) who want to take over DC and the DC Schools. Fenty was deep into the pockets of the white oligarchs, and his bowing to Broad and Gates and the Waltons to put Rhee in charge of schools was and is the most visible symbol of a political hand-off to philanthro-capitalism in the nation's capitol. Now Fenty's defeat is the most visible symbol of the voters' repudiation of government run by venture capital and vulture philanthropy "supermen."

Robert McCartney has a commentary in WaPo this morning that points out many of policy faults of the snarling Michelle Rhee, but somehow they are painted, too, as personality flaws, rather than the steamrolling and bullying by a corporate board intent upon making DC the urban model for corporate education. In spite of all the flaws, McCartney urges Gray to go slow, dance the soft shoe, and keep Rhee. Right.

Valerie Strauss has a slightly different take, urging Gray to act swiftly to make it clear who is running the schools. Unfortunately, she misses the revolutionary aspect of this historic vote and fails to attribute the Fenty drubbing to voters sick of corporate hubris without boundaries and corporate welfare run amok. Strauss goes on to argue that the acceptance of the $75 million from the Duncan RTTT bribery fund will assure that DC Schools are locked in to BBC's policies, whether or not Rhee is fired. What an odd conclusion, when in fact, the one-shot $75 million represent less than 10 percent of DC's annual school budget of almost $760 million. Since when would a superintendent or mayor be held hostage by such a commitment.

If Gray wants to be the conciliator, his first act should be to fire the one person who stands most squarely in the way of that goal. Not only would firing Rhee serve that aspiration, but it would also send a message to the Foundation Supermen that he is not for sale, a message that will make DC voters that could once again have a voice in their city.

Courtland Milloy: Why Fenty Lost

From The Washington Post:
What happened Tuesday involved more than just the unseating of a mayor with an abrasive style. It was a populist revolt against Fenty's arrogant efforts to restructure government on behalf of a privileged few. The scheme was odious: re-create a more sophisticated version of the plantation-style, federally appointed three-member commission that ruled the city for more than a century until 1967.

The Fenty troika eerily mirrored the old antebellum system of control, which featured a chairman for public works, which is what Fenty was, in essence; a chairman with expertise in legal maneuverings, Nickles; and a chairman for education and welfare issues, Rhee.

It all makes for a kind of friendly fascism in which D.C. government serves the interest of business leaders and landed gentry. Remarkably, his approach became much ballyhooed: Fenty, his supporters raved, was making the trains run on time. That people were falling off the caboose and being railroaded out of town was just the price of progress.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Washington Times: US Government Must End Pro-Sharia Policies

...According to an article published today, by R. James Woolsey, Andrew C. McCarthy and Harry E. Soyster:
Our study does not perfectly replicate the Team B work of a generation ago. We have not been encouraged by our government, which, under administrations of both parties, has been immovably content to wear its blinders. Nor have we been invited to review classified information. These, however, have hardly been insuperable obstacles. What Americans need to know is ready to hand in the public record. The problem isn't access to information, it is coming to grips with what available information portends for our security.

Shariah is the crucial fault line of Islam's internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates - figures like Abdurrahman Wahid, the late president of Indonesia and leader of the world's largest liberal Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama - who embrace the Enlightenment's veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms. On that side of the divide, Shariah is defined as but a reference point for a Muslim's personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.

The other side of the divide is dominated by "Islamists," who are Muslim supremacists. Like erstwhile proponents of communism and Nazism, these supremacists - some terrorists, others employing stealthier means - seek to impose a global theocratic and authoritarian regime, called a caliphate. On this side of the divide, Shariah is a compulsory system that Muslims are obliged to wage jihad to install and to which the rest of the world is required to submit.

For these ideologues, Shariah is not a private matter. They see the West as an infidel enemy to be conquered, not a culture and civilization to be embraced or at least tolerated. It is impossible, they maintain, for alternative legal systems and forms of government like ours to coexist peacefully with the end-state they seek.

It is not the burden of our study to broker competing claims about which side of the Shariah divide represents the "true Islam." There are approximately 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, and their understandings about their belief system, as well as their practices with respect to it, vary widely. There may not be a single "true Islam." If there is one, we do not presume to pronounce what it holds.

What cannot be denied credibly, however, is that Shariah is firmly rooted in Islam's doctrinal texts, and it is favored by influential Islamic commentators, institutions, traditions and academic centers. For more than a half-century, moreover, Shariah Islam has been financed lavishly and propagated by Islamic governmental entities (particularly Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Organization of the Islamic Conference) through the offices of disciplined international organizations, particularly the Muslim Brotherhood. We know from an internal 1991 memorandum authored by one of the Brotherhood's U.S. leaders that its mission is a "grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house."


...Most important, we must protect our way of life regardless of the ultimate resolution of Islam's internal strife. We can do a far better job of empowering non-Shariah-adherent Muslims who are our natural allies, but we cannot win for them - they have to do that for themselves. Irrespective of whether they succeed in the herculean task of delegitimizing Shariah globally, we must face it down in the United States, throughout the West and wherever on Earth it launches violent or ideological offensives against us.
If we are to face down Shariah, however, we must understand what we are up against, not simply hope that dialogue and "engagement" will make the challenge go away. The brute fact is that Shariah adherents perforce support objectives that are incompatible with the U.S. Constitution, the civil rights it guarantees and the representative government it authorizes. Our security depends on confronting them, not sitting silent as they gradually efface our liberties.

Gray Beats Fenty in DC, Rangel Beats Adam Clayton Powell, IV in NYC

The people have spoken!

What did they say on Primary Day?

1. DC voted AGAINST the Democratic establishment. Fenty was a stand-in for the Obama administration. His schools chancellor--who was following the US Department of Education "Race to the Top" playbook--may have cost him the election. Michael Bloomberg showed not only that his endorsement is worthless, but that he is a weak loser who backed a loser. If I were NYC politician, I'd launch a recall campaign against Bloomberg immediately, if not sooner, and take away his job as Mayor of NY.

My campaign slogan: No Bloomberg--no WTC Mosque!

2. Charlie Rangel did what Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. didn't. He ran hard and won, despite a Congressional investigation. If I were the Democrats, I'd drop all charges against him. They need Rangel more than Rangel needs them...

Finally, the Tea Party victory in Republican primaries. It's very good news for the Republican Party--although I fear the Tea Party may be a fake put together by Dick Armey and some K Street Lobbyists to keep everyone from leaving the Republican Party. However, at least it leveraged a protest vote that cost some Establishment figures their jobs.

That sends a message that puts fear into the hearts of incumbents...Their spoiler role was played to a "tea."

As the NY Post headline read yesterday: "Bums Away!"

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf an Extremist?

Hugh Fitzgerald says he is, at JihadWatch:
Now that Feisal Abdul Rauf has chosen - most unwisely I think-- to obliquely threaten us all with violence if we do not surrender to his demands and the demands of those who in "anger will explode in the Muslim world," let's go back and make sure we know not what the websites devoted to presenting him as a "moderate" say, but what Feisal Abdul Rauf is on record as saying. He is, this Feisal Abdul Rauf, slippery as he is, unambiguously on record as refusing to denounce a clear terrorist group devoted entirely to destroying an entire Infidel nation-state, that is, Hamas. Furthermore, he is also on record as wanting Muslims in the countries of the non-Muslim West to temporarily accept the secular laws but to work to change those laws and replace them, where they in his view need replacement -- that is, when they do not conform to the Shari'a -- so that the secular laws of the country become more and more those of the Shari'a. People do not understand what that means. That means he, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is calling for the overthrow -- not, given current circumstances, the violent overthrow, but still the overthrow -- of the American Constitution, that is, of our legal and political institutions.

You can read Fitzgerald's entire analysis, here.

More about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf by Ibn Warraq in National Review Online, here... and again, in an article entitled "The Two Faces of Feisal Abdul Rauf," here.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Pam Geller: 40,000 Protest Bloomberg Ground Zero WTC Mosque

Full story at Atlas Shrugs.

Geert Wilders' speech at JihadWatch:
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf claims the right to build a mosque, a house of Sharia here - on this hallowed ground.

But, friends, I have not forgotten and neither have you. That is why we are here today. To draw the line. Here, on this sacred spot. We are here in the spirit of America's founding fathers. We are here in the spirit of freedom. We are here in the spirit of Abraham Lincoln, the President who freed the slaves.

President Lincoln said: "Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves."

These words are the key to our survival. The tolerance that is crucial to our freedom requires a line of defense.
More rally videos, here...

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Robert Spencer on Gen. Petraeus on Koran Burning

I oppose the Qur'an-burning. I don't like the burning of books. I'd rather that the contents of the Qur'an, and the ways that jihadists use those contents to justify violence, be known. However, these people are free to do what they want to do. Petraeus would do better to tell the Afghans that in America we have freedom of speech and expression, and that we put up with speech and expression that we dislike without trying to kill the speaker. He would do better to tell them that their likely murderous rage over this event is an outrageous overreaction, and that any bloodshed over this would be a heinous crime, far dwarfing any crime they think the people in Florida are committing.

The idea that in wartime one should be careful not to do anything that the enemy is likely to respond to with irrational and even murderous anger may seem tactically wise at first glance, but ultimately it is a recipe for surrender. One is already accepting the enemy's worldview and perspective, and working to accommodate it, instead of working on various fronts, not just the military one, to show why it is wrong and should be opposed.

Of course, to that Petraeus and his ilk would respond, Well, we are not at war with Islam or the Qur'an, and so to burn the book is a needless provocation. This ignores, however, the war that the Organization of the Islamic Conference and other Muslim groups are waging today against the freedom of expression -- and ignores also the ways in which Islamic jihadists use the Qur'an to justify violence and make recruits. Without approving of the burning, Petraeus should be defending the Florida church's right to do as they please, and using it as a teaching moment in Afghanistan to say, We are going to defend our vision of society, no matter what you bring against us.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Prosecute Michelle Rhee's Hatch Act Violations!

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy has noted today that Michelle Rhee's campaign work on behalf of Mayor Fenty appears to violate the Hatch Act, although she flatly denies it:
"I'm here as a private citizen," D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee said at Saturday's campaign rally for Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. "I consulted with my lawyer, and he told me it was okay to be here as a private citizen."

Why does Rhee play games like that? The Hatch Act tells government employees not to use their positions to influence elections. Maybe that "private citizen" ruse puts her in compliance with the letter of the law, but she sure comes off as showing an arrogant disregard for the spirit of it.
Who's right, Milloy or Rhee?

There's one sure way to settle the issue--prosecute Michelle Rhee in US Court. If a jury of 12 DC citizens convicts her, she's wrong. If they don't, she's right.

Her own lawyer is hardly an unbiased source. As a DC resident and taxpayer, I've found her obvious and high-profile political campaigning on behalf of Mayor Fenty both offensive and egregious.

Mayor Barry has been prosecuted for less, and repeatedly.

So, if Gray wins the mayoralty race in DC, I hope he'll ask the District Attorney to launch a full-scale investigation of Michelle Rhee's actions--both to teach her a lesson, and to set an example for our children that no one in America is above the law...even Ivy-league "Teach for America" alumni.

Tony Blair on Afghanistan, Iraq & Islam...

From a column, based on his memoirs, published in The Wall Street Journal:
What is the nature of the threat? It does not derive from something we have done; there was no sense in which the West sought a confrontation. This is essential to the argument. The attacks of Sept. 11 came to most of our citizens as a shock that was utterly unforeseen. Countries like America and Britain were not singling out Muslims for unfair treatment; and insofar as Muslims were caught up in generalized racism towards those of a different race or color, such attitudes were on the way out, not the way in.

The extremism we fear is a strain within Islam. It is wholly contrary to the proper teaching of Islam, but it can't be denied that its practitioners act with reference to their religion. I feel we too often shy away from this assertion, as if it stigmatizes all Muslims. But if it is true—and it is—it has to be faced, not just because it is true, but because otherwise we don't analyze the problem or attain the solution properly. If it is a strain within Islam, the answer lies, in part at the very least, also within Islam. The eradication of that strain can be affected by what we outside Islam do; but it can only be actually eliminated by those within Islam.

Here is where the root of the problem lies. The extremists are small in number, but their narrative—which sees Islam as the victim of a scornful West externally, and an insufficiently religious leadership internally—has a far bigger hold. Indeed, such is the hold that much of the current political leadership feels impelled to go along with this narrative for fear of losing support.

This is a situation with practical consequences. Iraq and Afghanistan are seen as the West's battles. With a few notable distinctions, this is not perceived as a struggle for the heart and soul of Islam. Yet the outcome is surely vastly determinative of such a struggle.

I have my criticisms of Israel and my ideas of to how to make progress. But leave aside for a moment the details of the peace process. As I started to spend more time in Palestine, I was surprised to find it is often easier to raise money for the "resistance" than to fund the patient but essential process of Palestinian state-building. Israel can and should do more to push forward the necessary changes on the ground—the West Bank and Gaza—that can underpin the peace process. However, it is also true that if the Palestinian cause gave up violence emphatically and without ambiguity, there would be a peace agreement within the year. Not enough voices in the Muslim world are asking them to.

It is America today that leads the challenge to Iran and its nuclear ambitions. But let us be frank: Iran is a far more immediate threat to its Arab neighbors than it is to America. It is of course a threat to us, too, but this is partly because of what a nuclear-armed Iran would mean for the Middle East, rather than as a direct threat.

The problem is this: Defeating the visible and terrifying manifestations of religious extremism is not enough. Indeed I would go further: This extremism won't be defeated simply by focusing on the extremists alone. It is the narrative that has to be assailed. It has to be avowed, acknowledged; then taken on, inside and outside Islam. It should not be respected. It should be confronted, disagreed with, argued against on grounds of politics, security and religion.

Our people say, "How long are you seriously saying we should hold out?" If, in the 1950s, when faced with the threat of revolutionary Communism, I had asked you how long you expected us to fight it, you would have answered: As long as the threat exists. If I had said it may be for decades, you would have raised an eyebrow, as if to say: Well, if the threat remains for decades, what choice have we? In other words, you would have seen this as a clearly defined threat to our security that left us no alternative but to take it on and beat it. Of course, there were those who said "Better red than dead," but that was surely one of the least appealing slogans to the human spirit ever devised, and only a minority bought it. Most people realized the threat was real and had to be confronted, however long it took.

The difficulty with this present battle lies in defining what "it" is. After Sept. 11 the phrase "the war on terror" was used. People distrusted this, partly for its directness, partly because it seemed too limited. So we dropped it. Yet if what we are fighting is not a war, what is it?
IMHO, with all due respect to Tony Blair, I'd say it's not a war, it's a clash of civilizations...

Sue Hemberger on Michelle Rhee's Educational Mediocritization Policy

Someone I know sent me this post from our local listserv about DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. I thought it expressed the issues at stake in DC rather well. In addition to appealing to local readers, it might be of interest to those in the country (and perhaps around the world) who don't understand why Michelle Rhee's school policies may cost DC Mayor Fenty his job on Election Day.
Rhee's approach to public education

Re mediocritization:

Often, the attempt to idiot-proof a process involves imposing a formula designed to produce a consistent result. When this approach is successful, that result is reliably better than incompetence but generally falls far short of excellence. And the task has become sufficiently de-skilled that no one who aspires to excellence wants any part of it.

This seems to be Rhee's approach to public education. There's one right way to teach (albeit multiple learning styles), anybody can do it (take a few- week course over the summer and you're good to go – for anything from special ed to AP), if you can't (or won't) get with the program, we'll find someone who will.

I grew up the daughter of a special ed teacher, became an academic myself (seeking out a dissertation advisor who actually cared about teaching his grad students to teach and then following in his footsteps), and have spent the last 10 years shuttling between teaching teachers (fellowship award winners from every state) and spending time guest lecturing in the 8th grade (keeps me honest, LOL!).

Everything I know about teaching tells me that a regime like the one Rhee has instituted will drive good teachers away. These days, teaching isn't that prestigious and it isn't that lucrative and, thanks to the civil rights movement, the profession can no longer rely on a captive labor force to offer up its best and brightest because they have nowhere else to go. Which means that, if anyone wants to attract and retain talented people, they have to give them the space and the support to do something great.

In recent history, DCPS has been dysfunctional enough people who were in teaching for all the right reasons could find contexts where they could do their thing, do it well, and be greatly appreciated for it. Over the years, I've heard friends sing the praises of the AP program at Wilson. Yet in the past two years, three of its most effective AP teachers – Art Siebens (biology), Joe Riener (English), and Erich Martel (US History), have been pushed out, having been told in various ways that they don't fit or belong in this new regime. And, even to my limited knowledge, these aren't the only casualties. If anyone wants a window on why good people are leaving DCPS, see Guy Brandenburg (formerly of Deal) is another example. When I've checked in with the friends whose kids went to Wilson and Deal (because, hey, as I pointed out earlier, I'm not on the inside), the consistent reaction was that these people were among their kids' most inspirational teachers (usually accompanied by a colorful anecdote).

I don't think it's "perverse" to acknowledge that a mediocre system is better than an abysmal one. Frankly, to me, that's the only public policy logic that could justify Rhee's approach. But such a justification would not be persuasive unless (a) someone can demonstrate that mediocrity was actually wiping out failure and (b) that such an outcome cannot be achieved without stamping out excellence as well. Neither A nor B rings true in this context.

The bottom line here is what kind of education do we want for our kids? Do we want inexperienced teachers applying a template and focused on maximizing standardized test scores, motivated by fear of job loss or hopes of big payoffs if student scores go up? Or do we want an environment in which people who love learning and think critically are engaging with our kids and held up as role models rather than driven out as troublemakers?

Not a hard choice for me, which is why I can't see how Rhee is a selling point for Fenty. But also why I asked whether people who are inside the schools in one capacity or another see something different and better going on than what I'm hearing/noticing. Thus far, the claims I've heard re progress have focused facilities (real, but not at risk in this election) and test scores (the data leaves me skeptical). Is there something else going on inside the classroom that looks like progress to anyone?

I'm delighted to see more hope and investment in DC's public schools. And, as I said, I think that we can consolidate our successes (modernizations and right-sizing, a sense that things can and must improve) if we move on to a rebuilding phase under new leadership with a different orientation and set of skills. But if we don't recognize and start cutting our losses (endless churn, demoralization, a hostile environment for good teachers, misplaced emphasis on test scores), we're headed for disaster.

Sue Hemberger
Friendship Heights

Jeremy Irons Narrates the Life Cycle of the Plastic Bag...

Friday, September 03, 2010

Judea Pearl: Just Say No to Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque

The father of the late Daniel Pearl comes out against construction of Mayor Bloomberg's Ground Zero Mosque in the Jerusalem Post (ht PowerLine):
I have been trying hard to find an explanation for the intense controversy surrounding the Cordoba Initiative, whereby 71 percent of Americans object to the proposed project of building a mosque next to Ground Zero.

I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a “rightwing” smear campaign against one imam or another.

Americans are neither bigots nor gullible.

Deep sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims was cited as yet another explanation, but this too does not answer the core question.

If one accepts that the 19 fanatics who flew planes into the Twin Towers were merely self-proclaimed Muslims who, by their very act, proved themselves incapable of acting in the name of “true Islam,” then building a mosque at Ground Zero should evoke no emotion whatsoever; it should not be viewed differently than, say, building a church, a community center or a druid shrine.

A more realistic explanation is that most Americans do not buy the 19 fanatics story, but view the the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti- American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with this anti-American ideology.

THE GROUND Zero mosque is being equated with that ideology. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for its creation.

The American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad.

Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims.

Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence.

Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan); spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g. Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism; Hamas and Hizbullah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist.”

Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

True, we have not helped Muslims in the confidence-building process. Treating homegrown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts.

The construction of the Ground Zero mosque would further prolong this illusion.

If I were New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, I would reassert Muslims’ right to build the Islamic center and the mosque, but I would expend the same energy, not one iota less, in trying to convince them to put it somewhere else, or replace it with a community-managed all-faiths center in honor of the 9/11 victims.

Fellow Muslim Americans will benefit more from co-ownership of consensual projects than sole ownership of confrontational ones.

Thomas Sowell on the Bloomberg Ground Zero Mosque

The proposed mosque near where the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed, along with thousands of American lives, would be a 15-story middle finger to America.
It takes a high IQ to evade the obvious, so it is not surprising that the intelligentsia are out in force, decrying those who criticize this calculated insult.
What may surprise some people is that the American taxpayer is currently financing a trip to the Middle East by the imam who is pushing this project, so that he can raise the money to build it. The State Department is subsidizing his travel.
The big talking point is that this is an issue about "religious freedom" and that Muslims have a "right" to build a mosque where they choose. But those who oppose this project are not claiming that there is no legal right to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.
If anybody did, it would be a matter for the courts to decide -- and they would undoubtedly say that it is not illegal to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attack.
The intelligentsia and others who are wrapping themselves in the Constitution are fighting a phony war against a straw man. Why create a false issue, except to evade the real issue?
Our betters are telling us that we need to be more "tolerant" and more "sensitive" to the feelings of Muslims. But if we are supposed to be sensitive to Muslims, why are Muslims not supposed to be sensitive to the feelings of millions of Americans, for whom 9/11 was the biggest national trauma since Pearl Harbor?
It would not be illegal for Japanese Americans to build a massive shinto shrine next to Pearl Harbor. But, in all these years, they have never sought to do it.
When Catholic authorities in Poland were planning to build an institution for nuns, years ago, and someone pointed out that it would be near the site of a concentration camp that carried out genocide, the Pope intervened to stop it.
He didn't say that the Catholic Church had a legal right to build there, as it undoubtedly did. Instead, he respected the painful feelings of other people. And he certainly did not denounce those who called attention to the concentration camp.
There is no question that Muslims have a right to build a mosque where they chose to. The real question is why they chose that particular location, in a country that covers more than 3 million square miles.
If we all did everything that we have a legal right to do, we could not even survive as individuals, much less as a society. So the question is whether those who are planning a Ground Zero mosque want to be part of American society or just to see how much they can get away with in American society?
Can anyone in his right mind believe that this was intended to show solidarity with Americans, rather than solidarity with those who attacked America? Does anyone imagine that the Middle East nations, including Iran, from whom financial contributions will be solicited, want to promote reconciliation between Americans and Muslims?
That the President of the United States has joined the chorus of those calling the Ground Zero mosque a religious freedom issue tells us a lot about the moral dry rot that is undermining this country from within.
In this, as in other things, Barack Obama is not so much the cause of our decline but the culmination of it. He had many predecessors and many contemporaries who represent the same mindset and the same malaise.
There are people for whom moral preening has become a way of life. They are out in force denouncing critics of the Ground Zero mosque.
There are others for whom a citizen of the world affectation puts them one-up on those of us who are grateful to be Americans, and to enjoy a freedom that is all too rare in other countries around the world, even at this late date in human history.
They think the United States is somehow on trial, and needs to prove itself to others by bending over backwards. But bending over backwards does not win friends. It loses respect, including self-respect.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

N.C. Wyeth at the Dulwich Picture Gallery

Just took the Brandywine River Museum, N.C. Wyeth home, and studio tour. Very impressed with N.C. Wyeth. Sad to see the aesthetic disintegration in the family from noble and inspiring history painting, to weird 60s alienation found in the technically proficient work of Andrew Wyeth, to the celebrity-hound aspects of Jamie Wyeth's Nureyev and Andy Warhol portraits. A reflection of the times, perhaps, but a misdirection of artistic talent, IMHO. I did like Jamie's pictures of cows, though--especially a big one of an angry herd. That reminded one of his grandfather's western genre illustrations.

Wanting to know more about N.C., I found this video on YouTube from the Dulwich Picture Gallery that explains his significance as a history painter:

One of the most striking paintings in the Brandywine River Museum, at least to me, is N.C. Wyeth's 1932 "In a Dream I Met General Washington." It resulted from a near-death experience painting a mural of the first President on a scaffold 30 feet above a marble floor. He caught himself but the terror was followed by a vivid dream, that led to the painting, a surrealist experience:

N.C. Wyeth's studio, which contains his last unfinished painting of George Washington, just as he left it, before he was killed at a railroad crossing with his grandson, is touching.

Well worth a visit.