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Archive for January, 2007

Hinton Resident Al Stone Taking Part in Civil War Seminar in VA

Posted by kinchendavid on January 30, 2007

By Staff

Lynchburg, VA  — Hinton, WV resident Al Stone, who portrays Gen. Robert E. Lee, will take part in the 11th annual Civil War Seminar sponsored on March 23-24, 2007 by Liberty University here.

This year’s program is entitled Robert E. Lee in Life and Legend. Featured speakers include the following nationally renowned authors whose texts are familiar to all Civil War enthusiasts.

— Dr. Steven Woodworth of Texas Christian University (whose works include Davis and Lee at War and While God Is Marching On: The Religious World of Civil War Soldiers) will speak on Davis and Lee at War.

— Lawyer/Historian Gordon Rhea (whose works include Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864 the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864) will speak on Lee vs. Grant: A Grand Strategy and The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House.

— Author/historian Richard G. Williams, Jr. (whose works include The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen and Stonewall Jackson—The Black Man’s Friend) will speak on The Lee Chapel at Washington and Lee University.

— Author/historian Robert K. (Bob) Krick, Sr. (Stonewall Jackson at Cedar Mountain and The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy: The Death of Stonewall Jackson and Other Chapters on the Army of Northern Virginia) will speak on R. E. Lee in View of Today’s History.

— Author William Marvell (Lee’s Retreat and A Place Called Appomattox) will speak on Lee’s Last Retreat.

–Author/Historian Jeffrey Wert (Gettysburg: Day Three and The Sword of Lincoln: The Army of the Potomac) will speak on Lee the Strategist and Tactician.

Other speakers include:

–Dr. Holt Merchant of Washington and Lee University will speak on Lee the Educator.

–Reverend Alan Farley of Reenactor’s Mission for Jesus Christ will speak on Lee the Christian Soldier.

–Al Stone stars as Robert E. Lee in The Last Interview.

–Nora Brooks stars as Mildred Childe Lee in Lee Behind Closed Doors: Lee the Family Man

In addition to the speakers’ presentations, there will be numerous exhibits of Civil War artifacts and memorabilia for the public.

A special feature of this year’s seminar will be the Friday night banquet and the Saturday luncheon which will feature Ante-Bellum menus and entertainment within the context of a military camp setting.

Special door prizes for the Seminar will include a print of Brad Schmehl’s “The Gray Fox” and a print of Janet McGrath’s “Lee and His Sons.”

The event will be held in DeMoss Hall on the campus of Liberty University. Everyone is encouraged to secure reservations for this seminar by Wednesday, March 21. Admission to the seminar is $55 (which includes all of the seminar sessions, the Friday night banquet, and Saturday’s luncheon). After March 21, 2006, the price for both days is $65. Admission for Friday only is $25; admission for Saturday only is $30. Special lodging rates at the Days Inn of Lynchburg are available for those who will be attending the seminar. For pricing and location of lodging, call 434-847-8655. For special group pricing for the seminar or more information, call 434-592-4031 or email cehall@liberty.edu or kgrowlet@liberty.edu. Also, go to the website at http://www.liberty.edu/civilwar http://www.liberty.edu/civilwar . All credit cards accepted.

Schedule of Events

Friday, March 23

6:30 pm – 7:30 pm

Banquet in DeMoss Grand Lobby

7:30 pm – 8:00 pm

Welcome and Presentations

8:00 pm– 9:00 pm

Dr. Steven Woodworth: Davis and Lee at War

Saturday, March 24

8:00 am – 8:30 am

Continental Breakfast in DeMoss Hall

8:30 am – 9:20 am

Gordon C. Rhea— Lee vs. Grant: A Grand Strategy and The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

DeMoss Hall 1114

9:30 am – 10:20 am

Mr. Jeffrey C. Wert— Lee the Strategist and Tactician

DeMoss Hall 1113

10:30 am—11:20 am

William Marvel–Lee’s Last Retreat

DeMoss Hall 1113

11:30 – 12:00 pm

Rev. Alan Farley–Lee the Christian Soldier

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Lunch in the DeMoss Hall Grand Lobby

1:00 pm – 1:50 pm

Holt Merchant— Lee the Educator

DeMoss Hall 113

2:00 pm – 2:30 pm

Nora Brooks —Lee Behind Closed Doors: Lee the Family Man

DeMoss Hall 1113

2:40 pm – 3:20 pm

Al Stone—R. E. Lee, The Last Interview

DeMoss Hall 1114

3:30 pm – 4:20 pm

Richard G. Williams, Jr.—Lee Chapel

DeMoss Hall 1114

4:30 – 5:20 pm

Robert Krick, Sr.— R. E. Lee in View of Today’s History

DeMoss Hall 1114


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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Could ‘Failure to Communicate’ Be One Cause of Big Three Automakers’ Disastrous 2006?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 29, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV   – When the numbers come out in a day or so, we’ll find that GM and Chrysler will join Ford in the horrendous loss category of American motor vehicle manufacturers. Ford’s $12.7 billion loss for 2006 (web link: http://money.cnn.com/2007/01/25/news/companies/ford_2006_loss/index.htm?eref=rss_topstories) won’t be topped by the other two of the so-called “Big Three” automakers, but their losses are expected to be substantial.

I was mulling over this situation – the first time since 1991 that all the Big Three are reporting losses in the same year — about the same time as I received a wonderful commentary by HNN contributor Rene Henry on American bosses who don’t want to hear from their customers. This struck me as a truly amazing situation, but Rene is one of the nation’s most experienced public relations consultants, so I take his view as gospel. I knew and respected him when I worked as a reporter at the L.A. Times from 1976 to 1990 and my admiration has only increased since then.

For the full column, click on : http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/070127-henry-comment.html

Wanting to get the biggest possible impact, I ran my headline — COMMENTARY: Corporate America: It’s Time to Listen; ‘What We Have Here is Failure to Communicate’ – by Rene Henry – something I don’t usually do – and he approved. The quote, of course, is a reference to the Strother Martin line to Paul Newman in “Cool Hand Luke,” one of my all-time favorite movies. For those unfortunates who haven’t seen the flick, the Martin character, the road prison warden, is talking to Newman after he’s been returned to the chain gang after escaping.

We do indeed have “failure to communicate” when American CEOs – in contrast to the late Lord Taylor of Britain’s Taylor Woodrow – simply don’t want to be bothered with input from customers. Some examples from Henry’s commentary about that:

“Stanley T. Sigman, president and CEO of Cingular, refuses to respond to mail from customers and never answers the question about why someone should buy his wireless service. The response comes from someone saying ‘I am in the office of the president.’ But what can you believe when the woman responding is three time zones away in California and Sigman’s office is in Atlanta? Who’s kidding who about physically being located in the office of the president? Why not just tell the truth?

”If you write Edward C. Whitacre, Jr., chairman and CEO of AT&T in San Antonio, chances are someone also miles away will respond. Why wouldn’t Whitacre at least want to see some of the mail addressed to him and hear what customers are saying? Or encourage a customer to continue using AT&T?”

In sharp contrast, the late Lord Taylor – “He headed Taylor Woodrow, a British conglomerate involved in everything from building nuclear power plants and the English Channel tunnel to land and housing developments in the U.K., U.S., Canada and Spain ” — according to Henry’s commentary, was a hands-on manager who wanted input.

Henry: “Following a reception where a friend confronted him about a problem, he sent an edict to all employees that he be sent any complaint and failure to do so would result in immediate termination whether the employee was a secretary or division president. Because of his hands-on management style, within months complaints virtually disappeared.”

I wonder if the automaking CEOs and the managers reporting to them – people who typically are paid 400 times as much as the people who build their cars and trucks – are anywhere close to Lord Taylor! On a trip to London in 1979, Liz and I stayed overnight in a Taylor Woodrow project converting Ivory House in St. Katharine’s Docks, a short walk from the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, to offices, shops, restaurants and hotel rooms. It was a magnificent reuse of a building that was constructed in the 19th Century to store tusks from elephants and T-W was an adaptive reuse pioneer in the area.

This was in the pioneering stage of what has transformed cities like Chicago, New York, Dallas, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco and even suburb-happy Los Angeles into what I call downtown-centric metropolises. I can’t help but believe that Lord Taylor was a visionary par excellence who listened and learned. Too bad the British car industry didn’t have visionaries like Lord Taylor. Let’s hope the men – and they’re all men (Could that be a problem? Men not stopping and asking for directions?) at the top in the Big Three will learn from the wisdom of Lord Taylor – and Charleston, WV native Rene Henry – and spend most of their days listening to what their customers really want. A final word from PR master Rene Henry, part of his commentary that I urge all HNN readers to memorize: “Understandably, CEOs of “Fortune 100” companies don’t have time to read every letter sent to them. But to stay in touch with reality, some time each week should be set aside to read a few letters and then personally answer them and tell a customer why s/he should buy the company’s products or services. In the long run, listening carefully to what the public wants could avert a crisis.”

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BOOK REVIEW: Awful Title, Several Passages Mar Carter’s Controversial ‘Palestine Peace Not Apartheid’ Book on Israeli-Arab Conflict

Posted by kinchendavid on January 28, 2007

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Where to start with Jimmy Carter’s extremely controversial book on the Israeli-Arab conflict, “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” (Simon & Schuster, 288 pages, $27.00)?

The book’s publication in mid-November 2006 was followed by the resignation of 15 members of the Carter Center Advisory board — who called it one-sided, biased in favor of the Palestinian and/or Arab side of the conflict.

Ambassador Dennis Ross says that maps on Page 148 were apparently copied from Ross’s 2004 book on the conflict – “The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace” – without attribution. Click on http://www.thepoliticalpitbull.com/2006/12/video_dennis_ross_says_carter.phpm for Ross’ comments on the maps. From what I’ve heard about the Ross book, it’s a much better tome on the subject than Carter’s – much more balanced and even-handed.

In further damage control, the one-term president and prolific author has apologized for what he called a “stupid” passage in his book that critics say is a de facto endorsement of Palestinian violence against Israelis.

“I apologize to you personally and to everyone here,” Carter said when asked about the passage by a student during his appearance at Brandeis University on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2007. After explaining that the passage was “worded in a completely improper and stupid way,” Carter said he has asked publisher Simon & Schuster Inc. to change the wording in future editions of the book.

The questionable passage, which appears on Page 213 of the book, reads: “It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel.”

Some of Mr. Carter’s critics, including the Carter Center board members who resigned, say the text reads as defending terror tactics until a peace accord can be reached between Israel and Palestinians.

“Repeatedly I call on all to terminate the use of violence,” Mr. Carter said in response. In all fairness to Carter, his book describes acts of Arab terror that lead to reprisals by the Israelis – although Carter suggests that the reprisals are “disproportionate” – to use a word popularized in last summer’s Israeli-Hezbollah conflict.

He also addressed critics who said the book title unfairly compared Israeli policy to the racial separatist policies of South Africa’s government, which ended apartheid in the early 1990s. Mr. Carter said he did not mean to “equate Zionism with racism” when choosing the title.

Some readers would have problems with Carter’s statement on Pages 189-190 that “The driving purpose for the forced separation of the two peoples is unlike that in South Africa – not racism, but the acquistion of land.” In other words, the Jews of Israel aren’t racists, just typical greedy land-grabbing Jews! Is that what you mean, Mr. Carter?

The punctuation of the title mystified me; in the book it doesn’t have a colon after “Palestine”, although many citations of the book put one there. The press release accompanying my review copy has no title punctuation.

Nowhere in the book does Carter refer to the hundreds of thousands of Jews driven out of the Arab countries in the years following Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948. Nor does he note their second-class status – apartheid? – in virtually every Muslim Arab country.

Carter angrily attacks the security wall – one of dozens similar to those in other countries in the Middle East (including one between Syria and Turkey) and other areas – something he fails to mention – but doesn’t explain that the wall was a response to suicide and other terrorist attacks by “Palestinians” against Israeli civilians, including those celebrating Jewish holidays and attending weddings or merely enjoying a pizza in Tel Aviv or Haifa. There was no call for a security fence or wall during the decade-long period – from 1990 to 2000 – preceding the so-called “second intifada.”

Carter wears his evangelical Christianity like a sheriff’s badge, and he’s undoubtedly dismayed – as a member of the far-left branch of the Democratic Party – at evangelicals in the U.S. who overwhelmingly favor the Israeli position in the conflict.

I think that’s one reason why he repeatedly makes references to alleged Israeli mistreatment of Christian Arabs in his book. The fact of the matter is that Muslims in the Territories and Gaza have repeatedly attacked Christian houses of worship – something Israel hasn’t done – and that Arab Christians in Israeli cities like Nazareth are treated with respect by Israeli authorities.

I’ve talked to Arab Christians in Chicago who’ve described the “apartheid” they experienced under Muslim regimes. That’s one of the reasons why they emigrated to the States. All the data I’ve seen shows a decline in the Christian population in the Territories, while in Israel proper it’s stable or gaining.

One of the 15 who resigned from the Carter Center in Atlanta, Emory University history professor Kenneth Stein, in a statement released earlier this month through the university’s Institute for the Study of Modern Israel, noted that the Palestinian terror organization Hamas has never recognized the legitimacy of the Jewish state, calling it a “vile entity.”

Carter suggests in his book that Hamas is “ready for dialogue”, although he repeatedly states that Hamas doesn’t recognize the existence of Israel. For instance, on Page 178, Carter states that Hamas “had not accepted the PLO’s commitments at Oslo that recognized the ‘right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security.””

Ross’s book was published in paperback in 2005. If you want to read about the seemingly never-ending Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has resulted in the deaths of almost 4,000 Palestinians and more than 1,000 Israelis in the first six years of this millennium, I suggest that readers of this review find a copy of “The Missing Peace” and give a pass to the book by Carter.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.simonsays.com

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ADL Welcomes Passage of U.N. Resolution Condemning Holocaust Denial

Posted by kinchendavid on January 27, 2007

By Staff, from ADL press release and U.N. Web Site

New York, NY  — The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 welcomed the adoption of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly which “rejects efforts to deny the Holocaust.” The resolution, introduced by the United States and co-sponsored by more than 100 countries, was adopted by consensus.

Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chairman, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director and a Holocaust survivor, issued the following statement :

As the U.N.’s International Day of Commemoration of the Victims of the Holocaust approaches, we are pleased that the UN is taking steps to live up to its commitment to Holocaust remembrance with its adoption of a resolution condemning Holocaust denial. Denial of the Holocaust has become a cause celebre for too many in the world today, led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who recently hosted a gathering of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites from around the world.

Therefore, it was no surprise that Iran expressed its defiant opposition to the consensus of the entire General Assembly by objecting to the resolution, calling it hypocritical and an abuse of General Assembly procedure.

We hope that UN member states will follow the recommendations of the resolution and confront all forms of Holocaust denial, in order to protect the memory of those who have perished and stand up against all current and future acts of genocide.

We applaud the U.S. for introducing the resolution and its many co-sponsors for ensuring its adoption.

The League collected more than 17,000 signatures on a petition addressed to General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa, urging the U.N. to “speak with one voice and stand up to Holocaust denial.”

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.

From the U.N. Web Site: The International Day in memory of the victims of the Holocaust is thus a day on which we must reassert our commitment to human rights. […]

We must also go beyond remembrance, and make sure that new generations know this history. We must apply the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s world. And we must do our utmost so that all peoples must enjoy the protections and rights for which the United Nations stands.”

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The Day of Remembrance will be observed on Monday, Jan. 29, 2007 at the U.N.

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BOOK REVIEW: Caper Crime Novels Come to Life with Steve Brewer’s ‘Whipsaw’, ‘Monkey Man’

Posted by kinchendavid on January 24, 2007

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV   One of my favorite sub-genres of crime novels is a caper mystery, where quirky characters populate a particular city and are constantly getting into and out of mishaps. One of the best practitioners of caper novels in the spirit of Donald E. Westlake, Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen and Elmore Leonard is Steve Brewer.

Brewer’s “Whipsaw” (Intrigue Press, Madison, Wis., 256 pages, $24.00) is set in the dot-com world of San Francisco, always a good venue for oddball characters, and his “Monkey Man” (Intrigue Press, 232 pages, $24.00) centers around murder and mayhem involving employees at the Albuquerque, N.M. zoo.

Two reviews in one column…first off is “Whipsaw.”

The title refers to a computer game geared to girls (I always though this was a guy thing, but a large percentage of gamers are female, Brewer points out) involving a Lara Croft-type character, strong and beautiful, wielding a bull whip like a female Lash La Rue.

Somebody has stolen the code for the game and is threatening to put the game on the Internet unless computer magnate David La Costa comes up with $3 million in cash. La Costa’s minions contact Matt Donahue, the former security chief of La Costa’s company, DelaTek, to deliver the money and retrieve the code.

The thieves have insisted that Donahue deliver the money in exchange for the code. (One question: What’s to stop the thieves from making CD copies of the code and keeping them?)

Ex-Marine Donahue has major issues with La Costa. For starters, Donahue’s wife Carol left him for the former geek, now living the lavish lifestyle in Hillsborough, a Beverly Hills-style suburb in San Mateo County south of The City — as everybody in the Bay Area calls San Francisco.

Donahue, to protect his investment in stock that he received as a buyout when he left DelaTek, reluctantly agrees to act as bagman. Naturally, things go horribly wrong with the plan and a cycle of deaths makes it evident that the “Whipsaw” title has taken on its meaning of subjecting someone – in this case, Matt — to two opposing forces.

Donahue teams up with the beautiful (naturally) Kate Allison at DelaTek in an effort to determine who in the company is involved in the extortion plan. It’s dead certain that it’s an inside job – with the accent on “dead.”

One of the conventions of caper novels is that a reader can follow the travels of the characters in the novel with a city map in a good caper novel. This is certainly true of “Whipsaw,” where Donahue lives in a nice – and very pricey — apartment in a Victorian building in upscale Pacific Heights and DelaTek is in the city’s dot-com district not far from what everybody in the compact (800,000 people crammed into 46.7 square miles) city still calls Candlestick Park.

I’ve been to San Francisco numerous times and I recognized many landmarks in “Whipsaw.” This is a standalone, but Matt Donahue is too attractive a character not to reappear in a future Brewer novel. Let’s hope so!

* * *

“Monkey Man” is another in the continuing saga of Bubba Mabry, a private investigator in Albuquerque, N.M. Bubba’s wife and the family’s principal source of income is Felicia Quattlebaum, ace reporter with the Albuquerque Gazette, a tough, finely drawn character who – with the oversized glasses and the long straight hair — resembles a lot of female reporters I’ve worked with in my adventures and misadventures on five daily newspapers, including the Milwaukee Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times.

Slip and fall lawyer Marvin Pigeon is always after Bubba to do what most private eyes do in the real world, work as investigators for lawyer. But Bubba wants excitement….

Things go horribly wrong for Bubba when Albuquerque Zoo employee Jeff Simmons meets the private eye at a coffee shop to discuss weird goings on at the zoo. Seems that a lot of animals are dying or otherwise disappearing at the facility and Jeff wants Bubba to look into the matter. Before they’ve finished their coffees, Simmons is shot dead by a person in a gorilla suit.

Ignoring warnings from Lt. Steve Romero, his detective friend on the Albuquerque Police Department, Bubba gets involved big time in the ongoing police investigation of the Simmons murder. As anyone who has read even a small amount of detective fiction knows, it’s a major no-no for a private peeper to get involved in an open case. Bubba being Bubba, this rule is disregarded from the beginning after he’s hired by Jeff’s fiancée Loretta Gonzales, a lovely young fellow zoo employee whose father, Armando Gonzales is the fiercely protective and wealthy head of a food processing company.

Bubba begins to investigate what made a man – or maybe it was a woman? – shoot him Jeff Simmons in broad daylight. Was it the disappearing animals? Or was it something else? As in “Whipsaw,” the reader can follow Bubba’s travels around New Mexico’s largest city with a road map. As a map freak, I like this attention to detail.

Before he moved to Redding, CA. in the northern part of the state, Brewer and his family lived in Albuquerque, so he knows the town as only a former resident and former reporter can.

Film note: The first Bubba Mabry novel, “Lonely Street”, published in 1994, has been turned into a movie helmed by Peter Ettinger (“The Phoenix”) — starring Jay Mohr as Bubba. Other cast members include: Robert Patrick, Lindsay Price as Felicia, and Joe Mantegna, one of my – and David Mamet’s – favorite actors. Check out Steve Brewer’s web site: http://www.stevebrewerbooks.com, for more details. For more on the movie, scheduled for release this year, click on: http://therapsheet.blogspot.com/2006/09/what-does-bubba-say.html

Observant readers of this web site will also recognize Brewer’s byline from the weekly humor column he writes for Scripps Howard News Service which we run every Friday.

“Monkey Man” and “Whipsaw” are excellent “entertainments”, as author Graham Greene called his crime novels. I look forward to more from Brewer.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.intriguepress.com

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BOOK REVIEW: Veteran Foreign Correspondent Stanley Meisler Writes Fair, Balanced Biography of Kofi Annan – ‘A Man of Peace in a World of War’

Posted by kinchendavid on January 21, 2007

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Although it’s obvious from Stanley Meisler’s biography “Kofi Annan: A Man of Peace in a World of War” (John Wiley & Sons, photos, notes, index, 384 pages, $30.00) that the author admires much about the former UN Secretary General, it’s also evident that this is not an authorized biography.

Full Disclosure: Stanley Meisler was a foreign correspondent at the Los Angeles Times from 1967 to 1997, serving in Nairobi, Mexico City, Madrid, Toronto and Paris and ending his career at the newspaper covering the UN. I worked as a reporter at the L.A. Times from 1976 to 1990 and our paths didn’t cross. I admired Stan’s work and read his dispatches carefully during what I consider to be a golden age at the newspaper. I instinctively knew that a Meisler story was fair and accurate, written in a graceful, forceful style. We’ve kept in touch by email and when I heard he was writing a biography of Annan, I asked him to have the publisher send me a review copy.

Born in 1938 in the British colony of Gold Coast, which became Ghana in 1957, Annan was the son of upper middle class parents – his father was a manager in charge of cocoa buying for the African subsidiary of Unilever, an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate. Kofi Atta Annan attended a prep school modeled on the ones in England, went on to study at a Gold Coast technical university and received a Ford Foundation scholarship to attend Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn in 1959, graduating in 1961. He earned a master’s degree from M.I.T. in 1972 while he was rising through the ranks of United Nations bureaucracy.

It’s important to note that Annan, as the author repeatedly stresses, is a product of the UN; he’s not only the first black African to be secretary-general, he’s the first S-G to rise through the ranks to the highest position of the world body. It’s also important to note, as does Meisler, that Annan has harshly criticized the backwardness of most African nations, including his own Ghana. Annan points to the “Tigers” of Asia – many of them former colonies – and how they’ve succeeded as resource-rich African nations have been looted by tyrants and monsters. His willingness to criticize Africa and insist that it stop blaming colonialism for all the continent’s problems has increased Annan’s stature in my eyes.

Meisler does something I wish more biographers would do: He provides a time line or chronology, so we can trace major events in the life of Annan. This is particularly important from about 1993 on, when Kofi Annan was named (February 1993) undersecretary-general in charge of peacekeeping operations by his predecessor as S-G, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt.

Speaking of the oddly named Coptic Christian from Egypt, Meisler provides a detailed account of the efforts by U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Madeleine Albright (later named Clinton’s secretary of state and derisively called Madeleine Halfbright by her detractors) to deny the Egyptian a second five-year term as secretary-general – at the same time working more or less secretly to have Annan named secretary-general.

The UN’s secretary-general is appointed by the UN’s General Assembly for a five-year, renewable term, subject to the unanimous approval of the Security Council. On instructions from President Clinton, Albright vetoed the second term for Boutros-Ghali, with the Security Council voting 14-1 to give him a second term. The veto stirred up cries of U.S. unilateralism, but the Security Council gave the nod to Annan and the Clinton strategy worked.

It’s important to note that U.S. unilateralism toward the UN didn’t begin with Bush the Younger; Bill Clinton obviously thought the U.S. educated Annan would be more favorable to the U.S. in the world body. Of course, the disdain for Annan and the UN ramped up exponentially during the Bush Administration, culminating with the appointment of John R. Bolton – a very undiplomatic critic of the UN, as Meisler takes pains to point out – as U.S. Ambassador to the UN in a recess appointment in 2005. Bolton resigned from the post at the end of 2006.

The book’s subtitle is, if anything, an understatement; since Annan’s appointment as peacekeeping chief in 1993, the world has seen war after war, genocide after genocide, ethnic cleansing after ethnic cleansing in places as varied as Somalia, Rwanda, the Congo, Kosovo, Bosnia, East Timor and – most recently and still continuing – the Darfur region of Somalia, where Arab Muslims are raping and murdering African Muslims in what the current President Bush has called a genocide. Of course the Israeli-Palestinian conflict endures, with no end in sight.

Man’s so-called “inhumanity to man” is, in my opinion, a misnomer, since it seems that the normal condition of humanity is for its members to rape, starve and kill each other at increasing rates. By all accounts, Kofi Annan, whatever his faults as an administrator – and Meisler points out many – is an honorable, decent man caught up on the seemingly unending cycle of human violent behavior that marked his two terms of office that began at the beginning of 1997 and ended Dec. 31, 2006.

Meisler comments on Page 241 that “Kofi Annan does not have a combative, stubborn or fiercely independent personality. But he has a deep sense of moral integrity, of duty to the United Nations and its charter, and of the need for patience and discussion before action. These qualities would often put him at odds with the Bush White House throughout the Iraq crisis and war.”

The author doesn’t indulge in psychological speculations of what led to the end of Annan’s first marriage to Titi Alakija of Nigeria with a separation in 1980 and a divorce three years later. They married in 1965 – a marriage that produced a non-controversial daughter and a very controversial son, Kojo Annan.

Meisler deals frankly and comprehensively with the involvement of international playboy Kojo in the Iraq oil for food scandal, investigated by Paul Volcker’s committee, which found no fault with the secretary-general, Meisler says. Like many parents, Kofi Annan is fiercely protective of his son and refused to break off contact with him, despite the world of woe Kojo brought upon his dad.

In 1981, Kofi Annan met divorced Swedish lawyer and artist Nane Lagergren, who was working in Geneva with Annan at the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. They married in 1984, following Annan’s 1983 divorce from Titi. If I were doing a movie version of Kofi Annan’s life, I would center it on these personal events in the life of Annan. Who knows? Maybe there is a movie in the works! I’d like to see Greta Scacchi as Nane and Don Cheadle (wonderful in “Hotel Rwanda” and “Crash”) as Annan. It was obviously love at first sight for the two.

Stanley Meisler has produced a masterful, if at times overly sympathetic, look at a complex, thoughtful and thoroughly human Kofi Annan. The book is a major achievement by one of my favorite reporters and writers, who has already produced a warts-and-all history of the world body entitled “United Nations: The First 50 Years” (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995, paperback edition, 1997).

For more on Meisler’s writing, which includes contributions to the L.A. Times and Smithsonian magazine, visit his web site: http://www.stanleymeisler.com

Publisher’s web site: http://www.wiley.com.

By the way, Wiley is celebrating its bicentennial this year; it was founded in 1807. Congratulations to a distinguished American publisher!

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PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Del. Thompson, Where Are You? Having Lunch with Judge Crater?

Posted by kinchendavid on January 19, 2007

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Ron Thompson

Hinton, WV  – The Ron Thompson watch continues in Charleston, as well as in the 27th House of Delegates District of Raleigh and Summers Counties. As a person who voted for the Phantom of the Capitol (cue to overture of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”), I want to know where the Beckley resident is.

Along with virtually every journalist in the state, I’ve tried contacting Thompson and got no response. Fellow delegates Linda Sumner, Mel Kessler and Virginia Mahan say they haven’t seen the missing delegate. He didn’t show up to take his oath of office. His personal belongings are packed up and reside in the office he shares with Kessler.

For those who haven’t been following this story, Thompson, a member of the House of Delegates since 1994, hasn’t been seen in the Capitol since last March. He missed the interims and special sessions and didn’t show up during the campaign that culminated in his placing third in the voting and being re-elected. He wasn’t at last fall’s candidate forum in Hinton, which I covered.

House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne – no relation to the missing delegate – has promised a “course of action” to deal with his AWOL fellow Democrat, according to Mannix Porterfield, writing in the Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 Register-Herald. Porterfield’s stories about Thompson would – if collected – make a fair sized book.

Joseph F. Crater

I suggested to several people that he’s the West Virginia equivalent of Judge Crater – and got blank looks from non-trivia fans. For more about New York Supreme Court Judge Joseph F. Crater, who disappeared on Aug. 6, 1930, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judge_Crater

Judge Crater’s disappearance, when he was last seen leaving a restaurant and entering a taxi on his way to a Broadway show, became part of Americana. Comedians for years used the line “Judge Crater, call your office” and got plenty of laughs. Not so much anymore, because later disappearances took precedence.

Born in 1889 and appointed to the bench by Gov. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Crater was presumed dead in 1939, allowing his widow to collect on his insurance policy. His disappearance, similar to that of Jimmy Hoffa later in the 20th Century, may have been a mob hit. There was, as readers of the Wikipedia entry will quickly discover, a mysterious trip to Atlantic City, N.J. with a showgirl about a month before the judge vanished. Maybe his wife found out about the showgirl and called for a hit on her wayward hubby.

Thompson’s absent status has prompted a threat of a lawsuit from the Affliliated Construction Trades Foundation in an effort to keep Thompson from collecting his annual $15,000 salary for not taking the oath.

Foundation Director Steve White is concerned about the lack of representation in the five-member 27th District, where the candidate who placed sixth — Kevin Maynus — is interested in Thompson’s seat should the missing delegate not claim it. Maynus, a Democratic candidate, says he has contacted party officials in both Raleigh and Summers counties to let them know he wants the seat if Thompson vacates it, according to Porterfield.

There have been sightings of Thompson, brief though they may be. One source, who requested total anonymity, told me Thompson’s appearance has changed radically. I’m guessing that he looks like the Jack Bauer character when he was first seen on the 6th season premiere of the TV show “24,” with a long scraggly beard. Maybe we could add a rodeo clown red fright wig.

I hesitate to make light of Thompson’s lack of visibility, but he did run for re-election and – as I said above — I did vote for him, so I have a stake in his re-appearance.

Ron Thompson, call your office! Or, better yet, call me: I’m in the book.

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COMMENTARY: What Would Martin Luther King Jr. Have to Say About the War in Iraq

Posted by kinchendavid on January 17, 2007

By Nick Patler

Staunton, VA  – The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was supposed to stick with civil rights and perhaps other domestic problems. These were the issues he was qualified to speak about — at least that is what many thought, including the national press, white politicians and even some black leaders after he began to ruffle feathers with his fiery eloquence opposing the Vietnam War.

Indeed, some critics were so disturbed by King’s anti-war criticism that they launched scurrilous attacks against his credibility and tried to publicly humiliate him. He was ridiculed and assailed, often ferociously, by the mainstream press; cursed by President Lyndon Johnson; criticized by politicians and scolded by friends and colleagues, including many fellow civil rights activists.

The most celebrated black leader in the world, who a few years earlier had led the nonviolent struggle to end Southern segregation in America and who had been awarded the distinguished Nobel Peace Prize, found himself with few friends in the lonely wilderness of anti-war activism.

But King proved to be as resilient here as he had been in that Birmingham jail, where his courage and determination to free his people from Jim Crow was forged with fiery conviction. Withdrawing temporarily amidst verbal attacks, he re-emerged bolder and more confident to speak out against the Vietnam War. This time, however, the civil rights leader turned anti-war activist (the lesser-known King) began to passionately inspire a consensus. A little more than a year later in 1968, as the tide of opposition to the war mounted, he was assassinated.

If King were alive today, what would he say about the war in Iraq? I believe he would say the same things he had said about the tragic war in Vietnam.

He would certainly have had the courage to oppose the status quo, even if it meant standing alone, drawing strength from his deep faith, the righteousness of his cause and compassion to uplift others. And the famous preacher may have very well used the same religious tone and language to condemn the war in Iraq as he did the war in Vietnam. For example, in one of his last sermons at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, King emphasized with moral fervor that God “didn’t call America to do what she is doing today … God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war.”

The embattled leader would have strongly condemned the surging violence in Iraq and would have been vehement in publicly opposing President Bush’s plan to increase troops by 20,000. He would have undoubtedly expressed genuine sorrow at the loss of so many precious American and Iraqi lives, as he did for the Vietnamese and Americans, and work diligently and creatively for an end to the war.

The introspective King would have re-examined more deeply the unspoken reasons why we really are in Iraq and would probably have drawn similar conclusions as he did for U.S. interests in Vietnam. Here he would have emphasized that America’s true interests in Iraq and the Middle East are to maintain power and prestige, along with access to resources, at the expense of all else. And King would have been quick to point out, as he did in regard to Vietnam, that these actions, which are carried out by means of destructive violence and coercion, were inconsistent with democracy and humanitarianism.

Finally, the controversial leader, I believe, would have doggedly created awareness that the war in Iraq (and U.S. weapons industry) “steals” resources, energies and brainpower that could be used instead to solve the critical problems of those suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, and violence — the theme of his most well-known anti-war speech, “A Time to Break Silence,” which he delivered at New York’s famed Riverside Church exactly a year before his death.

Whether it was Vietnam, poverty, racial injustice, or economic inequality, King’s motivation to address all of these issues and others in his lifetime essentially reflected his burning desire to “love and serve humanity.” I have no doubt that if he were alive and able, he would be doing the same today, regardless of the mountains that might be standing in his way.

* * *

Nick Patler is the author of “Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration: Protesting Federal Segregation in the Early Twentieth Century.” Readers may e-mail him at nickpatler@hotmail.com This article originally appeared in the Staunton (VA) News Leader, and is reprinted by permission of the News Leader.

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BOOK REVIEW: Grisham’s ‘The Innocent Man’ Attacks American Prosecutorial System – As Readable as Any of His 18 Novels – and It’s All True

Posted by kinchendavid on January 12, 2007

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Are we as a nation “stuck on stupid” – to use the phrase popularized in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 — or am I just getting even more paranoid than usual? John Grisham’s magnificent “The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town” (Doubleday, 368 pages, photos, $28.95) is his first venture into true crime and it’s a winner.

It’s also a best seller, as well it should be, because this book is nothing less than an indictment of the American adversarial, prosecutorial system – something we’re seeing in Durham, N.C. with D.A. Mike Nifong, just as much as in Grisham’s Ada, Oklahoma with D.A. Bill Peterson. Call it D.A.s Gone Wild.

As far as I’m concerned, Grisham can write true crime from here on: This book reads like one of his novels and serves to educate the reader about the dirty big secret that is the American criminal justice system. As a reporter who has covered trials, including murder trials, first off let me say I’m glad I live in West Virginia, which abolished the death penalty more than 40 years ago.

Still, even West Virginia is saddled with all the outdated paraphernalia of the justice system we inherited from the British – including grand juries, which the Brits wisely abolished in 1933. There’s an old saying that a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich if a clever D.A. wants it and it’s certainly true in phenomenally corrupt Pontotoc County, of which Ada (population 16,000) is the county seat.

Maybe “The Innocent Man” should really be called “The Innocent Men,” since it involves the prosecution of both Ron Williamson, the first player chosen from the state of Oklahoma in the 1971 Major League baseball draft, and his friend Dennis Fritz. To give him full credit, Grisham – who had dreams of major league glory as a youth — devotes plenty of coverage to Fritz, exonerated on April 15, 1999 along with Williamson for the 1982 rape and murder of Ada resident Debra Sue Carter.

Grisham and Williamson are almost contemporaries – born in 1955 and 1953, respectively — and the author has acknowledged that while Williamson had the talent to become a major leaguer, Grisham didn’t. So he went on to become a lawyer and phenomenally best selling writer of 18 novels, arguably — along with fellow lawyer/writer Scott Turow of Chicago — one of the best in the business.

Throughout “The Innocent Man” Grisham writes with scorn and loathing of the prosecution team, headed by D.A. Bill Peterson, who – amazingly – still has the job of prosecuting alleged criminals in the 35,000 population Pontotoc County in southeastern Oklahoma.

Grisham tells us that Peterson has never acknowledged his errors of judgment and his bias toward the two innocent men, Williamson and Fritz, or his failure to go after Glen Gore, the man who from the start was the most logical suspect in the case and who was finally prosecuted — by a special prosecutor, not Peterson — and sentenced to life without parole for the crime just last year.

About that bit of praise for West Virginia and its abolition of the death penalty: It’s a surprise to people from my twin home states – Michigan, where I was born and Illinois, where I grew to adulthood – that so often derided West Virginia has advanced closer toward civilization as Europeans see it than Michigan and Illinois, both of which have death penalties. I’ve worked on newspapers in Indiana (death penalty), Wisconsin (no death penalty) and California (death penalty), so the whole red state-blue state concept is out of whack as far as putting people to death.

Williamson’s dreams of reaching “The Show” – the major leagues – ended six years after he was drafted by the Oakland A’s, done in by injuries and the riotous style of living that brought him to the attention of Peterson in the first place. The 3 Ds I call them – Drinking, Drugs and Dames – combined with signs of the mental illness that probably afflicted Williamson from his youth but wasn’t detected until later for a child growing up in a fundamentalist Christian environment that dismissed psychiatry.

Williamson, whose idol was fellow Oklahoman Mickey Mantle, kept on boozing and womanizing and he moved into his mother’s house, where he was living when 21-year-old cocktail waitress Debra Carter was raped and murdered on Dec. 7, 1982. Williamson and his college-educated friend, a former teacher named Dennis Fritz, were suspects from the beginning, for reasons unknown to everyone but Peterson and the local cops.

Williamson and Fritz were indicted in 1987 and quickly convicted of capital murder, with Williamson ending up on death row at the state prison in McAlester, not far from Ada, and Fritz receiving a life sentence. Williamson’s main court-appointed attorney was a blind older lawyer named Barney Ward, who was paid a total of $3,600 for his valiant but futile attempt to defend “The Innocent Man.”

There was no physical evidence, Grisham writes and the two were convicted on the basis of “junk science” – including hair analysis that was so flawed as to be criminal itself – and the testimony of jailhouse snitches, a tactic indulged in to the fullest in Ada.

Eventually, DNA evidence – or the lack of a DNA connection to the crime and the two men – resulted in their exoneration. Much credit is due the good guys and gals, Grisham writes: people like Innocence Project lawyer Barry Scheck (www.innocenceproject.org), Oklahomans Mark Barrett, his main appeal lawyer, Judge Frank Seay, Jim Payne, Judge Tom Landrith, Janet Chesley, Bill Luker and Kim Marks of the Oklahoma Indigent Defense System.

Grisham found out about the case through a New York Times obituary of 51-year-old Ron Williamson in 2004 (Fritz is alive and living as far from Ada, OK as he can get). Grisham, who lives in Virginia and Mississippi, was turned on to a now-out-of-print book by Robert Mayer called “The Dreams of Ada: A True Story of Murder, Obsession, and a Small Town” by residents of the town and other Oklahomans. It deals with many of the same people covered in “The Innocent Man” and Grisham credits Mayer’s “astounding book” with helping him getting a handle on the intricacies of what passes for criminal justice in Pontotoc County.

If you still believe – as I have long since stopped believing – that our justice system is the best in the world, read “The Innocent Man.” You’ll stop believing, too.

* * *

Publisher’s web site: http://www.doubleday.com

Author’s web site: jgrisham.com

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COMMENTARY: U.S. Religious Trends in the 21st Century: From Catholic to Orthodox, from (Nominal) Christian to Islam

Posted by kinchendavid on January 8, 2007

By Sean Scallon

 Arkansaw, WI   — Demographics is destiny and that’s true not just in politics but business, education, sports, entertainment, culture and religion.



Especially religion.



That’s because numbers and numbers of adherents determine whether or not your faith is taken seriously or is just another kooky cult.



There are two demographic trends that may occur in the 21st Century inside the U.S. that could alter several faiths in the process. Those trends are from Catholic to Orthodox and from (nominal) Christian to Islam.




We start with the Catholic Church. It’s no secret the U.S. Catholic Church is in a deep crisis. The numerous sexual molestation scandals and the class action lawsuits that have followed are draining diocesan treasuries dry. Many such dioceses are selling off buildings like closed churches and schools and other real estate properties they own.



On top of that, the shortage of priests and nuns in the U.S. mean more such closures are on the way. And because of that shortage, the Church’s institutions, its colleges, hospitals and other charitable foundations, will become completely secularized within the next 20 years. The whole infrastructure of the Church within the U.S. could be almost gone by within that time period.



The U.S. Catholic Church will survive, however. It has faced worse challenges in its history and has always survived. But to survive means to adapt and adapting means change and the U.S. Catholic Church will be transformed by this process. The transformation will come demographically as what once was a European-ethnic church will become a predominantly Hispanic and Third World immigrant church.




This is also a process that’s going on world wide as well. Philip Jenkins, the Penn State University theology professor and writer for Chronicles, has documented this coming transformation of the Christian world thanks to demographics in numerous articles and books. Numbers mean power and such power within the Church will come from its Third World adherents.



There’s no doubt next pope will be probably be from the Third World, perhaps Latin or South America first (with a bishop of European immigrant descent) followed by an African pope after that. We’ve already seen the Third World‘s power within the Anglican community already. Several Episcopal churches in the U.S. have left their local dioceses in schisms to align themselves with Anglican dioceses in Third World locations because their bishops are more traditional than their Western counterparts, who are ordaining women and homosexual bishops.




What is fueling the change in the U.S. Catholic Church is immigration. More Hispanic immigrants and other Catholic immigrants from the Third World are filling the pews and in many cases what were once empty pews, especially in big cities. Now as immigration spreads from big cities and the coasts to small towns in the Midwest and South, such change will take place in churches in these locations as well. It’s the Catholic Church that will absorb most of the new immigrants. Although a good chunk of Hispanic immigrants are Pentecostals, they tend to form their own churches separately. Hispanic Catholics are moving into existing communities and existing churches.




All this leaves the European ethnic in a quandary. The term “Catholic” means universal and as such it should not matter what race or ethnic group anyone who calls themselves Catholic is. All are welcomed. Yet such churches were the anchors of previous ethnic communities. Such change can be quite jarring, especially when you add it onto change within the neighborhood, change in the business community and change within the schools thanks to unlimited immigration. It doesn’t take long for one Hispanic mass to become all masses at some point.




Because of this change, some European ethnic Catholics wish that the bishops would either take a stand against immigration or least not be noisy promoters of it like Los Angeles Archbishop Roger Mahoney. Unfortunately they are whistling past the graveyard. Not even the most conservative of bishops, like Omaha‘s Roman Bruskewitz, are going to oppose unlimited immigration nor will any be recalled by Rome for such support like Mahoney.



The Catholic Church in the U.S. is an immigrant church. Always has been. Always will be. To its bishops and administrators, seeing one immigrant group coming into the church and overtaking another is simply the natural wave of history. It would be unthinkable of them to turn oppose immigration, especially when such immigrants and their money are going to be ones to keep the Church afloat during its time of transformation.



Opponents of unlimited immigration must understand that is how the church thinks and operates and it perfectly fits with its history. It not a “Popish” plot to undermine the United States. This writer (and Catholic) nearly deleted VDARE.com from his list of favorite websites last year because some of its writers began waving the bloody shirt of “rum, Romanism and rebellion” until Peter Brimelow thankfully set them straight and also pointed out Protestantism’s many contributions to our nation’s immigration problems.




But again the quandary for European ethnic Catholic remains. His numbers have been reduced by intermarriage, by the destruction of ethnic neighborhoods by urban renewal and the interstate highway system, by suburban sprawl, by the church’s own problems and divisions within it and by his or her own laziness and sloth. If you don’t show up for mass or to volunteer or be a part of the community, you will lose power and influence to those who do. Whoever said that life is all about showing up was dead on in this regard. So what to do? Join the Orthodox Church.




The Orthodox Church has a number of appeals to the European ethnic Catholic. It is a church that is ethnically conscious and fuses the idea of the church to that of the nation and the culture. That’s why there are Greek Orthodox churches, Russian Orthodox Churches, Romanian Orthodox churches and so forth. (Only the Polish Catholic Church and Uniate churches loyal to Rome are that way amongst Catholics).



It is a decentralized church, which means its doctrines and practices of worship are not subject to the whims of a whole Vatican Council. It’s a church that has avoided a lot of the doctrinal disputes that has divided the Catholic churches because it stays true to its traditions and doctrines which it traces back to the original Christian church. Its mass has gone unchanged for many centuries and one doesn’t have to worry about whether the new priest is going to allows guitars and drums during the worship service, disallows bells or kneeling or whatever fashion of mass is in vogue from the seminary.



 It’s a church whose priests are married which means the problems the Catholic Church has had with homosexual priests (the ones that don’t take their vows of celibacy seriously anyway) aren’t a problem with the Orthodox. It is the Orthodox that is going to be more suspicious of mass immigration (especially immigration from Islamic nations) than other religions.




Of course, if you are an Irish, Italian, French or German Catholic, you just can’t pop into Serbian Orthodox Church and say “I’m a new convert!” unless you marry a Serb. It just doesn’t work that way. To solve that problem, the Orthodox Church of America (OCA) exists.



Formed in the early 1970s by the Russian Patriarchy and separate from it, the OCA is an Americanized version of the of the Russian Church with its services in English and with pews and so forth (the Orthodox church whose fall festival I annually attend in Clayton, Wisconsin, Holy Trinity, is part of the OCA.) Many of the churches are old Russian ones like Holy Trinity, but the OCA also incorporates other ethnic groups like Albanian and Romanian Orthodox that never had separate ethnic bishoprics like the Greeks or Serbs do. The OCA could very easily incorporate ethnic European Catholic refugees in their own churches. Right now the OCA has over 100 churches and a million members, slow but steady growth that I think could easily accelerate in the 21st Century. Conservative writer Rod Dreher of Crunchy Cons fame has already made the switch from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodoxy and I think others will to.




The other trend that will take place will be those from nominal Christian backgrounds converting to Islam. Such conversions have taken place among African Americans for long time and famous ones like Lew Alcindor to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali. The Nation of Islam, an organization of Black Muslims, has dominated the Islamic discourse within U.S for many years. However, the NOI’s racist rhetoric against whites has kept Islam’s numbers in the U.S. down from what they could potentially be.




This will change too in the 21st Century. Growth in Islam will come from Third World immigration of course. But it will also come from white converts as well and they will come from two sources of thought.




Islam always has had an ideological appeal to those on the far left and right. To a cultural Marxist, Islam is the God that hasn’t failed (unlike Communism), at least not yet. Its diverse, multicultural following and the fact that it is the religion of the Third Word i.e. it was founded there and expanded there outside of Europe and the West, makes it a perfect vehicle for cultural upheaval and egalitarianism.



Marxism derided religion which limited its appeal while Islam is a religion and has mass appeal. And within an adversarial culture, converting to Islam becomes the perfect vehicle to shock one’s parents and friends and peers. Indeed, Jean-Paul Sartre himself became more and more fascinated with Islam as the communist left declined in his later years. This has more of chance of happening with the nominal baptized or secular Christian than anyone else. Think of John Walker Lindh, the Marin County, California teenager who got fed up with empty secularist lifestyle of parents and neighbors and converted to Islam and joined the Taliban in Afghanistan, and you’ll understand the type.


Since 9-11 and since George W. Bush give Islam his stamp of approval by calling it a “religion of peace,” there’s been a growing study of Islam within in the media and with others who are curious to know more about it. Such study, no doubt, will increase the size of the pool of converts for Islam within the U.S.




On the other side, Nazis have always appreciated Islam’s marshal spirit and ascetic, non-bourgeois lifestyle along with its ability to submit the will of the mass towards one deity or person. They found it far superior to Christian piety which they found to be nothing more than religion for wimps, not the supermen they were supposed to be.



Those who are not inclined towards Nazism still find these same qualities admirable, along with Islam’s male-dominated patriarchy. Women and men do not pray together. If you are a fellow who is unchurched right at the moment because you think the modern church in the U.S. is too female dominated and has no place for you, then Islam may be your scene. Think of guy who used to attend Promise Keeper rallies in football stadiums and spent his time crying on the shoulder of another guy while being told what an awful person he was.



 When he realized the whole thing was nothing more than a religious version of 1990s male bonding without the tom-tom drums, campfires and war paint and when he realized his wife and her friends were laughing their heads off at him down at the solon, then you’ll know the kind of person I’m talking about. In fact the crisis of the maleless church has become such a concern that, according to religious news reports, that certain pastors have gotten to the point of parking Harley-Davidson motorcycles out front of the entryways of their churches and putting on football uniforms and using football metaphors to attract males back into the pews again. But Islam’s call may be more enticing than that just more passing Christian fads.



Islam and Eastern Orthodoxy have never played major roles within the cultural, political or economic milieus of the United States largely because their numbers have never been large enough to do so, let alone attract any attention. But in this century, that could change as numbers and demography head in both faiths’ direction.



Sean Scallon is a writer and freelance journalist living in Arkansaw, Wisconsin. His weblog is Beating the Powers that Be at www.beatingthepowersthatbe.blogspot.com.




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