Why crossing Hamas is bad for you


Now here’s what the Middle East needs: crucifixions.

A report in the Jerusalem Post says that “Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari’a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.”

What will those crazy jihadists think of next?

Interestingly, there are countries where crucifixion is still listed as an official form of capital punishment, including Iran and Yemen.

Why not breaking on the wheel or crushing by elephant? Certainly, the leaders of Hamas, Iran and Yemen aren’t representative of all of Muslims, but, then again, nothing apparently says “religion of peace” like a gruesome death.

People unclear on the concept

North Carolina Governor Mike Easley believes the media’s job is to pat him on the back.

In an interview with the Greensboro News & Record, Easley complained about how newspapers, particularly The Raleigh News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer, have treated him, according to a story in the Observer.

“My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me. Just because they’re not doing theirs doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do mine,” Easley said in audio of the interview posted on The News & Record’s Web site.

It will probably be news to most political scientists that the NC State Constitution includes a bit describing the governor’s job as “being nice to other people,” and there isn’t a daily paper in the world that defines its job as being nice to elected officials.

Does the media get sidetracked on minutia or unimportant issues when covering government? Yes. Does it carry a vendetta against some in public service? From time to time. Does it allow itself to be manipulated by those with opposing views? Most certainly. But none of that releases the media from its duty to serve as the ears and eyes of the public and to hold elected officials accountable.

Easley is either a fool, which would seem unlikely given he is about to end his second term as governor, or is trying to get the press to go easier on him by presenting himself as the victim.

This whole blowup may be nothing more than an attempt on Easley’s part to soften up the media as it prepares stories detailing his legacy.

Politics: where the impossible is easy

Thomas Sowell remains a voice of reason amid a whirlwind of ignorance whipped up by politicians, the mainstream media and the public education establishment. 

A senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Sowell has authored numerous books on a wide variety of topics, including economics, race and culture, and he long ago secured a reputation for a willingness to skewer sacred cows. 

His twice-weekly column at townhall.com ruffles feathers regularly, particularly among those who embrace simplistic or disingenuous ideas out of willful ignorance or to feather their own nests.

His latest column, “The Art of the Impossible,” points out the fact that many politicians make a career out of claiming to be able to accomplish the ridiculous and even the impossible, but that doesn’t stop them from getting elected.

“Whoever called politics ‘the art of the possible’ must have had a strange idea of what is possible or a strange idea of politics, where the impossible is one of the biggest vote-getters,” he writes.

California wanted low electricity prices while using more electricity, but didn’t want to build more generating plants? No problem, said the politicians. And when energy blackouts came, the politicians jumped in to solve that problem, too. After, of course, scourging the power industry for trying to operate in the environment that the politicians themselves created.

Citizens demand open-space laws and affordable housing? No problem, say the politicians. And when housing costs blow through the roof, as they always do, the politicians are there to come to the rescue, which helps keep them in office. As Sowell points out, “Happy voters are what get politicians re-elected.”

It’s akin to a doctor spreading disease through a town, then riding in white knight-like to administer care, while lining his pockets. And doing it over and over and over again. Yet we fall for it every time.

Hello, old-time hockey


Professional sports gimmicks fail more often than not (think Fox’s glowing hockey puck, Charley O. Finley’s orange baseballs and pro sports telecasts without announcers), but every now and again one catches the imagination.

Such is Thursday’s National Hockey League game between the Blackhawks and the Red Wings, to be played outdoors at Chicago’s Wrigley Field. And who better to have playing in a high profile event at one of pro sports’ most storied venues (even if it’s known for baseball) than two of the NHL’s so-called Original Six franchises?

The Blackhawks-Red Wings’ New Year’s Day matchup is a sequel to last year’s Winter Classic, the NHL’s first-ever outdoor game played in the US. 

More than 71,000 fans turned out at Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson Stadium to see the Sabres and Penguins in a thriller that ended with Pittsburgh winning in a shootout, 2-1. Snow fell through much of the game, which proved a hit with players, fans and viewers.

It’s good to see an NHL game outside of the antiseptic atmosphere sometimes evident in newer arenas. Sure, it’s just one game in a long season, but watching players mix it up amid light flurries or being able to see their breath as they huff and puff on the bench following a shift change hearkens back to the days of kids playing hockey on frozen ponds and rivers.  

Where the Winter Classic succeeds most is in drawing in casual hockey fans, the ones who might not normally watch games during the regular season, or those who live in areas without franchises.

South Financial saying sayonara to 2008

Tomorrow closes the longest 12 months, figuratively speaking, in the 20-plus-year history of The South Financial Group.

The company that opened 2008 with its stock at $15.67 a share now trades for less than $5. Its founder and chief executive, Mack Whittle, “retired” suddenly, but not before securing a lucrative $18 million payout. In the third quarter alone, South Financial lost $25 million, and later turned to the government for a $347 million bailout.

Today’s South Financial, parent of Carolina First Bank, is a far cry from the wheeler-dealer institution that snapped up banks across the Carolinas and Florida, and grew into the biggest S.C.-headquartered institution in history.

Although it still has more than $13 billion in assets, South Financial’s reputation and balance sheet are hurting. And after years of being bandied about as a prize takeover target for large national banks interested in moving into the Southeast, South Financial today appears to be simply holding on for dear life.

There’s no telling what the new year will hold for the company and its interim CEO, Lynn Harton, but most everybody connected to South Financial has to be happy to be turning the page on 2008.

Capitalism, Northern-style

A new Civil War is afoot, according to Karen De Coster, and this time it’s the UAW, partnering with the auto manufacturers, politicians, and media supporters of the domestic auto industry, who are waging warfare against the South.

Displaying the same lack of business sense that got them into the current morass, Northern auto interests refuse to acknowledge that the sea change underway in the industry will ultimately provide the best means of maximizing quality for customers and efficiency of production and profits for shareholders, De Coster writes at the Ludwig von Mises Institute’s website.

“Detroiters continue to embarrass themselves by placing the auto industry collapse into an us-versus-them framework. In the midst of all the whining and begging for a bailout, the South has been declared the new enemy, along with the foreign-car manufacturers who are producing cars — in Southern plants — that consumers want to buy,” she adds.

The bottom line: Dare to go against what’s best for Detroit and we’ll go after you like a pitbull. Is it any wonder the domestic auto industry is on the ropes?

The American auto industry and its enablers would do well to learn the words of Pogo Possum: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

When a tree strays from its ‘Roots’

While the intention may have been noble, naming a child “Kunta Kinta” also brings attention that may be unwanted later in life.

Kunta Kinta Holley, of Beech Island, S.C., is accused of driving recklessly with his 4-year-old son in the car in an attempt to escape arrest. He is alleged to have crashed the car during the pursuit and then left his son behind.

According to The Aiken Standard, investigators say they have linked Holley to a November domestic assault when he was accused of striking a woman several times and threatening to kill her. Last week, the suspect reportedly threatened the woman again, saying he was going to kill her.

The 31-year-old is wanted by other law enforcement agencies, as well, and has two additional outstanding warrants, one stemming from another alleged domestic assault, officials said.

Perhaps not the legacy mom had in mind when she bestowed the appellation on her progeny. Interestingly, the character in Alex Haley’s book “Roots” was actually named “Kunta Kinte,” not “Kunta Kinta” so perhaps the connection is just coincidental.

Honoring a war criminal


Proving that Russians aren’t the only ones with a selective view of history, approximately 100 worshipers gathered in a Croatian church Monday to celebrate a mass for the leader of a pro-Nazi puppet state.

The service, in Zagreb, honored the 49th anniversary of the death of Ante Pavelic, who led an independent Croat state during World War II and was recognised by German and Italian dictators Hitler and Mussolini from 1941 to 1945.

Pavelic was head of the Ustaše, which saw as its goal the ethnic cleansing of Croatia. The Ustaše were as brutal, if not more so, than their Nazi counterparts, setting up concentration camps, enacting race laws and killing as many as 1 million Serbs, Jews and Gypsies.

Pavelic’s Ustaše regime was arguably the most murderous, in relation to its size, in Axis-occupied Europe, according to Wikipedia, and German officers were themselves dismayed by the atrocities committed by the Ustaše.

Pavelic fled to South America after the war and was shot by an unknown assailant in 1957. He died in Madrid in 1959 of complications from the shooting.

Publisher pulls plug on ‘Angel Girl’ memoir


Sadly, the Holocaust-era love story spun by Herman Rosenblat (above) has been disproved.

Berkley Books has canceled Rosenblat’s memoir, “Angel at the Fence,” after the 79-year old admitted that he and his wife, Roma, did not meet, as he had said for years, at a sub-camp of Buchenwald, where she allegedly sneaked him apples and bread, the Associated Press reports.

Among those Rosenblat misled was Oprah Winfrey and Michael Berenbaum, former director of the United States Holocaust Research Institute at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Strangely, the records show that Rosenblat was indeed at Buchenwald and other Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

Russian television viewers flunk history

The Russian people remain an enigma. It’s difficult to fathom how a country where today at least 27 percent of the population is descended from Stalin’s victims could vote that same man Russia’s third-greatest historical figure.

Stalin was narrowly defeated by Russian medieval leader Alexander Nevsky and former prime minister Pyotr Stolypin in a television poll conducted by state-run Rossiya channel.

Others in the running included Lenin, Ivan the Terrible, Alexander Pushkin and Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

Today, Nevsky is remembered for having defeated a number of European invaders and is regarded as the key figure in Medieval Russia. Stolypin was recognized for his efforts at land reform, but he also had thousands of revolutionaries hanged for attempting to overthrow Nicholas II.

According to the Associated Press, “in presenting Stalin, the project’s Web site refers to the terror he imposed, and acknowledges that millions died of starvation and in the large network of hard labor camps he created to punish so-called ‘enemies of the people’ and scare the population into obedience. It goes on to say, however, that: ‘For all the defects of the Stalin modernization, it should be recognized that all the tasks set before the country were completed.'”

Of course all the tasks set before the country were completed: Stalin didn’t have to adhere to a budget, had a nearly limitless supplies of free, expendable labor and held the power of life and death in his grip. 

By that rationale, all Hitler had to do was handle the “Final Solution” a little more efficiently and today he’d hold a place in the pantheon of Teutonic greats, alongside Bismarck, Martin Luther and Geothe, right?

While it’s unlikely any television poll is going to attract the “intelligentsia,” it is disconcerting that such Russian luminaries as Peter the Great, Solzhenitsyn or Tolstoy didn’t merit greater recognition than Stalin.