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November 30, 2004

Butch Post Mortem

Len Pasquarelli has some excellent insights into how Butch Davis failed in Cleveland. Not that many of these things will be news to most Browns fans, it's just that Pasquarelli expresses them so well. He has spent some time with Randy Lerner, and he thinks Lerner has a feel for what needs to be done to reconnect the team to the city. Here's hoping. An excerpt:

There is a palpable sense when Lerner speaks, occasionally in salty language, that his overriding priority is the fans. He fully understood the disconnect that existed between Davis and the community. He suspected there was a similar divide between the coach and his players...

...Davis neither engendered loyalty among his veteran players nor nurtured trust, and Lerner was keenly aware of those deficiencies. So when such obvious shortcomings carried over to the field -- where Davis compiled a 24-36 record and took the Browns to just one playoff appearance, a one-and-done visit in 2002 -- his fate was sealed.

Lerner is a far more hands-on owner than his late father. His dad bought the franchise, hired former San Francisco team president Carmen Policy to run it, and then retired to the owner's box. Randy Lerner bought out Policy's share of team, shortly after inheriting the franchise, and owns the Browns lock, stock and kicking tees. And when Policy exited back to the West Coast, to open a Napa Valley winery, it not only permitted Lerner to do things his way, but also removed the man who had hired Davis in 2001.

That should have put Davis on notice. Instead, he still attempted to run the team as if it was his name on the deed. His lack of perspective, a flawed sense that he was answerable only to himself on football matters, helped speed his demise. And, despite his brilliant resurrection of the Miami program, there was always a belief that Davis was never a great X's and O's coach.

What will help Lerner, perhaps, in his quest to reshape the franchise is his knowledge that the Browns belong to more than just him. This is an historic and celebrated franchise, a team woven into the tapestry of the NFL, a club whose fans know the game and know, as well, a flawed coach when they see one.

Got that right.

Beware The "Neckies"

They're coming to a Montessori school near you. This Iowahawk piece is scary stuff:

"It was one day last spring," says Ellen McCormack. "My life partner Carol and I were in the garage, working on a giant Donald Rumsfeld papier mache head for the Bay Area March Against the War, when Rain walked by. I thought he looked kind of strange, so I stopped him and looked closely into his eyes. Then I realized the truth -- he was wearing a mullet. I was shocked, but he swore to me that it was only ironic."

"After a few months, it was clear Rain had lied to us -- that hideous Kentucky waterfall was completely earnest," she adds, choking back sobs.

Her 18-year old son would soon exhibit other signs of disturbing changes.

"I was driving past a McDonalds one day last summer, and I thought I saw Rain's bike outside. He had told me earlier that he was going to a friend's house to stuff envelopes for the Dennis Kucinich campaign. I pulled a U-turn and headed back," she recalls. "When I confronted him in the parking lot, he started giving me a lame story about how he was only there to protest globalization, but I could smell the french fries on his breath."

McCormack says that Rain's erratic behavior would also come to include excessive politeness and deference.

"Everytime I tried to talk to him it was 'yes Momma,' and 'no Momma,' when he knows damn well my name is Ellen," she says, anger rising in her voice. "It was like I didn't even know him anymore."

McCormack tried an intervention with friends from the Anti-war community, but to no avail. In October, Bobby Ray packed up his Monte Carlo and left for basic training at Camp Pendleton.

"I have no son," she says in a barely audible whisper.

As they say...ROFLMAO

(via Jonathan at Galley Slaves)

Slumming in Little Rock

Matt Labash was dispatched by the Weekly Standard to cover the Clintonmania that was the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center. But he didn't stick to the official proceedings. He went slumming. Labash seeks out and interviews some of the folks from Bill Clinton's past who weren't invited to the Center festivities. Here's a sample, but please read it in its hilarious entirety:

Standing in the shadow of such greatness is a humbling experience. Indeed, it was hard to measure up. I mean sure, you could participate in the kickoff 5K Presidential Fun Run, retracing the giant steps Clinton used to take when he'd pull on those silky jogging shorts. But all you'd get for your $25 entry fee was a T-shirt and a cup of Gatorade. Your run would never be as fun as Clinton's, since, as Gennifer Flowers once wrote, "Bill loved to jog in the morning, and it was an easy way to get out of the mansion without arousing suspicions. He would jog just over a mile to my place, spend a half hour or so making love to me, then have his driver drop him off a block or two from the mansion. . . . He would show up at home properly out of breath."

Hold up a second. Was that me? Did I just say Gennifer Flowers? What an embarrassing lapse--she wasn't part of the official program! The thing to realize about Clinton Week, as did the legions of celebrities and former administration types who descended on Little Rock hauling oxygen tanks and defibrillator paddles to help resuscitate the legacy of their hero, is that this wasn't some hollow exercise, but rather, a religious experience. It's why people sat in the torrential downpour of the Clinton Center's dedication day, enduring hours of speeches and U2's Bono letting loose with yet another harangue about forgiving Third World debt. Mentioning Flowers, or Monica Lewinsky, or impeachment, or the myriad other Clinton scandals that most readily defined his presidency was, to borrow a regionalism, a bit like farting in church.

November 29, 2004

Indians Top 10 Prospects

Baseball America has published their listing of the Top 10 prospects for the Cleveland Indians. Here's the list:

1. Adam Miller, rhp
2. Michael Aubrey, 1b
3. Franklin Gutierrez, of
4. Brad Snyder, of
5. Jeremy Sowers, lhp
6. Fausto Carmona, rhp
7. Fernando Cabrera, rhp
8. Ryan Garko, c/1b
9. Nick Pesco, rhp
10. Andy Brown, rhp

(via CIR)

More amateurish editorializing and baseless speculation about the 2005 Indians follows...

The 2003 Draft may go down as one of the best ever for the Indians, as four of the top five picks (Miller, Aubrey, Garko, Snyder) made this Baseball America list, and several other prospects with some major league potential (i.e. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Brandon Pinckney, Javier Herrera and Ryan Goleski) were also in that class.

Top prospect Adam Miller, who just turned 20, gets rave reviews from everybody who sees him, and looks to start 2005 in AA Akron. He and Ryan Garko were the team's Pitcher and Player of the Year respectively, for the minor league system. Gutierrez and Brown were the two players acquired from the Dodgers in the Milton Bradley trade (nice job, Shapiro).

Aubrey and Snyder are guys who played college ball and should be ready soon, both high average hitters with power that will come as they mature. We need to do something about the impending logjam at first base (Broussard, Hafner, Blake?, Garko, Aubrey). Garko is a catcher too, but won't be doing much of that as long as Victor Martinez is around.

Aubrey has played some outfield, and it sounds like Garko might want to start taking some fly balls too. It looks like the bats of Aubrey and Garko, and of course Martinez and Hafner, will have to play every day, so somebody will have to play third base, and somebody will have to play outfield for it to work out.

Then within a year or two you project Gutierrez and possibly Snyder, plus Garko or Aubrey, into an outfield picture that is already pretty young with Sizemore, Crisp, Ludwick and Gerut, and we look pretty formidable, if crowded.

Pitching is deep, albeit young. I know, we think it's deep every year, but we can't possibly have three elbow surgeries again this year, can we? Young starters who seem "major league ready" include Jason Stanford, Brian Tallet, Jeremy Guthrie, Kenny Rayborn, and possibly Kyle Denney, to join an already young Big 3 of starters (C.C., Westbrook and Lee). Elarton is likely to be back and Shapiro WILL sign a free agent starter. Just around the corner are Miller, Sowers, Jake Dittler, Fausto Carmona, and Brown. The next wave could include Sean Smith, Nick Pesco and J.D. Martin. Wow.

Kaz Tadano, Jake Robbins, Fernando Cabrera, and lefty Scott Sauerbeck will compete to round out a bullpen that will return Bob Wickman, David Riske, Raphael Betancourt, Bob Howry, Jason Davis and Cliff Bartosh. That's not exactly the Nasty Boys, but it beats the heck out of the guys we were throwing out there in April and May of this past season. The team must also be high on a skinny (6'6" 190 lb.) 22 year old lefty named Mariano Gomez, because they are carrying him on the 40-man major league roster.

All this talk of BA's prospects says nothing of the team's other rising young stars, whose eligibility for the BA list has come and gone, but who remain mere pups in major league terms. I speak of 2004 AAA League MVP Jhonny Peralta, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, C.C. Sabathia, Westbrook, and Travis Hafner. It's a safe prediction that Sizemore will "arrive" in a big way in 2005 in much the same fashion that Martinez and Hafner did last year. It's too early to tell if Coco Crisp is in the "rising star" category or the group of other solid if unspectacular performers that return from 2004. That would include Gerut, Blake, and Ludwick.

Ronnie Belliard was spectacular for most of the season, hitting well over .300 and playing a flashy second base. We don't know yet if he'll be back. What we do know is that Aaron Boone will be at third base. I still don't understand that signing, but I'll give Shapiro the benefit of the doubt for now.

As much as Shapiro and Wedge would like to see the team get older, it can hardly happen this year, with so much talent coming up through the system. I think the youth movement will end after 2006, when most of the Top 10 list above will be in the majors. Unlike some optimists, I don't think we'll actually contend for any postseason series wins until '07, but I can wait. Hell, I've waited this long.

Shapiro has done it right. The team should contend for the long haul (maybe 6-8 years...whose crystal ball sees any farther than that?) The only thing that could screw it up would be finding out that owner Larry Dolan was lying when he said he'd spend the money when the time came to spend it. At this point, color me hopeful but unconvinced.

November 27, 2004

Old Friends

I really enjoyed Terry Teachout's tribute to friends now gone.

One Nomination For S.O.Y.

SI.com gave their writers a chance to make the case for their picks for Sportsman of the Year. Tim Layden's choice is persuasive:

I submit that a sportsman is someone who plays games for the joy of playing them and nothing more. Not for fame. Not for money. He plays because in the games he finds a primal happiness. I didn't know Pat Tillman well, but I knew him a little and I talked to people about him. By this definition, he was the ultimate sportsman for this or any other year...

...When the St. Louis Rams offered him a huge raise, he turned it down to stay in Phoenix because it wasn't about the money. When he felt a stirring in his soul to go fight wars, he left football because football was no longer enough. It was just a sport...

...Pat Tillman played football because he loved it with a child's passion. As a kid, he used to climb slender trees in windstorms and sway on the breeze. He played football the same way and when he found something more important, he moved on. That's a sportsman.

(via Pejmanesque)

NR - Annan Must Go

The editors of National Review call for the resignation of Kofi Annan. Meanwhile, Claudia Rosett has a report on new disclosures about payments made to Annan's son by a company with a large U.N. contract to inspect goods under the Oil-For-Food program.

Write This On Your Forehead

A report from the World Bank says that world poverty is declining, and economic growth is very strong this year, especially in the developing world. The reason? Globalization, free trade and investment, according to David Brooks. This will be disconcerting news to the hard leftist protesters who like to show up at economic summits with giant puppets and George Bush effigies to decry globalization, ostensibly on behalf of the dispossessed of the world:

In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.

(The full N.Y. Times article is posted at the link below since they archive their stuff after a couple of days - Ed.)

November 27, 2004

Good News About Poverty


I hate to be the bearer of good news, because only pessimists are regarded as intellectually serious, but we're in the 11th month of the most prosperous year in human history. Last week, the World Bank released a report showing that global growth "accelerated sharply" this year to a rate of about 4 percent.

Best of all, the poorer nations are leading the way. Some rich countries, like the U.S. and Japan, are doing well, but the developing world is leading this economic surge. Developing countries are seeing their economies expand by 6.1 percent this year - an unprecedented rate - and, even if you take China, India and Russia out of the equation, developing world growth is still around 5 percent. As even the cautious folks at the World Bank note, all developing regions are growing faster this decade than they did in the 1980's and 90's.

This is having a wonderful effect on world poverty, because when regions grow, that growth is shared up and down the income ladder. In its report, the World Bank notes that economic growth is producing a "spectacular" decline in poverty in East and South Asia. In 1990, there were roughly 472 million people in the East Asia and Pacific region living on less than $1 a day. By 2001, there were 271 million living in extreme poverty, and by 2015, at current projections, there will only be 19 million people living under those conditions.

Less dramatic declines in extreme poverty have been noted around the developing world, with the vital exception of sub-Saharan Africa. It now seems quite possible that we will meet the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals, which were set a few years ago: the number of people living in extreme poverty will be cut in half by the year 2015. As Martin Wolf of The Financial Times wrote in his recent book, "Why Globalization Works": "Never before have so many people - or so large a proportion of the world's population - enjoyed such large rises in their standard of living."

As other research confirms, these rapid improvements at the bottom of the income ladder are contributing to and correlating with declines in illiteracy, child labor rates and fertility rates. The growth in the world's poorer regions also supports the argument that we are seeing a drop in global inequality.

Economists have been arguing furiously about whether inequality is increasing or decreasing. But it now seems likely that while inequality has grown within particular nations, it is shrinking among individuals worldwide. The Catalan economist Xavier Sala-i-Martin looked at eight measures of global inequality and found they told the same story: after remaining constant during the 70's, inequality among individuals has since declined.

What explains all this good news? The short answer is this thing we call globalization. Over the past decades, many nations have undertaken structural reforms to lower trade barriers, shore up property rights and free economic activity. International trade is surging. The poor nations that opened themselves up to trade, investment and those evil multinational corporations saw the sharpest poverty declines. Write this on your forehead: Free trade reduces world suffering.

Of course, all the news is not good. Plagued by bad governments and AIDS, sub-Saharan Africa has not joined in the benefits of globalization. Big budget deficits in the U.S. and elsewhere threaten stable growth. High oil prices are a problem. Trade produces losers as well as winners, especially among less-skilled workers in the developed world.

But especially around Thanksgiving, it's worth appreciating some of the things that have gone right, and not just sweeping reports like the one from the World Bank under the rug.

It's worth reminding ourselves that the key task ahead is spreading the benefits of globalization to Africa and the Middle East. It's worth noting this perhaps not too surprising phenomenon: As free trade improves the lives of people in poor countries, it is viewed with suspicion by more people in rich countries.

Just once, I'd like to see someone like Bono or Bruce Springsteen stand up at a concert and speak the truth to his fan base: that the world is complicated and there are no free lunches. But if you really want to reduce world poverty, you should be cheering on those guys in pinstripe suits at the free-trade negotiations and those investors jetting around the world. Thanks, in part, to them, we are making progress against poverty. Thanks, in part, to them, more people around the world have something to be thankful for.

'Stand With Us"

Yuliya Tymoshenko, former deputy prime minister of Ukraine appeals to all freedom-loving nations and people to support the democracy demonstrators in the Ukraine following the theft of their election.

it is too late for divide and misrule strategies to work. Ukrainians know that the choice they make now, that their decision to stand firm with Viktor Yushchenko today, will determine their freedom forever, as well as the health of their nation -- its independence as well as its economic strength. So we will stand firm in the cold and snow to see that our democratic choices are respected. To do otherwise is to surrender not only our freedom, but our hopes for better lives.

We defy those who seek to corrupt our democracy, but we stand with the hand of friendship extended to all of our neighbors, including Russia. It has no reason to intervene. A vibrant Ukrainian democracy will need the comradeship of Russia and of Europe to build the kind of society that our people desire. Our boldness is tinged by realism. By securing our democracy, we help secure Russia's own.

UPDATE 11/27: Could the actual election winner Viktor Yushchenko have been poisoned? The BBC reports.

November 26, 2004

PBS Balancing Act

Bill Moyers is retiring from the PBS series Now at age 70, as the network makes a concerted effort to balance their programming with some more conservative content. The Village Voice has the story. (via Galley Slaves)

ESPN vs. The Buckeyes

It really does look like ESPN is just moving to cover their asses in the follow up to their exposé on the Ohio State football program. They decided to make a big splash with accusations from a player (Clarett) who was sworn to "get" OSU. They then backed it up with quotes from other ex-players or never-were players who had various reasons to grind an axe with Tressel and/or the program.

After taking some justifiable criticism for the credibility of these sources, ESPN has come back with "the son of a former Buckeyes assistant coach, an Academic All-Big Ten selection and a current NFL player", namely Fred Pagac, Jack Tucker and Drew Carter, to bolster their case. First, Buckeye fans know that all three of these guys also had their issues with Tressel with regard to playing time or, in Pagac's case, the perceived slight of his father as a coach by Tressel.

But more importantly, in any of the various ESPN articles on the alleged sins of OSU's football program, from over-willing tutors for players, to cash gifts from boosters, to vehicles driven by Clarett, nowhere is there any evidence cited by ESPN to show that any of these activities were directed, suggested, sanctioned or supported by Tressel or anyone on his staff or the larger OSU football program.

After the initial series of articles, Athletic Director Andy Geiger characterized some of the ex-players quoted in support of Clarett as "colossal failures". It's apparent that ESPN took those comments back to other former Buckeyes like Carter to say, in effect, "here's what Andy Geiger is saying about your friends and former teammates", in attempt to provoke a reaction. Surprise. They got one.

The little feud that has developed between Andy Geiger and ESPN has become a bit silly too. Depending on which side you believe, ESPN either did or did not plan to have the College GameDay show live from Columbus for the OSU-Michigan game. What you can assume is true is that the network wasn't completely welcome on campus on the heels of the latest salvo in their ongoing war on the program. ESPN denied that they ever planned to have GameDay in Columbus, what with the customary lustre of The Game supposedly absent this year. They had planned all along, they claimed, to go out to the Utah-BYU venue, so rich with tradition and pageantry is that annual clash.

What is almost as bad as this smear job without a shred of evidence of institutional involvement, is the lack of any balance in the reporting. The fact that Tressel has significantly improved the academic performance of the program in his four years, tripling the graduation rate, largely by upgrading the caliber of athletes that are recruited to the school, is not given much notice by the ESPN sleuths.

The network keeps right on reporting their own magazine's cover story as breaking news, as in this report today, saying that Andy Geiger "is not concerned about the latest allegations". Geiger has called the network's bluff, saying Ohio State wants to interview all three players quoted as sources for the ESPN story. We'll see how the quotes used by ESPN hold up when put into context.

If the network had no evidence of institutional involvement at OSU in whatever questionable academic or booster practices the players allege, I can't see the legitimate reason for this crusade. The original Clarett article was designed (by him) to use ESPN to try to burnish his damaged image with NFL people, and the network foolishly went along for the ride. Now their anti-OSU agenda is becoming pretty transparent. Why Ohio State, guys?

A college professor posting to the Bucknuts.com forum suggests ESPN conduct a "parallel" investigation in the interest of maintaining their objectivity. Somewhere say, down south...

As a university professor, we "fight the good fight" constantly, trying to keep cheating to a minimum. But there is an avalanche of research out there folks that suggests that cheating at the college/university level is substantial. And clearly it is a bigger problem among students that are in networks or collectives of some sort (e.g., fraternities and sororities). If ESPN's smoking gun is that some players cheat to get by in college, then why not place it in a larger context that shows that many of their non-student athletes are cheating right along with them?

By the way, why doesn't ESPN run a parallel "investigative news theme" on the other university that played for the 2002 National Championship--Miami? Does anyone think that the whole Johnson fiasco (documented plagurism case) was just an aberrant case? I live down here in South Florida and I have "close contacts" with people at U of Miami and if ESPN really wants to do a fair and balanced story, come on down. Take a look at the cars the players drive on campus--players who typically come from the most depressed economic conditions imaginable. Take a look at the clothes and the bling-bling the players wear. Go to some of the hot spots on South Beach and see these athletes from these extremely poor families partying like VIPs. Come on ESPN, take a look at Miami and investigate the same basic issues that you have "investigated" at OSU.

Or is it just about Ohio State?

Keyhole Amazes

I've gotta tell you, I'm having big fun with Keyhole. I just "flew" from Cleveland to Chicago in ten minutes. Explored downtown Paris, Lake Tahoe and Wrigley Field in one cup of coffee. Just go to keyhole.com and download the free 7-day trial (less than 10MB) and start flying around the world courtesy of satellite photography and some slick navigation software. Tilt, rotate and "fly" as high or as low as you like. As long as you have DSL or cable you should get good results. The whole planet is available, although the U.S. and certain large foreign cities (Paris, London, Beijing, Tokyo, Baghdad) are "mapped" in more detail. I'm guessing that some of the photography is months or even a year or more old based on the look of certain areas around my home.

I would think the product could have terrific consumer appeal as well as business applications. They're getting $29.99 for a personal license and $599 for company use. Check out your proposed vacation spot. Type in any address and get there by satellite camera. Bookmark favorite locations, capture images, measure distances, turn road names on or off, program guided tours. This is the coolest new product I've seen on the web in many moons. Just do it. As one blogger said, "Four hours after downloading, I was left stunned, speechless, and a little nauseous. Download it now, and prepare to do nothing else the rest of the evening." That's about right.

Google acquired Keyhole in October, and the earliest blog reference I could find was Sept. 22, but I'm not sure how long they've been around. I can't help thinking, wow, these Google guys are smart. Maybe that's why they're zillionaires. Yes, this is thirty bucks I will spend. The golfing applications alone are worth that.

November 25, 2004

Random Ohio Sports Rants

- The occasion of Terry Pluto's Farewell to Omar column gives me the opening to add my two cents to the discussion. I've been a baseball fan for 45 years or so, and Omar Vizquel is the best defensive shortstop I have ever seen. And I've seen Ozzie Smith, OK? I consider myself fortunate to have been able to watch what may have been the greatest defensive 2B-SS combination ever in Roberto Alomar and Vizquel during the 90's in Cleveland. Indians fans are so spoiled. We won't know how spoiled until we watch some mere mortal play shortstop every day starting next season. Omar definitely deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. No offensive slouch, he has over 2100 hits now, and will likely end his career with over 2500. His career batting average is .275. Ozzie Smith's was .262. For a little more perspective, Cal Ripken's was .276. Defense rests.

- The NCAA may be interested in talking to Maurice Clarett again. Seems ESPN got some criticism after their original 4-part series because the only players they got to corroborate Clarett's accusations were what might best be described as "program casualties". They have now dug up some "name" players who actually played and/or graduated(?) to go on the record. Still, the charge that D-1 football players had "tutors" who helped with class assignments is not exactly the kind of groundbreaking journalism for which Pulitzers are awarded, ESPN. At least this time they're not quoting players who failed academically despite this scandalous tutoring assistance. Is there any name in sports that you are more tired of hearing in the news than Maurice Clarett? OK, not counting that one.

- A little over a month from now, Lebron James will no longer be a teenager. Tonight he scored 43 points in an easy Cavaliers win over the World Champion Pistons. Some folks thought it might have been LeBron's way of sending a message to Pistons' Coach Larry Brown for not playing him more during the Olympics. That case would have been easier to make had LeBron not handed Brown a thank-you note before the game in appreciation of Brown's gift on the birth of James' first child. The guy says and does all the right things. He doesn't bark at officials. He plays a lot of minutes but never stops working hard on both ends. He's a team leader at nineteen. He's the anti-Artest. Last year people said that if LeBron ever developed a reliable outside shooting game, he would be dangerous. Guess what? He's doing it, and doing it every night. Here's ESPN's "Skinny" on LeBron's performance:

SKINNY: James scored a career-high (and NBA season high) 43 points on Wednesday night. He shot 15-for-22 (68%) from the field and 11-for-12 (92%) from the line, and added six rebounds, five assists, three steals, two 3-pointers, a blocked shot, and a partridge in a pear tree.

- The Indians signed Bob Wickman to a new contract today, ending speculation that G.M. Mark Shapiro would actually wade into the free-agent waters in pursuit of a big-name closer. The "savings" (Wickman signed for only $2.75 million) will supposedly free up more money for the team to sign an established starting pitcher. Sorry, but I'll believe it when I see it. I like Wickman, and I hope they are going to try to groom Jason Davis for the closer job in 2006. But when Dolan opens up his wallet to sign any experienced, talented major league player at market price, and successfully lands him, then and only then will I be convinced that he is committed to bringing a winner to this city.

November 24, 2004

Dear Dad

An email home from a Marine in Fallujah. Nothing to add.

November 23, 2004

Butch Davis Will Finish Season

Following yesterday's reports that the Browns would have to win Sunday's game in Cincinnati for Butch Davis to keep his job, league sources now tell ESPN that Davis will finish the 2004 season as coach, owing largely to financial considerations with Davis' contract.

The Latest Lament

Bush is now a "control freak", squashing dissent and eliminating debate. John Podhoretz examines this latest beltway establishment meme:

There's no question that "healthy debate" is an important part of every serious enterprise. But let's not beat around the Bush. When these characters talk about the need for "debate," they mean one thing and one thing only: They fear Bush won't be forced to take account of opinions and judgments they like and will instead fall back on opinions and judgments he likes.

Here's the thing: We Americans elected him because we want him to exercise his judgment. We elected him to serve as the steward of our interests and the representative of our views. What we Americans know, based on his campaign for re-election, is what he stands for, what he believes, what he's done and what he says he'll do.

He was not elected to provide a forum for the healthy debate of Colin Powell's views. If he chooses to listen to Powell, that's his right and privilege. But it is equally his right and privilege - under the provisions of our system, which allows him to fire anybody he chooses from a political appointment to the executive branch of the U.S. government - not to listen to Colin Powell.

Nor must he listen to the views of E.J. Dionne, may the blessed God be thanked. That goes double for the views of David ("I'll work for anybody") Gergen.

And he is almost obliged to ignore the views of John Kerry, despite the fact that Kerry received 57 million votes on Nov. 2, because to do so would be a violation of the compact he made with the 61.06 million people who voted for him.

There is one crucial way, though, in which he must listen to John Kerry. And that is when Kerry expresses his views officially in the U.S. Senate by voting on legislation (when he bothers to do so, that is).

In a recent post to The Corner, Jonah Goldberg adds his thoughts:

I certainly agree that getting honest advice and opposing points of view is worthwhile. But this whole mini-scandal strikes me as complete bad faith. If Bush needs more dissenters, why isn't anyone clamoring for cabinet secretaries who are more hawkish, not less? More free market, not less? The answer is that the New York Times and New Republic don't think Bush should hire more dissenters, he should hire more people who agree with the New York Times and the New Republic.

By the way, where was the clamor for more dissenters in the Clinton administration? I don't recall it. I do recall that when Donna Shalala timidly mentioned that she was troubled by Clinton's behavior with Monica Lewinsky, she was browbeaten by Clinton. I do recall Clinton bullying Abigail Thernstrom, too. I do remember that Bill Clinton refused to meet with the head of the CIA because Jim Woolsey "dissented." If you read Rich Lowry's book, you'll know that Clinton basically avoided working with the FBI because he couldn't stand Louis Freeh. Yes, this was the more mature and sensible way of dealing with subordinates.

Thin Ice

After the Pittsburgh game a week ago, we heard the "Butch Must Go" chants for the first time from fans filing out of Cleveland Browns Stadium. After yesterday's depressing 10-7 loss to the Jets, the T-shirt stand at the foot of the stairway up to Mall C had a new item. On the front is a picture of the Head Coach with "Butch Davis Sucks" in two-inch letters. The back lists the "Top Ten Reasons Why Butch Must Go".

I thought it might be amusing to move over close enough to read at least some of the ten. But the mass of humanity was propelling me up the steps to Lakeside Avenue, and amusement wasn't really what I was after anyway. Up until that point, I had scoffed at my friends who were predicting that Davis would be fired. The team had just extended his contract after all, and the owner had been vocal in his public support of Davis' program. I even refuted those who said he should be fired , because I wasn't yet ready to admit that he has given us very little to be optimistic about in three years. I've been living on baseless hope.

He does seem to have the team prepared emotionally to give it their best shot each and every Sunday. But that's about where the good stuff ends. He has drafted pretty poorly so far, and the team has maybe one Pro Bowl player(Andra Davis?). He doesn't delegate very well. He could take lessons from Bill Belichick on media relations. Ditto player relations. The lack of discipline manifested mostly by the prevalence of stupid penalties, has been a hallmark of this team since he took over. And he may be the worst coach at managing the clock in the last two minutes of a half that I have ever witnessed in my life.

And speaking of my life, I have spent the 40 years since my 12th birthday waiting for a championship game involving my team, and now it seems like we're starting over yet again. Yes, Super Bowl XL is coming up this year, and we're still waiting. This makes it impossible to ever win an argument with a Steeler fan, of course, and what is even more humiliating, Bengals fans can rub our noses in that as well. I know that this is a big part of the reason I have hoped against hope that Butch would be The Man. I'm sick of five-year plans and rebuilding projects.

So even after I had mustered a bit of optimism when we took the Eagles to overtime, and split with the Ravens, this Jets game convinced me that Butch just doesn't have it. He will continue to find ways to lose games he should win. I know that it wasn't Butch missing two makeable field goals yesterday, but it was Butch deciding to punt the ball after having a 3rd and 2 from the Jets 35, with two cracks at a first down. He had proven that he lacked a pair in the Eagles game as well, passing up a 4th and 1 near midfield in OT in favor of punting one final time to McNabb, who proceeded to drive for the winning field goal.

Especially galling to fans and media alike has been his near-perfect record of refusing to blame his own coaching for any loss or bad performance by the team. Instead, after each loss, we are told that the team is "making strides". Well, I'm tired of Monday morning regrets and so too now is Randy Lerner, it appears.

ESPN is reporting tonight that a league source says Lerner is close to firing Davis, and that a win at Cincinnati this Sunday is probably needed to save his job.


November 21, 2004

Double Dealing

Michael Scheuer, the current media darling who left the CIA after anonymously writing a book critical of the administration's Iraq policy, has not always been so skeptical of the connections between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden it turns out. Thomas Joscylen reports that Scheuer's earlier book flatly states that there was active cooperation between the two:

Scheuer's 2002 book, Through Our Enemies' Eyes offered startling conclusions regarding Saddam Hussein's willingness to assist al Qaeda's effort to obtain nuclear weapons. "In pursuing tactical nuclear weapons, bin Laden has focused on the FSU [Former Soviet Union] states and has sought and received help from Iraq," wrote Scheuer. In fact, bin Laden's "first moves in this direction were made in cooperation with NIF [Sudan's National Islamic Front] leaders, Iraq's intelligence service, and Iraqi CBRN [chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear] scientists and technicians."

Through Our Enemies' Eyes pointed to evidence indicating a relationship between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda beginning in the early 1990s. And "there is information," Scheuer wrote, "showing that in the 1993-1994 period bin Laden began work with Sudan and Iraq to acquire a CBRN capability for al Qaeda."

Quick, someone tell John Kerry.

Taranto has more on the bizarre statements of Mr. Scheuer in today's BOTW.

UPDATE 11/23: Here's a follow-up piece by Thomas Joscylen on the many Saddam - bin Laden connections now being denied by Scheuer.

UPDATE 11/23: Yet more from The Weekly Standard.

Losing It

There's a growing perception among Europeans in recent years that America has changed, that it has become "less European". Andrew Busch, writing for the Ashbrook Center, suggests that it is Europe that has abandoned some of its own traditions:

First, while the values divide between Europe and America may be growing, it is not because America is growing more religious. Rather, it is because Europe has all but abandoned the religious heritage that has served as the moral foundation of Western Civilization for two millenia. Europeans are free, of course, to take their moral guidance from Marx, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Derrida rather than Moses and St. Paul, but they are not entitled to embrace nihilism and hedonism as their new religion and then accuse Americans of changing.

Second, while the United States has long valued international organizations and still gives them every bit of respect that they earn, most Americans are reluctant to surrender their national sovereignty to those organizations, especially when their freedom and safety is at stake. This, however, is not a new position; it is a position as old as the nation-state. It is Europeans who have embarked on the unprecedented experiment of voluntarily subsuming their national identities to the whims of international bureaucracies.

Worth reading in full, via No Left Turns.

November 20, 2004

OSU Football Bounces Back


I love being wrong like this. I had predicted a 10-point loss for the Buckeyes today because I didn't think our offense could score more than 14 points. But then they went and wiped out a whole season's worth of disappointment in one glorious afternoon by spanking the Ugly Hats, 37-21. I had figured that if we could score a special teams touchdown and get a couple of turnovers we'd have a chance. All of that happened, but the bottom line is I didn't think we could win the game. Which of course makes winning all the sweeter.

Thank you Troy Smith. Thank you Teddy Ginn. Thank you A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter, Ashton Youboty, Mike Kudla, Brandon Joe, Santonio Holmes. It's a terrible cliché to talk about a "team win", but that's exactly what this one was. When the Buckeyes drove to tie the game at 14-14 in that first quarter, I got the feeling that the momentum had swung our way, and we had the confidence to keep on scoring. The defense gambled early and late, and it paid off by frustrating Michigan's super-freshman Chad Henne. Nice game for Mark Snyder, OSU Defensive Coordinator.

I think the play of the game may have come after the Bucks 20-point lead had been cut to 13 with about 11 minutes to go. We got the ball back, couldn't do anything right, and were obviously feeling the pressure of a potential massive choke job. Forced to punt from our own 15 yard line, Kyle Turano uncorked a 71-yarder to put the Wolves back on their own 20 and take the heat off the OSU defense. Even a routine 40-yard punt in that spot puts Michigan at midfield with plenty of time and plenty of hope. That punt killed the hope, I think.

If Ted Ginn's coming out party was the Michigan State game, this one served the same purpose for Troy Smith. His numbers were outrageous compared to his track record coming in, and the clutch 46-yard dash off of what appeared to be a sure sack set up the Buckeyes' final TD, and gave the game the look of a blowout. Smith is improving with each game, developing a little touch finally, as evidenced by the 3rd down lob to Holmes down the right sideline when the outcome was still in doubt. And that was just one of several great throws in this game for Smith.

This win serves a number of purposes for Ohio State. First, it was a statement by the whole football program of their pride in themselves and their school, which had been under attack in recent days by a former player and the national media. It salvages a season during which the competence of the on-field and off-field football operations was questioned by fans as well as media, and which authored some of the most embarrassing performances by Buckeye teams in recent memory. A loss to Northwestern for pity's sake. A 33-7 thrashing by Iowa. Don't make me go on.

In addition to that, we had a couple of bigtime recruits at the game, including Maurice Wells, the Florida running back who is a Top 50 player nationally. It'a lot easier to land some of the top national recruits if they witness an emotional victory instead of a downer loss while they're in town. It also makes Jim Tressel 3-1 against Michigan in his career, and no stat is more important for the OSU coach than that one.

This one was sweet in so many ways. One year's worth of bragging rights will do for now.

Bucknuts.com Game Photo Gallery


The Economic Advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin departs from the official position of his government to point out the serious threats posed by the Kyoto Protocol. Here's how he begins:

Next year the Kyoto protocol will be an international treaty. For those who heavily lobbied Russia to ratify it, this is cause for celebration. But for most of the world, it is bad news. The Kyoto protocol is destructive for science and the environment, for public health and safety, for economic growth and for the international fight against hunger and poverty. (via The Corner)

Back in July this same official, Andrei Illarionov, gave a lot of people hope that Russia would decline to sign on to Kyoto. Ultimately the pressure from the E.U. on trade and other matters convinced Putin to go along.

Best Movie Lines Ever?

Jonathan Last has a fun thing going on at Galley Slaves. Check it out and add your favorites. Just came from there and I'm still smilin'.

Condi Now Cooler Than Ever

Courtesy of Brain Shavings, a fellow NE Ohio blogger, comes this revelation (to me) from an article in the L.A. Times. And I was a Condi fan even before this...

Then there are the endless conversations about sports. Bush is omnivorous when it comes to sports, making a special point of rooting for Texas teams. Rice is a little more selective, preferring football - especially the Cleveland Browns, her team since childhood.

I have heard several times that Rice's "dream job" would be NFL Commissioner, but the Browns thing is news to me. It made me think of the stories of Hank Aaron, who was a Browns fan for years, and would come to Cleveland to attend games in the bleachers at Cleveland Stadium bundled up with hat and coat trying not to be recognized, just to enjoy the games of his favorite team. We'll be watching for you, Condi.

November 19, 2004

Kofi Must Go - N.Y. Sun

The New York Sun calls for the resignation of Kofi Annan:

The burgeoning scandal at the United Nations over its oil-for-food program has reached the point where the honorable thing for the secretary-general, Kofi Annan, is to resign so that a new leader can open this matter to the public. This has come into focus suddenly this week with Mr. Annan's stonewalling of an investigation into the oil-for-food program under way in the American Congress, which now estimates that through the U.N. scheme the Iraqi tyrant, Saddam Hussein, enriched himself and his henchmen at home and abroad to the tune of $21.3 billion, $17.3 billion of which occurred on Mr. Annan's watch. If this occurred on the watch of a chief executive of a corporation, as, say, at Enron, the game would have been over months ago. At some point, the only way for Mr. Annan to assert his credibility is to step aside, and in our view that point is past.

The only part of the editorial with which I take issue is that the case against Annan came "into focus suddenly this week". Annan's stonewalling of the scandal began in 2000, and the case against him has been persuasively made by Claudia Rosett and others for at least ten months now.

What Right of Self-Defense?

I'm not really obsessed with issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It just seems that way lately I guess, because in the past few weeks and especially since Arafat died, so much good stuff has been out in pixels on the subject. As an aside, it occurred to me for the first time the other day that a reader of this blog who didn't know me (is there such an animal?) might assume that I'm Jewish, which I'm not. A Zionist, yes. So, we got that cleared up...

Anyway, I just got done reading Andrew C. McCarthy's latest piece in my hard copy Commentary Magazine, in which he legally and logically shreds the July 2004 finding of the United Nations' International Court of Justice (ICJ) that "the security barrier being constructed by Israel to shield its citizens from relentless terrorist assault is an affront to international law." It was excellent, so I was glad to find it available online (at least for a while).

McCarthy show how the ICJ contorts its charter to hear the case in the first place, and then alternately defines the Palestinians as "a state" and "not a state" in order to comport with its various legal arguments. Consistent with the U.N. track record of systemic anti-Semitism, the ICJ finds a way, because there is a will.

November 18, 2004

Enduring The Predictable Smear

Andrew Sullivan and James Taranto both write eloquently today on the way that the ongoing ascent of Condoleezza Rice has exasperated some on the left, and has drawn ugly racist reaction from other so-called liberals. Naturally, Bush is given no credit by them for elevating Powell and Rice to positions of power and influence unprecedented in American political history. In fact it apparently infuriates them to no end. By virtue of their party affiliations, Powell and even moreso Rice, are by definition "inauthentic" black people (one of the more civil descriptions of late, by the way). Here's Andrew's thought...

THE LEFT AND CONDI: I guess I should say that Condi Rice's race and gender are not the most important things about her career and abilities. But I'm still amazed at how little credit this president gets for promoting a black woman to such a position, and, more importantly, by his obvious respect and admiration for her. His management style is clearly post-racial, and his comfort with female peers is impressive. You know, Bill Clinton was celebrated for his progressiveness, and ease with African-Americans. But it's inconceivable that he would have given so much power and authority to a black female peer. Why does Bush get no respect on this score? I guess it reveals that much of the left's diversity mania is about the upholding of a certain political ideology, rather than ethnic or gender variety itself. Depressing.

Taranto links to three of the recent examples of demeaning racist caricatures in editorial cartoons carried by mainstream newspapers in recent days. Portrayals of Rice, for example that would be rightly condemned were they to appear under any conservative byline. As disgusted as Rush and Michelle Malkin are by the ugliness of it all, Taranto reminds that when the cartoonists are done cartooning and the public liberal hatefest abates, Rice will be the Secretary of State and George Bush will be the man who justifiably appointed her. And for four years they will be confronted with the daily, highly visible example set by Condi Rice that there are no contradictions in today's America in being brilliant, female, compassionate, black and conservative. And that I think, is what sticks in the liberal craw. And it is they who cannot get past her blackness in their opposition to her. Excerpts from Taranto (ellipses mine- Ed.)

...it strikes us that the outrage, while understandable, is perhaps a bit overwrought. It's not as if the works of Trudeau, Danziger and Oliphant are going to provoke an outbreak of lynching or cross-burning. These expressions of racial prejudice don't actually diminish Rice's accomplishments, and they are not going to prevent her from becoming one of the most powerful people in the world. These cartoonists have merely proved to the world that they are prejudiced against blacks who don't share their views--and that's good to know.

The absence of outrage from the liberal sensitivity police, who would be up in arms if a conservative cartoonist committed a similar offense (cf the reaction to National Review's 1997 cover depicting the Clintons as Asians, second item), shows that liberals are hypocrites when it comes to race--and that, too, is useful to know...

...The charge of racism carries a certain sting because America has a long history of real racism. But the progress the country has made on race, especially over the past 40 years, has been nothing short of stunning. Here we have a president whose detractors describe him as a "radical conservative" appointing a black woman to replace a black man as the most senior member of his cabinet.

Even the liberals who attack Rice on racial grounds don't have anything against black people in positions of power per se. They're just desperately upset because those on their side of the political fence no longer have a monopoly on the belief in racial equality. They're lashing out in an ugly way because they've lost the moral high ground.

It's good for the country that no one occupies that high ground anymore--or, more precisely, that virtually everyone does. Secretary of State Rice will stand as an example of the greatness of America, a country where, after much struggle, people are judged not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character. We're confident that one day even liberals will appreciate this.

UPDATE 11/19: An AP Radio Host is under fire for calling Condoleezza Rice "Aunt Jemima". He accuses Bush of using Rice to promote "an illusion of inclusion" and says that the price of admittance to the Bush White House for blacks is "subservience". That's funny, I didn't think Bush asked Rice to give the illusion that she was Secretary of State. I thought he appointed her to actually be Secretary of State. In the only remark made by the radio guy that doesn't appear to be race-obsessed, he says he thinks Rice is incompetent to serve as Secretary of State. That's an fair and arguable opinion, and one with which a number of people agree. So why doesn't he just say that and leave her skin color out of it? Because he thinks that all black people who don't agree with him politically deserve to be smeared with racist epithets. As Taranto said, that's useful to know.

UPDATE 11/19: The FBLC denounces racist cartoons.

November 17, 2004

Condi Profile

Back in 1999, Jay Nordlinger wrote this profile of Condoleezza Rice, predicting big things for her. I guess he wasn't exactly going out on a limb, considering her brilliance and her achievements at that point in her career. Still, it's an interesting read five years later.

Rosett Calls Out Kofi

The responsibility for the Oil-For-Food fraud resides right at the top. Claudia Rosett calls on Kofi Annan to "come clean".

As Oil for Food was not only designed but expanded, embellished upon and run for more than six years under Mr. Annan's stewardship, it became not so much a supervisory operation, but a business deal with Saddam, in which the U.N. in effect provided money laundering services, the Secretariat collected a percentage fee from Saddam--and somewhere in there, between the kickbacks, surcharges, importation of oil equipment and smuggling out of oil, they jointly ran a storefront relief operation.

Who at the U.N. took illicit money from Saddam--if, indeed, anyone did--is an important question, and worth pursuing. But so is the matter of who covered up for Saddam; who pushed to continue and expand a program so derelict that it failed to nab more than $17 billion in illicit deals, and so secretive that investigators have spent much of the past year trying simply to get their hands on information the U.N. should have made public at the time. It is worth asking whose welfare was enhanced, whose domain was expanded, whose coffers filled with $1.4 billion delivered as a percentage cut of Saddam's oil revenues--and who has failed to this day to take on board the thumping lessons about the need for transparency at the U.N.

That would be Mr. Annan. He is not protecting the U.N. At great cost to whatever noble aspirations the U.N. once had, and to all societies that value integrity over Potemkin institutions, he is protecting himself.

Stolen O-F-F Money Paid Bombers' Families

Investigators of the corrupt U.N. Oil-For-Food program have now been able to link stolen program funds to Saddam's $25,000 payments to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers. Of course Saddam never denied making those payments. It's just that now we know he did it with stolen money.
(via LGF)


Also from FPM, Bat Ye'or writes that Europe is awash in a cult of "Palestinianism", and it needs to enlist Islam in it's anti-American agenda.

Like it or not, Americans must face a new reality: Europe's evolution from a Judeo-Christian secular and free civilization to a continent imbibed by a new political and religious cult: Palestinianism. This cult is vital for Europe's security; it permeates the culture, academia, universities, the churches, the unions, the media, even the fashion industry, and all aspects of political life. For over thirty years, it has been injected in every sector of European society by the European Commission's supra-national power and unifying policy. The European Commission is the executive body that advises, directs, influences and monitors the same unique agenda, the same ideology, the same political correctness over all the European populations. It strives to control Europe's foreign policy, and model Europe as a rival to America. This anti-American lust for power can only be implemented through the building of an idealized "Islamo-Christian Civilization," the dawn of a messianic universal peace whose blessing over the whole world is impeded by Zionism and Israel. Islamic assistance is essential for building this European anti-American super-power, initially via Palestinianism, the ideology which foments Israel's elimination...

The cohorts of European foreign ministers rushing to Arafat's commemoration ceremony in Cairo, signals that Palestinianism - Europe's war against Israel - will not die with Arafat, having been generated from Europe's most persistent hate impulse. Had it not existed, peace would have prevailed. But peace was never the goal. The goal was Israel's suffering, bleeding, isolation, demonization, vilification and robbery of its identity and history through Palestinianism.

November 16, 2004

Absence of Nuance

Incitement To Genocide, Act Two. By Steven Plaut at FPM. Read it all.

On CNN, Arafat was described as a "revolutionary romantic figure comparable to Ho Chi Minh and Nelson Mandela." For USA Today, he "embraced sorrow and hope." South Africa's City Press described him as a leader who "marshaled freedom fighters." And in the Toronto Sun we were told he was "murdered" (!) by Israel. Many were comparing him to the Biblical Moses.1 One of the only dissident voices was Kuwait, which had been brutalized by Saddam's Iraq as Arafat led Saddam's cheerleader squads. A Kuwaiti minister, Muhammad Abul-Hassan, was threatened with impeachment by the Kuwaiti parliament for having allowed a television broadcast last week in which Arafat was described as a hero, a combatant for faith, and a martyr. Abul-Hassan elected to hand in his resignation over the matter.

And all this maudlin mourning for a mass murderer of children and other civilians, for a plane hijacker who paved the way for 9/11, for an Islamofascist who organized terrorist movements, whose raison d'etre was a Second Holocaust of Jews. Or perhaps that was precisely the point?

The media circus and the proclamations of Arafat's "greatness" did serve one useful function. And that is that they illustrated as well as anything what the true nature is of worldwide "solidarity with Palestinians" and support for Palestinian "national goals.

The simple fact of the matter is that there is no such thing on the planet as sympathy for and identification with Palestinians. There is no such thing as pro-Palestinianism. Period. When Palestinians, or when Arabs in general, are mistreated, repressed, and tormented by any Arab regime, no one cares. When Palestinians were mass murdered by Syria and Jordan, no one cared. When more than 100,000 Arab civilians are massacred in Algeria, it does not even make the evening news. When Asad or Saddam Hussein carry out mass murders of Arabs, the "Human Rights" lobby never looks up from its cinnamon latté.

The pro-Palestinian movement is nothing more than the 21st century's reincarnation of medieval anti-Semitism, complete with medieval anti-Jewish blood libels. People who claim to feel empathy for Palestinians are typically motivated by hatred of Jews. The reason the pro-Palestinian movement wants the Palestinians to have a state is because it understands that such a state will operate as an instrument to attack Israel, murder Jews, and seek the annihilation of the Jewish state.

Once one understands this fundamental fact of life about the Middle East and about world political motivations, everything else makes sense. The mind-numbing stupidity of the world media mourning Arafat in great cries of anguish, the fawning toadying of political leaders, the maudlin outpouring of love for the cause of the fallen terrorist nazi, are all understandable. There is nothing at all confusing about it. These people are not broadcasting their undying love of Palestinians, but rather their undying hatred of Jews.

I don't equate the vague man-on-the-street support for "Palestinian statehood" with anti-Semitism like Plaut seems to. But I do agree that to make a hero of Arafat, to name streets after him and praise his name is by definition to sympathise, in some way at least, with his lifelong cause of death to Israel and to Jews. It's all he ever really stood for. The Europeans and Americans who take part in his canonization also know full well what his life was all about. Plaut just calls it by its name.

Will He Be Missed?

In another great piece from ForeignPolicy.com, Christopher Hitchens critiques Colin Powell's tenure as Secretary of State. Here's a short excerpt:

The official historian of the State Department has calculated that Powell will have traveled less than any secretary in more than three decades. His three immediate predecessors voyaged abroad an average of 45 percent more than him. "Shuttle diplomacy" may well have been overpromoted by Henry Kissinger, but a politique de presence has an importance of its own, and Powell should not forget that it was very largely his own personality - large, affable, calm, and, yes, originally Caribbean - that landed him the post to begin with. I myself doubt that a diplomatic "offensive" by Powell would have melted the heart of the Elysee, but he incurs criticism not for failing, but for not trying. And then he incurs further criticism for indicating dissent from a major policy, partly on the grounds that it did not command enough sympathy overseas.

(via aldaily.com)

Plus ça change?

Caroline B. Glick has negotiated with the PLO, so she is not as sanguine about the "opportunities" that some people think exist now that Arafat is gone:

Arafat's men - from Qurei to Abbas to Farouk Kadoumi and even to Israeli Arab leaders like Knesset member Ahmed Tibi - owe their positions in the world to the fact that they were integral parts of Arafat's kingdom. It wasn't just Arafat that Israel insanely brought into Judea, Samaria and Gaza (and Israel) in 1994, but the entire terrorist and corrupt regime of the PLO. Though Arafat's death has finally been announced, his kingdom remains intact.

In their usual vacuous and ridiculous style, pundits, experts and politicians in Israel and from around the world have been mouthing off over the past week about Israel using the opportunity of Arafat's death to strengthen the "reformist" elements in the PA. Fat chance of that working. There are no "reformist" elements in the PA. And anyone inside the PA who would dare speak of making changes to the way things are done would immediately be attacked, if not murdered, for daring to question Arafat's legacy.

November 15, 2004

The Blogosphere 101

Congratulations to Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell for their insightful and thorough essay on bloggers and blogging at Foreign Policy online. (Is that "blog triumphalism"?)

The growing clout of bloggers has transformed some into "blog triumphalists." To hear them tell it, blogging is the single most transformative media technology since the invention of the printing press. Rallying cries, such as "the revolution will be blogged," reflect the belief that blogs might even supplant traditional journalism. But, as the editor of the Washington, D.C.-based blog "Wonkette," Ana Marie Cox, has wryly observed, "A revolution requires that people leave their house."

Iran In Iraq

A Special Report from U.S. News.com. "The Baghdad files: A trove of secret intelligence reports spells out in chilling detail how Iraq's dangerous next-door neighbor is aiding the anti-U.S. insurgency there".

Chilling is the word.

Oil-For-Food Takes Off

There were several key developments Monday in the Oil-For-Food fraud story. Foremost among them was the opening of the hearings of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, today featuring the testimony of Charles A. Duelfer, the Special Advisor to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency for Strategy Regarding Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction Program. Transcripts of Duelfer's statement to the committee, and the rest of today's testimony can be found here

And a story in the Washington Post, (a publication not exactly noted for its rapt attention to the U.N. scandal for the last ten months) reports that Benon Sevan, the U.N. official who oversaw the program, has blocked inquiries into the fraud. Sevan, whose name appeared in February 2004 on a list of officials, diplomats and politicians who had received oil lease vouchers worth millions of dollars each from the Saddam regime, has been in virtual seclusion since the story broke early this year. He is slated to "retire" soon.

Interviews with current and former U.N. officials and others familiar with how the program operated are now putting meat on the bones of what had been just allegations. But the fact of Saddam's "skimming" of kickbacks and surcharges goes all the way back to 2000, when representatives of the U.S. State Dept., Great Britain, numerous OFF contractors, as well as the U.N.'s own "watchdog" brought the matter to the attention of Sevan and Kofi Annan:

Toward the end of July 2000, U.N. officials began receiving tips from Iraq's commercial partners that the Hussein government was demanding kickbacks, according to three U.N. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. In December 2000, one company told U.N. oil experts that Iraq had demanded an illegal surcharge of 50 cents on each barrel of oil, according to the U.N. official who served under Sevan. Shortly thereafter, the tips became the subject of Security Council meetings.

Representatives from about half a dozen other companies that traded with Iraq informed U.N. officials that Iraq was forcing them to pay illegal commissions into a secret bank account for the purchase of food, medicine and humanitarian goods, according to two U.N. officials who worked for Sevan. "The chatter was that the regime was asking suppliers to agree to sign contracts with a percentage going to another account," one of the officials said.

Sevan was reluctant to embark on an anti-corruption effort because it would complicate his relations with Iraq, whose cooperation was essential to the program's success, several U.N. officials believed. He was also loath to antagonize key Security Council members, particularly Russia, which routinely opposed efforts to reform a multibillion-dollar program that served its political and economic interests. (emphasis mine-Ed.)

This just blows my mind. The United Nations Oil-For-Food program existed because Saddam was under sanctions for, among other things, violating more than a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions, invading and pillaging a neighboring country, and gassing his own citizens to death. The whole enterprise was set up because he could not be trusted to feed his own people, (or even to refrain from killing them by the tens of thousands, hence the no-fly zones).

Meanwhile, Benon Sevan (and Kofi Annan, who could not possibly have been unaware of what was going on), couldn't be bothered to bring to the world's attention the little matter of Saddam's skimming billions of dollars from the program that was set up to circumvent his own criminality and warmaking, because it "would complicate his (the U.N.'s) relations with Iraq"? After all, the "cooperation" of the dictator was "essential to the program's success". Wouldn't want to tick the old boy off, what with everybody getting a piece of the pie and all.

Speaking of the "program's success", another of today's reports has the estimate of the overall total for what was already the biggest fraud in the history of the world doubling, to over $21 billion.

Russia has been trying to walk the line between opposing an investigation that will likely prove their key involvement in the scam, and their continuing hopes to be included in post-war oil deals. And it turns out that the French are not happy with the course that the investigation is taking. This report from Fox links to key sections of the Duelfer Report, which names names of French officials close to Jacques Chirac who are implicated in Saddam's bribery scheme:

Saddam handed out oil vouchers to selected companies and individuals, which could be sold at a handsome profit.

And the Duelfer report named names. Among the French figures were Patrick Maugeuin, a close associate of Chirac and a man the Iraqis considered a "direct conduit to the French leader" who could have yielded a profit of close to $3 million; and Charles Pasqua, who received oil vouchers that could have given him a profit of around $2.2 million.

It also quoted an Iraqi intelligence report from May 2002 on a meeting between an Iraqi agent and a French politician. "The French politician assured the Iraqi that France would use its veto in the U.N. Security Council against any American decision to attack Iraq," the report said.

Those claims have also brought a strong response from the French ambassador.

"I have been outraged to read or hear in some media that France had opposed the war in Iraq because our vote might have been bought by Saddam Hussein. Frankly, this is outrageous. France was against this war because this war was not necessary," Levitte said.

I guess what he means is that it was not necessary to interrupt the gravy train that was enriching French and Russian officials in return for their promise to thwart any Security Council action against a murderous dictator. They are being exposed for the duplicitous whores that they are. Who can blame them for squirming a little?

Several of the links above come via the Friends of Saddam blog, which exists to catalog information on the Oil-For-Food case.

Hi-Tech War


"Backpack airplanes" are another piece of technology that may be playing a role in giving American forces the upper hand in Fallujah. These small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) can be carried in two backpacks, assembled in minutes (they're made of a composite material that looks a lot like plastic foam) and launched by hand. Marines used them to good effect during the fighting last April.

Equipped with a small television camera and powered by an electric motor, these small planes (weight about 5 pounds, wingspan 45 inches) can give commanders on the scene a quick look at the other side of a building or a hill or screen of trees. Difficult to see or hear during fighting, these UAVs can stay aloft for up to an hour, sending back real time video of the battlefield as much as five miles away. Field commanders can watch the action on a back-packable television receiver.

November 14, 2004

Second Term Agenda

The achievement of Bush's goal to be a "transformational" president will be dependent on his success in enacting his ambitious domestic agenda in the second term. National Journal has an excellent feature on that agenda, and its problems and prospects.

Tribe Roster Moves

CIR details all the Indians recent roster moves, and predicts what might happen within the next few weeks. One gamble has already backfired, as the team lost young lefthander Billy Traber to the Red Sox when they tried to slip him through waivers.

November 13, 2004

The C.I.A. vs Bush

David Brooks says there must be consequences for the repeated blatant attempts to undermine the White House by the Central Intelligence Agency. (Reproduced in full at the link below)

In the Washington Post today, a report on the turmoil in the agency and the resignation of the Deputy Director.

The New York Times

November 13, 2004

The C.I.A. Versus Bush


Now that he's been returned to office, President Bush is going to have to differentiate between his opponents and his enemies. His opponents are found in the Democratic Party. His enemies are in certain offices of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Over the past several months, as much of official Washington looked on wide-eyed and agog, many in the C.I.A. bureaucracy have waged an unabashed effort to undermine the current administration.

At the height of the campaign, C.I.A. officials, who are supposed to serve the president and stay out of politics and policy, served up leak after leak to discredit the president's Iraq policy. There were leaks of prewar intelligence estimates, leaks of interagency memos. In mid-September, somebody leaked a C.I.A. report predicting a gloomy or apocalyptic future for the region. Later that month, a senior C.I.A. official, Paul Pillar, reportedly made comments saying he had long felt the decision to go to war would heighten anti-American animosity in the Arab world.

White House officials concluded that they could no longer share important arguments and information with intelligence officials. They had to parse every syllable in internal e-mail. One White House official says it felt as if the C.I.A. had turned over its internal wastebaskets and fed every shred of paper to the press.

The White House-C.I.A. relationship became dysfunctional, and while the blame was certainly not all on one side, Langley was engaged in slow-motion, brazen insubordination, which violated all standards of honorable public service. It was also incredibly stupid, since C.I.A. officials were betting their agency on a Kerry victory.

As the presidential race heated up, the C.I.A. permitted an analyst - who, we now know, is Michael Scheuer - to publish anonymously a book called "Imperial Hubris," which criticized the Iraq war. Here was an official on the president's payroll publicly campaigning against his boss. As Scheuer told The Washington Post this week, "As long as the book was being used to bash the president, they [the C.I.A. honchos] gave me carte blanche to talk to the media."

Nor is this feud over. C.I.A. officials are now busy undermining their new boss, Porter Goss. One senior official called one of Goss's deputies, who worked on Capitol Hill, a "Hill Puke," and said he didn't have to listen to anything the deputy said. Is this any way to run a superpower?

Meanwhile, members of Congress and people around the executive branch are wondering what President Bush is going to do to punish the mutineers. A president simply cannot allow a department or agency to go into campaign season opposition and then pay no price for it. If that happens, employees of every agency will feel free to go off and start their own little media campaigns whenever their hearts desire.

If we lived in a primitive age, the ground at Langley would be laid waste and salted, and there would be heads on spikes. As it is, the answer to the C.I.A. insubordination is not just to move a few boxes on the office flow chart.

The answer is to define carefully what the president expects from the intelligence community: information. Policy making is not the C.I.A.'s concern. It is time to reassert some harsh authority so C.I.A. employees know they must defer to the people who win elections, so they do not feel free at meetings to spout off about their contempt of the White House, so they do not go around to their counterparts from other nations and tell them to ignore American policy.

In short, people in the C.I.A. need to be reminded that the person the president sends to run their agency is going to run their agency, and that if they ever want their information to be trusted, they can't break the law with self-serving leaks of classified data.

This is about more than intelligence. It's about Bush's second term. Is the president going to be able to rely on the institutions of government to execute his policies, or, by his laxity, will he permit the bureaucracy to ignore, evade and subvert the decisions made at the top? If the C.I.A. pays no price for its behavior, no one will pay a price for anything, and everything is permitted. That, Mr. President, is a slam-dunk.

Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.

November 12, 2004

Fallujah and Everywhere

Belmont Club updates the battle for the Sunni Triangle in River War 2.

First Lady of France

The blog Beautiful Atrocities profiles Suha Arafat. Among Jeff's links is this one to a DEBKAfile article on the negotiations leading to the widow's settlement for a cozy $22 million per year for life.

Mom on CNN.com

My son called me yesterday afternoon from Raleigh to inform me that, quite by chance, he had just seen a photograph of his grandmother on the home page of CNN.com.

Now, my mom gets around pretty well for a lady who just celebrated her 89th birthday a couple weeks ago, and her kids can't just drop in on her and expect to catch her hanging around the apartment, what with the busy schedule she keeps. But on a day which very well might have featured luminaries like Yasser Arafat, Al Gonzales or the U.S. Marines on the home page of the International Edition of CNN.com, it's fair to say the last person you're expecting to see when you log on to CNN is your mom. But there she was, big as life. Okay, getting real here, even on a slow news day this would have been a shocker.

Here's a screenshot of Mom's "15 minutes of fame", and a better quality version of the photograph (she's the one on the right, out of uniform).

The occasion was Veterans Day, and the Plain Dealer had published the same picture as part of their coverage of a new exhibit of WWII memorabilia in Cleveland. It featured the contributions of women in the military in WWII, where Mom served as an Army nurse in New Guinea and Australia. A collection of her photographs was on display as part of the exhibit, and this photograph was snapped at last week's opening.

When I talked to Mom today, she was underwhelmed at her erstwhile internet celebrity. Until I called her yesterday, she had no idea that her picture had been seen by millions of people all over the world for a couple of hours on a Thursday afternoon. She has a computer and Internet access, but had little interest in checking out her own image. Because today, like 60 years ago in the Pacific Theater, Ruth Wismar had better things to do, and people other than herself on her mind.

Kicking Ashcroft Around

Jonah Goldberg

The Washington Post's farewell editorial to Ashcroft this week bemoaned his "rhetoric which questioned the patriotism of those who disagreed with him." Never happened. "He presided over an alarming roundup of immigrants after the Sept. 11 attacks," the Post also declared. Also never happened. Yes, after the worst attack on U.S. soil ever conducted by men who gamed the immigration system, the Department of Justice acted. But there were no roundups. Some people were sent letters asking them to voluntarily consent to be interviewed. It's fine to think that was bad, but if you call that an "alarming roundup of immigrants," what will you call an actual roundup of immigrants? Genocide?...

...By conventional standards, Ashcroft was among the best attorneys general in American history. Violent crime dropped 27 percent on his watch, reaching a 30-year low. Federal gun crime prosecutions rose 75 percent, and gun crimes dropped - something that should please liberals. By unconventional standards his service was heroic. There hasn't been a single terrorist attack since 9/11, despite all predictions by experts and efforts by terrorists to the contrary. Ashcroft was willing to take gross abuse to do what was necessary. Indeed, even the 9/11 commission certified that the Patriot Act was absolutely necessary to fix many of the problems that led to that awful day.

The chorus that treated him so shabbily says it's good such a "polarizing" figure is leaving. Fine. But maybe it's too bad the people who made him such a polarizing figure aren't.

Arafat 's Resumé

Not just another airbrushed obituary, this summary by Andrew C. McCarthy of the long, murderous career of Yasser Arafat, is the best thing I've read on the occasion of his passing.

Evidence Both Ways On Warming

Fodder for the global warming debate. For those at least willing to admit that there's a debate. From Reason Online. (via aldaily.com)

November 11, 2004

Gonzales as AG

Peter Mulhearn thanks John Ashcroft, and comments on Alberto Gonzales:

Gonzales is loyal to the President, which is a very good thing in an Attorney General. He is not ideologically conservative, but that matters much less in an AG than it would in a Supreme Court Justice. If Gonzales runs the DOJ competently and supports his President loyally conservatives will have no cause for complaint.

The AG appointment may be something of a disappointment for Gonzales. It almost certainly means President Bush won't nominate him to the Supreme Court. Conservatives would never have given him anything more than tepid support in a Supreme Court nomination fight. Democrats would probably have sunk him. His term as White House Counsel made him too closely associated with the war on terror to slide past Senate Democrats and onto the Court. A few years as AG will make him radioactive.

Mulhearn was born to blog.

Veterans Day

Please go read this post by Bill at INDC Journal. In so many ways he speaks for me.


I liked Christopher Hitchens' column from Tuesday at Slate.

A Monster

Jeff Jacoby on the death of Arafat;

Yasser Arafat died at age 75, lying in bed surrounded by familiar faces. He left this world peacefully, unlike the thousands of victims he sent to early graves.

In a better world, the PLO chief would have met his end on a gallows, hanged for mass murder much as the Nazi chiefs were hanged at Nuremberg. In a better world, the French president would not have paid a visit to the bedside of such a monster. In a better world, George Bush would not have said, on hearing the first reports that Arafat had died, "God bless his soul."

God bless his soul? What a grotesque idea! Bless the soul of the man who brought modern terrorism to the world? Who sent his agents to slaughter athletes at the Olympics, blow airliners out of the sky, bomb schools and pizzerias, machine-gun passengers in airline terminals? Who lied, cheated, and stole without compunction? Who inculcated the vilest culture of Jew-hatred since the Third Reich? Human beings might stoop to bless a creature so evil -- as indeed Arafat was blessed, with money, deference, even a Nobel Prize -- but God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity.

More Steyn

Regulars know I'm a big Mark Steyn fan. Let's just say Mark's not holding anything back here.

ESPN The Magazine Series On OSU

The entire ESPN The Magazine series is up now. Here's the lead Clarett article. After reading it, I have to eat some of my previous words questioning the journalism of ESPN in my Buckeye fanaticism of the moment. Seems they've done quite a bit of journalism in the Maurice Clarett matter, and it paints a sympathetic portrait of Clarett as a victim of a system that seems to have catered to his enormous ego, and then turned him out when he took full advantage of their stroking of it. Clarett's goal was to get his side of the story out and ESPN has provided him with a vehicle. (sorry)

I'm not sure that this will have the desired effect of polishing up the tarnished Clarett reputation among NFL General Managers prior to the April Draft, but after reading it I expect that it might.

Those of us that have observed the chronic self-absorption of Maurice Clarett for three years of course, cannot buy all of this stuff without a healthy dose of skepticism, but it is a well written story that makes his case pretty persuasively, and also lays bare some of the problems with boosters and the coddling of athletes that exist within every major football program.

Coach Tressel is a part of that system, and his impressive record of increasing the graduation rate of the football program from a low of 16% under his predecessor to over 50% now, is tainted somewhat by the disclosure that at Ohio State a player can get as many as 10 credits toward graduation just for playing football, more than any other school offers.

This doesn't change my opinion of Clarett as a self-promoter, spotlight hound and demonstrable liar. His problems with coaches, authority figures, team concept, and self-control didn't start when he got to Ohio State, and they likely won't end there. But the clearing of the air by Clarett and ESPN, in an attempt to get his case on the record, shines light in some places that Ohio State, the NCAA, and hundreds of other schools would like to keep in the dark.

Another in the series is a piece about OSU transfer Sammy Maldonado. It's a nice human interest story about a guy who didn't play here for whatever reason, and had some success at Maryland, (though he has recently been suspended from the team there), but the most scandalous thing it says about OSU is a quote from a guy who accuses the school of having an easy academic program for certain athletes. I assume that doesn't include Craig Krenzel's molecular genetics curriculum.

There's a side piece featuring other OSU players who lost their academic eligibility or were dismissed for other reasons joining in the tell-all. And it reveals that Fred Stirrup, Curtis Crosby, LeAndre Boone and Marco Cooper, their sources for the story, are all still attending Ohio State. So it's not like the University that recruited them into the football program, and for whatever reasons has seen fit to eject them from it, has rejected them as students, ruined their lives or soured them on tOSU.

A short fourth piece in the series deals with Ohio State University's short response to the allegations. Here are some links to more on what Coach Jim Tressel and Athletic Director Andy Geiger had to say about the situation.

An opinion column by The Plain Dealer's Bud Shaw on Clarett's charges.

As usual, ESPN's Page 2 has an interesting take on the OSU-MoC flap.

November 10, 2004

Absolutism Among Liberals

Here's another piece on the order of the Goldberg column, that is, one that points up the same brand of moral absolutism among liberals that they decry in Bush voters. Libby Sternberg at The Weekly Standard.

It's ironic, isn't it? The left is made up of scores of people ready to paint Bush and Republicans with the "moral extremist" label. "Bush's victory signals the triumph of belief over fact," Garry Wills moaned in the New York Times two days after the election. He sees the election in stark terms--the victory of fundamentalism over reason. In other words, if you don't share Wills's values and voted for Bush, you're stupid.

Maureen Dowd claimed the president "ran a jihad" in America--"jihad" is a word Wills used as well. And columnist Thomas Friedman wondered if he lives in a country where religion trumps science, lamenting that the Americans who voted for Bush have a different vision of what America is.

And perhaps there's some truth in that claim. Maybe the Americans who voted for Bush have doubts about whether homosexuality is a choice and don't want to rush to change sexual-bond institutions that have benefited society for centuries because of an extremist agenda that implies either you're for gay marriage or you're a bigot.

Maybe the Americans who voted for Bush have questions about when life really begins and don't want to support a party that refuses to acknowledge those concerns.

Maybe the Americans who voted for Bush wonder just how much involvement between church and state constitutes an infringement on First Amendment proscriptions against state-sponsored religion. Maybe they are troubled by absolutists who want to wipe faith out of every aspect of public life.

These doubts and concerns don't make them stupid or intolerant or bigoted or faith-based zealots ready to wage a jihad against those who disagree with them. It makes them average Americans. When Bush acknowledged his own doubts about the homosexuality question, he was speaking to them, telling them they don't deserve the ugly labels absolutists from the left use to denigrate their concerns. He was legitimizing their reasonable doubts about the left's absolutist ideology on values--gay marriage, unrestricted abortion, and an approach to state/church issues that more resembles the intolerance of anti-religion China than the tolerance of state-sponsored-religion England.

In other words, in the moral values debate, perhaps the Republican voters saw the left as the fundamentalists waging their own jihad, unwilling to acknowledge reasonable differences of opinions, let alone well-motivated doubts.

Jonah Scores

Jonah Goldberg's column today is wonderful, and should be devoured in its entirety. But I had to excerpt this line which made me laugh out loud:

Take the two leading liberal columnists at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman. As we all know, one's a whining self-parody of a hysterical liberal who lets feminine emotion and fear defeat reason and fact in almost every column. The other used to date Michael Douglas.

Positive Job Numbers

A blog that is new to me, "this isn't writing, it's typing", has a good summary of the varying media treatment of the positive employment report from the Labor Department. The best kept secret of the first Bush administration is still the high-growth, low unemployment economy of the last two and a half years. (via INDC Journal)

November 9, 2004

Follow Fallujah

I have found no better resource to read about the battle of Fallujah than Belmont Club. Wretchard links to major media and blogger accounts, and provides his own compelling commentary. Just keep scrolling. Command Post's Iraq Page is another clearing house for media stories on the fighting.

Clarett Smears OSU (Again)

Former Ohio State football player Maurice Clarett now claims he was given loaner cars in arrangements by coaches, given cash and no-work jobs by boosters, and had academic work done for him by tutors and hand-picked instructors. The claims are contained in a new article in ESPN The Magazine, it was reported today at ESPN.com.

First of all, the revelation that bigtime NCAA college football players are sometimes slipped cash by boosters, and that jobs are sometimes arranged for players that require little or no actual work, will not exactly shock the American sports establishment to its foundation. Nor will charges that OSU provided (gasp!) academic tutors for him to help him pass courses. His charges about Coach Tressel arranging loaner cars for him to use should be easy enough to substantiate or refute. I'm not sure how the NCAA views this issue anyway. Tressel was asked about the loner car business today

In fact, the biggest unanswered question seems to me to be; was Clarett lying in the 2003 NCAA investigation, or is he lying now? Being the consummate "team player" that he has always been, Clarett says he was just taking the rap to save the team back then. What a guy!

Clarett...says he was asked during the 2003 NCAA investigation whether he received a loaner car from Tressel, and, to protect the coach, he says, he answered no. He says when he was asked about other indiscretions, he answered, "I don't know" or "I don't remember," which was a violation of NCAA Rule 10.1, requiring forthright answers.

"What would have become of Ohio State if I said everything?'' Clarett told The Magazine. "Half the team would have been suspended, and it would have been worse for everybody. I was like, 'Why don't I just take it?'"

This statement (to steal a line from Jonah Goldberg) is nonsense on stilts. Anyone remotely familiar with Clarett knows that he never in his brief college career at Ohio State put the team's interests above his own. His grandstanding and baseless criticism of the OSU administration in Tempe the week of the National Championship game in 2002 is but one of many examples of his self-absorption.

Clarett has seen his pro stock plummet since the 2002 season, and he has cost himself millions through his own selfishness and poor judgment. ESPN cheapens themselves by running with the story, if this is the sum total of the allegations by Clarett. OSU Athletic Director Andy Geiger provides some background and context:

"We went through a yearlong investigation of our academic programs, everything that [Clarett] has to allege," Geiger said. "He vowed to me that he would do something to try to get us and this may be what he's trying to do. So he's on his own.

"We dealt with this guy [Clarett] for 18 months. I just hope you've checked into the background and history of who you're dealing with."

Something tells me that like Ohio State, the NCAA is happy to be rid of this guy. In April, he'll be the NFL's problem. What a talent! What a waste!

UPDATE 11/9: OSU Athletic Director Andy Geiger held a press conference today, part of which was reported by sportsillustrated.com

Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger was not surprised by the accusations, saying Clarett had vowed to try to hurt the program.

"In moments of frustration during the investigation, he might say, 'I can blow the whole program up,' and we'd say, 'OK, blow it up,"' Geiger said.

People who are program "insiders" posting to the discussion forums at bucknuts.com say that Clarett is simply lying, and that the OSU football program and administration have expected that sooner or later there would be some mud-slinging from Clarett. For ESPN to be relying for corroboration for their story on the word of Marco Cooper, a player who barely played a down at Ohio State and was dismissed from the program on the basis of an arrest for drugs and felony gun possession, and Sammy Maldonado, another player who transferred after running afoul of Jim Tressel, is at best weak. Why ESPN has it in for OSU is anybody's guess, but word is that this piece is the first of a 4-part series on Ohio State. Great.

UPDATE 11/9: Much more from the Andy Geiger press conference via Bucknuts.com.

November 8, 2004

Chrenkoff's "Good News From Iraq"

I used to read through Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News" posts before linking to them here. That's no longer a consideration because they're always packed with great links and solid commentary. (And besides, it's 2:30 in the morning, and I can't get to it all until tomorrow.)

He has identified a need, and he fills it. So thanks again Arthur, for what you do every two weeks or so. Here's Good News From Iraq, Part 14.


The operation in Fallujah has begun in earnest. Read an account from an embedded CBS reporter, and posts from Belmont Club, and a blogger named Chester.

November 7, 2004

Arafat and AIDS

There are multiple plausible reports within the last couple of days that Yasser Arafat is dying, or has died of AIDS. I have no prior exposure to Israel Insider, which carries this article , so take it at face value. A website called 365Gay.com had coverage here, and there is a discussion and links on the topic at a blog called Entre Nous.

The Jerusalem Post suggests that...

Such rumors are hardly surprising, given the improbable length of time it is taking some of the world's best doctors to diagnose his condition, and given that the public relations people at the hospital are now deferring all comment to Suha Arafat, hardly credible and certainly far from objective.

Like Hindrocket at Power Line, it matters not a bit to me what he dies of, but his cause of death could yet become an issue. In the murderously anti-homosexual Middle East, as Hindrocket says...

"should the fact become known, it could discredit him in the Arab world to a degree that mass murder never did, with political consequences that could be significant. Hence, perhaps, the secrecy that surrounds his last days."

November 6, 2004

Values Vote Myth

David Brooks is the day's "must read". (The article is reproduced in full at the "Continue reading..." link below, since the NYT archives these articles after a couple of days.)

The New York Times
November 6, 2004

The Values-Vote Myth


Every election year, we in the commentariat come up with a story line to explain the result, and the story line has to have two features. First, it has to be completely wrong. Second, it has to reassure liberals that they are morally superior to the people who just defeated them.

In past years, the story line has involved Angry White Males, or Willie Horton-bashing racists. This year, the official story is that throngs of homophobic, Red America values-voters surged to the polls to put George Bush over the top.

This theory certainly flatters liberals, and it is certainly wrong.

Here are the facts. As Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center points out, there was no disproportionate surge in the evangelical vote this year. Evangelicals made up the same share of the electorate this year as they did in 2000. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who are pro-life. Sixteen percent of voters said abortions should be illegal in all circumstances. There was no increase in the percentage of voters who say they pray daily.

It's true that Bush did get a few more evangelicals to vote Republican, but Kohut, whose final poll nailed the election result dead-on, reminds us that public opinion on gay issues over all has been moving leftward over the years. Majorities oppose gay marriage, but in the exit polls Tuesday, 25 percent of the voters supported gay marriage and 35 percent of voters supported civil unions. There is a big middle on gay rights issues, as there is on most social issues.

Much of the misinterpretation of this election derives from a poorly worded question in the exit polls. When asked about the issue that most influenced their vote, voters were given the option of saying "moral values." But that phrase can mean anything - or nothing. Who doesn't vote on moral values? If you ask an inept question, you get a misleading result.

The reality is that this was a broad victory for the president. Bush did better this year than he did in 2000 in 45 out of the 50 states. He did better in New York, Connecticut and, amazingly, Massachusetts. That's hardly the Bible Belt. Bush, on the other hand, did not gain significantly in the 11 states with gay marriage referendums.

He won because 53 percent of voters approved of his performance as president. Fifty-eight percent of them trust Bush to fight terrorism. They had roughly equal confidence in Bush and Kerry to handle the economy. Most approved of the decision to go to war in Iraq. Most see it as part of the war on terror.

The fact is that if you think we are safer now, you probably voted for Bush. If you think we are less safe, you probably voted for Kerry. That's policy, not fundamentalism. The upsurge in voters was an upsurge of people with conservative policy views, whether they are religious or not.

The red and blue maps that have been popping up in the papers again this week are certainly striking, but they conceal as much as they reveal. I've spent the past four years traveling to 36 states and writing millions of words trying to understand this values divide, and I can tell you there is no one explanation. It's ridiculous to say, as some liberals have this week, that we are perpetually refighting the Scopes trial, with the metro forces of enlightenment and reason arrayed against the retro forces of dogma and reaction.

In the first place, there is an immense diversity of opinion within regions, towns and families. Second, the values divide is a complex layering of conflicting views about faith, leadership, individualism, American exceptionalism, suburbia, Wal-Mart, decorum, economic opportunity, natural law, manliness, bourgeois virtues and a zillion other issues.

But the same insularity that caused many liberals to lose touch with the rest of the country now causes them to simplify, misunderstand and condescend to the people who voted for Bush. If you want to understand why Democrats keep losing elections, just listen to some coastal and university town liberals talk about how conformist and intolerant people in Red America are. It makes you wonder: why is it that people who are completely closed-minded talk endlessly about how open-minded they are?

What we are seeing is a diverse but stable Republican coalition gradually eclipsing a diverse and stable Democratic coalition. Social issues are important, but they don't come close to telling the whole story. Some of the liberal reaction reminds me of a phrase I came across recently: The rage of the drowning man.

Arafat's Heirs

Caroline B. Glick says the PLO must be dismantled completely before democracy can take hold in any future independent Palestinian state. At least one that might possibly co-exist peacefully with Israel. For once, a Hitler analogy is apt:

Aside from Hitler dying, the Nazi regime he created was necessarily militarily vanquished to the point of unconditional surrender. As well, Nazi leaders -- both political and military -- were brought before war crimes tribunals and hung or sentenced to long prison terms.

Adenauer also presided over a German democracy whose borders were determined by the Allies; where the Allied Occupation Forces expunged Nazi propaganda from the schoolbooks; barred Nazis from positions of power and influence in all walks of life; forced the Germans to teach their schoolchildren the evil they had wrought in the war; and outlawed Nazis or anyone espousing a similar racist ideology from entering politics in Germany. That is, Adenauer's ascension to power was only enabled as a result of the total destruction of the Nazi power apparatus...

...There is today not one Palestinian political party that is not a terrorist organization. Of the twelve militias that Arafat formed in the West Bank and Gaza since arriving on the scene in 1994, there is not a single one that is not deeply involved in terror activities. Documents seized by the Israeli army during major combat operations in the West Bank have shown Arafat's generals ordering the carrying out of suicide bombings and authorizing the payment of terrorist cell members.

Under Arafat's leadership, Palestinian society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been indoctrinated to jihad in a way that is unmatched throughout the Arab world, perhaps with the exception of Al Qaeda training camps. Children have been brainwashed to believe that they should see their lives fulfilled by carrying out acts of genocidal mass murder of Jews. Women have been inculcated with the inhuman belief that rather than being the sources of life, their wombs are bomb factories.

Through the Palestinian media, the school system, the religious institutions, the sports teams and the iconographers in art studios and on city streets, Palestinian society over the past decade has been brought to believe that their sole purpose as a people is to liquidate the Jewish people.


It's not like Ted Ginn Jr. has come out of nowhere or anything. He's had "blue-chip" written all over him since he was a sophomore at Glenville High School. But I guess you could say he arrived today, as he pretty much beat the Michigan St. Spartans all by himself , with all due respect to the Buckeye defense. The freshman scored twice early on a 17 yard reverse and a 60 yard punt return, and then scored the winning touchdown on a 58 yard reception in the game's last two minutes. And he did it in spectacular, jaw-dropping fashion. I have not seen that combination of speed and athletic grace on a football field in years. To get some perspective, freshman Ginn today tied the OSU career record for punt returns for touchdowns. The kid is a rare talent. I can't wait to see him play cornerback.

And here's what Coach Tressel had to say about linebacker A.J. Hawk after Hawk iced the game with a diving interception:

"Incredible pick," Tressel said. "From where I was standing, it looked like it landed on the bench. If he's not an All-American, I don't know what an All-American would look like. He's a leader, he's quiet, he's humble. He's everything you want in a football player."

Hawk may have won the Butkus Award today with that interception and a couple of other highlight reel hits on national tube. Wishful thinking maybe, but I haven't seen anyone playing linebacker any better this year.

Arafat Death Watch

Wretchard at Belmont Club has a good summary of the issues surrounding the imminent death of Arafat.

November 5, 2004

Blackfive Disenfranchised

Strange goings-on in Chicagoland on Election Day. OK, it's not that strange for Chicago.

Musing on Hillary '08


A comment to another post by my nephew Al got me thinking about Hillary Clinton's chances to be nominated and/or elected in 2008. After I got halfway through my email reply to him I decided to just post it here:

You asked if Hillary could get enough support to win the nomination in '08. I'm sure that that she could be nominated, and in fact I think she's the consensus frontrunner. There are lots of obstacles in her way, but she is very resourceful and is adored by the media elites. I won't go so far as to suggest that she was popping corks on champagne bottles Tuesday night (I think she's too much the ideologue to have been truly wishing for a Bush victory) but a Kerry loss fits her dream career scenario perfectly. I do think that while she could get the nomination, she may still be unelectable. Her "negatives" are still in the high 40's in polls nationally (last time I saw one). But that's now, in 2004. I think she's counting on four more years to allow memories to fade some more. Most people have already forgotten how we came within a few votes in the then Democrat-controlled House of Representatives of passing her brainchild, a government run health care plan, which would have socialized one seventh of our entire economy. Folks would also have to forget the cattle futures windfall, the Rose law firm records, the illegally convened health care task force, the unseemly travel office firings, and a few other odds and ends.

On the plus side, I think she has been responsible and sensible on the War on Terror, and she has not criticized the president with nearly the same level of vitriol we've seen from some of her colleagues. She has quietly and quickly built a Senate power base, and has positioned herself well to the right of the Kerry-Pelosi-Kennedy wing of her party. And let's face it. She's got experience being President. (I definitely think it helps explain her understanding and seriousness on the terror threat.) That's a significant qualification that sets her apart as a candidate. But it's my personal feeling that if you scratch her, she still bleeds socialist, because that's where she's always been from. Who knows if she has really moderated her core views? She doesn't talk to the media. Her people still control the Democratic Party apparatus. It was all Clintonistas (Carville, McCurry et al) who rode to the rescue of the Kerry campaign a few weeks ago, boosting out Bob Shrum and the other top Kerry advisors. Having lost the election, the DNC power won't shift over to Kerry people. It's still the Clintons' party.

The other thing that jumps out at me anytime there's talk of Hillary running for President is the fact that, as long as she's still married, electing Hillary would be putting Bill Clinton back in the White House, and I'm not sure the majority of the American people will ever choose to let that happen. In fact, if the same elite opinion holds in 2008 as held sway in 1992, the Democrats and the media will gush about the special package deal we would get. Co-Presidents they called it back then, and Hillary assumed control over much of the domestic policy-making apparatus and had more than nominal oversight of the Justice Department, without so much as a ballot being cast for her or an appointment being made. Huge power with zero accountability. Nice work if you can get it. Sort of like Kofi Annan when you think about it. Would Americans in 2008 be eager to take advantage of the manifest intellectual gifts and incredible career experience of the President's spouse, and hand him a significant unelected, unappointed policy-making role? I'm doubting it.

If Bill comes along as part of the package in 2008, I don't think it'll fly, even guessing four years out. Because I don't think most Americans will forget the perjury, the obstruction of justice, the inaction on terror, the impeachment, the sexual imposition, the illegal Chinese campaign cash, the sleazy pardons, the smearing of inconvenient women, the disbarment, or the meaning of the word "is". Without the baggage, maybe Hillary could pull it off. She needs to lose the baggage, which of course causes a whole new set of problems. It would be hard enough to become the first woman President without trying to become the first single and divorced President as well. It's no small problem for her, but she's a smart lady.

Then there's the part about being a northeastern (don't split hairs) liberal Senator, a formula that the Democrats may someday realize doesn't work real well, though to her credit and unlike Kerry, Hillary has been taking care to build a Senate voting record she can run on instead of away from. It would be hard to fathom the Democrats of 2008 agreeing on Hillary as their best shot at the White House, what with the "Bill Factor" and all, not to mention the polarizing and divisive effect her candidacy would have on the nation. Right now I'm trying to think of a red state she could carry.

If she does decide to run (though I think ultimately she will not) I'd like to help out with a campaign slogan. I've suggested it before, but I still think it has promise:

"Hillary For President - Let's Get Back the Silverware"

UPDATE 11/6: Jonathan Freedland in London's Guardian weighs in on Hillary's suitability for the Democratic ticket in 2008.

November 4, 2004

No Challenge

Confessions of an Ohio GOP Poll Observer

It was 5:40 a.m. Election Day when the email from my RNC contact hit my machine. I had already left for the polling place in Akron not sure whether I would be going inside to observe the voting, or standing around outside in the rain all day. The standing outside option was a hastily assembled "Plan B" necessitated by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott's ruling on Monday, which barred poll observers from both parties on the basis of a suit by a black Cincinnati couple that claimed Republican intentions were to "intimidate and block black voters".

I had seen on Fox News at about 8:30 p.m. on Election Eve that the GOP was appealing the Dlott ruling, but went to bed not knowing how it would be resolved. I was barely out of the driveway in the morning when my wife called to alert me to the new email, and I raced back home to read it:


Over the night the 6th Circuit ruled in our favor. Our observer program is allowed! Therefore, do all the things we told you in the training on Sunday. We are back to the original plan.

That original plan of course was to station one Republican observer at each voting precinct, to be joined by one counterpart from the Democratic Party, a detail overlooked in many of the news accounts of the various rulings and appeals, (the original online story on the Akron Beacon Journal site read "GOP challengers ruled unconstitutional").

The 300 or so Akron area volunteers had met just two days before, on Sunday afternoon for a training program and precinct assignments, and believe me, this group didn't need the pep talk we got from the twenty and thirtysomething Party guys who were conducting the orientation that day. The kids were great, don't get me wrong. But this group of citizens had a quiet strength and resolve about them, staying patient through the inevitable chaos and delays in getting the 3-hour meeting started, and dealing with the bad acoustics of the converted old Goodrich tire plant where we were meeting. They were deadly earnest about the task at hand. Every person there was a member of the silent majority that just re-elected George W. Bush.

We learned that day that we were part of a statewide group of some 2600 GOP observers, who would function as credentialed election officials, empowered to observe all phases of the election and post-election process. We were instructed to observe, ask questions where appropriate, call party officials for direction in the event of problems, and represent the Republican Party and its candidates in good faith and with integrity. We were alerted to keep an eye out for activity outside the polling places, possible illegal acts of electioneering inside the 100 foot radius of the polling place and unauthorized access to the polling place itself by non-voters. Complete updated lists of registered voters were supplied to us by the GOP, and all voters were to be checked against the list, including notations of voters receiving provisional ballots. Totals of regular and provisional ballots cast were to be called in to the RNC four different times during the day.

We were asked to sign confidentiality agreements for the contents of the training manual, but since the Cincinnati Post has since published a summary of its contents online, and the election is won, I think its fair to share part of the direction we were given that day. While the manual discussed the legitimate reasons and procedures for formally challenging a voter (i.e. someone who is not on the registered voter list AND who cannot demonstrate that they are a resident of the precinct by presenting an ID, pay stub, utility bill or other document with an address) we were given repeated and explicit instructions by our GOP leadership; Under no circumstances were we to challenge ANY VOTER without first calling the local party hotline number, discussing the circumstances on a case-by-case basis with an RNC official who would then direct the course of action, possibly dispatching a representative to the scene to investigate. It was by our presence in the room and at the voting table that we would hope to deter the possible incidence of voter fraud. We knew that the other side would pass up no opportunity to claim "intimidation" or disenfranchisement", and we were determined to be vigilant, but not to give them a pretext for making any such claims.

So with all of my call-in reporting numbers and the special GOP War Room hotline programmed into my cell phone, my bag of drinks and snacks, and a stack of reporting forms in my notebook, I showed up at my assigned polling place in Akron's 5th Ward. It was 6:05 a.m., still 25 minutes before the polls were to open, and there were already at least 25 voters sitting in the large room, waiting to make their voices heard.

There were two other precincts voting in the same room as ours, so the set-up was in triplicate and three lines of voters snaked through the room all day long. Our ballots, ballot boxes, registration notebooks etc. had arrived a bit late, and of the four official election workers (two from each party) and the Presiding Judge for our precinct, only two had any recent experience setting up and running a voting table, and it showed in the time it took to get things arranged and rolling. I introduced myself to the six people with whom I would spend the next fourteen hours, pulled up a plastic cafeteria chair behind the voting table, and set about to "observe".

News Flash - Turnout was huge. By the time we logged in our first ballot at 6:45 the line was out the door, through the lobby and out the outside doors. We had no letup in the stream of voters until almost 2 o'clock.

I had checked out the "unofficial" personnel outside the polling place when I first came in, and took an additional stroll out there later in the morning to observe how the MoveOn.org and ACT activists and Democratic organizers were functioning. (My charter to check off the names of each and every voter on my roster didn't allow for many or long breaks from the table.) The activists were camped in the parking lot of the polling place with tables set up barely beyond the required 100 feet from the front door of the building. They were clearly "electioneering", handing out Kerry pamphlets and lists of all the Democratic candidates. Two men were wearing neon green T-shirts with the words "Got Questions? - Ask Me" across the front, clearly hoping to be perceived as official election workers, and succeeding in having verbal contact with a large percentage of voters approaching the building. These same non-officials ignored the 100-foot limits outside, came into the building at will, walked into the actual voting area, talked with voters, asked Presiding Judges for "counts", reviewed lists of voters posted on the walls, and generally acting as if they had the run of the place. I expressed some concerns about the legality or propriety of these activities to the Presiding Judge, as did some of the election officials from the other two precincts. They had words with the judge, and for the most part stayed outside after that.

While they were milling around the voting room, one of the neon green guys came over to me and asked me if I was an "approved election official". I replied, "I'm the Republican Party observer" He asked "Not a challenger?" I repeated my statement. He walked away.

But despite what might be characterized as overzealousness on the part of the Kerry people outside and inside the polling place, the actual voting was inspiring, even exciting for me. There was an intensity and an urgency in the room that I had never experienced in a voting place before. Lots of pride showing...the good kind. There was a little defensiveness with some people as they approached the table. Sort of an "I dare you to tell me I can't vote" attitude, which invariably dissolved into relaxation when their names appeared on the voter lists and their ballots were handed to them. But there were lots of Rockwellesque scenes too, like the 60-year old man proudly escorting his frail 85-year old mother to her voting booth. It was very, very cool. And we were all excited about the numbers, even this Republican, who kept silently wondering where the precincts might be that could balance out what I assumed would be a heavy majority in this one for the Senator from Massachusetts.

Early in the day the wait was as long as 45-50 minutes in line, and on average, it was probably about 30 minutes. I did not see one person step out of line to leave. These citizens were on a mission, and were generally friendly, but serious. When they reached the voting table,nearly everyone in line was still clutching the "Vote Democratic" handout listing the names of all the Democratic candidates that they had been handed in the parking lot. Many commented that they had never seen turnout like this, and perhaps 5% admitted that they were voting for the first time. These folks were given gracious assistance by the election team. I had no responsibility for communication with voters at all relative to the voting process. Outside of eye contact and smiles, and a bit of small talk about the Browns game this week, or a question about how long their wait had been, I limited my communication to the team at the table.

It was a tough job for the election workers who were constantly pushing themselves, conscious as they were of the long wait being endured by the voters in line. My frustration was not being able to help out much, since as observers we were strictly forbidden to so much as touch any ballot, registration log, official voter list, or anything that would have allowed us to assist in a substantial way. I couldn't even sit in for a couple minutes to give one of these guys a bathroom break. I tried to help a little bit by listening for the voter's name, and then after checking it off on my own list, enunciating it and/or spelling it for the official who had to look it up on the master voter list. This yielded mixed results, so after a while I settled for being the official supplier of Snickers bars and Goldfish crackers for the team, and quietly filling in my RNC report.

I can't say enough about how the precinct team went out of their way to do right by each and every voter. Like the two gentlemen precinct workers who ably assisted the first-timers with their voting, without so much as a hint of impropriety. If a voter had waited in line only to find out when he got to the table that he had the wrong precinct, we had one woman who took it upon herslf to negotiate "cuts" in the line at the other precinct table, so the voter wouldn't have to wait in line all over again. That's one of dozens of examples of that kind of accommodation.

It became obvious early in the day that the turnout might be some sort of record. The precinct team started to take a certain pride in the numbers, celebrating as the hundred ballot milestones passed by. By the time we finally had a break in the line of voters, it was nearly 2:00 p.m., and we had "voted" some 450 citizens. Eight hours in, seven people who had started the day as total strangers were tight. This mixed-race, mixed-party team had an emotional buzz going, because as stressful as it had been, things were going without a hitch. By that point in the day, we had given out about 15 provisional ballots, and if I recall correctly, all of them were either for voters who had registered too late to be included on the master voter lists, or who had recently moved to the precinct. Not ONE voter had been challenged by an election official or by a party observer. It was about that time that a fresh batch of Democratic (MoveOn.org?..ACT?) activists and Ohio Democratic Party operatives showed up and began to inject themselves into the process.

There must be something about fluorescent chartreuse with these people, because we started to see voters coming in with flyers in that lovely shade that the new arrivals were handing out in the lobby, with the heading "YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE" in a typeface large enough to read from across the room. (I guess these were for those people who showed up at the polling place on Election Day who were unaware that they had the right to vote here in America.)

There were five or six of them this time around, a mix of men and women mostly in their thirties, who spent a few minutes interviewing voters out in the lobby before strolling into the main voting area. Some were wearing large nametag identification badges with "Voter Protection" on them. They didn't seem like happy people, and they paced around the room scowling as if something was very wrong. A couple of the V.P. women came right up to our voting table, and seemed to look me up and down, I suppose checking to see if I had a "Voter Kidnapping" badge on. They then took chairs adjacent to our voting table and proceeded to scan the room for telltale signs of intimidation. Excuse the sarcasm, but these people had walked in with the attitude that they were spoiling for a rumble, and it was in such contrast to the prevailing attitude in the room all day that it was striking and distressing.

A serious looking young man with a clipboard, who had arrived with the Voter Protection folks, approached my Democratic counterpart, a meek little girl not a day over 22, from whom I had been able to wring about a dozen words of conversation in eight hours of trying. They shared a few quiet words and left the room, for a consultation I guess. Within a few minutes, clipboard guy was back with some questions for me.

"What's your function here? Are you a credentialed election worker?" With all the civility I could muster, I asked in return, "And who are YOU?"

He identified himself as being with the Ohio Democratic Party, and returned to the interrogation. "What's your name?" Not sure of what information I was required to give him, but assuming it was zip, I just said "My name is Dan, and that gentleman over there is the Presiding Judge for this precinct. I suggest you ask him if you need any more information about me or my credentials."

He offered that he just might do that, since as he said "we've had some voters here today who have been denied their rights. Some people were asked for identification, and you have no right to do that."

I could only reply with an incredulous "Oh, really?", but what I was thinking was more like...

Oh, really? Because that would be big news to the seven people at this precinct who have been here since 6 o'clock this morning assisting these wonderful citizens in the exercise of their franchise to vote, and have successfully completed that process for some 450 people so far, without so much as a whimper of dissatisfaction from any ONE of them about their treatment by this fine group. It would be big news because not ONE voter has been challenged in eight hours of non-stop voting, either by an election worker or by a party observer. Not ONE voter has been asked to produce identification if the name they gave us appeared on the voter registration lists, although dozens if not hundreds of them have arrived at the voting table with their Drivers Licenses, picture ID's or Voter Registration Cards in their hands, presenting them voluntarily to assist the volunteer election worker in determining or spelling their names or confirming their addresses. And it takes a lot of nerve, cynicism and self-importance for you to show up for ten minutes at 2 o'clock in the goddamn afternoon, talk to a couple people and start throwing around accusations that impugn the integrity of this process and these people who have been busting their asses all day long already, and have six hours yet to go. Sideways with the clipboard, pal.

Or something like that.

Two nice men from the County Board of Elections stopped by to check on things shortly after this, and asked the "protection" folks for some written credential that would permit them access inside the polling place. They were unable to produce any document, and were asked nicely to leave.

I didn't know what to expect coming in. We hoped that the presence of observers from both sides would help deter vote fraud, and I think that the program is worthwhile, and should continue. The party observers certainly were incidental to the proper functioning of this particular precinct, and my personal contribution was no doubt negligible. But it's the only precinct I can speak for.

Looking back now, I do think that there may have been 2 or 3 people who stepped up to our table on Tuesday who weren't the people that they claimed to be. There were a couple of signatures that didn't match up well at all with the ones on file in the book. They occurred later in the day, and the experienced hands at the table, both Republican and Democrat, were disinclined to challenge on the basis of a shaky signature comparison, after all we had been through that day. A judgment call.

We had only 24 provisional ballots cast all day, and the availability of that option I think, allowed us to avoid what otherwise might have been one or two contentious situations. We can't prove anything here...let the Board of Elections sort it out. As long as the provisional ballot numbers don't overwhelm the capability of election officials to do that sorting out, it's a system that I think can work, with some tweaking.

We were instructed to stick around afterwards for the counting of ballots and ballot stubs, and I did stay for part of it. But it sure wasn't because I felt I needed to be there to help assure the integrity of the process. I had arrived at 6 in the morning, and by noon I would have trusted any one of those six other election workers with my wallet, my children, and the keys to my house. I have the utmost faith in them, and in 99.99% of the voters I saw come through. This process, and the civic commitment of the people who work it, are American treasures.

I am not as sure of the integrity of some of the other activities undertaken by partisan outsiders to the process, whose actions were not supervised or monitored, and whose numbers are too great to expect Board of Elections staffs to control them.

New Voters vs. Converts

John Podhoretz has this analysis in today's N.Y. Post:

...On Tuesday, 9 million more votes were cast than in 2000. On Tuesday, Bush received 8.3 million votes more than he did in 2000. If those 8.3 million Bush voters who weren't there for Dubya in 2000 all came from the big pool of new voters, then Democrats should start getting ready to pack it up and move to France. Why? Because a Republican president has increased his ballot total by 15 percent simply by creating new Republican voters who didn't exist before. This is potentially catastrophic for the Democratic Party. It will go into the next two national elections (in 2006 and 2008) with a Republican electorate 15 percent larger than it was four years ago. But look. It's highly unlikely that every new Bush voter came from the overall new voter pool. It's safer to assume that new voters split the way the overall electorate split, 51-48 in favor of the president.

Under this scenario, John Kerry deserves congratulations for receiving about 4.3 million votes that didn't exist when Al Gore ran for president four years ago. But before Democrats start sending Kerry congratulatory telegrams, they should consider this: Bush only got 4.7 million from the new-voter pool, then his historic total means he got another 3.6 million votes from people who voted Democratic in 2000.

So if you figure the new voters broke 51-48 in favor of the president, you also have to figure that George W. bush took a whopping 7 percent of Gore's 2000 vote total away from the Democrats. Democrats can and should console themselves with the thought that they can get those voters back. If someone has pulled the Democratic lever before, there's reason to think they can go Democratic again under the right circumstances and with the right candidate. But to do that, Democrats will have to accept reality. And the reality is this: Democrats voted for Bush in large numbers because they like him. They admire him. They want him to be president. They don't think he's an idiot, a fascist, a warmonger, a religious fanatic, a kook, a liar, a cheat, a monster, a bad guy. They think he's done a good job. The Democratic Party has spent four years demonizing George W. Bush, and in part because of their stupid, useless, senseless negativism, Terry McAuliffe & Co. lost 4 million voters.

November 3, 2004


Google News main page ran this headline over their lead story on the election at about noon today:

"Bush Wins 2nd Term, as Kerry Concedes"

As if the latter were a necessary precondition for the former. I know it's just spin, but it's so damn consistent. The gracious concession by the Senator allows Mr. Bush to claim victory. What a guy.

Post Election Quotes

A sampling of stuff I've read online today...

Jonathan Last - If Kerry can reach down deep, he could do one last service for the Democrats: Break the fever. If Kerry graciously and promptly concedes, reaches out to Bush, and reaffirms that our true enemies are the Islamist monsters committed to the destruction of Western civilization, he could help push the Democrats out of the fever swamp and back into the mainstream. He could position Democrats so that their political interests no longer run counter to American success in Iraq and the war on terror.

William F. Buckley -Two years after Dukakis was hailed as Democratic liberator, I had to ask a companion who was the unprepossessing but faintly familiar figure sitting at the other end of the table. Yes, it was Dukakis, of course. Kerry will be recognized more easily because his face is more distinctive, though if the events of Tuesday make his face more drawn than it now is, Teresa should will the cadaver to the Smithsonian.

Rich Brookheiser - It is a shame that the election was jeopardized by Bush's stubbornness and cockiness, and the inarticulacy arising from them, in the presidential debates. He is an excellent schmoozer one on one, and he can give good set-piece presentations. But he feels no need to, and has very little skill in, keeping up an argument. We suffer from this in other ways, apart from elections - in our diplomacy, chiefly. This won't change, because Bush can't change; we must take the bitter with the sweet. But we should acknowledge it.

Silflay Hraka - John Edwards lost the race for vice-president, and his vacant Senate seat was filled by a Republican. I call this "adding insult to personal injury."

John Derbyshire - The big gloat...must be directed at our enemies. How they wanted Kerry to win! How they must be sunk in gloom in their caves and hideouts and seedy rented rooms! They knew that, for all his podium salutes and tough talk, Kerry would be another Jimmy Carter, another groveller, another guilt-addled cringing apologizer for America's sins, past and present. Now, instead of a boneless wonder, they are faced with a resolute and determined opponent, a commander-in-chief who actually inspires his troops, and who knows that, as Winston Churchill usefully noted, you can't win wars without fighting.

David Horowitz - What this election shows is that the reign of the Cronkite media is over. Maybe it's talk radio; maybe it's Fox; maybe it's the Internet. But whatever it is, the American people have an alternative information source to the leftwing fog machine that has dominated our national life since the war in Vietnam. This is good news for the American future.

Dick Morris - Why did the exit polls show such a Democratic win when the Republicans were ahead all along? Why did they bias the coverage in the favor of the Democrats when Bush was winning from the beginning?...

...Exit polls are almost impossible to get wrong this way... So why were the exit polls wrong?

That an exit poll is always right is an axiom of politics. It is easier to assume that a compass is not pointing north than to assume that an exit poll is incorrect. It takes a deliberate act of fraud and bias to get an exit poll wrong. Since the variables of whether or not a person will actually vote are eliminated in exit polling, it is like peeking at the answer before taking the test.

But these exit polls were wrong. And the fact that they were so totally, disastrously wrong is a national scandal. There should be a national investigation to unearth the story behind the bias.

Jonathan Last - The 2004 election may not be over, but it is finished, and Wednesday-morning quarterbacking always makes results look perfectly rational. At every point in the campaign (save the first presidential debate) John Kerry was the candidate who had the embarrassing iconic moments: windsurfing, botox, fake-tan, Swift Boats, Mary Cheney, $87 billion, saying "fuck" in Rolling Stone, "global test," goose hunting. Every Dukakis-in-a-tank moment in this campaign belonged to Kerry. And when you lose a race, all anybody ever remembers are the Dukakis-in-the-tank moments.

Andrew Leonard in Slate - As I survey the wreckage of the lefty blogosphere Wednesday morning, it is easy to wonder: How could I, how could we, have been so wrong? How could the confidence and jubilation generated by the thriving communities at blogs like Atrios' Eschaton and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga's Daily Kos so thoroughly have evaporated into self-recrimination and despair?...

I enjoyed following the commentary on such sites during the presidential debates almost as much as I enjoyed watching John Kerry win them. And there's no question that the lefty blogosphere proved to be an effective fundraising mechanism. But I feel now much like a kid who ate too much Halloween candy -- there's a taste in my mouth that tells me I overdosed. I fell victim to one of the Internet's most seductive illusions: the false reassurance of the echo chamber.

Ed Morrissey - ...Pelosi's leadership has been the ruin of her party. She has helped perpetuate the poisonous atmosphere in DC, and her ungracious comments today as well as her knee-jerk reaction to blame everyone but herself for her failure will not appeal to a campaign-weary American electorate. The Democrats need to quit demanding bipartisanship and start exhibiting it, and they need real leaders willing to work across the aisle rather than spit across it. If the Democrats want to compete in 2006, they need to jettison the Pelosis, McAuliffes, and Carvilles of their party now.

The Five Hour Turnaround

There were lots of long faces at RNC headquarters in Akron when I stopped in there tonight at about 8:30 p.m. to drop off my report. It might have been because they too had all been up since 5 a.m. and had been through a long, emotional day that looked at that time to be ending badly for the President. High voter turnout and early reports of exit polling that favored Kerry had everyone at Bush-Cheney looking drained and down.

I had just spent the day in a city-run community center in the heart of this Democrat-dominated city, working as a Republican poll observer in a precinct that probably voted for Kerry to the tune of 9 to 1 over Bush (although I have no real way to validate that statement...it's just a "feel") Our turnout was huge, with over 65% of registered voters casting ballots. I was told that that number was probably artificially low, because those voter rolls have not been purged of dead or moved voters in years, so the actual rate of participation may have approached 75%.

There is much to report about my experience on Election Day, but that will have to wait until after I get some sleep, and spend some time at work, both of which I have shirked to an unhealthy degree in recent days. For now, it's enough to report that I have stayed up late enough to see Mr. Bush surge back from apparent defeat to nearly wrap up a second term. In the process, he has made the exit polling groups look silly, debunked the myth of the power of the "young, new voter", and turned the gloom at the RNC to celebration and anticipation. My sense of relief is exceeded only by my exhaustion.

November 1, 2004

Last Minute Strategy

Don't know about you, but I'm hoping for a steady, heavy rain tomorrow. Let's see how those "enthusiasm for the candidate" numbers work out. The forecast for our part of the world is "rain and thunder".

As the man says...heh.

Judge Bounces Poll-Watchers

I had a post all done last night about working as a GOP "poll watcher" on Election Day here in battleground Ohio. At the last minute however, I decided not to post it. By Sunday night it seemed that lots of attention was being paid to the issue of the Ohio poll-watchers, as all parties awaited the decision of the federal judge on the matter. I didn't want to post anything that might have the potential to be used by the opposition to undermine the good faith efforts of hundreds of Ohioans who had volunteered along with me.

Forget that it would have marked the first time anyone on a national level had ever paid attention to this relatively obscure blog. I was figuring on Murphy's Law prevailing. We were aware that the Democrats would be poised to try any and all tactics and pretenses to get the GOP observers thrown out of the polling places, so we were on our guard not to give them any excuse to do so.

I had expressed some of my reservations about the GOP poll monitoring program in an earlier post, but that was before I really knew what was involved, and what our role as "credentialed" election officials was to be. And I didn't sign up to do this so I could blog about it anyway. I signed up as one way I could help contribute to the re-election of the President, and to do my part to help deter and/or identify vote fraud.

Now that a judge has ruled against allowing the poll-watchers in Ohio voting places, it looks like I'll have to go to work tomorrow after all. There is an appeal in progress, and I suppose I could get a call tonight if the judge's decision is overturned, but the tone of this report from ohio.com (Akron Beacon Journal) makes it appear that a successful appeal is unlikely. Indeed, even the top two State officials involved, both Republicans, don't agree on the desirability of using poll-watchers in this election. Seems they are likely opponents in the race for Governor in 2006. Go figure.

It was very interesting though, how the Beacon Jornal reported the judges decision in its online version (since removed) this morning. They reported that the judge had ruled that the presence of "GOP voter challengers" would be unconstitutional, making no mention that the other party would have a counterpart for every Republican present in the polling place. The Cincinnati Post got a hold of one of the training manuals used to orient the GOP poll-watchers, and put out a summary of it today, distorting much in the process. Here's how they characterized the criteria for a voter "challenge":

The 26-page pamphlet outlines general guidelines for challenging voters, including when an individual's name was not on a precinct's poll list, when his signature did not match the one in the poll register, when first-time voters had inadequate identification, when individuals appear to not be of legal voting age and when the person may have requested an absentee ballot.

First of all, the charter was never to simply challenge a voter in ANY of the above circumstances. Voters whose names are not on the precinct lists (perhaps those who have registered since 1/1/04 or have recently moved into the precinct) DO have to provide a picture ID or other document; a check stub, utility bill or other document that shows a precinct address. To observe whether or not this requirement is being fulfilled as a matter of practice in that polling place is a legitimate function of an election observer, and can be done without "challenging" anyone.

If the list of registered voters showed that a person had requested an absentee ballot, they should in practice be given a provisional ballot instead of a regular ballot, and those provisional ballots must be put into a different colored envelope, and kept in a separate location from the regular ballots. Observing whether or not this required practice was being followed by election workers was something we were alerted to do, again without challenging any voters.

Indeed we were told to get explicit direction from party officials by cell phone, on a case-by-case basis before challenging anyone. And of course, anyone who had been challenged could have voted by provisional ballot, pending resolution of any questions, thereby assuring that nobody ws "disenfranchised".

In other words, our charter was to observe, document, ask questions of the presiding judge at the polling place if we had concerns about how the process was proceeding, and get direction from party officials if we observed practices that we knew to be at odds with election laws and accepted practices. When I met with 300 or so other volunteers for a 3-hour meeting on Sunday afternoon, who had along with me agreed to work a 14-hour day at the polls on Tuesday, I didn't see a bunch of "Republican crusaders" as Michelle Malkin characterized us today (Peace, Michelle, you're still my hero). I just saw regular people who support the President, and were willing to work with the campaign in whatever way they could. Nice people. Grownups. People who value our electoral system and perhaps feel it losing its integrity, and want to help do something about it. OK, come to think of it, maybe we are crusaders in that respect.

UPDATE: Oops, my bad. As of about 8:30 p.m. EST, Fox News announced that a federal appeals court judge has overturned the earlier ruling barring poll observers from Ohio polls. Looks like we're on for Tuesday.

50 Reasons

50 Reasons to vote for George W. Bush - A Pictorial (via INDC)

Mark Steyn

I did say Mark Steyn, didn't I?