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September 30, 2003

Flip A Coin

An interesting thesis by Jay Bryant:

The Democrats are, and have been for at least the past fifty years, a party with two wings: the liberal wing and the corrupt wing...

...Today, Howard Dean represents the liberal wing and Wesley Clark has been thrust into the role of front man for the corrupt wing. Last night in New York, they had their first encounter, and both showed why they are worthy of their roles in the drama, Dean waxed eloquent on liberal mantra issues like social security and Medicare, while Clark demonstrated a deft ability to ignore logical consistency and charge forward.

For Dean, the issues matter. He is running for President because he wants to turn the country leftward, with all that means for foreign and domestic policy.

For Clark, issues are tactics to be manipulated in order to win votes. He is running for President so he can wield power, live in the White House and lord it over a gaggle of sycophants even larger than those which attend a general officer in the United States Army.

Dad, Where's My Car?

My immediate family has learned that I'm not always the nicest guy in the world to be around while the Buckeyes are playing football on Saturday afternoons, and it's sometimes better just to find somewhere else to be than our family room for those three hours. I don't like the way I can change from the harmless puppy dog to the snarling Doberman, just because we're down a touchdown in the third quarter. But it's me, and we've all just kind of become resigned to that little reality.

But I read this story today, and I feel all kinds of better about myself:

PINSON, Ala. -- A Pinson man was charged with attempted murder for holding a gun to his son's head and pulling the trigger in the midst of a tantrum after Alabama's double overtime loss to Arkansas Saturday.

The bullet narrowly missed 20-year-old Seth Logan, who said he picked the wrong time to ask his dad for a car, sheriff's spokesman Deputy Randy Christian said Monday.

I guess.

Sowell's Thoughts

Thomas Sowell's "Random Thoughts" columns are always a treat. Here are a couple thoughts from his latest:

Some people refuse to think in terms of incentives. San Francisco leaders are baffled by the fact that they have not reduced the homeless problem despite (!) spending so much money on the homeless. Others are disappointed that they have not reduced suicide bombings in Israel despite (!) having made so many concessions to the Palestinians in response to previous terrorism.

Liberals seem to believe that blacks should be represented proportionally everywhere -- except in conservative organizations.

Dennis Miller Interview

The American Enterprise interviews comedian Dennis Miller. (hat tip to Parapundit) Here are some samples from the Q & A:

TAE: Professional athletes seem to make headlines for crime and corruption as much as they do for home runs and touchdowns. Did your work on “Monday Night Football” give you an insight into why professional sports are plagued with such excesses?

MILLER: Any time you hand people who are in their early twenties $10 million, you’re going to have some problems. By and large, I was impressed by how dedicated and charitable these guys were. We always read about the athlete with the gun who gets pulled over. But look, there are 50 players on a team, and there are 32 teams—about 1,500 players. Take any group of 1,500 men in that age bracket and I’ll bet you that over the course of a year one of them gets pulled over for speeding and has cocaine. It’s just the nature of the beast. Ninety-nine percent of those football players are some of the greatest guys I’ve ever met. A couple of them gave me a “screw you.” But, you know what, a couple of them should have said that. I’d think I was a punk, too.

TAE: Many conservatives believe that Hollywood thinks heartland America is just flyover country. Are they correct?

MILLER: I’m hardly a gregarious man but the friends I have in Hollywood are by and large some of the nicest people I’ve ever met in my life. It’s just that their attempts to be solicitous to the heartland sometimes are a little misguided and condescending. When I look at folks from the heartland I don’t think, “Boy, are they missing it.” I view them as the ones who are smart enough to know that going to Hollywood’s not really a cool way to lead your life. They’re put together well enough so that they never had to go solicit the approval of strangers to fill their self-esteem void.

How very refreshing. Check out the whole interview.

September 29, 2003

Jayna Davis' OKC Evidence

In my recent post about Iraq's links to Islamic terror, I included a discussion of Jayna Davis' reporting on the involvement of Iraqi nationals in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

But those links were kind of buried in the latter portion of the post, and I felt in retrospect that her evidence deserved a post of its own. You see, Davis didn't stop looking for John Doe No. 2 just because the FBI decided several days into a massive manhunt, and in contradiction of a dozen witnesses, that John Doe No. 2 didn't exist.

A summary of her findings, and a more detailed narrative of her investigation contain compelling evidence not only that Iraqis were involved in the OKC bombing, but that the Clinton administration, through the FBI, worked actively to conceal that fact. Read it all. Please.

The Bush administration has shown no interest in dredging up most of the scandals of the Clinton administration, but apparently the recent focus on Saddam's Iraq, and the persuasiveness of Davis' evidence has certain officials at the "highest political levels" interested in having the FBI reopen the OKC investigation.

I am not optimistic that the FBI will now be a party to exposing their own corruption, and admitting that they either bungled a major terrorism investigation, or were co-opted by the Clinton White House into pushing the line that McVeigh and Nichols were simply "angry white men" acting alone.

I believe that as much as I believe that the Branch Davidians burned themselves up, that Vince Foster shot himself in Ft. Marcy Park, and that TWA 800 had a spontaneous center fuel tank explosion. But that's just me.

Rumsfeld Defends His Policy

In an opinionjournal.com op-ed today, Donald Rumsfeld says that neither his military commanders not the Iraqi Governing Council want more U.S. troops in Iraq:

In Baghdad, I met with members of the Governing Council. One message came through loud and clear: They are grateful for what Coalition forces are doing for their country. But they do not want more American troops--they want to take on more responsibility for security and governance of the country. The goal is to help them do so. Those advocating sending more Americans forces--against the expressed wishes of both our military commanders and Iraq's interim leaders--need to consider whether doing so would truly advance our objective of transferring governing responsibility to the Iraqi people.

Meanwhile, between calls for Rumsfeld's resignation, his critics can't decide if we should send more troops, or bring them all home. But I suppose that to them, the important thing is not how our Iraq policy impacts U.S. interests, stability in the Middle East, or the well being of the Iraqi people, or even the logical consistency of their own positions. It's a matter of how much volume and media attention they can generate for themselves carping from the sidelines in opposition to anything and everything Bush does. Nowhere that I have seen is a coherent alternative Iraq policy being articulated by Bush's critics.

Although Bush's recent return to the U.N. was spun as an "I told you so" moment by Europeans and domestic critics, Michael Barone says it is France, Germany and Kofi Annan that have changed course:

Old media reported George W. Bush's speech to the United Nations as a reversal, a concession by Bush that he must seek support from those who opposed an 18th Security Council resolution on Iraq. But it was not Bush who changed course. He stoutly defended the action of the United States, Britain, Australia, and Poland to enforce one resolution Iraq defied (1441) on the authority of another (678) justifying action against Iraq to enforce "all subsequent relevant resolutions." The nations that changed course at the United Nations last week were France and Germany. France announced it would not veto a resolution sought by the United States to open the door to more U.N. aid. Germany announced that it would cooperate with the United States on Iraq. And U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the U.N. should consider changing its rules to authorize pre-emptive military action against nations that support terrorism. These three are all moving Bush's way, not the other way around. Those reversals seem likely to be significant.

Elia Kazan 1909-2003

Elia Kazan died Saturday at the age of 94. Here is his obituary from the New York Times.

"Metro" Men

Stacey Pressman says she's no fan of the trend toward metrosexuality. Or is it a fad?...a cultural phenomenon? To her there's nothing "sexy" about it. An excerpt from Pressman's ESPN.com piece:

Mark Simpson, a British writer who coined the term "metrosexual" back in 1994, wrote a fascinating article for Salon.com last year, defining this man. Simpson writes: "The typical metrosexual is a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis -- because that's where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference. Particular professions, such as modeling, waiting tables, media, pop music and, nowadays, sport, seem to attract them but, truth be told, like male vanity products and herpes, they're pretty much everywhere."

But Pressman just wants it to be over:

Like punk, I'm hoping it lasts for a couple of Halloweens and then goes away....

...If you guys really want to get in touch with your feminine side, how about digging a little deeper than the narcissistically obvious: cosmetics and clothing? How about choosing three more virtuous female traits, say, nurturing, sensitivity and breast-feeding? At least you'd be helping us out.

I'm not sure I could handle being that girl! The one who's watching sports on Sundays while her significant other is trying to decide which fruity exfoliant will work best on his skin as his casserole bakes.

Me: "Honey, did you see that perfectly-executed Bledsoe flea-flicker? If only Josh Reed could keep his hands on it!"

Him: "No, but smell this new hand cream I just bought. What do you think? Too much jasmine?"

I'm all set. Game over. Thanks for playing.

Call me crazy but I don't ever want to hear my boyfriend utter the word "jasmine," unless he's apologizing for something he did with a stripper.

September 27, 2003

"We Told You So" Is Our Line

David Gelernter from The Weekly Standard, on the need for Bush and the U.S. to proudly stand on the moral justification for the liberation of Iraq. Excerpts:

"All over Europe people are saying to America, 'We told you so!'"--thus a smugly serious European journalist on American TV. You would think any American in earshot would have been hard to hold down--"How dare you, cowards?" No, Iraq is no picnic to pacify and rebuild, yes some of us did romanticize the Iraqis beforehand, no we have not found WMDs. But we have found torture cells, execution sites, mass graves; and the moral significance of those swamps all the rest. Wasn't that the whole point of the 20th century?

Was our intervention pragmatically right, was it essential in self-defense? Yes; but reasonable people can differ. Was it morally right? No one can dispute that. No one who has ever had the faintest brush with moral reality can fail to answer yes... With the discovery of those torture cells and mass graves, the moral question was closed forever: We were right to fight. Europe should be reeling, backpedaling, apologizing. "We told you so!" is our line...

The president needs to attack his opponents head-on, on principle. Peace is good, but if you have to buy it by turning your backs on suffering--at least don't be proud of the fact. We're proud that we didn't. Yes, our intervention served a practical purpose too, but let's start with Morality 101. In Iraq we expected to find hard evidence of cruelty, terror, and mass murder, and we did find it, and we told you so. (And the best reason to say so is not to win over opponents but to buck up supporters.)....

...This is no time to wheedle or temporize. The administration's job is to make certain that, any time anyone anywhere ponders what we have not found (so far) in postwar Iraq, the very next thought is about what we have found. The program is simple: congressional hearings on the dictatorship we overthrew. Worldwide discussion of the Security Council and its permanent membership. And: first things first. In Iraq, the mass murder has stopped. We stopped it. The rest is a moral footnote.

Iraq - Al-Qaeda Connections

President Bush's restatement this week that the administration has no evidence linking Saddam Hussein directly to the 9/11 attacks led to a huge "Gotcha!" from his critics, who now would have the public believe that this represents a correction or retraction of a previous statement, and as such, proves that Bush "mislead" the people, taking us to war under false pretenses.

Set aside for the moment that these people might be convinced of a link only if the administration were to produce a photograph of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden chortling together as they pore over a set of World Trade Center blueprints. The administration has in fact only alleged a connection between Saddam's Iraq and the Al Qaeda organization, and those links are numerous, multi-sourced, and available to anyone who cares to consider them.

My purpose in this post is not to preach to the converted. Only the ideologically blinkered or blissfully apathetic are still unaware of the connections Saddam had to organized Islamic terrorism. In fact, I had thought until recently that we were finished with the kind of nonsense we heard shortly after planning for the liberation of Iraq began, that Iraq was a "distraction" from, and not an integral part of, the War on Terror. One might think that Saddam's open policy of paying off the families of Palestinian suicide bombers might be the first clue. But unfortunately, the beat goes on, fed by the Ted Kennedys and the antiwar crowd who feel the need to assign malign motives to Bush's liberation of Iraq.

I won't quote from Bush's speeches to document what he has said or not said. Notice the "Bush lied" crowd never quotes him directly. The speeches are in the public domain, and all one needs to do is listen to them the first time around. They're pretty consistent. We're at war. It will be long and difficult. We will promote freedom and democracy. Terrorists and their harborers and financiers and supporters will be dealt with as the enemies of the U.S. that they are.

So my purpose here, in addition to letting off the above steam, is to try to organize in one place the links to some of the best reporting on those Iraq-Al Qaeda ties that I have found and read for myself. I admit in advance that this will be anything but a complete resource, but it might be enough to inform a few of the yet unconvinced, and serve as a counterweight to what people hear or don't hear in the major media.

Some of the best reporting of Iraq-Al Qaeda ties has been done by Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. In May of this year, in a piece called The Al Qaeda Connection, he broke an otherwise underreported story of what appeared to be an inadvertent publication in Uday Hussein's newspaper of a listing by name of Iraqi regime officials, including the envoy to Pakistan:

In its November 16, 2002, edition, Babil identified one Abd-al-Karim Muhammad Aswad as an "intelligence officer," describing him as the "official in charge of regime's contacts with Osama bin Laden's group and currently the regime's representative in Pakistan." A man of this name was indeed the Iraqi ambassador to Pakistan from the fall of 1999 until the fall of the regime.

Hayes reports that early in 1998:

then-President Bill Clinton traveled to the Pentagon, where he gave a speech preparing the nation for war with Iraq. Clinton told the world that Saddam Hussein would work with an "unholy axis (sound familiar? - ed.)of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals." His warning was stern:

We have to defend our future from these predators of the 21st century. . . . They will be all the more lethal if we allow them to build arsenals of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and the missiles to deliver them. We simply cannot allow that to happen. There is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein.

The timing, once again, is critical. Clinton's speech came on February 18, 1998. The next day, according to documents uncovered earlier this week in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein reached out to bin Laden. A document dated February 19, 1998, and labeled "Top Secret and Urgent" tells of a plan for an al Qaeda operative to travel from Sudan to Iraq for talks with Iraqi intelligence. The memo focused on Saudi Arabia, another common bin Laden and Hussein foe, and declared that the Mukhabarat would pick up "all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden." The document further explained that the message "would relate to the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The document also held open the possibility that the al Qaeda representative could be "a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden."

There is certainly much more to learn about the "contacts with bin Laden" after this meeting. What is clear, though, is that it is no longer defensible to claim there were no contacts. The skeptics, including many at the CIA, who argued that previous evidence of such links was not compelling, ought to be convinced now.

Earlier this month Hayes published a more detailed accounting of a) what we alleged in Powell's February presentation at the U.N., b) what evidence we had but didn't use in that session, and c) what we have learned since the war. Here are a couple of key paragraphs:

The CIA has confirmed, in interviews with detainees and informants it finds highly credible, that al Qaeda's Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with Iraqi intelligence in Baghdad in 1992 and 1998. More disturbing, according to an administration official familiar with briefings the CIA has given President Bush, the Agency has "irrefutable evidence" that the Iraqi regime paid Zawahiri $300,000 in 1998, around the time his Islamic Jihad was merging with al Qaeda. "It's a lock," says this source. Other administration officials are a bit more circumspect, noting that the intelligence may have come from a single source. Still, four sources spread across the national security hierarchy have confirmed the payment.

In interviews conducted over the past six weeks with uniformed officers on the ground in Iraq, intelligence officials, and senior security strategists, several things became clear. Contrary to the claims of its critics, the Bush administration has consistently underplayed the connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Evidence of these links existed before the war. In making its public case against the Iraq regime, the Bush administration used only a fraction of the intelligence it had accumulated documenting such collaboration. The intelligence has, in most cases, gotten stronger since the end of the war. And through interrogations of high-ranking Iraqi officials, documents from the regime, and further interrogation of al Qaeda detainees, a clearer picture of the links between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is emerging.

The Wall Street Journal has also been active in reporting on Iraq-Al Qaeda ties, and recently published this summary of sorts.

Prior to 9/11, it could be said that the most important acts of terror caried out on U.S. soil were the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing at the Murrah Federal Building. In terms of reporting on possible Iraqi connections to those two terrorist attacks, enter Laurie Mylroie and Jayna Davis.

It might be best to begin with Micah Morrison's piece The Iraq Connection from the Sept. 5, 2002 Wall Street Journal Online, which summarizes the research of both Davis and Mylroie.

Dr. Mylroie is the author of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America (American Enterprise Institute Press, 2000). It was recently published in paperback, as The War Against America (HarperCollins, 2001).

Her work centers around the possible role of Iraqi intelligence in the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, arguing persuasively that Ramzi Yousef, convicted in the bombing, and several of his accomplices may well have actually been Iraqi intelligence agents that acquired Kuwaiti identities during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1990-91. She raises that issue in "The Baluch Connection" from the WSJ, and discusses these and the broader subject of terrorism in two interviews; here with National Review from September 2003, and in a PBS Frontline conversation conducted in October, 2001.

In the PBS interview, Mylroie discusses the way that the Clinton administration simply refused to countenance the notion that Iraq was involved with acts of terror against the U.S., apparently since that would have required a response, and Bill had other priorities:

"The reason that the Clinton administration did not want the evidence of Iraqi involvement coming out in the Trade Center bombing was because, in June of 1993, Clinton had attacked Iraqi intelligence headquarters. It was for the attempt to kill George Bush. But Clinton also believed that that attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters would take care of the bombing in New York, that it would deter Iraq from all future acts of terrorism. And by not telling the public what was suspected of happening -- that New York FBI really believed Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing -- Clinton avoided raising the possibility the public might demand that the United States do a lot more than just bomb one building. And Clinton didn't want to do more. Clinton wanted to focus on domestic politics, including health policy.

The Clinton administration's unwillingness to identify Iraq as the suspected sponsor of the Trade Center bombing was a terrible blunder. Not only did the 1993 attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters not deter Saddam forever; indeed, Saddam was back already in January of 1995 with that plot in the Philippines...

...It didn't deter Saddam forever, and equally important, it generated a false and fraudulent explanation for terrorism called "the loose network theory" -- that terrorism is no longer carried out by states, that the Trade Center bombing was a harbinger of a new terrorism carried out by individuals or loose networks without the support of state.

And once that notion took hold, Saddam could easily play into it by working with Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden, putting them front and center, leaving a few bin Laden operatives to be arrested. That also played into this fraudulent theory and led directly to the events of September 11"

In the interest of equal time, Mylroie's theories on Yousef's identity are rebutted somewhat in this Slate piece from September 28, 2001.

Linking Iraq to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, while not a specific "Al Qaeda" link, demonstrates Saddam's participation in terror attacks on the U.S. Jayna Davis, a former reporter with Oklahoma City's KFOR television station, covered the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath, and has assembled an astounding case that puts Timothy McVeigh in the company of several Iraqi nationals in the days prior to the bombing, and effectively identifies the infamous John Doe No. 2.

After several days of an intense FBI manhunt, the agency decided that this John Doe No. 2 didn't exist at all, even though there were upwards of 20 eyewitnesses that placed this Middle Eastern-looking man with McVeigh before the bombing and at the scene on the day of the bombing. This institutional denial of an Iraqi connection to acts of terror comports with what Laurie Mylroie has said about the way that Bill Clinton and his administration dealt with the issue of Iraq's involvement. In other words, "don't tell me that, because that's not what I want to hear". Davis' findings are summarized in this report from the Center for Security Policy (CSP).

In a more detailed presentation of the evidence accumulated by Jayna Davis, available from her web site, the involvement of Iraqi nationals in the OKC bombing is persuasively demonstrated. (both CSP links via HobbsOnline A.M.). Here are a couple of excerpts from that report:

... the most gripping evidence was displayed on the television monitor at KFOR-TV's studio...One frame of video captured the side view of a former Iraqi soldier known as Hussain Hashem Al-Hussaini. Alhussaini's picture, when overlaid with the government's profile sketch of John Doe 2, was arguably a perfect match. Alhussaini also fit the general physical description of the government's arrest warrant for the Oklahoma City bomber, including a tattoo on his upper left arm.

Colonel Patrick Lang, the former Chief of Human Intelligence for the Defense Intelligence Agency, determined Hussain Alhussaini's military tattoo indicated he likely served in Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard and was recruited into the elite Unit 999 of the Iraqi Intelligence Service. Unit 999 is based in Salman Pak southeast of Baghdad and has been tasked with clandestine operations at home and overseas.

But the most incriminating evidence against the Iraqi soldier was the simple fact that his alleged alibi crumbled under scrutiny...

...Then came the watershed breakthrough. On June 7, 1995, KFOR's private investigator and another reporter from the station located two eyewitnesses who independently identified the former Iraqi soldier, Hussain Alhussaini, from a photo lineup. Both were convinced he was the Middle Eastern individual they observed drinking beer with a very boisterous Timothy McVeigh in an Oklahoma City nightclub just four days before the bombing. This was no fleeting encounter. The witnesses were exposed to McVeigh and his soft-spoken friend, with distinct Middle Eastern accent, for at least three full hours.

KFOR management and legal counsel decided we had a moral obligation to report the story. At 6:00 PM that evening, the investigative report led the newscast. We carefully disguised the identities of the witnesses and the location of the establishment where the sighting occurred...

Of course the inescapable conclusion from the findings of Jayna Davis' research is that the Clinton administration actively covered up the fact that McVeigh and Nichols had Middle Eastern (and apparently Filipino) accomplices, and that the real planners of the OKC bombing have yet to be brought to justice. Six weeks before the OKC bombing a Congressional committee had this warning:

On March 3, 1995, the House of Representatives' Terrorism Task Force issued a warning that Mideast terrorists were planning attacks on the "heart of the U.S.," identifying twelve cities as potential targets, including Oklahoma City. It reported that the terrorists had recruited two "lily whites" -- individuals with no criminal history or obvious connections to the perpetrating organization -- to carry out the bombing of an American federal building.

Who could be "lily whiter" than Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols?

An article from October, 2002 suggests that highly placed political pressure is being (finally) brought to bear on the FBI to reopen the OKC investigation based largely on the evidence provided by Jayna Davis. There's hope.

Read for yourself about the evidence that Jayna Davis has uncovered on this case. This deserves more attention that it is getting, IMHO

I'll continue to update this entry, but I want to get it posted.

September 26, 2003

Democratic Credo

Rich Lowry on "What Democrats Believe". Only slightly tongue-in-cheek, many of these ring all too true. Here's a sample:

That the United Nations is the world's last, best hope, and every jot of its writ should always be respected, unless it inconveniences Saddam Hussein.

That nation-building is always a humanitarian and just cause, unless it is undertaken in Iraq.

That anyone who said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction prior to the war was lying, unless his or her name is Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Madeleine Albright, Bill Cohen, John Kerry or Joe Lieberman, or the person ever served in the Clinton cabinet or as a Democratic senator.

Hollywood Hero

Michelle Malkin's column explains how Victor Salva's exploitation of a young boy didn't stop when he sexually molested the 7-year old. Salva then made the boy an actor in his movie. Nice touch.

Kennedy Unhinged

Here's Charles Krauthammer from his column on Ted Kennedy's recent despicable outburst:

"There was no imminent threat. This was made up in Texas, announced in January to the Republican leadership that war was going to take place and was going to be good politically. This whole thing was a fraud.'' --Sen. Edward Kennedy on Iraq, Sept. 18, 2003.

The Democrats have long been unhinged by this president. They could bear his (Florida-induced) illegitimacy as long as he was weak and seemingly transitional. But when post-9/11 he became a consequential president -- reinventing American foreign policy and dominating the political scene -- they lost it.

Kennedy's statement marks a new stage in losing it: transition to derangement...

...Good politically? There are a host of criticisms one might level at Bush's decision to go to war -- that it was arrogant, miscalculated, disdainful of allies, lacking in foresight, perhaps even contrary to just-war principles. I happen not to agree with these criticisms. But they can be reasonably and honorably made. What cannot be reasonably and honorably charged, however, is that Bush went to war for political advantage.

On the contrary, this war was an enormous -- and blindingly obvious -- political risk...

...Whatever your (and history's) verdict about the war, it is undeniable that it was an act of singular presidential leadership. And more than that, it was an act of political courage. George Bush wagered his presidency on a war he thought necessary for national security -- a war that could very obviously and very easily have been his political undoing. It might yet be.

To accuse Bush of perpetrating a ``fraud'' to go to war for political advantage is not just disgraceful. It so flies in the face of the facts that it can only be said to be unhinged from reality. Kennedy's rant reflects the Democrats' blinding Bush-hatred, and marks its passage from partisanship to pathology.

September 24, 2003

Bet on LeBron

Many Cleveland Cavaliers fans will be experiencing something different this year just by having a reason to follow the team's fortunes. That reason of course, is LeBron James; wunderkind, prodigy, superstar, millionaire. And all that before his first NBA game.

But if you're looking for something to spice up your LeBron-watching this season, be advised that Caesars Palace Race and Sports book has opened up over 50 LeBron/Cavaliers bets in five different categories. Here's a sample from the Plain Dealer article:

You can wager on King James' scoring average this season: 30.1 points a game or higher is a tempting 75-to-1 (a hundred bucks on that could pay for a pair of Cavaliers season tickets or feed a family of four at a Gund Arena concession stand). Zero to 2.0 points a game is 100-to-1. (That's a sucker bet. LeBron must play in at least 50 games for the wager, and if he's playing 50 or more games, he's going to be scoring more than Gene Simmons. He's the Chosen One, not the frozen one.)

How about a LeBron vs. Michael Jordan bet? His Airness averaged 28.2 points a game his rookie season (1984-85). Bet on LeBron if you think he will come within 12 points.

But being a Cleveland sports fan means living with disappointment if not outright hopelessness; (it's been a long time since the '64 Browns). So the article lays out a strategy just for the locals:

What strategy should a Cavaliers fan have in Vegas (besides avoiding the Celine show and those Alpo buffets)? It's best to use the "Cleveland hedge," a method that has soothed Indians, Browns and Cavaliers fans for decades. It guarantees a win, either financial or emotional.

Here's how it works: Knowing how things go in this town, bet against all that is good. Want the Indians to win Game 7? Bet against them. A few grand will pay for postage for a decade's worth of Jose Mesa hate mail. Want the Browns to go 2-2? Bet on the Bengals this week. When the Browns win, you'll need a second mortgage, but you'll be whistling while you sign the paperwork.

When it comes to LeBron, bet on the worst possible outcome. Assume he's going smash his finger in the door of his Hummer. It's the Cleveland way. Go with a c-note on LeBron scoring three or fewer.

If it doesn't happen, oh well, it means LeBron is going to shine, which is what you want anyway. If disaster strikes and LBJ meets ACL, we'll all be devastated.

But you'll be able to wipe away your tears with 50,000 dollar bills.

This entry was cross-posted at Sportsblog.

Jonah on Clark/Iraq

Jonah Goldberg is on target in his syndicated column on Wesley Clark with this observation:

Please, don't talk to me about the issues.

Oh, not you. And maybe not you, either. But you - that's right, you: the average Democratic voter who, having barely or never heard of Wesley Clark, has decided he's your man.

And you the Democratic activist who's been denouncing President Bush as a war monger for "fighting a war of choice" that was "not in the national interest" and was without U.N. approval but who has no problem flocking to a general in charge of the consummate war of choice, which lacked U.N. backing and could never, ever, be seen as an effort to deal with an "imminent" threat - or any other kind of threat.

Or don't you remember Kosovo? That's the place where American troops are still holed up, four years later, risking their lives for the betterment of another people. If you think that's good - like I do - you might want to explain why it's not good for us to be in Iraq for even one year.

Kosovo is also the place that has been entrusted to the U.N. for administration, "nation-building" if you will, and four years later is not yet sovereign or close to self-governing. When someone performs miserably at a given job, you don't give them more similar jobs to do. To give this anti-democratic body any role whatsoever in the political reconstruction of Iraq would be unthinkable. To let the people who gladly did business with Saddam, and would have left him in power get anywhere near the country that has yet to rid itself of elements loyal to him, would be insane.

But back to Goldberg's point about the Democratic hypocrisy that is a natural byproduct of putting their loathing of Bush over any principle:

Democrats are against nation-building in Iraq, because Bush is for it there. They're in favor of it in Afghanistan, because they think Bush is against it there. They're for multilateralism and the U.N. in Iraq because that's where Bush is seen as "unilateral," but at the same time they're aghast that Bush won't deal unilaterally with North Korea, ridiculing his insistence that regional partners and the U.N. be in on the talks. This is not serious foreign policy.

September 23, 2003

O'Rourke Interview

P.J. O'Rourke talks about Animal House, National Lampoon, and Bill Clinton in this interview with The Onion AV Club.

French Anti-Anti-Americanism

How it took me a month to discover this essay by Adam Gopnik from The New Yorker I can't imagine. I suppose it's because it hasn't been linked to by any of the major bloggers (other than Merde in France), and I suppose, because I don't subscribe to the magazine. I came upon it at Arts & Letters Daily. (thanks Lileks)

There's so much here that's worth reading that I urge you to click and read it all, but I am nevertheless compelled to comment and excerpt from it. Gopnick characterizes French anti-Americanism in the Summer of 2003, and then interviews and reviews three French writers who, in one way or another, represent the "anti-anti-Americanism" camp.

A it turns out, an American spoiling for a rumble in Paris this summer may have had a tough go of it, as anti-Americanism was pushed out of the French consciousness by the striking, get this, part-time entertainment industry workers:

For many people in France, it produced, surprisingly, a sense of dour hopelessness greater than that caused by any of the other strikes that have happened in France in the last eight years. It is one thing to have your country stopped regularly by truck drivers and railroad engineers; at least this has the savor of blue-collar rectitude. When the country and its joys can be shut down by part-time trombonists, however, something is wrong, or at least ridiculous.

Some of that hopelessness might contribute to the lack of "passion" in the French version of anti-Americanism:

A kind of generalized anti-Americanism, not simply opposition to the war in Iraq, does exist, but it has become “a routine of resentment, a passionless Pavlovianism,” rather than a critique of United States policy, as the historian Philippe Roger concluded in “L’Ennemi Américain” (“The American Enemy”), a recently published six-hundred-page tome devoted to the subject. Anti-Americanism, though of course it has life as a muttered feeling, has almost no life as an idea or an argument. Even in its strongest and most overt form, it tends to be Olympian and condescending rather than vituperative.

Gopnick interviews Bernard-Henri Lévy, author of the successful book “Qui A Tué Daniel Pearl?” (“Who Killed Daniel Pearl?”), and refers to the book as:

a demonstration piece, a deliberate embrace by a French intellectual of an American journalist, and a book that insists that the death of an American journalist (and one who worked for the Wall Street Journal, at that) was as important for France as for America...

...B.H.L.’s purely political, or forensic, conclusion is that it is naïve to speak of Al Qaeda as an independent terrorist organization. At most a band of Yemenis and Saudis, the Al Qaeda of American imagination and fears—the octopus of terrorism capable of bringing tall buildings down in a single morning—is largely controlled by the Pakistani secret service, he says, and he concludes that Pearl was kidnapped and murdered with its knowledge. Pearl was killed, B.H.L. believes, because he had come to understand too much about all of this, and particularly about “the great taboo”: that the Pakistani atomic bomb was built and is controlled by radical Islamists who intend to use it someday. (He writes that Sheikh Mubarak Gilani, the cleric whom Pearl had set out to interview when he was kidnapped, far from being a minor figure, is one of Osama bin Laden’s mentors and tutors and has a network in place in the United States. John Allen Muhammad, the Washington sniper, Lévy claims, in a detail that, if not unknown, is unpublicized in the United States, had transferred from the Nation of Islam to Gilani’s sect shortly before he began his killing spree.)

The essential conclusion of this central Parisian thinker and writer is, therefore, not that the American government ought to be more conciliatory toward the Islamic fundamentalists but that our analysis of the situation and its risks is not nearly radical enough. “I am strongly anti-anti-American, but I opposed the war in Iraq, because of what I’d seen in Pakistan,” Lévy said. “Iraq was a false target, a mistaken target. Saddam, yes, is a terrible butcher, and we can only be glad that he is gone. But he is a twentieth-century butcher—an old-fashioned secular tyrant, who made an easy but irrelevant target. His boasting about having weapons of mass destruction and then being unable to really build them or keep them is typical—he’s just a gangster, who lived by fear and for money. Saddam has almost nothing to do with the real threat. We were attacking an Iraq that was already largely disarmed. Meanwhile, in some Pakistani bazaar someone, as we speak, is trading a Russian miniaturized nuclear weapon.”

The idea that we chose Saddam's Iraq as a target not because they were THE target, but because they were a relatively easy and justifiable starting point in the War on Terror is one that escapes many of Bush's critics. Many of those people seem to think that the War on Terror was merely Bush's excuse for invading Iraq. I don't agree that Saddam's Iraq was "false target", as Lévy asserts. It's clear he was a major player in harboring, training and bankrolling Islamic terror. But Lévy's theory on the prominent role of the Pakistani intelligence sevice in supporting terrorism should be sobering for anyone who believes that all we have left to do is mop up a few Al Qaeda types in the mountains of Afghanistan. For more details on Lévy's theory, check out this review by Ron Rosenbaum of The New York Observer.

Gopnick finally characterizes French anti-Americanism as a sort of isolationism, or a desire to return to the more comfortable past. Or worse yet, as part of their illogical denial that they themselves are, and have already been among the targets of Islamic terror:

The real threat to France is not anti-Americanism, which might at least have the dignity of an argument, an idea, and could at least provoke a grownup response, but what the writer Philippe Sollers has called the creeping “moldiness” of French life—the will to defiantly turn the country back into an enclosed provincial culture...This narrowing of expectations and horizons is evident already in the French enthusiasm for cartoon versions of French life, as in “Amélie,” of a kind the French would once have thought fit only for tourists. It has a name, “the Venetian alternative”—meaning a readiness to turn one’s back on history and retreat into a perfect simulacrum of the past, not to reject modernity but to pretend it isn’t happening.

“In France, the problem, more than a will against America, is a will to hide—to hope not to be seen at all. But it is insane for the French to see all this as somehow apart from them. It began against us. Nine years ago, the G.I.A.”—the Algerian Islamists—“who are a group of the same kind, hijacked a plane and were going to fly it into the Eiffel Tower! The only difference? They didn’t know how to fly a plane! They were trying to use the pilots to do their work. Seven years later, they knew how. So to imagine that we are somehow immune is not only crazy on principle—it is the direct opposite of what we know to be the facts!”

September 22, 2003

Arafat Bagman

Ion Mihai Pacepa, formerly chief of Romanian intelligence under Ceausescu, and as such a KGB operative, has been in the U.S. since he defected in 1978. In this piece for WSJ Online, he reveals how he personally arranged cash payments to Yasser Arafat to the tune of over $2 million per year through the 70's. And that was just from Romania. Other Soviet satellites made similar payments in addition to what the Soviets paid him themselves. This article serves as a useful reminder of the fact that Arafat the "political leader" was literally a KGB creation. Pacepa also tells of the con job that Ceausescu did on Jimmy Carter in 1978. But what dictator didn't charm Jimmy Carter?

An excerpt from Pacepa:

KGB chairman Yuri Andropov in February 1972 laughed to me about the Yankee gullibility for celebrities. We'd outgrown Stalinist cults of personality, but those crazy Americans were still naïve enough to revere national leaders. We would make Arafat into just such a figurehead and gradually move the PLO closer to power and statehood. Andropov thought that Vietnam-weary Americans would snatch at the smallest sign of conciliation to promote Arafat from terrorist to statesman in their hopes for peace.

Right after that meeting, I was given the KGB's "personal file" on Arafat. He was an Egyptian bourgeois turned into a devoted Marxist by KGB foreign intelligence. The KGB had trained him at its Balashikha special-ops school east of Moscow and in the mid-1960s decided to groom him as the future PLO leader. First, the KGB destroyed the official records of Arafat's birth in Cairo, replacing them with fictitious documents saying that he had been born in Jerusalem and was therefore a Palestinian by birth.

The KGB file on Arafat also said that in the Arab world only people who were truly good at deception could achieve high status. We Romanians were directed to help Arafat improve "his extraordinary talent for deceiving." The KGB chief of foreign intelligence, General Aleksandr Sakharovsky, ordered us to provide cover for Arafat's terror operations, while at the same time building up his international image. "Arafat is a brilliant stage manager," his letter concluded, "and we should put him to good use." In March 1978 I secretly brought Arafat to Bucharest for final instructions on how to behave in Washington. "You simply have to keep on pretending that you'll break with terrorism and that you'll recognize Israel -- over, and over, and over," Ceausescu told him for the umpteenth time. Ceausescu was euphoric over the prospect that both Arafat and he might be able to snag a Nobel Peace Prize with their fake displays of the olive branch.

Clark's Photo Op

Robert Novak thinks Democrats had better do a little vetting of their new darling candidate, Gen. Wesley Clark, before annointing him to run in 2004. Seems there's an unseemly photo of Clark making nice with Bosnian Serb war criminal Ratko Mladic for starters. Then there's his troubling track record of seeking political power to the exclusion of any identifiable principle. As he was quoted the other day according to Newsweek, "I would have been a Republican if Karl Rove had returned my phone calls." Great.

James Taranto summarizes the good General's positions, such as they are, in today's Best of The Web.

End of Season Triblogging

The Indians season is grinding to an end this week, and among several bright spots for me is manager Eric Wedge. Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal says that Wedge is one of a "new breed" of baseball managers. And after four paragraphs of filler in the article, he gets around to suggesting what he means by that.

In contrast to the managers of the past, Wedge believes if an athlete has certain innate or developed skills -- a strong and accurate throwing arm, the strength and coordination to hit a baseball plus average foot speed -- he can learn to become a good player.

Not exactly groundbreaking baseball thought, I daresay. I guess where Wedge parts company with some other managers is that he takes it upon himself to be the guy to work on making them better players, instead of leaving that work to underling coaches, minor league systems or Little League programs. Another excerpt:

(Wedge) has concluded that it's the manager's task and within his capabilities to teach a player to become significantly better...

...In Wedge's view, part of a manager's job -- a large part -- is to develop baseball athletes into baseball players. In the past, managers saw their mission mostly as keeping peace in the clubhouse and making moves, pointing the team in the right direction by juggling lineups and mastering the art of changing pitchers to give players the best chance to succeed.

I guess Wedge has little choice other than to accept a role as teacher when he's dealing with a green crop of 21-25-year old rookies. But more and more as the season goes along, I am able to see those attributes that got G.M. Mark Shapiro excited about Wedge as his Manager of the Future back in the offseason. He is patient, positive and serious about getting better every day. He is not just "accepting" the teaching role, he is relishing it, and seems committed to it.

And I don't mean to minimize Ocker's assertion that there is something truly "unique" about Wedge, as baseball managers go. He seems to be very tuned in to the mental aspects of the game. He talks constantly about hitting "approach", game preparation, and continuous improvement. More from the Ocker column:

So the manager is not merely talking about developing physical techniques. Baseball is a game that requires confidence, mental agility and self discipline...

...For Wedge, rising to the status of big-league player is a process based on evolution, learning through experience, absorbing knowledge from coaches, the manager and veteran players.

Again, while it may not be original thought, Wedge is himself organized, disciplined and serious about the task at hand, which is quite a departure from good-old-boy Charlie Manuel's approach of previous seasons. It shows on the field. And we can assume that Wedge's philosophy is merely a logical extension of Mark Shapiro's vision.

The whole new "thinking man's approach" to running a baseball operation may have begun with John Hart as General Manager, but it has taken off under Shapiro. The Plain Dealer is running a series all this week entitled "Rethinking the Game Plan". Here are the links to Sunday's Part 1, which also includes a sidebar story on how the Tribe payroll stacks up with the league, and Monday's Part 2. The reporters have been given rare access to the Indians' deep thinkers, and the report is must reading for Tribologists, and of course for Tribloggers. Here's an excerpt dealing with Shapiro's "radical" techniques:

Although he had already established some of the plan's elements in his former roles as director of the Indians' minor- league teams and assistant general manager, the profound transformation had been occurring largely out of view of fans and reporters.

The concepts the Ivy League- educated Shapiro had put in place in advance of the Colon deal - computer-aided research, advanced statistical analysis, cost-benefit studies, performance assessment, risk management, skills testing, standardized communication - wouldn't have raised an eyebrow in any other $150 million-a-year company. In fact, they would have been standard practice years ago or the business likely would have been out of business.

In tradition-bound baseball, though, the approach was radical, even heretical.

After all, this was a business in which some superstitious managers still believed that stepping on the foul line could affect a game's outcome, and owners parted with $2 million to sign high school athletes based largely on a scout's gut instincts.

They dissect the Bartolo Colon trade in Part 1, complete with economic justifications going back almost two years prior to the deal. But it also had to do with talent in the organization:

The Indians' lengthy winning record also had contributed to the problem. Baseball's parity rules dictated that losing clubs, and those who had lost players to free agency, got to choose prospective players in the amateur draft ahead of front-running teams. The pickings in the later rounds were slimmer, and the selections the Indians made weren't always good.

The upshot was that when Hart and Shapiro sat down in early 2001 to assess the team's future, the road ahead abruptly led off a cliff.

"We were scared to death about '03, '04 and '05 - scared to death," Shapiro says. Not just about the immediate prospect of losing, but about having enough valuable players left to barter for prospects."

The rest of the piece contains insights into Shapiro and the assembling of his team of high-tech GenX-ers, along with a detailed play-by-play of the Colon deal. Part 2 does the same with the Thome deal, including the story of the front office's computer-aided analysis of Thome's projected baseball future.

Read it all, Tribe fans.

UPDATE 9/23: Here's Part 3 of the PD series.

UPDATE 9/24: Here's Part 4 of the PD series.

Weasel Watch

John Cullinan, writing at NRO, explains how Chirac and France, while risking nothing in Iraq, are trying to use the U.N. and the current U.S. draft resolution to weasel their way into increased influence there:

France, however, has long-regarded Iraq solely as a means to counter U.S. influence and to advance its own pretensions of grandeur. While repeatedly emphasizing that France will in no event commit its own troops or funds to Iraq, Chirac has sought at every turn to exercise control over Iraq's political future by using the U.N. as a willing proxy. For all his bluster, Chirac is shrewd enough to realize that French vanity alone is not enough to counterbalance 140,000 U.S. troops on the ground. But he is patient enough to see the new draft resolution as an opening wedge, a chance to create introduce some ambiguity into Iraq's governing arrangements that the U.N. bureaucracy can exploit. The more ambiguity, the greater the temptation for Iraqi factions to play one set of foreigners off against another; and the more friction and chaos, the better the chance for Iraq to implode and — more important — the U.S. to fail.

Remembering Ritter

A nice tribute to John Ritter by his colleague and friend Larry Miller.

September 21, 2003


Busy weekend, and that means bloglessness here at Wizblog. Left town in a motor home Friday night for the 110 mile trip to Columbus for the Buckeye game and and related activities. We were loaded up with alcohol, food, beer, snacks and alcohol. Did I get everything? It was the third annual 24-hour blitz to OSU and back. Ten guys along with me, the designated driver. Not to worry. I've done this before.

So on Friday night, in the time not spent driving around blocks downtown looking for non-existent parking spaces for a full size Winnebago-type unit, I assist my buddies with their dance, the Columbus Bar-Hop. Hilarities ensue, the details of which must remain secret under threat of Guy Club sanctions. Let's just say we're a pretty harmless group overall. Hell, I was in bed by 3:00.

By mid-morning Saturday, we had made our way to Lane Avenue, where the dead beer cans were already piling up in the street. The party there on Lane, before, during and after the game is a spectacle that stuns people who are seeing it for the first time. Not that most people haven't seen some large-scale binge drinking before, at concerts, or "keggers" or New Orleans. But this is just tens of thousands of people, mostly young people, who don't have tickets to the game, many of whom are only vaguely aware that there is a game, who are down on Lane Avenue all day, hard in pursuit of the full-tilt boogie. And I mean they are working hard at having a good time. Consider that this is the largest undergraduate student population at any university in the country, combining with another huge group of non-students of all ages that are fierce Buckeye partisans, fans and hangers-on, having a huge drinking party-football game-street fair. It is agreed in advance that we will meet here eight times a year in the Fall and go nuts.

There are 104,000 paying customers at the Horseshoe, and I'll bet there are twice that many again who are around for the "atmosphere". The bars and hotels rope off their parking lots, you can see three or four live bands in front of big-screen video displays. College kids, overjoyed to be back on campus, do what they do best. They party, and the rest of us older, wiser, more mature folks get caught up in the spirit. Hot, sweaty, beer-drinking people crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into not so small places. It's loud. It's crazy. It's great. It's all about the Buckeyes of course.

Now I love my friends and everything, and I'm not immune to having fun with them even if I'm not drinking. But at bottom, I go for the football game. Few others in our group would say that, and none of us was in possession of a ticket when we left home. One "first-timer" with us wanted to see the game too, so we left the early partiers by 11 a.m. to walk over to the stadium, and bought tickets by the time we were halfway there. Paid slightly over face value, but they were great seats, and I wanted to have that ordeal over with.

And it was a game. Bowling Green made it closer than it should have been, but that's the way this OSU team wins. We dominated the game for three and a half quarters, and then relaxed a bit too much, so the score didn't reflect the difference between the teams. Until they lose one this way, (and they will) it's hard to bitch much. Fabulous day. 104,000 of my close friends. 24-17.

We return to the Lane Ave. revelry to inform a few thousand people that there has been this football game, and that in fact the good guys have won. It's senseless to try to find people that you haven't seen for four hours in that madness, so two or three at a time, they drag their asses back to the motor home, some in more of a state of disrepair than others. Lots of naps on the way back up I-71. The wheelman is quietly satisfied. Nobody dies. Bucks win. Cheers.

September 18, 2003

Thursday Bleat

Lileks. Click and read.

Employment Picture

A Lex Green post at Chicago Boyz highlights some very positive economic news , along with the caveat not to wait to hear about it on TV. If we can trust our media for anything, it is the tendency to pluck the negative detail from an overall positive economic outlook in order to reflect badly on George Bush.

Lately it's the grudging admission that the economy is recovering somewhat, BUT, that it is a "jobless recovery", as unemployment numbers are persistently high, and that our manufacturing jobs are being lost. (I get the continuing impression that the left is not at all happy that the recession is over and the economic picture is improving. That is sick.) That shift away from manufacturing has been ongoing since the 70's, though to hear Bush's critics, you'd think it all happened since 2000.

Since employment is always the last indicator to respond to economic recovery, and that signs point to this recovery being no exception, the Democrats must wish that the election was this November instead of next. At MoneyCentral, Charles Lieberman lists the 7 Reasons the Job Market is About to Take Off. (also via Lex Green)

And Donald Luskin takes apart the "jobless recovery" argument by pointing out how the critics spin with statistics. A equally compelling argument could be put forth that the news on unemployment and new job creation is quite positive. But that's not on the agenda.

Europe's Heroes Speak

A letter from Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa, and Arpad Göncz, published today, urges Europe to call the Castro dictatorship by its name, and support the democracy movement in Cuba. (via The Corner)

Bravo, Gentlemen! Here's an excerpt:

It is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about the embargo of Cuba and to concentrate on direct support for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and their families.

Europe ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is a dictator, and that for democratic countries a dictatorship cannot become a partner until it commences a process of political liberalisation.


Here's a page of interesting optical illusions, most of which involve the appearance of motion in a static image. Link via Chicago Boyz.

Here's another similar one I came across recently. And while I had seen this one before, it's cool how the image just appears, coming out of a black field of closed-eye "vision". No, it's not a religious experience. It's just slightly cool.

McWhorter on Blair

John McWhorter suspected that Jayson Blair would play the race card to deflect attention from his personal and professional failings. Well, Blair played it, and it helped land him a deal for a book which will carry the preposterous title, Burning Down My Master's House. Here's an excerpt from McWhorter's piece at WSJ Online:

...Mr. Blair is a college drop-out who nevertheless was hired by the top general-interest newspaper in the country at 23, steadily promoted despite repeated flubs and professional misconduct, and just two years later was sitting pretty as a full reporter. This is decidedly not the sort of thing that was going on in the master's house back in the day. Yet Mr. Blair wants to depict himself as the aggrieved slave "acting out" against the deathless bugbear of racism.

But just what sort of anti-black bias did Mr. Blair encounter? "I don't want to go into the specifics of alleging X, Y or Z," he has said. But when James Meredith could only take his place at the University of Mississippi under armed guard, he was hardly faced with ambiguous "specifics" to "allege." And Mr. Meredith would have been flabbergasted to hear in 1962 that 40 years later, the New York Times would be rewarding a black man for incompetence.

September 16, 2003

Hurricane Preparedness

As a public service, this blog is linking to Dave Barry's Hurricane Preparedness Guide. He wrote it some time ago, but this kind of information is timeless. As Barry says:

It has some specific references to South Florida, but it should be just as useless to residents of other areas....

Yes, hurricane season is an exciting time to be in South Florida. If you're new to the area, you're probably wondering what you need to do to prepare for the possibility that we'll get hit by "the big one." The best way to get information on this topic is to ask people who were here during Hurricane Andrew (we're easy to recognize, because we still smell faintly of b.o. mixed with gasoline). Based on our experiences, we recommend that you follow this simple three-step hurricane preparedness plan:

STEP 1. Buy enough food and bottled water to last your family for at least three days.

STEP 2. Put these supplies into your car.

STEP 3. Drive to Nebraska and remain there until Halloween.

UPDATE: I see some guy named Glenn Reynolds also linked to this Barry piece. Probably some newbie scamming this blog for content.

Iraq Miscellany

A collection of Iraq-related items that have come to my attention within the last several days:

A vibrant free press is the best sign of the emerging new reality in Iraq. So for the news in Iraq, listen to the Iraqis themselves. Check out Iraq Today. Read the "About Us" page. Then bookmark it.

Karl Zinsmeister reports on one of the first post-Saddam public opinion surveys conducted in Iraq. AEI collaborated with the Zogby polling people to produce a scientific study the results of which may surprise you.

John Burns, that New York Times reporter who is giving the paper a good name, has this essay at the Editor & Publisher site. It's a great read. Burns was persona non grata in Baghdad, mainly because, unlike most of his Western media colleagues, he refused to suck up to the regime's media functionaries. (via Andrew Sullivan)

While it's a couple of weeks old, I liked this Jonathan Foreman piece that questions why anyone would assume that the U.N. would be welcome in a liberated Iraq.

Joe Katzman and Co. at Winds of Change do a great job of summarizing developments in Iraq and the media coverage of same. Here's their 9/15 Iraq Report.

Steven Den Beste's take on more U.N. involvement.

Ninth Circus

Robert Alt has an excellent summary of what the Ninth Circuit did, and why it will require the Supreme Court to revisit Bush vs. Gore. The key paragraphs:

Put simply, the Bush v. Gore ruling was not based on the fact that the counties used different voting systems. Rather, the Equal Protection claim rested on the fact that the Florida supreme court had forced a recall without providing safeguards — a brash act which led to similar punchcard ballots being counted differently even within the same county. It was this act of treating similar ballots differently which triggered the Equal Protection violation, not the fact that punchcards were used in one place and not in others.

Proponents of the Ninth Circuit's opinion will inevitably argue that the principle is the same — i.e., that voters are being treated differently from county-to-county. This fails to recognize that, while subject to error, the punchcard system is not so unreliable or "different" compared to other systems that it threatens the right to vote, or substantially dilutes votes from county-to-county. By contrast, Florida's different and changing standards concerning how much chad must be removed from similar punchcards for a ballot to qualify as a vote did undermine the rudimentary requirements of equal treatment.

September 13, 2003

50 Years of Dissent

A look at the evolution of Dissent magazine through its 50 years of existence traces leftist thought up to its current state:

The left of today seems motivated not by a desire to help those in need but by an incessant need to fragment the American community any way it can, the better to assume power and keep it. Class, race, reckless charges of conspiracy or imperialism – any wedge will do. In the meantime, government continues to grow, even under a conservative like President Bush, and the welfare state is always there, willing to annex another piece of free ground. Moreover, the political correctness brought to us by government and academic edict has put the independent thinker, not to mention common sense, at risk.

September 12, 2003

VDH 9/11/03

Questions from Victor Davis Hanson. Read it all. Here's a sample:

In our current feeding hysteria that diminishes astounding success to quagmire or worse, what disinterested observer would ever believe that in just 24 months we have liberated 50 million people, destroyed the odious Taliban and Saddam Hussein, and routed 60% of the al Qaeda leadership — all at the cost of less than 300 American dead? It is almost as if the more amazing our accomplishments, the more we must deprecate them.

September 11, 2003

Two Years On

I figure it's better to post some highlights of what other people are saying on this 9/11 anniversary, than to presume that I have anything interesting or profound to say myself. So here goes:

First off, I was reminded of why I read Andrew Sullivan almost every day. Less than one hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center two years ago, he posted this blog entry. It's worth rereading if only to appreciate the clarity of his thought so soon after the shock of the events that morning:

I have been unable to think of anything substantive to write today. It is almost as if the usual conventions of journalism and analysis should somehow remain mute in the face of such an event. How can one analyze what one hasn't even begun to absorb? Numbness is part of the intent of these demons, I suppose. So here are some tentative reflections. It feels - finally - as if a new era has begun. The strange interlude of 1989 - 2001, with its decadent post-Cold War extravaganzas from Lewinsky to Condit to the e-boom, is now suddenly washed away. We are reminded that history obviously hasn't ended; that freedom is never secure; that previous generations aren't the only ones to be called to defend the rare way of life that this country and a handful of others have achieved for a small fraction of world history. The boom is done with. Peace is over. The new war against the frenzied forces of what Nietzsche called ressentiment is just beginning. The one silver lining of this is that we may perhaps be shaken out of our self-indulgent preoccupations and be reminded of what really matters: our freedom, our security, our integrity as a democratic society. This means we must be vigilant not to let our civil liberties collapse under the understandable desire for action. To surrender to that temptation is part of what these killers want. And the other small sliver of consolation is that the constant American temptation to withdraw from the world, entertained these past few years by many, will perhaps now be stifled. We cannot withdraw; we cannot ignore. We live in a world where technology and hatred accelerate in ever-faster cycles, and in which isolation is not an option. Evil is still here. It begets evil. When you look at the delighted faces of Palestinians cheering in the streets, we have to realize that there are cultures on this planet of such depravity that understanding them is never fully possible. And empathy for them at such a moment is obscene. But we can observe and remember. There is always a tension between civilization and barbarism, and the barbarians are now here. The task in front of us to somehow stay civilized while not shrinking from the face of extinguishing - by sheer force if necessary - the forces that would eclipse us.

Then there's Mark Steyn on the sneering Left:

If 9/11 liberated the Bush administration to put into action its scheme to take over the world, then it also liberated the Western elites to embrace finally and wholeheartedly anti-Americanism as the New Unifying Theory of Everything. It didn’t have to be like that: the intellectual class could have sided with the women of Afghanistan or the political prisoners of Iraq. But the advantage of sour oppositionism is that whatever happens there’s always something to sneer at. If Osama pops up, see, he got away. If he doesn’t pop up, how do you know he didn’t get away? If he turns up dead, whoa, now you’ve made him a martyr, a thousand more will bloom in his dust.

From today's Best of the Web , James Taranto says it's not a popularity contest:

Perhaps the most fatuous post-Sept. 11 cliché is the notion that America (or "the Bush administration") has "squandered" the "goodwill" the world felt for America in the wake of the attacks. The idea seems to be that popularity is more important than national security. Probably without meaning to, John Hassell of the Newark Star-Ledger offers a parody of this argument:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly two years ago, America became a mailbox, receiving letters of condolence from all corners of the globe. Even Moammar Gadhafi and Mullah Mohammed Omar of the Taliban, no friends of the United States, sent their sympathies.

Today, after U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the launching of an ambitious enterprise to reshape the politics of the Middle East, things are very different. Polls show a deepening resentment of U.S. power worldwide, even among traditional allies. America's mailbox is again full, this time with hate mail.

Does anyone really yearn for the approval of such reprobates as Moammar Gadhafi and Mullah Omar? Anyway, we would rather be alive and hated than dead and popular. If the rest of the world likes Americans only when we're dying, the rest of the world can go to hell.

James Lileks was one of the first people I wanted to read today, and he didn't disappoint. Here's an excerpt:

Two years ago today I was convinced that every presumption I had about the future was wrong. This war, I feared, would be horrible, total, and long.

Two years later I take a certain grim comfort in some people’s disinterest in the war; if you’d told me two years ago that people would be piling on the President and bitching about slow progress in Iraq, I would have known in a second that the nation hadn’t suffered another attack. When the precise location of Madonna’s tongue is big news, you can bet the hospitals aren’t full of smallpox victims.

Michele's "Voices" project at a small victory is an exercise in remembrance and reflection. Good stuff, including lots of 9/11 links, starting here.

And via Instapundit, here's a pretty good 9/11 memorial

Another impressive list of links and all manner of 9/11 material from Joe Katzman at Winds of Change.

September 10, 2003

Falling Man

I cannot remember the last time I was so riveted by a piece of journalism as I was today, reading The Falling Man. (link via LGF) I stared at the photograph for a long time. After reading the first few paragraphs of the piece, I went back and stared at it some more. How can anyone not wonder, looking at this photo, if he or she would have, or could have been one of "the jumpers" from the upper floors of the WTC on 9/11. It is an incredible photograph. The sense of quiet in what must have been chaotic noise. Hopelessness, yet calm. The bent knee. Relaxation, upside down.

The article, from the current Esquire Magazine is the story of the photograph, and of the photographer, of a reporter, and all of "the jumpers", not just the one in the photo. Do take the time to read it all. You will not be sorry.

Some of the surviving family members interviewed by the reporter whose job it was to determine the identity of The Falling Man were insulted by the suggestion that their loved one might have jumped. Some relatively small percentage of those who died had a choice about how it would happen. Some jumped. I know people who would never in a million years choose to jump. Who was "braver"? Obviously, hundreds had no choice at all. I identify with the jumpers.

The tone and attitude of the conservative side of the blogosphere in recent days and weeks has been one of incredulousness and a certain amount of anger about the media's decision to sort of take a pass on the 9/11 anniversary, at least in terms of airing any actual footage of the World Trade Center that day. Count me as one of those who believe we should see much of it again. Or see it for the first time. Yes, it was and is respectful of those who died so publicly that day to be judicious about the use of the images of their deaths. And I'm not sure I want to see the film of the jumpers anyway, much less suggest that someone else should see it. As a country, we chose not to watch, as the author Tom Junod notes:

...like the lens of a camera, history is a force that does not discriminate. What distinguishes the pictures of the jumpers from the pictures that have come before is that we—we Americans—are being asked to discriminate on their behalf. What distinguishes them, historically, is that we, as patriotic Americans, have agreed not to look at them. Dozens, scores, maybe hundreds of people died by leaping from a burning building, and we have somehow taken it upon ourselves to deem their deaths unworthy of witness—because we have somehow deemed the act of witness, in this one regard, unworthy of us.

It would be nice to believe that the motivations of our media executives were so noble. Part of me thinks they didn't trust Americans to deal rationally and responsibly with the emotions the images would evoke. Because it is not just the footage of the individual jumpers that the major media has deemed off limits. It's nearly the entire archive of film and photographs of the events of 9/11. It is history. And seeing the footage of what they did to America that day is a History lesson. There's nothing sick or morbid, or even disrespectful of the dead, now that two years have passed, about letting America see those images again.

In A Ditch By The Side Of The Roadmap

Just for reference purposes, on the way to peace, here's the "roadmap". Phase 1, by the way, is entitled: "Ending Terror and Violence".

In a related development, the Washington Post reports:

At least 13 people were killed and dozens wounded in two suicide bombings today, the first at a bus stop and hitchhiking post near the entrance to a major Israeli military base south of Tel Aviv, followed about six hours later by an explosion at a popular cafe in Jerusalem.


Via Andrew Sullivan, a piece in the Telegraph on the BBC's liberal bias. Read it all, but here's a representative paragraph or two:

The BBC's mental assumptions are those of the fairly soft Left. They are that American power is a bad thing, whereas the UN is good, that the Palestinians are in the right and Israel isn't, that the war in Iraq was wrong, that the European Union is a good thing and that people who criticise it are "xenophobic", that racism is the worst of all sins, that abortion is good and capital punishment is bad, that too many people are in prison, that a preference for heterosexual marriage over other arrangements is "judgmental", that environmentalists are public-spirited and "big business" is not, that Gerry Adams is better than Ian Paisley, that government should spend more on social programmes, that the Pope is out of touch except when he criticises the West, that gun control is the answer to gun crime, that... well, you can add hundreds more articles to the creed without my help.

Now, none of the above beliefs is indefensible. The problem is that all of them are open to challenge and that that challenge never comes from the BBC....

...I heard an interviewer asking an Islamist, virtually unchallenged, to expound his belief that the men who killed thousands in the World Trade Centre were doing the will of Allah. Imagine such respectful treatment for some white fascist who thinks God wants black people dead...

So the Telegraph will run its Beebwatch section three times a week, and asks readers to submit examples. Maybe they're getting somewhere.

September 9, 2003


A look at Charles Bronson and the movie Death Wish by the undisputed Columnist of the Week.

Will Bush Admit A Mistake?

Will Bush do a "180" on steel tariffs now that it's apparent they have done more harm than good? Robert Novak outlines the issue.

David Brooks, in his NYT debut, says the Bushies never admit their mistakes, but that they are not so stubborn or inflexible that they won't change course...quietly.

New Look At Sportsblog

The great minds behind the recently launched Sportsblog site have been working on the "look", and sports-minded bloggers like your humble Wizblog host have been supplying what we hope is quality content. Check it out!

No, really. Click here.

The Fungi Did It

So it turns out that microscopic fungi buried under the snow are putting out large amounts of carbon dioxide and methane, to the extent that scientists will have to revise their previous estimates about the causes of these greenhouse gases, and their effects on global warming. And to think, we thought it was cow flatulence that was responsible. (link via The Corner)

September 8, 2003

The Iraq Effect

Amir Taheri says that the liberation of Iraq is already having a liberalizing effect on Arab nations. Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, among others, have already instituted some reforms.

More Steyn

I can barely blog fast enough to keep up with Mark Steyn columns. No this blog is not going to be an "all-Steyn-all-the-time" affair, but this one is priceless. Noting the new, revised Clintonian version of the Prokofiev story, Peter and the Wolf, in which Peter lets the wolf go free instead of caging it, Steyn draws the parallel to some folks' persistent attitude about terrorism, even two years after 9/11:

Two years after ''the day America changed forever,'' the culture is in thrall to the same dopey self-delusion it held on Sept. 10, 2001: There are no enemies, just friends we haven't yet apologized to.

And as to the TV networks' decision to ignore the 9/11 anniversary:

On the day itself, it was all too chaotic and unprecedented for the news guys to impose any one of their limited range of templates. For the first anniversary, they were back on top of things and opted to Princess Dianafy the occasion, to make it a day of ersatz grief-mongering, with plenty of tinkly piano on the soundtrack and soft-focus features about ''healing circles.'' That didn't go down too well, so this year they've figured it's easiest just to ignore it. The alternative would be to treat 9/11 as what it was -- an act of war -- and they don't have the stomach for that. War presupposes enemies, and enemies means people you have to kill, or at least stop, or at the very least be ever so teensy-weensily judgmental about. And, in an age when presidents rewrite ''Peter And The Wolf'' to end with Peter apologizing to the wolf, why should the network sob sisters be any tougher?

September 6, 2003

Lileks Fires Up

Read Friday's Bleat. Lileks gets on Sony, and then gets all over some Metafilter poster who questions his right to be angry about 9/11, him being white and all.

Kelly Co-opted

Once again it becomes absolutely necessary to link to a Mark Steyn column . For one thing, Steyn masterfully skewers the antiwar left for their fundamental unseriousness. And for another, he made me laugh out loud with the first use of the term "front-bottom" that I have heard since the days of my early childhood, when all six of us kids took baths together, and we needed a word to describe what the girls had instead of a penis. Must be a British thing.

Post 9/11 Gibberish

I saw this essay by Geoffrey Wheatcroft via a link from Pejmanesque a few days ago, but didn't have the chance to read it until last night. Wheatcroft, a writer from The Guardian, opposed the invasion of Iraq, but makes the case in Two Years of Gibberish that the inane pronouncements and fatuous prose from the left has embarrassed and stripped credibility from those with principled objections to the war.

There are numerous quotable and amusing passages in the piece, and you really should take it all in. But I can't help excerpting a few lines below, just for fun:

Maybe there was nothing useful to say, but then writers and performers seldom follow the advice that if you can’t think of anything sensible to say, keep quiet. Silence would have surely been better than the cloud of exotic prose which rose like fumes from the wreckage, as sundry scribblers did their best to justify Karl Kraus’s saying that a journalist is someone who has nothing to say but who knows how to say it...

Wheatcroft goes on to cite many examples of such "gibberish" complete with their "we had it coming", and "root causes" justifications. But...

Because the critics of the Bush administration and Blair government made themselves so ridiculous in the aftermath of 11th September, the proper case against the Iraq war was subsequently much weakened. Sane critics of Bush and Blair must have been embarrassed by the sheer emptiness of the Voices for Peace, one of the instant books which came out in autumn 2001, in which Mark Steel, Ronan Bennett, Annie Lennox ("I’m sorry, but I just don’t get it"), George Monbiot ("Let’s make this the era of collateral repair"), Anita Roddick ("We must shift from a private greed to a public good") and other usual or unusual suspects were rounded up...

So what is it that explains today's liberal left affinity for and with radical Islam, so ideologically opposed are they to religious extremism in other forms? Wheatcroft suggests what it is that they have in common:

Today, credulous doting on Islam is not just an expression of western self-hatred. On the face of it, Islam and the western left have nothing in common at all. But they do, in fact, something profoundly important. They share the common experience of defeat. Islamic terrorism is not a function of success but of failure. As a culture and society, Islam enjoyed a glorious golden age between the 8th and 12th centuries, but it has been in decline for many centuries past, some would say since the first fall of Baghdad.

As the 20th century ended, it saw another great defeat. Marxism-Leninism long predeceased Soviet Russia; even democratic socialism has conceded victory to the competitive free market...... To re-read that catalogue of nonsense from two years ago is to realise that their descendants simply aren’t serious any longer.

Read it all.

Asking For Trouble

Reuel Marc Gerecht thinks using more foreign troops in Iraq may be a bad idea. Especially Arab Muslims from neighboring countries. We might as well have the Hatfields guarding the McCoys. These thugs have already shown that they hate U.N. diplomats and moderate Shiite clerics no less than they hate American soldiers. Anyone attempting to bring order and democracy to Iraq is their enemy. Here's an excerpt from the Gerecht article:

The Bush administration's embrace of odd, counterproductive notions is nowhere more evident than in its energetic pursuit of foreign Muslim troops for Iraq. The reasoning for these deployments--which probably won't happen unless the United States gets the consent of the French, Germans, and Russians at the U.N.--apparently is that Iraqi Muslims would respect foreign Muslim troops more than they respect American soldiers. Leaving aside why in the world the Bush administration would want to deploy Muslim soldiers from nondemocratic countries to Iraq, the Muslim-likes-Muslim sentiment behind this argument is a myth. Middle Eastern history teaches the opposite. Since the dawn of the 19th century Muslim states have shown much greater confidence in the professionalism of Western soldiers than of fellow Muslims. Rulers and intellectuals may say nasty things about Westerners publicly, but privately they have consistently shown that they feel safer with infidels than they do with their own. After the first Gulf War, the Persian Gulf states made a big show of wanting the Egyptians and the Syrians, not the Americans, to assume the responsibility for their security. No Egyptian or Syrian soldier ever landed. The sheikhs and the intellectuals may hate us in their hearts; but they absolutely don't want to entrust their property, wives, and daughters to foreign Arab Muslims.

Shiite Iraqis in particular are acutely conscious that their Arab and Muslim brethren didn't support the war against Saddam. Indeed, Iraqis watched on Arab satellite television with bitter enmity and black humor the antiwar demonstrations throughout the Middle East (and in Europe).

Bucks Underwhelm SDSU

The Ohio State Buckeyes came out today and played like they felt San Diego State was going to roll over and play dead for the mighty national champions. Although they won the game 16-13, they looked bad doing it, and caused me to swear profusely throughout. They committed stupid penalties, got badly outcoached, and generally acted as if they were in a fog. The play calling was unimaginative, but we're used to that in Buckeyeland. But today QB Craig Krenzel passed the ball like he was the one making his first start ever. The San Diego State QB, who was making his first ever start, looked like the composed and savvy veteran.

Most distressing were the late hits and other personal foul penalties. Seven of SDSU's 20 first downs were by penalty. That is uncharacteristic of Jim Tressel teams. Seems to me the Buckeyes came out a bit full of themselves after their dominating performance last week on national tube, and then when they got punched in the mouth early with an interception on their first play, they decided to get rough. But they were doing it after the whistle, and outside the sidelines.

The offense is still way too predictable and limited in scope. If they don't take it up a couple notches next Saturday, the winning streak will end at the hands of NC State.

September 5, 2003

Glad You Asked

More "Questions From the Back of the Class" by Joel Engel. For example:

When Palestinian prime minister Mahmoud Abbas warned Israel to "understand that there is no military solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict," why did he not repeat the same to Hamas and Hezbollah and all the other terrorist groups who've publicly and repeatedly stated that peace can never be made with "the Zionist entity" under any circumstances? And why do press reports repeatedly allude to the terrorists' desire for "statehood," when by their own words what they desire more is genocide?

Got Milk

From Washington Dispatch, Greg Lewis issues a challenge to the legitimacy and constitutionality of the Harvey Milk School:

The separate-but-equal philosophy implicit in the Harvey Milk School's segregationist admittance policy is as dangerous to the legal foundations on which this country operates as it was when it was applied prior to the late 1950s to keep black students from attending white schools. And for the defenders of such a practice to resort to the court of public opinion is no less specious than was the appeal to racist public opinion prior to Brown v. Board of Education.

Good News on Vouchers

The Washington D.C. school vouchers program came one step closer to becoming a reality today when the amendment containing the measure passed in the House. It had been approved in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday. The D.C. schools are among the nation's worst, and this plan had bipartisan backing (for a change), though it was still opposed by teachers unions and those Democratic congressmen who do their bidding.

The bill contains a significant amount (approx. 33%) of funding that will go to the public schools, (on top of the $10,550 per student, per year that they are already spending), so in effect, it gives them more money with which to educate fewer students. Sadly, this was the tradeoff, or bribe if you will, that was necesary to get the bill the backing that it needed to pass.

Let me make sure I get this right. All funding for the $7500 scholarships to allow students to attend private schools comes from the voucher bill's funds. In other words, it's "new" revenues. For each student admitted to the program, the public school system has an extra $10,550 that they no longer need to spend educating that student. I realize that it's not a "dollar for dollar" net savings to the system as a result of having one less student, but in reality, they will have the same amount of money to educate significantly fewer kids.

The argument against voucher programs by opponents is that they would "drain" money from the public schools. But even if the funding for the vouchers wasn't coming from new voucher program revenues, the schools should have a net gain of $3000 per student, (if the full $7500 private school tuition came out of public funds.) So now, with the additional public school funds coming from the vouchers bill, the public system will have millions more to spend educating less students. It shows how desperate D.C. politicians and citizens were to get a "foothold" by starting up even an experimental voucher program. And it also demonstrates yet again the political clout of teacher unions, as they are able to acquire more taxpayer money to do less work.

The Center for Educational Reform, a pro-school choice group, has a document called Fast Facts on Washington D.C. School Reform (.pdf file), which includes a summary of "The Top Nine Lies About School Choice":

1. The “Undermining-America” Argument
“’Opportunity Scholarships’ sound terrific, until you understand its Orwellian meaning: Give up on public education in America; stop investing in it; siphon off as much of its funding as you can to enable a few ‘deserving poor’ to go to private (mostly religious) schools,
and to hell with all the kids left behind.” –
Sandra Feldman, President, AFT.

Students shouldn’t be forced to remain in failing schools just to provide financial support to the system. Public education is about children, not others with a vested interest in the monopoly system. Plus, as economists Martin and Kathleen Feldstein comment, “most proposals are for vouchers that are considerably less than actual per-pupil expenditures, so… students who use vouchers to attend private schools will free up financial resources that can be spread among the children who remain in the system.”

2. The “Creaming” Argument
“At best, vouchers offer increased opportunity for a relative handful of children who will be carefully selected by the private schools that have the luxury of deciding whom they want to admit.” – Steven R. Shapiro, Legal Director, American Civil Liberties Union.

John Witte found in his review of the Milwaukee voucher program that “the students in the Choice program were not the best, or even average students from the Milwaukee [public] system.” Worse according to other researchers, nearly 37 percent of Milwaukee’s public schools employ screening measures prohibited for schools in the choice program. Finally, wealthier parents often have already moved their children to neighborhoods with better public schools or to private schools. The fact of the matter is low-income parents are left behind by the current system, and all school choice programs are targeted at those parents.

3. The “Radical Schools” Scare
“Can you imagine a KKK group, Skinheads, witches or other cult groups setting up schools to teach their philosophy and using taxpayers’ dollars to do so?” – Former California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown.

Approximately 96 percent of private school children attend schools that are
accredited or evaluated by national, regional or state private school organizations maintaining standards accepted or recognized by federal, state, and local agencies, according to Dr. Charles O’Malley, who handled private education issues for three U.S. Secretaries of Education.

4. The “Church-State” Argument
“Taxpayers must never be forced to pay for religion.” – Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Executive Director, Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

In June 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parents exercising their individual free choice could use vouchers on private schools — whatever their affiliation.

5. The “Lack of Accountability” Argument
“Voucher programs lack accountability… Public schools must also comply with all federal, state, and local civil rights, health and safety requirements.”;- Statement by several organizations, including the ACLU, Anti-Defamation League, National PTA, and NEA.

Schools of choice are accountable directly to parents, who voluntarily choose to
enroll their children in them. When such schools aren’t doing their jobs, they lose students, and can go out of business. Not so for public schools.

6. The “Big Brother” Argument
“Private school vouchers would make parochial schools less parochial and private schools less private, subjecting them to public supervision and compromising their independence.” – Richard Riley, former Secretary of Education.

Sound choice plans include provisions to protect the independence of private
schools. The most compelling evidence comes from the Milwaukee experience. The longest running school choice program of its kind, the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program has not led to excessive or intrusive regulations on private schools. In fact, with every passing year, more private schools have opted to participate in the program (from seven in the first year to 102 now).

7. The “Choice is Expensive” Argument
“A voucher rarely covers the cost of tuition. The losers will be the minorities and the low income students.” – - Representative Robert Scott, D-Virginia.

As the U.S. Department of education reported in June 2003, the average private
school tuition is $4,689, while the average public school expenditure per pupil was $7,392, more than 50 percent higher than average private school tuition costs.

8. The “Choice is Limited” Argument
“A simple mathematical exercise will immediately point out that the numbers don’t work. A voucher system, regardless of the amount of money provided, can only accommodate a minimal number of public school students.” – Gerald Tirozzi, former Assistant Secretary of Education.

As demand for private and alternative public schools increases, so too will their
supply. As previously mentioned, the number of private schools in the Milwaukee
program rose from seven to 102. In another choice program, the number of charter schools have grown from one to nearly 3,000 since 1992.

9. The “Failed Experiment” Argument
“There is no compelling case to be made for vouchers based on the achievement data.” – Alex Molnar, Professor, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

Even though choice is just in its infancy and has had to contend with court challenges, underfunding, and constant legislative threat, research shows it is working. In New York City, DC, Ohio, Wisconsin, and other places, researchers have shown that in choice programs the most at-risk students post gains in excess of those earned in the public school system.

September 4, 2003

Pakistanis Arrested in Toronto

I had not heard much of this major arrest of suspected Pakistani terrorists in Toronto until reading this article at Front Page Magazine today. But it's chilling. The use of a "diploma mill" college to acquire "student" visas, casing a nuclear power plant, taking flying lessons, and expermenting with explosives. Now there have been arrests made, and the cries of racial profiling are heard from Muslim organizations. Where are the voices of decent, tolerant, law-abiding Muslims when this stuff happens?

The National Post had this coverage of the arrests on 8/23.

British Anti-Semitism

From Melanie Phillips, a British journalist and commentator, an analysis of the prevailing mood in the UK. It's not pretty. Here's an excerpt:

And it is the Left which now openly promulgates the opinions that Israel should not exist, that it is a Nazi state and that the Jews control America.

Why does the Left take this position? The most obvious explanation is that it demonizes America and capitalism and lionizes the Third World and all liberation movements.

At a deeper level, its embrace of victim-culture means that it now confuses truth with lies. People are increasingly unable to make moral distinctions based on behavior; there is a tendency to equate and then invert the role of the perpetrators of violence and that of their victims, so that self-defense is misrepresented as aggression while the original violence is viewed sympathetically as understandable and even justified. The human bomb is therefore a hero, while his victim had it coming.....

...This has produced an Orwellian situation in which hatred of the Jews now marches behind the banner of anti-racism and human rights; and in which, moreover, a strategic nexus has been forged between Europe and the Arabs. Europe has waited more than 50 years for a way to blame the Jews for their own destruction. So instead of sounding the alarm over genocidal Islamist Jew-hatred, the Europeans have embraced a narrative that depicts the Jews as Nazis.

September 2, 2003

Plain Talk...

...from Michael Ledeen at NRO:

I have been arguing for the better part of two years that we should think of the terrorists as a group of mafia families that have united around a single war plan. The divisions and distinctions of the past no longer make sense; the terror mafias are working together, and their missions are defined by the states that protect, arm, fund, and assist them: Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia...

...In the last ten days of August, more than 3,000 terrorist operatives crossed from Iran to Iraq, despite recent Coalition efforts to "seal the border." Some of them have been detected by Iraqi security forces, who have found that the Iranians have co-opted members of some of the organizations we have nominated to govern the country.

A man described by the Times as a "senior Iraqi former exile" grimly remarked that "Iran is winning this war, not America" and asserted that Iranian Shiites were working hand-in-glove with armed Sunni groups. And a Mr. Dawoud (head of customs at Munthriya) agreed: "We didn't get rid of Saddam just to give Iraq to these people....Nobody is stopping them. Soon it will be too late."

A.S. Returns

Andrew Sullivan is back from vacation. Unfortunately, a month off doesn't seem to have improved his state of mind. Hey Andrew, if we want pessimism, we can listen to the Democratic presidential candidates and read the New York Times.

In a new article evaluating Bush's vulnerability in 2004, Sullivan says:

...the sense of drift in the Bush administration's foreign and domestic policy, and the body-count in Iraq have all eroded George Bush's margin of error in the coming political season. The White House has been predicting a close election for a long time. Now it seems less like expectations-management and more like insight.

The War on Ashcroft

The New York Times leads, the rest of the media follows. When the Times distorts, the distortion is amplified by other media outlets. Heather MacDonald, in City Journal says that is what has happened concerning a recent Justice Dept. report on complaints of civil rights violations related to enforcement of the Patriot Act.

This blog had some recent links and comments on the Patriot Act debate, and is sensitive to claims that there are real civil rights concerns about some of its provisions that should be hashed out. But the idea that the Justice Department is exploiting the War on Terror to pass heavy-handed legislation, or systematically violating the rights of innocent Muslims in its enforcement doesn't hold up to serious examination. That is, if one looks past the inflammatory headlines and politicized rhetoric. An excerpt from the MacDonald article:

The inspector general recounts only two complaints for which substantiating evidence has turned up. They hardly support the idea that the war on terror has corrupted the federal government into committing widespread civil-rights abuses. In the first, a prison guard has admitted to abusing a Muslim inmate verbally. The charge: that he had ordered the inmate to remove his shirt in order to use it to shine the guard’s shoes. The Justice Department hasn’t determined whether the guard actually carried out his threat. In the second complaint, the Bureau of Prisons substantiated the charge that a prison doctor had taunted an inmate. The inmate claimed that the doctor threatened: “If I was in charge, I would execute every one of you . . . because of the crimes you all did.”

Such insults, however deplorable, are irrelevant to the validity of the legal authority granted under the Patriot Act. Neither the guard nor the doctor was acting under Patriot Act powers; they were fulfilling prison duties that existed long before the act. The vast majority of post-9/11 complaints are garden-variety prison abuse cases, almost always by guards. It is sad but true that prison guards do not always behave professionally. No one argues, however, that we should therefore abolish criminal laws, trials, or prisons. To use the ugly behavior of a few rogue immigration guards (and one doctor)—obviously mad as hell about 9/11—to discredit the Bush administration’s carefully thought-out program to improve intelligence gathering against terrorists is a non sequitur. What exactly are the New York Times and its civil-libertarian satellites suggesting—that the government stop investigating terror suspects because there’s a chance that some will be taunted in jail?

Even if some of the claims have merit, MacDonald suggests we put it in the context of the task faced by Justice:

Some perspective, please: the number of complaints under investigation, even if all prove true, is a minute fraction of the thousands of contacts that the government has had with immigrants from terror-sponsoring and -breeding countries over the last two years. In the previous six months alone, the government interviewed thousands of Iraqis for intelligence and re-registered tens of thousands of Middle Eastern and North African immigrants. Thirty-four facially valid complaints of abuse and disrespect out of tens of thousands of contacts testifies to the law enforcement community’s professionalism.

"Losing bin Laden"

Robert Novak profiles the new book by Richard Miniter that is subtitled "How Bill Clinton's Failures Unleashed Global Terror". It centers around a meeting after the bombing of the USS Cole in October, 2000 in which all but one of Clinton's key advisors counseled against striking bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan:

Hours after the attack, Clarke presided over a meeting of four terrorism experts in the White House Situation Room. He and the State Department's Michael Sheehan agreed this almost certainly was bin Laden's doing, but the FBI and CIA representatives wanted more investigation.

That deadlock preceded a meeting of Cabinet-level officials that same day. Clarke proposed already targeted retaliation against bin Laden's camps and Taliban buildings in Kabul and Kandahar. At least, they would destroy the terrorist infrastructure. A quick strike might also get Osama bin Laden. "Around the table," Miniter writes, "Clarke heard only objections." As related by Clarke, the meeting exemplified ministerial caution.

Atty. Gen. Reno, told by the FBI that the terrorists were still unidentified, argued that retaliation violated international law. Reno and the CIA's Tenet wanted more investigation. Secretary of State Albright is quoted as saying that with renewed Israeli-Palestinian fighting, "bombing Muslims wouldn't be helpful at this time." (Albright later told Miniter she would have taken a different position if she had "definitive" proof of bin Laden's involvement.)

I'm sure there was a degree of "ministerial caution" after 9/11 as well. But by then we had a President that didn't govern on the basis of focus groups and opinion polls. Besides, in the Fall of 2000, the Clintons were busy working on the Marc Rich pardon, and ripping off the silverware from Air Force One.

September 1, 2003

Jacoby Calls Out Harvard

Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe calls on Harvard University to return $2.5 million donated to the Divinity School by Sheik Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.

Jacoby's story credits Harvard student Rachel Fish with applying the pressure that eventually forced the Sheik to close down the Zayed Center, a "think tank" that had spread vicious anti-Semitic and anti-American hate propaganda. (link via LGF)

The United Arab Emirates, stung by the bad publicity, announced that the Zayed Center would be shut down. In time it may resurface under a different name, but for now it is out of business, its websites are closed, and its anti-Semitic output has been turned off. Because one young person refused to back away from a fight, the plug has been pulled on a leading purveyor of hatred.

Oh, and Harvard? It announced on Friday that it would need another year to decide what to do about Sheik Zayed's money. Rachel Fish's work isn't finished.

Kudos to Fish for her principled stand, and thanks to Jacoby, (Breindel Award winner), for giving her story a voice.