This blog features information about the political campaign nationally and in the state of Pennsylvania. it will discuss congressional races western PA, but it won't restrict comments to those jurisdictions. On many occasions, it will feature humor, but its main purpose is to "cut the legs off" political jihad. This is a site for political grown-ups of all ages.

Location: Ambridge, Pennsylvania, United States

I have a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester (English and American Literature). I taught for 10 years at various educational institutions (Univ. of Rochester, my alma mater, College of William and Mary, and University of Georgia, where I was also Asst. Ed. of the Georgia Review. Later, I worked as a speechwriter and "thinker" at various large companies, including Phillips Petroleum, Gulf Oil, Aetna, Merck (consultant), and Eli Lilly (consultant), among many others. I'm a full-time writer and political commentator/analyst. Favorite company: AudioTech Business Books. Favorite female: my wife, Patricia Ann Maloney. Favorite politcal candidate: Diana Lynn Irey (PA's 12th congressional district)

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, The "Infidel": Power and Grace

“[Ayaan Hirsi Ali is] a charismatic figure . . . of arresting and hypnotizing beauty . . . [who writes] with quite astonishing humor and restraint.” (Christopher Hitchens)

I mentioned sometime ago that the first time I saw Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of the best-selling book Infidel, was on C-Span, which I rarely watch. Christopher Hitchens, the brilliant English author and enemy of Islamo-fascism, was in the audience.

She may have been the most articulate and compelling speaker – even though English was not her first-language – I’ve ever heard. I’d read that she was a strong critic of Islam, and that she was under a death threat from the adherents to that profoundly flawed religion.

In the C-Span production, a Muslim man in the audience – he was in a distinct minority – asked her how she “dared” to utter such thorough-going criticisms of his faith. His comment reflected the Islamic belief that the religion should never be subject to challenges, not from the faithful (which Ali no longer is) and certainly not by an infidel (which she now calls herself proudly).

Perhaps the man’s question implied something else, that people who dared to take the life path she has are taking a great risk. A significant portion of the Muslim doesn’t debate its critics. Rather, it kills them, always in the name of its “faith.”

If you read the introductory paragraphs in Infidel, you’ll get a sense of the book’s power:

“One November morning in 2004, Theodore van Gogh got up to work at his film production company in Amsterdam. He took out his old black bicycle and headed down a main road. Waiting in a doorway was a Moroccan man with a handgun and two butcher knives.”

“As Theo cycled down the Linnaeusstraat, Muhammed Bouyeri approached. He pulled out his gun and shot Theo several times. Theo fell off his bike and lurched across the road, then collapsed. Bouyeri followed. Theo begged, ‘Can’t we talk about this?’ but Bouyeri shot him four more times. Then he took out one of his butcher knives and sawed into Theo’s throat. With the other knife, he stabbed a five-page letter onto Theo’s chest.”

“The letter was addressed to me.”

Theo van Gogh and Ayaan Ali had made a short film together. It had portrayed the brutal and disgusting subjugation of Muslim women by Muslim men assuming they are carrying out the “will of Allah.” The film was Theo’s – and Ayaan’s – supposed crime against Islam. In short, to tell the truth is somehow an offense against the Supreme Being.

What will be the fate of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, this incredibly beautiful, intelligent, and courageous woman? Unfortunately, the Muslim world being the global embarrassment it has become, there’s a good probability she will go the way of her friend Theo van Gogh. There are many ignorant, fanaticized, violence-prone Muhammed Bouyeri’s out there, with their guns, knives, and other implements of death.

Ali never goes anywhere without an armed guard. She may need one for the rest of her life. Born a Somali, Ali is now a Dutch citizen. I sincerely wish the U.S. would do for her what it did for Churchill, give her honorary citizenship – and also provide her with Secret Service protection.

I urge everyone who loves liberty and the worth of the individual to buy Ms. Ali’s book. I got it from for about $13, plus shipping. For anyone who wants to understand why most of the Muslim world hates us – and hates her – it’s important reading.

In some ways, Ali reminds me of my friend Diana Lynn Irey of Washington County, Pennsylvania. Like Diana, she’s a person who with an uncommon combination of physical and spiritual beauty. Also, she's scrupulously honest and boundlessly caring. She attracts friends and supporters much the same way a magnet attracts iron filings.

Diana is an unusual woman, but Ali is the type that comes along about once a century. She’s a dark-skinned, highly educated version of Joan of Arc. Unlike Joan (and unlike Diana), Ali has not yet seen the tremendous power for good that Christianity at its best can unleash in individuals and societies. If that comes to her, and I pray it will, she could realize her full capacity to transform the world for good.

As women (and men of good will) come out of Islam, as they will in great numbers, they will need an alternative to the barbarism they have left behind. They will benefit from understanding a Supreme Being who is an endless fountain of mercy and compassion – a God who, unlike the one in Islam, wants to engage us in an endless dialogue.

Whatever the exact path Ali follows, she is a woman deserving of our admiration, emulation, and gratitude.

Note: I’ll write at least one more piece in the coming days about Ms. Ali.

Friday, March 30, 2007

The American Scholar Magazine: Go Buy It

Yes, I am renewing my subscription to The American Scholar. I like the editor’s (Robert Wilson’s) self-confidence in telling me that if I didn’t like his choice of articles, I should perhaps consider other publications. If our roles were reversed, I would have told him the same thing.

The Scholar has some of the best pieces written in today’s America. The book review section is excellent, the kind that puts one in a buying mood at On the negative side, some of the articles are written by academics who don’t get out nearly as much as they should. I don’t like articles that would get rave reviews at all known Faculty Clubs. I like writing that peeks into the abyss and tells us what the writer saw – and what he or she has learned.

For example, in the Summer, 2006 issue, Jay Tolson (a U.S. News senior writer and expert on novelist Walker Percy) reviews a life-of-the-mind book (An Argument for Mind) written by super-psychologist Jerome Kagan. Prof. Kagan is one of the 20-or-so most important academic thinkers of the past century.

In the late 1950s, Kagan became involved in a famous study of “typical American children” (mostly white, mostly middle-class, as befitted the 50s). The study explored key assumptions that psychologists and baby-rearing experts believed in then – and that many still affirm.

Kagan describes four assumptions: “The first swore allegiance to the significance of experience, especially maternal love and effective socialization of good character. The second held that habits, values, and emotions established early would be preserved indefinitely. The third alleged that psychological growth was gradual, and the last declared that ‘freedom from coercion’ [apparently coercion on or by the child] was the ideal state every child should attain.

Admittedly, most studies seem somehow to confirm their organizers’ beliefs. In this case, Kagan’s study called all four assumptions into question. In fact, some of them turned out to be dead wrong, including one that’s a core of progressive thinking about child development.

As reviewer Tolson says, “The idea that the earliest years of infancy were the most determinative, for example, took a strong hit. Finding that behavioral differences in the infants first three years had little bearing on their psychological differences as adults [!!!!!!], Kagan discovered that behavior exhibited in the years between six and 10, after a child entered school, was a fairly good predictor of adult behavior.”

Obviously, Kagan’s book is a must-read. Tolson’s review shows his own value as a great generalist, who seeks to understand – and then explain in clear terms – some very complex thoughts. Reading Tolson on Kagan turned out to be one of those illuminating experiences that occur too rarely in life.

There’s another superb piece in the Summer 2006 edition. It’s “Feckless and Reckless,” by novelist and journalist Alan Peter Ryan. Once a New Yorker, he’s lived in Rio de Janeiro for about five years.

It’s impossible to do justice to the quality of this brief (2000 words?) article. It’s a tidy monument to good writing.

Consider one paragraph devoted to explaining why Rio-ites (Cariocas) are scary, if skilled, drivers. “Brazilians, so soon after the crushing military dictatorship, haven’t gotten over the habits of silence and caution. A restaurant in my neighborhood . . . provides a card you can fill out to rate the quality of food and service. The choices are: Excellent, Good, and Reasonable. Reasonable?”

Ryan continues: “The things other people would rate somewhere between unacceptable and criminally culpable – from food to dishonest government to incompetent repairmen to unreliable telephone or electric service to the terrifying crime rate – the Brazilian would, with a shrug, call ‘reasonable.’ But I doubt that anyone has ever checked that word on the card – or even filled out the card at all. Brazilians don’t like to behind evidence that might come back to haunt them. They prefer anonymity.”

In terms of essayistic prose, that’s about as good as it gets. In one extended paragraph, it gives great insight into the psyches and the hearts of Brazilians. It’s a shorthand version of what it would take months (years?) to learn about the people of Rio.

I hope everyone who reads this column follows my lead in getting a subscription to The American Scholar. Ignore the occasional pieces that show academics posturing and preening for one another; read the good stuff, which is available in abundance.

To subscribe, call 1-800-821-4567. Costs for individual subscriptions are: $25 for one year, $48 for two years, and $69 for three years. Y’all call – today!

John Murtha in Congress, Uncle Henry in the Attic

In the March 30, 2007 Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the talented Jerome L. Sherman wrote a story titled “Murtha Praises [Defense Secretary] Gates for His Candor.” The writer notes that Gates “regularly receives praise from top Congressional Democrats, including Pennsylvania’s Rep. John Murtha.” Truthfully, if I ever received praise from said congressman, I’d wonder what I’d done wrong.

What had John Murtha, known affectionately as The Prince of Pork, purring away this week was the following statement by Gates: “’Terrorism has always been a tactic of the weak against the strong, and I think you won’t eliminate it altogether ever,’ Mr. Gates told the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee that Mr. Murtha chairs. ‘I think that we and other nations need to look at the social, economic and political conditions that give rise to the kind of despair that would lead people to strap on suicide vests,’ the defense secretary said.”

Murtha chimed in: “Let me tell you, that’s as good an answer as I’ve heard, Mr. Secretary, and I appreciate what you’re saying.”

As I’ve explained to Jerome Sherman (longsuffering enough to be a frequent reader of my urgent e-mails to him), I have a problem – a very serious one – with Gates’s statement and Murtha’s comment.

My problem is that the Gates statement just isn't true. Consider, for example, the many cases in the past century of the strong terrorizing the weak.

For example, the Nazis, who had absolute power in Germany, regularly terrorized Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, Communists, and any other minority group they could find. In the Soviet Union under Stalin, the Communist Party terrorized kulaks, Christians, "white Russians," and anyone else that Joseph Stalin didn’t like. In the Middle East, authoritarian governments (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iran, and others) regularly terrorize weaker groups.

Consider the behavior of al Qaeda in Iraq. A month or so ago, they used a car bomb on an athletic field, killing 18 high school-age soccer players. Yesterday, they bombed a market in a Shiite neighborhood, killing – according to CNN – mostly women and children.

I don’t think either Gates or Murtha would characterize this as the weak using terrorism against the powerful. Soccer players? Women and children? Americans in an office building -- or embassies?

Remember what Alexander the Great said in response to a question about the fundamental reality of life? “The weak give what they must; the strong take what they wish.” Therefore, terrorism – other than the relatively incidental variety (Tim McVeigh?), is primarily inflicted by the strong on the weak.

So, I ask in all candor, “Exactly what the h--l are Murtha and Gates talking about?” What they’re doing is spouting the old liberal Democratic view that, when we find people engaging in mass murder (the purpose of strapping on those suicide vests), our duty is to enquire into – but never truly discover – the root causes, social, political, and economic.

Of course, if we were ever good enough – or lucky enough – actually to pinpoint those causes, we wouldn’t have a clue what to do next. After all, how would one go about transforming dozens of economically and social backward countries, making up most of the Islamic world, to the point where their citizens actually would beging engaging in something resembling civilized behavior?

In other words, Secretary Gates blows smoke up John Murtha’s butt and the Johnstown Democrat moos contentedly. It is not a pretty sight. Where is Don Rumsfeld when he need him?

Of course I recognize that Jerome Sherman and other reporters have to treat John Murtha in a balanced manner. That is, they can’t treat him with the contempt he so rich deserves – and that I dole out whenever he merits it, which is almost always.

John Murtha regularly says things that are absurd. He told “Meet the Press” that the U.S. should redeploy the troops in Iraq to Okinawa, which is 5,000 miles from where the terrorists gather. He also told “Meet the Press” that there was no terrorism, “none,” as he put it, in Iraq in the good old days under Saddam – an assertion I and others have shown is demonstrably false.

So, what are people like Jerome Sherman to do about our elderly (i.e., eight years old than I) cantankerous, embarrassing Congressman? I suggest, with my usual humility, that they should ignore him. That is, they should treat like old Uncle Henry, who spends most of his time babbling away in his attic bedroom.

If John Murtha ever comes up with an idea about how to fight terrorism, which he has not done to this point, the press should note it. In this regard, they won’t need to keep their pen and paper at the ready.

Note to editors: Like every other column printed here, this one is available for reprinting. Please note where you got it (Campaign2008) and who wrote it (moi).

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Advice to Academics: Consider Suicide

"After such knowledge, what forgiveness?" (T. S. Eliot)

In my column yesterday, March 28, 2007, I discussed my correspondence with Robert Wilson, editor of The American Scholar, a readable but intellectually flawed academic magazine. I (rather clumsily) accused the Scholar (and of course, Mr. Wilson) of lacking "balance," a criticism the editor deflected skillfully and quickly. What I really meant was that the Scholar lacked depth, that it presented -- in the main -- a shallow, academic view of reality.

If the unexamined life is not worth living, then many of the Scholar's contributors might follow Albert Camus' advice and consider suicide.

Most novels about academic life -- Richard Russo's Straight Man is an excellent one -- are satirical views of the professorial life. They portray the academic world as relentlessly petty, constantly inward looking, rigidly conformist, and invariably obsessed with sex involving undergraduates or other faculty members. The much-ballyhooed "commitment to scholarship" often turns out to look suspiciously like a fascination with collecting the intellectual version of pet rocks. It's not a pretty scene.

However, most academics seem to regard the satirical novels, most of them written by academics, as somehow a badge of honor. "Of course our critics condemn us. After all, we're scholars, custodians of the icons of mankind's past." In my experience, they really think the following: "Yes, those novels are right on target. Of all men and women, we are among the most miserable."

Early in my academic career, I heard the situation described in these words: "A faculty is a gaggle of humanity held together only by a common concern about the parking problem."

Most academics claim to be politically liberal. I believe that means they know what acceptable to affirm on their particular campus -- and what's not. It's not a hard-earned philosophical commitment; it's a survival tactic.

Right now, it's NOT acceptable at colleges and universities to say anything supportive of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney, Alberto Gonzales, (former) Senators Rick Santorum and George Allen, (former) Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, (any living) neoconservatives -- especially Paul Wolfowitz or Richard Perle, Tony Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard, and a host of other people. In the case of someone like Ann Coulter, who used what academics call the "F-word," part of a growing list of terms one speaks at one's peril, such people truly are beyond the pale.

In the case of the Iraq War, if you're an academic in good standing, you should view it as America's version of the attack on the Warsaw Ghetto. You should use the words "BUSH LIED TO US" with regularity. You should see the constant bombings in Iraq by Islamo- fascists as somehow the fault of the U.S. You should say occasionally that "you support the troops" -- without ever actually doing so. You should not know personally ANYONE who has ever served in Iraq (or Afghanistan). To the best of your ability, you should "understand" why al Qaida wants to kill Americans (including you).

What prevails at many colleges and universities, not to mention academic publications, is what sociologist David Riesman (in The Lonely Crowd) called "other-directedness." It's a word that means conformity, which basically refers to going along to get along.

What results is a situation where only a minority -- at some institutions, a very SMALL minority -- of college people can have serious discussions about complex issues. When there are many things you aren't allowed to discuss, scholarship and analysis become a case of "recite after me, George Bush is evil, the violence in Iraq is America's fault, things were better under Saddam, etc, etc."

In my long piece about corresponding with editor Wilson, I quoted a passage borrowed by super-historian Niall Ferguson from an Italian journalist. It dealt with mass murder in Romania, not so much different in some ways from the homicidal behavior we see in the Middle East. It read as follows:

"Hordes of Jews pursued by soldiers and maddened civilians armed with knives and crowbars fled along the streets; groups of policemen smashed in house doors with their rifle butts; windows opened suddenly and screaming disheveled women in night gowns appeared with their arms raised in the air; some threw themselves from windows and their faces hit the asphalt with a dull thud. Squads of soldiers hurled hand grenades through the little windows level with the street into cellars where many people had vainly sought shelter . . . Where the slaughter had been heaviest the feet slipped in blood . . ." and on and on.)

What do the academics (not all, but the type I've been pillorying) say we should do in response to such situations in our own time? In general, they say -- or at least think -- we should ignore them. If we're having an especially bad day, we should blame them on George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and the Halliburton Corporation.

At all costs, we must avoid saying something like the following: "This is horrible, and we must stop it!" However, stopping fanatics busily killing men, women, and children requires more than signing a petition, or holding a campus rally, or singing "Give peace a chance." It requires taking up arms and physically resisting the killers. That's not exactly the academic "style."

After all, how did Americans at colleges and universities respond to the massacres in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur? I don't remember a lot of cocktail parties being canceled, or departmental meetings being rescheduled, or graduations being delayed. Life went on as usual. If a tree falls in the forest and CNN doesn't record it, did a tree -- or a Rwandan -- really fall? Pretty much the same thing happened in Europe when six million Jews disappeared, although Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and The American Scholar still stood.

What do I want editor Wilson and The American Scholar to do? I want them to grab the horrors of our time by the throat. I want them to rub their readers' noses in those depravities and force their readers to do something. I want them (Gulp!) to urge college students to join the military. I don't want them to chant "Stop the Killing!" I want them to take up arms and bring it to an end.

In one piece in the Scholar, there was a discussion of 18th century French mathematician Pierre Louis-Maupertuis. He's the one satirized by Voltaire as "Dr. Pangloss," the man who insisted "We live in the best of all possible worlds." In fact, there's a fairly serious academic argument about whether our world is "optimal," something we see suggested in the popular bumper sticker that says, "Shit happens!"

In other words, do we live in a world that's the best it could be, given the circumstances (including evolution and human nature). Dr. Freud refused to join peace movements because he believed war is part of the nature of humanity, that bad things do happen to good people, and there's basically nothing we can do about them.

I don't believe that's true (much as I respect Dr. Freud's work). I prefer the view of Father Keller and the Christophers, who used to say: "It's better to light one little candle than to curse the darkness." Sometimes that "candle" may come in the form of a hand grenade or a Stealth Bomber.

When people are being tortured and murdered, it is our obligation -- and I include editor Wilson and all those who write for his publication -- to prevent those homicides. In most cases, that will involve physical resistance. If we don't do that, we are in fact accessories to the murders.

I submit that George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, those betes noire of the academic world, understand these simple points. I would bet editor Wilson also does, at least in some part of his being, although it's certainly not in his professional interest to say so. "If not now, when? If not us, who?"

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Will Al Qaeda Win? Is Valerie Plame Related to Anna Nicole? Wither The American Scholar?

I spent a good chunk of the day writing to and responding to articles and editors in The American Scholar, an academic (not in the worst sense) publication that's been around for many years. As you'll see, I love the book reviews in the Scholar, but I'm much less enthusiastic about the articles there, which in most cases tend to work too hard making points with the authors' liberal colleagues. Often, the prose is good, but the arguments generally strike me as tendentious.

My original note dealt with an article in the Winter, 2007 edition about an author's boyhood friend, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, who served as a top aide to Vice President Cheney and was recently convicted of making false statements to the FBI in regard to the Valerie Plame situation. She was the CIA agent "outed" by a government official, and Libby ended up taking the fall. As you'll see below, I'm not a big fan of Lewis Libby -- or of any Washington types who go around gossiping to reporters.

I say Libby took the fall because -- and this may surprise you -- he absolutely did NOT LEAK THE NAME/IDENTITY OF VALERIE PLAME (Mrs. Joseph Wilson). The person who did that was Colin Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage, who revealed her identity to Robert Novak and Bob Woodward. Strangely, Armitage was never indicted for anything. Libby, who had no reason to lie to FBI investigators -- and might not have done so -- was indicted and convicted. Armitage was known as a notorious gossip, and Libby apparently wasn't much better. Plame, with her long blonde hair, convertible, and celebrity status, was about as under-cover as Anna Nicole Smith.

The author of the Libby piece, Nick Bromell, is the son of a man and woman who served as members of the U.S. diplomatic corps in the Middle East. In Bromell's article he talked about how his father and mother had tried to align U.S. policy with "the realities on the ground" in the MidEast. That comment stuck in my throat like a ham bone.

Dear Mr. Wilson:

As one of those neoconservatives apparently identified these days as loathesome Public Enemies, I read Nick Bromell's Winter, 2007 piece ("Scooter and Me") with interest-- and alarm. Lewis Libby and his bosses, Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, may or may not be right in their view of the world and the Middle East, something that won't be clear for many years, but they deserve a much more serious discussion than Bromell provided.

He noted that Libby and his neoconservatives have undermined the efforts Bromell's mother and father made as diplomats in Baghdad, Amman, Kuwait, and Cairo. In fact, he says, the neocons "destroyed my father's lifelong effort to make U.S. policy in the Middle East more responsive to the realities on the ground."

Actually, U.S. policies prior to the Bush Administration were deeply respectful to such "realities." Unfortunately, what existed "on the ground" were policies like authoritarian governments, the subjugation of women, intolerance of other religions, a propensity (at least on the part of Baghdad and Cairo) to initiate wars on their neighbors, as well as economic and social backwardness.

Those were the "realities on the ground" that fueled religious fanaticism and homicidal behavior that led to the rise of terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, that people like Lewis Libby, Dick Cheney, George Bush, and I abhor.

We neocons, for all our imperfections, believe that business as usual in the Middle East, the legacy of Bromell's father and many others, is no longer acceptable. Neocons are people who believe, with Abraham Lincoln, that all men (and women) in all lands at all times desire freedom.

Frankly, there's not a whole lot more to neoconservatism, which emphasizes the main points contained in the "Declaration of Independence." Accepting the Middle East as it was became an unacceptable policy about 9 a.m. on September 11, 2001. I have a hunch that Nick Bromell could learn a few things from Lewis Libby.

Stephen R. Maloney
Ambridge, PA

Mr. Wilson responded to me with a thoughtful letter that stressed that: (1) The American Scholar did publish people with conservative views (including Princeton Emeritus scholar Bernard Lewis); (2) If I was looking for "balance" of conservatives and liberals -- not exactly what I was saying -- that perhaps I should proceed directly to the book reviews; (3) he selects articles he likes, an approach I support, since I did the same thing in my tenure as an editor at the Georgia Review. Here's how I responded to him.

Dear Mr.Wilson:

You don't have to reply again -- you're busier than I am, because I'm semi-retired, well, maybe a quarter-retired -- unless you feel the need to.

I'm a big fan of Bernard Lewis, and he's the kind of scholar I admire. He gave a speech at Hillsdale College where he argued there was a tradition (not one that lasted a long time) of tolerance in many Muslim communities, perhaps not exactly what one might expect from Prof. Lewis.

A few years ago, a couple of Muslim scholars teaching in the U.S. were on PBS. One of them -- forget his name -- was a professor at Brandeis, and he said that there was a real chance of building the "first tolerant Muslim community in the world." It turned out that community would be in . . . the United States.

In my experience, that's the kind of comment that can bring out a lot of demonstrators on American campuses, even though it happens to be true. Many things are true, or at least seem to be, that some of us would wish were not.

Niall Ferguson, the historian mentioned in your Winter issue, is apparently making a reputation as a teller of unpleasant truths, and that's a good sign. In the review of Ferguson's book, there was a quote about 4,000 Romanian Jews being run down and killed by local authorities and their "neighbors."

(Here's the article Ferguson quotes in his book: "Hordes of Jews pursued by soldiers and maddened civilians armed with knives and crowbars fled along the streets; groups of policemen smashed in house doors with their rifle butts; windows opened suddenly and screaming disheveled women in night gowns appeared with their arms raised in the air; some threw themselves from windows and their faces hit the asphalt with a dull thud. Squads of soldiers hurled hand grenades through the little windows level with the street into cellars where many people had vainly sought shelter . . . Where the slaughter had been heaviest the feet slipped in blood . . ." and on and on.)

What is the proper response of civilized people to such situations? That strikes me as the ultimate question for anyone committed to doing something positive in the world. The proper response is NOT to go around beating drums (as one liberal group of academics was doing recently in response to Darfur) or signing a petition for publication in the Times. With the drums and the petition, the 4,000 Jews -- or the million Rwandans or the half million Shias or the 200,000 Sudanese Christians -- are still dead, and the example has been set.

In the review of Ferguson's book there's a quote about the fecklessness of the British military (such as it was) in the face of Hitler's rise. Those military people didn't want to irritate Hitler. They wanted peace, like the million-plus singers of the "King and Country" resolution ("Resolved, we will not fight for King or Country). The British military wanted, in the face of tyranny, to hide under the bed.

The military's reaction was shameful, as was the denigration of the supposed warmonger Churchill. Being "for peace" is not enough when you're dealing with psychopaths.

I don't find academics generally dealing with these kind of heart-breaking realities. What does one do when there are several options, all of them bad? In a sense, Niall Ferguson seems to be willing to wrestle with some of those questions, but he's a rare breed.

By the way, on Lewis Libby: I think his playing around with the role of Valerie Plame was immoral. If I'd been in his position, I would not have revealed the name of any CIA agent, covert or overt. If I'd been ordered to do so, I would have resigned. He should have done the same. (I'm not a big fan of the CIA as an "intelligence" group.)

One writer I'd love to see in your pages is Michael Oren, who wrote The Six-Days War and a more recent book on America in the Middle East. I've heard he's been teaching at Harvard and Yale, and he's a veteran of the first war in Lebanon. He is very, very good. He gave me a much better understanding of the situation Israel faces. I wish he'd write about his own military experience.

One last word: in last Sunday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, columnist Jack Kelly (a conservative generally, but not robotically) wrote about the new movie "The 300," a not-so-great film dealing with Leonidas and Themopylae (where 300 Spartans and 1100 other Greeks died fighting 250,000-plus Persians some 2500 years ago).

Jack revealed a lot of the "real history" (the Spartans being an early version of the Waffen SS and the Persians under King Cyrus being relatively benign) and also talked about the military virtues (honor, discipline, courage).

As I read and re-read the article, it became clear he was talking about American and the West in conflict with al Qaeda and the Mohammed Atta types. Jack, a former Marine, a former Army Ranger, and very pro-American, was saying that al Qaeda is the Spartans and we're the Persians. In other words, he was saying that we're probably going to lose the War on Terror.

He wasn't beating the Democrats over the head. He was talking about us a people. He was talking about the limitations of an affluent society that hates to see real dead people on the nightly news.

Oddly enough, it's a view of America he shares with bin Laden. Kelly's article appeared last Sunday, and I've been thinking about it ever since. I wish we'd gotten more articles like that at the Georgia Review. I wish you'd get more at the Scholar. I think what I'm calling for is creative "imbalance" more than balance. I'm looking for writers who make us think in truly new ways.

Regards, steve maloney

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Time to Join Team Rudy? Not Just Yet

I got an invitation from the Giuliani Campaign to join "Team Rudy," basically to commit now to support the candidate. I'm not ready to do so just yet.

In 2008, God willing and the creek don't rise, I will vote for the Republican candidate for President. That won't come as a great surprise to those who know me. I did favor John F. Kennedy in 1960 (seems like only yesterday!), but I wasn't old enough to vote. In 1964, I knew in my heart that Barry Goldwater was right, and I cast my first ballot for him.

Strangely enough, one of my fellow Goldwater supporters in those days was Hillary Rodham of Wellesley College. It appears that my politics have remained relatively consistent, while hers have changed dramatically.

However, I think she's by far the Democrat's best candidate this year. Obama is largely a media creation, popular because he doesn't sound like Jesse Jackson or look like Al Sharpton. Edwards is getting a small bump in the polls -- what's traditionally called the sympathy vote -- but he will soon revert to being "The Breck Girl," a pretty boy pretending to be a populist.

Hillary's position on the Iraq War, whatever exactly that position is, won't wound her severely in the primaries. As she adjusts her position rightward in the general election, she will become a formidable candidate. As the saying goes, a lot of people have gone broke underestimating Hillary.

Rudy is very tempting. Unless Fred Thompson enters the race, Rudy will be a big -- and early -- winner. If Thompson, potentially a very strong candidate, does enter the race, Rudy will have a tough fight, but he'll still win the nomination. He'll do so by winning primaries in states like California, New York, and Illinois.

As a social conservative, I'm heartened by his statement that he would appoint judges who are strict constructionists. That's more than we got from George H. W. Bush (who gave us David Souter!), let alone Bill Clinton, who appointed cartoon liberals Ruth Ginsburg and Steve Breyer.

John McCain and Mitt Romney are good men, and I'm interested in hearing -- soon -- what they have to say. For example, how do they intend to conduct the War on Terror? What steps are they going to take to build the Republican Party in swing states, including Pennsylvania and New Jersey? What do they intend to do to rebuild the Republican Party in New York, California, and Illinois? I'd like to hear the same from Rudy.

So, I'm not ready to join Rudy's team now, 10 months ahead of the primaries. But right now, I'm leaning strongly toward the former Mayor of New York, also known as "America's Mayor." Can he lead the nation? He's already done so, in the dark days that began on September 11, 2001.

John Murtha's "Demonstrably False" Comment About the Links Between Saddam and Al Qaeda

"There was no terrorism in Iraq before we [the U.S.] went there. None. There was no connection with al Qaeda. There was no connection with terrorism in Iraq itself." (Rep. John Murtha, speaking to Tim Russert on NBC's "Meet the Press," spring, 2006)

"Iraq and terrorism had nothing to do with one another. Zero." (A Kerry presidential campaign spokesman in 2004)

Iraq's connections to terrorism are 'fictive" (a Washington Post columnist)

Speaking about comments like the one above, an expert on Iraq and terrorism said they are "demonstrably false." That expert, Stephen F. Hayes, a Senior Writer for The Weekly Standard, authored The Connection: How al Qaeda's collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America.

On the Internet, the best source of information about Saddam's close links with terrorists is Mark Eichenlaub's web site: Mark's a freelance journalist, a history teacher, and graduate of Eastern Illinois University. With his relentless gathering of information, Mark is performing a major public service. He is an important figure in what I've called "The Warrior Nation," which refers to Americans doing great work for their country and way-of-life.

If you want an easy -- but highly informative -- read about Saddam's connections with al Qaeda, get a copy of Imprimis (see below), a publication of Hillsdale College, which printed Stephen Hayes speech called "Saddam's Iraq and Islamic Terrorism: What We Know Now." (Go to to order your own copy of the speech.)

In the Mainstream Media (MSM), what you'll hear about Iraq and terrorism will resemble the absurd comments of John Murtha, who either knows nothing about the subject or is being disingenuous. Apparently, people like Murtha and Kerry long ago "went over to the other side" and have no willingness to conduct a vigorous defense of the U.S. against terrorism. They don't want to know about Saddam's continuing support of terrorist murderers because it would undermine everything they've said about the Iraq War. As I said previously, they're sleeping with the enemy, and from all appearances they're sleeping soundly -- peacefully.

In Stephen Hayes's speech, he talks about the long-ago investigation into the terrorist rocket attack on the famous al Rashid Hotel, where Hayes was a guest. He says, "Everywhere investigators looked, they turned up evidence that pointed to a collaborative effort between Saddam loyalists and Islamic fundamentalists affiliated with al Qaeda. It was the kind of cooperation -- between secularists and Islamic radicals -- that the U.S. intelligence community had long assured us would never happen [and that Murtha and MSM mistakenly believe has not happened].

Hayes adds, "And yet it did [happen]. Again and again and again. And it is still happening throughout Iraq today." It happened in the 1990s, and it is occurring with greater intensity in the 21st century.

That isn't what you're hearing from Murtha, Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Dan Rather, Katie Couric, Keith Olberman, Richard Ware, Anderson Cooper and the rest of the group that blames George W. Bush for all the world's known problems. They don't want people like Stephen Hayes and Mark Eichenlaub to confuse them with the facts. Five-and-a-half years after 9/11, Bush-haters would prefer that you believe the War on Terror is a mirage. They also want you to believe that Saddam, bad as he was, was a force for peace and stability in Iraq and the Middle East. They are terribly, disastrously wrong.

What's the evidence of Saddam's participation in terrorist activities?

First, Saddam's regime had long provided refuge to some of the most murderous terrorists in the Middle East, including Abu Abbas and Abu Nidal.

Second, Saddam's regime provided cash payments to the families of Hamas suicide bombers killing innocent Israelis and Westerners.

Third, Saddam's government, working through an ambassador named Hisham Hussein provided funding to a Phillilippine subsidiary of al Qaeda known as Abu Sayef, which carried out terrorist attacks against Filipinos and Americans in that country. The Immigration Commissioner in the Philippines said Hisham had "an established network" of terrorists in that country. A fax from the Iraqi Embassy in the Philippines to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry confirms that Iraq provided weapons to Abu Sayef.

Fourth, a major figure in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center was Abdul Rahman Yasin, who had come to the U.S. from Iraq six months before the attack at the WTC. Iraq helped Yasin exit the U.S. and financed him -- and the government employed him -- throughout the 1990s. Yasin apparently was a skilled bomb-maker, and Iraqi financial records confirm that the government paid him for many years.

Fifth, Saddam -- as we know from the many captured documents associated with his fall -- had a senior Iraqi intelligence officer meet in 1995 with Osama bin Laden. As Hayes indicates, "After the meeting, Saddam Hussein agreed to broadcast al Qaeda propaganda on Iraqi government-run television and to the let the relationship develop . . . ."

Sixth, Saddam allowed a bin Laden confidante to visit Baghdad in 1998. The man stayed in the Iraqi capital for two weeks at government expense

Seventh, shortly after the fall of Saddam the U.S. government found a blueprint for what became the terror-intensive insurgency. In the words of Paul Bremer, "The document . . . listed orders for . . . a strategy of organized resistance, which included the classic pattern of forming cells and training combatants in insurgency. 'Operatives' were to engage in 'sabotage and looting.' Random sniper attacks and ambushes were to be organized. The order continued 'Scatter agents in every town. Destroy electric power stations and water conduits. Infiltrate the mosques, the Shiite holy place.'"

Eighth, another finding was described by Bush Administration critic David Durford: ". . . One document that we found . . . was a list of jihadists . . . coming into Iraq from Saudi Arabia before the war." The jihadist material indicated that "hundreds and hundreds" of fighters were coming into Iraq from Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and elsewhere.

Ninth, the Iraqi Perspective Project, a major Pentagon effort pointed out that the Saddam Fedayeen, one of many domestic Iraqi terrorist groups, trained more than 7,200 would-be terrorists in its first year, 1994.

Tenth, also in the Iraqi Perspective Project, we read the following: "The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout the Middle East. In a document dated May, 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for 'special operations, assassinations, and bombing, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran, and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan].' Preparations for Blessed July,' a regime-directed wave of 'martrydom' operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion."

I haven't talked about Saddam's botched effort to assassinated the first President Bush, his tolerance of al Qaeda-like Ansar al Islam, and many other examples of terrorism under the leadership of the Butcher of Baghdad.

The Murthas and Russerts of the world are just plain wrong about Iraq's links to terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular. Since the points I've made can't come as revelations to them, what exactly is their agenda? It certainly isn't the defense of the West, including America.

I've relied heavily on Stephen Hayes's work in this piece. Paraphrases and quotes are reprinted by permission from Imprimis, the national speech digest of Hillsdale College, I have been an ally of this college for nearly 40 years, and I revere the pro-American, pro-Christian work they do in serving as a model for American higher education.

Publications (print or online) are free to re-publish this article without compensation. Just mention Stephen R. Maoney and reference Campaign2008.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is Your Doctor Bad for Your Health? To Find Out, Answer Some Key Questions

I've had some pretty bad doctors over the years. I had one in Athens, Georgia, who wrestled for many years with drug and alcohol problems and, I learned from one of his associates, had spent a good chunk of time in rehab. That doctor told me that he'd been a "straight-C" student at the University of Tennessee Medical School. When I'd sit with him in his office, he'd light up one of his cigarettes as he discussed his problems with anxiety. I can't say anything about his nurse or receptionist, because he didn't seem to have either one. When you entered the office you signed in, and he called your name. If you wanted a prescription of just about any kind, including a nice big bottle of Valium, you got it.

In the integration-conscious 1970s, this doctor still retained TWO separate -- but mostly equal -- waiting rooms, one for us (Whites) and one for them (Blacks), even though no one demanded any longer that anyone sit anywhere in particular.

That doctor wasn't the worst one I've had -- not by a long shot. The worst one was in the Pittsburgh area. For a time, he also served as the physician for my brother, who basically had no money and lived with us for a year as he recovered from a stroke. My brother (Billy) qualified for free drugs under the Prescription Assistance Program (the one Montel Williams pitches on TV). The drug companies insist on sending the drugs directly to the physician, who should be the responsible one, right?

Wrong -- at least in this case. This doctor, actually there were two of them working together, had one receptionist working (perhaps a better word is present) in the office, and it was her task to do little things like answering the phone and receiving medications sent by drug makers.

On three occasions, this doctor's office LOST my brother's free drugs. All of them were branded pharmaceuticals (read, expensive) and came in three-month supplies. The drugs lost would have cost in total about $900 at retail, and of course since we didn't get them, we had to buy others. To get new supplies from the drug companies, we had to have the doctor re-order them, which he wasn't especially enthusiastic about doing.

After the third lost drug shipment, we finally changed doctors, long after we should have. Yes, they were nice enough people. Yes, they were convenient, no more than a two-minute walk from our home. Yes, they always seemed to have plenty of flu medicine in the fall. But were they good doctors? Nope.

How can you tell if your family doctor is is not exactly a candidate for ER or Gray's Anatomy? Take the following test.

(1) Does your doctor see patients (including you of course) for an average of 10 minutes or more, which is the national average? If your answer is no, you've got a problem. Your doctor may be patient-churning, racing people in-and-out to make more money. Figure it out: six patients an hour at approximately $75 per visit, the going rate in our area, generates hourly revenues of $450 . Getting one more patient per hour in raises that number to $525, which adds up to some big bucks rather quickly. For your $75 bucks, you deserve your ten minutes, trust me.

(2) Does your doctor write prescriptions for chronic illnesses (diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression, and the like) with five refills? If the answer is no, he's like the Pittsburgh-area doctor I described earlier. He wrote prescriptions with two -- or at most, three -- refills. Then, when you needed a refill, his "office" (consisting of the one lousy receptionist) insisted that you had to come in to "see the doctor." Essentially, this is another case of patient-churning, getting you to visit the office more often and to keep plunking down your $75. With the two refills, it's a case of doubling not your pleasure but your payments. (Yes, I realize that "insurance" may pay most or all of your $75, but insurance is not a philanthropic enterprise, and in fact you end up paying, directly or indirectly.) By the way, prescriptions for controlled substances, such as anti-anxiety drug Ativan (Lorazepam) many require a doctor's authorization to get a refill. In general, however, you can tell a whole lot about your doctor's motivations by how many refills he or she circles on your prescriptions.

(3) Does your doctor check regularly your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and heart rhythms? If the answer is no, flee immediately to another caregiver. He or she should also remind you to get your flu shot and, when you start into your 60s, to get a pneumonia shot. Before then, as Katie Couric and I will insist, you should have a colonoscopy, a stress exam (bicycles are better than treadmills), and other basic tests.

(4) Does your doctor prescribe a medicine to treat an illness AND discuss lifestyle adjustments that will help in dealing with the condition? If your answer is no, he's not doing -- or she's not doing -- the job. Lifestyle adjustments, eating better or exercising more, might not lower your cholesterol or your elevated blood pressure substantially, but then again they just might. If you're a diabetic, as I am, medication will help keep your glucose levels down, but you also need to stop ("just say no!") scarfing down white bread, soda pop, ice cream, and alcohol. Otherwise, your habits will undermine the medicine.

(5) Does your doctor have a good awareness of what drugs cost? If the answer is no, the physician is not unusual, because (1) most of them have great health plans; and (2) they can get all the free samples they want from those well-dressed phamaceutical representatives. Two years ago, I didn't have any prescription drug coverage, and my Pittsburgh-area doctor decided I needed Avandia (R) for my adult onset diabetes. It cost about $160 per month. Later, my Ambridge-area doctor suggested I try a generic, Metformin. It worked just as well as the Avandia, and it costs me $4.00 per month -- about one-fortieth what I was paying for Avandia. A doctor who doesn't know what the meds prescribed cost is deficient in a key area of medicine. The fine Bridgeville doctors I saw briefly -- Nicolette Chiesa and Don McFarland -- had a generic drug facility next to their office.

(6) Does your doctor have enough staff to get the job done well? If the answer is no, you need to find another doctor. The Pittsburgh-area doctor I saw had one mediocre staff member. That meant the doctors had to do all their own poking and prodding, and sometimes they weren't very good at it. The doctors in Bridgeville and Ambridge have relatively big staffs, nurses, receptionists, and clerks. Doctors shouldn't be doing work -- like asking basic questions, taking temperatures, checking blood pressure, and drawing blood samples -- that are better left to others. They shouldn't be answering their own phones. They shouldn't be wandering around looking for shipments of free meds misplaced by incompetents.

There are a other questions -- not by any means an infinite number -- you need to ask about your physician. Sure, it helps if a doctor has a pleasant manner, but if you're really sick, medical amiability isn't going to help much. Also, make sure your doctor, amiable or otherwise, isn't ripping you off, something that seems to be going around a lot these days.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Post-Gazette Forum: Prof. Khan & the Oxymoron of "American Islam"

In my columns, I talk from time to time about the Sunday "Forum" (opinion) section of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. I urge my readers (all 99 of you!) to take a look at the March 25, 2007 "Forum" to see a typical issue, some very good, much very bad. Let's focus today on the latter.

The worst piece is "American Islam," written by M. A. Muqtedar Khan, who's an Assistant Professor at the University of Delaware and a senior nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institute. He's authored American Muslims: Bridging Faith and Freedom. Professor Khan is what passes for an "Islamic scholar," a popular oxymoron.

I'd suggest to Khan that when it's necessary to "bridge" faith and freedom, there's a big problem. In fact, faith without freedom (of speech, of religion, of press) is a frightening thing. Freedom should be the essence of faith. It shouldn't be some major dilemma.

As a good Muslim dedicated mainly to the cause of spreading his religion, Khan makes many of the usual patronizing comments about America -- praising the country for its freedoms, while neglecting to note that such liberties are present nowhere in the Islamic world. He makes his main point in the lead, saying: "American foreign policy sins are numerous and some are even unforgivable [!] -- like the invasion of Iraq, which was based on false accusations and has resulted in much death and destruction."

He adds that it be wrong to judge "Islam by what some radical, violence-prone Muslims have done around the world." Yet one might ask: what are the much-discussed, but rarely evident, moderate Muslims (another oxymoron) doing to resist and overcome the omnipresent violent Muslims? They're doing little, either because they support the violence or they're afraid. "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity," as W. B. Yeats said.

The U.S. did not initiate "death and destruction in Iraq." Under Saddam and his Sunni brethren, Iraq launched two major wars in the Middle East, resulting in the death of perhaps a million Muslims in Iraq, Iran, and Kuwait. It killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Shias. The number of Iranians killed in the war might have been half a million or more, with a similar number of Iraqi fatalities. After the occupation of Kuwait, Saddam attacked a village in Saudi Arabia.

He regularly used weapons of mass destruction, mainly poison gas, against the Iranians. He also bombed Kurdish villages with Mustard gas and nerve gas, killing many, many women and children. He killed people in Israel and Saudi Arabia with Scud missiles, which have WMD characteristics in that they kill indiscriminately.

For more than two decades, Saddam tried to develop nuclear weapons. Israel foiled Saddam's initial nuclear efforts by bombing his facilities. Right into the 1990s, Saddam was exploring the nuclear option. Great Britain's Butler Commission said that the report of Saddam trying to purchase yellowcake in Africa "was very well founded."

However, in the mind of a good Muslim like Professor Khan, it's the fault of the U.S. that there's death and destruction in Iraq.

I have news for him: the Muslim world has no better national friend in the world than America. It's the U.S. that has been the main protector of Muslims in the Balkans, in Kuwait, in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and elsewhere.. Our continuing purpose in Afghanistan is to free the people there from Muslim tyranny and give them the same human rights Khan has in America.

What did the "moderate Muslims" of the world do to protect the people terrorized and massacred by Saddam, the Taliban, and the various mullahs and Ayatollahs? Frankly, they did nothing. Correction: they generally intensified their efforts to blame world's problems on Israel and the West, especially the Americans.

Saddam was a vigorous supporter of Muslim terrorists, especially the Gaza-centered suicide bombers of Hamas, whom he rewarded financially. He had his own terrorist training center at Salmon Pak. He was remarkably tolerant of the Ansar al Islam, an Al Qaida-like group, with its center in northeastern Iraq. He tried on many occasions to work out cooperative deals with Al Qaida itself. (Note: I'll have an article soon exposing Saddam's deep links to terrorists, including Al Qaida.)

Frankly, the U.S. could fire at will in Iraq for a decade without doing half the damage inflicted by the Muslim leader known as Saddam Hussein. No, he wasn't the most devout of Muslims in his "real life," but his last words on the gallows were the Islamic words "Allahu Akbar," meaning God is Great.

Are the issues I've raised unknown to Professor Khan and the many Muslims who think the way he does? No, but mass murder over a period of decades by Muslims -- especially Saddam and his Sunnis -- is somehow irrelevant. When Muslims are slaughtering Muslims, it's not nearly as bad as a bunch of infidels (we Americans) trying to save lives and establish democracy.

Professor Khan's praise of America's tolerance of people like him is bizarre. In other words, this country provides him with liberties scorned by Muslim nations around the world. Christians or Jews who publicly practice their religion -- or criticize their host nations -- in Islamic countries are putting their lives at risk. They're lucky if they escape with deportation.

When you read Professor Khan's article, you'll find it's mostly a celebration of himself. He enthuses about the number of speeches he gives, the articles he publishes, the academic and other institutional positions he holds. He cites a number of other "Muslim scholars" who, like him, use the benefits of American freedoms without really comprehending how they came about.

He never gets to the real point: the systemic deficiencies of Islam and its sharia law that prevent his having Western-oriented counterparts in Muslim countries. He doesn't grasp the fact that there's an inverse relationship between the percentage of Muslims in a nation and the amount of liberty. Perhaps the reason he doesn't reflect on these matters is that doing so would cause him to call his Muslim faith into serious doubt.

Why does the Post-Gazette publish such claptrap? It does so because of its commitment to a witless "tolerance" directed toward those it would like to engage in "dialogue." Yet how does one spark real discussion among peoples and religious traditions that have zero understanding of or respect for a candid exchange of views?

If Professor Khan and others like him want to do some real good in the world, they should return to the Islamic world. They should, in essence, risk their lives by expounding the values of liberty. I doubt there's much chance they'll do so.

Unfortunately, there is no real "American Islam." Instead, there are Muslims in America, some of them good people, who unfortunately don't yet realize their Islamic beliefs are incompatible with American ideals. When they seriously ask themselves why that's so, fewer of them will continue to espouse Islam.

Stephen R. Maloney is an independent journalist (not an oxymoron). He has a Ph.D. from the University of Rochester and worked for many of America's largest countries. He is not a big fan of Islam, because of its basic incompatibility with human rights.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Altmire, Murtha, and Doyle: Doing Their Three Stooges Imitation?

I sent the following note to Jerome Sherman, who writes on national politics for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Jerome, on your Saturday, March 24, 2007 story about the 218-212 House vote to set a ttimetable for Iraq withdrawal: you may remember when I said earlier that 4th District congressman Jason Altmire would end up voting the way Nancy Pelosi told him to, which in fact is exactly what happened. You point was that he had real concerns about voting for a timetable, and my point was that his concerns were mainly for local political consumption.

I never heard exactly what "reservations" he had about setting a timetable. Me being me, I doubt he had any reservations of consequence, especially given the fact that he never expressed them in any detail. He never seems to express his views fully on any issue.

When Altmire voted for federal funding of embryonic stem cell research, which involves the destruction of a form of life, he portrayed his stand as pro-life, in keeping with his campaign promises. Does he regard some forms of abortion as pro-life, and if so which ones?

What exactly is his thinking about how the timetable vote will play with Al Qaida, the Taliban, and the various insurgent groups in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan? Was that the source of his supposed "reservations," if he in fact had any of consequence, and how did he resolve the question in his own thinking?

In fact, how exactly Altmire thinks the U.S. should conduct the overall War on Terror -- if he thinks we should be conducting it -- is a mystery to me. Perhaps you could get him to illuminate his views, again assuming he has any.

There's a major problem with portraying Altmire as moderate/independent/pro-life, etc., as his votes so far show no signs of such commitments on his part. In this regard, he's about as independent as Congressman Mike Doyle, who always votes with the leadership, aside from an occasional Western PA vote ('we love coal, we love steel, we love union bosses," etc.)

There's a problem with your use of the phrase "fractious majority" in regard to the Democrats. Since only a handful of Democrats voted against the resolution, the majority doesn't seem all that fractious. If you're talking about a few people who posture constantly for the Party's left-wing (individuals like Dennis Kuchinich), they aren't being fractious. I believe they almost all fell into line when the vote was taken, didn't they?

Additionally, I wonder exactly what role the insertion of billions of dollars of "pork" played in getting the majority vote for the timetable. How many Representatives voted from the timetable in order to get the pork? Was it a half-dozen or more, as appears to be the case?

Overall, we read a lot in the papers about the "Blue Dog" Democrats (fiscal conservatives), as well as socially conservative and "moderate" Democrats. Is there any hard evidence that more than a few such people really exist, or they mainly media creations? I don't see how any fiscal conservatives could vote for a bill containing so many earmarks (i.e., pork).

Finally, does Congressman Murtha still think it's a good idea to redeploy the troops to Okinawa, as he suggested to Tim Russert? I haven't heard him speak out on this lately. Does he continue to believe Okinawa is the best place from which to conduct military action against Al Qaida and associated terrorists?

Jerome, obviously I'm very skeptical about the actions and explanations of Congressmen Altmire, Murtha, and Doyle. When they vote on proposed legislation, I'd like to hear why -- in some detail -- they did so. The sloganeering favored by Jack Murtha does not constitute an explanation -- and does not communicate an understanding of the pros and cons involved in any vote of significance. I don't get the sense that any of the three men have done the kind of reflection necessary with complex issues.

It's not the obligation of any member of Congress to agree with me. However, when they disagree, I'd like to have some sense of why they do so.

Thanks as always for your consideration of my thoughts.

Steve Maloney, Ambridge (Member of "Jerome Sherman Frequent Reader Club")

Friday, March 23, 2007

Memo to the Post-Gazette: Fire Wasaleski and Norman NOW!

In today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, assistant editor Tony Norman writes a "boo-hoo" column about all the heat the paper's editorial board is taking for not writing critically about corruption in city government. In fact, the P-G bears heavy responsibility for many of the area's problems, including the dismaying situation in the violence-infested Black community and the de facto establishment of one-party government in Allegheny County.

I have condemned Tony Norman, an African-American, in the past for his lack of concern about the widespread misery in Pittsburgh's Black neighborhoods. We have a lot of such areas, since our community is about as segregated as Birmingham, Alabama in the 1960s. Violence -- murders and assaults, mainly on young Blacks -- is a constant presence.

A couple of years ago, after a period when a young Black woman had been raped and abandoned in a cemetery by four Black males and another young woman, a top student at Westinghouse, had been killed in a drive-by shooting, Tony Norman wrote a column.

No, it wasn't about the above outrages, it was about the wonders of Barack Obama. Norman was excited by Obama's message, then as now, one loaded with generalities about "The Audacity of Hope." At the time, I noted the young woman who'd been viciously raped and the one who'd been murdered were neither audacious nor hopeful. Year-in-and-year out, dozens of young Blacks are gunned down in our streets, but to the Post-Gazette that seems to be just an inevitable fact of life rather than what it really is: the continuing destruction of Pittsburgh's Black community.

The same week as Norman's puff-piece about Obama, Jesse Jackson came to town. Perhaps he was here to express his dismay at the rape and killing? No, he was on a (photo op) bus tour dealing with "Poverty in Appalachia." If he wanted to visit truly impoverished places, I'd suggest first Pittsburgh's Black communities -- and then the editorial board of the P-G.

On another occasion, elementary-age children in Homewood were afraid to go to school because of the many drive-
by shootings. I demanded that the Governor call out the National Guard to protect those children -- a step he did not take. As for Tony Norman, well, he lives not in Homewood but in Squirrel Hill, where it's safe for children to walk to school.

As for the Post-Gazette editorial board overall, it has played a central role in taking Allegheny County politics to where it is now, an undemocratic, one-party system. Under the leadership of editorial page editor Tom Wasaleski, the P-G has used its power to ensure that we have democracy in name only.

When our politicians -- from John Murtha to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- misbehave, the P-G sometimes chides them. More often, it says nothing.

Of course, the result of one-party rule is that have a Culture of Political Corruption, with a steady stream of Democratic politicians (including the Sheriff and his key aides, various City Council types, a former Mayor, and the long-time head of the county's Democratic Party, as well as several judges) being either indicted or otherwise cited for violating the public trust.

In the recent past, one state legislator much favored by the Post-Gazette provided a much-remembered response to a (recorded) exchange where someone asked him if the main role of elected office was not to serve the public. The legislator's response was "F--k the public." That was Mr. Gigliotti, later led off in leg-irons.

Now, we have "a young mayor," Ravenstahl, who appears to a seasoned practitioner of "the old corruption." He appoints a cyncial deal-maker, Dennis Regan, as head of the Public Safety Committee. When an outstanding policewoman, Catherine McNeilly, complains about Regan's improper use of influence in police matters, the "young mayor" approves her demotion. Later, she sues, the City loses, and she gets reinstated, reportedly with the city getting ready to pay her a six-figure settlement.

Sounds like we should be voting out the "young Mayor," right? Well, in Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, voting is more a symbolic gesture than an electoral statement.

Will the P-G endorse Luke Ravenstahl, the only candidate running for Mayor? Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, Ravenstahl, inexperienced, ethically challenged, and obsessed with celebrities, has no Democratic opposition and no (token) Republic opposition. Apparently, he can be Mayor Forever.

Republicans should stop playing along with the occasional appearance (if not the reality) of a democratic politics. In fact, we're a one-party community, and it's time for Republicans to stop getting 20% of the votes in elections and go on to more worthwhile endeavors. Raking leaves would be superior to participating in political shams.

In an editorial a month ago, the P-G mentioned that Gov. Rendell has proposed six tax increases, all of which he'd forgotten to mention in his campaign against African-American Lynn Swann. Of course, the paper thought that he might be moving too quickly (!!!!!!) and that perhaps he should delay some of the tax increases.
In fact, if Ed Rendell had proposed 66 increases -- or 666 -- during his campaign, the P-G would still have endorsed him. After all, Lynn Swann, one of the finest people I've ever met, was a (shudder) Republican.

Republican candidates dutifully go in for "interivews" with an editorial board supposedly weighing which candidate to endorse. Hint: it's the DEMOCRAT folks.

Consider the experience of Republican Diana Lynn Irey, campaigning in 2006 against Congressman-For-Life John Murtha. When the P-G editorial board inteviewed her, they treated her with contempt. They did everything but stick her head in the toilet. The atmosphere was one of: "How dare you run against the sainted John Murtha!?"

As she retreated from the P-G Building, one newspaper staffer (Bill Toland?) sought to comfort her -- and apologize for the behavior of his colleagues.

The proper response -- the decent one -- for the board was to say: "Look, Diana, we don't support conservative candidates, even when they're running against someone universally regarded as corrupt, like John Murtha. But we do want to salute you for making the democratic process something other than a sham. We realize the time and effort you're putting into this campaign to raise issues in which you believe deeply."

Sadly, Tony Norman and Tom Wasaleski don't have the cojones to say anything stand-up to a fine person like Diana.

It's time for Republicans to stop providing nominal candidates who are nothing more than fig leaves for an undemocratic and thoroughly corrupt process. In this area, "Republican opposition" is an oxymoron.

Republicans should not to present themselves for "show trials" with the P-G editorial board. In fact, don't stand for office at all in a climate where media editorialists are nothing more than a cheering squad for Democratic candidates, many of whom have the ethical substance of a cockroach.

It's time for Republicans and others who believe in competitive, fair elections to just say NO!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

John and Elizabeth Edwards: The Politics of Personal Deceit

The Democratic presidential candidate in 2008 will not be John Edwards, who languishes at about 10% in the national polls. Basically, Edwards is running for vice-president, a position he's also not going to get. If his role in 2004 was to help Kerry win at least one border South state, he was a failure, with the Democratic ticket losing badly even in North Carolina.

Yes, Edwards and, especially, his wife were impressive today as they discussed the recurrence of Mrs. Edward's cancer. However, my view of John Edwards is that he's a thoroughly dishonest and cynical candidate, the lilting Southern accent notwithstanding. I take Elizabeth Edwards seriously enough -- not just as "that poor lady with cancer" -- to see her for what she is: an enabler for her husband's deceit and self-absorption.

John Edwards is a Southern populist, running in the tradition established by people like Huey Long, Eugene Talmadge, and George Wallace -- although he's doing it without their highly visible racial politics. In fact, Edwards' use of race is the kind increasingly popular in Democratic politics: portraying himself as someone who will accelerate the process of redistributing income (a key term) to "poor people."

When he ran for the Senate in North Carolina, Edwards ran not so much as a moderate as a Southerner. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana runs the same way. It's the politics of "I talk like you, therefore I am one of YOU."

The "I'm-like-you" is the essence of Southern populism. In one campaign appearance before his "wool-hats," poor whites, Huey Long said, "They [the New Orleans newspapers] say I stole. Well, my brethren I DID steal, but I stole for you!" The crowd roared its approval.

Edwards' presidential primary campaign in 2004 emphasized "The Two Americas," one poor, one supposedly rich. (The middle-class doesn't play a big role in Southern populism.) Basically, it was the politics of envy at work.

Is Edwards really one-of-them, the huddled masses of America? In a U.S. Senate filled with gazillionaires, Edwards was one of the richer ones. He may in fact have been the son of a mill worker, but in his career as a plaintiff's attorney, he traveled a long way from the mill. According to federal filings, Edwards' net worth may be roughly $20 million. So, when he goes on about the "Two Americas," we know which one he inhabits.

When Edwards as a personal injury lawyer was taking a hefty chunk of his clients' settlements, did he explain fully to them how the system worked? For example, did he acquaint them with the exhaustive study done by Progressive Insurance? It pointed out how clients who engaged attorneys received LESS in settlements that those who didn't use. It also took them MUCH LONGER to receive their settlements, often a year more.

(Yes, the monies the insurance companies paid out were generally larger when lawyers were involved, but after the attorneys consumed their 30% or 40%, plus expenses, the injured parties ended up with less money overall.) If this all sounds like a great way to raise the cost of insurance premiums, well, you get it.

Granted, Edwards inearly as rich as Senators like Herb Kohl (D, WI, worth as much as $200 million), or John Kerry (D, MA), rich with Teresa's money, or Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), or Ted Kennedy (D, MA), or a host of other Democratic senators.

Of course, Edwards, as a good populist, sharply criticizes the "Bush tax cuts." He wonders how Bush can cut taxes on "the wealthiest Americans."

In fact, Edwards and his fellow Democrats aren't really talking about taxing the wealthy. In fact, that would put them in the uncomfortable position of taxing people like, well, themselves. They would also be talking about taxing all those Hollywood moguls and Wall Street plutocrats (like George Soros) who channel all those mega-bucks into Democratic campaigns.

See, wealth (net worth) is what you have (like Rockefeller's hundred-million plus and Teddy Kennedy's $50 million and Nancy Pelosi's $50 million -- all made by her husband of course, whereas income is what you're making annually. So, iur Democratic elected officials don't want to tax wealth. They want to tax income, including yours.

If you're working hard ("in the sweat of your brow, as the Bible puts it), the Democrats really don't want you to get rich. They want more of your money, in the form of taxes. They want you to make a lot of money, but they want you to keep a smaller portion of it.

Thus, all the liberal clatter about taxing those "wealthy" Americans has no real meaning. It's just the same old demagoguery. It's the policy favored by those extremely wealthy Americans known as John and Elizabeth Edwards.

I'm very sorry Elizabeth Edwards has cancer. I'm even more sorry that she and her husband are pushing policies that will do great damage to the economic health of Americans.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Defecating on and Murdering Women: Are They "Free Speech?"

Somehow I don't think I got my points across to Post-Gazette reporter Paula Ward in my blog. Perhaps the problem is that she generally accepts "the world as it is" (the perception that the presence of smoke means there's a fire) and I often don't (sometimes what we're seeing is a smoke machine).

Let me highlight one part of Ms. Ward's article, regarding pornography cases: "The federal grand jury in Pittsburgh indicted a California couple who ran Extreme Associates, a company that makes graphic pornography featuring women being tortured, defecated on and murdered."

"That case -- which was thrown out by a district judge but later reinstated by the appeals court -- is being watched by First Amendment scholars across the country. It is expected to go to trial later this year."

Everything Ms. Ward tells us here is true, but there's something wrong with it notwithstanding. Let me use this analogy: If she was writing a story about a woman who claims she was impregnated by a alien and quoted the woman's comment that the baby looked like the father, I'd feel somewhat the way I do about her Extreme Associates story.

In her U.S. Attorney story generally, she's assuming things to be true that are widely believed but highly questionable.

Extreme Associates is claiming that showing women being defecated on and murdered is legal under the First Amendment to the Constitution. The problem is that there is in a fact a written version of that Amendment, which prohibits Congress from abridging the right to free speech.

I submit that Madison, Hamilton, and others knew what the word speech meant, even if their modern counterparts don't. The Supreme Court ruled long ago that the Founders, who created Congress, didn't know what it was they were creating, and the Bill of Rights (aside from the 10th Amendment?) also applied to the states.

Is defecation (or murder) really speech? No. Is it, however, a form of speech? No, unless you twist language to such an extent that words lose all their meaning.

Did any of the Founding Fathers -- as in ANY -- every take a position that defecating or other bodily functions were forms of speech? If sexual relations are a form of speech, then God Save the Queen.

The whole notion of non-speech being speech is ridiculous. Excretion is not speech. Urination is not speech. A dog baying at the moon is not speech. In fact, writing is not speech, as the Founding Fathers knew in their designation of a separate freedom relating to the press.

There's a provision in the Constitution (the one written, not the one imagined or hoped for by the supposed "First Amendment scholars") for amendment. In fact, the speech clause itself is part of an amendment.

The Founders did not assume the original Constitution was all that would be necessary for all times. If modern society wants to assume that defecation -- or a baby's throwing a rattle, or a motorist honking his horn at 3 a.m. -- is a form of speech, there's a way to do so: through amending the Constitution. It would require the vote of 67 Senators, as well as two-thirds of House and ratification by most states.

I doubt one Senator or Representative would vote in the affirmative. But some "learned" First Amendment scholars beg to differ, on grounds that one can hardly imagine. A scholar is not someone totally detached from reality -- except perhaps for legal scholars.

I fear for a society where defecating on women, of which Paula Reed Ward is one as are our five daughters, is defensible under the law. In societies where ethical and social considerations count for little, what is legal has a way of becoming normative. Life imitates art -- does it ever!

When 12-year-old Dakota Fanning (a wonderful young actress) is portrayed, however briefly, as being raped in a film, the presentation gets its defenders. One of them is Dakota herself, who says, "That's why they call it ACTING." I call it shameful. Presumably, pederasty is illegal, except of course when it's "art."

Yes, when women get raped and murdered in real life -- as they do in great numbers -- the perpetrators are "making a statement." But it is an odious statement, one that should not be permitted, even if Extreme Associates say that it's all fun and games.

Am I making one of those arguments known as "slippery slope?" I'm saying that, human nature being what it is, it's more like a trap door.

I guess what I'm saying to Paula and all journalists is this: When the Emperor traipses by the buff, it's not necessary to assume he must have clothes.

Twisting the Constitution into something that has a legally protected place for Extreme Associates' dreck is to turn it into something loathesome. Granted, the ACLU will continue to worship it, but most people will look at it as an object of scorn.

I know the objection Paula and other journalists would make to my position: if editor David Shribman's assumption is that the Emperor does have clothes, then she'd better go along to get along. If that's the case, then we truly need a modern version of Jonathan Swift.

steve maloney
ambridge, pa

"Stop Stabbing our Troops in the Back": The Limits of Free Speech

After putting 90,000 words -- about the length of a 300-page book -- into this blog, I'm delighted with the way things are going. I thank all those who've read and/or responded to pieces I've written. To those I've criticized, I thank you for existing, because you have inspired me to keep writing.

In recent weeks, I've launched some mild criticisms of Jack Kelly, mainly for his rebuking Ann Coulter for being, well, herself. Jack writes columns that are hard-hitting, but in the thinking of people like Ann (and me), hard-hitting is not really enough to spark truly serious debate about such issues as: (1) the need for America to win in Iraq; (2) the need to call liberal Democrats to account for their dangerous and cynical views.

A so-called reasoned debate is not enough. It's like the Confederate artillery barrage before Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg. The shells fall far short and don't do any real damage. And what qualifies metaphorically as General Pickett's rush to futility? I'd suggest the Republican efforts in the election of 2006.

That was the election where the best appeared to lack all conviction, while the worst were full of passionate intensity. Now, some of the best are striking back.

, Jack Kelly questioned Sean Hannity's relatively benign treatment of Coulter on Fox News. Unfortunately, Jack also wondered about the depth of Sean's Christianity -- and by extension, Ann's own faith. On all the evidence I've seen, there's little doubt either person's Christian faith.

Ann has said she won't vote for Rudy Giuliani, because of his stand on abortion. I don't agree with her on that point, even though I'm strongly pro-life, as is Sean. My view is that if we don't vigorously conduct the War on Terror, as Rudy surely would (so would McCain), then most other issues could become moot.

Also, Rudy rejuvenated New York City, restoring most of its economic robustness. At the same time, his policies cut sharply into the city's crime rate -- especially the number of murders. Saving thousands of lives is by definitions a pro-life activity.

Also, Rudy has promised he would appoint judges who are "strict constructionists." He is using a code-term there to reach out to social conservatives, such as Sean Hannity and Steve Maloney. In fact, it wasn't strict constructionists who came up with novel interpretation of the Constitution that led to Roe v. Wade.

On the overall question of Christians taking tough political stands: I have to remind Jack (gently, but firmly) that Christians aren't society's punching bags. The Jesus who drove the moneychangers from the temple was not a Milquetoast. There's not really a contradiction between loving our enemies and confronting them with some hard truths. As Jesus said, "I come to bring not peace, but the sword."

On the "Hannity and Colmes" program earlier this week, Sean confronted his co-host Allen Colmes, who was talking his usual claptrap about Iraq. Hannity said, "When are you liberals going to stop emboldening America's enemies?"

Then, as the feckless but facile Colmes blathered on, Hannity asked, "When are you going to stop stabbing our troops in the back?"

Colmes, shaken, replied (in essence): "Look, if we have to give up our constitutional right to speak out, then the terrorists have won."

Yes, we do have a right to speak out -- to make reasoned arguments pro or con related to Iraq. However, free speech presupposes a recognition of the consequences of our speech. Frankly, speech that does nothing but encourage people who hate the concept of liberty is highly suspect speech. What precisely is it purpose?

Sean Hannity was right to say: "Stop." Allen Colmes was wrong to reply: "No." Somehow, I don't think the concept of right and wrong has a lot of meaning for Colmes and those who think like him.

Some forms of speech can do a lot more harm than shouting fire in a crowded theater. They can result in the deaths of American men and women. As I've suggested before, Al Qaida reads the public opinion polls, as well as the remarks of American liberal politicians. Osama bin Laden has said as much.

The Constitution is not a perfect document, and the rights outlined in it are not absolute. That understanding is what moved Mr. Justice Arthur Goldberg to say: "The Constitution is not a suicide pact." In the same sense, it should not be a death trap for soldiers protecting the very rights that others are abusing.

To put it in Coulteresque Terms: When your speech is leading to the death of my son or daughter, or my nephew or niece, then I will do what I can to inhibit your particular exercise of speech. For me to do otherwise would be immoral and would be a breach of faith with our best and bravest.