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January 31, 2004

Den Beste on The Fence

Steven Den Beste analyzes the evolving situation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His theme: Arafat is increasingly isolated and desperate, and time, for a change, is on the side of Israel. An excerpt:

The Palestinians have always been underdogs in their struggle against Israel. Their most important asset was steadfastness. The Palestinians have remained committed to the struggle for decades, and until now they had been able to cause the Israelis enough trouble so that the Israelis had to deal with them, whether diplomatically or militarily. The one thing Israel could not do was to ignore the Palestinians and get on with building the richest nation in the region which did not have oil wealth.

But once the wall is in place, and Israeli forces have been withdrawn from Palestinian territories, Israel will largely be able to ignore the Palestinians; at least to the extent that the war will no longer occupy center stage in Israel politically and economically. The wall will deprive the Palestinians of the only real weapon they had in the war. And when violent civil war breaks out amongst the Palestinian factions, their situation will become immeasurably worse in every way.

20 Questions

Think of something. Is it animal, vegetable or mineral? You know the game. This Internet version is hard to stump. Leave me a comment if you win.

A Liberal Critiques the Left

Paul Berman in Dissent Magazine writes an impassioned critique of the modern left, by way of a conversation with a liberal friend. He says much of the left has abandoned traditional liberal principles. Here's an excerpt from a piece that should be read in its entirety:

"The old-fashioned left used to be universalist-used to think that everyone, all over the world, would some day want to live according to the same fundamental values, and ought to be helped to do so. They thought this was especially true for people in reasonably modern societies with universities, industries, and a sophisticated bureaucracy-societies like the one in Iraq. But no more! Today, people say, out of a spirit of egalitarian tolerance: Social democracy for Swedes! Tyranny for Arabs! And this is supposed to be a left-wing attitude? By the way, you don't hear much from the left about the non-Arabs in countries like Iraq, do you? The left, the real left, used to be the champion of minority populations-of people like the Kurds. No more! The left, my friend, has abandoned the values of the left-except for a few of us, of course."

Posting "Honor Roll" Not PC

Caught this item in The Federalist this week:

When PC and lawyers collide.... That's exactly what happened in Nashville schools recently, where school officials have banned the posting of honor rolls to recognize high-achievers, and may soon stop hanging students' work in the hallways. Why, you ask? Since it seems a few "parents" expressed concern that their tender and underachieving progeny might face ridicule from their smarter peers for not making the honor roll, the school system's lawyers said all such academic recognition had to go. State privacy laws, they insisted, prohibit the release of academic information -- the good, the bad and the ugly -- without prior consent. (Interestingly enough, those issuing the complaints didn't have any academic information released -- you have to be smarter for that.) Apart from the utter absurdity of the decision, the real question here, according to Federalist Research Editor and Tennessee publik skoo grajawit John Machen (himself rolled a time or two in violation of state privacy statues) is, "What kind of public school is it where the smart kids pick on the dumb ones? I didn't go there."

Slow Learners

The over-the-top partisanship of Andrew Gilligan and the excutives of the BBC has led to their resignations, now that the Hutton investigation has cleared the Blair government of manipulating intelligence data to support the decision to go to war in Iraq. And speaking of blind partisanship, one has to wonder if Teddy Kennedy has been paying attention. Here's the text of an exchange between Kennedy and U.S. WMD investigator David Kay during Kay's appearance before Congress:

Kennedy (to Kay): "Many of us feel that the evidence so far leads only to one conclusion: that what has happened was more than a failure of intelligence, it was the result of manipulation of the intelligence to justify a decision to go to war."

Kay (responding): "[You suggest] analysts were pressured to reach conclusions that would fit the political agenda of one or another administration. I deeply think that is a wrong explanation. ... I did not come across a single one that felt it had been, in the military term, 'inappropriate command influence' that led them to take that position."

When it was demonstrated that BBC reporter Gilligan had allowed his partisanship to compromise his professionalism, he resigned. While we expect no such accountability from the Senator from Massachusetts, we'd settle for the next best thing. Shut up, Teddy.

In another interesting exchange, Sen. Clinton, apparently unconvinced after 12 years that inspections weren't working to disarm Saddam, had a question for Kay:

Clinton:"I think that rightly does raise questions that we should be examining about whether or not the U.N. inspection process pursuant to 1441 might not also have worked without the loss of life that we have confronted both among our own young men and women, as well as Iraqis."

Kay: "Well, Senator Clinton...we have had a number of Iraqis who have come forward and said, 'We did not tell the UN about what we were hiding, nor would we have told the UN because we would run the risk of our [losing our own lives]' -- I think we have learned things that no UN inspector would have ever learned given the terror regime of Saddam.... Iraq was in clear violation of the terms of Resolution 1441. ... Iraq was in clear and material violation of 1441. ... So there was a lot they wanted to hide because it showed what they were doing that was illegal. I hope we find even more evidence of that."

Worst Kept Secret?

Daniel Drezner has a good post on the reported U.S. military offensive that is being planned for this spring along the Afghanistan border with Pakistan. There has been a lot of speculation as to whether the leak is intentional, for some strategic purpose, or if it is by someone who meant to sabotage and/or scuttle the mission.

January 30, 2004

All Work And No Play....

...makes for a dull blog. It's Friday night, and that calls for some Penguin Batting. I think this is fairly self-explanatory.

And while we're off the beaten path, try out The Set Card Game. It's good daily diversion because it only takes about two or three minutes...okay, sometimes four or five. Caution: some thought required.

For more mindless time-wasting try this twist on an office classic. For sheer mind-numbing bliss however, the Copter Game is still hard to beat. (let me know when you top 9000).

If you like any of this stuff, send a mesage to a friend...in color.

Stephen Hayes FPM Interview

Jamie Glazov, the Managing Editor of Front Page Magazine continues his excellent interview series this week with a conversation with Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard. Anyone who is still either agnostic or ignorant on the issue of the link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda has not been following the reporting of Stephen Hayes. Nor have they been reading this blog for that matter, which has regularly linked to Hayes' work, for example here, here, and here.

Of course the confusion involved in this issue of "links", (often exploited by the Left) is that no categorical link has been proven between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks, while there is a wealth of evidence linking Saddam to the Al Qaeda organization itself. Here Glazov askes Hayes about evidence that there in fact was a 9/11 link:

FP: As you have discussed in your work, there were actual contacts between 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta and Saddam’s people in Prague. And one of these meetings occurred in April, 2001, just a few months before 9/11. U.S. and Czech intelligence have confirmed these meetings, including the fact that they involved Saddam’s approval for funding Atta. What do you think of the significance of these meetings? How can anyone deny Iraq’s direct involvement in 9/11 if Iraqi intelligence officials were meeting with one of the main 9/11 perpetrators?

Hayes: It’s a fascinating story. Five top Czech officials are on record as confirming the meeting. The Czechs have also reported to the CIA that al Ani authorized a financial transfer to Atta from the Iraqi Intelligence service to Atta. The FBI and the CIA have not been able to confirm these reports to their satisfaction. Dick Cheney once described reports of the meeting as “credible” but “unconfirmed.” I think that’s the best way to leave it at this point. Al Ani, now in US custody, has denied it. I expect we’ll hear more about the alleged meeting and the conclusions about it in the near future.

Read it all, and check out the links to Hayes' Weekly Standard stuff. So many Americans have managed to remain insulated from this information that Democrats and others who simply deny any link are let off the hook. The "Case Closed" article was boycotted almost entirely by mainstream news outlets, apparently since it didn't comport with the "Bush lied" thesis. Oh well, baby steps.

January 29, 2004

Indians Pitcher Sets it Straight

Two years ago the Cleveland Indians took a chance on signing a talented young Japanese pitcher that the pro teams in Japan weren't willing to touch. Now that they think he might make their team this spring, they had a little "press opportunity" to clear the air on the story of Kazuhito Tadano.

The Associated Press reports :

Indians minor league pitcher Kazuhito Tadano is asking for forgiveness for what he called a one-time mistake -- his appearance in a gay porn video in which he engaged in a homosexual act.....Tadano took part in the video three years ago when he was a college student.

Speaking through an interpreter, Tadano said, "I did participate in a video and I regret it very much. It was a one-time incident that showed bad judgment and will never be repeated. I was young, playing baseball, and going to college and my teammates and I needed money. Frankly, if I were more mature and had really thought about the implications of what I did, it never would have happened." Tadano added: "I'm not gay. I'd like to clear that fact up right now."

I understand that the uniqueness of this story is what makes it newsworthy, not the seriousness of it. After all, the words "homosexuality" and "baseball" rarely coexist in a sentence. And the Indians are probably smart to get the issue out of the way before Spring Training starts, and even having done so this story won't just disappear.

But to me the real story is the way Tribe GM Mark Shapiro acquired a talented player because he knew that his organization and the American public could deal with the side issues, even while Japanese culture could not. In fact those issues don't amount to much here.

Here's an experiment. Raise your hand if you ever engaged in any irresponsible sexual activity while you were in college, that you later (even the next day) came to regret. Now raise your hand if you ever did anything risky or stupid or irresponsible for money while you were in college. Raise your hand if you think just being a 20-year old college sophomore somehow magically causes lapses in judgment and demonstrations of immaturity. Am I the only one with three hands in the air? I mean besides you, Clarett.

In Tadano, the Indians think they may really have something. He was expected to be a high first round pick in the 2002 Japanese draft until the league office put out an edict that teams were not to draft him. By all early indications the guy can pitch. He was one of the subjects of the "Catch A Rising Star" series on the Indians home page recently, and the numbers are eye-popping.

In his first pro season, as a 22-year old playing for the AA Eastern League Akron Aeros, he didn't allow an earned run in his first 28 innings, and compiled a 1.24 ERA in 31 games overall, striking out 78, while walking only 15. This from a guy obviously in a bit of culture shock in a new country, with no English language skills and a whole new set of teammates and coaches. It's pretty remarkable really.

So I want to offer kudos to Shapiro and the Indians organization for the foresight and class with which they have conducted themselves in the Tadano matter, and two pieces of advice for Tadano himself. First, get a nickname. Maybe something "Americanized", with a sort of rugged feel to it....like "Tex".

Tex Tadano. I like it.

And secondly Tex, just get people out. Tribe fans will love you. I mean we once had a player move in with his teammate, and then move out with his teammate's wife. Your deal is small potatoes. We want to win.

I don't mean to equate your youthful indiscretion with an actual criminal sexual attack, but this example is instructive. Some years ago Indians relief pitcher Jose Mesa was charged with a crime for a rather ugly incident in a car with an young girl. Which Mesa mess do you think Indians fans find more unforgivable? That tawdry incident, or blowing a one-run lead in the bottom of the 9th inning in Game Seven of the 1997 World Series?

Show of hands?

UPDATE 1/30: I found this detailed article on Tadano from the 9/7/03 Plain Dealer, when the story first came out. It sounds like his Indians teammates have really rallied around him. But wait till he goes to Yankee Stadium for the first time. Better that he doesn't know English. (Is that what they speak at Yankee Stadium?)

January 27, 2004

Naming Names

The free Iraqi press is beginning to disclose the identities of foreign officials and organizations that were bribed by Saddam Hussein with vouchers for millions of barrels of oil under the U.N. Oil-For-Food program:

The 270 individuals and organisations alleged to be in his pay included the sons of a serving Arab president, Arab ministers, a prominent Indonesian leader, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, the party led by the Russian nationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky and even the Russian Orthodox Church.

Abdul Sahib Qotob, an under-secretary in Iraq's oil ministry, said the documents "reveal how Saddam jeopardised the oil wealth of Iraq on personalities who had supported him and turned a blind eye on the mass graves and injustice he inflicted on the sons of the Iraqi people".

Read it all. And stay tuned.

UPDATE 1/30: ABC News is now reporting this story. A few years ago I might have thought that this gives the story more credibility than does a seven month-old Iraqi News service. Decide for yourself.

What's it Like in Dennis' World?

At NRO, Andrew Cline goes inside the Kucinich campaign. Here's a little sample of the level of political discourse going on among the supporters of Dennis Kucinich:

"I love Dennis because he shows me how we can have a world where I can be free to be who I am, I can feel safe, and everyone in the country can be safe and happy. Um, yeah."

"Peace and love, that's what he represents for me."

And from the candidate himself...

"Are you ready for free college tuition?!....Are you ready for social and economic justice in a nation that doesn't have any?!"

His website promises no less than an end to fear. And he does have the endorsement of Grandfather Twilight. Maybe in his fantasy world more than 1% of Democrats think he has something serious to say.

January 26, 2004

Horowitz Profile

This profile of David Horowitz from insight.com is less a review of his new book Left Illusions than it is a mini-biography of the man and the story of his left-to-right apostasy. I still consider the Horowitz autobiography, Radical Son, to be one of the best books I have ever read, and certainly one that gave me insights and understanding of the late 60's and the Vietnam War era that have informed my politics and my thinking profoundly ever since. I got Left Illusions as a Christmas gift, and have yet to crack it, but this piece has given me a little boost.

Steyn Relives Impeachment

Mark Steyn takes a look back at his commentary on the Senate impeachment "trial" of Bill Clinton four years ago, and waxes nostalgic:

...with the benefit of hindsight, there’s something to be said for coasting through an entire Presidential term on oral sex gags. I know the Clinton era was a holiday from history, but, after two years of waking up to death threats, accusations of Islamophobia, dirty-nuke rumours, etc, I kinda miss the dopey triviality of an age when the darkest rumours revolved around who’d offed Kathleen Willey’s cat.

This is great stuff by Steyn, and indeed the oral sex gags abound. Being above that sort of thing myself, I agree with Steyn that the post 9/11 seriousness does make one long for the headier days of Monicagate. I mean it got to the point where Steyn couldn't ask a simple question when getting on the elevator:

“Going down?” I asked the lady. “I beg your pardon?” she said.

January 25, 2004

Painted Alive

butterfly-e (2).jpg

Artist Craig Tracy paints bodies. Incredibly. And his web site Painted Alive is a terrific vehicle for displaying his work as well as his method. Make sure to click on the "Movies" and the "Process" buttons to see how he does what he does.

What Kay Also Said

Last week the media breathlessly reported that U.S. WMD inspector David Kay was resigning his position. In interviews, Kay had concluded that we were just not going to find stockpiles of WMD's in Iraq, having probably already found "85% of what we were going to find". Speculation on the reasons for Kay's resignation centered on "disillusionment" with the search, although Kay denied that when asked about it directly.

Today the Telegraph is reporting on an exclusive interview with Kay, in which he confirms longstanding rumors that some WMD material had been moved to Syria:

(Kay) said that he had uncovered evidence that unspecified materials had been moved to Syria shortly before last year's war to overthrow Saddam.

"We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons," he said. "But we know from some of the interrogations of former Iraqi officials that a lot of material went to Syria before the war, including some components of Saddam's WMD programme. Precisely what went to Syria, and what has happened to it, is a major issue that needs to be resolved."

Dr Kay's comments will intensify pressure on President Bashar Assad to clarify the extent of his co-operation with Saddam's regime and details of Syria's WMD programme. Mr Assad has said that Syria was entitled to defend itself by acquiring its own biological and chemical weapons arsenal."

The final report from Kay's team is not yet complete, but this statement about the transfer to Syria, regardless of how much or how little material it turns out to be, certainly is somewhat at odds with Kay's answer to the question of what happened to the Iraqi stockpiles of WMD's.

"I don't think they existed", said Kay.

So which was it Mr. Kay? Aren't these two statements a bit contradictory?

"We are not talking about a large stockpile of weapons"

"a lot of material went to Syria..including components of Saddam's WMD programme".

As we have been told countless times in the last year or so, the amounts of certain chemical or biological agents required to kill hundreds of thousands of people could fit in a box the size of a microwave. So I suppose that it wouldn't have to be a "large stockpile" to be militarily and strategically significant, would it?

UPDATE 1/26: Justin Katz has a good post on the topic which contains this key quote from an interview with David Kay:

I actually think the intelligence community owes the President [an explanation], rather than the President owing the American people. We have to remember that this view of Iraq was held during the Clinton administration and didn't change in the Bush administration. It is not a political "got you" issue; it is a serious issue of how you could come to a conclusion that is not matched by the future.

UPDATE 1/29: Good article in the Washington Post on the topic.

Etched In Time

Etch (2).jpg

Before today I had not heard the story of George Vlosich III, the Etch-A-Sketch artist, whose work has made him a White House guest and a celebrity. Check out the web site Etched In Time, that features his work. Anyone who has ever attempted to draw something on an Etch-A-Sketch has to appreciate what this guy has accomplished. He started in 1989 at the age of 10, and his work is now bringing up to $8000 per item. Remember, one continuous line. (via Curmudgeonly and Skeptical)

Pakistan Busted

There are a couple of good posts at Belmont Club on the subject of nuclear technology proliferation, and the role of Pakistan in that process. Read about it here and here.

More on this topic in an earlier Wizblog post.

January 23, 2004

WWII Aerial Reconnaissance Photos

The Dutch blog Totally Flabbergasted, which usually features somewhat racier and more humorous content, has a post today of some recently uncovered aerial reconnaissance photographs from World War II Europe, 1941-1944. Included are some unique shots of the D-Day invasion, as well as aerial photos of the concentration camps at Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, and Dachau, while they were still in operation. My history lesson for the day.

Inside Saudi Arabia

Even though it's a couple weeks old, I thought I'd pass along this insightful and interesting article by Lawrence Wright from The New Yorker , on his experiences early last year in Saudi Arabia. He spent several weeks working with young Saudi reporters in a regime that places the approval of newspaper editors under the same Interior Ministry that supervises the secret police. He works with bright, talented young people, trying to teach journalistic principles in a climate of fear, depression and gender apartheid. We learn how a society that is publicly corrupt, sexually repressed, and policed by religious fanatics is almost as likely to produce suicidal martyrs as it is productive citizens. Wright suggests that the appearance of a budding democracy next door in Iraq may eventually help to bring about increased personal freedom or some semblance of state accountability, but on balance the article doesn't leave the reader with a very optimistic outlook. Wright described what he found as "quiet despair, an ominous emotional flatness".

If "emotional flatness" was all we had to worry about, that would be one thing. Unfortunately, some of the boredom, frustration and anger that Saudi society breeds, especially in young men, seeks an outlet. When that manifests itself in religious fanaticism and martyrdom against a perceived "enemy" in the West, their societal disease becomes our problem too. I strongly recommend this article.

John Derbyshire read the Wright piece and uses it as a jumping off point for this article in which he calls Arabs "The Irish of the World".

And this Steven Den Beste post responds in turn to both Derbyshire and Wright with some thoughts of his own on the pathologies of Arab culture.

January 22, 2004

Snow White Meets the Ambassador


By now you've probably heard the story of Zvi Mazel, the Israeli ambassador to Sweden, who took exception to a display at an art exhibit in Stockholm that he felt glorified the murder of innocent Israelis. The display was a pool of water, dyed blood red, floating a small boat called the "Snow White", which in place of a sail sported a photograph of Islamic Jihad member Hanadi Jaradat, who blew herself up in Haifa on October 4, killing 21 innocent civilians in the explosion.

Mazel was recorded on a security video walking around the display, unplugging two of the three spotlights lighting the exhibit, and throwing one of the spotlights into the pool, before he was escorted from the area. He was quoted at the scene as telling onlookers that Ms. Jaradat “murdered 21 of my brothers and sisters.” The video can be seen here. (On the Windows Broadband version, the video of Mazel is at the 11:10 mark of the 15 minute video).

Condemnation of this "outburst" came from Dror Feiler, the Israeli-born artist, now living in Sweden, who is a longtime critic of Israel. (Really?) According to the Globe story, "he claimed that Mazel misunderstood his work. He said the piece was supposed to call attention to how weak, lonely people can be capable of horrible things."

Amid calls for disciplinary action against Mazel, or his resignation, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stands by his ambassador.

One can't condone the vandalizing of an art exhibit, no matter how repugnant it is. But it's also hard for me not to feel some solidarity with Mazel, who said that he had to do something:

“This exhibit was the culmination of dozens of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish events in Sweden.....When you don't protest, it gets worse and worse. It had to be stopped somehow, even by deviating from the behaviour of the buttoned-down diplomat.”

Now two of my favorite writers have weighed in on the Mazel action. Here's an excerpt fromJames Lileks' column :

Everyone talks about insufferably pretentious art, but no one does anything about it. Until now....

...It's pretentious nonsense from a culture that's played out and lost, a culture that treats unhinged killers as tragic heroines.

Feiler says he was struck by the paleness of Hanadi's face, and how it contrasted with the color of blood. Red contrasts with white? Who knew? What clever artists we have these days. Perhaps next time Feiler can contrast, say, evil and innocence, and tell us where he stands on the matter."

And Roger Kimball says Mazel should have demonstrated his felings in some other way:

"His outrage at "Snow White" was understandable, even exemplary, but he should not have destroyed or defaced the exhibition. There were many steps open to him short of violence. To vandalize an art work--even a bad art work, even a morally reprehensible art work--is to adopt the tactics of the enemies of culture."

And while he is critical of Mazel's actions, Kimball, an art critic of no small measure himself, makes sure we know what he thinks of "Snow White and the Madness of Truth" :

an off-the-rack piece of installation art, as predictably repellent as it is unfailingly banal....

...In the normal course of things, you would never have heard of "Snow White." It's just another bit of dreary left-wing "statement art": morally rebarbative, aesthetically nugatory, interesting only as a symptom of cultural decay.

Don't sugarcoat it, Roger.

UPDATE 1/25: At the Armavirumque blog, Roger Kimball posts some of the reader responses to his opinionjournal.com op-ed linked above.

January 21, 2004

Andrew Sullivan Interview

Front Page Magazine's Jamie Glazov conducts this interview with writer-editor-blogger extraordinaire, Andrew Sullivan. Not much here that regular A.S. readers haven't heard before, except perhaps this very personal statement :

I am a loner. My early childhood involved living in a troubled home. My mother has long had bipolar depression and growing up with her in and out of mental hospitals forced me to rely on myself probably more than other kids. I was also a Catholic in a protestant country; I was gay in a Catholic sub-culture; I was a conservative among liberal peers; I am a social and cultural liberal among conservatives; and a Bush-supporter among liberals; I'm a right-winger among gays.

I was a conservative running a liberal magazine; and an English person in an American citadel. I've never really had a home I could call home, a place where someone didn't dispute my right to be there. I have learned to live with that. In the end you die alone. We all do. You have to place faith in friendship and love. I have a loving family, a wonderful boyfriend, a great dog, and several inspiring, funny, ornery friends. That's enough.

Do read it all.

January 20, 2004

Pollack- What Went Wrong

This Ken Pollack essay in The Atlantic is the follow up to his popular book "The Threatening Storm", which was subtitled, "The Case For Invading Iraq". Pollack was perhaps the top Clinton administration analyst on Iraq, and his book helped generate support for the war in Iraq among politicians of both parties and the general public. Now he gets into "what went wrong" with intelligence estimates of Iraqi WMD programs, how it happened, and what we can do about it.

Although David Kay's team has found considerable evidence of WMD programs and capabilities, Pollack says that in the area of Iraq's nuclear threat our intelligence was way off:

The U.S. intelligence community's belief toward the end of the Clinton Administration that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear program and was close to acquiring nuclear weapons led me and other Administration officials to support the idea of a full-scale invasion of Iraq, albeit not right away. The NIE's judgment to the same effect was the real linchpin of the Bush Administration's case for an invasion.

What we have found in Iraq since the invasion belies that judgment. Saddam did retain basic elements for a nuclear-weapons program and the desire to acquire such weapons at some point, but the program itself was dormant. Saddam had not ordered its resumption (although some reports suggest that he considered doing so in 2002). In all probability Iraq was considerably further from having a nuclear weapon than the five to seven years estimated in the classified version of the NIE.

Pollack isn't entirely consistent in that he calls the administration's "rush" to war "reckless" in light of what appears now to have been exaggerated estimates of Iraqi WMD capability, while at the same time praising the liberation of the Iraqi people and the fall of Saddam. He admits that "containment was failing" and that the U.N. Security Council behavior was "shameful", and would have led to an eventual reduction of sanctions and a reconstitution of Saddam's weapons programs, had he been left in power.

So while he still thinks we did the right thing, Pollack is persuasive that the Bush people bought into and exploited those particular aspects of our intelligence that tended to justify the action they felt it was necessary to undertake, to the exclusion of opposing opinions and points of view. There were several compelling justifications for liberating Iraq, with the humanitarian one being enough standing on its own to make the case in my mind. But it seems now that the WMD case was shaky indeed. We deserved better from our President and his administration.

The truth is that there is a whole lot we were wrong about, and Pollack is right to suggest that our future credibility is at stake, and we need to stand up and admit we messed up, and that we're going to fix what was broken in our intelligence apparatus. I hope this administration gets around to that soon, though I'm not holding my breath. This whole article is well worth reading for a fairly balanced presentation of the issues.

January 19, 2004

Eagles' Legacy

Yesterday wasn't the first time the Philadelphia Eagles crashed and burned in an important game they were favored to win. Dick Heller, in today's Washington Times, recalls the opener of the 1950 season.

That's when the Cleveland Browns, champs of the defunct All-American Football Conference, were absorbed into the NFL along with the 49ers and the Colts, and their first game was against the defending NFL Champion Eagles. The NFL had long been putting down the AAFC, and the Browns were hungry:

During the AAFC's brief existence, NFL executives bad-mouthed it nonstop. "The worst team in our league could beat the best team in theirs," said George Preston Marshall, the Washington Redskins' hyperbolic owner. NFL commissioner Elmer Layden, asked at the new league's formation what he thought of its prospects, replied, "What league? Let them get a ball first."

Fittingly enough, at their first opportunity to zip NFL lips, the Browns had a ball.

"For four years, Coach Brown never said a word — he just kept putting that stuff on the bulletin board," Graham said. "We were so fired up, we would have played them anywhere anytime, for a keg of beer or a chocolate milkshake. It didn't matter."

Paul Brown's passing offense was much more sophisticated than what most NFL defenses saw in their league, and the game was a rout, the Browns winning 35-10. In an amusing sidebar story that I had never heard before, Eagles coach "Greasy" Neale whined after the game about the passing attack, saying,

"Brown would have made a better basketball coach because all they do is put the ball in the air."

The Browns' coach did not appreciate the criticism. When the teams met in Cleveland 11 weeks later, he beat Neale 13-7 without completing a pass. Graham did toss one to Lavelli, but it was nullified by a penalty. The Browns won that one with an interception return for a touchdown and two field goals by Groza following fumble recoveries.

Sweet. Read it all, Browns fans. (via Off Wing Opinion)

Pakistan-Iran Nuclear Deals

Pakistan continues to arrest and question nuclear scientists about possible deals with Iran involving sales of centrifuges and related nuclear technology. In two reports at NRO, one last month, and the second today, Simon Henderson reports on the intrigue and calls it one of the big stories to watch in 2004.

And in a related story, U.N. inspection teams investigating Libya's nuclear program are reportedly surprised at the ease with which nuclear technologies are acquired. From The Guardian story:

"The scale and the sophistication of the networks supplying so-called rogue states seeking nuclear weapons are considerably more extensive than previously believed."

Another well-placed source said: "We all now realise there is this extraordinarily developed and sophisticated market out there enabling anyone to get this centrifuge equipment."


January 17, 2004

I Got Your Segway...Right Here

This guy built his own balancing scooter, "in about a week, using off the shelf parts". The cost of everything was less than half the price of a new Segway. He lists some of the pluses and minuses about riding his new scooter. On the down side...

I get stopped on almost every block by someone asking questions. I don't mind telling people about it, but it does take an awfully long time to get to the coffee shop and back in the morning. And I can't quite drink a cup of coffee on it while moving at any speed, so the net result is that I arrive back at the office, 30 minutes later than if I'd just walked, with a cold coffee. All in the name of science, though.

There's a part-by-part comparison with the Segway, and a warning that his version lacks certain safety features available on the Segway (emphasis in original):

With a scooter like this, if it stops working for any reason (software crash, hardware failure, low battery) you will fall, hard, and probably on your face. Imagine zipping along at 10 MPH, and suddenly the platform you're standing on stops dead. Oh, and there's a T-bar in front of you to trip you up if you start to run. So you really shouldn't try to replicate this experiment, and I can't be responsible for what happens if you read this and try to build something.

Not to worry.

(via Curmudgeonly and Skeptical)

WaPo Favors Lieberman

The Washington Post editorial staff has published a mostly favorable assessment of Senator Joe Lieberman, calling him the candidate "whose views align most closely with those of this page." Here's an excerpt:

Mr. Lieberman is progressive on most issues (abortion, the environment, gay rights) without being a captive of the party's orthodoxy. During three terms in the Senate, he has defied the teachers unions to support experiments with school vouchers and efforts to hold schools accountable for their performance, infuriated trial lawyers by supporting reasonable steps to rein in abusive lawsuits, and confronted Hollywood over gratuitous sex and violence. He's moderate on fiscal matters, combining one of the most progressively structured tax plans of the Democratic field with a pledge to limit the growth of most federal spending to the rate of inflation. He brings a deep commitment to civil rights, nurtured in marches in Mississippi while a college student. His assertive approach to national security contemplates U.S. intervention on behalf of democracy and human rights, not only in Iraq but throughout the globe. All this is a mixture that would serve him well in the Oval Office, even if it may be turning off some Democratic primary voters.

Lieberman has said and done much to earn my respect in the last few years. Even his abandonment of some of his principled positions in order to comport with the Democratic Party platform after having accepted the V.P. slot on the Gore ticket is understandable in my view. Sad, but understandable. I think he has campaigned with integrity and consistency in the race to this point. Which of course is why he's running way back in the pack. It's good to see mainstream liberal publications like the Post and The New Republic endorsing him.

For comparative purposes, here are the links to the Post's views on Dean, Kerry, Edwards and Gephardt

January 16, 2004

Steyn on Kazan

Mark Steyn has an excellent piece up on Elia Kazan which contrasts the courage and principles of the man with the Hollywood Communists, who refused to admit and defend who and what they were. Here's an excerpt:

That’s what all those Hollywood and Broadway Communists did. They were the polite front of an ideology that led to mass murder, and they expected Kazan to honour their gentleman’s agreement. In those polite house parties Gregory Peck goes to in Kazan's movie, it’s rather boorish and tedious to become too exercised about anti-semitism. And likewise, at gatherings in the arts, it’s boorish and tedious to become too exercised about Communism – no matter how many faraway, foreign, unglamorous people it kills. Elia Kazan was on the right side of history. His enemies line up with the apologists for thugs and tyrants. Whose reputation would you bet on in the long run?

At the same site are some Steynesque thoughts on other famous people who passed away in the year 2003, from Amin to Zevon. (via Samizdata)

January 15, 2004

Stick A Fork In It

Daniel Drezner covers the Paul O'Neill flap about as well as anyone has with two good posts, first here from Monday, and then here as a follow-up to the O'Neill backtracking and clarifications. Among O'Neill's clarifications (which I'm betting won't get an airing on "60 Minutes" anytime soon) were these statements from a Reuters article (via Drezner):

He described the reaction to Suskind's book as a "red meat frenzy" and said people should read his comments in context, particularly about the Iraq war.

"People are trying to say that I said the president was planning war in Iraq early in the administration. Actually there was a continuation of work that had been going on in the Clinton administration with the notion that there needed to be a regime change in Iraq."

What surprised him, said O'Neill, was how much priority was given to Iraq by the president....

Asked about his comment that during Cabinet meetings Bush was like "a blind man in a room full of deaf people," O'Neill said he regretted some of the language he used to describe his former boss.

"If I could take it back, I would take it back. It has become the controversial centerpiece."

Pressed whether he would vote for Bush in the November presidential election, O'Neill said he probably would, but he said the American people needed to demand more of their leaders.

I think that last statement just about throws the last shovelful of dirt on this non-scandal. How telling is it that the guy the media establishment promoted for several days, and feted with interviews on 60 Minutes and Today in an attempt to scandalize Bush, has now said he plans to vote for him, because he sees no better alternative. An in-your-face moment for the media.

Browns Thinking Winslow Jr.?

When Kellen Winslow Jr. announced a couple weeks ago that he was entering the NFL Draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper said Winslow immediately jumped into the top ten players available. (He's currently at No. 6 in Mel's listing). The Browns haven't had a superior tight end since Ozzie Newsome, and they need offensive weapons badly. The fact is they need a lot of things badly. There will be no Browns in Hawaii for next month's Pro Bowl. That's why they won only five games. That's why they're drafting in the seventh or eighth spot, pending a coin flip.

I have been on record with my Browns fan friends that the team's priority HAD to be either an offensive tackle (everybody's All-American Iowa's Robert Gallery or Arkansas' Shawn Andrews come to mind), or a defensive back, either corner or safety. Miami's Sean Taylor, OU's Derrick Strait and the Buckeye Chris Gamble stand out as possibly worthy of a Top Ten pick.

I think most Browns fans would be stunned if the team did not draft an offensive lineman in the first round. I love Sean Taylor though, and thought Butch might go back to another of his beloved Hurricanes to get the possible Woodson-Lott caliber safety with the pick. If they aggressively addressed the OL in free agency (say, Orlando Pace or multiple others) the top pick could be used on an offensive touchdown-making weapon. Dennis Northcutt, the only player who even remotely scared defensive coordinators last season appears to be packing his bags to leave (disrespect?). Now there is reason to think that the Browns might be zeroing in on Winslow as that new touchdown-maker.

On Monday, former Miami Hurricane and current Canes Offensive Coordinator Rob Chudzinski was hired by Butch Davis and The Cleveland Browns to be their tight ends coach. Go figure. The guy whose job it has been for the last two years to figure out how to get the most out of the immensely talented Winslow, has just joined the Browns' staff. As tight ends coach. As they say, you don't have to paint me a picture.

I admit that I have not been one of Winslow Jr's biggest boosters. I've seen him have at least one locker room temper tantrum on camera, and in last year's Fiesta Bowl, he taunted opposing players, ran his mouth at officials, and acted up to the point that he was admonished by one of the broadcasters to "Just play!". To be fair though, I'm a Buckeye partisan, so he was one of the "bad guys", and I really haven't seen anything from this young man that doesn't seem to stem mostly from his fierce competitiveness and will to win. I want guys like that on my team. Besides, what is he, 20? He may even grow up. And he is a very special talent.

Even if I'm right that the team is setting the table for drafting Winslow, I'm still not sold on the idea. The other needs are still more pressing. I'll believe Carmen Policy and Davis will sign a bigtime free agent like Pace when they show me. Catch me in March. I'm cooking on it.

January 13, 2004

Wesley and the War Criminal

Back in September I posted this entry to Wizblog at about the time that the centrist elements of the Democratic Party were beginning to seriously promote Wesley Clark as the anti-Dean candidate. The Robert Novak article linked there told the story of Clark's ill-advised photo-op with Serbian war criminal Ratko Mladic, who is still at large in the Balkans and wanted by the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague. In that photo, which Novak said had been widely circulated in Europe, Clark and Mladic struck a grinning pose wearing each other's military caps in a shot that, one hopes, Clark now regrets.

I wondered at the time why I hadn't seen the photo somewhere in the blogosphere, if it was in such wide circulation. Well, inside of 15 seconds I was looking at it, courtesy of Google Images, and I promptly linked to it to accompany the Novak piece. Now some four months later, with Clark's candidacy on the come, I found myself wondering again why this shot hadn't been getting wider play, at least among Bush partisans. I tried the other day to redo my Google Images search, and the photo is no longer available there. Interesting, no?

So for those of you who have not yet seen the shot of this regrettable moment by one of the favorites for the Democratic presidential nomination, I give you Clark and Mladic:

Mladic-Clark (2).jpg

Equally interesting is this excerpt from the Novak piece that describes the Mladic-Clark meeting, and the way the State Dept. had to keep Clark on a short leash, leading to the "Clark Rule":

U.S. diplomats warned Clark not to go to Bosnian Serb military headquarters to meet Mladic, considered by U.S. intelligence as the mastermind of the Srebrenica massacre of Muslim civilians (and still at large, sought by NATO peacekeeping forces). Besides the exchange of hats, they drank wine together, and Mladic gave Clark a bottle of brandy and a pistol.

This was what U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke's team seeking peace in Yugoslavia tried to avoid by instituting the "Clark Rule": whenever the general is found talking alone to a Serb, Croat or Muslim, make sure an American civilian official rushes to his side. It produced some comic opera dashes by diplomats.

After Clark's meeting with Mladic, the State Department cabled embassies throughout Europe that there was no change in policy toward the Bosnian Serbs. The incident cost Victor Jackovich his job as U.S. ambassador to Bosnia, even though he protested Clark's course. The upshot came months later, when Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic, in bitter negotiations with Holbrooke, handed Clark back his Army hat.

After such behavior, Clark was never on the promotion list to full general until he appealed to Defense Secretary William Perry and Gen. John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He got his fourth star and became commander in chief of the Southern Command. His last post, as NATO supreme commander, found this infantry officer leading an air war against the Serbs over Kosovo. Clark argued with NATO colleagues by insisting on a ground troops option and complaining about the slowly graduated bombing campaign. He was pushed out abruptly by Defense Secretary William Cohen.

My question is: If Wesley Clark is ever Commander-in-Chief, who will enforce the "Clark Rule"?

UPDATE: Okay, I stand corrected by more than one person, and by my own checking. This whole issue was bandied about the blogosphere pretty well last Fall. I had it here, and I guess I didn't look too hard for it elsewhere. But the fact remains that Clark's growing candidacy makes discussion of his judgment in matters like the Mladic meeting a valid campaign issue.

January 12, 2004

Best Photos of 2003

Readers of something called Fifth Essence voted these the "Best of 2003" so see what you think. A few of them, like these guys, knocked me out.

bestph23 (3).jpg

(via a Weblog called Totally Flabbergasted , at which I resolve to spend some more time, though I suppose I would "get" more of the funny stuff if it were in English.)

January 11, 2004

Colts Offense Unreal

That was a pretty amazing performance by the Colts offense today. I don't believe I have ever seen a better overall offensive performance for a game, and certainly never a better one over two games, than what they pulled off in these playoffs. We'll find out how good Bill Belichick is next Sunday. Should be fun.

January 10, 2004

Is Altruism Natural?

Are we humans capable only of self-interested behavior? A lot of people think so, and Roger Kimball thinks "it is interesting to ask why". As usual, then Kimball proceeds to make it interesting. An excerpt:

We are naturally taken aback when we hear someone praise selfishness as a virtue because we know it is not a good thing to be "without regard for the well being of others." Of course, people who praise selfishness as a virtue know this.

Often, I suspect, their praise is deliberately provocative. They know as well as the rest of us that one should not be selfish--that one should not act "without regard for the well being of others." They know, too, since they are not lunatics, that there is plenty of selfless benevolence around: just look at the behavior of most mothers towards their infants.

But they praise selfishness in order to call attention to the hypocrisy and sentimentalization that often attends the praise of selflessness and altruism. This is very much worth doing. For there can be no doubt that some people who loudly praise selflessness are concerned less with the welfare of others than in enhancing their own feelings of virtue. (Such feelings help explain the attraction of what we have come to call political correctness: see, e.g., here. )

Kimball links us there to this terrific essay from The National Interest on the PC phenomenon. Here's a taste of that:

Major newspapers in the United States refuse to accept advertisements for houses to let that mention that their property has "good views" (unfair to the blind), is "walking distance" to the train (unfair to the lame), is on a "quiet street" (unfair to the deaf). I know it sounds mad. It is mad. Nevertheless, it is true.

But to return to the sources of political correctness: Robespierre, Mao, 1984-what a grisly confraternity. Is it too grisly? In some ways. It does not seem quite right to describe Robespierre as "PC." Or does it? How about Mao? Or Orwell's enforcer O'Brien? Were such sinister figures "PC" within the usual meaning of the term? Not quite, perhaps; and yet, almost."

All of those figures in one way or another demonstrated what the essayist calls "a union of abstract benevolence, which takes mankind as a whole for its object, with rigid moralism. This is a toxic, misery-producing brew."

Check it out. Long, but worth it, especially if you've read this far already.

TNR Goes For Joe

This strong endorsement by The New Republic of Senator Joe Lieberman for the Democratic nomination for President begs the Democratic Party to come back toward the serious, sensible center, because that's where America is.

TNR's editors characterize the last three years as disastrous for a Party that looked to be in ascendance with the nomination of Gore-Lieberman in 2000. That ticket...

"...had seemed to secure the New Democratic legacy. Foreign policy hawkishness, free trade, and fiscal discipline--once heresies in the party--were now mainstream. Indeed, the dominant Democratic response to Gore and Lieberman's loss was to chastise them for not running more explicitly on Clinton's record."

But since January 2001..

The Democratic Party is racing back to the '80s, with interest groups enforcing litmus tests on everything from partial-birth abortion to steel tariffs, and party activists dangerously out of touch with a country that feels threatened by terrorism, not Donald Rumsfeld. Dean has helped create this mood of self-righteous delusion, and his competitors have, to varying degrees, accommodated themselves to it. Only Lieberman--the supposed candidate of appeasement--is challenging his party, enduring boos at event after event, to articulate a different, better vision of what it means to be a Democrat. Three years ago, that vision seemed ascendant. Today, it is once again at the margins.

Lieberman has been both consistent and courageous in standing up to the far left in his own party, and to the problems of tyranny and terrorism. Another excerpt:

"...global anxiety about America's overwhelming power means it is likely that any significant U.S. military intervention short of an Afghanistan-style response to direct attack will provoke hostility in Europe and on the American left. A Democratic president may have to defy both America's allies and his domestic political base to aggressively fight terrorism and defend freedom. So far, at least, Dean's record on the national stage suggests he doesn't understand that. Lieberman does....

....The deep irony of Lieberman's campaign is that many Democrats view him as timid. But how much courage does it take for Dean to throw red meat to the party faithful?.....

....Dean and his supporters identify viscerally with the foreign governments that resent being bullied by Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Yet they identify barely at all with the largely voiceless people--in countries like Syria and Iran--who might consider a democracy's projection of power into the heart of a region defined by tyranny to be progressive, even inspiring."

For Dean to consider that possibility, he would have to acknowledge that George Bush is a progressive. It's more likely he'll call the folks at MoveOn.org and tell them to keep those TV spots coming.

I do take issue with one part of the TNR editorial.

Here's the paragraph on Lieberman's anti-orthodox stance on school choice: (emphasis added)

"Where Lieberman diverges most from his competitors on domestic policy is in his willingness to challenge entrenched party interest groups. Many liberal intellectuals privately fret about the teachers' unions' stranglehold on Democratic education policy. But Lieberman is one of the few national Democrats to challenge them. He supports experimenting with school vouchers, not because of free-market theology but because of neoliberal empiricism: He wants to see if they work. And his educational heresies extend beyond school choice. In 2000, he rankled Ted Kennedy and the teachers' unions by endorsing tough new testing for schools, yet he also proposed generous funding increases to make those standards achievable. This was the Third Way at its best: government demanding accountability but providing real help.

While implying they agree that "school choice" is an idea whose time has come, the editors feel that conservative motives as champions of school choice programs must be smeared as base "free-market theology", (read: "worship of money"), while Lieberman's motives are naturally more honorable. You see, he actually "wants to see if they work".

Why didn't conservatives ever think of that? Let's try them to see if they work, because the alternative is continued miserable failure for many. The whole notion of trying to do something to improve the education of American children had not occurred to conservatives, so busy were they conducting theological experiments in wealth creation on our kids. Off sarcasm.

How incredibly insulting that is to the many thousands of parents, educators and yes, politicians of both parties, who have worked so hard for so long to provide some sound choices to low income parents trying desperately to rescue their kids from a public school system that has increasingly been failing them.

Read the whole piece. I agree with them that Lieberman is the best man in the race for the Democrats. I hope that still means something, even two months from now.

UPDATE 1/10: David Adesnik at Oxblog thinks Howard Dean should be Governor of something, and he makes some great points on Bush foreign policy while commenting on the TNR article. Great blog, Oxblog!

January 8, 2004

Will on Rose

I know way too much ink has already been spilled on the Pete Rose matter, but George Will is a reknowned baseball fan so his take on the situation is bound to be worth reading. Then he slays me with this line:

Rose's coming clean is the most soiled conversion of convenience since ... well, Aug. 17, 1998, when DNA evidence caused Bill Clinton to undergo a memory clarification.

You might have guessed that on the question of Rose getting into the Hall of Fame, Will's answer is a thumbs down. Most people whose reactions I've read have been put off by Rose's seeming lack of contrition, even now when it counts for the only thing he seems to want very badly. More from Will:

Rose lied -- and charmed the gullible -- for 14 years. Now, with the clock running out on his eligibility to election by baseball writers to the Hall of Fame, he pugnaciously says: I lied but "I'm just not built'' to "act all sorry or sad or guilty'' about it. "Act''?

Rose's critics have said that repentance is a necessary -- not a sufficient -- prerequisite for restoring his eligibility to the Hall of Fame. Many, probably most, of Rose's critics are revolted by the moral obtuseness of his synthetic repentance.

His dwindling band of defenders responds that it is unfair to judge Rose not by what he does but by the way he does it. Yet regarding repentance, the way you do it is what you do.

January 7, 2004

The Far-Left Drinks The Hatorade

Pejman Yousefzadeh has an upbeat attitude about the recent ad competition at MoveOn.org that resulted in a number of entries comparing Bush to Hitler appearing on the website. At his fine blog, Pejmanesque, he calls it "hysterical", adding a "loud guffaw" for effect.

After all, according to the NY Times account,

"It sounded like a fun way to expand participation in this year's presidential election, at least for those opposed to re-electing President Bush."

Those zany kids over at MoveOn.org. What won't they do next for a laugh? At the Most Ironically-Named Website of the Decade, the Bush-hatred oozes from nearly every post, which makes their denials and backpedaling on the subject of the ads' content all the more laughable. Responding to criticism from the RNC:

Wes Boyd, a MoveOn.org founder, fired back, saying Republicans were "deliberately and maliciously" misleading the public by asserting that MoveOn.org had sponsored the advertisements. "None of these was our ad," Mr. Boyd said in a statement. "Nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund."

His contention that the offensive ads "slipped through" somehow onto the website prompted this comment from Pejman:

So according to this statement, the problem with Moveon.org is not that they are historical illiterates who don't understand the significance and genuine awfulness of the Nazi era. The real problem is that they are a motley collection of halfwits who allow things to "slip through" to their websites without the proper screening.

Again, laughter seems the best way to deal with this excuse-making. One thing that can reliably be said about the unhinged far-left wing of the movement, whose web home seems to be MoveOn.org, is that they don't apologize for their utter hatred of Bush. And Hitler references are their stock in trade.

Hindrocket at Power Line points out the "selective outrage" of Richard Cohen, who in a recent column goes off on Grover Norquist's (equally idiotic) mention of the Holocaust in the context of a discussion of the estate tax, of all things.

"can Cohen really be unaware that Hitler/Third Reich/Holocaust analogies are a staple of liberal rhetoric about the Bush administration? Does he really not know that at every anti-war demonstration, protesters carry signs with pictures of President Bush with a Hitler mustache? Didn't he read about the MoveOn.org television ad competition in which two of the entries showed President Bush morphing into Adolf Hitler? Doesn't he know that likening Bush to Hitler is the tritest staple of liberal discourse?

Cohen cannot possibly be unaware that "Bush=Hitler" is the mantra of the contemporary left. So what are we to make of the fact that he has never criticized liberals for their intolerant rhetoric, but has gone absolutely bananas when Grover Norquist had the temerity to mention the Holocaust?

I, personally, would like to see a moratorium on all references to Hitler, the Third Reich, Nazism and the Holocaust in the context of domestic political debate. Such a rule would have no perceptible effect on conservative discourse, but it would render the left virtually mute.

Well, at least the MoveOn.org wing of the Left anyway.

So I found it particularly a propos that in a later post Pejman linked to the classic 2002 Michael Walzer essay, "Can There Be A Decent Left?" , which I eagerly re-read, and hereby recommend to all MoveOn.org posters, frequenters and sympathisers. Especially these sections about political responsibility, written as part of Walzer's advice to his fellow liberals:

It is a common idea on the left that political responsibility is something like temperance, moderation, and cleanliness--good bourgeois values that are incompatible with radical politics or incisive social criticism. You have to be a little wild to be a radical. That isn’t a crazy idea, and alienated intellectuals may well have, more than anyone else, the anger necessary to begin the critical project and the lust for intellectual combat that sustains it. But they don't necessarily get things right, and the angrier they are and the more they are locked into their combative posture, the more likely they are to get things wrong. What was necessary after September 11, and what is necessary now, is an engagement with our fellow citizens that recognizes the fellowship. We can be as critical as we like, but these are people whose fate we share; we are responsible for their safety as they are for ours, and our politics has to reflect that mutual responsibility. When they are attacked, so are we; and we should join willingly and constructively in debates about how to defend the country. Once again: we should act as if we won’t always be powerless.

Of the left's understandable feelings of powerlessness and alienation, Walzer seems to suggest what reasonable people from both parties are hoping occurs to Democrats sometime soon. That they get serious!

...leftists have no power in the United States and most of us don't expect to exercise power, ever. Many left intellectuals live in America like internal aliens, refusing to identify with their fellow citizens, regarding any hint of patriotic feeling as politically incorrect. That’s why they had such difficulty responding emotionally to the attacks of September 11 or joining in the expressions of solidarity that followed. Equally important, that’s why their participation in the policy debate after the attacks was so odd; their proposals (turn to the UN, collect evidence against bin Laden, and so on) seem to have been developed with no concern for effectiveness and no sense of urgency. They talked and wrote as if they could not imagine themselves responsible for the lives of their fellow-citizens. That was someone else’s business; the business of the left was...what? To oppose the authorities, whatever they did. The good result of this opposition was a spirited defense of civil liberties. But even this defense displayed a certain willful irresponsibility and ineffectiveness, because so many leftists rushed to the defense of civil liberties while refusing to acknowledge that the country faced real dangers--as if there was no need at all to balance security and freedom. Maybe the right balance will emerge spontaneously from the clash of rightwing authoritarianism and leftwing absolutism, but it would be better practice for the left to figure out the right balance for itself, on its own; the effort would suggest a responsible politics and a real desire to exercise power, some day.

UPDATE 1/8: Byron York makes the point in today's article at NRO, that a comparison of Bush to Hitler is perfectly consistent with the track record and overall theme of MoveOn.org, so why are they now at pains to disavow the message of the offensive ads that have gotten attention this week?

UPDATE 1/13: Drudge Report has a partial transcript of some of the speeches given at the MoveOn.org awards event in New York City Monday night. Free cups of Hatorade were being served, by all indications.

January 6, 2004

Maller is a Daily Habit

Now that I can read the sports sections of my local newspapers online, the only time I actually pick up the paper is on Sundays, when I like to enjoy the Sports with my morning coffee. And lately, Ben Maller's Rumors and Notes site has become this sports junkie's daily fix for all player notes, and information on trades, injuries, and coaching moves. Maller combs all of the nations major dailies and links to just about everything involving a player or coach in MLB, the NBA or NFL. I can scan it all in just a few minutes, and with so much to read on the web, and so little time to do it, this is a service that I really value. Check it out.

Questions For Dean

Rich Lowry suggests some questions that Howard Dean's rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, or possibly even the press, might ask him. A couple of examples:

- You say that Bush doesn't understand the needs of middle-class families. Yet your proposed full repeal of the Bush tax cut could, as some of your opponents point out, result in a $2,000 tax increase for a middle-class family of four. What do you understand about middle-class families' hunger for higher taxes that the rest of us don't?

- In the North Korean crisis, the Bush administration is engaging in intense multilateral diplomacy to make North Korea's neighbors part of any settlement. You advocate that the United States instead cut out other countries to engage in direct talks with Pyongyang. What explains your burst of unilateralism?

- You say the United States shouldn't have fought the Iraq War because Saddam did not present "an imminent threat" to the United States. Yet you supported wars in the 1990s in Bosnia and Kosovo. How exactly did Slobodan Milosevic pose an imminent threat to the United States?

News Flash: Pete Rose A Liar

Eric McErlain over at Off Wing Opinion has a good summary of what's being said and written about Pete Rose's "confession" that he bet on baseball. And at ESPN.com, Jayson Stark and Jim Caple weigh in. An excerpt from Caple:

I always thought that an admission would help Rose's cause but given the circumstances, I'm not so sure. The public backed him before this but he could be in for a severe backlash. Those who believed in him will feel betrayed and upset that he lied for 14 years. Those that always knew he bet on baseball but still thought he deserved a second chance are going to be upset that his admission does not contain an adequate apology and was tied to promoting his book.

Fans are infinitely capable of forgiveness but it helps when the person actually asks to be forgiven.

And I've got to agree with Caple's conclusion as well:

while the Hustler should be eligible for the Hall of Fame (as long as the plaque mentions his gambling), the ban should continue for his active participation in baseball. It's one thing for a museum to honor Rose for his playing career but a compulsive liar and gambler with more career debts than hits should never be allowed back in baseball in a capacity that could influence the outcome of a game or a season.

It took nearly 15 years for the Hustler to admit what we already knew. And in the meantime, we realized that while he was a Hall of Fame-caliber player, there isn't much else worth admiring.

January 5, 2004

Hanson in Commentary

Victor Davis Hanson's essay, "Iraq's Future, and Ours". Here's a taste:

We are an impatient people. In part, no doubt, our restlessness is a byproduct of our own unprecedented ease and affluence. Barbarians over the hills do not descend to kill us; no diseases wipe out our children by the millions; not starvation but obesity is more likely to do us in. Since we are so rich and so powerful, why is it, we naturally wonder, that we cannot simply and quickly call into being a secure, orderly, prosperous Iraq, a benign Islamic version of a New England township? What incompetence, or worse, lies behind our failure even to seize Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein?

But Iraq is not Middlebury or Amherst—and it will not be for another century. What is truly astonishing is not our inability in six months to create an Arab utopia, but the sheer audacity of our endeavor to send our liberating troops into the heart of an ancient and deeply chauvinistic culture that over the past decades had reduced itself to utter ruin. Saddam Hussein and his sons spent those decades gassing their own people, conducting maniacal wars against Iran and Kuwait, launching missiles into Israel and Saudi Arabia, despoiling the Mesopotamian wetlands and driving out the marsh people, and systematically murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents. Real progress would have meant anything even marginally better than this non-ending nightmare, let alone what we have already achieved in Iraq.

January 3, 2004

A Complicated People

Tex De Atkine, a U.S. military veteran, PSYOP and Middle East expert, reports his assessments of the situation in Iraq, having just spent a few weeks there. He doesn't sugarcoat anything, and demonstrates a real understanding of Iraqi culture. A guy with this kind of insight should really be getting more exposure.

The link is courtesy of Wretchard at Belmont Club, who just continues to crank out thoughtful, informative bloggage day after day. Visit the site, and just keep on scrolling.

Fiesta Bowl Thoughts

The Ohio State Buckeyes will finish the 2003 season ranked no worse than No. 5 in the nation, and I can't for the life of me figure out how that happened. They held on to beat Kansas State last night in the Fiesta Bowl by a score of 35-28, and finished 11-2 for the season, showing the "two faces" of Jim Tressel's Buckeyes in the process.

First the determined, dominating defense, opportunistic special teams, and methodical (OK, boring) style of offense that won the National Championship last year.

But they also showed that over-conservative offense, schizophrenic quarterback play, and curious late-game defensive lapses that allowed the opponent to make the game closer than it had any business being. It's hard to argue with 25-2 over two seasons (and don't forget that Ring) but if you watched this team play all year, it's still difficult to think of them as being a Top 5 outfit, much as it pains me to admit it. To paraphrase Kirk Herbstreit of ESPN, no team with an offense this bad has ever been ranked this high in the polls, and in contention for the National Championship. But enough about that for now. It's time for congratulations.

What a run for these seniors! Krenzel, Jenkins, Allen, Smith, Anderson, Scott, Reynolds, Olivea, Clarke, Stepanovich, Bishop, Sander, Carter, Hartsock. At least eight of these guys will be playing in the NFL next year, and that doesn't count Chris Gamble who announced after the game last night that he will forgo his senior year to go pro. These were guys not recruited by Tressel, but who thrived under his leadership. Thanks guys, for two great years.

To the game...

You can read the accounts of the action from the Plain Dealer and the Akron Beacon Journal, and look at the Bucknuts.com Photo Pages here and here. Bucknuts carries a whole page of links to various news articles on the Fiesta Bowl here. See also the ESPN recap and box score.

The blocked punt was huge as a way to get the team fired up after a boring exchange of punts in the first quarter. The Bucks had a spring in their step after that gift touchdown.

I thought Krenzel had one of his worst performances ever, despite throwing 4 TD's. I know that sounds nutty. He was constantly behind his receivers, even on the first TD to Holmes. Both picks were on horribly underthrown balls to wide open receivers. I had hoped for better by him in his last football game ever. But you can't deny that he's a winner. 25-2 is no accident, even if it's the product of the Tressel system as opposed to the physical talents of the QB. So how does a guy who only completes 11 passes all night, and looks bad even on some of the completions, win the MVP Award? Just by winning the game, I guess. Such has become the habit of Craig Krenzel. Thank for the memories... and the ulcers, Craig Krenzel.

The game will also be remembered for having seen perhaps the dumbest move by a player that I have seen in any game in many years. With OSU trying to run down the clock with a 7-point lead and 1:20 left in the game, we have one more play, on 3rd and 16, before we have to punt it back to KSU, who have no time outs remaining. Therefore a running play is called so we can run off the full 30 seconds or so between plays, leaving KSU only about 45 seconds to try to tie the game. Lydell Ross gets the ball and runs left, and then manages to put every Buckeye fan on the planet into a screaming fit of rage and disbelief by RUNNING RIGHT OUT OF BOUNDS! As soon as the play is called in the huddle, ten other guys should have been reminding him to, above all else, STAY IN BOUNDS! As if he shouldn't know that basic fundamental rule from playing football his whole life. To me it points up yet again that Ross has no football instincts whatsoever. How many holes did he miss last night alone? He seems to have regressed from his freshman year. That play alone tells me that the guy should never start another game for this team. I'll take my chances on a true freshman next year. Ross has nothing. Sorry man, nothing personal.

Then we had the pity party for Kansas State QB Ell Roberson, which was carried on in the national media for 24 hours or so before the game and then by the ABC announcers throughout the telecast. Roberson was accused of rape by a woman with whom he said he had consensual sex early Thursday morning, but what was not in doubt was that he had violated his team's 11 p.m. curfew by about six hours, and so his status for the game was in doubt right up until kickoff time.

Meanwhile, all we heard from the announcers was one long sob story about the terrible "distraction" that this young man had to deal with, and that so much was "weighing on his mind" coming into this football game, owing to situations in "his personal life". When he went about 3 for 16 passing to start out the game, we were supposed to feel sorry for the guy who had apparently decided the team rules were for everybody but him.

I of course have no quarrel with the "innocent until proven guilty" principle that defines our system of justice, but what about the open-and-shut curfew violation? If there hadn't even been any accusation of sexual assault, the guy deserved to sit out at least part of the game on the basis of being out at 4:30 in the morning. It's almost as if Snyder used the assault "allegations" as a reason to ignore the blatant team rules violation that would have forced him to take some action. That's chickenshit, and bad enough in and of itself.

But then we have to listen the whole game to the announcers lament this poor guy's plight, what with "all that he has on his mind" as a rationale for why he's going 20 for 51 passing. Give me a break! He did a selfish and irresponsible thing just by being out till 4:30 a.m., and he let his teammates down by putting himself above the rules. Let's give the Buckeyes defense a little credit for Roberson's poor passing stats too, shall we? It might have had a little to do with the fact that OSU held Roberson's teammate, star running back Darren Sproles, to 38 yards rushing for the game. Was he also "distracted" by his situations in his personal life?

As a Buckeye fan I'm glad Roberson started, so our victory isn't tainted by this kid's absence. He's a great talent, and he almost brought them all the way back. Oh, by the way, KSU's Coach Snyder has said that Roberson will be subject to discipline after the conclusion of the game. Just one more detail. Roberson is a senior, and the Fiesta Bowl was the last game of his college career. I hope Snyder's proposed punishment isn't too severe. Meanwhile, Ohio State played the entire season without their preseason 1st Team All-American running back, who was suspended for the year, though he has been accused of no crime. Different strokes...

Random game thoughts...

Regardless of how well Brandon Joe performed last night, how sad is it that the state of our depth at running back is such that when our starter gets hurt, our backup tailback is a fullback?

Carpenter was MVP on defense without question. A TV graphic near the end of the game had Bobby with "5 tackles". I counted that many in the first 10 minutes of the first quarter! The guy was just everywhere. What a promising performance he put on.

At this point I'm not sure whether to congratulate Tressel and the rest of the staff and players for taking this team to a Top 4 finish, with all the MoC distractions, and one of the worst offensive schemes in the history of OSU, or try to hold them accountable for settling for one of the worst offensive schemes in the history of OSU football. In my opinion, Bollman must go. He is responsible for an offensive line that never seems to live up to their talent/billing, and he presides over our Neanderthal offensive concept as Offensive Coordinator (even though Tressel calls plays). It seems obvious to me that this is an area that cries out for change. Just one man's opinion.

And how lame were ACC's announcers? If those two dips ever work another Bowl Game it will be a crime. My favorite line was when the one guy commented that the Kansas St punter had had a "fantastic game".

My comment at the time was "Yeah, except for that one shank of about 16 yards that went out of bounds at midfield, and the other one that was blocked and run in for a touchdown, he's been having a great night!"

But they really made themselves look like total fools at the end of the game, when, after a first down by KSU, the referees started the clock after placing the ball ready for play, as they always do by rule, and the announcers are screaming that KSU is getting robbed of precious seconds because they are so ignorant of the rules of the game. The one guy commented about how Coach Snyder was "furious...and he should be..." and just then the camera panned over to Snyder, who was at that moment calmly instructing his players in the final seconds of play. It was classic. At least Snyder knew the rules.

Memo to Ed Cunningham, and whoever your second-stringer boothmate is: After the first down, when the ref places the ball down at the line of scrimmage, and the yard markers have been advanced, and the ref steps away from the ball and makes that big circular clock-like motion with his arm, that means "Start the Clock!" Get it?

It's enough to make a Buckeye fan long for Dan Fouts.

January 1, 2004

"The Year of Freedom"

An Iraqi blogger celebrates 2003:

Good bye 2003, good bye my most beautiful year. I'll grieve your end and sing your legend as long as I live.
You made my greatest dream come true.
I know that the coming years will bring all the good to my country, simply because we have put our feet on the right path.
The will of the good have achieved victory, and that is enough for me to be optimistic, but those will not be as special as you were
2003; the year of freedom.
Before you I was mute, and here goes my tongue praying for the best,
Before you I was hand-cuffed, and here are my hands free to write,
Before you my mind was tied to one thought and here I find wide horizons and greater thoughts,
Before you I was isolated, and here I join the wide universe.
I will never forget you; you broke the chains for my people, and rid us from the big jail.

What can I say after that? Except maybe "read it all".

(link via BuzzMachine)

Silver Lining

The Wizblog home computer died on the last day of 2003. I had been having some trouble with the thing "freezing" on me in recent days, and this time it froze during reboot, and won't come up at all anymore. I'm assuming that a new motherboard will make it better, but I pulled the trigger on a new Dell today, just to be on the safe side. (All I was looking for was a good excuse anyway).

So my new box is the Dell 4600, P4 2.66 GHz. The timing was good, because Dell is giving free upgrades on RAM (256 to 512MB), hard drive (40 to 80 GB), and a second CD/DVD burner drive, all as part of the post-Christmas sales push. I also made the move from CRT to Flat Panel display monitor (18.1 in.), something that has just been dying to happen as a way to help ease my chronic eye strain of recent years. I added a 128 MB video card with TV-out, and upgraded a couple of the software packages, and I'm still out the door for an amazing $1168 (after $100 rebate), not including tax and shipping.

While I wait a week or 10 days for delivery, I'll have to content myself to blog on my wife's machine, and otherwise amuse myself with pursuits like learning the nuances of my new TiVo unit, and diving into my new unread books pile, which now includes new titles by Malkin, Noonan, Horowitz, Lowry, Klehr and Haynes, and C.S. Lewis.

Have I mentioned what a lucky S.O.B. I am?