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February 29, 2004

Anti-Semitism at the U.N.

Ann Bayefsky, writing in Commentary Magazine, documents the ongoing, systemic scourge of the United Nations. Until the organization deals with its institutionalized Jew-hatred, it will have no moral authority on any issue, IMO. Here's a brief excerpt from Bayefsky:

Israel's policies are, of course, fair game for legitimate criticism. But the UN's outrage is grossly selective, especially when one considers the record of any number of other member nations. In 2003, the General Assembly passed eighteen resolutions that singled out Israel for criticism; human-rights situations in the rest of the world drew only four country-specific resolutions. Nor, despite serious and well-documented charges of abuse reported to the UN over the years from, among others, the organization�s own special rapporteurs, has any resolution of the UN Commission on Human Rights ever been directed at China, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Pakistan, Malaysia, Mali, or Zimbabwe. (emphasis mine - DW)

A nation in which hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens have the rights to vote, to be represented in government, to work and to worship freely is singled out for human rights censure over Arab countries, among others, where no such freedoms exist for the majority populations. The reason for the double standard is bigotry. There's just no way to pretend it's something else.

Aaron "Sad" About Steroid Use

Henry Aaron is saddened by the prospect that whoever eventually breaks his career home run record may be tainted by allegations of steroid use:

"I'm sad for baseball about all of this," Aaron said in a phone conversation with the Daily News. "I played the game and we played it legitimately. Now something like this comes along and it ruins the game. All these records blow out the window. Aside from the records, though, this could be as bad as the Black Sox scandal."

(via Ben Maller)

"..guns, fists, tits and smirk"

Time Magazine's Richard Corliss takes the media to task for their selective moral outrage where Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ" is concerned.

The criticisms range from exploitation of Christ's crucifixion for monetary gain, to the film's use of excessive violence. Corliss wonders...

How many millions did Cecil B. DeMille make off his silent-film smash “The King of Kings”? How many billions do the movie and TV moguls make each year portraying, in a manner that doesn’t even attempt to be edifying, human suffering, mutilation and humiliation—for cheap thrills or cheaper laughs?

Certain Hollywood studio executives (who gutlessly have remained anonymous) are now threatening to blacklist Gibson. Corliss remarks:

For some of the industry’s moguls to deny him employment because they don’t like what he said, or because he made a controversial film, would send a creepy message to the public: that a liberal is someone who will defend to the death your right to agree with him.

That sounds about right. At bottom of course, what movie studios care most about is making money. Could the studios learn something from the financial success of the Gibson film?

Religious films could be a tattered genre Hollywood could revive, making a few bucks and a lot of converts to the old magic of movies. At least, it would indicate that liberal Hollywood isn’t afraid of serving up the occasional helping of traditional values alongside its usual smorgasbord of guns, fists, tits and smirk.

February 28, 2004

Discovering Feynman

"Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it." - Richard P. Feynman

The name rang a bell, but I really knew zip about Richard Feynman until a year ago. I suppose one reason is that I avoided science courses like the plague during my college years, and the Nobel Prize winning physicist had remained under my radar ever since. A friend lent me Feynman's most popular book a while back and I just finished reading Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman! this week, nearly 20 years after it was published.

Feynman has a significant cult following as I quickly discovered at www.Feynman.com. Not many scientists have fan websites, much less N.Y. Times Bestsellers. But Feynman, who died in 1988 at age 70, is as well known and popular on the strength of his eccentricity and charisma, as he is for his scholarly contributions in Quantum Electrodynamics. And it was primarily this book of personal anecdotes that vaulted him to notoriety outside of academia. It's no wonder his students loved him, and that he is remembered fondly. The guy was a genius and a prankster. A serious scientist and an adventurous rogue.

During his work for the Manhattan Project, the team that developed the first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, he became a self-taught safecracker, demonstrating to his superiors how insecure were the secrets to the most powerful weapon ever devised. When his first wife died young, he liked to run with the nightclub crowd wherever he went. He befriended Las Vegas showgirls, relaxing in his own booth, drinking only moderately, doing his calculations on cocktail napkins and hoping to get lucky.

He taught himself Portugese so he could lecture Brazilian students in their native tongue. He learned how to draw, and was soon selling prints in art galleries. He learned to play the bongos, and was soon performing with a musical troupe. He smoked pot. He experimented with sensory deprivation. His life was a quest summarized in the title of another of his books: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out and the Meaning of it All.

I found myself admiring Feynman as I read his stories, because he constantly challenged people to deal with reality, with demonstrable fact. He was a politically incorrect character. Whether it was critiquing the educational system in Brazil, evaluating science textbooks, or pointing out the lack of security at Los Alamos, he always spoke truth to power, and did it with a touch of mischievousness and humor. A book reviewer had this to say about Feynman's insistence on dealing in reality:

...underneath all the merriment simmers a running commentary on what constitutes authentic knowledge: learning by understanding, not by rote; refusal to give up on seemingly insoluble problems; and total disrespect for fancy ideas that have no grounding in the real world. Feynman himself had all these qualities in spades..

And this quote from Feynman reveals his belief that learning "why" and "how" are more important that simply "what":

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you're finished, you'll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird... So let's look at the bird and see what it's doing -- that's what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.

Finally, two additional quotes from Feynman on Science and the scientific method:

"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself - and you are the easiest person to fool."

More Feynman links:

Feynman on the WWW

Dr. Richard P. Feynman

Richard Feynman Link Page

Feature Story on VDH

It's no secret I'm a big Victor Davis Hanson fan. (I just checked and found that I had linked to his writing no less than 15 times in the first year of Wizblog's existence. I would have guessed it was more than that.) I knew he was a raisin farmer from Fresno, and a classicist at the Cal State campus there, but not a whole lot more than that about Hanson the man.

So it was good to read this feature story on Hanson from the LA Times, (requires free registration). It seems Bush and Cheney are big fans of VDH as well, and he also just landed a $500,000 advance for his new book on the Peloponnesian War. He's even considering giving up the family farm.

(via No Left Turns)

What is "Social Justice"?

This essay by Barry Loberfeld at Front Page Magazine, is one of the best treatments I have read of the conflict between "liberty" and "equality". Of course the idea that totalitarianism is not an aberration in a socialistic regime, but rather an inevitability, is not a new one. But Loberfeld makes the case persuasively. The whole piece is well worth reading, but here's an excerpt that gets to the core of the issue:

The apologists for applied "social justice" have always explained away its relationship to totalitarianism as nothing more than what we may call (after Orwell's Animal Farm) the "Napoleon scenario": the subversion of earnest revolutions by demented individuals (e.g., Stalin, Mao -- to name just two among too many). What can never be admitted is that authoritarian brutality is the not-merely-possible-but-inevitable realization of the nature of "social justice" itself.

What is "social justice"? The theory that implies and justifies the practice of socialism. And what is "socialism"? Domination by the State. What is "socialized" is state-controlled. So what is "totalitarian" socialism other than total socialism, i.e., state control of everything? And what is that but the absence of a free market in anything, be it goods or ideas? Those who contend that a socialist government need not be totalitarian, that it can allow a free market -- independent choice, the very source of "inequality"! -- in some things (ideas) and not in others (goods -- as if, say, books were one or the other), are saying only that the socialist ethic shouldn't be applied consistently.

This is nothing less than a confession of moral cowardice. It is the explanation for why, from Moscow to Managua, all the rivalries within the different socialist revolutions have been won by, not the "democratic" or "libertarian" socialists, but the totalitarians, i.e., those who don't qualify their socialism with antonyms. "Totalitarian socialism" is not a variation but a redundancy, which is why half-capitalist hypocrites will always lose out to those who have the courage of their socialist convictions.

February 27, 2004

Your Bookmarks On The Web

MyBookmarks.com is a nice little utility that allows you to put your bookmarks online, so you can use them from any computer. It's a small program, no installation process, and it took me about two minutes to get registered and automatically import all my bookmarks to the website. Easy interface for editing, deleting, moving, or adding bookmarks. This I can use.

(via Coolios Weblog)

Mock Drafts

About this time of year, the NFL Draft experts come out of the woodwork with predictions, rankings and analysis of both player talent, and the personnel needs of NFL teams. And in recent years the Mock Draft phenomenon has combined with the Internet to balloon into a cottage industry.

I've got to assume that most really good evaluators of professional football talent are gainfully employed by NFL teams. That leaves the people who can't get those jobs to publish "Draft Reports" and Mock Drafts. (I think there's an analogy in here somewhere for "writers" and "bloggers".)

There are two or three primary scouting combines that sell subscription services to NFL teams, but everybody else in the Draftnik business seems to be doing it with no visible means of support. People like Ourlads and Mel Kiper do a thorough job and I understand that they do sell their reports to NFL teams in addition to "draftnik" fans, but most Mock Draft sites are created by NFL fans or sports web information sites. In the week or two before the draft, every major newspaper in the country will publish their own version, but for now all we have are a couple hundred of these things, give or take. Kiper (on ESPN Insider) and The Sporting News charge real money to see their Draft predictions, but they are the exceptions to the rule.

Speaking of Mel Kiper; I used to buy Kiper's Draft Report for a four or five year period in the early 80's when he first started publishing it. Back then, before he got rich and famous and on ESPN, he used to work out of his house, and he put his home phone number on the front cover of his Draft Report so you could order it by phone. One time when I called to order the report, we got to talking about individual players, and he was gracious and understanding of my obvious Buckeye bias, as we debated the pro prospects of OSU players and others. So since he encouraged me (by not hanging up) I would occasionally call him to ask his opinion on individual players. Once I was all excited about a junior wide receiver for the Buckeyes who hadn't received a lot of national hype, but I was convinced from watching him that he was a star waiting to be discovered. If I recall, Kiper thought he was a 3rd or 4th rounder. His name was Cris Carter. I realize that means nothing. A lot of people underestimated Carter, but I like telling the story.

So it's a fan thing, (because there can't be any real revenue in this). Mock Drafts are popular because we all want to know what our favorite team is going to do, in the 1st round at least. The best 25 or so players are pretty much identifiable each year. Just about everybody knows who they are, and there isn't a lot of difference among mock drafters on the matter of who comprises the top 25, just in what order they will be drafted, and by whom.

This is one of two reasons why many of the Mock Drafts are limited to a projection of the 1st round. Shuffling the top 32-40 players and slapping them into a web site with NFL helmets is pretty simple. With a basic knowledge of a team's personnel needs, an observation of coaches statements and following the players they scout and bring in for interviews, or reading what the team's beat writers are saying, a draftnik can establish a pretty good track record of successfully predicting first round selections, say 15 out of 32, maybe a couple more.

The second reason many Mock Drafts only project one round is that it is absolutely insane to try to predict beyond the first few picks of the second round. After that it is truly a crapshoot.

Which brings us to the Browns, who will pick 7th this year, and are looking to improve themselves at offensive line, tight end, defensive backfield, and if Tim Couch tells them to stuff their renegotiation of his contract, maybe quarterback too. Lots of fans who are tired of seeing the team neglect the offensive line are praying that Tackle Robert Gallery from Iowa is still around by pick #7. That's unlikely, since the Giants (#4) are said to be enamored of Gallery, and Cleveland used up all of it's Pro Draft luck for this decade on LeBron.

But the nice thing about Mock Drafts is that if you look at enough of them, you'll find one or two that project exactly what you want them to project. "Browns pick Robert Gallery, T, Iowa, with the #7 selection."

As for this blog's preference, I'll say that I would love to see Gallery in an orange helmet, but I would also be ecstatic to see us land Sean Taylor or Kellen Winslow Jr., either of which is a plausible scenario. Or if one of the two top QB's (Manning or Roethlisberger) or top 3 WR's (Fitzgerald, Williams or Williams) somehow falls to us, I could live with any of those guys. But what do I know?

Here's what the experts say. (After the name of the Mock Draft, I have indicated in parentheses the name of the player that draft predicts will be taken by the Browns at #7.)

About Football Mock Draft (Shaun Andrews)

NFL Countdown Draft (Winslow Jr.)

NFL DraftWorld (Winslow Jr.)

Draft Notebook (Gallery)

Falkon Online (Gallery)

CBS Sportsline (Winslow Jr.)

Fox Sports (Taylor)

NFLFans.com (Andrews)

The Huddle Report (Gallery)

Great Blue North Report (Roy Williams)

An entire page of links to Mock Drafts

NFL Football Web Directory- NFL Draft Page

February 26, 2004

Shapiro On "Winning Course"

Peter Gammons has been a fan of Indians GM Mark Shapiro for a while now, but this article reinforces that opinion. Gammons won't go out on any limbs here with a prediction on the Indians' ability to compete for the Division title:

Are they likely to contend in the American League Central this year? Maybe, maybe not. C.C. Sabathia, Clifford Lee and Jason Davis could give them a solid front of their rotation. With Bob Wickman back at the end, along with David Riske, Jose Jimenez, Scott Stewart and Rafael Betancourt, the bullpen is deep. Milton Bradley, when healthy, is a premier player. How close to .500 they go will depend on how many of their talented young players make the major leagues and begin to produce, from catcher Victor Martinez to prize outfielder Grady Sizemore to pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Through trades -- especially getting Sizemore, Lee and Brandon Phillips for Colon -- and the draft, the farm system is considered one of the deepest in talent in either league.

I don't think we'll see too much of Sizemore this season, at least not until September call ups. There are just too many outfielders competing for time on the roster for Sizemore to play, and even though he's our prize prospect, we still need to find out if some of last year's prospects are going to make it as contributing regulars. I speak of Coco Crisp, Alex Escobar, and Ryan Ludwick mostly, and that outfield is pretty crowded already, with Milton Bradley, Jody Gerut and Matt Lawton out there as the presumed starters.

Guthrie had a rough time at AAA when he got promoted last summer, but the team has so much invested in him, and so little talent occupying their 5th starter slot, that we may see him sooner than many think. He'll be 25 in April, which makes him older than our No. 1 and No. 2 starters. They may ultimately decide to let him take his major league lumps sooner instead of later. I'd vote for that. I'm anxious to see him pitch.

Check out the whole Gammons piece. It includes an impressive mini-essay from Jody Gerut on the risks of a "sophomore slump". I daresay not too many major league ballplayers talk like that. A Stanford man, to be sure.

Incidentally, I discovered a new (to me) site for Cleveland sports articles that I have added to the "Sports Stuff" list at right. It's called ClevelandScores.com , and it's worth a look. It's a compilation of articles from the local area papers and the national sports sites, along with links to other Cleveland sports web resources.

Useful Idiots

It wasn't until I read David Horowitz' Radical Son several years ago, that I finally got my mind wrapped around the fact that the forces of the Left that were organizing, funding and promoting antiwar demonstrations in America in the 60's and 70's were the very same forces that were organizing and funding the Viet Cong troops we were fighting in the jungles of Vietnam. As a high school and college student during those years, I wasn't anything close to politically engaged, but even then I wasn't unaware of the ideological connection. Still that book and others I read around the same time in the 90's really brought home to me the extent to which Soviet money and propaganda had directly driven the U.S. anti-Vietnam war movement. That the CPUSA took both money and marching orders from Moscow is no longer seriously questioned, and since much of the leadership of the radical Left in America was sympathetic to Soviet-style communism, there was no shortage of willing footsoldiers here at home to spread the word.

I was reminded of the connection today reading this Ion Mihai Pacepa article in which he describes the extent to which Moscow literally wrote the script for the American antiwar movement. Pacepa was the chief of Romania's intelligence service during that period, in short a KGB operative, and is the highest ranking Soviet intelligence official to defect to the West. He focuses on some of the words spoken by a young John Kerry on his return from Vietnam, because they sounded strikingly familiar:

On April 12, 1971, Kerry told the U.S. Congress that American soldiers claimed to him that they had, "raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned on the power, cut off limbs, blew up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in a fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan."

The exact sources of that assertion should be tracked down. Kerry also ought to be asked who, exactly, told him any such thing, and what it was, exactly, that they said they did in Vietnam. Statutes of limitation now protect these individuals from prosecution for any such admissions. Or did Senator Kerry merely hear allegations of that sort as hearsay bandied about by members of antiwar groups (much of which has since been discredited)? To me, this assertion sounds exactly like the disinformation line that the Soviets were sowing worldwide throughout the Vietnam era. KGB priority number one at that time was to damage American power, judgment, and credibility. One of its favorite tools was the fabrication of such evidence as photographs and "news reports" about invented American war atrocities. These tales were purveyed in KGB-operated magazines that would then flack them to reputable news organizations. Often enough, they would be picked up. News organizations are notoriously sloppy about verifying their sources. All in all, it was amazingly easy for Soviet-bloc spy organizations to fake many such reports and spread them around the free world.

As a spy chief and a general in the former Soviet satellite of Romania, I produced the very same vitriol Kerry repeated to the U.S. Congress almost word for word and planted it in leftist movements throughout Europe. KGB chairman Yuri Andropov managed our anti-Vietnam War operation. He often bragged about having damaged the U.S. foreign-policy consensus, poisoned domestic debate in the U.S., and built a credibility gap between America and European public opinion through our disinformation operations. Vietnam was, he once told me, "our most significant success."

Pacepa goes on to explain the KGB's creation of two innocuous sounding organizations set up to undermine the United States:

...the KGB-financed World Peace Council, created the Stockholm Conference on Vietnam as a permanent international organization to aid or to conduct operations to help Americans dodge the draft or defect, to demoralize its army with anti-American propaganda, to conduct protests, demonstrations, and boycotts, and to sanction anyone connected with the war. It was staffed by Soviet-bloc undercover intelligence officers and received about $15 million annually from the Communist Party's international department — on top of the WPC's $50 million a year, all delivered in laundered cash dollars. Both groups had Soviet-style secretariats to manage their general activities, Soviet-style working committees to conduct their day-to-day operations, and Soviet-style bureaucratic paperwork. The quote from Senator Kerry is unmistakable Soviet-style sloganeering from this period. I believe it is very like a direct quote from one of these organizations' propaganda sheets.

None of this is meant to suggest that there wasn't a truly indigenous anti-Vietnam war movement, or that one would not have grown in the absence of Soviet propaganda. But we shouldn't underestimate the impact that these lies had on the level of disgust and disenchantment among American citizens for what they heard our military was doing in Vietnam.

February 24, 2004

The 2004 Campaign Begins

George W. Bush, from his speech yesterday:

"The other party's nomination battle is still playing out. The candidates are an interesting group with diverse opinions: for tax cuts and against them; for NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and against NAFTA; for the Patriot Act and against the Patriot Act; in favor of liberating Iraq and opposed to it. And that's just one senator from Massachusetts."

Arrows Left and Right

Equal opportunity outrage from Andrew Sullivan. No argument here, on either score.

February 23, 2004

Encouraging Muslim Moderates

Jeff Jacoby recognizes a couple of brave Muslim moderates who have repudiated terrorism and deserve support and encouragement.

UPDATE 2/24: TCS carries an article by Stephen Schwartz relating how Cleveland's largest mosque sought to remove its Imam because of his extremist positions and his ties to terrorist organizations. Schwartz says that the fear and intimidation tactics of the Wahhabists have been effective to this point, but the tide may be turning:

they are naturally concerned that if they openly oppose extremist influence, their relatives in their countries of origin, as well as their families right here, will suffer threats and worse, since it is not unheard of for dissident Muslims in America be killed.

But the two-and-a-half years since September 11th have begun to wear down the habits of submission and conformity that have been drilled into American Muslims. An understandable fear of government sanctions and a simple weariness with having the jihadist ideology on their backs has finally induced some Muslims to step forward.

(via Instapundit)

On The Fence

Two interesting articles are out this week on the subject of Israel's security barrier, the so called "fence". In Peter Berkowitz' article, he explains how a large majority of Israelis have come to favor the building of the barrier:

"...as late as three years ago, almost nobody in Israel was thinking about a fence, in part because it contravenes both left-wing and right-wing views. Those who have embraced the fence from the left have been forced to relinquish their dream of Israelis and Palestinians integrating their economies, traveling daily across open borders, and living together in harmony. And those who have come to it from the right have had to abandon the ambition to maintain Israeli control over, and settlement in, all or most of the disputed territories without partition.

The catalyst for both camps has been the staggering scale of Palestinian terrorism since late September 2000. In the war launched by the Palestinians following Yasser Arafat's rejection of Prime Minister Ehud Barak's offer of a Palestinian state in all of Gaza, almost all of the West Bank, and a good portion of the Old City in Jerusalem, more than 900 Israelis have been killed and more than 6,000 have been wounded. In a country of about 6.4 million, that is the equivalent of almost 40,000 dead and a quarter of a million wounded in the United States.

And Frank Gaffney suggests that the precedent set by the ICJ hearings this week may serve to restrain those of us who take steps to protect ourselves from attack:

the International Court of Justice (ICJ), popularly known as the World Court, is holding hearings that could result in an advisory opinion concerning the security fence now under construction by Israel. The immediate object of the exercise is to provide Arab and other opponents of the fence a new stick with which to pummel the Israelis. It is predictable, however, that the nation that stands to lose the most, ultimately, from the court's verdict — that is, its decision to interfere with the steps sovereign nations take concerning their security needs and how to satisfy them — will be the United States.

February 22, 2004

Debra Dickerson Interview

Debra Dickerson, author, editor and columnist is interviewed by Jamie Glazov at Front Page Magazine, and talks candidly and inspirationally about the condition of blacks and race relations in America. The excerpts can't do justice to her message, so do read it all. On the unease felt by blacks living in a society in which appearances don't match the realities of a lingering racism:

"Blacks are experiencing a sort of disequilibrium brought about by freedom while so much injustice remains enshrined and circumscribes their options. There is so much bitterness and disappointment that, to us, the racism still seems so obvious yet white people walk around free and unrepentant. Too many of us are caught up in the "aha!” syndrome. We think if we just track down every scowl, every missed promotion, every clutched purse, eventually we’ll have evidence to get whites on the witness stand, forced to admit their racism, and apologize. Because that’s what we really want. Few of us will admit it, but we want atonement. We want whites to feel bad about themselves, for a change. Not only is that never going to happen, it doesn’t need to happen."

Dickerson doesn't minimize white racism, but acknowledges that it's not what it was 40 years ago. She insists that the continued existence of racism doesn't excuse blacks from accountability...

Blacks tend to believe that while the outrages against us continue – unequal funding of schools, police predations, etc. – that we can not be taken to task for our own misdeeds. It’s the same outrage many Americans exhibit when undue attention seems to be paid to the rights of criminals. To some black minds, America is so racist against us, how dare it criticize us, how dare it make demands of us. Any good behavior on our part is gravy, something America doesn’t deserve and should be grateful for. This is a seductive line of reasoning (that is almost always subconscious) but a destructive one. To be free, one must act free, like the Tuskeegee Airmen, like Dr. King, like Frederick Douglass. They weren’t responsible for racism, just for their responses to it.

They understood that nothing absolved them of the requirement to answer for their own behavior. But we’ve lost the kind of leadership that reminds us that our fight is against injustice, not against whites or against America. We shouldn’t be trying to become the new oppressors, but the drum majors for justice.

Ms. Dickerson, you are that leadership. I'm buying the book for starters.

February 21, 2004

Bin Laden "Surrounded"?

When Drudge posted this this report citing a story from The Sunday Express I was skeptical, because we've been down this road before, only to be disappointed. Now the same report is getting a bit more play in the European press, as reported by Bloomberg.com and again by Israel's Haaretz Press in this article. The Express story says that Bin Laden...

"... is in a mountainous area to the north of the Pakistani city of Quetta. The region is said to be peopled with bin Laden supporters and the terrorist leader is estimated to also have 50 of his fanatical bodyguards with him.

The claim is attributed to "a well-placed intelligence source" in Washington, who is quoted as saying: "He (bin Laden) is boxed in."

The paper says the hostile terrain makes an all-out conventional military assault impossible. The plan to capture him would depend on a "grab-him-and-go" style operation...

...The special forces are "absolutely confident" there is no escape for bin Laden, and are awaiting the order to go in and get him.

Well, we do know there has been an awful lot of Special Forces activity in that area recently, and that the Pentagon has made no secret of the fact that they have intensified the pursuit of Bin Laden in recent months. Take it with a few grains of salt, because as the Telegraph story admits, the Sunday Express is known for its "sometimes colourful scoops".

UPDATE 2/23: A Washington Times story today has more details on the push to locate Bin Laden.

Saddam's Al Qaeda Liaison

The evidence of Saddam Hussein's involvement with Al Qaeda continues to mount as documents surface in liberated Iraq, and prisoners are interviewed, providing firsthand testimony on the connections. Just such an interview took place recently in a Kurdish prison where Jonathan Schanzer interviewed Abdul Rahman al-Shamari, an Iraqi intelligence operative who says he worked for Saddam's "ambassador" to Al Qaeda.

It has been demonstrated by numerous documents and testimony that Saddam cooperated with Al Qaeda and its affiliates, financed Al Qaeda operations, trained Al Qaeda operatives at Salman Pak and other camps, and gave safe harbor and medical treatment to Al Qaeda terrorists. As this blog has dutifully noted, Stephen Hayes has led the way on reporting these links, and in October, 2003, Deroy Murdock published a useful summary of some of what we know. As Murdock noted, before the war, Uday Hussein himself blundered into an admission of the connection, which had to be followed up by a damage control operation:

the official Babylon Daily Political Newspaper published by Hussein's eldest son, Uday, ran what it called a "List of Honor." The paper's November 14, 2002, edition gave the names and titles of 600 leading Iraqis, including this passage: "Abid Al-Karim Muhamed Aswod, intelligence officer responsible for the coordination of activities with the Osama bin Laden group at the Iraqi embassy in Pakistan." That name....matches that of Iraq's then-ambassador to Islamabad.

Carter-appointed federal appeals judge Gilbert S. Merritt discovered this document in Baghdad while helping Iraq rebuild its legal system. He wrote in the June 25 Tennessean that two of his Iraqi colleagues remember secret police agents removing that embarrassing edition from newsstands and confiscating copies of it from private homes. The paper was not published for the next ten days.

In his interview with Schanzer, Al-Shamari said he worked for a man known as Abu Wael, an Iraqi intelligence officer chartered with coordination with Al Qaeda operations. And it wasn't just an involvement with Ansar al-Islam, the Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda based in the northern Kurdish region. Abu Wael worked with outside groups from Lebanon and Egypt among others:

Al-Shamari also told me that the links between Saddam's regime and the al Qaeda network went beyond Ansar al Islam. He explained in considerable detail that Saddam actually ordered Abu Wael to organize foreign fighters from outside Iraq to join Ansar. Al-Shamari estimated that some 150 foreign fighters were imported from al Qaeda clusters in Jordan, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Egypt, and Lebanon to fight with Ansar al Islam's Kurdish fighters....

....Al-Shamari stated that Abu Wael sometimes traveled to meet with these groups. All of them, he added, visited Wael in Iraq and were provided Iraqi visas. This corroborates an interview I had with a senior PUK official in April 2003, who stated that many of the Arab fighters captured or killed during the war held passports with Iraqi visas.

Al-Shamari said that importing foreign fighters to train in Iraq was part of his job in the Mukhabarat. The fighters trained in Salman Pak, a facility located some 20 miles southeast of Baghdad. He said that he had personal knowledge of 500 fighters that came through Salman Pak dating back to the late 1990s; they trained in "urban combat, explosives, and car bombs." This account agrees with a White House Background Paper on Iraq dated September 12, 2002, which cited the "highly secret terrorist training facility in Iraq known as Salman Pak, where both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs receive training on hijacking planes and trains, planting explosives in cities, sabotage, and assassinations."

When postwar Iraq was found to be crawling with Al Qaeda operatives, the head-in-the-sand deniers of Saddam-Al Qaeda links like Sens. Kennedy and Rockefeller were quick to claim that it was the U.S. presence there that attracted the Islamist terrorists to Iraq. Of course they are right that many Al Qaeda terrorists entered Iraq after the war in an attempt to create chaos and wage war with America, and at that they have succeeded to a degree.

But for the adminstration critics like Kennedy to continue to insist that there was no pre-war connection between Saddam and the Al Qaeda organization, in the face of all of the evidence to the contrary, is at best a transparent attempt at face-saving for their earlier statements, and at worst a kind of demagoguery that ignores facts, and misleads and misinforms American citizens about an important justification for the liberation of Iraq.


Practically useless but somewhat funny web resources are everywhere these days, and Wizblog is willing to showcase the ones that I think both my regular readers might enjoy. Hence, The Demotivators. They've been around a while, but the 2004 Calendar is out and their theme of , "No matter who you are, you have the potential to be so very much less" still rings as true as ever. From the new series:


Iran Election Coverage

Pejmanesque has a roundup on the day's events in Iran. Here's part of Pejman's excerpt from coverage by The Guardian:

Iran's hardline government was harnessing the power of the state media to convince citizens to turn out and vote in national elections today in an effort to drown out calls by the reformist opposition for a boycott of the polls. A landslide win in elections four years ago gave reformists a majority in parliament. But all attempts at significant changes have been blocked by the non-elected clerical authorities led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - whose supporters consider him answerable only to God.

The reformers have urged a mass boycott after the conservative theocracy banned more than 2,300 candidates. The blacklist included reformist activists and politicians who have been demanding that the ruling clerics cede some of their power.

Voters are widely expected to restore control of the 290-seat chamber to conservative hardliners, but turnout is emerging as a decisive test of power between the two sides. A sharp drop in voter turnout could embarrass the Islamic establishment and taint the new parliament. For reformers, it also would be considered an encouraging sign of public support.

As political analyst Davoud Bavand told the Associated Press news agency: "The lower the numbers, the bigger the reformers' silent victory."

Ayatollah Khamenei, the country's top political and religious authority, voted about 30 minutes after polls opened at 8am local time (4.30am GMT) at tens of thousands of venues, including mosques, desert outposts for nomads and cemeteries for those making the traditional weekly visit to graves.

"You see how those who are against the Iranian nation and the revolution are trying so hard to prevent people from going to the polls," Khamenei told state television in Tehran. "I do not think these enthusiastic young people will be prevented from fulfilling their duty."

Campaigners used email, websites and a blitz of mobile phone text messages to urge voters to stay away. Conservatives responded with the full power of state media: non-stop coverage radio and television coverage with pro-vote comments from citizens and leaders and claims of a massive turnout.

It was difficult to independently gauge the initial voter response. Some Tehran ballot stations were virtually empty, but other areas around the country reported a steady flow of voters.

Much more at Pejmanesque.

Cybergenics Photo Contest

The idea of the contest is to create "cyborg animals" by adding "machine-like parts" to any animal, (no humans allowed). Here's a taste:


(Via the ever bizarre Dutch blog Totally Flabbergasted)

February 20, 2004

Details on Oil-For-Food Bribes

MEMRI has published the list of 270 individuals and organizations that received vouchers allowing them to profit from the sale of Iraqi oil through the U.N. Oil-For-Food program, in return for conduct supportive of the Saddam regime.

The article also reports on the public reaction, if any, from each of the named individuals or entities, and notes that the decision of many on the list to answer with total silence tends to lend credence to its authenticity. (via LGF)

Indians Win!

My parents were dating. They wouldn't be married for another ten months or so. I wasn't born till four years later, so I can't even say I was a gleam in my father's eye when the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. But enough whining (for now). Here's a summary of how that Series went back in '48. This is available at the team's homepage. Way to get the fan base whipped into a frenzy for the upcoming season guys. Get every kid in Cleveland running to Grandpa to ask what it was like when the Indians were champs. So far, no grandkids for me. It's a good thing, 'cause I couldn't tell them.

February 19, 2004

Election Eve in Iran

Michael Ledeen thinks it's important for Americans to know that street demonstrators in Iranian cities are being massacred by helicopter gunships ordered by the regime to put down the protests. Tomorrow's election is subject to calls for a boycott, a cause that has now been joined by Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Shirin Ebadi. On the eve of the tainted elections, Ledeen says that the so-called reform movement has been proven politically impotent by their failure to keep their people on the ballot, but he remains hopeful...

The other great lesson is that many Iranians, when pushed to the wall by the tyrants, do indeed have the courage to fight back. In an unprecedented step, more than 100 reformers issued a letter to Supreme Leader Khamenei, in which they used language more traditionally reserved for greater and lesser satans in Washington and Jerusalem. They surely know that punishment will be severe, but they did it anyway. One fine day such shows of courage will inspire the Iranian people to defend them en masse, fill the public spaces of the major cities with demonstrators, and demand an end to the regime. And one fine day such actions will compel the Bush administration to support the Iranian people. And on that day the regime will fall, and with it the keystone to the international terror network with which we are at war.

Keep the brave citizens of Iran in your thoughts and prayers on "Election Day" 2/20. Here's hoping the loss of innocent life will be minimal. Cynicism about the electoral process has projections of voter turnout as low as between 10 and 15%.

As always, there is good coverage of events in Iran at Pejmanesque, and there's also a good roundup of articles and opinion on Iran at Oxblog. Patrick Belton at Oxblog also has a post on the concern of young Iranian pro-democracy reformers about the political positions on Iran taken by John Kerry.

The First 28 Questions

George Will has some questions for Kerry. For example:

On Jan. 22, 1991, responding to a constituent opposed to the Persian Gulf War, you wrote "I share your concerns" and would have given sanctions more time. Nine days later, responding to a voter who favored the war, you wrote, "I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis." Did you have a third position?

27 more.

February 18, 2004


Bloggers often tout articles on the web as "must reading". It's presumptuous and cliché, and I resolve to do less of it myself....right after this time.

The essay by Robert Kagan and William Kristol of The Weekly Standard is a bit of a history lesson, in that it relies heavily on the statements and actions of President Bill Clinton, Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Defense Secretary William Cohen throughout the late 90's, on its way to thoroughly refuting the lie that the war in Iraq was "cooked up in Texas". The authors make the definitive case for the liberation of Iraq in "The Right War, For the Right Reasons". Read it, and forward it to someone who you suspect has a short memory.

UPDATE 2/17: Here's a visual aid.

Appreciating Rumsfeld

Jay Nordlinger shares another example of Donald Rumsfeld leaving diplomacy to the diplomats, in today's Impromptus:

At the recent conference in Munich, Rumsfeld was asked why the United States doesn't make a fuss about Israeli nuclear weapons. We're supposed to be against nukes, right? Why don't we go after Israel?

Replied the secretary of defense: "You know the answer by yourself, and the whole world knows the answer. Israel is a small country with a small population. It is a democracy, but exists among neighbors who want to see her in the sea. Israel has made it clear that she does not want to be in the sea, and as a result, over several decades, has organized in such a manner as not to be thrown into the sea."

Savor it now, ladies and gents, for we will probably never — ever — see the likes of this fellow, in an office this key, again.

February 17, 2004

Why Are Academics on the Left?

What a feast of an essay by Edward Feser at TCS. It's a well-reasoned treatment of the reasons why the left dominates the college and university system, and as importantly, why leftists are drawn to it. I can't wait for the academy to respond. And like Thomas at The American Thinker , I can't wait for Part Two tomorrow. The piece defies excerpting (cause I've tried) but suffice to say it's a treat to read after listening to certain Duke University blowhards in recent days. Take a few minutes and check it all out.

Here's Part Two.

UPDATE 2/21: Feser responds to the academics who criticized his article.


No, this has nothing to do with the Penguin Batting game that this blog linked to a couple of weeks ago. It's National Geographic's "Crittercam" site. A camera is attached to penguins, whales and seals, and the underwater footage is amazing. The capacity to learn about the animals is matched by the capacity to teach by bringing it to the public through the Internet.

February 16, 2004

Taking Apart the Zarqawi Memo

Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis analyzes the recently obtained memo, believed by most experts to be written by terrorist and Al Qaeda collaborator Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

February 15, 2004

China Sold Nuke Designs

The Washington Post reports that it was China that originally sold nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, which they in turn sold to Libya. (registration required).

Wretchard at Belmont Club has a number of good posts on the nuclear proliferation developments, most recently here, as well as here, here, and here.

A-Rod in Pinstripes

So the best player in baseball is going to be a Yankee. Pardon me while I puke. And if I find this objectionable, I wonder how many Red Sox fans will be jumping out of tall buildings when this deal goes through. Eric McErlain over at Off Wing Opinion has a good roundup of the reaction to the news.

Famed Yankee-Hater Jim Caple reacts with a Bronx cheer for Rangers owner Tom Hicks:

There are eight kinds of idiots in the world but you just won the crown, Tommy. You are going to pay the Yankees $67 million to put the league's best player in their lineup.

UPDATE 2/16: As usual, Peter Gammons has the best inside insight.

"Corkscrew" Treatment For Stroke

An experimental technique for treatment of stroke uses a tiny corkscrew mechanism to drill into the blood clot blocking the artery to the brain to remove the clot entirely, and restore blood flow.

Democratic Realism

Charles Krauthammer's speech at the American Enterprise Institute defines what he calls "democratic realism", the foreign policy of the United States in the new unipolar world. What should we do with our unrivaled power? If you even care, this is must reading. No excerpts. Just do it.

February 14, 2004

In Color

If you can watch this for one minute without looking away...well, just try it. (When I start posting stuff like this, it's time for bed. Besides, my eyeballs are bleeding.)

Valentines Day

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Believe it or not, there are some people for whom Valentines Day is not an occasion for celebration and good feeling. While I'll be spending the day with my sweetie, I have discovered some web resources for people who feel differently about the Day.

Here is a site where you can get one of those "special" Valentines Day cards. And here are some messages described as "anti-Valentines", for the ambivalent and the skeptics.

And finally a little something for people who just don't care for Valentines Day at all. Where's the love?

February 13, 2004

Levy Focuses on Pakistan

In two separate articles in the New Perspectives Quarterly, French writer-philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy emphasizes that it is Pakistan and not Palestine that is the main objective of Al Qaeda. He is critical of the Bush administration for getting too cozy with Musharraf. Here's a sample from the more recent of the two pieces:

"...if you look at a map of the world from the point of view of Al Qaeda, the focal point is not Palestine. It is Kashmir. That is closer to the center of the Muslim world, which after all is mostly Asian, than Palestine. For Osama bin Laden and other jihadists, Kashmir is much more important. Kashmir is their name for Palestine...

...the United States is naive about President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan. I am not against an alliance with him in the "war on terrorism," but the aid given to Pakistan through Musharraf should be much more tied to democratic reforms and to such actions as closing down the "madrasas" that teach hatred and sometimes how to act on that hatred.

The unconditional embrace of Musharraf during his visits to the US and Europe was a slap in the face of the democrats in Pakistan, for example, those journalists who want a free press, or those women seeking an end to honor killings. More than an insult, it was taken as a sign they were abandoned in favor of the military regime. It breeds despair among the best people in the society.

And in his article on Anti-Americanism in the Spring 2003 issue of NPQ, he is even more direct with his criticism and his warning:

....when the US consolidates its alliance with a state like Pakistan in order to pursue its agenda with Iraq, it is completely misguided.

Today, the real terrorist state is Pakistan. If terrorists obtain mass destruction weapons, it will be in Pakistan, not Iraq. This is because of the links—strengthened after the war in Afghanistan—between the Pakistani secret services, or ISI, and Al Qaeda. Yesterday Al Qaeda was in Afghanistan. Today they are in Pakistan. Karachi is the base of Al Qaeda today. Inside the secret service are those who may not wear the beards of the Islamists, but whose minds are bearded, so to speak. They even share the culture of suicide with them.

UPDATE 2/17: Levy has an op-ed piece at today's WSJ opinionjournal.com site.

Spinning Reality

Good piece today by Victor Davis Hanson. Here's the end. Go read the beginning.

For all the most recent invective about his lack of spontaneous televised eloquence, almost every necessary and dangerous initiative Mr. Bush has undertaken since 9/11 — protect American shores, destroy the Taliban, scatter al Qaeda, take out Saddam Hussein, promote democracy in the Middle East, put rogue regimes with weapons of mass destruction on notice — has worked or is in the process of coming to fruition.

In response to that success often we have met dissimulation, pretext, and rhetoric of those who have much to lose and very little to gain by seeing the old way of business — status quo alliances, deductive anti-Americanism, corrupt Middle East policies, and bankrupt ideologies such as moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism — go by the wayside.

And so we get fantasy in place of reality.

February 12, 2004

JEC Forecasts "Robust Growth"

Here's the new report from the Joint Economic Committee (.pdf file format). Excerpts:


The recovery continues at a strong pace. Payrolls increased by over 100,000 jobs in January, as activity in manufacturing and services industries accelerated. Last year closed with the economy growing at a 4% annual rate and productivity growing at a 2.7% annual rate, well above long-run averages. Inflation remains benign, allowing the Federal Reserve to maintain short-term interest rates at historical lows, and recent tax relief continues to benefit consumers and businesses. Forecasters see continued robust growth, low inflation, and accelerating job gains throughout the year.

Business Activity Continues to Strengthen

Increases in average weekly hours of work and moderation of job losses in manufacturing indicate rising activity. Confirming this trend, the Institute for Supply Management’s (ISM) manufacturing index has risen since May to its highest value since 1983. The ISM services index has also been rising and in January was the highest in its history (Figure 3). An index value above 50 means that the relevant sector is expanding. Current values of well above 60 indicate vigorous expansion in manufacturing and services.

Iran In Afghanistan

Jed Babbin at NRO describes how the Iranian regime is setting up outposts on the border with Afghanistan to help smuggle terrorists and money in, and smuggle heroin out. He captures the heart of the issue right here:

Iran is the central terrorist nation.

February 10, 2004


At long last the light of day is starting to shine on the corruption of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program in Iraq. What has long smelled rotten now looks to have indeed been rotten, as Therese Raphael reports in Monday's Opinion Journal article. Ms. Raphael is editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe, and her report is a follow-up to the disclosures within the last two weeks of lists of individuals and organizations that were bribed by the Saddam regime with vouchers for the sale of oil, all run neatly through the U.N. program.

And it's not surprising that it turns out the countries opposing regime change last year, and those doing the most business with Saddam, were the ones most prominently represented on the list of Saddam's payees. Here's an excerpt from the Raphael article:

The list reads like an official registry of Friends of Saddam across some 50 countries. It's clear where his best, best friends were. There are 11 entries under France (totaling 150.8 million barrels of crude), 14 names under Syria (totaling 116.9 million barrels) and four pages detailing Russian recipients, with voucher allocations of over one billion barrels. Many of the names, transliterated phonetically from Arabic, are not well-known or are difficult to identify from the information given. Others stand out. There's George Galloway, the Saddam-supporting British MP recently expelled from the Labour Party, who has always denied receiving any form of payment from Saddam. Other notables include Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri (also listed separately as the "daughter of President Sukarno"), the PLO, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Russian Orthodox Church, the "director of the Russian President's office" and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua.

Wasn't there oversight of the program by U.N. officials? You betcha there was:

One of the most eye-catching names on the list is easy to miss as it's the sole entry under a country one would not normally associate with Iraq--Panama. The entry says: "Mr. Sevan." That's the same name as that of the U.N. Assistant Secretary-General Benon V. Sevan, a Cyprus-born, New York-educated career U.N. officer who was tapped by Kofi Annan in October 1997 to run the oil-for-food program.

Neat. Clean. And people wonder why Americans don't trust the U.N.

A few bloggers have been persistent in calling for information and investigation of Oil-For-Food, Roger Simon notable among them. In his post on the subject yesterday, he wonders where all of the "Robert Woodwards" are on this story that begs for investigative reporting. Good question.

As he was on the Saddam-Al Qaeda connections, Stephen Hayes has been the exception to the rule in professional journalism on the story of Saddam's Cash. Hayes documents Saddam's long history of influence-buying, which has included politicians (Galloway), journalists, and diplomats, as well as foreign corporations and political organizations.

So where is the media on this story? Sorry. This information butts heads with the "Bush acted unilaterally in the invasion of Iraq" theme. If his principal foreign opposition is proven to have been utterly corrupt, taking cash directly from Saddam, and the ranking U.N. official overseeing Oil-For-Food is shown to have had his hand in the till as well, that might reflect favorably on President Bush and the action that he took in Iraq. 'Nuff said?

Morto The Magician

I thought this was kind of funny....in a twisted, sick kind of way.

Morto The Magician

via Coolios Weblog

North Korean Reality

It's no wonder we follow sports as a diversion when reality, in this case North Korean reality, means starvation, repression, torture, infanticide, and the deaths of millions of innocents. Jeff Jacoby wonders how long we'll wait to act. And for the second time, this blog links to the Report of The U.S. Committee on Human Rights in North Korea , which describes "The Hidden Gulag" of Kim Jong Il.

February 9, 2004


Went downtown with some friends to see the Cavaliers beat the Celtics tonight. It was kind of a ragged game, but that's OK when the good guys win. It was the first time I had seen LeBron play in person since way back when he was a junior in high school...24 months ago. Tonight he became the youngest player in NBA history (19 years, 41 days) to score 1000 points, throwing down a couple of spectacular dunks, and leading the team with 24 points. LeBron has played half of one season and he's a legitimate NBA star. Wait till he figures out what's going on.

Tribe Prospects

I went looking online for the Baseball America article on the #1 Tribe prospect Grady Sizemore and the rest of the Indians Top Ten Prospects , only to find that #2-10 are available to subscribers only. But the highlight of my night was discovering this transcript of an online chat with Jim Ingraham, a longtime Indians beat writer and contributor to several national publications.

Ingraham shows that he is extremely well informed about Indians minor leaguers all the way down to the lower reaches of Class A and the Rookie Leagues. It's the kind of information I crave (especially in February) but can rarely find, and Ingraham really delivers the goods. You'll have to buy a copy of Baseball America to read their evaluations of prospects #2-10, but if you want to know who they are, just click below and then read the chat for insights on every one of them.

Baseball America - Cleveland Indians Top Ten Prospects 2004

1) Grady Sizemore OF

2) Jeremy Guthrie RHP

3) Fausto Carmona RHP

4) Jake Dittler RHP

5) Fernando Cabrera RHP

6) Michael Aubrey 1B

7) Jason Cooper OF

8) Brad Snyder OF

9) Adam Miller RHP

10) Matt Whitney 3B

February 8, 2004

Jonesing For Baseball

You know I'm desperate for baseball news when I'm reading an article that is primarily concerned with the Yankees and the Red Sox. Peter Gammons evaluates all the teams in the AL East and reports that the Yankees "privately" think their pitching could be better than last year. A statement like that after losing three guys who averaged 18 wins gives new meaning to the term "spin". Gammons even throws a little false hope in the direction of Indians fans:

What makes spring training so intoxicating to fans in so many cities is that the antiphon the owners carried into the last negotiation -- that when spring training begins two-thirds of the teams know they have no chance -- turned out to be an empty campaign promise. Indeed, if you're in Kansas City or San Diego, Cleveland or Houston, what makes this spring training so interesting is the fact that the last three world champions have been the Diamondbacks, Angels and Marlins. Find someone who on Groundhog Day the last three years predicted every one of those storylines, much less one of them.

(By the way, doesn't anybody edit this guy? Surely he means "find someone who....predicted one of those storylines, much less all of them". Oh well, he's a wealthy and famous sportswriter/commentator. I nitpick his columns. To paraphrase a blogger..."he reports, I deride.")

I admit it has been refreshing to see a few out-of-the-blue teams come on to win it all the last three years. But the Indians appear to be at least one more year away from even sniffing the playoffs. Only a week till Spring Training starts though. We're undefeated.

Atta Boys

Charles Johnson links to a disturbing piece by one Muadh bin Abdullah Al-Madani called "The Nineteen Lions", which to put it mildly, glorifies the 9/11 hijackers. Here's one representative paragraph:

The minutes move too slowly, you are eager for the Paradise: finally the time arrives. Without a glance you rise from your seat and dart to the cockpit. Securing control of the plane, you set your sights on your target. As the building approaches, you look about you at the faces of your brothers in arms and all you see is the blazing light shining off their faces. Attempting to conceal your delight you direct the plane towards the North Tower, with a prayer you shout ‘Allahu Akbar (Allah is the Greatest)’ as you graciously glide into the Tower, obliterating an Idol of the Modern Age.

I decided not to even link to the site, but you can read excerpts or the entire essay from the LGF post. I noted the quote on the Clear Guidance web site masthead, presumably "guidance" for aspiring jihadists:

"Follow and do not innovate, for you have been given that which is sufficient and every innovation is misguidance" - ibn mas'ood.

I wonder if this means they're not allowed to step up to wireless Internet technology, or the new picture cell phones for the next death mission. This movement is no less hateful than the KKK, and no less demented than the Manson Family. What I don't hear a lot of are the voices of the moderate Muslims that are supposed to be out there in great numbers, repudiating this sick version of the faith.

February 6, 2004

Clarett A LeBron Wannabe

Maurice Clarett is right where he loves to be. In front of the TV cameras, with his name on the lips of sportswriters, fans and broadcasters.

Beyond demonstrating that he has physical talent, this is a guy who has proven only a couple of things in his young career. One is that he has a hard time staying healthy enough to play a full football season at any level, including high school. Another is that when he stops being the center of attention, he'll do or say something to ensure that he will once again be the center of attention. And usually that means media attention.

As a Buckeye fan who warmly recalls that the last time Clarett wore the Scarlet and Gray he was vaulting into the end zone for two huge TD's in the National Championship game, I guess I'm predisposed to cut the guy some slack. And after all, he hasn't knocked over any convenient stores, beaten up a girlfriend, or been caught selling crack to teenagers. In fact he hasn't committed any serious crimes that we know about. But he has a knack for making even those people most inclined to forgive and forget want to say "screw 'im".

OSU fans remember the week preceeding the Fiesta Bowl when the Buckeyes were in Arizona preparing to play for all the marbles. It's the ultimate challenge for a coach, to prepare and focus a team for the most important game of their lives, amid all the media hype and all the distractions of a week-long fan party.

But the whole "team concept" thing was too much for Clarett, who chose this moment to stand in front of a TV media gathering and accuse Ohio State administrators of disrespecting and lying to him, since they had (truthfully) said they didn't yet have the proper paperwork completed to pay for Clarett to fly home to Youngstown for the funeral of a friend who had been killed in a street shooting a few days before the team left Ohio.

The issue was not the sincerity of his wish to attend the funeral, or the matter of who would have had to pay, or how good a friend this guy really was, or even the timing of the disagreement. The issue was that Clarett felt the need to make his case in front of the glare of the national media, and not in private with his Coach and Athletic Director, or heaven forbid, his teammates. He was publicly attacking his own university at a time when pulling together to represent that university on the field was the focus of everyone else around him.

I read that he once met LeBron James, and that the two exchanged cell phone numbers. Next he was proudly flaunting LeBron's name on his speed dial to try to impress a Sports Illustrated reporter. So is it insecurity, or just endorsement-envy? I think the thing that bugs him the most right now is that he knows James just celebrated his 19th birthday, and on the million$-meter, the 20 year old Clarett is currently about 130 units south of LeBron. The sad truth is that he is also light years behind LeBron on the personality, poise and maturity meters.

So we'll await the results of the appeal to see if Clarett will be eligible for the draft in April. I'd like to have a player with his talent on the field for the Buckeyes this fall, but I'm not sure if I could stomach the sideshow if he comes back. My sense is that Jim Tressel really wants no part of him on the team, and it's difficult to argue with that sentiment. Now the discussion centers on where he will be selected if he is included in the NFL Draft.

On talent alone, Clarett is a definite first round pick, and if I had to bet on it I'd say that some team will be convinced by pre-draft investigation and conversations with him (and his doctors and lawyers), that he is worth the pick. He was the USA Today National High School Player of the Year, and did nothing in his freshman season at Ohio State to suggest he was overrated as a running back.

That said, there are three factors that may keep him from being selected in the 1st round (not counting a legal process that could prevent his eligibility this year):

1) Image. There will be public and fan pressure on the NFL GM's not to select him due to all the bad ink he has received. Deserved or not, he's got a "bad guy" image now with all the attitude and selfishness issues. It has gotten so bad that the team that does select him will have to mount a PR campaign just to sell the choice to their fan base. It's never a good idea to sue the organization that you aspire to work for.

2) Injury history. Clarett has not played any season free of injuries going back to high school, and NFL teams invest too much in bonuses and salary for 1st round picks to risk that much on a guy who has never proven he can hold up under the pounding of a H.S. or college season, much less an NFL season.

3) Rust. By the fall of 2004 it will have been almost two full years since he played football. While this might be a plus considering factor #2, the fact is the guy has played a grand total of about 10 college football games in his life. It is said that he is coming out "a year early". In reality, a player who finishes his junior year, having completed three years of college football is considered to be coming out "a year early". Add two years to that, since Clarett has played only one year of college football, and you have a guy who is coming out three years early, from a football standpoint. Huge difference.

My feeling is that he would benefit from going into a supplemental draft, which might be the result if the NFL's appeal of the recent ruling takes a while to be adjudicated. If a team picks him in the first round, they would have to give up a first round choice in the next draft, but by that time the fans could be won over by his talent in the 2004 season. A later round pick in the supplemental draft would hold down the costs, and hence the risks for the team picking him. But on the upside for Maurice, he would probably have the whole draft, and all of the attention, all to himself. I suspect that would suit him just fine.

Why We Went To War

Reposted from the October 20, 2003 issue of The Weekly Standard, Robert Kagan and William Kristol detail the WMD case against Saddam's Iraq, with a major assist from the 1998 speeches of President Bill Clinton.

Read it, bookmark it, print it, email it, archive it. Send it to an acquaintance in the "Bush lied" crowd. Come to think of it, include the Lileks quote from the post below.

February 5, 2004


From today's Bleat:

I’m waiting for an ad that simply puts the matter plainly: who do you think Al Qaeda wants to win the election? Who do you think will make Syria relax? Who do you think Hezbollah worries about more? Who would Iran want to deal with when it comes to its nuclear program – Cowboy Bush or “Send in the bribed French inspectors” Kerry? Which candidate would our enemies prefer?

O the shrieking that would result should such an ad run. You can’t even ask those questions, even though they’re the most relevant questions of the election.

Lileks is easier on Kerry though, than he is on Patrick Stewart. Set phasers on Stun, and read it all.

Eyes and Flash

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I think it's because I don't have an artistically creative bone in my body that I am awed by, and interested in those who do. I came across a gallery on the web the other day featuring the work of a young Japanese artist named Naoto Hattori , who has a thing about eyes. Anyway, I liked some of his stuff, and thought I'd share.

I guess I've been cruising some bizarre Internet neighborhoods lately, but I've been seeing a whole lot of Flash animation work everywhere I look. A guy named Larry Carlson has 100 or so "mind-morphing" animations that made me think we must have crossed paths in the 70's somewhere. And here are some more visually stimulating animations.

Much of the Flash stuff is of the cartoon/humor variety, like this old story with a new twist , and these MagicPen animations or a series that's a bit deranged by (about?) "Edgardo".

I've linked before to Yugo Nakamura's site, and he keeps coming up with new and interesting interactive animations.

And after linking to Craig Tracy's Painted Alive site a week or so ago, I found some more "Body Art". Here's Leo, from the Zodiac series:

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Yet More On WMD

If you can stand it, there has been some good stuff written on the Kay/Hutton/WMD issue in recent days, and it's worth looking at. The Telegraph's Melanie Phillips gets into the selective reporting of David Kay's remarks by antiwar folks, but suggests that he did have an anti-Bush agenda upon resigning, but not for the reasons you might assume:

Dr Kay is being quoted out of context to sustain the charge of Government duplicity by the anti-war brigade.

They have implied that Dr Kay resigned because he realised no WMD ever existed. But actually, he threw down his bat and stormed off the pitch in fury at the Bush administration for failing to give the ISG the money it needed to search for WMD, and for its incompetence in not preventing crucial evidence being destroyed by Iraqi looters.

Those who know him well say he is so angry that he has been determined to embarrass the administration as much as possible. The result is that he has enabled the British media and anti-war politicians to take his finding that Saddam posed a different sort of threat, even deadlier than had been thought, and turn it instead into the false claim that he said no threat had existed at all.

Laurie Mylroie wonders how Kay is assigned more credibility after six months in Iraq with a team that had few weapons experts, than UNSCOM is given after many years of experience in Iraq.

As usual, Christopher Hitchens speaks plainly, and makes sense:

"...if he really didn't have any stores of unlawful WMD, it was very dumb of him to act as if he still did or perhaps even to believe that he still did. And it seems perfectly idiotic of anybody to complain that we have now found this out (always assuming that we have, and that there's no more disclosure to come). This highly pertinent and useful discovery could only be made by way of regime change. And the knowledge that Iraq can be finally and fully certified as disarmed, and that it won't be able to rearm under a Caligula regime, is surely a piece of knowledge worth having in its own right and for its own sake."

And David Warren seems to buy into the "Saddam had no WMD's and even he didn't know it" theory. I am not yet nearly ready to make that leap, based on anything that David Kay is saying or not saying.

UPDATE 2/5: Glenn Reynolds links to this link-filled post that summarizes a lot of the WMD facts and developments.

Taylor on Racial Preferences

Even though the "big boys" have already linked to Stuart Taylor's piece on affirmative action in The National Interest, I had to follow suit, if only to show solidarity with Taylor's view on the need to generate better public awareness and debate on the issue of racial preferences and other inequities in college admissions. Here Taylor cuts to the chase:

Dozens of surveys over three decades have consistently shown that more than two-thirds of Americans -- and, in many polls, lopsided majorities of African-Americans -- oppose racial preferences. (Polls show much greater support for "affirmative action," but the reason is that that phrase can be read as including aggressive enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, recruitment, and outreach efforts.) On no other issue have elected officials and establishment leaders succeeded in implementing so pervasively a policy that the public rejects so overwhelmingly.

Taylor goes on to demonstrate how a policy that purports to help the "underprivileged" really does no such thing. There has long been in place a system of financial aid that helps qualified students of all races and backgrounds who are in need of such assistance. Financial need has little if anything to do with the system of racial preferences in place today. As Taylor points out, some 85% of minorities admitted under preferences are from the middle and upper income levels.

The system is perpetuated and justified (in the eyes of its supporters) by two key factors, in my view, and neither of them has to do with the socio-economic level of the college applicant. The first is the educational achievement gap between whites and Asians on the one hand, and blacks and Hispanics on the other. The problem facing the elite schools in terms of enrolling blacks and Hispanics in numbers that they consider acceptable is one of supply, not demand. There are simply not enough qualified blacks and Hispanics graduating with the grades, SAT scores and academic credentials to fill all of the allotted spots at the elite schools if they are held to the same standards for admission that are applied to whites and Asians. So they are not held to those standards.

And they are not because there is apparently no higher goal in higher education today that the achievement of Diversity, which is now a Supreme Court-backed excuse to discriminate on the basis of race in college admissions. The "compelling interest" argument is put forth to defend diversity as an educational benefit in and of itself. While the point is debatable, the contention that students, white or black, will get a better education in a racially "diverse" classroom than they would without one, is one not backed by any scientific evidence whatsoever. And to use this unsupported supposition to render legal what would otherwise be illegal, that is, blatant racial discrimination in admissions policy, is a pretty thin pretense for the Court and the schools to stand on to justify what they are doing.

Don't get me wrong. I think that the college experience is enriched by the variety of humanity that one encounters on campus. Clearly in the learning, socializing and maturing process that is college life, there are benefits to a "melting pot" environment comprised of students of different nationalities, races, and ethnic backgrounds. In many cases, a student may be experiencing that involvement with "difference" for the first time in his or her lifetime. Lifelong friendships are formed and lifelong lessons are learned. That has real value, and I do not for a moment discount it.

But I would contend that the friendships, the relationships of all kinds that college kids form during those years are with individuals, and not with races or skin colors, and the relationships and exposure to people that are "different" are enriching because of individual differences, which include but are not limited to racial ones. "Engineered diversity" backers are fond of saying that a certain percentage of blacks improve the educational experience because they can provide the "black perspective" or can speak to the "black experience" in any classroom discussion. (Skeptics wonder why the reverse is not also true and "x" percentage of whites aren't "diversifying" the classrooms at all-black colleges, so as to improve their educational experiences.)

This is the part of the concept of diversity that I think is most insulting and dehumanizing to black students. Apparently to right-thinking college administrators, there is but one "black perspective", one "black experience", and the "perspectives" of individual human beings who happen to have black skin, which are formed through their individual life experiences, the sum totals of 18 years of life choices, and socialization, and family influences, and religious upbringing and socio-economic status are literally interchangeable, and of equal "value" to the educational experiences for both whites and blacks.

The "perspective" of the daughter of a black dentist and a black high school principal from Shaker Heights with a combined annual income of $200,000, who drove her new Chrysler Sebring convertible to campus, is thus interchangeable with the "perspective" of the son of an unmarried office worker from the urban projects, who has lived his entire life in economic hardship and fatherlessness. (I realize I am paraphrasing John McWhorter a bit here.)

The all too obvious point is that these two individuals' life experiences are wildly disparate, and are perhaps much closer to those of one or another of their white peers in the classroom, than they are to each other's.

In their wisdom, college administrators must feel they can determine the optimal percentage of black-skinned students that should be in a classroom or on a campus, in order to supply just the right amount of "black perspective" to maximize the positive diversity effect for all students. How utterly elitist, (and yes, racist) an attitude that is, and how insulting it is to the individuality of the black students. It is also demonstrative of the agenda of the supporters of preferences. It is certainly not an agenda of fairness, and not one of concern for the long term interests of the minority student. It does promote an appearance that is satisfying to administrators though, and that appearance strokes their moral vanity.

To serve a statistical purpose for the moral self-satisfaction of the college administration, the student is stripped of his individuality, reduced to being his skin color. In many cases, the minority student admitted under preferences is put into an academic environment with students who have achieved at levels well above those that he has achieved. He is set up to fail, and he often does, at rates far exceeding students who were admitted under meritocratic criteria. Why would anyone expect a student who got 1050 on the SAT test to compete successfully in an elite school in which 90% of the students got over 1300? Who is really being "helped" by this system? Whose interests are being served?

I strongly favor active outreach programs by universities to identify and attract qualified and high potential minority students, and I favor admitting students using true "affirmative action" policies. That is, to give preference to underrepresented minorities when deciding between equally qualified, or similarly qualified applicants. But sizable majorities of both blacks and whites when surveyed, are opposed to having the "bar" set at two different heights for two different groups, where skin color is the defining characteristic. It stigmatizes both the blacks and Hispanics who are admitted under preferences as well as the blacks and Hispanics who gained admission on an equal footing with their peers.

While speaking in the context of a trend toward conservatism among American blacks, John McWhorter, in an article in the new Commentary, (not available online), cites some polling data:

"A Washington Post exit poll of black voters, for example, showed a whopping 86 percent opposed to racial preferences. In a recent study titled Black Pride and Black Prejudice, the political scientists Paul Sniderman and Thomas Piazza report an even more astounding 90 percent of blacks rejecting the idea of admitting a less qualified black student over a more qualified white one, even if the disparity in test scores is slight"

Racial preferences in college admissions are wrong in principle and destructive in practice. Large majorities of Americans of all races know it, and oppose them on that principle. The practice needs to be examined openly and debated candidly.

Obligatory Steyn

Mark Steyn is talking about politics in Britain when he warns that the only way we can make sure we never make another "mistake" with bad intelligence is to never take another action to stop or prevent terrorism, but his point is equally valid on this side of the Atlantic. He says that the alternative to pre-emption is defeat, and that...

Conservatives shouldn't assist the Western world's self-loathing fringe in imposing a burden of proof that can never be met.

And he wishes the Left would act like they give a shit about nuclear proliferation and terror in general:

The Left is remarkably nonchalant about these new terrors. When nuclear weapons were an elite club of five relatively sane world powers, the Left was convinced the planet was about to go ka-boom any minute, and the handful of us who survived would be walking in a nuclear winter wonderland. Now anyone with a few thousand bucks and an unlisted number in Islamabad in his Rolodex can get a nuke, and the Left couldn't care less.

True there, perhaps only slightly less true here. I've read that John Edwards' stump speech , to cite one example, doesn't even mention Iraq, and virtually ignores the War on Terror. We can't go back to pretending it's not important.

February 4, 2004

Today is NLOID

That's National Letter of Intent Day, when high school football players formally commit to play at one of the schools that has offered a scholarship. I admit it. I'm a recruitnik for the OSU Buckeyes. For the past few months, and moreso for the last couple weeks, I have concerned myself on nearly a daily basis, with the status of the college selection process of 18 year olds. It's nuts.

Bucknuts, in fact, is what they call the web site where we hang. I'll be doing some more stuff on the 2004 recruiting class, but for now check out a little info on each of the kids that officially decided to become Buckeyes today.

February 2, 2004

A Chill Wind Indeed

We hear voices from the left, like Tim Robbins of "chill wind" fame, claim that their brave dissent is being stifled and suppressed. As is the case with their criticisms of the Patriot Act, they are usually long on rhetoric and fear-mongering, and short on specific examples of abuse or suppression. In fact, they veer toward self-parody as they appear on talk shows or in front of microphones or TV cameras and audiences of millions to complain that their voices can't be heard.

But I can see no greater abuses of the rights to free speech and the free press in this country than the "tyranny, with manners", as Charlton Heston phrased it, that thrives on college campuses today in the form of speech codes and discrimination against conservative students and faculty along with their organizations and publications. Please read the story of David Deming, Associate Professor of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Oklahoma, in his own words. Selected excerpts:

My troubles began in March of 2000 when I published a "letter to the editor" in the campus newspaper that some people found offensive. Responding to a female columnist who claimed that possession of a firearm made every gun owner a potential murderer, I pointed out by way of analogy that her possession of an unregistered sexual organ made her a potential prostitute. For writing this letter, twenty-five charges of sexual harassment were filed against me by people I had never met. My attitudes, convictions, and beliefs were put on trial in a secret Star Chamber proceeding.....
.....The archives for the campus newspaper, The Oklahoma Daily, that published my original letter and articles on the resulting controversy, have been deleted from the Daily's website. The records for the months covered by the controversy, February, March, and April, of the year 2000 are conspicuous by their absence. Columnist Wendy McElroy wrote that this was one example of "a politically-correct pattern of purging conservative views from student newspapers [that] seems to be spreading across American campuses." She went on to note that a central theme of George Orwell's classic novel 1984 was the falsifying of history by the Ministry of Truth. People who said or wrote the wrong things were simply purged from the historical archives.....

.....Seven days before Christmas, I was summoned into the office of Dean John T. Snow. My tenure in the geology department was abrogated without due process. My geophysics class—for which I receive outstanding student evaluations—was taken from me without explanation. I was stripped of my right to supervise graduate students in geology and geophysics. I was evicted from my office and relegated to a small, dark room in a corner of the basement. No other faculty member in the entire College has office space assigned in the basement. Dean Snow glared at me and said that the fundamental problem was that I was not submissive to authority.

Is there any counterpart to this kind of madness from anywhere on the right? From the Bush administration? By John Ashcroft? Anywhere in America?

Click on the links, and please support the good work of FIRE and the Students For Academic Freedom. And check out great blogs like Critical Mass and Invisible Adjunct that are largely devoted to exposing abuses like those at the University of Oklahoma.

That Was No Streaker...

...that was a sprinter with a "wardrobe malfunction". (Lifted from the comments section on Vodka Pundit's post on The Breast Super Bowl Ever)

February 1, 2004

New URL For Wizblog

Please note that you have been redirected to a new domain and a new url for Wizblog: (www.danwismar.com). Your old link will continue to connect you to the site for the time being, but you should update your link, or overwrite your bookmark so you have the new Internet address for Wizblog. Thanks. (And thanks to my web guru son Andy for making it happen!)

N. Korea Gassing Prisoners

A BBC documentary titled "Access to Evil" features an "official North Korean document that says political prisoners are used to test new chemical weapons." A military attache is quoted in the document as having personally witnessed an entire family being gassed.

"I witnessed a whole family being tested on suffocating gas and dying in the gas chamber. The parents, son, and a daughter. The parents were vomiting and dying, but 'til the very last moment they tried to save kids by doing mouth-to-mouth breathing,''

More chilling even than that description is the same official's subsequent statement:

Asked how he felt about the children, he said: "It would be a total lie for me to say I felt sympathetic about the children dying such a painful death. Under the society and the regime I was in at the time, I only felt that they were the enemies."

UPDATE 2/2: The Guardian also has a story on the topic.

Was McDermott On The Take?

Recent revelations by an Iraqi news outlet that the regime of Saddam Hussein had bribed some 270 foreign officials, politicians, and organizations with vouchers that allowed them to profit from the sale of oil didn't come as a total surprise. I realize that the authenticity of the documents and the accuracy of the names of individuals and organizations are still to be verified. But it has long been common knowledge that Saddam had an extensive program to bribe foreign journalists, diplomats and just about anyone else he could get to provide positive political and media spin for his regime.

No doubt a new global growth industry of investigations and prosecutions is being born as U.S. officials sift through the documents that the regime left behind. While in some cases the oil voucher deals appear to have been technically legal, some of those on the list whose anti-war positions were ostensibly grounded in high moral principle will be exposed as the self-interested, lying opportunists that they really are. British MP George Galloway was implicated by documents found in Baghdad following the fall of Saddam, and now it looks like the feeding frenzy is about to begin in earnest. ABC News has reported that they also have received a copy of the list of recipients of Saddam's payola.

In a May, 2003 article entitled Saddam's Cash , Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard reported on Saddam's generous public relations program, and in light of the report this past week from al-Mada, the magazine has reposted the article on their website this weekend, accompanied by this "Editor's Note":

1/30/04: On January 25, 2004, a daily newspaper in Iraq called al Mada published a list of individuals and organizations who it says received oil from the now-deposed regime. Among those listed is Shakir al Khafaji, an Iraqi-American from Detroit, who ran "Expatriate Conferences" for the regime in Baghdad. Al Khafaji also contributed $400,000 to the production of Scott Ritter's film "In Shifting Sands." Finally, al Khafaji arranged travel and financing for the "Baghdad Democrats"--Jim McDermott, Mike Thompson and David Bonior--last fall. Following the trip, al Khafaji contributed $5,000 to McDermott's Legal Defense Fund. The Weekly Standard has contacted McDermott's office about returning the contribution. McDermott spokesman Mike Decesare said this morning that he had not yet spoken with McDermott, since it's three hours earlier on the West Coast. Asked about the contribution and the subsequent allegations about al Khafaji and oil, Decesare said, "I don't know anything about it." The Weekly Standard will post a response from McDermott's office as soon as we get one. In the meantime, it's worth taking a second look at "Saddam's Cash."

Indeed it is. In terms of Americans that may have been on the take from Saddam, speculation has centered on former weapons inspector Scott Ritter. The disclosure that he had received $400,000 from al Khafaji, a regime-friendly Iraqi expatriate, for a film that was to be critical of U.S. policy, coupled with the news of his prior arrest on a sex charge involving a minor, sparked speculation that he was being blackmailed by Iraqi intelligence. No evidence that I have seen since that time leads me to believe anything but that to be as plausible.

This same Iraqi cash conduit, al Khafaji, contributed $5000 to McDermott's Legal Defense Fund. Two questions come to mind. What did Iraqi intelligence have on Jim McDermott (and/or Bonior and Thompson), and how much did they promise him to get him to claim, as Hayes reports it:

in a September 29 appearance on ABC's "This Week" from Baghdad .... "The president of the United States will lie to the American people in order to get us into this war." Moments later, despite 12 years of evidence that the Iraqi regime had lied about its weapons program, McDermott said, "I think you have to take the Iraqis on their face value."

It seems the best defense for McDermott is that he is a proven nitwit of longstanding, reported to be one of the dimmest of all Congressmen, (no small distinction). In the May article, Hayes has this to say about the contribution to McDermott:

On October 25, McDermott received a check for $5,000 from Shakir al-Khafaji. The money, first reported by Amy Keller in Roll Call, had been deposited in an account for the McDermott Legal Expense Trust, a fund the congressman set up to pay legal bills in a lawsuit brought against him by Rep. John Boehner. (In 1996, McDermott had released to the media the transcript of a phone conversation between Boehner and Newt Gingrich, taped by a Florida couple.)

No one has accused McDermott of being a mouthpiece for Saddam Hussein simply for financial reasons. Indeed, McDermott has been saying stupid things for years with no evidence anyone has paid him to do so. A spokesman for McDermott says he "doesn't know off the top of [his] head" whether McDermott has plans to return the money.

After McDermott's mischief in the Gingrich tape escapade and his disgraceful performance in Baghdad, this payment from a suspected Saddam surrogate, which has at least the appearance of a quid pro quo consideration, should trigger a House Ethics Committee investigation and an IRS audit at the very least.