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November 30, 2003

Questioning Moussaoui

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a detailed account of the arrest and the pre-9/11 interrogation of Zacarias Moussaoui, the so called "20th hijacker". (link via Power Line)

Remember The HSCA

Like a lot of people, I've read a few articles and watched a TV special or two on or about the 40th anniversary of the JFK assassination, and my sense is that there is a growing acceptance in this country of the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. This development baffles me.

It seems that stating one's belief in the "lone assassin theory" has become the vaccine used by media people, bloggers, and even minor league catchers to inoculate themselves against potential charges of irrationality. It is preferably specified up-front, so that whatever else they are about to say can be considered reasonable, sane, and non-partisan. The term "grassy knoll" has come to be associated with slightly loony conspiracy theory, from the Leno monologue to the op-ed pages. The message is clear. If you don't believe what the Warren Commission told you, you are a little bit crazy, or at best, gullible.

Ten years after the publication of his 1993 book, Case Closed, lone assassin theorist Gerald Posner has been held up as the example of sanity by the same media that acclaimed the book back then, in order to reassert the claim that yes, Oswald acted alone. That Posner's omissions, distortions and factual errors have been amply documented since 1993 seems to have escaped the scrutiny of his media admirers.

There is even an effort to rehabilitate the long-discredited Warren Commission Report. A piece by Gleaves Whitney at NRO a week ago contains his bald assertion that "Warren was right" and further, that:

"No significant, credible body of evidence indicates that Oswald acted in concert with others. There was no conspiracy, foreign or domestic, that brought Kennedy down".

I suppose Mr. Whitney's perspective should be considered however, in light of his position as the head of The Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. One assumes that the Center's "studies" focus largely on Grand Rapids' "favorite son", and the lone surviving member of the Warren Commission, Gerald Ford. Could this be a case of resume-polishing?

Whitney also makes the following claim as a simple statement of fact. The reality is that it contains a blatant falsehood:

In 1979 the House Select Committee on Assassinations reopened the case and concluded that the commission, in the main, got it right: that Oswald fired the gun that killed the president, and that he likely acted alone."

Back to that lie in a minute.

The fact that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) was even necessary is a result of the politicized, compromised, distortion of fact that was the Warren Commission Report. In 1976, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that, "almost immediately after the assassination", the administration pressured the FBI to "issue a factual report supporting the conclusion that Oswald was the lone assassin." And Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach said three days after the shooting that "speculation as to Oswald's motivation ought to be cut off".

In 1966, when the Warren Commission's primary evidence became available to the public, and the report's omissions and distortions of their own evidence became apparent, a diverse group of prominent citizens and organizations, including William F. Buckley, Walter Lippman, Richard Cardinal Cushing, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Life Magazine, and others called for a new investigation.

Now, by way of my own little disclaimer, let me say that I am by no means a JFK assassination scholar, nor even a "hobbyist", as some of these folks call themselves. A few years ago I was researching voter fraud and possible Mob influence in the 1960 presidential election, and was referred by a national opinion columnist to a 1988 book called Contract on America, by David Scheim. In that book, subtitled "The Mafia Murder of President John F. Kennedy", Scheim works exclusively with evidence already accumulated by the official investigators to make the case that JFK was murdered by a group associated with Carlos Marcello, the New Orleans Mafia boss, and that this group included, as either player or "patsy", Lee Harvey Oswald.

And while I was then, and am still to this day persuaded that Scheim has it right, it was one of the very first statements cited in the book, and one not wedded to any particular conspiracy theory, that struck me that day. It is the proof of the "lie" by Gleaves Whitney referenced above, and a fact seldom cited by the media in TV specials or documentaries.

In 1979, in the report of its findings, after an exhaustive two-year study of the available evidence, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated: "The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy."

I remember that my reaction reading this, circa 1996, was something like, "Huh?...Really?... They found that?...That's what the report said?"

I mean, I knew that by about 1976 polls showed that 75-80% of Americans believed that a conspiracy was involved in the assassination, but somehow, the fact that this had also been the conclusion of the House Committee had "left" me. (Full disclosure: One of my overused gags about my first fifty years on the planet is that there are by now "a few things I can't remember....like the 70's.") It's no wonder people lose sight of the 1979 HSCA findings these days, what with all the scorn now routinely heaped on anyone who dares suggest such a thing now that the years have rolled along, and memories have faded. A young person watching a Peter Jennings JFK special might assume that the official "government" position was, and always had been, the "lone assassin" position.

But there it is. Right on the website of the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in the text of the summary of the HSCA Findings:

I. Findings of the Select Committee on Assassination in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy

I.A. Lee Harvey Oswald fired three shots at President John F. Kennedy. The second and third shots he fired struck the President. The third shot he fired killed the President

I.B. Scientific acoustical evidence establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at President John F. Kennedy. Other scientific evidence does not preclude the possibility of two gunmen firing at the President. Scientific evidence negates some specific conspiracy allegations

I.C. The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that President John F. Kennedy was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy. The committee was unable to identify the other gunmen or the extent of the conspiracy

I.D. Agencies and departments of the U.S. Government performed with varying degrees of competency in the fulfillment of their duties. President John F. Kennedy did not received adequate protection. A thorough and reliable investigation into the responsibility of Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination was conducted. The investigation into the possibility of conspiracy in the assassination was inadequate. the conclusions of the investigations were arrived at in good faith, but presented in a fashion that was too definitive.

So Gleaves Whitney claimed that the HSCA "concluded" that Oswald "likely acted alone." Is that what it looks like to you that the HSCA concluded? (I think that at the very least, NRO and Whitney owe their readers a correction and/or apology)

As you can see if you follow the link, the NARA site is easily navigable, and a mouse click on the text of one of the main "findings" links to the supporting text and detailed findings of the committee for that particular topic.

Among the subheadings linked to the item I.C., on the conspiracy, are the following two "findings":

The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that the national syndicate of organized crime, as a group, was not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

The committee believes, on the basis of the evidence available to it, that anti-Castro Cuban groups, as groups, were not involved in the assassination of President Kennedy, but that the available evidence does not preclude the possibility that individual members may have been involved.

Of course, the Mafia connection forms the basis of the Scheim book, but he explores the anti-Castro group involvement as well, (along with the obvious overlap between the two groups, owing to Mafia anger at the Castro regime for ousting them from their lucrative Cuban casino operations.)

The HSCA report finds that the Warren Commission never really seriously considered the possibility that underworld figures could or would assassinate Kennedy (among other things they never seriously considered). An excerpt from this section of the HSCA report:

Both Attorney General Kennedy and President Johnson privately voiced suspicion about underworld complicity.(249) The Attorney General requested that any relevant information be forwarded directly to him, and there was expectation at the time that the recently created Warren Commission would actively investigate the possibility of underworld involvement. (250)

The committee found, however, that the Warren Commission conducted only a limited pursuit of the possibility of organized crime complicity. (251) As has been noted, moreover, the Warren Commission's interest in organized crime was directed exclusively at Jack Ruby, and it did not involve any investigation of the national crime syndicate in general, or individual leaders in particular.(252) This was confirmed to the committee by J. Lee Rankin, the Commission's general counsel, and by Burt W. Griffin, the staff counsel who conducted the Ruby investigation. (253) Griffin testified before the committee that "...the possibility that someone associated with the underworld would have wanted to assassinate the President... [was] not seriously explored" by the Warren Commission. (254)

This is the kind of information that makes it all the more risible for commentators like Whitney to defend the Warren Commission by talking about things that they didn't find.

Anyone who has ever Googled the JFK assassination knows that there are dozens of web sites devoted to various conspiracy theories, (including one with a full confession by the purported Grassy Knoll trigger-man. Disputed here.) Nearly as many sites are devoted to the debunking of the former variety. One of the tactics practiced by the anti-conspiracy crowd is to dispute or disprove one aspect or detail of the theorist's argument so as to cast doubt on the grand scheme. Another is to suggest how ridiculous the scenario would be if we assumed that ALL the conspiracy theories are true. Imagine that every single Dealey Plaza "shooter" ever theorized actually existed, and envision the veritable hail of bullets directed at the presidential limo on 11/22/63.

For me, generally an Occam's Razor kind of guy, the Scheim hypothesis that a Mafia conspiracy killed JFK seems a much more plausible theory than the "lone assassin" idea, especially in light of the acoustical and video (Zapruder) evidence, along with the HSCA findings, all of which point to multiple shooters.

Scheim's Contract on America, The Mafia Murder of John F. Kennedy, is a meticulously researched book, with over 250 pages of appendices and footnotes included in its 625 pages. I can't possibly do justice to it here in trying to summarize Scheim's case. If you are reasonably interested in the case, I know you'll find the book riveting. If you're confused, conflicted or even generally ignorant about the JFK assasination case, I'd strongly suggest you just spring for the paperback, read it, and stop wondering so much about what happened in Dallas. For those who would prefer to hold onto their six bucks, I'll try to relate some of the thrust of the Scheim book, with links to text from the HSCA Report to back it up.

Scheim makes his case for a Marcello-directed Mob hit by presenting and analyzing the evidence on three main fronts:

1) Scheim documents the motives and the means possessed by Carlos Marcello, as well as by his Mafia associates Santos Traficante and Jimmy Hoffa to murder the President. He examines in great detail the network of Marcello operatives, the Cuban exile connections, and includes direct threats made by Marcello and others on the lives of JFK and Robert Kennedy. He persuasively links Jack Ruby, Lee Harvey Oswald, and other assassination suspects such as David Ferrie and Eugene Hale Brading to the Marcello syndicate, and to each other.

2) He documents Ruby's extensive Mob involvement, (a fact deliberately concealed by the Warren Commission), his cozy relationship with the Dallas Police Department, and his activities during and after the weekend of the assassination and the Oswald murder, all of which point overwhelmingly to his involvement in the greater conspiracy to murder the President, and not simply to silence his assassin. Included in this mountain of evidence is the trail of records that shows extensive telephone contacts and personal meetings between Ruby and a number of national Mafia figures, clustered in the seven month period between the initial announcement of JFK's Dallas visit and November 22, 1963. He recounts Ruby's literal stalking of Oswald for the entire weekend after the murder, and reconstructs the meticulous timing and planning of the Oswald shooting, including Dallas Police involvement, demolishing Ruby's story of a "spontaneous" fit of grief and anger, that moved him to shoot Oswald.

3) Scheim documents the stories of the many witnesses, reporters, mobsters, and other figures who were murdered, (many in typical Mob fashion) either just before they were scheduled to testify before one official investigation or another, or just after having done so. He names numerous others who were beaten, intimidated, or simply fled for their lives out of fear that they would be killed for what they knew. People like reporters Bill Hunter and Jim Koethe, Hank Killiam, one known pre-assassination link between Ruby and Oswald, Rose Cheramie, Lee Bowers, Mobster Johnny Roselli, George DeMohrenschilt, Roger Craig, and oh yes, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Note: Because the Scheim material from Contract on America is not available online and thus cannot be "linked", I have included some rather large excerpts in the remainder of this post, for which I am hereby apologizing in advance. I have included some historical and contextual detail from the book to try to broaden the picture, (not to attempt to set a record for longest blog post ever).

For some detail on that first item relative to Carlos Marcello, the following is excerpted from Scheim, (pp 78-82):

Carlos Marcello

Under Robert Kennedy’s leadership, by the year 1963 the size of the Justice Department’s antiracketeering section had quadrupled, the list of Mob targets for prosecution had grown from 40 to more than 2300, and the rate of convictions against racketeering figures had more than quadrupled…

…While the Mafia chafed under the aggressive anticrime program of Robert Kennedy, the root of its problem was his brother, the president. As a Senator on the McClellan Committee in the late 1950’s, John Kennedy had acquired the same orientation toward what he called a “nationwide, highly organized, and highly effective internal enemy”

One particular member of the Mafia National Committee had the power, the jurisdiction, and the rabid hatred of the Kennedys to coordinate an assassination contract against the President in Dallas…

As reviewed for Congress in 1970 by Aaron Kohn, director of the New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission, (Carlos) Marcello’s criminal enterprise:

“required, and had, corrupt collusion of public officials at every critical level including police, sheriffs, justices of peace, prosecutors, mayors, governors, judges, councilmen, licensing authorities, state legislators, and at least one member of Congress.”

…Before Kennedy became President, Marcello enjoyed the dearth of official interference characteristic of his profession…But Marcello’s free ride came to a halt in 1960, with the election of President Kennedy. Even before the president’s inauguration, Attorney General-designate Robert Kennedy targeted the Mafia overlord of Louisiana for special attention by the Justice Department. And just three months after President Kennedy assumed office, under Robert’s instructions, Marcello was arrested, handcuffed, and summarily flown to Guatemala, pursuant to a longstanding order to deport him. When the enraged Mafia boss illegally reentered the United States and had his lawyers challenge the order, the Kennedy Justice Department greeted him with federal indictments on charges of fraud, perjury, and illegal reentry. In addition, following Robert Kennedy’s guidelines, the FBI intensified its scrutiny of Marcello.

In November 1963, Marcello was cleared of the fraud charge, after a trial marred by alleged jury tampering and a plot to murder a prosecution witness. His acquittal was announced just three hours after the event that spelled his ultimate freedom from the law; the assassination of President Kennedy. And the following report provides an initial clue that this too, was within the sphere of Marcello’s murderous machinations. The information was first disclosed in The Grim Reapers, published in 1969, by Ed Reid, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and former newspaper editor. The source was Edward Becker, a businessman and sometime private investigator. Becker confirmed Reid’s report and provided additional information in a 1978 interview with the House Assassinations Committee.

In September of 1962, Becker and an associate, Carl Roppolo, met with Marcello to seek financing for an oil additive product they were planning to market. The meeting was arranged without difficulty because of Roppolo’s close relationship with Marcello. The site of the gathering was an elegantly furnished office in a farmhouse on Churchill Farms, Marcello’s 3,000-acre plantation outside New Orleans. As author Reid recounted, the conversation began with underworld pleasantries, the talk becoming relaxed and familiar as the Scotch flowed. But Carlos’ mood changed when the government’s drive against organized crime was brought up and Robert Kennedy’s name was mentioned:

“Livarsi na petra di la scarpa” Carlos shrilled the Mafia cry of revenge: “Take the stone out of my shoe!”

“Don’t worry about that little Bobby son of a bitch”, he shouted. “He’s going to be taken care of.”

Becker told the House Assassinations Committee that Marcello had become very angry and had “clearly stated that he was going to arrange to have President Kennedy murdered in some way”. Marcello explained his intentions with an analogy comparing President Kennedy to a dog and Attorney General Kennedy to its tail. “The dog will keep biting you if you only cut off its tail”, Marcello observed, but the dog would die if its head were cut off. Marcello also offered a less allegorical rationale for the choice of victim, as reported in an FBI synopsis of a 1967 interview with Reid:

“They could not kill Bobby because the President would use the Army and the Marines to get them. The result of killing the President would cause Bobby to lose his power as Attorney General because of the new President”

Becker told the House Assassinations Committee that Marcello’s plan to murder President Kennedy appeared serious and deliberate. Marcello had even alluded to the manner in which he intended to carry out the contract. According to Becker, Marcello indicated that an outsider would be used or manipulated to do the job, so that his own lieutenants would not be linked to the crime.

Although Becker was disturbed by Marcello’s words, he did not believe Marcello would be able to follow through on his plan, and had grown accustomed to underworld figures making such vituperative remarks about their adversaries. But after the assassination, as the House Assassinations Committee paraphrased, Becker:

“quickly came to believe that Carlos Marcello had in fact probably been behind it. He reached this opinion because of factors such as Lee Oswald having been from New Orleans, as well as Jack Ruby’s underworld associations. Becker stated that “it was generally thought in mob circles that Ruby was a tool of some Mob group.” Becker further stated that he had learned after the assassination that “Oswald’s uncle, who used to run some bar, had been part of the gambling network overseen by Marcello. He worked for the Mob in New Orleans.”

The HSCA Report had this to say about Carlos Marcello:

(6) Carlos Marcello.--The committee found that Marcello had the motive, means and opportunity to have President John F. Kennedy assassinated, (263) though it was unable to establish direct evidence of Marcello's complicity.

In its investigation of Marcello, the committee identified the presence of one critical evidentiary element that was lacking with the other organized crime figures examined by the committee: credible associations relating both Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby to figures having a relationship, albeit tenuous, with Marcello's crime family or organization. (264) At the same time, the committee explicitly cautioned: association is the first step in conspiracy; it is not identical to it, and while associations may legitimately give rise to suspicions, a careful distinction must always be drawn between suspicions suspected and facts found.

As the long-time La Cosa Nostra leader in an area that is based in New Orleans but extends throughout Louisiana and Texas, Marcello was one of the prime targets of Justice Department efforts during the Kennedy administration.(265) He had, in fact, been temporarily removed from the country for a time in 1961 through deportation proceedings personally expedited by Attorney General Kennedy. (266) In his appearance before the committee in executive session, Marcello exhibited an intense dislike for Robert Kennedy because of these actions, claiming that he had been illegally "kidnaped"by Government agents during the deportation. (267)

While the Warren Commission devoted extensive attention to Oswald's background and activities, the committee uncovered significant details of his exposure to and contacts with figures associated with the underworld of New Orleans that apparently had escaped the Commission.

See also the HSCA accounts of their investigation into the possible involvement of Santos Traficante and James Hoffa


Lee Harvey Owswald's links to the Mafia are rarely discussed, but as you can see, they were not insignificant. The following is excerpted from Scheim (pp. 63-67):

Lee Harvey Oswald, age 24, had moved to Dallas from New Orleans in October 1963 with his wife Marina, and two daughters. His marksmanship was marginal, and he had no apparent motive to kill President Kennedy. Yet after the Dallas shooting, with remarkable dispatch, he was arrested, proclaimed the lone assassin and then permanently silenced by Jack Ruby’s revolver.

This rapid apprehension and judgment fixed Oswald in the public mind as President Kennedy’s assassin. But serious problems in the police case against him and evidence of a grassy knoll gunman raise questions as to his role in the events of November 22. Was Oswald set up as a fall guy, as he maintained, possibly recruited to perform some compromising action to link him to the assassination? If he was assigned to fire some shots at the motorcade, did he follow through, or did he back out at the last minute, perceiving the trap that had been laid? Was Oswald a Marxist, as some of his actions suggest, or were his many contacts with anti-Castro elements a better reflection of his political orientation? These questions are provocative, yet thousands of documents and scores of independent investigations have failed to yield definitive answers….

…There is one line of evidence concerning Oswald however, as developed by the House Assassinations Committee, that may shed light on his sponsor in whatever assassination role he played.

The circumstances surrounding an arrest for disturbing the peace provide a hint of the helping hand behind Oswald. On August 9, 1963, Oswald was handing out pro-Castro leaflets in New Orleans for the Fair Play For Cuba Committee. He got into a scuffle with three Cuban exiles, and police intervened, arresting all four men. On the surface, the incident appeared to illustrate Oswald’s commitment to Communist causes and his propensity to commit erratic actions to further his beliefs.

Yet two features of Oswald’s arrest indicate far different involvements. First, the building at 544 Camp Street, the address on Oswald’s pro-Castro leaflets, housed only Cuban activists of an anti-Castro bent – including the Cuban Revolutionary Council, Guy Banister, and David Ferrie. Moreover, as the House Assassinations Committee reported, Oswald was associated with quite a few anti-Castro activists in 1963, despite his professed pro-Castro leanings.

The second interesting feature of this arrest was the source of Oswald’s assistance in dealing with it. Oswald was bailed out of jail by Emile Bruneau, a liquor store owner, state boxing commissioner, and associate of Nofia Pecora, one of Marcello’s three most trusted aides. (Pecora was called by Jack Ruby a month before President Kennedy was assassinated, as will be discussed later). Bruneau was also an associate of another Syndicate deputy of Marcello. And Oswald was visited the night after his arrest by his uncle Charles F. “Dutz” Murret, who questioned him at length, and advised him how to resolve it. Murret, a criminal operative in the empire of New Orleans Mafia boss Marcello, had in fact had a lifelong influence on his nephew.

Since his earliest childhood, his natural father having died months before his birth, Oswald looked upon uncle “Dutz” Murret as a surrogate father. Oswald lived with Murret and Murret’s wife Lillian until age three and at other periods during his childhood and adolescence. When Oswald and his mother got their own apartment, Oswald visited the Murrets weekly. And Oswald kept in touch with the Murrets during his years in the Marines and in the Soviet Union.

When questioned by the Warren Commission in 1964, Murret testified that he kept his distance from his nephew after Lee returned from the Soviet Union. But the record shows that their close contact continued. In April 1963, when Oswald returned to New Orleans he stayed with the Murrets while scouting out a job and a home for his family. Oswald and his wife Marina saw the Murrets frequently during 1963, during which period Murret loaned money to Oswald, gave him rides and provided him with other assistance. One of these many contacts occurred in July 1963, when Oswald traveled with Charles and Lillian Murret to Mobile, Alabama to visit their son. While in Mobile, Oswald gave a talk about his experiences in Russia. Dutz Murret paid for the trip.

Murret’s close contact with Oswald is noteworthy given his status as a long-time and lucrative bookmaker who subscribed to the Marcello-controlled racing wire service. Implicated in FBI files as having operated illegal gambling clubs in New Orleans since the 1940’s, Murret worked closely with Sam Saia, a top underworld gambling figure in New Orleans who was close to Carlos Marcello. Several witnesses told the House Assassinations Committee that Murret was probably associated with other New Orleans Mob figures, including Marcello himself. Oswald was familiar with his uncle’s criminal activities, discussing them with his wife, Marina, in 1963.

Murret was not Oswald’s only point of contact with organized crime. Oswald had grown up on Exchange Alley in New Orleans, a center of notorious underworld joints and Mafia-affiliated gambling operations. His high school was regarded by some “as the alma mater, so to speak, of kids who frequently graduated to various criminal and underworld careers.” Furthermore, Marguerite Oswald, Lee’s mother was for many years a close friend of Mobster Sam Termine, who in turn was close to Carlos Marcello. Termine had in fact “spoken of serving as a Marcello chauffeur and bodyguard”, the House Assassinations Committee reported, “while he was actually on the State payroll, in the Louisiana State Police (similar Mob-police affiliations have surfaced frequently in both New Orleans and Chicago). Marguerite Oswald twice refused to provide any specific information about Termine when questioned by the House Assassinations Committee.

These underworld family connections of Oswald, which surfaced in the assistance he received following his August 9 arrest, suggest a different picture than that of the erratic, pro-Marxist loner portrayed in the Warren Report. Also jarring to the latter was the testimony of Sylvia Odio, a wealthy Cuban exile, the most significant of several reports linking Oswald to anti-Castro activity.

Odio told the Warren Commission that two months before President Kennedy was assassinated, three men – two Latins and an American – came to her Dallas home requesting her help in an anti-Castro fundraising campaign. The American was introduced to her as “Leon Oswald”. The next day, one of the Latins telephoned Odio to tell her that he was bringing the American into the exile underground. The man told Odio that the American was an ex-Marine and kind of crazy. He also related to her that the American had said that “ President Kennedy should have been assassinated after the Bay of Pigs.” Following the assassination, after seeing television footage of Oswald, Odio confirmed that the “Leon Oswald” she had met was in fact the suspected assassin.

The Warren Commission discounted Odio’s testimony based on the conflicting and later impeached account of another witness plus inconclusive evidence that Oswald was elsewhere around the date of the meeting she reported. After reinterviewing Odio and conducting an extensive background check on her testimony, however, the House Assassinations Committee concluded that Odio was telling the truth. The Committee noted that Odio’s sister, Annie, who was present at the meeting supported her story and found other circumstances that supported Odio’s credibility.

Oswald’s accessibility to both organized crime and the anti-Castro movement was represented in his association with assassination suspect David Ferrie. Their acquaintance probably began in the mid-1950’s, when Oswald was a cadet in a Louisiana Civil Air Patrol squadron commanded by Captain David Ferrie. Several witnesses confirmed to the House Assassinations Committee that Oswald and Ferrie were in the squadron at the same time; one reported that “it is a certainty.” Six other witnesses, whom the Committee found “credible and significant”, testified that Ferrie and Oswald were definitely together in Clinton, Louisiana, in early September 1963, less than three months before the assassination.

This early September meeting thus brought together two assassination suspects, David Ferrie and Lee Harvey Oswald, who had spoken of a need to assassinate President Kennedy and were accessible to those with the motive to kill him.

Much of this data on the Oswald-Marcello connection is confirmed in the HSCA Report here.

David Ferrie

David Ferrie represents a direct link between Carlos Marcello and Lee Harvey Oswald, as this excerpt from Scheim demonstrates:

In February 1967, the Kennedy assassination case took a dramatic turn following a sensational development in New Orleans. Jim Garrison, the city’s district attorney, announce that he had uncovered an assassination conspiracy, and would prosecute the culprits. The press quickly identified and descended upon one of Garrison’s key suspects, David Ferrie, a pilot with a bizarre personality, who had worked for Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss of New Orleans. Among the reporters who pursued Ferrie was George Lardner, Jr., of the Washington Post, who spoke with him between midnight and 4 a.m. on February 22. The drama intensified when Ferrie was found dead in his apartment with a cerebral hemorrhage later that day.

As the Garrison probe continued, as will be discussed shortly, its thrust became increasingly questionable. Yet, the New Orleans leads to which Garrison called attention put critics on an intriguing trail – a trail that led to Mafia boss Carlos Marcello.

In the case of David Ferrie, the link to Marcello was, as Look magazine summarized, “strong” and “well known”. Ferrie knew Marcello well, telephoned him several times, and was reported by several sources to have flown Marcello back to the United States after Marcello’s deportation to Guatemala. Ferrie’s ties with the Mafia boss were particularly intensive in the fall of 1963, when Ferrie was employed by attorney G. Wray Gill on Marcello’s deportation case. And Marcello was listed as a sponsor for a service station Ferrie operated in 1964.

Ferrie was also a rabid anti-communist, demonstrating a dual affiliation that was common in the wake of Castro’s appropriation of the Mob’s lucrative gambling casinos in Cuba. He provided flight instruction, armaments and money to the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC), an anti-Castro organization. And he associated with men like Guy Banister, a private detective, and a reputed bigwig in the ultraright Minutemen. Even in his anti-Castro activities, Ferrie may have served as a financial conduit for Marcello, as suggested by an FBI report of April 1961.

Like his associates in organized crime and anti-Castro circles, Ferrie loathed President Kennedy. Questioned by the FBI after Kennedy’s death, Ferrie admitted that following the Bay of Pigs invasion, he had “severely criticized” Kennedy both in public and in private. Ferrie claimed he had no real murderous intent, but “might have used an offhand or colloquial expression, “he ought to be shot’”. Ferrie also admitted that he had said anyone could hide in the bushes and shoot the president.

Ferrie’s questionable alibi for November 22 and the few days following hardly precludes the possibility that he followed through on his “offhand” remark….

…Initial police suspicions of Ferrie thus proved to be solidly founded. He had made overtly threatening statements against the president. His alibi for November 22 through 25 was incongruous, contradictory, and curiously reliant on counsel by attorneys for Carlos Marcello. And Ferrie was closely involved with the Mafia boss during and before this period, meeting him personally on the two Saturdays before the assassination. These contacts were especially significant in light of Ferrie’s contacts with another prime assassination suspect, Lee Harvey Oswald.

Jack Ruby

Scheim devotes more space to Jack Ruby in his book than to any other single character or event, and for good reason. Given what we have known about Ruby since November 24, 1963, it therefore follows that if it can be demonstrated that Ruby played a role in the murder of JFK, then "conspiracy" is proven. At this task, Scheim is utterly persuasive.

First, it is established beyond doubt that Ruby was a career gangster. He was involved in prostitution, gambling, rackets, and extortion, among other things. At the same time, he was on a first name basis with an estimated two-thirds of the 1200 Dallas City policemen, and most of the politicians and reporters. He was not a bigwig, though. He was a functionary, a "fixer". As Scheim says in the introduction to the chapters on Ruby:

It is important to understand, however, that Ruby was by no means a dominant figure in the assassination conspiracy. Rather, his role emerges like that of a plant foreman or a stage manager. His qualifications for the final act of this role, the spectacular execution of Oswald, was his special position in the Syndicate. For Ruby was not so nototiously linked to the Mafia to have made its assassination involvement obvious. Yet he was close enough to have been expected to keep its code of silence- without the help of yet another execution.

But in the last analysis, this balance of proximity collapsed on both counts. For under post-assassination scrutiny, Ruby's Mob ties were exposed. And by the time of his final official hearings, Ruby had neither the criminal loyalty nor the callousness to maintain his silence about the horrible act in which he had conspired

Because of his role as a low-level gangster and strip club owner, it is noteworthy that in the seven months between April 23, 1963 and November 24, 1963 Ruby was involved in a cluster of meetings and phone calls with not just the big time Dallas bosses like Josph Campisi and Joseph Civello, but also with national mob figures like Barney Baker, Frank Chavez, Frank Caracci, Joseph Glaser, Irwin Weiner and Alexander Gruber. He communicated with known Mob killers like Lenny Patrick and David Yaras, and was visited or called by numerous key associates to the big boys, Marcello, Traficante and Hoffa.

Scheim documents dozens of events, circumstances, and exploded alibis, and the official testimony of numerous associates, employees, friends and Mobsters that all point to the involvement of Jack Ruby in the plot to murder the President. Two at random are the accounts of Rose Cheramie and Karen Carlin.

Rose Cheramie, who had worked for Ruby, was picked up on a Louisiana highway on November 20, 1963, bruised and battered, and told her doctor at the Louisiana State Hospital two days before the event, that the "word in the underworld" was that Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas.

Karen Carlin was a stripper and reported prostitute at Ruby's Carousel Club establishment, and was to be a key player in Ruby's ill-fated alibi for his whereabouts on the morning of November 24, 1963 when Ruby shot Oswald. From the statement by Secret Service Agent Roger C. Warner, who interviewed Warner that same day:

"Mrs. Carlin was highly agitated and was reluctant to make any statement to me. She stated to me that she was under the impression that Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby and other individuals unknown to her, were involved in a plot to assassinate President Kennedy and that she would be killed if she gave any information to the authorities.

The HSCA Report sections relative to Jack Ruby can be found here. Some of the text relating to Ruby's phone and personal contacts with national Mafia figures is excerpted here:

The committee investigated other aspects of Ruby's activities that might have shown an association with organized crime figures. An extensive computer analysis of his telephone toll records for the month prior to the President's assassination revealed that he either placed calls to or received calls from a number of individuals who may be fairly characterized as having been affiliated, directly or indirectly, with organized crime. (82) These included Irwin Weiner a Chicago bondsman well know as a frontman for organized crime and the Teamsters Union;(83) Robert "Barney" Baker, a lieutenant of James R. Hoffa and associate of several convicted organized crime executioners:(84) Nofio J. Pecora, a lieutenant of Carlos Marcello, the Mafia boss in Louisiana (85) Harold Tannenbaum, a New Orleans French Quarter nightclub manager who lived in a trailer park owned by Pecora;(86) McWillie, the Havana gambler;(87) and Murray "Dusty" Miller, a Teamster deputy of Hoffa and associate of various underworld figures.(88) Additionally, the committee concluded that Ruby was also probably in telephonic contact with Mafia executioner Lenny Patrick sometime during the summer of 1963. (89) Although no such call was indicated in the available Ruby telephone records, Ruby's sister, Eva Grant, told the Warren Commission that Ruby had spoken more than once of having contacted Patrick by telephone during that period. (90)

Testimony to the committee supported the conclusion that Ruby's phone calls were, by and large, related to his labor troubles. (94) In light of the identity of some of the individuals, however, the possibility of other matters being discussed could not be dismissed.(95)

In particular, the committee was not satisfied with the explanations of three individuals closely associated with organized crime who received telephone calls from Ruby in October or November 1963. (96)

In assessing the significance of these Ruby contacts, the committee noted, first of all, that they should have been more thoroughly explored in 1964 when memories were clearer and related records (including, but not limited to, additional telephone toll records) were available. Further, while there may be persuasive arguments against the likelihood that the attack on Oswald would have been planned in advance on the telephone with an individual like Ruby, the pattern of contacts did show that individuals who had the motive to kill the President also had knowledge of a man who could be used to get access to Oswald in the custody of the Dallas police. In Ruby, they also had knowledge of a man who had exhibited a violent nature and who was in serious financial trouble.

The committee noted that other Ruby activities and movements during the period immediately following the assassination--on November 22 and 23--raised disturbing questions. For example, Ruby's first encounter with Oswald occurred over 36 hours before he shot him. Ruby was standing within a few feet of Oswald as he was being moved from one part of police headquarters to another just before midnight on November 22.(134) Ruby testified that he had no trouble entering the building, and the committee found no evidence contradicting his story. The committee was disturbed, however, by Ruby's easy access to headquarters and by his inconsistent accounts of his carrying a pistol. In an FBI interview on December 25, 1963, he said he had the pistol during the encounter with Oswald late in the evening of November 22. But when questioned about it by the Warren Commission, Ruby replied, "I will be honest with you. I lied about it. It isn't so, I didn't have a gun." (135) Finally, the committee was troubled by reported sightings of Ruby on Saturday, November 23, at Dallas police headquarters and at the county jail at a time when Oswald's transfer to the county facility had originally been scheduled. These sightings, along with the one on Friday night, could indicate that Ruby was pursuing Oswald's movements throughout the weekend.

Yes, I do realize that all of these thousands of words have proven nothing conclusively, least of all an airtight assassination conspiracy case. All I have accomplished is an airing out of information that, when taken in the aggregate, suggests some underworld involvement in the JFK murder. But for having read this far, you deserve a merciful wrap-up of this monstrocity, so here goes:

The longest, most involved and thorough investigation ever into the assassination of JFK concluded that he was probably murdered as a result of a conspiracy. All one need do is read the report of the House Special Committee on Assassinations to be overwhelmed by the "preponderance of the evidence" that Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone. So forgive me if I'm baffled and disgusted when the media predominantly pushes the line about the "loner" Oswald who acted alone, and strictly out of ideology, and the redneck Ruby who acted out of grief and patriotism, and put a nice little bow on the whole nasty incident.

Because it's nonsense. And that's what your Congressional committee told you in 1979, about the Warren Commission Report of 1964, albeit in the most polite way possible. It's just that nowadays, a lot of people choose not to remember the conclusions of the HSCA.

November 28, 2003

The Dawn Of LeBron

Charles Pierce of Slate gets his first look at LeBron James.

His game is modest. That's the first thing you notice about him. He doesn't force anything, unlike his teammate Darius Miles, the up-from-high-school sensation of a couple of years back who looks as though he'll never learn that simplest of all rookie lessons. James' jump shot is still an inconsistent jumble of mismatched motions, but he doesn't press it, either. His vision and his sense of the game's rhythms, however, are exquisitely mature and damned near flawless. If some of the Cavaliers don't get accustomed to that part of his game, James is going to kill one of them some night with a pass.


Power Line covers the surprise visit by President Bush to Baghdad. Here's the Reuters coverage. Already we're hearing the criticisms by the Democrats , with no doubt more to come in the days ahead. How much did the trip cost American taxpayers? He's exploiting the war for a political photo-op...blah, blah.

Howard Kurtz reports that the Washington press corps has mixed feelings about the "deception" that was necessarily involved.

All I can think of to say is "Thanks, that's what a Commander-in-Chief is supposed to do."

November 27, 2003

Our Man In Iraq

Here's an interesting profile of General John Abizaid from The Atlantic Online. The commander of all U.S. troops in the Middle East looks like the right man at the right time.

Klehr and Haynes Interview

Professors John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr were among the first people to examine the archives of the former Soviet Union when they were opened in the mid-90's, and their research and writing on the topic of Cold War Soviet espionage in America and the Venona transcripts establish them as perhaps the preeminent scholars in that field today.

Their books, The Secret World of American Communism, Venona, Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, and The Soviet World of American Communism , through archival material and decoded Venona communications, helped to demolish any doubt as to the guilt of the Americans who worked as Soviet spies, notably the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss. They are also able to prove beyond doubt that the CPUSA was funded and directed from Moscow, a fact long denied by the American left.

In fact, these realities are accepted as such most everywhere today, with the exception of American academia, where tenured leftists, masquerading as scholars and historians, continue to ignore or deny these uncomfortable truths.

In this interview with Jamie Glazov of Front Page Magazine, Klehr and Haynes discuss their new book, In Denial, Historians, Communism & Espionage. They liken the ongoing attempt to revise and cleanse the history of American communism and related Soviet espionage to Holocaust denial, in terms of its audacity, and its willful denial of demonstrable and widely accepted fact. It's a good read. Here's a quote from Klehr:

Why does it all matter? Why should people care about arguments among historians about American communists or whether spies like the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss and Lauchlin Currie and Harry White were innocent or guilty? Because this concerns the history that gets taught in the high schools and colleges and the view that American students have of their country's past. Take Joe McCarthy. He's the poster boy for the view that anticommunism led to horrible persecution in post WWII America. A few years ago the proposed National History Standards for High School mentioned him more times than any other American in that era. He was a demagogue. But how many students understand that hundreds of American communists did spy for the Soviet Union? That there was a serious problem of subversion? ...

And these issues are not "merely" historical. Many of the historians we discuss in our book make very clear that their goal is to indoctrinate a new generation of students in order to build a new radical movement...

...For some of the historians we discuss there is a disconnect with reality. They are unwilling to deal with evidence; they are unwilling to employ logic. Instead they retreat into a fantasy world.

UPDATE 12/7: Here's a review of the Klehr & Haynes book by Arnold Beichman, from The Washington Times.

November 24, 2003

Kimball on Political Correctness

From Armavirumque, the weblog of The New Criterion magazine, comes this excerpt from a speech by TNC managing editor Roger Kimball that won him the 2003 Douglas-Home Trust prize. A couple of excerpts from the excerpt:

Political correctness can be seen as part of the perennial human attraction to moral conformity, to be part of what the American art critic Harold Rosenberg called the "herd of independent minds"...

...the phenomenon of political correctness is a great teacher of the often overlooked fact that the preposterous and the malign can cohabit happily. The student accused of lookism can be severely penalised, as can the student accused of "misdirected laughter"...

...Indirection--moral subtlety, an appreciation of human imperfection--is a resource untapped by the politically correct. In their pursuit of a better, more enlightened world, they let an abstract moralism triumph over realism, benevolence over prudence, earnest humourlessness over patience.

I've been hooked on Kimball ever since I read The Long March , his wonderful critique of how the 60's cultural revolution changed America. I can't wait to read the rest of his award-winning PC talk.

November 23, 2003

Some Days You're The Dawg...

...and some days you're the fire hydrant. Sure feels like the latter tonight after watching my "Rivalry Week" fizzle, with both the Buckeyes and Browns coming up short this weekend. I care more about the Bucks. But this Browns loss today really bites.

I can accept defeat graciously (no, really) when my team is outplayed in a good game by a quality opponent, like how the Buckeyes were taken apart yesterday by Michigan. But on the heels of that deflating pasting, it's tough to take the regular seat in Section 129 today, and watch the Browns giftwrap a win for the mediocre Steelers.

Five turnovers for the Browns to none for the Steelers tells you almost all you need to know. I feel bad for the Browns defense, because they played great but couldn't bail out the bumbling offense all day long. They held the Steelers without a first down for the first and third quarters, and held them under 100 total yards through three quarters of play. You're supposed to win when you do that.

The play-calling down inside the 10-yard line (on those two possessions on which we scored a total of zero points) was pretty lame. I'd like to be a bug on the wall in that postgame meeting between Butch Davis and Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians. I know the natives are restless. Between the men's room group therapy session after the game, and the hike back up to 9th and Lakeside, I listened to a lot of fans sounding off, and the griping centered mostly on QB Kelly Holcomb's two devastating interceptions ("I told you Couch is the man!") and the questionable play-calling by Arians (or Davis?).

I do know that you can't lay the blame for this loss on the much-maligned offensive line. They pass-protected extremely well for Holcomb. When he was sacked it wasn't because he didn't have enough time to throw. And the run blocking allowed James Jackson to gain about 95 yards with a decent average per carry. And they did that with Center Jeff Faine missing most of the last three quarters.

This one just proves that you can't combine the "giving" of Christmas and the United Way drive and hope to win in the NFL. We handed this one to the Steelers with a great big bow on it. You're welcome.

Note: This item is cross-posted at Sportsblog. Check out the new look of the site at Sportsblog, along with lots of new features.

November 21, 2003

Why Istanbul?

Walid Phares on the subtle changes in Al Qaeda strategy. Strike at Christianity in the Middle East, and at the Israeli-Turkish alliance:

Why did al-Qaida and its sub-entities aim at the British consulate and a British bank in the former capital of the Ottoman Empire? The geographical setting is clear. Turkey – or secular Republican Turkey - is a passage for Democracy to the Muslim region. Weakening the Ankara fortress is a must for the radical Islamists. It remains the real and most imminent reason behind the blasts: It is a blow to Great Britain. Unlike the message trumpeted by some journalists, al-Qaida doesn’t fight the United Kingdom because of its alliance with the United States, but because of what the British culture and commitment to freedom mean.

Aiming at London from Istanbul, the Jihadists know who their enemies are: President Bush of America and Prime Minister Blair of England. The two leaders have decided to meet amidst raging demonstrations to reset the course of the War on Terrorism. Bin Laden and Ayman al-Thawahiri know very well that after Afghanistan and Iraq, the next stage is a global campaign to support the democratic dissidents in the Middle East. President Bush’s latest speech on “Democracy in the Middle East” was a lethal weapon of mass dissemination. Al-Qaida knows this speech, if allowed to germinate in the minds of a thinking people, could harm its control over the masses now pledging their sons -- and daughters -- for a violent jihad against civilization.

UPDATE 11/24: More historical perspective from Norman Stone in the WSJ.

November 19, 2003

Equality...It's Time

Andrew Sullivan has lots to say on the gay marriage issue. Check it out.

David Brooks argues persuasively that support for gay marriage is entirely consistent with conservatism.

And Jonah Goldberg notes how the political leadership of both parties is avoiding the issue, sensing that the courts are way ahead of public opinion on this one.

November 18, 2003

"Anti-War" My Ass

What a joke that the British protestors are granted the descriptive adjective "anti-war" by media commentators. I saw Christopher Hitchens tonight on MSNBC making the obvious (and Orwellian) point that the protestors are objectively pro-Saddam or pro-Al Qaeda if they oppose the common objectives of the U.S. and the Iraqi people. The Baathists and the imported Islamic terrorists are the only ones making "war" in Iraq today. Ralph Peters tries to explain some of the Bush-hatred in Europe in this wonderful column today. I couldn't help excerpting some of my favorite lines, but do go read it all:

Bush is worse than Saddam, you see, because he refused to look the other way. His resolve is an embarrassment.

American wars of liberation humiliate the complainers on the left. We've seized their professed ideals and made them a reality. We fought for freedom, while they only chattered. Their protests are the result of wounded egos...

...President Bush is an especially appealing target for their scorn, since he's the least European U.S. president since Andrew Jackson. Bush speaks awkwardly, but acts powerfully. The European ideal is a politician who speaks beautifully and does nothing....

Why Iraq? Because it was doable, while North Korea isn't. Because we bore a special responsibility, due to our bygone support for the Baghdad regime. Because Saddam had launched wars of aggression unmatched by other contemporary dictators. Because he did seek weapons of mass destruction. Because the situation in Iraq continued to worsen. And because you have to start somewhere.

No coward has ever been short of good reasons for doing nothing.

And on essentially the same topic, Mark Steyn is brilliant, as usual. An excerpt:

the post-9/11 grand harmonic convergence of all the world's loser ideologies, from Islamic fundamentalism to French condescension, is untroubled by anything so humdrum as reality or logic. There's "no connection" between Saddam and al-Qa'eda, because radical Islamists would never make common cause with secular Ba'athists. Or so we're told by pro-gay, pro-feminist Eurolefties who thus make common cause with honour-killing, sodomite-beheading Islamists, apparently crediting Saddam with a greater degree of intellectual coherence than they credit themselves.


So who are these protestors really? Amir Taheri, in today's NRO, lays it out:

The demonstration is organized by a shadowy group called "Stop the War Coalition," part of the Hate-America-International, which has orchestrated a number of street "events" in support of the Taliban and the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein since 2001.

When I called the coalition to ask whether the idea was to stop all wars, a spokeswoman assured me that this was not the case.

She referred me to the first article of the coalition's charter that states: "The aim of the coalition is simple: to stop the war currently declared by the United States and its allies against 'terrorism.'"

"We really want to stop Bush and Blair from going around killing babies," she said. "Our objective is to force the U.S. out of Iraq and Afghanistan."

But what if a U.S. withdrawal means the return of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein?

"Anything would be better than American Imperialist rule," she snapped back.

Who are these nostalgics of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein?

The coalition has a steering committee of 33 members. Of these, 18 come from various hard left groups: Communists, Trotskyites, Maoists, and Castrists. Three others belong to the radical wing of the Labour party. There are also eight radical Islamists. The remaining four are leftist ecologists known as "Watermelons" (Green outside, red inside).

The chairman of the coalition is one Andrew Murray, a former employee of the Soviet Novosty Agency and leader in the British Communist party. Cochair is Muhammad Asalm Ijaz of the London Council of Mosques. Members include John Rees of the Socialist Workers' party and Ghayassudin Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament. Tanja Salem of the Al-awdah (The Return) group, an outfit close to Yasser Arafat, is also a member along with Shahedah Vawda of "Just Peace," another militant Arab group, and Wolf Wayne of the "Green Socialist Network."

A prominent member is George Galloway, a Labour-party parliamentarian under investigation for the illegal receipt of funds from Saddam Hussein. In his memoirs, Galloway says that the day the Soviet Union collapsed was "the saddest day" of his life.

Galloway says the only terrorism in the world today comes from the United States, not from organizations such as al Qaeda or the remnants of the Iraqi Baath party.

The coalition was created in London in September 2001, at first as an exclusively leftist concoction bringing together the remnants of the Stalinist "peace movement" of the 1950s, diehard "no nukes" activists, and some fellow travellers.

The coalition has succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. For the first time ever it has brought together all radical leftist and anarchist groups. Under its umbrella march such traditional former archenemies as Stalinists and Trotskyites.

So, there you have it. Just a bunch of regular, peace-loving folks.

UPDATE 11/18: Go read this at Instapundit

A 30-Year Old Arafat Murder

In 1973 in Khartoum, Sudan, U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel Jr. and George Curtis Moore, a U.S. diplomat were kidnapped and brutally murdered by an organization headed by Yasser Arafat. It took Scott W. Johnson a while, but now his research has demonstrated that the operation had the direct approval of Arafat, and that the U.S. State Dept. has sidestepped the issue and has never attempted to bring Arafat to justice for this multiple murder.

It's obviously no news flash that Arafat is and always has been a thug, a terrorist and a murderer. And the Noel story isn't "news" either. But at least the Freedom of Information Act can occasionally expose government lies and distortions that used to go unchallenged. Kudos to Johnson for his perseverance. Interesting article.

November 17, 2003

What Double Standard?

Victor Davis Hanson:

Consider Operation Desert Fox of December 1999. While mired in an impeachment scandal, President Clinton ordered four days of bombing against supposed WMD facilities in Iraq. Few claimed that he had bombed to divert domestic attention from his own political troubles, much less that the absence of any proof of destroyed weapons facilities suggested there was none there to begin with. President Clinton was not pilloried for either preemption or unilateralism — although he did not go to the Senate for approval; did not seek U.N. discussions; and he did not make the case that Saddam had first attacked us — and of course he sought no multilateral resolution. Nor was NATO or Europe involved. General Zinni oversaw operations and in a press conference confessed that perhaps as many as 4,000 Iraqis could have been killed, including some civilians. There were no peace marches, no condemnatory European editorials, and very few Republican allegations that in a year before a national election the United States had unnecessarily and cynically aimed bombs at facilities that were neither proven to have made weapons nor later destroyed. No retired general accused General Zinni of unnecessary war making or inflicting collateral damage — or called Clinton a "chicken-hawk."

Double standard, (take two):

...remember the pathetic scene of a Gen. Clark during the recent Democratic debate, who castigated the president of the United States at a time of war while deferring to the wisdom of Al Sharpton. Take out a mass murderer, free 26 million, and you will earn charges of incompetence if not treason; slander a DA, fabricate a crime, and fan the flames of riot and racial hatred, and you will win respect from a Democratic frontrunner. For Republicans who must resort to war, the primary challenge will not be the fighting itself, but rather the perception that the United States was inherently wrong to have fought in the first place.

He Should Get Out More

From The Independent:

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, launched a stinging attack on President George Bush last night, denouncing him as the "greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen".

Which planet is that, Ken?

UK Supports Bush, U.S.

From The Guardian:

A majority of Labour voters welcome President George Bush's state visit to Britain which starts today, according to November's Guardian/ICM opinion poll.

The survey shows that public opinion in Britain is overwhelmingly pro-American with 62% of voters believing that the US is "generally speaking a force for good, not evil, in the world". It explodes the conventional political wisdom at Westminster that Mr Bush's visit will prove damaging to Tony Blair. Only 15% of British voters agree with the idea that America is the "evil empire" in the world.

Bush The Radical

Can George Bush be a "neocon" and a progressive at the same time? Daniel Pipes suggests that his candor, clarity, and radicalism in matters of foreign policy are becoming his trademark, the rule as opposed to the exception.

"Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe."

This sentence, spoken last week by George W. Bush, is about the most jaw-dropping repudiation of an established bipartisan policy ever made by a US president.

Not only does it break with a policy the US government has pursued since first becoming a major player in the Middle East, but the speech is audacious in ambition, grounded in history, and programmatically specific. It's the sort of challenge to existing ways one expects to hear from a columnist, essayist, or scholar – not from the leader of a great power...

..."this gamble is typical of a president exceptionally willing to take risks to shake up the status quo.

But it's risky, as Pipes admits:

Washington was rightly apprehensive that democracy would bring in more radicalized governments; this is what did happen in Iran in 1979 and nearly happened in Algeria in 1992....

...Bush's confidence in democracy – that despite the street's history of extremism and conspiracy-mindedness, it can mature and become a force of moderation and stability – is about to be tested.

So is it a good idea? Count Martin Kramer among the "doubters". Reflecting what might be called the "be careful what you ask for" school, Kramer warns:

A lot of the press coverage compares the President's idealism to Ronald Reagan's.... Frankly, the President's speech reminded me more of Jimmy Carter's human rights idealism, with its heavy overtones of missionary purpose. At the end of the day, Carter's human rights diplomacy in the Middle East undermined only one regime: the Shah's. The result was not a net gain for human rights or U.S. interests.

Andrew Sullivan echos Pipes on Bush's radicalism, and seems relieved that Bush still sees the "big picture":

The odd cruise missile strike; diplomatic initiatives to failed despots; appeasement of terror; and acquiescence in Euro-cynicism about the Arab potential for democracy - all these were made moot by 9/11. They were no longer viable options. We either aggressively engaged or we hunkered down and prayed that a calamity would not at some point strike us all. To its historic credit, the Bush administration resisted its own early isolationist impulses and took the high road. To their eternal shame, the French and Germans, the far rights, the far left, and many (but not all) of the Democrats opted for inaction or a replay of the failed policies of the past. What this president did was radical, progressive, risky....

...We are fighting for the defense of liberty in the world - again. And we are now trying to bring it to the one region and culture which has been untouched by it for so long: the Middle East...

...Islamism is a political ideology as dangerous and as evil as the totalitarianisms of he past century. It is abetted by tyranny; and requires a huge effort to defeat. What the president said yesterday was the first front in the task of spreading this message across the region...

...This isn't a replay of Vietnam. It's a replay of an earlier, nobler war that changed the world for the better. Those are still the stakes today. And we cannot let cynicism or partisanship prevent us from winning the fight.

Fighting Internet Taxation

A small group of Senators are attempting to stall the passsage of Senate bill S.150, the Internet Tax Nondiscrimination Act, which would permanently ban new taxes on Internet access and services other than electronic commerce transactions. This article by Dave McClure at TCS, exposes what he calls "The Five Great Lies About Internet Taxation". Check it out.

November 15, 2003

Case Closed

Regular readers of this blog (if such a breed exists) know that I have highlighted the reporting of Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard on evidence of links between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and the Al Qaeda terorist organization. In his new piece titled "Case Closed" , Hayes details a top secret memo that has been obtained by The Weekly Standard.

The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America's most determined and dangerous enemies.

Hayes has been meticulously documenting these same connections in a series of articles since May, 2003, links to all of which can be found here. But that has not kept many in the media and on the political left from blithely asserting that no such links exist, and that Bush had lied, and exaggerated the links as a pretext for a foreordained war against Hussein.

I'm not sure, but perhaps this memo, along with Hayes' reporting, will be enough to shut up Al Gore, Molly Ivins, Carl Levin, Michael Moore, (get real), and others that have long denied or ignored the fact that Iraqi intelligence has been supportive of, and collaborating with Islamic terrorism. (I guess Hussein's boasting of his $25,000 bonus payments to families of Palestinian suicide bombers might have been Clue One, but some have remained clueless).

Enough rambling by me. Please read the whole Hayes article. It's fascinating, and it's important.

Typically Reuters

The Reuters News Service, now famous for the reporting philosophy, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", has published a list of the "worst terror attacks" since 9/11/01.

Charles Johnson of LGF points out the glaring omission of ANY of the suicide bombings by Palestinian terrorists in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, many of which had higher death tolls than other incidents that are listed. Since the death toll itself is apparently not the qualifying criterion for the list, one can only infer that the particular variety of human being victimized in these attacks is the reason Reuters feels they are not "bad" enough to be among their "worst".

Well, I guess it's either that, or a Reuters definition of "terrorism"that excludes the massacre of schoolchildren by blowing up their school buses with suicide bombers. Not sure which it might be. Either way, as Johnson says, "This is, purely and simply, lying by omission."

UPDATE 11/15: The blogosphere works. CNN has taken down the "Worst Terror Attacks" list, as you found out if you clicked on the above link. It is somewhat comforting to know that as a whole, the blogosphere acts as a watchdog of sorts for major media. What's discomforting is to realize how long they got away with the bias and distortion that is now pointed out by bloggers.

The Democrat's "Leader"

I have long thought of Ted Kennedy as little more than a hack and a blowhard. It would have been hard for anyone to convince me that he could do or say anything that would lower my opinion of him as a politician and as a man. But Friday he referred to President Bush's judicial nominees as "Neanderthals" in remarks to the press. He said that Democrats will continue to resist "any Neanderthal" that President Bush nominates.

This has got to be a new low, even for a man who once went home and went to bed without telling anyone he had just left his girlfriend to drown in his car at the bottom of a lake.

Since he has just described several distinguished and qualified judges as sub-humans, I'm sure he'll be called on the carpet by his upstanding Democratic colleagues who are doubtless appalled at the insulting and inflammatory rhetoric. Zogby Blog has some thoughts on that:

Will the NAACP ask for a reaction? censure? resignation?...

My my my.... neanderthals? Such strong rhetoric!

Alabama attorney General Bill Pryor? Is he a neanderthal?

Isn't one of the nominees a black woman (Janice Rogers Brown) Teddy? Is she a neanderthal?

What about former nominee Miguel Estrada? Perhaps he was one too.

I expect a pass on this from the left. If the Senator can kill someone and get a pass, what's a slip of the tongue?

Also from Zogby Blog, a list of on-the-record quotes from prominent Democratic Senators, including the blowhard himself, on the need to grant judicial nominees an up or down confirmation vote in the Senate. "Here's Teddy"....

Edward Kennedy (D-MA) "If our … colleagues don't like them, vote against them. But give them a vote."
(Cong. Rec., 2/3/98, S292)

I'd be surprised if he apologizes. I really think he is without shame.

UPDATE 11/17: A quote on this subject from Taranto's Best of the Web;

"Here we are in the 21st century, and a prominent politician is equating members of racial and ethnic minorities with a primitive subspecies of human being. Democrats were once the party of slavery and Jim Crow, but we'd thought they were beyond that."

UPDATE 11/18: Jay Bryant has a different take on the "Neanderthal" quote.

Another List of Pithy Quotes

I had to share these "22 Things That Are True" from Rodger Schultz over at Curmudgeonly and Skeptical. These have mostly to do with government and politicians. A few of my favorites to get you to click on over:

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself -- Mark Twain

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it's free. -- P.J. O'Rourke

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul. -- George Bernard Shaw

November 13, 2003

Dean's White Identity Politics

Shelby Steele says Howard Dean has come up against the established limits on identity politics in the West:

... it is absolutely verboten for either party, or any white candidate, to appeal to whites as a racial identity group. Racial identity is simply forbidden to whites in America and across the entire Western world.

For the same reason that we think nothing of the existence of a Congressional Black Caucus, but wouldn't stand for the idea of a white one, Dean has had to backtrack on his suggestion that white Confederate flag pickup drivers might also have some group "identity" and merit commensurate political representation and power. As Steele says:

He inadvertently sanctioned one of history's most destructive formulas: race alone justifying power. And yet, had he reached out to angry black separatists, he would have been hailed as a racial healer. Why the difference?

Well, white guilt is the difference:

White guilt--the need to win enough moral authority around race to prove that one is not a racist--is the price whites today pay for this history. Political correctness is a language that enables whites to show by wildly exaggerated courtesy that they are not racist; diversity does this for institutions. But white guilt's greatest taboo is the one that Howard Dean violated--assigning whites a racial identity out of which they can pursue power as whites.

Yet Mr. Dean did not cross this taboo as a racist; he crossed it as a hard-core liberal, a supporter of race-based affirmative action, who in the name of racial progress has learned to mentally compartmentalize Americans by atavisms. So used was he to acknowledging the atavistic identity of every minority in the country, it was no doubt a small leap to "include" Confederate-flag whites.

The underlying irony here is that white guilt has given America a liberalism that revives as virtue the precise moral formula at the core of fascism: power justified by race alone. Today a wealthy black will be preferred over the son of a white mailman at all of America's best universities. This of course is illiberalism of the same sort that segregation was.

Read it all. Really.

What Patriot Act Is And Isn't

Andrew C. McCarthy combats Patriot Act disinformation and hysteria with this detailed summation of the act's provisions, and it's justifications and safeguards. It may even convince you that John Ashcroft is not the spawn of Satan.

Filibuster Time

Read Taranto's Best of the Web for today to get his take on the Senate battle to confirm Bush's judicial nominees, and the use by the GOP of a 30 hour mini-filibuster to build public awareness of the issue. Let's hope the Republicans use the debate wisely to effectively articulate the case for confirmation of these qualified nominees, and also focus on the Constitutional provisions that call for a simple majority confirmation vote after a vote by the Judiciary Committee and all necessary open debate.

The public needs to understand that these nominees are being denied the process to which they are entitled. I do not understand why the majority in the Senate have waited so long to actually force the Democrats to filibuster, for four days if necessary, as long as it takes to bring more public attention to the unprecedented nature of their obstruction.

Public pressure on those 44 Democrats to explain to their constituents exactly why these distinguished nominees are unfit to receive even an up and down vote of the full Senate, as mandated by the Constitution, is the only thing that will bring this to a close. We need to get four Senators to agree to invoke cloture on debate. That's all. Then they can all go vote their consciences and their principles (or possibly even vote their constituents' will?) in the vote of the full Senate, and be on record as having voted against the nominees, if they choose to do so. Nothing wrong with that.

Here's a link to The Committee For Justice, which provides good information on the nominees, their qualifications, ratings, testimonials, etc. (via The Corner)

UPDATE 11/13: A very well-worded summary on the qualifications of California state Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown, and the objections to her by Democrats, by Horace Cooper.

UPDATE 11/13: Senator John Cornyn blows away the Democrats claims of "precedent" on their obstruction of Senate confirmation of judicial nominees.

November 12, 2003

Soros Condemned By DNC

Yeah, right. So much of what we hear from Democrats these days could fall into the category of self-parody, but Scott Ott of Scrappleface is a master of the real thing. The latest:

The Democrat National Committee (DNC) today condemned billionaire George Soros as a "special interest fat cat" who's dodging campaign finance laws and buying influence by contributing $15.5 million to activist groups trying to oust George Bush from the White House.

"He's an affront to everything Democrats stand for," said DNC Chairman Terry McAuliffe. "The McCain-Feingold law was passed to protect Americans from his brand of soft-money influence. But since he can't give millions to the DNC, he's donating huge sums to MoveOn.org and other liberal activists organizations. That's just not right, and if we could do anything to stop Mr. Soros from using this loophole, we surely would."


Johnson A Hot Item

A brief scan of Ben Maller's Rumors and Notes column, a collection of links to sports pages around the country, shows the Patriots, Eagles, Lions and Vikings as teams that may have an interest in signing Kevin Johnson, who was waived by the Browns yesterday.

At a press conference this morning, team President Carmen Policy said that while the team didn't want to release Johnson, the receiver left them "no choice". Policy added:

“It appeared he lost any incentive to compete and participate as a member of the team if he couldn’t be the starter.”

This team will miss Kevin Johnson. Few receivers in the NFL have hands as good as Johnson's, and that is doubly important when your team's quarterbacks aren't exactly known for pinpoint accuracy.

Various published reports in recent weeks and months have made the case against Johnson that he doesn't block well, (debatable), that he doesn't get yardage after the catch (hard to do when the ball is thrown behind you or at your ankles), or that he is a "self-promoter" in terms of media exposure, (teams need more guys who are affable, intelligent, "media-friendly" presences on their teams, not less).

KJ has also been criticized for going down too easily after the catch, giving up potential yardage to avoid taking the big hits. I don't suppose it's coincidental that he has been extremely reliable, and relatively injury-free, and therefore a dependable presence week to week in a league in which injuries to skilled position players are rampant. It's a matter of taking the bitter with the sweet.

This move, seemingly a power play by Butch Davis, can only further alienate Davis from his fan base. He is reportedly not well-liked by the veteran players, and seems aloof and arrogant to many fans. Cutting one of the most popular players on the team reminds this fan of the Belichick-Kosar feud of the mid-90's, which tore the team apart and helped push Art Modell toward Baltimore. PD opinion columnist Bill Livingston says Davis is "cleaning house" of players he didn't personally draft:

Johnson failed Davis' loyalty test. Actually, that test is graded on the curve. You get extra credit for being drafted by Davis for the Browns, or for being recruited by Davis for the University of Miami, or for playing in any conference south of the Mason-Dixon Line...

If Johnson lacked the character to block away from the ball, he still had enough of it to steer clear of the police blotter. You can't say that about two of Davis' three first-round draft choices, Gerard Warren and William Green.

UPDATE 11/13: Here's some more KJ aftermath from the Thursday Plain Dealer

November 11, 2003

The John Bonnell Story

Critical Mass, written by Erin O'Connor, is one of the best blogs on the planet. O'Connor is an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, and provides "commentary on the state of American academe". The mission of Critical Mass, she says,

"is to track moments of monumental malfeasance on campus--whether administrative, pedagogical, or scholarly; practical or ideological; individual or collective--and to reflect on what they mean for the future of education, intellect, free inquiry, and philosophical diversity in the U.S."

That includes tracking and reporting on the many abuses of free speech and academic freedom perpetrated on our college campuses by way of "speech codes", "free speech zones" and other manifestations of the tyranny that is political correctness in academia.

In recent months, and especially within the past week, she has documented the story of John Bonnell, "the Macomb Community College English professor whose occasional use of profanity in the classroom has made him the target of a sustained administrative witch hunt at his school". I'll simply recommend that you start here, and then read her other posts from 11/5 -11/9 for the Bonnell story. And check back often. The service she provides by exposing these abuses is valuable and necessary.

Haunted By Vietnam

Because we're haunted by Vietnam, we will not turn our backs on Iraq. So says David Gelernter in this piece for the L.A. Times. I can relate to what he says is his own role in the mistake we made in the 70's by abandoning the Vietnamese people to Communism;

It was my fault, mine personally; I was part of the antiwar crowd and I'm sorry. But my apology is too late for the South Vietnamese dead. All I can do is join the chorus in shouting, "No more Vietnams!" No more shrugging off tyranny; no more deserting our friends; no more going back on our duties as the strongest nation on Earth.

Well we didn't fail the people of Iraq, at least not this time around. And while we made mistakes, we can and should be proud, says Gelernter:

The president's critics say that he has made mistakes; right again. He was too optimistic about the difficulties of hunting down a man or a biological weapon in a large country. He might well have been too optimistic about the difficulties of managing postwar Iraq. He was certainly too optimistic about the rest of the world's joining us; too many people were making too much money from Hussein's Iraq for the case by Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair against Hussein ever to be popular, for the world at large to care much about Kurdish infants choking to death on poison gas or about a political dissenter with his tongue cut out. But suppose we sweep up all the administration's mistakes and dump them in one pan of the moral balance. We'll put just one fact on the other side: Hussein is overthrown. What do all the president's mistakes amount to? How much do they count when we step back and take in the big picture? They count zero.

People ask: Are you proposing to overthrow every sadist tyrant on Earth? No, only proposing to be proud that we overthrew one.

November 10, 2003

U.S. Role in 1973 Chilean Coup

From the current issue of Commentary magazine, and reprinted online at Front Page Magazine, here is an excellent article by Mark Falcoff on the role of Henry Kissinger and the Nixon administration in the political affairs of Chile, from the election of Salvador Allende in 1970, to his ouster and the assumption of power by Augusto Pinochet in a 1973 coup.

While not denying Nixon's active attempts to involve the CIA in preventing the inauguration of the Marxist Allende following his election, nor minimizing the brutality of the Pinochet regime that followed, Falcoff corrects the perception created by Christopher Hitchens' book and a BBC movie, that the U.S. was complicit in the 1973 coup that ended Allende's government.

Falcoff notes that the Hitchens book and the BBC movie it inspired failed to utilize the primary source material on that era, the findings of the Congressional committee headed by Frank Church, no defender of Nixon to be sure:

The findings of the Church committee exonerate the administration of unlawful activity--a noteworthy fact in light of the circumstances that both the chairman and the majority of the members (and, even more, their staffs) were unremittingly hostile to the Nixon White House and anxious, if possible, to find embarrassing linkages between it and events in Chile.

There were, in fact, a couple of different CIA-hatched plots to assist in a coup in 1970 between the election of Allende and his officially taking power, but they were called off in advance as they were thought to be unworkable. Falcoff was given access to the complete archives of Kissinger's phone records prior to their imminent release to the public, and confirms through them that the administration had ended their efforts to mount a coup, and had instructed their contacts to desist:

As far as Kissinger (and, for that matter, the White House) was concerned, Viaux had been told to stand down, and that was presumably the end of active American coup-plotting. As Kissinger told Nixon by telephone on October 15, reporting on a meeting with Thomas Karamassines of the CIA's Western Hemisphere division, "This looks hopeless. I turned it off. Nothing would be worse than an abortive coup." The President responded, "Just tell him to do nothing." The next day, CIA headquarters cabled its station in Santiago that although "we are to continue to generate maximum pressure" toward a coup, "a Viaux coup . . . would fail" and Viaux should be warned "against precipitate action." The message was delivered through an intermediary, leaving the CIA with the pious hope that once its wishes had been made known, Viaux would respect them.

In fact, Kissinger's phone records during the time period in question shows that he was just slightly busy with a few other items on his plate:

In fact, during September and October 1970--which is to say, between the Chilean election and the congressional vote the telephone record reveals a Kissinger preoccupied with a full-blown Middle East crisis, Vietnam, a Soviet submarine base in Cuba, the Black September plane hijacking, Nixon's planned visit to Europe and to the Sixth Fleet, the defense budget, and the Pugwash conference on U.S.-Soviet relations, but with Chile only slightly. Thereafter, there is nothing at all until June 1973, when he and Nixon discuss a failed military revolt against Allende, and then no further references until after Pinochet's assumption of power with the September 11 coup.

The botched kidnapping of Allende's miltary commander-in-chief, Rene Schneider, which resulted in his murder, was carried out in defiance of U.S. instructions, and has been distorted by Hitchens to serve the "agenda" according to Falcoff:

Neither Hitchens's book nor the film upon which it is based takes note of a crucial fact: namely, that the Schneider debacle had precisely the opposite effect of what was desired by the CIA and the Nixon administration. It transformed its victim into a martyr of the "constitutionalist" traditions of the Chilean army; it encouraged other constitutionalist officers to support an orderly transfer of power to the new Allende administration; it brought General Carlos Prats, another officer of firm constitutionalist leanings, to the head of the army; and it discredited right-wing cabals both inside the army and out.

It is strange that this outcome should go unremarked by critics who profess to care for Chile and who should presumably take comfort from it--but, given their invincible biases, perhaps it is not so strange after all.

As to the coup in 1973, the records show, and the Church investigation found, no culpability by the U.S. for what happened, despite the "conventional wisdom" that Nixon and Kissinger ordered and executed the plot;

What, then, brought about the September 11, 1973 coup? The real causes must he sought in the devastating collapse of the Chilean economy that took place during the Allende presidency, as well as in Chile's increasingly polarized political environment....

...The truth is that every cat and dog in Chile knew a coup was coming at some point in September 1973, and so did Allende himself. The only questions were who would lead it, who would replace Allende, and what ideological tendency would prevail once the government was dissolved. During a private lunch with the president a few days before his departure into Argentine exile, General Prats himself warned Allende that he would be overthrown within the next ten days. When the president asked whether Prats's ministerial replacement, General Augusto Pinochet, would remain loyal, Prats said he thought so but that the issue was irrelevant. "Even the most constitutionalist of officers," he later recalled telling the president in this most bizarre of exchanges, "will understand that a division within the armed forces would mean civil war." In effect, officers would either respect the decision of the coup-makers or be swept aside.[2]

Contrary, then, to what the film The Trials of Henry Kissinger suggests, there was no straight line between the events of 1970 and the coup of 1973. Rather, conscious choices by Allende and his own people drove the military into action that it would normally have been disinclined to carry out. This was certainly the impression conveyed, for example, by a U.S. naval attache who cabled a few days after the coup that the "decision to remove the Allende government was made with extreme reluctance and only after the deepest soul-searching by all concerned."

As for President Nixon, he was evidently pleased--how could he not have been?--but exhibited no sense of complicity with the coup-makers themselves. As he said on the phone to Kissinger on September 16, "Well, we didn't--as you know--our hand doesn't show on this one though." To which Kissinger replied, "We didn't do it."

Much more detail in the article. Read it all.

Calling Out Sharpton

Jeff Jacoby wonders why the field of Democratic presidential candidates and the media refuse to even mention the despicable race-baiting, riot-inciting, anti-Semitic track record of Al Sharpton. Instead he's treated as just another respectable, viable candidate to be President of The United States. And what's worse, he functions as the de facto resident civil rights watchdog of the campaign statements by the other Democrats. And they let him get away with it. An excerpt from Jacoby:

It is as if David Duke were running for president and the leading figures in politics and the press decided not to make an issue of the fact that he had been an Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Is it even remotely conceivable that Duke would be regarded as just another candidate, let alone a candidate qualified to criticize the racial failings of others? Yet there was Sharpton at the CNN debate in Boston last week, lecturing Dean on "brotherhood" and quoting Martin Luther King.

"You're not a bigot," he said, "but you appear to be too arrogant to say `I'm wrong.' " This from the slanderer who to this day refuses to apologize for his role in the contemptible Tawana Brawley hoax, and for his poisonous libel of an innocent man.

They are paralyzed by the possibe political backlash of challenging Sharpton on his history of hateful statements and actions, simply because he happens to be a black man. So he is given a pass. It would be nice if his fellow Democrats could signal in some way that they are at least slightly uncomfortable with Sharpton's candidacy for our country's highest office. Their failure to do so is, in Jacoby's words, "a moral and political disgrace". Read it all.

Veterans Day

Some good reading is available as Veterans Day approaches. I came across this post from Armed Liberal (via Instapundit), and this article from The Guardian, via a link from The Corner. Both are worth your time to read, IMHO.

November 7, 2003

Last Word

From Jonathan Last, of The Weekly Standard, in the latest newsletter:

"As for "The Reagans," haven't we seen this before? We have an entertainment program that some people find offensive. This group of people puts pressure on the broadcast network not to air it. The network acquiesces. When's the last time you saw this? Dr. Laura's show!

Remember how outraged the gay community was about Dr. Laura and how they petitioned TV outlets not to air her show and advertisers to boycott it?

Now that the shoe's on the other foot, the liberal community is crying censorship. Raise your hand if you're surprised."

Afghan Constitution

Paul Marshall raises the red flag on the draft constitution for Afghanistan, saying that as presently constituted, it is nothing to celebrate. He calls it "Taliban Lite". It sounds like a prescription for an Islamic state:

While the draft outlaws discrimination on the basis of religion and sex, and professes adherence to international human rights standards, these provisions are subject to the stipulation that they cannot be contrary to an undefined "sacred religion of Islam...." The constitution does not say what the principles of Islam are. They will be defined at some later point by Islamic judges. But, whatever they are, they will be the law of the land and "ignorance about the provisions of laws" (56) will be no defense against them.

Cable DVR

Terry Teachout loves his new digital cable box from Time Warner, complete with DVR, and thinks the service may spell trouble for Tivo and other stand-alone DVR units. I'm no expert, but Teachout lists few real advantages of the Time Warner system other than a relatively easy interface and the cost of "pennies a day" for the service. If my experience with cable outfits is any guide, somehow "pennies a day" can quickly become "nickels and dimes a day". And Tivo units are only about $300. Either way, I think I'm ready for commercial-free TV.

Text of Bush Speech

This is worth reading in full. My favorite segment:

The progress of liberty is a powerful trend. Yet, we also know that liberty, if not defended, can be lost. The success of freedom is not determined by some dialectic of history. By definition, the success of freedom rests upon the choices and the courage of free peoples, and upon their willingness to sacrifice. In the trenches of World War I, through a two-front war in the 1940s, the difficult battles of Korea and Vietnam, and in missions of rescue and liberation on nearly every continent, Americans have amply displayed our willingness to sacrifice for liberty.

The sacrifices of Americans have not always been recognized or appreciated, yet they have been worthwhile. Because we and our allies were steadfast, Germany and Japan are democratic nations that no longer threaten the world. A global nuclear standoff with the Soviet Union ended peacefully -- as did the Soviet Union. The nations of Europe are moving towards unity, not dividing into armed camps and descending into genocide. Every nation has learned, or should have learned, an important lesson: Freedom is worth fighting for, dying for, and standing for -- and the advance of freedom leads to peace.

November 4, 2003

Citizen Action

Here's the first person story of the guy that started up the "boycott CBS" web site a few days ago to protest the proposed airing of the CBS miniseries, "The Reagans", and got over 75,000 emails of support in a couple of days. As Michael Paranzino says, "people love the Reagans". Except perhaps some of those "tolerant" liberals who wrote Paranzino to wish death upon him and his family, or to mock him for being a stay-at-home dad.

Before the show was dropped by CBS, I commented on this blog that my preference would have been to let it go on as originally written, against the now well publicized backdrop of the complaints of people who object to the Reagans being smeared by Hollywood ideologues, and then to let the public judge the show on its merits. I wanted the network and the sponsors to feel the pinch, if there was to be any, of the boycott by people who object to it on the principle that it isn't factually accurate. The movie's biases would have been on display, and the shows creators would have been outed as the agenda-driven propagandists that they are. That, to me, would have been the ideal result. In other words, let "market forces" work.

Now the whines of "censorship" will invariably begin, even though Moonves, the CBS executive who pulled the plug, is an admitted liberal and said the show was "biased". At first the network said it was being reworked to make it more "fair", but to have aired a heavily edited version would have been to admit that they were perfectly willing to air an "unfair" film, absent the outcry.

Credit Paranzino for his activism, and the greater blogosphere as well, for spreading the word and mobilizing people. Even five years ago this chain of events wouldn't have occurred. The maturing Internet has changed everything. The end result isn't ideal, but it did force a major American media company to step up and admit to the liberal bias of its programming content.

Moonves has shown some guts, because he must know he'll be slammed by both sides. By the right for acting only to avoid a PR disaster, and by the left for caving to the conservative troglodytes. Sending the film to Showtime, where TV programming goes to die, seems like a fitting disposition.

UPDATE 11/4: Here's Terry Teachout's take (I wrote my "five years ago..." line before I read TT...honest!)

And here's AS on TT.

Matt Drudge interview on Joe Scarborough's show.

Medved Interview

John Hawkins has a good interview with Michael Medved up at Right Wing News. I have never listened to Medved's radio show, so his views on the Middle East, libertarianism, and talk radio for example, were new to me. He went to Yale with Bill and Hillary, and had some interesting comments about them:

John Hawkins:As I was reading your bio, I noticed that you went to Yale with Bill Clinton and you said that you, "always disliked" him. Why so?

Michael Medved: He was a blowhard. I will confess that I liked Hillary. Not liked her in a social way, because she was like everybody's den mother, she was not date-bait. But, Hillary was very pleasant and very nice. But, Bill was always just so full of himself. Almost everybody at Yale nourished wild dreams of one day running for high office. But, it was considered very bad form to talk about it. However, Bill Clinton talked about nothing else. You knew within oh, 5 minutes of making his acquaintance that he was planning to run for the Senate in Arkansas. He wanted to replace Senator Fulbright and then of course by implication, he wanted to go on to the presidency.

Powers of Ten

A pretty cool Java tutorial designed to illustrate "powers of 10" by taking us in images from the outer reaches of the universe down to subatomic particles in steps, by magnitudes of ten. Some of these concepts might have had a better chance of penetrating my thick head in school if these kinds of educational tools had been available then.


(Link via Curmudgeonly and Skeptical)

November 3, 2003

Dem Senator For Bush

Democratic Senator Zell Miller on why he will vote for George Bush in 2004.

Steyn Has A Plan

Mark Steyn says Kerry and Clark are in a "quagmire". Only theirs is in New Hampshire.

What is it that these boys think Bush did wrong? Simple. In his 18-month rush to war with Iraq, he didn't have a plan. ''When you put American troops in harm's way, you better not do it without a plan,'' says Clark. ''I said at the time that it was critical for us to have a plan,'' says Edwards. ''This president has no plan of any kind.''...

....Under John Kerry's ''plan,'' Saddam would still be in power, the French would still be selling him the 68mm missiles used in the attack on Paul Wolfowitz's Baghdad hotel last week, and Iraqis would still be being fed feet first into the industrial shredders. Or have I missed something?

Kerry insults the U.S. and our coalition partners by calling the coalition "fraudulent". Steyn has some thoughts on that:

The principal players -- the Americans, British and Australians -- are three of only a handful of countries to have been on the right side of every major conflict of the last century: the First World War, the Second, the Cold War and now the war on terror. I bet on form. When it comes to standing up against totalitarianism, the heavy lifting has been done by America and the British Commonwealth. Kerry's the first to get all hoity-toity if he feels someone is insufficiently deferential to his war service. So who's he to mock the brave Royal Marines, Desert Rats and other British forces who took and held southern Iraq? Who's he to mock the Australian SAS who did such a great job in seizing so many Baathist bad guys in northern and western Iraq? Or the Polish troops leading the multinational contingent in central Iraq right now?...

...I'd say it's going to be very difficult for President Kerry to work with these chaps after his election victory -- or I would say it if I could type that sentence without collapsing in giggles.

Don't Go Wobbly

Saul Singer makes the point that it is the nature of the regimes in Iran and North Korea that got them their membership cards in the Axis of Evil, and not just the fact that they are developing nuclear weapons:

when it comes to both nations, the remaining members of the "axis of evil," President George W. Bush seems to at most talk about what makes them threatening, but not about what makes them evil. In Asia last month, Bush spoke of the "clear message" that the U.S. and surrounding nations were sending to North Korea. But the message was that they must cough up their nukes. What if they do? Does the U.S. have no beef with a non-nuclear North Korea? How much will the U.S. pay for a North Korea that sheds its nukes and keeps its gulag?

November 2, 2003

Identify The Enemy

I think most Americans get it. They realize that we are at war with Islamic fundamentalism. We hear criticisms of the War on Terror, but it's mostly partisan sniping, political opportunism, Monday morning quarterbacking on this tactic or that strategy, this funding or that priority. I realize that there are some Americans, (can you spell A.N.S.W.E.R.?) who think it would be a good thing if America and the West lost this war. One presumes that while they wish to see the evil America brought to her knees, they'd just as soon have the airplane fly into someone else's office building.

That said, there are of course valid criticisms of the administration's conduct of the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns and their aftermath, that are well-intended and principled, while still rooted in the idea that it's wrong to randomly murder "infidels", subjugate women, and deny free religious expression. It is with some of these serious critics that I share certain concerns about the actions and priorities of the Bush administration, and frustrations with the way things have gone so far.

I think the President spoke with clarity and conviction early in the war, establishing the so-called Bush Doctrine of preemption, and the idea that those states and entities that harbor and finance terror are themselves "terrorist" in nature, and can expect to be dealt with as such. I do not think however, that he has been direct enough in confronting the worst offenders in that regard, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iran and the PLO.

And the idea that we can somehow separate the "Islam" from radical Islamic terror, while supposedly mainstream Islamic organizations and groups continue to balk at repudiating and policing the radicals, is an increasingly dangerous distinction. That is not to say that "we are at war with Islam". But the use of the vague "catch-all" terms "terrorism" and "terrorists" by the administration and the media has the effect of a self-applied blindfold, preventing us from openly addressing and discussing the part that Islam plays in the ongoing war.

An article by Mark Helprin from the Claremont Review of Books entitled "War in the Absence of Strategic Clarity" made the rounds of the blogosphere about six weeks ago, and I just reread it the other day. While thoroughly spiced with hindsight, he makes some great points about the need to identify the enemy in order to defeat him, and the fact that militant Islam has a much longer memory than does the West. Why don't we call the enemy by his name?:

For domestic political reasons and to preserve its marginal relations with the Arab World, the United States has declined to identify the enemy precisely. He is so formless, opportunistic, and shadowy that apparently we cannot conceive of him accurately enough to declare war against him, although he has declared war against us.

The enemy has embarked upon a particular form of warfare with the intent of shielding his center of mass from counterattack, but he must not be allowed such a baseless privilege. For as much as he is the terrorist who executes the strategy, he is the intelligence service in aid of it, the nation that harbors his training camps, the country that finances him, the press filled with adulation, the people who dance in the streets when there is a slaughter, and the regime that turns a blind eye.

Recognizing that the enemy is militant Islam with its center the Arab Middle East, it is possible to devise a coherent strategy. The enemy's strengths should not be underestimated. He has a historical memory far superior to that of the West, which has forgotten its thousand-year war with Islamic civilization. Islamic civilization has not forgotten, however, having been for centuries mainly on the losing side. Its memory is clear, bitter, and a spur to action.

Helprin contends that Islamic civilization is "accommodating" of defeat and marginalization, and that we should not have let them off the mat in the the first Gulf War. He feels that had we stunned them (with somewhat more "Shock and Awe" I suppose) immediately after 9/11, that they would have presumably become resigned to their accustomed position of martyrs with "honor", and the War on Terror would be largely over by now. I suspect we had given them a few too many "victories" in their terror attacks throughout the 80's and 90's for them to be discouraged into quitting the jihad by a brutal campaign of whatever sort in 2001. But Helprin's larger point, that we can't fight what we won't identify, remains valid, in my opinion. And his other key point, that we had better be serious, vigilant and relentless, because they sure as hell are, is well made also. Here are some more selected excerpts from an article that is well worth reading in its entirety:

The object long expressed by bin Laden and others is to flip positions in the thousand-year war. To do this, the Arabs must rekindle what the 10th-century historian Ibn Khaldun called 'asabiya, an ineffable combination of group solidarity, momentum, esprit de corps, and the elation of victory feeding upon victory. This, rather than any of its subsidiary political goals, is the objective of the enemy in the war in which we find ourselves at present...

...a compassionate haven exists for the defeated, for martyrs, as long as they have not strayed from the code of honor. In the West, success is everything, but in the Arab Middle East honor is everything, and can coexist perfectly well with failure. The Arabs have a noble history of defeat, and are acclimatized to it. Their cultural and religious structures, far less worldly than ours, readily accommodate it. Though wanting victory, they are equally magnetized by defeat, for they understand, as we used to in the West, that the defeated are the closest to God.

...there can be but one effective strategy in the war against terrorism, and that is to shift Arab-Islamic society into the other of its two states—out of nascent 'asabiya and into comfortable fatalism and resignation. The British have done this repeatedly, and the United States almost did it during the Gulf War.

...it is still possible to maneuver the Middle East into quiescence vis-à-vis the West. It is a matter mainly of proportion. The unprecedented military and economic potential of even the United States alone, thus far so imperfectly utilized, is the appropriate instrument.

The war in Iraq was a war of sufficiency when what was needed was a war of surplus, for the proper objective should have been not merely to drive to Baghdad but to engage and impress the imagination of the Arab and Islamic worlds on the scale of the thousand-year war that is to them, if not to us, still ongoing. Had the United States delivered a coup de main soon after September 11 and, on an appropriate scale, had the president asked Congress on the 12th for a declaration of war and all he needed to wage war, and had this country risen to the occasion as it has done so often, the war on terrorism would now be largely over.

November 1, 2003

Cute Kid

This picture was causing a bit of a stir on Rodger Schultz' blog, Curmudgeonly and Skeptical. Some guys just thought the freckles were cute. Others thought she was absolutely unreal. They're both right. Click here for more on Kaya.