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April 30, 2004

Debunking The DaVinci Code

After reading Sandra Miesel's complete shredding of Dan Brown's bestseller The DaVinci Code, I think I'll just take a pass on it. My question for Miesel is this; did he get anything right? (via Armavirumque)

Con Man Gets Conned

This is just delicious. A Harvard professor who conned students, colleagues and friends out of $600,000 for a nonexistent SARS research project in China, then turned around and got fleeced of the money by the infamous Nigerian email scammers. Did I mention he was a Harvard professor? (via Oxblog)

April 29, 2004

Success Story

The new issue of City Journal has been out for a while, but I just got around to reading Steven Malanga's article, "What Does the War on Wal-Mart Mean?" . I guess I had not really been aware of the ferocity of the opposition to the growth and expansion of the retailer, figuring that perhaps groups of small retailers hurt by new Wal-Mart stores were behind most of the objections. Malanga shows that it's a lot more than that...

Though Wal-Mart has encountered opposition for years from anti-sprawl activists or small-town merchants worried about the competition, the Hartford drama exemplifies a brand-new kind of opposition, a coordinated effort of the Left, in which unions, activist groups like ACORN and the National Organization for Women, environmentalist groups, even plaintiffs’ attorneys work together in effective alliances. They are fighting the giant retailer not only store by store, but in statehouses, city halls, and courts. They have already managed to make Wal-Mart an issue in the presidential campaign: several Democratic hopefuls indicted the American shopper’s favorite store as unfriendly to working people.

The store's opponents, purporting to champion the cause of the "little guy" with calls for higher wages and better benefits, are attracting little support from the little guys who benefit from Wal-Mart jobs and low Wal-Mart prices:

Regardless of the campaign against it, Wal-Mart is generating enormous support in many of its newest markets, especially in lower-income urban areas where shoppers often have few choices among stores, and where prices are typically high—especially for groceries, which account for so big a percentage of low-income budgets. Minority communities traditionally friendly to the Left’s agenda have shocked opponents by welcoming Wal-Mart and working closely with it. Unions tried to stop the opening of the company’s Baldwin Hills store, even urging the Los Angeles Urban League not to work with Wal-Mart on a job-training program, but the head of the League turned down the unions, and more than 10,000 people applied to work in Baldwin Hills. Shoppers were just as enthusiastic about the three-level store there, a prototype for Wal-Mart in cities. In the first week the store was open, more than 330,000 customers visited the once-dying mall. “It’s those who don’t live in this community who did the most objecting to this store,” says former Los Angeles police commissioner and now councilman Bernard Parks. “The community has clearly spoken, and it supports this store.”

The experience in Baldwin Hills also refutes those who say that Wal-Mart stores drive small retailers out of business. On the contrary: barely four months after Wal-Mart opened in a once struggling shopping center, a major real-estate outfit snapped up the center, saying that the addition of Wal-Mart gave it tremendous new potential, because other stores now wanted to move in—bringing new jobs to a depressed neighborhood. “The easiest way to fill a shopping center is to tell stores that a Wal-Mart is coming there,” says Harry Freeman, executive director of the Hartford, Connecticut, Economic Development Council.

Lots of other good stuff at City Journal. Check it out if you don't already.



A page of one variety of Body Art.

April 28, 2004

No More Pretense

Dick Morris states flatly the conclusion that is increasingly undeniable in view of recent disclosures in the Oil-For-Food scandal story. France, Russia and many of the other opponents of regime change in Iraq were simply bought by Saddam. Here's an excerpt from his N.Y. Post op-ed titled "How To Buy A French Veto".

Why did France and Russia oppose efforts to topple Saddam Hussein's regime? And why did they press constantly, throughout the '90s, for an expansion of Iraqi oil sales? Was it their empathy for the starving children of that impoverished nation? Their desire to stop the United States from arrogantly imposing its vision upon the Middle East?

It now looks like it was simply because they were on the take.

Here's an interview with Kenneth Timmerman that gets into more detail on the $100 billion oil lease deals that France had negotiated with Saddam, which would have gone into effect had France been able to get U.N. sanctions lifted

And I want to second the motion of Roger Simon, who has called the WSJ journalist responsible for so much of the heavy lifting on this story Claudia "Give This Woman a Pulitzer" Rosett. Just enter her last name in the search window here at Wizblog to review her reporting on this story. She is leading, and everyone else is just catching up.

April 27, 2004

Eating Their Young

When the Village Voice editorializes that "Kerry Must Go", all is definitely not well in Donkeyland.

Meanwhile, Cox & Forkum have combined a great cartoon with a compilation of some of Kerry's serial sputtering on issues ranging from thrown medals, to support for Iraq funding, to committing war atrocities. And they say Bush has trouble expressing himself articulately.

Is it getting so bad for Kerry that Democrats will have to consider "The Old Switcheroo"? Sean at Everything I Know is Wrong contemplates the Dems pulling a "Torricelli"...

I realize that the odds of Democrats actually figuring out that their candidate is a stiff are pretty remote. The odds of their doing anything about it are even more remote. I feel like I should be made to wear a tinfoil hat for even entertaining such ideas, but I was a boy scout (and I've always enjoyed Tom Lehrer) so I'm going to stick with the defense that it's always better to be prepared. So here goes:

In the name of being prepared, it's time to start examining the possibility, however unlikely, that Democrats will begin calling for Kerry to step aside and ask someone like Hillary Clinton, or John Edwards to take over. Someone - anyone who has a chance of surviving the campaign until November.

April 26, 2004

Star Power

It seems like most of the columnists, radio talk show hosts, and a majority of "Joe Fan" types are OK with the Kellen Winslow Jr. selection by the Browns on Saturday. Early reports from disinterested observers like John Clayton at ESPN.com had the Browns listed among the Day One "losers", arguing that they had too many holes to fill to justify coming out of the first three rounds with only two bodies. I was a bit shocked when I got home that evening and found out that the price to move up one spot had been our second round pick, but the allure of Winslow's star power was apparently too great to resist for a team that possessed so little of it going into the draft.

It was obvious three months ago that Winslow was a likely pick, and I haven't grown to feel any warmer or fuzzier about the kid than I did back then. But neither have I wavered in my belief that he is truly a special talent. The catch he made in the national championship game, plucking the ball out of the air over Will Allen, still amazes me. I think the Browns' utter lack of "touchdown makers" demanded they try to land a player that can make a difference NOW. I hope I can grow to like him, the longer he wears the orange helmet. And I'm sure I won't be the first or the last to make the point that as long as the Browns are using those second round picks to draft players like Chaun Thompson, it's hard to criticize them for giving up the pick to land a talent like Winslow. A cynic's view, to be sure, but it's their job to prove me wrong.

I like the pick of Sean Jones with the recouped second round pick. Safety has been a crying need ever since the team was reconstituted in 1999. The fact that he was first team all-SEC is good enough for me, but he also made first team Coaches All-American. That means more to me as a measure of how good a football player a guy is than does his shuttle time at the combine.

I wonder what the Vegas odds would have been that the Browns would go through the first five rounds of the draft without selecting an offensive lineman. (No, tight ends don't count.) I know I might have bet the ranch against it. But a John Clayton article I saw today made me feel a bit better about the choice Davis and Co. made to avoid "reaching" just for appearances' sake. Here's an excerpt:

For months, everyone was hearing how this NFL draft was heavy on receivers and thin on offensive linemen. The scouts were right on, and that became even more apparent during the second day of the NFL draft Sunday.

Only 12 offensive linemen were selected Saturday in the first three rounds. But while teams had a chance to reflect on their scouting boards Saturday night, they awoke Sunday morning and still ignored the offensive linemen in the fourth round, selecting only five more.

Good thing practice squads were expended from five to eight, because the NFL treated the offensive line class of 2004 like practice squaders. Nineteen of the 26 tackles went in the second day -- a dozen in the sixth and seventh rounds alone. Seven of the nine centers went on Day 2. Only eight guards were drafted in the entire seven rounds...

...There may not be more than eight to 10 legitimate first-year starters from this group of linemen. It's not that they won't develop. Most of the tackles were 6-7 or 6-6. All were in the 300-pound plus range. But the NFL is for now, and these linemen were drafted for the future.

It's only been a day now, and I'm already sick of reading and hearing how the Browns drafted their "QB of the future" in Luke McCown from Louisiana Tech. Now, he just might turn out to be that, but right now it's about as certain as saying that Adimchinobe Echemandu is the Browns running back of the future. I'll just remind some people that we drafted a QB from Bowling Green named Mark Miller in the 3rd round a few years back, and today he's barely an asterisk in the record books. (Okay, it was more than a few years back...1978)

Getting Winslow and a solid safety in this draft could make it a success even if the other four guys flop. Of the rest of the picks, it seems like Echemandu has the best "sleeper" potential, and you've got to like the trend of taking guys from Stanford and Cal. Brains can't hurt.

April 25, 2004

The Wow Factor

Belmont Club has a fascinating post on American military technologies, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and advanced sensors and recognition software. I remain easily amazed by this kind of technology, but the "Wow" factor in this stuff is off the charts. From an article excerpt, linked by Wretchard, this example:

Intrigued by the possible applications to UAV surveillance video, the UAVB conducted a test last year at Eglin using streaming video from a Pointer UAV. A captain's face was entered into the computer as a search item, and the UAV was launched. "It starts beeping on this clump of trees," Cook said. "And they had to drive the UAV about another two miles before they could get close enough [to see] there was a vehicle underneath the trees." The captain whose face had been loaded into the computer was sitting in his truck eating lunch. "It found his face through the trees, through the windscreen, in the shadows of the trees, and we went, 'Wow, we need to explore this,'" Cook said.

Middle East Myths

Another excellent Hanson column, this time on popular myths on the war and the greater Middle East. One of those myths holds that U.S. problems in the Arab world stem from Israeli intransigence. Of the recent West Bank demonstrations, in which some Arabs currently living in Israel object to being repatriated to any proposed Palestinian state, while others argue for the "right of return", Hanson makes this observation:

Notably absent were the relatives of the hundreds of thousands of Jews of Baghdad, Cairo, Damascus, and other Arab capitals who years ago were all ethnically cleansed and sent packing from centuries-old homes, but apparently got on with what was left of their lives.

The Palestinians will, in fact, get their de facto state, though one that may be now cut off entirely from Israeli commerce and cultural intercourse. This is an apparently terrifying thought: Palestinian men can no longer blow up Jews on Monday, seek dialysis from them on Tuesday, get an Israeli paycheck on Wednesday, demonstrate to CNN cameras about the injustice of it all on Thursday — and then go back to tunneling under Gaza and three-hour, all-male, conspiracy-mongering sessions in coffee-houses on Friday. Beware of getting what you bomb for.

Priceless. Read it all.

School Vouchers Debate

A new study published by Caroline Minter Hoxby reporting on the use of school vouchers in Milwalkee has generated blog posts and excellent reader comments at Dan Drezner's site, and also at Crooked Timber. Hoxby is a voucher proponent, and her research results generally support her sympathetic views of voucher programs, but what is most interesting to me is how the blogosphere provides such a wonderful forum for the discussion of the issue, pro and con.

Buckeye Musings

It was a lovely afternoon in Columbus yesterday for the Ohio State Spring Game. 65 degrees and sunny, and our seats on the 50-yard line in the fourth row of the upper deck were optimal for watching individual performances. My two friends and I rarely needed to consult the program for uniform numbers, such is our familiarity with the roster. I suspect we annoyed the heck out of those seated around us by narrating the action for our own satisfaction, complete with editorial comment, oblivious to the risk that we might be sitting behind the third-string tight end's mom, while trashing her son's hands.

For the record, the Scarlet beat the Gray, 13-0, but for Buckeye fans this exercise is about watching individual players to see who is best suited to replace the record14 Buckeyes drafted in the NFL Draft this weekend. No doubt much will be made about the loss of those 14 players in the "experts" pre-season predictions for this fall's team, but I would say that the 2004 Buckeyes will be more, not less talented than last year's version. They are green, and that inexperience will probably cost them a game or two this season, but they are loaded, especially on defense, and should contend for the national championship in 2005.

Dealing first with the defense, our consensus MVP's for the afternoon were sophomore DE Jay Richardson, safety Brandon Mitchell, safety Donte Whitner, linebacker Thomas Matthews, transfer linebacker Anthony Schlegel, and CB Ashton Youboty. Honorable mentions for defenders go to LB John Kerr (a transfer from Indiana), freshman DE Marcel Frost, and sophomore DT Quinn Pitcock.

Mitchell should be pressing Nate Salley for one starting safety spot (Whitner has the other one) based on yesterday's performance. And the speedy Matthews, a converted safety, had multiple sacks yesterday, and deserves playing time behind our stellar group of starting linebackers, Hawk, Carpenter and Schlegel. He reminds me of how Cie Grant played the role of "speed linebacker" in the championship season.

What is striking about the defense is the depth of all three groups, line, linebackers and DB's. There is more game experience on defense as well, so look for that group to have to carry the offense through the first few games of the season (sound familiar?). This team will lose only Simon Fraser and Dustin Fox to graduation from this defense, so the future looks bright indeed for the D.

On offense, Justin Zwick probably solidified his hold on the starter's job. Troy Smith looked good early, but was hampered by a lack of top skilled position players on the Gray team, as well as by his own bad desicion-making at times. In addition to that, the QB's were discouraged from running with the ball, and could not be tackled, so the scrambling game that is Troy Smith's game, was negated to a great degree. Zwick threw the "out" patterns fairly well, although he wasn't close on several fades down near the goal line, and looked a bit erratic on the few occasions when he chose to go longer down the field. There were very few long pass completions by either side, a testament to the quality of the pass rush and the DB play on both sides.

Our threesome picked out MVP performances on offense by Scarlet receivers John Hollins and Tony Gonzalez, tackles T.J. Downing and Rob Sims, and of course the game's star, Antonio Pittman, the freshman running back from Akron Buchtel, who was as impressive in person as his statistics (105 yds.) imply. He caught the ball well, and showed excellent acceleration and lateral moves, as well as some toughness after the hit. I hope he doesn't get buried behind senior Lydell Ross, who only wishes he had some of Pittman's running instincts. From the looks of it, Pittman will play in the fall.

It's a good thing that Hollins and Gonzalez showed well Saturday, because two of the three starting wide receivers didn't show much. Roy Hall was perhaps the victim of bad luck to be on the Gray team, where Smith couldn't get him the ball, but Bam Childress continued to show his hands are shaky, even though he's exciting to watch in the open field. The offensive line is the big question mark on this team, and is the area in which graduation hurts the most. There will be three new starters, including both guard spots and at right tackle. Right now it looks like Doug Datish, Mike Kne, and Tim Schafer are penciled in there, but any number of guys, including Kirk Barton, Downing, or incoming freshmen Ben Person or Kyle Mitchum could be playing before we're very far into the 2004 season.

I'm comfortable with Zwick at quarterback. He looks to be in charge, and is a proven winner from his scholastic days. I do hope that Smith's skills are utilized though. He is a weapon that Tressel would be wise to get on the field any way he can. I don't favor a platoon system at QB, and Tressel has indicated he wants to avoid that as well, but Troy Smith can definitely help this team win.

April 24, 2004


This NikeLab site has some great Flash stuff. Click on "Experiences" from the main menu for starters.

Here's some more interesting Flash work. (All via Coolios Weblog)

Winds Of War

Dan Darling's war summary, at Winds of Change.

Game Day


The Justin Zwick era begins today in Columbus. Or does it? Troy Smith got drafted first when the players had to select, and while Coach Tressel has all but admitted that Zwick would start if the first game was today, observers have said that neither QB has clearly wrested the job from the other. Here are the rosters for today's Ohio State Spring Game.

The Buckeyes are inexperienced, especially on offense, but they are absolutely loaded and deep on the defensive side of the ball. The passing game can't be worse than what we watched for two years under Krenzel, and at RB, Lydell Ross has dropped some weight so he might be able to hold off freshmen Antonio Pittman and Eric Haw...for a while. I'll be sitting in the sun at The Shoe this afternoon, and I'll bring a full report back to Wizblog later this weekend.

April 23, 2004

Down By Two Touchdowns

Here is the Indians Minor League Report for this week, for anyone who hopes the future will be an improvement over the present. After a dozen games or so, up-and-comers Grady Sizemore (.195 avg) and Jeremy Guthrie (1-1, 5.28 ERA) are off to slow starts at AAA Buffalo. On the up side Jhonny Peralta (.341 avg) is hot in AAA, and 3B Corey Smith (.309) and newly acquired Franklin Gutierrez (.333) are fast out of the gate in AA Akron. Stanford-bred C/DH Ryan Garko is kicking some A-ball butt at Kinston, hitting .429. On the mound, Kyle Denney (0.69 ERA) has been Buffalo's best starter so far, and Francisco Cruceta, Dan Dittler and Mariano Gomez have all pitched well for AA Akron.

April 22, 2004

Why Bush Is Pulling Ahead

An analysis by Richard Baehr of The American Thinker. Here's a sample:

When Kerry tries to differentiate himself from Bush on Iraq, within a few seconds, his answer usually involves the UN, and catering more to those nations which opposed or undermined the American diplomatic effort last year. At the same time, Kerry and other Democrats routinely dismiss the efforts of those countries that stood with us -- Australia, Britain, and Poland, for example (the “fake” coalition some Democrats have called it) -- though these countries have suffered real losses of life.

So those who stiffed us need to be groveled-to, and those who were allies are written off as tokens. This is simply not a winning message. American by and large believe that fewer Americans would have died in Iraq with greater burden-sharing from our allies, so they appreciate those who served with us, and resent to some extent those countries which refused. Clearing foreign policy decisions through Kofi Annan or Jacques Chirac, is not regarded as evidence of leadership, or smarts.

Blog Dedicated to Oil-For-Food Scam

Friends of Saddam is a blog that aims to serve as a resource for information on the United Nations Oil-For-Food scandal. It is an offshoot of The Politboro Diktat blog, and given Wizblog's ongoing interest in the subject, it's a site I'm sure I'll be checking regularly. Give it a look. (via The Lopsided Poopdeck)

A Sad, Hollow Tree

Peggy Noonan has a theory on why George Bush has solidified his standing in the polls even in the face of the relentless attacks on him in recent weeks from the media, from Congressional Democrats, and of course the Kerry campaign:

I think Mr. Bush is admired and liked after three years of war, terror, strife and recession because people have eyes.

They look at him, listen to him, and watch him every day. They can tell that George W. Bush is looking out for America. They can tell he means it. They can see his sincerity. They can tell he is doing his best. They understand his thinking because he tells them his thinking. They think he may be right. They're not sure, but at least they understand his thinking.

So far the Kerry campaign brings to mind a rather crude expression that I use when I am asked to believe what someone says, when that conflicts with what I can observe with my own eyes. "Don't piss on my head, and tell me it's raining." When Kerry tries to tell me that the Bush economic policies are failing because he is able to find an family that happens to be down on their luck and is willing to tell their story to a camera crew for a spot on the 7 o'clock news, I wonder who he expects to be convinced. People who just bought new refrigerators with the money from the Bush tax cuts aren't convinced. People who can see the market's performance or the job growth numbers or the unemployment rate aren't either. People have eyes. And as Noonan says, they also have to believe that the alternative would be preferable:

If you want to fire the incumbent, you have to have someone to hire in his place. The guy who opposes the incumbent has to seem like a credible president. He has to be a real alternative, a possible president. So far, roughly four months into his national fame, John Kerry has not made the sale. There are people who have Bush-fatigue, but they do not have Kerry-hunger.

So far he doesn't seem like a possible president. He seems somewhat shifty, somewhat cold, an operator. He has a good voice but he seems to use it most to slither out of this former statement or that erstwhile position. It's OK that he looks like a sad tree, but you can't look like a sad, hollow tree. And it looks a little hollow in there.

April 21, 2004

ABC Gets On Board O-F-F

An ABC News investigative report claims to have a "smoking gun" implicating U.N. official Benon Savan in the bribery and kickback scandal involving the Iraq Oil-For-Food program, which was run by Savan:

In the letter, dated Aug. 10, 1998, an Iraqi oil executive mentions a request by a Panama-based company, African Middle East Petroleum Co., to buy Iraqi oil — along with a suggestion that Sevan had a role in the deal. "Mr. Muwafaq Ayoub of the Iraqi mission in New York informed us by telephone that the abovementioned company is the company that Mr. Sevan cited to you during his last trip to Baghdad," the executive wrote in Arabic.

A handwritten note indicated that permission for the oil purchase was granted by "the Vice President of the Republic" on Aug. 15, 1998.

The second page of the letter contains a table titled "Quantity of Oil Allocated and Given to Mr. Benon Sevan." The table lists a total of 7.3 million barrels of oil as the "quantity executed" — an amount that, if true, would have generated an illegal profit of as much as $3.5 million.

(via Glenn Reynolds)

Nice work if you can get it. There's not much to the ABC "investigation" beyond the existence of the letter. Most of the rest of their piece presents evidence that has been in the public domain for over two months, but it's still nice to see some mainstream news outlets getting involved with the story.

Yesterday's Wall Street Journal kept the pressure on with an editorial reporting Russia's reluctance to go along with a Security Council resolution that would give Paul Volcker, the proposed head of the investigation, the powers he needs to conduct a thorough examination of the program.

UPDATE 4/22: The U.N. has passed the SC resolution requested by Volcker, although the linked article notes that the resolution "stopped short, however, of any language that would have compelled member states to submit to the inquiry."

April 20, 2004

Now LeBron Cries Foul

LeBron James has won the NBA Rookie of the Year Award, and he took the occasion of the press conference to whine just a bit about the rookie treatment he received from the league's officials this year.

"They try to take away your manhood in this league, and they couldn't get mine," said James, who was to receive his trophy Tuesday night at the NBA store in New York. "I could have averaged around 25 points if I could have gotten a lot of calls."

One of the most admirable things about James' conduct throughout the season was that he knew his superstar billing wouldn't exempt him from the unwritten code that rookies just don't get the calls that veterans do. And the referees seemed to go out of their way to let opponents bang on LeBron almost at will. This was especially noticeable since James is already known throughout the league as a "finisher", taking it to the basket, where most fouls are called (or not).

He never mouthed off to referees though, and was respectful of players on opposing teams, even when they were mugging him. And now with his rookie season behind him, and the ROY hardware in his hip pocket, I think he's earned the right to bitch a little.

DDT: Millions Die, Remedy Banned

DDT use is either banned, unfunded by relief agencies, or simply discouraged in most of the world today. The facts that DDT virtually ended malaria in the western world, and that today millions die in Africa every year in its absence, cannot overcome the political inertia that continues to limit its use. Here's an excerpt from a long but worthwhile article in the New York Times Magazine by Tina Rosenberg in which she credits, for better or worse, the book that became the turning point for DDT:

''Silent Spring'' for the first time caused Americans to question the scientists and officials who had been assuring them that no harm would result from the rain of pesticides falling on their farms, parks and backyards...

...''Silent Spring'' changed the relationship many Americans had with their government and introduced the concept of ecology and the interconnectedness of systems into the national debate. Rachel Carson started the environmental movement. Few books have done more to change the world.

But this time around, I was also struck by something that did not occur to me when I first read the book in the early 1980's. In her 297 pages, Rachel Carson never mentioned the fact that by the time she was writing, DDT was responsible for saving tens of millions of lives, perhaps hundreds of millions.

DDT killed bald eagles because of its persistence in the environment. ''Silent Spring'' is now killing African children because of its persistence in the public mind. Public opinion is so firm on DDT that even officials who know it can be employed safely dare not recommend its use.

(via Virginia Postrel)

Here's another informative article from The American Council on Science and Health called "The DDT Ban Turns 30", which I linked to in this August, 2003 post.

April 19, 2004

Did Oil-For-Food Fund Al Qaeda?

Great reporting on two fronts by Claudia Rosett on the Oil-For-Food story, starting with her article at NRO today, in which she explores the possibility that funds skimmed from the billion dollar U.N. program may have been used to fund terrorism in general, and Al Qaeda specifically. Rosett cites reporting done for an article by Marc Perelman in Forward as some of the ground-breaking work on these connections. Here's an excerpt from the NRO piece:

There are at least two links documented already. Both involve oil buyers picked by Saddam and approved by the U.N. One was a firm with close ties to a Liechtenstein trust that has since been designated by the U.N. itself as "belonging to or affiliated with Al Qaeda." The other was a Swiss-registered subsidiary of a Saudi oil firm that had close dealings with the Taliban during Osama bin Laden's 1990's heyday in Afghanistan.

Clearly the loose system of "oversight" set up by Kofi Annan and the U.N. invited abuse. More from Rosett:

As Oil-for-Food worked in practice, there were two glaring flaws that lent themselves to manipulation by Saddam. One was the U.N. decision to allow Saddam to choose his own buyers of oil and suppliers of goods � an arrangement that Annan himself helped set up during negotiations in Baghdad in the mid-1990s, shortly before he was promoted to Secretary-General. The other problem was the U.N.'s policy of treating Saddam's deals as highly confidential, putting deference to Saddam's privacy above the public's right to know. Even the Iraqi people were denied access to the most basic information about the deals that were in theory being done in their name. The identities of the contractors, the amounts paid, the quantity and quality of goods, the sums, fees, interest, and precise transactions involved in the BNP Paribas bank accounts � all were kept confidential between Saddam and the U.N.

And it's been a few weeks since I have referred to any online article as "must reading". But it is for pieces like this essential essay by Rosett in the May issue of Commentary that I reserve the designation. Titled "The Oil-for-Food Scam: What Did Kofi Annan Know, and When Did He Know It?", the Commentary piece meticulously recounts the history of the Oil-For-Food program, and the central role played by Annan in facilitating the corruption that has come to define it. She documents how as Saddam grew more and more belligerent and defiant between 1998 and 2002, the U.N. expanded the program, and granted ever more power and privacy to the dictator. She notes that we expect as much from a murderous tyrant, but we deserve better from the United Nations:

That Saddam Hussein was a monster and a corrupt monster is not news. That he would exploit, for massive personal gain, a humanitarian program meant to relieve the miseries of his countrymen is horrifying but hardly astonishing. Nevertheless, any investigation that confines itself to detailing the abundantly evident corruption of Saddam Hussein will have missed the point.

What lies at the core of this story is the United Nations, and how it came to pass that an institution charged with bringing peace and probity to the world should have offered itself up�willingly, even eagerly�as the vehicle for a festival of abuse and fraud.

To begin with, Oil-for-Food was an enormous venture in central planning, the biggest project of its kind launched in many a decade and one that utterly ignored the lessons about such systems learned at agonizing cost over the past century. The UN Secretariat, in its well-paid arrogance, set out to administer virtually the entire economy of Iraq. Under its eye, all legitimate trading privileges became the franchise of a tyrant who laid first claim to every barrel of oil and every dollar (or euro) of proceeds. How could Oil-for-Food not help consolidate Saddam�s grip on power? Nevertheless, it was with this grand thief of Baghdad that the UN cut its humanitarian deal, chalking in a fat commission for the Secretariat.

Rosett insists on asking the tough questions about the United Nations responsibility for a program she says "tainted almost everything it touched. It was ...a kaleidoscope of corruption...".

At precisely what moment during the years of Oil-for-Food did the UN Secretariat cross the line from "supervising" Saddam to collaborating with him? With precisely what deed did it enter into collusion? Even setting aside such obvious questions as whether individual UN officials took bribes, did the complicity begin in 1998, when Saddam flexed his muscles by throwing out the weapons inspectors and when Oil-for-Food, instead of leaving along with them, raised the cap on his oil sales? Did it come in 1999, when, even as Saddam�s theft was becoming apparent, the UN scrapped the oil-sales limits altogether? Or in 2000 and 2001, when Sevan dismissed complaints and reports about blatant kickbacks? Did it start in 2002, when Annan, empowered by Oil-for-Food Plus, signed his name to projects for furnishing Saddam with luxury cars, stadiums, and office equipment for his dictatorship? Or did the defining moment arrive in 2003, when Annan, ignoring the immense conflict posed by the fact that his own institution was officially on Saddam�s payroll, lobbied alongside two of Saddam�s other top clients, Russia and France, to preserve his regime? Certainly by the time Annan and Sevan, neck-deep in revelatory press reports and standing indignantly athwart their own secret records, continued to offer to the world their evasions and denials, the balance had definitively tipped...

...If anyone is going to take the fall for the Oil-for-Food scandal, Sevan seems the likeliest candidate. But it was the UN Secretary-General who compliantly condoned Saddam�s ever-escalating schemes and conditions, and who lobbied to the last to preserve Saddam�s totalitarian regime while the UN Secretariat was swimming in his cash.

Annan has been with the UN for 32 years. He moved up through its ranks; he knows it well. He was there at the creation of Oil-for-Food, he chose the director, he signed the distribution plans, he visited Saddam, he knew plenty about Iraq, and one might assume he read the newspapers. We are left to contemplate a UN system that has engendered a Secretary-General either so dishonest that he should be dismissed or so incompetent that he is truly dangerous�and should be dismissed.

William Safire calls Oil-For-Food "the scandal with no friends". The State Department wants no part of anything that would trash the image of the U.N. just when they need it to help in Iraq, and George Bush has been utterly silent on the matter. France and Russia are already doing their best to prevent a Security Council resolution wanted by Paul Volcker, that would give teeth to the investigation into the scandal that he will be leading. From the Safire article:

such a U.N. resolution would reveal dealings with companies in Russia, France and China � all Security Council permanent members whose nationals had their hands in the till. As Senator Lugar suggested, some nations had secret profiteering reasons to keep Saddam in power.

To nobody's surprise, Vladimir Putin's government was the first to say nothing doing. Russia's U.N. spokesman said, "We understand the reputation of the secretariat is in question, but we do not think it is possible to adopt a resolution on the basis of mass media reports."

Of the 270 suspected kickbackers and recipients of illegal allocations of oil whose names were revealed by Al Mada, the Iraqi newspaper, one-fourth were Russian, including a member of the Russian Parliament and a former Russian ambassador to Baghdad. No wonder Putin wanted no "regime change," and now resists any serious investigation.

I'm afraid I have very little confidence that any heads will roll at the United Nations over this massive fraud. Plus ca change....

Please read (and share) the Rosett piece from Commentary. It's an excellent primer on the subject for people who haven't been reading about it for four months, and contains lots of insights for those of us who have.

Here's a listing of previous Wizblog posts related to corruption of the Oil-for-Food program.

More OKC Evidence Surfaces

From an AP story today (via Drudge):

A Secret Service document written shortly after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing described security video footage of the attack and witness testimony that suggested Timothy McVeigh may have had accomplices at the scene...

...The government has insisted McVeigh drove the truck himself and that it never had any video of the bombing or the scene of the Alfred P. Murrah building in the minutes before the April 19, 1995, explosion.

The actual video, of course may never actually be located, but the fact is that the government story of the OKC bombing is a tissue of lies that is coming unraveled a little bit at a time. Of course McVeigh had accomplices. John Doe #2 didn't cease to exist after three days of an intense FBI manhunt just because the Justice Department decided that his existence was problematic to the quick wrapup of their investigation, and announced in Emily Litella-like fashion, "Never mind".

April 18, 2004

Bush and Blair

An excerpt from Andrew Sullivan's Sunday Times column on why Bush and Blair are "still together":

You can talk about religious faith. You can talk about a habit of intellectual certainty or personal chemistry. But it makes far more sense to interpret the relationship as one of a shared understanding of the most important issues in world politics today.

Both leaders believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to civilisation. Both believe that weapons of mass destruction if combined with terror could destroy that civilisation. Both believe that the crisis is deeper and wider than many others want to think about. Both believe that the war in Iraq, far from being a diversion from the war on terror is, in fact, the most critical moment in that war. And both believe they are winning. They are right.

If you look dispassionately at the events of the past few months - even the past few bloody weeks in Iraq - you can see why. In several theatres of war, the West has made enormous progress.

The Taliban regime no longer exists and Al-Qaeda has been damaged severely. One of the most destabilising forces in the Middle East - the disintegrating regime of Saddam Hussein - has been removed. The most aggressive terror state of the previous two decades, Libya, has come in from the cold. The younger generation in Iran is risking life and limb for change.

The possibility of a representative pluralist government in a critical Arab state is now within reach for the first time - and that possibility offers the only, yes the only, chance for real and lasting progress against the forces of Islamo-fascism.

All the news out of Iraq these past couple of weeks has been hyped into a message of despair. But in fact something quite remarkable has occurred. The most dangerous representative of Islamicist theocracy in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, facing the prospect of a moderate government, decided to play his only card and seize power by force. He was routed by American forces and isolated by moderate Shi'ites.
The reason why Bush and Blair are still together is that they can see the distant, still perilous, but tangible prospect ahead. It may take more setbacks. It may not prevent future atrocities. But in the events of the past few weeks they can begin to see that success is not impossible.

(via normblog)

Why Gorelick Must Go

Michael Graham in The Corner:

Proof positive that Jamie Gorelick's presence on the 9/11 Commission is a conflict-of-interest nightmare can be found in today's Washington Post. This proof comes from a most unlikely source: Jamie Gorelick. In an op-ed for the Post today, the 9/11 Commissioner herself says:

"the memo I wrote in March 1995 -- which concerns information-sharing in two particular cases, including the original World Trade Center bombing -- permits freer coordination between intelligence and criminal investigators than was subsequently permitted by the 1995 guidelines or the 2001 Thompson memo. The purpose of my memo was to resolve a problem presented to me: facilitating investigations on both the intelligence side and criminal side at the same time."

This isn't a panelists' conclusion or recommendation: It's testimony. In fact, given the importance of the CIA/FBI breakdown in 2001, this is key, vital testimony. Gorelick should be making this argument under oath, not under political fire and in the Washington Post. Thanks to Gorelick's extensive admission of direct involvement in the CIA/FBI communications guideline issue, the burden is no longer on Commissioner Gorelick. It's on the 9/11 Commission itself. How can they have a thorough investigation of the intelligence failures of 2001 WITHOUT Gorelick's sworn testimony?

If she does not testify, then the entire 9/11 Commission's report can be rightfully ignored. For such a direct, glaring oversight will show that the Commission's agenda is something other than a complete and thorough investigation of all parties involved. If Gorelick doesn't quit, then the rest of the Commissioners should.

Yes, she should go from the commission. But I'm not sure we need to hear her testimony. It's not like it could salvage the credibility of the Commission at this late date.

UPDATE 4/18: The Big Trunk has a terrific post on Gorelick over at Power Line.

UPDATE 4/19: Andrew McCarthy makes the case for putting Gorelick in the witness chair.

Guess Who

Hamas has named a new leader, but they're not saying who it is. Good thinking.

The condemnations for the killing of Rantisi have begun from around the world. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, but I seem to have missed the criticism from world leaders of the most recent suicide bomb attack by a Palestinian which killed innocent Israelis. I guess only high-profile killings of actual perpetrators have the capacity to outrage Europeans. When regular old Israelis are murdered it seems, no "international law" has been violated.

Reuters reports that Hamas "will retain its popular support and may become even less willing to compromise under a new generation of politically inexperienced leaders". How could they become any less willing to compromise, when their current stance calls for the destruction of the state of Israel?

April 17, 2004

More Chill Wind

Some thoughts from Norm Geras on the silencing of dissent supposedly experienced by certain antiwar leftists:

...how on earth could individuals belonging to a global movement of millions of people, and whose point of view had widespread representation in the world's media, being in some sectors of this almost suffocating - how could these individuals have seen themselves as 'surrounded' and their dissent as under pressure, under threat of being silenced? I wonder if what they're saying is a displacement of something else which they may have acutely felt: namely a painful discomfort at the substance of what the critics of their position kept pointing out - that if their view had prevailed it would have meant the survival of quite monstrous regimes of murder, torture and political and social oppression. If any of them did feel the force of this discomfort as surrounding and discouraging them, then that is in some measure to their credit. But it still ain't the silencing of dissent.

This "displacement" that Norm talks about is akin to something I have been trying to put my finger on to explain some of the intense hatred of George Bush by much of the liberal left. There is a palpable denial by a certain segment of the left that we are indeed "at war" at all. John Kerry, their standard bearer, has called the terror threat "an exaggeration", and despite a long pre-Bush track record of terrorist attacks on America, I think Bush is seen as a symbol, and a regular reminder of a war that some people would prefer to continue denying. It's classic "shoot the messenger" thinking.

I think they harbor the delusion that if we could rid ourselves of Bush, we could all go back to our pre-9/11 comfort zone. As side benefits I suppose, European governments would embrace us, the U.N. would become credible and effective, and Islamic terror would fade from the scene. My sense is that much of what is channelled into hatred of George Bush is rooted in fear and denial.

And the denial is not only that the war continues, and will continue. It is also a denial that what the coalition has accomplished in Afghanistan and Iraq is a manifestly good thing. So the man whose leadership and resolve has resulted in the liberation of 50 million people is smeared personally and "reinvented" as the problem, instead of part of the solution. And to serve that agenda, all consideration of what is good for the United States of America gets set aside as a secondary concern.

French Oil Deals With Saddam

French companies and government officials were doing pretty well with the U.N.-Iraq Oil-For-Food program, but those millions were small stuff compared to the money they stood to make if they could get U.N. sanctions lifted, and finalize two oil deals worth 100 billion dollars that they had negotiated with Saddam.

This is not exactly news, but not too much has been written in U.S. media about this potential gravy train for France, that made them so desperate to keep Saddam in power. Kenneth Timmerman is the author of a new book called "The French Betrayal of America", and here he gives an interview to Frontpage Magazine's Jamie Glazov, and talks about those French motives :

If you read the French press, or the glowing accounts of Chirac's opposition to the U.S. effort to build an international coalition to oust Saddam Hussein that appeared here in America, you might actually believe that the French were standing on principle.

I reveal that Chirac was defending something quite different when he sent his erstwhile foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, around the world to buy votes against America at the United Nations. Chirac was determined to maintain Saddam Hussein in power so that two extraordinarily lucrative oil contracts, negotiated by the French, could go into effect...

The deals were negotiated separately by CFP Total and by Elf Aquitaine during the mid to late 1990s. At the time, both companies were state-controlled. They have since been privatized and combined into the world’s second largest oil giant, TotalFinalElf.

Through my sources, I obtained a copy of one of these contracts. It spans 154 pages, and grants the French exclusive right to exploit one of Iraq’s largest oil fields at Nahr al-Umar for a period of twenty years. Under the deal, the French were given 75% of the revenue from every barril of oil they extracted – 75%! That is absolutely stunning. Not even during the pre-OPEC days were foreign oil operators granted such extravagant terms...

...those two deals were worth $100 billion to the French. That’s 100 billion good reasons for Mr. Chirac to keep Saddam in power.

You have to stand in line to investigate a scandal involving Chirac or the French government, but as far as I know there's not even anything illegal being alleged here with the oil deals. But is there anyone left on the planet still claiming that French opposition to regime change in Iraq was based in something other than economic and political self-interest?

April 16, 2004

The LeBron Effect

Everything came together right. Rare talent, then the smile and the manner. Add big NBA money and huge corporate money. It's a Lebromenon. The economic impact of LeBron James on the NBA, and on Cleveland and the Cavalier franchise is stunning.

Cavaliers officials have not publicly commented on any of the team's financial gains this season. But the numbers don't lie. Radio listenership more than doubled, local television ratings increased by 300 percent and, thanks to James' best-selling jersey, the Cavaliers ranked fourth overall in the league in apparel sales, according to the NBA. Approximately $72 million dollars worth -- or 1.6 million jerseys -- featuring James' name and No. 23 have been sold since they first went on sale on June 26...

..."His items fly off the shelves," said Keith Lauer, product manager for Upper Deck collectibles. "Whatever we can make moves. I think you can compare this phenomenon to Jordan in that he's transcended the sport like a pop culture icon."

Google returns zero hits on the search word "Lebromenon". I had to know that.

April 15, 2004

Alt on Najaf

Robert Alt is reporting from Iraq for the No Left Turns blog. He says that the relative calm around Al Najaf this week is "the biggest story that you didn't hear".

France and the U.N. in Rwanda

From a blog that's new to me called Last of the famous international playboys comes an excellent two part post on the Rwandan genocide of 1994, including the stories of prominent and disturbing roles by France and the U.N., and the intrigue of a cockpit voice recorder from the plane crash that killed the Rwandan president. Here's Part One, Rwanda Revisited , and here's Part Two. Nearly a million people are savagely murdered in about 100 days, while French soldiers enable, and U.N. and U.S. officials dither. It makes for sobering but riveting reading. (via Wretchard)

Optical Illusions

A page of 39 pretty good illusions , many of which I had not seen before. Stop before your eyeballs bleed, OK?


Peggy Noonan reacts to the Bush press conference, and makes this observation on the contrast between our last two Presidents:

More and more it seems to me Mr. Bush is not only Bill Clinton's successor but his exact opposite: Mr. Clinton perfectly poised and hollow inside, a man whose lack of compass left him unable to lead within the Oval Office but who gave a compelling public presentation of the presidency, and Mr. Bush a strong president with an obvious soul, decisive at the desk, but with no dazzling edifice. It's actually amazing that two such different men came so close together. Lucky for us, considering the history, that Mr. Bush was the one who came now.

April 14, 2004

Boarding the Dog

Okay, anyone could put a dog on a skateboard and give him a push, right? No, this one knows how to skateboard. This is pretty incredible. And funny. (via Oxblog)

UPDATE 4/17: Now I find that Tyson, the skateboarding bulldog has his own web site.

AS on Air America

Andrew Sullivan reviews Al Franken and Air America, the new liberal talk radio programming. What's missing? Ideas, for starters...

...the other missing ingredient for liberal media is intellectual firepower. On this, the left has actually gone soft. In academia, left-liberalism is so entrenched its advocates' debating skills have gone rusty. When you've been talking to yourself for decades and imposing speech codes on everyone else, your ability to argue coherently - let alone entertainingly - inevitably wanes. And when you look at the political parties today, it's only the Republicans who are really still fighting over ideas. Only conservatives are battling each other over fiscal policy, or on abortion, or on gay marriage. The Democrats are only arguing over how to get back into power. Internal debates are almost non-existent. Remember the Democratic primaries? Zzzzz. Compared to the the rifts between supporters of free trade and of restricting immigration, between the libertarians and the Christian right, between the foreign policy realists and neoconservatives, the debates among the Democrats are beyond tedious. So they tend to go only on the attack against the president and anything to do with him, without much intellectual fiber in reserve.

UPDATE 4/14: Drudge Report carries this story on a little problem Air America had today:

Wed Apr 14 2004 16:18:43 ET

After just two weeks on the air, Air America Radio, the fledgling liberal talk-radio network featuring Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo, appears to have encountered serious cash-flow problems.

The CHICAGO TRIBUNE is developing a story, insiders tell DRUDGE, on how the network was pulled off the air this morning in Chicago and Los Angeles, the network's second- and third-largest markets, because, the owner of both stations said, the network bounced a check and owes him more than $1 million! A charge the network strongly denies.

A Chicago source familiar with the situation said a Multicultural representative showed up at WNTD's offices Wednesday morning, kicked out Air America's lone staffer overseeing the network's feed to the station from New York, switched over to a Spanish-language feed, and changed the locks on the doors...

Air America filed a complaint Wednesday in New York state Supreme Court charging Multicultural with breaching their contract and seeking an injunction to force Multicultural to restore the Air America broadcast on both stations.


April 13, 2004

Behind Headlines

While I'm doing plugs for favored war-related blogs, I'll direct you to a couple of recent posts at Belmont Club, where Wretchard almost always lands on his feet. Take a look at today's post , and an earlier one called The Wider War, both of which get into the large scale infiltration of Iraq by thousands of Iranian and Syrian soldiers and intelligence operatives, whose charter includes planning ahead to influence the eventual Iraqi elections for their favored candidates. Keep scrolling.

Thanks Guys

It has long since become my habit to check out the terrific "Winds of War" summaries assembled by Joe Katzman and the rest of the group at Winds of Change, which are posted each Monday and Thursday. The 4/12 version is edited by Dan Darling, whose regular blog Regnum Crucis has been cited here often for his tireless effort to lend background, detail and thoughtful analysis to what is going on in the war. I cannot recommend these sites strongly enough for readers who crave information and understanding on the war like I do. And I want to take this chance to salute and thank Dan, Joe, and the rest of the WOC team for the ongoing excellence of the job you do. I really value the resource, and appreciate the time and effort that it takes. Lots of us do.

Lots of great stuff this time around, by the way. Money and manpower pouring into Iraq from Iran...the looming confrontation with Sadr's militia...planning for the Sadr revolt in London? Make it a regular stop.

Arab Passivity and Media Defeatism

Mark Steyn, on Fallujah:

The Iraqi people don't want to be on the American side, only on the winning side. Right now, those two positions happen to coincide; 99.99 percent of Iraqi Shiites aren't involved in the troubles of the last week. This guy Sadr is a junior-league blowhard. ''If they come for our leader,'' says one of his commanders, ''they will ignite all of Iraq." No, they won't. The vast majority of Iraq will remain un-ignited.

Look at those pictures of the atrocity in Fallujah: the remains of four corpses, and a bunch of savages dancing around them. In all those photographs, can you add up more than a hundred men? And half of them are punk kids under 11. There are 300,000 people in that city. A few score are depraved enough to cheer on the killers of four brave men; 299,900 of the town's population were either disapproving or indifferent.

And in the Arab world, the indifferent are the biggest demographic. They sit things out, they see which strong horse has jostled his way to the head of the pack, and they go along with him. The Turks. The British. The British-installed king. The thug who murders the king. The thug who murders the thug who murders the king.

Nothing to Add...

...to Jonah Goldberg's response (via The Corner) to the N.Y. Times editorial:

The New York Times editorializes:
No reasonable American blames Mr. Bush for the terrorist attacks, but that's a long way from thinking there was no other conceivable action he could have taken to prevent them.
I absolutely agree. There were a great many actions the government could have conceivably taken. It could have conceivably grounded every plane in America. It conceivably could have announced it was going to scrutinize every Muslim and Arab living in America without citizenship, and every single one which didn't have his or her papers in perfect order would be deported. It is conceivable that George W. Bush could have championed measures even stronger than those in the Patriot Act before 9/11. It is conceivable that he could have bombed Afghanistan, issued orders to assasinate every Jihadist terrorist it could get in the crosshairs. It is conceivable that he could have told Americans that civil liberties would have to take a backseat to security and that tourism would have to suffer.

The only thing that is inconeivable is that the New York Times would have condoned any of these measures or measures which fall far short of these. Indeed, it is inconceivable that the Times would have done anything but denounce the President as a would-be dictator. Indeed, it is difficult to find very many examples of things President Bush did after 9/11 to prevent terrorism that the New York Times did not sneer at in some way.

Applying the standard of "conceivability" is not only intellectually dishonest for the Times it is hypocritical since it is something approaching this standard which the Administration applied to its decision to go to war with Iraq -- "are we doing everything conceivable to make sure this never happens again?" -- and we all know how much support the Times has offered for that effort.

April 12, 2004

Grand Opening

Beer sales can continue for Indians games at Jacobs Field this season. You see, they didn't lose the opener.

(For some reason, that joke just seems to work better when they lose the opener, necessitating the cancellation of beer sales. Memo to self: Drop stupid opener joke in 2005, regardless of game outcome.)

It will not be my policy this year to Triblog only when the Indians win, and ignore them for days at a time when they're not doing so well. It just seems like that right now. After all, how long can people put up with fans saying "we really should be 6-2", when we're 3-5? Okay, I'll stop it.

Friends who know me well enough to have an appreciation for how these late-game, giveaway losses tear me up will try to twist the dagger in my gut with casual asides to me like, "you know the Indians bullpen really sucks", or more subtly, "I'm not happy with our closer, Dan."

They do this because they know full well that I will moderate their rash generalizations with a soothing mixture of authoritative-sounding baseball clichés and blind team loyalty. I will assure them that the bullpen doesn't exactly "suck"...it is simply underperforming just now, that it is a long season, these guys are veterans with talent, and I have every expectation that things will be better over the long haul. It's a marathon, not a sprint, blah, blah, blah.

This is exactly what they want to hear, and I am nothing if not reliable in giving it to them. For some of these guys, the Indians are my team when they're losing and their team when they win. To my way of thinking, that makes them interested parties, not Indians fans. Am I being too harsh? Maybe they're Indians fans who just think our bullpen sucks.

We do tend to put an overemphasis on the early games in the season. I heard a caller to a sports talk radio show this afternoon ask the host if he thought Travis Hafner had a chance to win the Triple Crown. (He's hitting .400 and leads the AL in homers, but it's been one week!)

At least Riske got the gorilla off his back this afternoon, and Hafner's grand slam is on SportsCenter another few times tonight. The forecast for my personal Tribe opener on Thursday is for a temperature in the 50's. It hardly seems like April in Cleveland.

NCAA Gangs Up On Clarett

The NCAA has thrown its support behind the NFL effort to keep Maurice Clarett out of this month's NFL Draft. NCAA President Myles Brand said, in part:

"If not reversed, this decision is likely to unrealistically raise expectations and hopes that a professional football career awaits graduation from high school and that education can therefore be abandoned," Brand said. "The result could be a growing group of young men who end up with neither a professional football career nor an education that will support their life plans."

In addition to Clarett and USC receiver Mike Williams, six high school players have applied for the draft since the original Clarett ruling.

What's next? Two-year olds suing to run in the Kentucky Derby? 40-year old golfers suing to join the Seniors Tour? Doesn't everyone get old enough soon enough?

April 11, 2004

Giving Away The Game

I guess this means the gloves are off. Bob Kerrey and the rest of the Democratic team have abandoned all pretense of objectivity or bipartisanship, even in advance of their final findings and the report of the 9/11 Commission. The former Senator's op-ed in the N.Y. Times is a vehicle for a partisan broadside on George Bush and his policies. No, partisan opinion in an op-ed doesn't shock me, but this is so irresponsible that I'm embarrassed for the other members of the commission, and yet gratified that Kerrey has shredded his last bit of credibility as any kind of above-the-fray patriot, doing a service for the country.

Kerrey intentionally "leaks" his own personal commission report with what may be the most emotional, inflammatory and politically charged statement he could possibly make;

"9/11 could have been prevented", he pronounced matter-of-factly, saying volumes and saying nothing at the same time.

No sense waiting around for the conclusions or report of the prestigious Commission, Mr. Kerrey. The New York Times chariot awaits you, sir...to carry you to the Vice-President's coronation ball.

Is there no sense among Democrats that this attack, in this forum or any forum, is breathtakingly inappropriate for a sitting member of the commission? Is there indeed any doubt that this is an important moment in the campaign, when the Democrats officially decide that there shall be no remaining restraints on their rhetoric of opposition to the policies of the Commander-in-Chief and his conduct of the war?

In the Democratic version of "politics stopping at the water's edge", Kerrey announced that:

"I believe President Bush's overall vision for the war on terrorism is wrong. — military and civilian alike."...

...In particular, our military and political tactics in Iraq are creating the conditions for civil war there and giving Al Qaeda a powerful rationale to recruit young people to declare jihad on the United States.

Bob Kerrey wants to denounce the President's military tactics in Iraq from his seat on the 9/11 Commission. This is helpful, I suppose, in convincing the last few remaining holdouts that the Commission is a sad joke, its mission sadly sacrificed on the altar of politics.

Kerrey has a solution to the War on Terror though, by the way. It is so simple too...

the importance of this distinction is that it forces us to face the Muslim world squarely and to make an effort to understand it. It also allows us to insist that we be judged on our merits — and not on the hate-filled myths of the street. Absent an effort to establish a dialogue that permits respectful criticism and disagreement, the war on terrorism will surely fail. The violence against us will continue.

So, that's the mistake George Bush made. He failed to "make an effort to understand" the Muslim world. The Democrats promise more "making an effort to understand the Muslim World". That's their answer. And it is also sure to be a key part of the John F. Kerry presidential campaign platform as far as I can tell. The vision thing. And what the hell are "the hate-filled myths of the street"?

So, what's needed is more dialogue.....so as to permit respectful criticism and disagreement (of us, by them of course). Sounds like a good plan for ending Islamic terror attacks, Bob. Last time I checked, the promise of martyrdom for murder in pursuit of world domination was winning out over "dialogue" when the theocrats put it to a vote.

This is just the most disappointing and distatsteful exhibition of political interference in foreign policy since....well, since Jimmy Carter last week. Americans have a right to be furious with Kerrey for politicizing the Commission so shamelessly. Scoring political points is more important than the integrity of the Commission and its Report. That's the message, loud and clear, from Democratic headquarters.

I do hope this "gloves-off" Kerrey tactic backfires on the Democrats and candidate Kerry. First, because our policy in Iraq simply must succeed, so any attempts to undermine it are setting back the process of democratization in Iraq and the handover of power. I think most Americans get that, and have pride in what we have accomplished so far. They are also appreciative of the aggressive posture of George Bush and his administration in taking the fight to our enemies, and so far, preventing another major attack on American soil.

My hope that the electorate will see through the rhetorical smokescreen is based on the fact that the criticism is so devoid of alternatives, absurdly extreme in tone, and counterintuitive in its suggestions. In short, the American people are not stupid enough to believe that a Democratic administration, much less one led by John Kerry, will "dialogue" or "understand" its way to ending to Islamic terror. We watched eight years of that play in the 90's.

My hope is also owing to the way George Bush is viewed by large numbers of Americans. I think most people in this country reject the idea that George Bush has not "made an effort to understand" the Muslim world. They reject the notion that the War on Terror is being waged due to a dialogue deficit in the United States. They don't hear policy alternatives coming from Bush's critics, just bluster and wind. They don't believe we are being attacked because we are not cozy enough with the governments of western Europe, or because we have not conducted our foreign policy by giving veto power over our conduct to the United Nations.

Most people I know think Bush is a fundamentally good man who has led the country admirably in a difficult time. They see the importance of gaining a foothold for democracy in the Middle East, and can see good progress on other fronts, like Syria, Libya, that flow from the hopes of free Iraqis. I think what is most vexing to Democrats is that Bush still has strong support among the people, and seems perfectly willing to stand for re-election before them, and be "judged on his merits."

Hence the necessity of the smear job by the Left, of which the unprofessional and transparent attack by Bob Kerrey is only the latest salvo.

(Since the Times archives things pretty quickly, I have excerpted liberally [wink, wink] the Kerrey text below)

Also check out Armed Liberal's take and the comments at Winds of Change.

April 11, 2004


Fighting the Wrong War


At Thursday's hearing before the 9/11 commission, Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, gave a triumphal presentation. She was a spectacular witness.

I was a tough critic of some of her answers and assertions, though I believe I was at least as tough with the national security adviser for President Clinton. At the beginning and end of every criticism I have made in this process, I have also offered this disclaimer: anyone who was in Congress, as I was during the critical years leading up to Sept. 11, 2001, must accept some of the blame for the catastrophe. It was a collective failure.

Two things about that failure are clear to me at this point in our investigation. The first is that 9/11 could have been prevented, and the second is that our current strategy against terrorism is deeply flawed. In particular, our military and political tactics in Iraq are creating the conditions for civil war there and giving Al Qaeda a powerful rationale to recruit young people to declare jihad on the United States.

The case for the first conclusion begins with this fact: On 9/11, 19 men defeated every defense mechanism the United States had placed in their way. They succeeded in murdering 3,000 men and women whose only crime was going to work that morning. And they succeeded at a time of heightened alert — long after we recognized that Al Qaeda was capable of sophisticated military operations.

Remember, the attack occurred after President Clinton had let pass opportunities to arrest or kill Al Qaeda's leadership when the threat was much smaller. It occurred after President Bush and Ms. Rice were told on Jan. 25, 2001, that Al Qaeda was in the United States, and after President Bush was told on Aug. 6, 2001, that "70 F.B.I. field investigations were open against Al Qaeda" and that the "F.B.I. had found patterns of suspicious activities in the U.S. consistent with preparation for hijacking."

Once again I know that President Clinton, President Bush and Ms. Rice all faced difficult challenges in the years and months before 9/11; I do not know if I would have handled things differently had I been in their shoes. It has been difficult for all of us to understand and accept the idea that a non-state actor like Osama bin Laden, in conjunction with Al Qaeda, could be a more serious strategic threat to us than the nation-states we grew up fearing.

But this recognition does not absolve me of my obligation to ask those who were responsible for our national security at the time what they did to protect us against this terrorist threat.

One episode strikes me as particularly important. On July 5, 2001, Ms. Rice asked Richard Clarke, then the administration's counterterrorism chief, to help domestic agencies prepare against an attack. Five days later an F.B.I. field agent in Phoenix recommended that the agency investigate whether Qaeda operatives were training at American flight schools. He speculated that Mr. bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil aviation system as pilots, security guards or other personnel.

Ms. Rice did not receive this information, a failure for which she blames the structure of government. And, while I am not blaming her, I have not seen the kind of urgent follow-up after this July 5 meeting that anyone who has worked in government knows is needed to make things happen. I have not found evidence that federal agencies were directed clearly, forcefully and unambiguously to tell the president everything they were doing to eliminate Qaeda cells in the United States.

My second conclusion about the president's terrorism strategy has three parts. First, I believe President Bush's overall vision for the war on terrorism is wrong. — military and civilian alike.

Second, the importance of this distinction is that it forces us to face the Muslim world squarely and to make an effort to understand it. It also allows us to insist that we be judged on our merits — and not on the hate-filled myths of the street. Absent an effort to establish a dialogue that permits respectful criticism and disagreement, the war on terrorism will surely fail. The violence against us will continue.

Such a dialogue does not require us to cease our forceful and at times deadly pursuit of those who have declared war on us. Quite the contrary. It would enable us to gather Muslim allies in a cause that will bring as much benefit to them as it does to us. That's why President Bush was right to go to a Washington mosque shortly after Sept. 11. His visit — and his words of assurance that ours was not a war against Islam but against a much smaller group that has perverted the teachings of the Koran — earned the sympathy of much of the Muslim world.

That the sympathy wasn't universal, that some in the Arab world thought the murder of 3,000 innocents was justified, caused many Americans to question whether the effort to be fair was well placed. It was — and we would be advised to make the effort more often.

Third, we should swallow our pride and appeal to the United Nations for help in Iraq. We should begin by ceding joint authority to the United Nations to help us make the decisions about how to transfer power to a legitimate government in Iraq. Until recently I have not supported such a move. But I do now. Rather than sending in more American forces or extending the stay of those already there, we need an international occupation that includes Muslim and Arab forces.

Time is not on our side in Iraq. We do not need a little more of the same thing. We need a lot more of something completely different.

Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9/11 commission and a former Democratic senator from Nebraska, is president of New School University.

Sick Reality TV

A "professional gambler" from London has sold everything he owns, including his clothes, and will risk it all on one spin of the roulette wheel. Sky TV will carry his spin on live television Sunday night.

Catchy story, but something smells bad here. Sky says they will follow and film him for a month afterwards, win or lose. For a "documentary", no less. So which documentary would you rather see? 30 days of the broke loser, or 30 days of the slightly bettter off loser? Must be "sweeps week".

April 10, 2004

Fatherhood Crisis

The current state of the Family Court system in this country, and the direction of government policy at all levels toward dealing with what is called the "fatherhood crisis", both cry out for major review and reform, according to Steven Baskerville, a professor at Howard University.

In his essay "Is There Really a Fatherhood Crisis?" , (via Arts & Letters Daily) Baskerville's premise is that government policies aimed at solving the problem, including those favored by elements of the right and the left, are at best misguided, and at worst counter-productive.

Virtually every major social pathology has been linked to fatherless children: violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, unwed pregnancy, suicide, and psychological disorders—all correlating more strongly with fatherlessness than with any other single factor. Tragically, however, government policies intended to deal with the “fatherhood crisis” have been ineffective at best because the root cause is not child abandonment by fathers but policies that give mothers an incentive to initiate marital separation and divorce.

Baskerville examines the question of how much, if any role there should be for government in matters of family, fatherhood, or child rearing:

... little informed discussion has occurred about the appropriate role of public policy with respect to fatherhood and families. Marshalling federal agencies to “promote” something as private and personal as a parent’s relationship with his own children raises questions. The assumption that the government has a legitimate role in ameliorating the problem of fatherlessness also glides quickly over the more fundamental question of whether the government has had a role in creating the problem. What we see in the “fatherhood crisis” may be an optical illusion. What many are led to believe is a social problem may in reality be an exercise of power by the state.

Baskerville spends a little time on government programs to encourage "never-married" couple to marry, but unwed parenthood is after all, still parenthood. He concentrates on the fatherless children whose fathers had no choice in the matter. The objects of the involuntary divorce. First, there's the myth of widespread "abandonment" of children by their fathers:

In the largest federally funded study ever undertaken on the subject, Arizona State University psychologist Sanford Braver demonstrated that few married fathers voluntarily leave their children. Braver found that overwhelmingly it is mothers, not fathers, who are walking away from marriages. Moreover, most of these women do so not with legal grounds such as abuse or adultery but for reasons such as “not feeling loved or appreciated.” The forcibly divorced fathers were also found to pay virtually all child support when they are employed and when they are permitted to see the children they have allegedly abandoned .

Other studies have reached similar conclusions. Margaret Brinig and Douglas Allen found that women file for divorce in some 70 percent of cases. “Not only do they file more often, but . . . they are more likely to instigate separation.” Most significantly, the principal incentive is not grounds such as desertion, adultery, or violence, but control of the children. “We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce”. One might interpret this statistic to mean that what we call divorce has become in effect a kind of legalized parental kidnapping.

A good deal of the state's "exercise of power" is wielded by an unbelievably "extra-legal" Family Court system. I have heard horror stories of fathers who have been denied all manner of rights relating to seeing their own children by a system that is institutionally tilted in favor of the custodial parent, usually the mother. But I was unprepared for what Baskerville says is the degree to which the Family Court system operates outside of, and often with utter contempt for Constitutional protections.

This is especially disturbing considering the high percentage of cases in which the father is accused of no crime, has not provided grounds for divorce and does not agree with the divorce action, but is thrown into the "system" anyway, with all that entails. The result is a self-perpetuating and largely unaccountable bureaucracy that has the effect of separating fathers from their children, supposedly the "problem" these governmental entities are supposed to be trying to alleviate. This excerpt demonstrates just some of what can happen (usually) to a man, when he enters the family court bureaucracy by virtue of his spouse walking in one day and saying "I want a divorce"...

...A father brought before these courts is likely to have only a few hours’ notice of a hearing that may last thirty minutes or less, during which he will lose all decisionmaking authority over his children, be told when and where he is authorized to see them, and ordered to begin paying child support. His name will be entered on a federal registry, his wages will immediately be garnished, and the government will have access to all his financial information.

No allegations of wrongdoing, either civil or criminal, are required. And no agreement to a divorce or separation is necessary. Yet from this point, if he tries to see his children outside the authorized times or fails to pay the child support (or courtordered attorneys’ fees), he will be subject to arrest.

A parent pulled into divorce court against his will also must submit to questioning about his private life, questioning that Abraham has characterized as an “interrogation.” He can be forced to surrender personal diaries, correspondence, financial records, and other documents normally protected by the Fourth Amendment. His personal habits, movements, conversations, writings, and purchases are subject to inquiry by the court. His home can be entered by government agents. His visits with his children can be monitored and restricted to a “supervised visitation center.” Anything he says to his spouse or children as well as to family counselors and personal therapists can be used against him in court, and his children can be used to inform on his compliance. Fathers are asked intimate questions about how they “feel” about their children, what they do with them, where they take them, how they kiss them, how they feed and bathe them, what they buy for them, and what they discuss with them. According to Abraham, fathers against whom no evidence of wrongdoing is presented are ordered to submit to “plethysmographs,” a physical-response test in which an electronic sheath is placed over the penis while the father is forced to watch pornographic films of children (1999, 148, 58). A parent who refuses to cooperate can be summarily incarcerated or ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

The parent from whom custody is removed no longer has any say in where the children reside, attend school, or worship. He has no necessary access to their school or medical records or any control over medications or drugs. He can be enjoined from taking his children to the doctor or dentist. He can be told what religious services he may (or must) attend with his children and what subjects he may discuss with them in private.

In family court, it is not unusual for a father earning $35,000 a year to amass $150,000 in attorney’s fees, according to Washington attorney William Dawes. Unlike any other debt, these fees may be collected by incarceration. In fact, unlike the inmates in a medieval debtors’ prison, he is punished even though he did not incur the debt voluntarily. One of the most astonishing practices of family courts is ordering fathers to pay the fees of attorneys, psychotherapists, and other officials they have not hired and summarily jailing them for not complying...

And speaking of being guilty until proven innocent, just the accusation of "abuse", which is itself subject to wildly subjective definition, is enough to trigger an added level of presumed criminality, suspension of civil rights and social stigmatization:

...A punitive quality seems to pervade the treatment of fathers in general throughout divorce court, but the presumption of guilt becomes explicit with accusations of spousal or child abuse. Fathers accused of abuse during divorce are seldom formally charged, tried, or convicted because there is usually no evidence against them; hence, they never receive due process of law or the opportunity to clear their names, let alone recover their children. Yet the accusation alone prohibits a father’s contact with his children and causes his name to be entered into a national database of sex offenders (Parke and Brott 1999, 49–50).

Although initial accusations do not necessarily result in the father’s arrest, they do confirm his status as a quasi-criminal whose movements are controlled by the court. This control takes the form of an ex parte restraining order, whose violation results in imprisonment. Orders separating fathers from their children for months, years, and even life are issued without the presentation of any evidence of wrongdoing. They are often issued at a hearing at which the father is not present and about which he may not even know, or they may be issued over the telephone or by fax with no hearing at all. A father receiving an order must vacate his residence immediately and make no further contact with his children.

The most serious effect of forcibly removing fathers after quasi-criminal accusations is the abuse of children it induces. Contrary to popular belief, it is not fathers, but mothers—especially single mothers—who are most likely to abuse children. An HHS study found that women ages twenty to forty-nine are almost twice as likely as men to be perpetrators of child maltreatment: “It is estimated that . . . almost twothirds [of child abusers] were females” (HHS 1998a, xi–xii). Given that male perpetrators are not necessarily fathers but more likely to be boyfriends and stepfathers, fathers emerge as the least likely child abusers.

This seems to me to be a policy issue of major importance that needs to be thoroughly and honestly debated. Not only are the governmental abuses of power staggering in themselves, but right now this system of judges, lawyers, agency bureaucrats and politicians are contributing to anything but a promotion of "fatherhood"...

the vast machinery devoted to divorce and custody litigation now has the power not only to seize children whose parents have done nothing legally wrong, but also to turn forcibly divorced parents into outlaws without any wrong action on their part and in ways they are powerless to avoid. What we are seeing today is nothing less than the criminalization of parents, most often the fathers. A father who is legally unimpeachable can be turned into a criminal by the regime of involuntary divorce.

Funny Bunny

My kind of humor.

Was Saddam Cause or Effect?

From the new web site of Victor Davis Hanson, an essay called "The Mirror of Fallujah"

...at some point the world is asking: “Is Mr. Assad or Hussein, the Saudi Royal Family, or a Khadafy really an aberration—all rogues who hijacked Arab countries—or are they the logical expression of a tribal patriarchal society whose frequent tolerance of barbarism is in fact reflected in its leadership? Are the citizens of Fallujah the victims of Saddam, or did folk like this find their natural identity expressed in Saddam? Postcolonial theory and victimology argue that European colonialism, Zionism, and petrodollars wrecked the Middle East. But to believe that one must see India in shambles, Latin America under blanket autocracy, and an array of suicide bombers pouring out of Mexico or Nigeria. South Korea was a moonscape of war when oil began gushing out of Iraq and Saudi Arabia; why is it now exporting cars while the latter are exporting death? Apartheid was far worse than the Shah’s modernization program; yet why did South Africa renounce nuclear weapons while the Mullahs cheated on every UN protocol they could?...

...If we are to try to bring some good to the Middle East, then we must first have the intellectual courage to confess that for the most part the pathologies embedded there are not merely the work of corrupt leaders but often the very people who put them in place and allowed them to continue their ruin.

So the question remains did Saddam create Fallujah or Fallujah Saddam?

Spring Ball

Notes from Spring Practice in Columbus. Justin Zwick is the QB. Bobby Carpenter is a star waiting to happen. Here's the Two-Deep. Only two weeks till the Spring Game! I'll be there with a couple of my Bucknut buddies.

Arafat Gets A Pass

Joel Mowbray says Yasser Arafat is on a "honeymoon" from criticism for having openly sought to ally with terrorist groups. It is the "international community" that Mowbray accuses of a collective yawn at Arafat's proposal, but adds that Arafat has the "nominal approval of the United States". He doesn't give much credit to the Bush administration policy that insisted on new Palestinian leadership, encouraged democratic reforms, and bounced Yasser from the White House dinner invitation list. That policy I think, as much as Israel's physical isolation of him, has contributed to the pathetic, discredited, Arafat we see today. Not exactly in the honeymoon suite. Here's a sample from a good piece by Mowbray: (excerpted out of sequence)

By expressing both a willingness and desire to partner with Hamas and Islamic Jihad in a new organization that apparently would function parallel to the Palestinian Authority (PA), Arafat has removed any pesky gray area. It would take a creative explanation to differentiate this from the Taliban’s partnership with al Qaeda.

Then again, Arafat’s own history should leave little doubt. His three organizations—Tanzim, Fatah, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade—have combined slaughtered more than 400 innocent Israelis. And that was after the Oslo accords of 1993, where he famously shook hands with Yitzhak Rabin...

...Arafat has no problem whatsoever partnering with a group responsible for the suicide bombing deaths of 52 mostly young Palestinians and 377 mostly civilian Israelis. The only sticking point is that the bloodthirsty terrorists must submit to Arafat’s leadership.

Arafat’s leadership, of course, would not necessarily mean less bloodshed. It would merely mean better-organized mass murder.

April 9, 2004

Iraq Analysis

Check out Dan Darling's Iraq update and analysis, posted at Winds of Change.

April 8, 2004

Early Tribe

The Indians have knocked around some pretty decent pitchers the last four days, including Radke and Lohse, and culminating with today's 6-1 pasting of Jeremy Affeldt and the Royals. This team is an eyelash from being 4-0, but more importantly I think they got a shot of confidence from dominating even the games they lost in gut-wrenching fashion, and then composing themselves to dominate the next two games in victory.

It's way too soon to call 14 hits a game a trend, but it does seem like the team will hit up and down the order. We really need Escobar to bloom in order to have enough right-handed power in the batting order to go along with Blake and Martinez. That's because we'll be seeing nothing but lefties from Kansas City, and lots of them with Minnesota and Chicago. Gerut and Lawton can hit lefties though, and we start three switch hitters almost every game in Crisp, Vizquel and Martinez. I hope Wedge doesn''t just assume that Hafner and Broussard can't hit lefthanded pitching. I don't want either of them sitting so Lou Merloni can play third base (and Blake first).

Nobody in the Central has anything close to a proven starting rotation, and I don't think Detroit will run away with the division. Lawton and Vizquel need big years, but they both look in shape to do that. The rest will come. I like our kids and our manager. Our pitching is young, talented, and fairly deep. Why shouldn't we be in it all the way?

I predicted 80 wins. My friends stifled guffaws. I still like that number, but forgive me for entertaining the notion this week that it might even be a little low.

America Bashing

John Parker reviews Anti-Americanism, by French author Jean-Francois Revel in The Asia Times. Calling anti-Americanism "a new global religion", Parker notes how its practitioners comfort themselves:

Curiously, however, while the religion has a hell (America), and a devil (George W Bush), it lacks both a heaven (the collectivist pipe dream having been found wanting) and a god (since the anti-Americans consider themselves as having evolved beyond the need for a deity - save their Islamist faction, which wants to impose its religion forcibly on everyone else). Still, the anti-American cult provides its legions of drooling adherents with the crucial element of any faith: the illusion of meaning in an otherwise meaningless existence. That priceless psychological salve, in this case, is the comforting delusion that, no matter how hypocritical, backward, bigoted, ignorant, corrupt or cowardly the cult's followers might otherwise be, at least they are better than those awful Americans.

Revel is one Frenchman who understands America, having lived here and traveled extensively here for many years. And he is merciless when it comes to the hypocrisy of the America bashers:

Revel...breaks new ground when he discusses the striking tendency of other countries to ascribe their own worst faults to the United States, in a curious "reversal of culpability". Thus the famously peace-loving Japanese and Germans excoriate the US for "militarism"; the Mexicans attack it for "electoral corruption" in the wake of the 2000 election; the British accuse it of "imperialism"; Arab writers condemn it after September 11 for "abridging press freedom" (of course, the Arab states have always been shining beacons of that freedom). The gold medal for jaw-dropping hypocrisy, however, goes to the mainland Chinese, whose unelected dictatorship routinely accuses the United States of "hegemonism". Having been the chief hegemon of Asia for most of the past 5,000 years, the Chinese are in a singularly weak position to condemn the practice. What they actually oppose, of course, is not "hegemonism" itself, but the possibility that any power other than China would dare to practice it.

Lots of good stuff here. Check it all out. (via Arts & Letters Daily)

Really, Really Dull

I'm glad bloggers can poke fun at themselves with the same spirit that they summon to skewer others. That's why I think most of us can get a laugh out of the dullest blog in the world. (via Chicago Boyz)

Rewriting History

Hindrocket at Power Line:

...for the last several weeks we have been asked to take seriously the idea of a Clinton administration preoccupied with Islamofascist terrorism to the point of obsession. A preoccupation, of course, that was never voiced in a single speech by any administration official, never appeared in a report to Congress on security threats facing the nation, never found its way into any scholarly article authored by Clinton's foreign policy team, was never mentioned in Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign, and somehow never was translated into any discernible action. I repeat: if these people are not a joke, will someone tell me why?...

...In the aftermath of the attacks, it would have been easy for President Bush to point the finger of blame at the Clinton administration. But, to his credit, he never did. There is only one group responsible for the attacks--the terrorists themselves. There is only one direction in which we can profitably look--forward. There is only one policy which we can now pursue--war against those who attacked us. President Bush has never sought to gain political advantage by blaming the Clinton administration's incompetence for the attacks. Why? Because he is a patriot.

His opponents, unfortunately, are not patriots. They didn't care about terrorism before September 11, and they don't care about it now. John Kerry, their standard-bearer, says the threat of terrorism is "exaggerated." And this is after September 11, not before! Why in the world should we be arguing about who did or did not take the threat of terrorism seriously enough before September 11 when one of the candidates doesn't take it seriously now? The Democrats view terrorism from only one angle: How can they turn it to their political advantage?

Read it all.

April 6, 2004

Show of Hands

Is it just me, or does everyone think Ted Kennedy is a contemptible scumbag? Only a few days after Americans are incinerated, mutilated and hung up for public humiliation, Kennedy decides to go public with his idiotic and vicious Vietnam comparison, as if to join hands with those who are making a desperate attempt to discourage our effort to help democratize Iraq. Thank you, Colin Powell for promptly coming out and rebuking this pompous ass. Kennedy has long since proven that he is incapable of shame. Referring to Kennedy's assertion of a Bush "credibility gap", Taranto said today, "Mary Jo Kopechne could not be reached for comment."

I Can't Take It

I'm not sure I can survive 162 games of this. After last night's debacle, Riske gives up a two out homer in the ninth tonight, and we're in extra innings again. Jacque "Effing" Jones, no less.

April 5, 2004

What's Up?

There's lots of good economic news out there, which means that the Democrats have to work extra hard to spin it negatively. Cox & Forkum capture the Kerry machine at work.

Storybook Ending?

Major League Baseball should be so lucky. Peter Gammons predicts that last year's (and every year's?) lovable losers, the Cubs and the Red Sox, will battle it out in the World Series. The Cubs in seven, says Gammons, who then adds..."Now watch. The Indians will beat the Dodgers in six." That's what I call really covering your ass, Peter.

By the way, Gammons sees the Indians Jody Gerut as a future leader among players, and in his category entitled; "16 young players who looked so good this spring they will be back in the big leagues this season..", his No.1 is Grady Sizemore.

The Tribe opens tonight in Minnesota! I understand there's also a basketball game of some sort going on.

April 4, 2004

Fresh Whittle

Bill Whittle is two chapters into a series of essays that will eventually comprise a book. In Chapter One, he suggests we need a "map" to navigate the course of our lives, our politics and our policy, and that common sense dictates we select one that at least resembles the "coastline" that we are able to observe with our own eyes:

...before we start, we must agree to one thing, and one thing only: we will never be so full of arrogance and blinded by pride that we dare confront a place where the map does not match the coastline, and proclaim that the coastline must be wrong.

Whittle is typically entertaining and passionate in Chapter Two: "It's A Trap". He lampoons the self-styled intellectuals of today for never glancing out of the ivory tower window to see if reality comports, even a little bit, with their "theory". I can't excerpt this stuff effectively, so you'll have to read it all.

If you aren't familiar with Bill's work, I'd recommend spending some time at the site, and checking out some of his stuff like Freedom, or Victory, for starters. (Do it when you have a few minutes. They're longer than your average blog post.)

Truth Is Stranger...

You just can't make this stuff up.

Nice Move, Shapiro

It looks like Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro did pretty well for the organization, when you consider everybody knew he was anxious to get rid of Milton Bradley. Today the Indians traded Bradley to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Franklin Gutierrez and another prospect to be named later. Gutierrez was the Dodgers' minor league Player of the Year last season, playing at Class A Vero Beach. A recent article from mlb.com has this to say about him;

Through three seasons in the Los Angeles Dodgers minor league system, outfielder Franklin Gutierrez has emerged as one of the organization's top prospects, evidenced by the recognition bestowed upon him by Baseball America, which named him as the No. 3 prospect in the Dodger organization, the best power hitter in the Dodger system and the 31st-best prospect in Major League Baseball...

...playing for both Single-A Vero Beach and Double-A Jacksonville, he combined for a .287 batting mark, 24 home runs, 31 doubles, seven triples, 80 RBI, 77 runs scored and 20 stolen bases in 128 games...

...Gutierrez was chosen to play in both the Florida State League All-Star Game and the Major League Futures Game in Chicago, where he represented the World Team. In addition, he was chosen to the season-end FSL All-Star Team. Baseball America rated him as the fourth-best prospect in the FSL, also calling him the league's Most Exciting Player.

The Indians will receive a second player in the deal as well, one that Shapiro has referred to as another "top prospect". They will have their pick of three players from a list approved by the Dodgers, and will have two months or so to scout all three before making their selection.

UPDATE 4/5: Adam Rubin in the N.Y. Daily News quotes a Mets official as saying that the Dodgers gave up "a Sammy Sosa-caliber prospect" in Franklin Gutierrez.

April 2, 2004

Iraq After One Year

Karl Zinsmeister's observations from a January trip to Iraq include this exchange between U.S. officers and one of the imams that had been preaching inflammatory sermons and inciting to violence:

Akram recognizes that this is a climactic conversation, and finally answers carefully: "Iraq is our country, but it is now occupied. We must accept the status quo. So I am going to try to avoid these subjects that have created misunderstanding."

Haight confronts him forcefully: "But you told me that on Wednesday. And then you went right out on Friday and conjured up more violence anyway. You know what? You may deny you are instigating attacks, but when you say people should attack 'infidels' and 'the enemies of Islam' they think of one thing: this uniform [tugging hard at his own sleeve]. And you both know that!"

Akram: "In my Friday prayers I asked God to 'kill the enemies of religion, wherever you find them, split them, destroy them, wherever you find them.' I did not say Americans or British."

Fuller, exploding: "I don't care who you said to kill! You cannot tell people to kill others. No holy man would do that! Where does the Koran sanction such a thing?"

Akram: "I have been doing that for 20 years. Saddam never objected to this."

Haight: "Then you've been wrong for 20 years."

Akram: "OK. I'm not going to say it from now on."

Fuller: "Yeah, and you promised that last time, then broke your word just a few days later."

Akram: "When you asked me to this meeting I consulted with my mentor at the Religious Science Organization. He counseled me to avoid words like 'enemies,' 'unbelievers,' and so forth, so I am going to try. I will preach only about patience, the Koran, and such. I will leave the problem alone now."

Dodging, rationalizing, and backpedaling when forced to, Akram and Riyad are skating at the brink of arrest for inciting violence. But American officers throughout Iraq are striving mightily to avoid such detainments. They are bending over backward to show respect for imams, mosques, and the Muslim religion, so as not to feed paranoia that the U.S. presence in Iraq is part of a crusade against Islam.

And here's Jeff Jacoby on "What's Gone Right in Iraq"

What Jobless Recovery?

I'm sure everyone can be happy about the great job growth figures for March released yesterday. Except of course for those sad partisans who would rather see the U.S. economy tank than see anything happen that could reflect positively on Bush and his economic policies of lower taxes and free trade. (Don't question their patriotism, though). Larry Kudlow examines some numbers for those of us who see good economic news as good news.

The blowout new-jobs number of 308,000 for March puts the lie to political charges by the Kerry Democrats that the U.S. is in a jobless recovery. This is the largest gain in monthly non-farm payrolls in four years...

...Even the gap between the lagging business payroll survey and the stronger household survey of all people working is beginning to narrow. The household survey appears to be more sensitive to self-employed workers who have started their own Subchapter S or LLC (limited-liability corporation) businesses. Responding to lower income-tax rates, these entrepreneurs have registered 1.8 million new jobs since the end of 2002.

The day before Friday’s big jobs announcement, a widely-followed manufacturing index published by the Institute for Supply Managers registered its highest level since the end of 1983. Every industry group, including cars, electronics, and business equipment, cited increases in new orders and production.

Despite all this, economic pessimists keep talking about the outsourcing of jobs to foreign countries as a major obstacle to employment and economic recovery. They’re dead wrong. New data from U.S. international trade accounts show that there are more foreign companies investing in the U.S. to create new jobs here at home — a process known as insourcing — than there are American firms sending jobs overseas.

Bradley Banished

A lot of people are trashing Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro and Manager Eric Wedge for their decision to dump Milton Bradley following his latest blowup the other day. The line goes something like this: you can't afford to get rid of your best player because he's a little bit irascible or temperamental; in today's sports world, the modern manager must know how to deal with the idiosyncracies of individual players in different ways; it's just an exhibition game so what's so important about it?; you can't expect every player to hustle like he's Pete Rose; blah, blah, blah.

I think most people who are spouting that kind of a line fall into one of two categories. Either they know little of the history and track record of Milton Bradley, or they have never played team sports and have no idea how destructive to team chemistry it can be to have one player who feels he is above the rules of demeanor or professionalism, simply by virtue of his talent. The notion that a manager or a team executive should rationalize repeatedly boorish and disrespectful behavior as nothing more than a personality "quirk" to be understood and tolerated, is an idea cooked up by people who are clueless on how a "team" functions.

As most Indians fans know, this behavior is typical Bradley. An excerpt from an ESPN.com feature last summer helps to explain:

Even as Bradley blossoms into one of American League's most talented young players, a switch-hitting powderkeg who is batting .341 (third in the AL), a cloud of negativity swirls around him like the dirt on Pig Pen. He alienates opponents and teammates alike with his icy glare and smarmy strut. He runs out ground balls as indifferently as Albert Belle. Even his own hitting coach, Eddie Murray, says, "He'll bark at you for no reason at all. I don't like the way he treats people."....

...Bradley never smiles on the field -- playing instead with what he calls "my poker face," his wrath and rage festering barely beneath the surface. He is just as likely to snap at an umpire's bad call as completely ignore a teammate who says "Good morning" when he enters the clubhouse, leaving onlookers somewhere between flabbergasted and furious.

"You wonder what his problem is," one Indian says.

Most major league ballplayers making more than a million dollars a year don't have a problem with a whole lot of "festering wrath and rage". It seems to me that despite what Wedge and Shapiro say has been improvement in Bradley's behavior of late, it's reasonable for them to decide that they have finally run out of patience, and out of second, third and fourth chances.

None of Bradley's anger issues have been caused in any way by Indians ownership or teammates or coaches. Shapiro knew when he traded for him a few years ago that Bradley represented a gamble, a trade-off between immense talent and long-simmering emotional instability. Both the talent and the instability are obviously still there. But the Indians can hardly be faulted for making the decision that it's time for someone else to deal with the problems.

I admire Shapiro for deciding that having the kind of player who respects his teammates, coaches, and opponents is more important in putting together a team, than allowing one player, no matter how talented, to play by his own selfish set of rules.