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December 31, 2004

Lasers and Airplanes

The incidents of lasers being aimed at and into the cockpits of commercial jetliners in recent days have law enforcement officials and air travelers concerned. While the incidents seem unrelated, relatively benign, and are not thought at present to be terrorism-related, they are still potentially dangerous, especially for their potential to cause serious eye damage to pilots and others. And the Chinese have manufactured and sold military grade weaponized laser systems designed to "blind" aircraft pilots, and it is entirely possible that these systems have been sold to people who would do us harm.

A blog that is relatively new to my blogroll, this isn't writing, it's typing, has informative posts on the subject here and here , including links to additional posts by Michelle Malkin and others. There have been at least seven reported incidents since Christmas Day. Could that mean that kids who got lasers for Christmas are just fooling around with their new toys? If that's the case, why the concentration on airliner cockpits?

UPDATE 1/1: A related post here (via Instapundit) that while offering a different take, unfortunately isn't terribly reassuring.

At Long Last

Reknowned Yankee-hater Jim Caple sees light at the end of the tunnel for those long-suffering fans now that they've acquired Randy Johnson...

Trading for the best left-hander of his era should restart the Yankees dynasty and bring an end to New York's too-long stay as baseball's "lovable losers." Perhaps no other fans have ever suffered as much as Yankees fans have recently -- they haven't seen their team play a World Series game in more than a year.

"Now I know how Cubs fans must feel," one New York fan said while standing in line to buy officially licensed "2005 World Championship" T-shirts after the Johnson trade was agreed upon. "I spent Christmas Eve sitting by my father's hospital bed and just before they wheeled him in for surgery, he grabbed my hand, looked up at me with tears in his eyes and said, 'I just hope I live long enough to see the Yankees win the World Series one more time.'

"Fortunately, he was only undergoing cosmetic surgery and he's just 56 and healthy as a horse but I know exactly what he meant. Yankees fans have suffered long enough. When's it going to be our turn?"

Their turn should be next year, with the addition of Johnson, the five-time Cy Young winner.

It's all good, so check it out. Caple and I are soulmates.

Rehashing Election '04

Just got done reading Joshua Muravchik's detailed analysis of the 2004 election in the new print version of Commentary, and was glad to see Taranto had linked to the online article, (which I wasn't able to view without sending them some more money). Muravchik deals more with how John Kerry lost in 2004 and only secondarily with his title, "Why The Democrats Keep Losing".

He does cite the Party's ongoing inability to articulate "a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.", in the words of Kerry speechwriter Andrei Cherny. Also complicating the Democrats' long term problem is the waning view among Americans that Democrats are preferable to Republicans on economic policy. Add to that the demographic shifts of population from blue to red states and the picture is one of possible long term Republican dominance, at least in Congress. Read it all.

Journalistic Triage

Browsing freerepublic.com this morning, I came across this 2001 satire by Rand Simberg that I had not seen before. Let's just say it holds up well three years out. Here's a taste:

At the entrance the doctors, assisted by editors, are performing triage. They quickly sort through the injured, making snap decisions to place them in three categories: those who can be quickly bandaged up with some minor counseling and facts, and sent back to the front; those who continue to pontificate under the burden of so much maleducation and inability to think, and so many wrong ideas, broken syllogisms, and inappropriate conclusions, that they are beyond redemption; and those who are grievously confused, but can be saved with immediate attention.

The first thing that strikes you when you enter the infirmary is the smell. The stench assaults the nose--it's a pungent blend of moldering printer's ink and decaying sanctimony.

On Stinginess

Dan Drezner assembles some numbers and sorts them out. See also Bruce Bartlett. (via RCP)

UPDATE 12/31: President Bush has noted something of the extent of U.S. involvement in disaster and humanitarian relief worldwide, just this year alone:

Mr Bush said yesterday that, in 2004, the United States had contributed $2.4 billion (£1.3 billion) in food, funds and humanitarian relief, 40 per cent of the global effort for disasters for the year. "We're a very generous, kind-hearted nation. What you're beginning to see is a typical response of America."

Need A Little Good News?

No, it's not a Chrenkoff post. I realize it's been a tough week newswise for optimists, (and I have avoided posting anything tsunami-related, though I'm not sure why. See Belmont Club here and here and Normblog for interesting and unique posts on that front). But Radley Balko has a piece up at Fox reminding us that all is not coming unglued just yet. Here's a sample:

-America is healthier. Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high among men and women, black and white. People at every age can expect to live longer than anyone at their age in U.S. history. Heart disease, cardiovascular disease and stroke have fallen dramatically in the last 15 years. Incidence of, and deaths from, cancer have dropped every year since 1990.

-America is cleaner. Concentration levels of every major air pollutant have dropped dramatically since 1970, even as we drive more, consume more, and produce more. According to data analyzed by the Pacific Research Institute, U.S. water has been getting steadily cleaner for the last 20 years.

-The world is less violent. In his book, "A History of Force," the historian James L. Payne argues that when you adjust for population increases, over the course of history, the average citizen of the world has grown less likely to die a violent death caused by government, war or his fellow man. War, murder, genocide, sacrificial killing, rioting - all have tapered off over time.

Lots more where that came from. And speaking of optimism and hope, read Peggy Noonan too:

For the new year, two thoughts. Remember it can all be swept away in a moment, so hold it close and love it while you've got it. And may we begin 2005 pondering how much we have in common, how down-to-the-bone the same we are, and how the enemy is not the guy across the fence but the tragedy of life. We should try to make it better.

If it's the economy that has you concerned, there's Larry Kudlow (Mr. Sunshine) to bring you comfort:

Here are a few simple facts. In the six quarters after Bush's tax cuts, real GDP expanded at a 4.6 percent annual rate, much faster than the 2.5 percent pace of the six earlier recovery quarters. Consumer spending jumped from 2.8 percent to 3.9 percent. Business investment in new plant and equipment surged to 13.4 percent from only 1 percent before the tax cuts. Personal income jumped to a 5 percent growth rate, nearly double the earlier speed of 2.6 percent. The average employment gain (combining both surveys) was 2.4 million compared with virtually no gain before the tax cuts.

Corporate profits, without which businesses cannot create jobs, now stand at a record $1.118 trillion - 56 percent above their recession trough, 25 percent above the prior recovery peak of the late '90s, and at a near-record 9.5 percent of GDP. Broad stock market averages have jumped 60 percent from their lows. Home ownership is at an all-time high, as are existing home sales. U.S. household wealth stands at a record $51 trillion.

Nowadays, amidst all this economic good news, the declinist rant has shifted to the twin budget and trade deficits. The former is declining even while import increases are widening the latter. Both, however, are sins of economic strength, not weakness.

Feel better now?

December 30, 2004

Alamo Blowout

The Bucks win big. Here's the story. And Ted Ginn Jr. is amazing. Too bad ESPN is on a mission to take down the Ohio State football program. The players deserve better than the treatment the network gave them tonight. More later on the big win and the ESPN obsession with tOSU.

December 29, 2004

Reform Is Not Enough For U.N.

It has not been a good year for the United Nations. And left to its own devices, it is unlikely to change anytime soon. From Opinionjournal.com, Claudia Rosett...

It is not simply changes in some of the staffing that are needed, or U.N. commissioned reports recommending that the U.N. "reform" by way of doing even more of whatever it does already. What's needed is something that among sovereign states we have come to call regime change--the basic alteration of a system that in its privileges, immunities and practices resembles rather too closely some of the dictatorships that still pack its ranks.

December 28, 2004

Hraka Rocks

Catching up a bit on some blog reading after the Christmas weekend, and Monday's family gathering, and this post by Bigwig at Silflay Hraka caught my eye. Now that pre-election concerns about helping the opposition are gone, the conservatives are airing their criticisms of the Bush Iraq policy more freely. Responding to a statement by Josh Marshall, Bigwig writes...

The reason "support for the war and the president who led us into it simply couldn't be pried apart" was not due to the blind partisanship of the Bush supporters, but rather to the dovish ineptness of the Kerry campaign. In November, thanks to the continued Democratic embrace of the anti-war Left, many American voters held the perception that, when it came to Iraq, they were not faced with a choice between differing strategies for winning the war so much as they had been given the decision to either continue the war or to abandon the effort completely.

Since the end of election, now that the biggest threat to bringing the war in Iraq to a successful conclusion has been defeated, American forces have been given at least another four years in which to succeed. Bush supporters no longer need to hold their tongues when it comes to critiquing the administration's conduct of the war. Frankly, in many minds, to have done so before November 2nd would have been nothing more than giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

The debate on Bush's Iraq and broader Middle East policies needs to be louder, broader and saner. (This terrific piece by Reuel Marc Gerecht is a good place to start). As the critics on the right become more candid and outspoken, one hopes that the critics on the left can become less shrill, hyperbolic and dismissive of every administration action or statement. Starting perhaps with some acknowledgement that there were legitimate national security interests, along with the humanitarian ones, that justified regime change in Iraq. That Clinton administration policy, longstanding international condemnation, seventeen U.N. Resolutions, and an untenable status quo all made a compelling case for regime change.

If a fresh new debate on U.S. policy is to begin with participation from both the political left and right, is it not fair to assume a starting point that acknowledges that U.S. motives were not imperialistic or otherwise malign, and that the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq are manifestly better off today than they were under the two brutal regimes that we deposed. That Bush policies have made us safer from attacks by Al Qaeda and others sworn to our destruction by, among other things, tracking them down and capturing or killing them.

Isn't it now a "given" that France and Russia, our principal opponents in the U.N. Security Council, and the U.N. leadership itself, were all too compromised by Saddam's payoffs under Oil-For-Food to be credible in their opposition to regime change? That under these circumstances, U.N.S.C. Resolution 1441 had no chance of being enforced short of a U.S.-led action, and Bush had no chance of obtaining the final U.N. approval of an Iraq invasion in the bought-and-paid-for Security Council.

When we draw up the ground rules for the debate, can we first agree that the liberation of 50 million people and the assistance in creating a whole new system of self-governance for them are good and noble things to have accomplished?

Can we start this new and open debate on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with just a few acknowledgements on these points from the left? Or do we have to start back at "Bushitler", and go from there?

December 27, 2004

Orange Power

The Associated Press coverage of the apparent victory for Viktor Yushchenko in the Ukrainian elections Sunday described the contrast between the reactions of two candidates' supporters...

Elated opposition supporters flooded Kiev's Independence Square, the center of protests after the Nov. 21 election that was beset with fraud allegations and eventually annulled. Music blared from loudspeakers and fireworks lit up the sky. In Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's home base of Donetsk, the streets were largely empty, with only a few people stumbling home from the bars.

In a celebratory post at The Corner, Michael Ledeen observes...

It's a dramatic and important moment, and the winning forces of the "orange revolution" are right to talk about democratic revolution. Here is yet another case where the forces of repression seemed to have all the advantages, including the reconstituted KGB and the full, cynical, support of a nasty Russian tyrant. Yet freedom won.

For those of us who have long preached the power of democratic revolution, it's a happy day, and I hope that our leaders draw the appropriate lessons:

--The mild support we gave to the democratic forces in the Ukraine proved far more powerful than most of the experts expected. The revolutionaries required a bit of guidance in the methods of non-violent resistance, a bit of communications gear, and many words of encouragement. They did the rest. The same can and should be done elsewhere in the world (Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, China, North Korea...)

--Our democratic values are shared by the overwhelming majority of the people in the world, and are rejected, sometimes violently, by tyrants and their followers. We need to stick to our principles, which means that we cannot blindly and compulsively support all the policies of individual anti-democratic leaders just because they help us...

--You can't always see the revolutionary forces inside oppressive countries, but, given a chance, they will emerge more often than not. We are the most successful revolutionary society in history, we have to stand with our people, everywhere...

...The "age of the second democratic revolution," which began with the death of Franco and continued through the fall of the Soviet Empire, is still very much with us. The cynical and exhausted leaders of France, Germany, and post-Aznar Spain don't believe in it, but they are increasingly irrelevant to world affairs.

A great day for freedom. If we do not flag, we'll have many more in the near future. (ellipses mine - Ed.)

December 26, 2004

It's All About Iraq

Don't miss Reuel Marc Gerecht's article "The Struggle for the Middle East". He looks at our strategy in Iraq, our options for dealing with Iran, and the issues in the broader Middle East including the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and recommends a course for U.S. foreign policy in all three situations.

I'm not put at ease by reading Gerecht's evaluations and suggestions, because the picture he paints is anything but rosy. But I always come away from his writing better informed and impressed with his command of the issues. At bottom, he says it all comes down to winning in Iraq, because if we let Iraq descend into chaos, we lose the whole ballgame. In order to get it right in Iraq, Gerecht says we must immediately recognize and remedy two glaring problems:

Senior officials, particularly within the Pentagon, ought now to be waking up each morning and telling themselves that the United States may well lose in Iraq in the next 6 to 12 months unless serious course corrections are made...

...The Bush administration ought to admit to itself two obvious facts. First, we are losing the "war of the roads" in Iraq. If the Sunni insurgency controls the principal arteries in and out of Baghdad and can kill with ease on major thoroughfares elsewhere, there is no way the United States and its Iraqi allies can win a counterinsurgency campaign in the country's heartland.

...Clearing the roads adequately, which means suppressing the occasional bombings, brigandage, and assassinations, really has nothing to do with "standing up" Iraqi security forces. If there is one kind of military operation that does not require much local knowledge, it's undertaking roadblocks, observation posts, and ground and air patrols. The military personnel required to perform this function 24/7 isn't small, but it is certainly within the capabilities of forces already present in Iraq if the Pentagon so chose to allocate these resources. It beggars the mind to believe that the U.S. military cannot deploy sufficient forces to secure the highway between Baghdad and the capital's international airport.

...Second obvious fact: The government of Ayad Allawi has failed. It is possible that Allawi and his list of candidates will do well enough in the January 30 elections to remain a force in Iraqi politics. The power of incumbency--the qa'id factor of Arab politics--is real, even in Iraq where the status quo isn't an electoral strength. The United States will, however, be enormously fortunate--even though many within the American government, particularly within the State Department and the Clandestine Service of the CIA, strenuously argue the opposite--if Allawi flames out in the elections, and the "Shiite list" backed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's preeminent divine, the rabble-rouser Moktada al-Sadr, and Ahmad Chalabi proves overwhelmingly triumphant.

Barry Funny

Be sure to read Dave Barry's summary of the events of 2004, "a year that was lower than a snake". It's long, but worth it, and has so many good lines that it's not really fair to excerpt it...except for this one these two...

OCTOBER...the Boston Red Sox, ending an 86-year drought, defeat the St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series, defying exit polls that had overwhelmingly picked the Green Bay Packers. The Red Sox get into the Series thanks to the fact that the New York Yankees -- who were leading the American League championships three games to none and have all-stars at every position, not to mention a payroll larger than the gross national product of Sweden -- choose that particular time to execute the most spectacular choke in all of sports history, an unbelievable Gag-o-Rama, a noxious nosedive, a pathetic gut-check failure of such epic dimensions that every thinking human outside of the New York metropolitan area experiences a near-orgasmic level of happiness. But there is no need to rub it in....

NOVEMBER...The post-election recriminations and name-calling continue for more than a week, until the public, realizing that there are still important issues that affect the entire nation, returns its attention to the Scott Peterson trial, which finally ends with the jury finding Peterson guilty of being just unbelievably irritating. The verdict means sudden unemployment for thousands of cable news legal analysts, who return to their caves to hang upside down by day and suck cows' blood by night until they are called for the next big TV trial.

Vintage Year For Democracy

The obvious examples of democracy at work in 2004 are Afghanistan and Iraq, but here Ralph Peters cites some of the less reported ones. As Ukraine and Venezuela demonstrate, it isn't always pretty...

Half a world away, the people of bitterly poor Mozambique flocked to the polls in December. The results favored sweat-of-the-brow progress over demagoguery. One of the world's poorest nations, Mozambique stood up proudly to prove that democracy isn't only for the Upper West Side. The media ignored this triumph of the human spirit.

In Venezuela, a referendum supported President Hugo Chavez, a man viewed by Washington as Castro-lite (with oil). Despite balloting mischief, the people spoke. We must respect their choice. Building global democracy isn't about short-term gratification for American presidential administrations, Republican or Democrat. It's about freedom, with all of its risks, errors and ultimate glory.

Even when we believe a foreign population has made the wrong choice, we should be grateful that they were able to make a choice at all. In the long run, democracy always benefits the United States of America. Patience is the one strategic virtue we need to cultivate.

December 25, 2004

Pharma Santas

Last year nine major pharmaceutical companies donated $2.135 billion in products and services to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, more than the total budgets of either the World Health Organization or the USAID Global Health Service, and approximately five times the amount spent by the European Commission. So why are the drug companies still vilified as "bloodsuckers" by certain elements of the left?

I give up. Maybe because they sometimes manage to make a profit despite these donations? Deroy Murdock crunches some more numbers.

December 22, 2004


Blogging has been light for the last few days, and that's likely to continue for a few more as Christmas approaches and our family is taking advantage of one of those increasingly rare opportunities to be together as a foursome.

I don't often drag my kids into this blog, because they might have to answer to someone for that association someday. But I'm sure proud of both of them, and this seems like a good occasion for some shameless bragging. Our 23-year old daughter is acting and directing with a Columbus, OH theater company that she co-founded as an OSU senior and has stayed with as a graduate. And our son is a computer engineer with IBM who will be heading to London this summer as a Webmaster for this project at Wimbledon.

So we're counting our blessings and enjoying our family time together. Hope you're all doing the same.

December 21, 2004

A Shame

Ohio State has suspended starting quarterback Troy Smith for next week's Alamo Bowl game. The reason for the suspension has been described only in vague terms as "violating team and NCAA rules and standards." It is serious enough however, that Athletic Director Andy Geiger indicated that "the university has petitioned the NCAA for Smith's reinstatement for the 2005 season."

My assumption is that this is a grades or some related academic issue. Smith was coming off a brilliant performance in the huge win against Michigan a month ago, and this news really knocks the pins out from under the Buckeye football team. Here's hoping the kid gets things worked out so that he can play next year. For now, he has to live with the fact that he let his teammates down.

UPDATE 12/21: In this follow-up piece at Bucknuts.com, Coach Jim Tressel and Andy Geiger discuss the suspension. Now it sounds like more of an NCAA rules infraction, as Tressel referred to players sometimes getting "bad advice". They don't seem to be worried about Smith's reinstatement for 2005 or any NCAA penalties for the school as a result of this incident.

Good News From Iraq - Part 17

Chrenkoff's bi-weekly compilation. If you don't have a couple hours (days?) to follow all the links and read it all, just browse a bit and get a feel for what's going on.

Washington Fiasco

Here's an account of the unbelievable series of events in the Washington state Governor's race last month. Will the Democrats be permitted to "find" new votes, and recount until they win? The WSJ, among others, suggests a do-over.

December 20, 2004


I guess there was never really any doubt that Cindy and I would venture out for the final Browns home loss today, but I'll admit to questioning my own sanity as we packed on layers of clothing to face the bitter cold to watch a bad team get predictably drilled. The day was miserable, the worst in recent memory for a Browns home game. Temperature at 8 degrees with a wind chill at about -10. Snow, high winds, and a 21-0 score. We lasted until the end of the 3rd quarter, and better than 60% of the crowd beat us to the exits.

But enough about the game. The occasion did allow us to wish Merry Christmas and goodbye-till-August to our friends in Sec. 129 who have suffered through six years of mostly bad football with us. We shared a few laughs about injured reserve lists, draft choices spent on long snappers, and potential ticket price increases, while the wind raked our cheeks to a bright crimson color.

The product on the field, much less the game result, mattered less to us than what became a fan solidarity demonstration in the stands. Because this is what we do on home-game Sundays in the Fall in Cleveland, even if that means we deserve to have a big "L" tattooed on our foreheads as punishment.

For Browns fans there is some sick satisfaction that in 2004 we have achieved the firing of our coach, a near-complete purge of our front office, an acknowledgement that we have very average talent, and the corresponding opportunity to pretty much start over again. Again.

That is cause for optimism in Brownstown. It means high draft position, and the possibility that the owner will hire someone with a clue about what to do with it. Looking across the field today to Marty Schottenheimer of the Chargers, Browns fans were facing the guy who got them closer to the Super Bowl than any other coach ever has. The fact that his team has completely turned its fortunes around in one year must also give Browns fans hope that it need not be a five-year plan we're about to begin with our new G.M. and coach next year.

Next year.

Around here, there are lots of experts on next year. It's what we do in Cleveland sports.

December 19, 2004

2004 Dishonest Reporting Awards

From Honestreporting.com, their fourth annual recognition of the most skewed and biased coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

December 18, 2004

Pay No Attention...

...to that man behind the curtain. The Wizard won't be coming back to Cleveland, the Baltimore Sun reports... (free registration required)

Ozzie Newsome will remain the Ravens' general manager and not become a candidate for the Cleveland Browns' vacancy, Ravens president Dick Cass said yesterday.

A Hall of Fame tight end for the Browns, Newsome was the architect of the Ravens' 2000 Super Bowl championship team. He was officially named general manager in 2002, although he had been in charge of personnel decisions for the Ravens since they relocated from Cleveland in 1996.

Under his direction, the Ravens have drafted nine Pro Bowl players in nine years and signed such key free agents as Shannon Sharpe, Rod Woodson, Sam Adams and Michael McCrary. This year, Sports Illustrated ranked him 15th out of 101 on its most influential minorities list.

"Ozzie has told us that he is very happy with his job here in Baltimore," Cass said. "He is also under contract with the Ravens for several more years and is not free to talk to another NFL team."

Newsome, 48, was reportedly at the top of the Browns' list to become general manager and received an endorsement from Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown.

Because Newsome is under contract, the only way he could leave would be with Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti's permission. Newsome is designated as the Ravens' top decision-maker, and under NFL tampering rules, he couldn't make a lateral move unless Bisciotti granted it.

Meanwhile, Ravens director of player personnel Phil Savage is expected to receive strong consideration in the Browns' search.

Savage has been linked with the Dolphins' front-office opening because of his longtime connection with Nick Saban, the frontrunner for Miami's head coaching job. But Saban likely will have full authority in personnel matters, and Savage would prefer to have the final say as a general manager.

Tom Heckert, V.P. of player personnel for the Eagles is one new name that has been linked to the Browns opening. He joins New England's Scott Pioli, ex-Green Bay front office man Mike Reinfeldt, the Titans' Floyd Reese, and the Ravens' Phil Savage as early candidates for interviews, which will likely have to wait until the regular season is over to begin.

I like what I've heard about Russ Grimm as a possible head coaching candidate. The ex-Hog is the Steelers offensive line coach at present, and is said to have the ambition and the ability to be a good head man.

December 17, 2004

China Collision Course

Asia Times Online reports on a crackdown on free speech by the Chinese Communist Party. The Internet has made it increasingly difficult for the regime to suppress political dissent. They have responded with detentions of activists and writers, many of whom think that something's got to give. The possibility of "harsher measures" by the government can't be ruled out. How very depressing... (via The Adventures of Chester) (ellipses mine - Ed.)

As intellectuals, activists and netizens continue to defy Chinese Communist Party efforts to maintain its monopoly on the truth, freedom of expression is coming under fierce pressure not seen in recent years...

...The sudden pressure comes at a time when party chief and President Hu Jintao has consolidated his political power. It had been hoped by many that he would be a moderate reformer (and in some cases he had shown himself to be one). Similarly, it was hoped he would take a kinder, gentler line when it came to media and free expression...

..."It's the same old story for us journalists," said a senior reporter at the state-run China Youth Daily, speaking to Asia Times Online. "The atmosphere is deadly, and it's certainly very discouraging." He spoke, like everyone interviewed for this article, on condition of anonymity.

"This is the worst things have been in three years," said an intellectual in Beijing...

...Wang said suppression of free speech could boomerang on the party. "If these rational voices are suppressed, then an irrational voice could emerge," he said. "And this will not be good for the political transformation of China."

So far, intellectuals and activists show no signs of backing down, and no one can predict the outcome...

..."Before he came to power, we had a lot of hope for Hu," said Wang. "Since then, we've not been so optimistic. We feel quite depressed."

But despite harassment, arrests and disappointments, Chinese continue to speak out via their local media, the Internet, the international media and during trips abroad. As writer Yu Jie told a group at Harvard University in May, "The best way to deal with an irrational and dictatorial government is for more people to speak the truth."

Goodbye, Christmas

Charles Krauthammer:

The attempts to de-Christianize Christmas are as absurd as they are relentless. The United States today is the most tolerant and diverse society in history. It celebrates all faiths with an open heart and open-mindedness that, compared to even the most advanced countries in Europe, are unique.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans are Christian and probably 95 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Christmas Day is an official federal holiday, the only day of the entire year when, for example, the Smithsonian museums are closed. Are we to pretend that Christmas is nothing but an orgy of commerce in celebration of ... what? The winter solstice?

Please read it all. Everybody and his brother has written something on the PC-driven cleansing of Christmas symbols from the public sphere. Krauthammer nails it.

More Warming

As a follow up to the Kyoto Trifecta post, we'll link you to Wretchard's look at environmental policy vs. environmental science, and the seduction and debasement of that science by political forces.

Then there's Mark Steyn's musings on what had been the routine comings and goings of species:

Evolution posits that species will come and go: some die out, some survive and evolve. I don't regard myself as anything terribly special but in a typical year I'm exposed to temperatures from around 98 degrees to 45 below freezing, in the lower part of which range I evolve into my long underwear.

Maybe if the Antarctic food chain is incapable of evolving to cope with a two-degree increase in temperature across many decades, it isn't meant to survive. Science tells us that extinction is a fact of life, and that nature is never still: long before the Industrial Revolution, long before the first lardbuttus Americanus got into his primitive four-miles-per-gallon SUV to head to the mall for the world's first cheeseburger, there were dramatic fluctuations in climate wiping out a ton of stuff. Yet scientists and their cheerleaders, the hyper-rationalists at the progressive newspapers, have signed on to the idea that evolution should cease and the world should be frozen - literally, in the case of Prof Peck and his beloved algae - in some unchanging Edenic state.

UPDATE 12/17: More from TCS...Kyoto is Dead!

The conventional wisdom that it's the United States against the rest of the world in climate change diplomacy has been turned on its head. Instead it turns out that it is the Europeans who are isolated. China, India, and most of the rest of the developing countries have joined forces with the United States to completely reject the idea of future binding GHG emission limits. At the conference here in Buenos Aires, Italy shocked its fellow European Union members when it called for an end to the Kyoto Protocol in 2012. These countries recognize that stringent emission limits would be huge barriers to their economic growth and future development...

..."I've been wondering if a cap and trade system for reducing carbon emissions would be successful," said Taishi Sugiyama, a senior researcher at Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry. "I think the answer is no. The market for carbon credits will likely shrink to be only within Europe after 2012." Sugiyama was participating in a panel discussion looking at "Options for post-2012 global climate regime". The consensus of the panel members including Henrik Hasselknippe of the Point Carbon trading consultancy, Jonathan Sinton from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Axel Michaelowa the head of the International Climate Policy Program at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics, was that the Kyoto process is over. Sugiyama flatly predicted that Kyoto signatories Canada, Japan, and Russia will withdraw from the treaty after 2012.

December 16, 2004

Lose, Lose

What do Bob Shrum and Mark Geragos have in common? They both get sliced and diced in this Ann Coulter column. And they have company. Like Gary Condit, Michael Jackson and certain commentators on the Peterson case...

...even Geragos and Sherman would never sneeringly dismiss evidence in a murder trial as "circumstantial evidence." Only nonlawyers who imagine they are learning about law from "Court TV" think "circumstantial evidence" means "paltry evidence." After leaping for the channel clicker for six months whenever the name "Scott Peterson" wafted from the television (on the grounds that in a country of 300 million people, some men will kill their wives), I offer this as my sole contribution to the endless national discussion.

In a murder case, all evidence of guilt other than eyewitness testimony is "circumstantial." Inasmuch as most murders do not occur at Grand Central Terminal during rush hour, it is not an uncommon occurrence to have murder convictions based entirely on circumstantial evidence. DNA evidence is "circumstantial evidence." Fingerprints are "circumstantial evidence." An eyewitness account of the perpetrator fleeing the scene of a stabbing with a bloody knife is "circumstantial evidence." Please stop referring to "circumstantial evidence" as if it doesn't count. There's a name for people who take a dim view of circumstantial evidence because they don't understand the concept of circumstantial evidence: They're called "O.J. jurors."

December 15, 2004

Kyoto Trifecta

Lots of Kyota discussion on the occasion of the U.N. climate change conference now underway in Buenos Aires. I saw this Bjorn Lomborg article from The Telegraph which suggests we have more urgent and practical ways to spend the same billions in public and private dollars to reduce human misery worldwide than by Kyoto implementation:

...the economic models tell us that the cost is substantial. The cost of Kyoto compliance is at least $150billion a year. For comparison, the UN estimates that half that amount could permanently solve the most pressing humanitarian problems in the world: it could buy clean drinking water, sanitation, basic health care and education to every single person in the world.

Lomborg, of Skeptical Environmentalist fame, has long argued for environmental programs to be viewed as but one of many important priorities competing for finite government resources. In other words, for a little sanity.

Then Andrei Illarionov, chief economic advisor to Vladimir Putin, states again that there is no consensus in Russia on the efficacy of the Kyoto accords:

Even with Russia on board, the Kyoto treaty will do little to global CO2 emissions considering that 70 per cent of the world's CO2 is emitted by countries not subject to Kyoto restrictions. Moreover, this share is growing as China, India and other non-Kyoto developed and developing countries grow faster than pro-Kyoto ones. Countries around the world must choose what is more important for them -- stagnating, at best, living standards due to Kyoto sclerotic regulations or the rising well-being of billions of people without them.

The Kyoto protocol requires a supranational bureaucratic monster in charge of rationing emissions and, therefore, economic activities. The Kyoto-ist system of quota allocation, mandatory restrictions and harsh penalties will be a sort of international Gosplan, a system to rival the former Soviet Union's. This perhaps explains why it finds such ready support in some quarters. But that's why it should be a warning signal for those who value economic and political freedom.

Back in July of this year, Illarionov's candor surprised me.

Reporting for NRO from Buenos Aires, TCS' Nick Schulz says lots of climate experts and governments are coming around to George Bush's way of thinking on Kyoto:

President Bush rejected Kyoto for a few simple reasons. First, it would impose significant economic damage on the American economy (a Clinton administration report on the costs of Kyoto put the tab at $300 billion per year). Second, the reduction targets and timetables were impractical from a technological perspective. Third, the treaty exempted developing economies such as India and China from any restrictions even though their emissions are rising rapidly. Instead, the Bush team under Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham charted a different course, which involved investment in basic research, technology transfer to poor countries, and bilateral agreements...

...on Monday of this week, the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, a key Kyoto cheerleader and a player in climate-change negotiations for years, issued a new report, "Climate Data: Insights and Observations." A co-author of the report, Jonathan Pershing of the World Resources Institute, said, "We are beginning to see more research on adaptation strategies in response to climate change." Adaptation means having the capacity to handle climate changes of any kind, and organizations like Pew are beginning to focus more on adaptation - as opposed to mitigation - in part because the emissions reductions called for in Kyoto are too costly and technologically infeasible.

December 14, 2004

Intel Reform Scorecard

Count me among the skeptical when it comes to intelligence reform legislation. When trying to solve the problems of hidebound bureaucracy and rampant careerism in government agencies, it seems to me illogical to add a whole new layer of bureaucracy to what you already have. A czar? Great.

In our system, it seems like we debate new legislation after it has passed, because beforehand nobody has read it all, including half of Congress. The half that has read it is deathly afraid of letting any constituents know how much pork is included in it, so they keep quiet too, until the deed is done. A week ago this WaPo editorial warned that Congress was acting hastily, and that many questions remained to be asked, much less answered.

Then we were treated to the comical spectacle of Congressmen like Jay Rockefeller railing about some supersecret provisions in the bill that were just awful, and if they were allowed to share with us what in the hell those provisions were, which of course they couldn't, we too would agree that they were well, really awful. This is helpful?

So now we're starting to find out what the reform bill does and doesn't do. Michelle Malkin links to two good articles from Christian Bourge of UPI and Joel Mowbray which attempt to keep score on that. On the immigration reform issue, which can hardly be separated from intelligence reform, Malkin has more here , and Mort Kondracke thinks there may be enough bipartisanship to get real immigration reform passed this term, if President Bush leads the way.

Andrew C. McCarthy says we've cleaned up some of the vagueness in the legal language defining what constitutes "material support" for terrorist organizations. And Ralph Peters says we need more people, not just more "stuff":

The Pentagon's stranglehold on purchasing decisions must be broken. We need more openness - and far more accountability. And we need more personnel in the intel ranks as surely as we need more soldiers and Marines.

But there's no constituency for people. Contractors profit from selling more stuff, not from government hiring. And contractors hire retired generals. Even Congress is more susceptible to the clout of the defense industry than to the real needs of our troops. Toss in top-secret-codeword classifications and all the intricacies of intel work, and no end of moral corruption can be hidden "behind the green door."

The best possible result of intelligence reform would be a ferociously aggressive director of national intelligence who demanded accountability from the Pentagon, scrutinized every pre-programmed purchase and recognized that people, not hyper-expensive gadgets, are the key to successful intel work in the 21st century.

My prediction? Business as usual.

Who'd bet otherwise?

December 13, 2004

Decline of Liberalism?

Here's an essay from The Chronicle Review by John Lukacs on how and why the word "liberal" has become a pejorative term. Not least among the reasons for what Lukacs calls the "collapse of liberalism" is the near universal acceptance of its principles:

On a nearly worldwide level, liberal principles, advancing through centuries, and particularly in the 19th century, have triumphed. There is less institutionalized injustice around the globe than ever before. The abolition of slavery; the promotion of universal education, universal suffrage, freedom, and equal rights for women; and the provision of health services, guaranteed help for the poor, popular sovereignty, etc., if not perfectly or everywhere, but at least in principle, have been widely adopted around the world...

But Lukacs says it's more than a sense of mission accomplished or a redefinition of the word "liberal" itself that have contributed to the decline of liberalism...

...there was the sense, more or less apparent, of a general disappointment with liberal ideals. There was the inclination, sometimes fatal, of liberals to take the ideas of the Enlightenment to extremes: to propagate a public morality devoid of, if not altogether opposed to, religion; to insist more and more on institutionalizing the promotion of justice, at times even at the expense of truth; to emphasize freedom of speech, often at the expense of thought; to make abortion legal; to approve same-sex marriages and affirmative action.

To an increasing mass of Americans, "liberal" began to mean -- rightly or wrongly -- a toleration, if not a promotion, of what many considered to be immoralities. That the private lives and the moral behavior of many self-professed conservatives hardly differed from those of their liberal opponents mattered not, at least until now.

Chrenkoff - Afghanistan

The essential Arthur Chrenkoff reports again on the Good News From Afghanistan. Among the many items noted or linked is this one describing how a group of Anchorage, Alaska thirty-somethings started a project to build schools for girls in Afghanistan. The Chrenkoff reports on Iraq and Afghanistan have become a source of hope and optimism for me, and I'm sure for many others as well. The generosity and good faith of thousands of Americans and our coalition partners seems boundless, and it inspires. Chrenkoff's reports make clear just how many civilians are involved in these rebuilding
projects, working either alongside our soldiers in the field, or making their contributions from back home. Thank you again Arthur, for what you do.

While you're visiting Chrenkoff, take a look at this post too. Arthur blogs from Australia now but is Polish by birth, and he remembers the day 23 years ago today, when martial law was imposed in Poland by the Soviets, via Gen. Jaruzelski. I suppose that explains some of his passion for the democracy movement in Iraq and Afghanistan. Ya think?

December 11, 2004

Is He Ozzie?

In his email newsletter this week, Terry Pluto has some thoughts on the Browns search for a General Manager, and whether or not Ozzie Newsome should be a candidate. And I have a few thoughts of my own on that subject.

First, Pluto:

Since I'm giving out FREE advice -- which my father used to say was usually worth exactly what you paid for it (NOTHIN') -- here's what Browns owner Randy Lerner should do:

- Find out if Ozzie Newsome is interested in coming home. So far, Newsome has been saying, "I have a great job." He doesn't want to alienate either the Baltimore Ravens or his old fans. I don't know what he thinks.

- I've heard some NFL people say Phil Savage picks most of the Ravens players, not Ozzie. Could be true. But Ozzie is smart enough to have hired Savage, promoted him and then used his advice. In the end, the drafts and free agent deals come down on Ozzie, and you can fairly judge his track record.

- One theory in Baltimore is if the Ravens can receive some top draft picks for Newsome, they'd let him go to Cleveland and promote Savage -- assuming Ozzie really wants to come.

- If the Ravens really value Savage and fear the Browns or someone else might hire him, this would be the time to put Savage in charge and then get something for Ozzie.

- Another theory is that Ravens don't want to do anything to help the Browns, so forget Ozzie.

- I would be willing to part with a first-round draft choice for Newsome, just as New England gave up a first-rounder to hire Bill Belichick. Here's why: I'm tired of watching first-round picks being wasted. Eight of Newsome's 12 first-rounders have made the Pro Bowl. THE MOST IMPORTANT GUY IN THE ORGANIZATION IS THE ONE WHO PICKS THE PLAYERS.

- People keep saying Ozzie would be a great PR move for the Browns. That's true. He'd be like a trusted father figure coming to town, saying, "OK, sons and daughters. I know you. We are all family. It's going to be OK.'' But even more important, OZZIE HAS A SOLID TRACK RECORD. HE KNOWS WHAT HE'S DOING.

- I still think Ozzie coming to the Browns is a long shot. But it's worth exploring before moving to the next step.

Pluto makes all the arguments for bringing Ozzie back to Cleveland, and I agree that it's worth exploring the idea. To me, that call hinges on the Browns ability to make the determination if it was Ozzie himself who has the demonstrated capacity to evaluate potential NFL talent, or if that ability has resided in people below him, like Phil Savage and others. Because "great P.R." doesn't win games on the football field. To a degree, Carmen Policy gave us great P.R., and we can see what good that did us for 2004 and beyond. And speaking of wasting first-round picks, that's what we'd be doing if we brought in Newsome (giving the Ravens a 1st rounder) without bringing in the Ravens' drafting expertise.

There are also a few reasons why Ozzie might just prefer to stay in Baltimore. Foremost is the one that says "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". Right now Ozzie is a hero in both Cleveland and Baltimore, having played his Hall of Fame career in one city, and brought a Super Bowl title to the other. That could change in both cities if he bolts for Cleveland and then fails to deliver a winner here. Ozzie might feel that his reputation could only suffer if he changed teams.

He must have known when he left town as an employee of the villain Art Modell that one day he might have a chance to return, but I doubt if he imagined this scenario. He was treated viciously by some fans here for supposed disloyalty by packing his bags when his employer moved away. (Better he should have resigned his promising career and his hard-earned executive position with Modell on some ethereal principle of fan solidarity, I suppose. Right.) He may feel that a certain segment of the fan base wouldn't ever get over that.

I assume that the job is his if he wants it. But I suspect he'll act flattered and then pass on it, trying his best to get his protegé Savage the job instead. Whatever he decides, I'm sure he'll conduct himself with his usual humility and classiness.

A Hell Of A Story

The inauguration of Hamid Karzai as the democratically elected leader of Afghanistan just three years after the fall of the Taliban is what Dick Cheney was calling "a hell of a story". Stephen Hayes was there, and he notes how the story got buried back in the U.S. But first he quotes from Karzai's inaugural address:

Whatever we have achieved in Afghanistan--the peace, the election, the reconstruction, the life that the Afghans are living today in peace, the children going to school, the businesses, the fact that Afghanistan is again a respected member of the international community--is from the help that the United States of America gave us. Without that help Afghanistan would be in the hands of terrorists--destroyed, poverty-stricken, and without its children going to school or getting an education. We are very, very grateful, to put it in the simple words that we know, to the people of the United States of America for bringing us this day.

Sadly, most Americans never heard these words. Gratitude, it seems, is not terribly newsworthy. Neither is democracy. The Washington Post played Karzai's inauguration on page A-13, a placement that suggested it was relatively less important than Eliot Spitzer's decision to run for governor of New York or the decision of the U.S. government to import flu vaccine from Germany.

This is an embarrassment. The foreign policy of George W. Bush will likely be remembered for two highly controversial decisions: (1) to eliminate not only terrorist networks but also the regimes that sponsor them, and (2) to cultivate democracy in the region of the world long thought least hospitable to it.

These are radical goals. And we may ultimately fail to achieve them. But with the removal of the Taliban and especially the inauguration of Karzai as Afghanistan's first democratically elected president, they can no longer be dismissed as naive or unrealistic.

Worth Celebrating

John Podhoretz on the post-election lull in his email, and the beauty of the American electoral system...

Something amazing has happened that is worth celebrating, even if you hate Bush - or even if you're a political columnist wondering why your e-mailbox isn't anywhere near as full as it was 39 days ago.

The United States held its 54th presidential election on Nov. 2. And it worked exactly the way elections are supposed to work. Partisans and ideologues on both sides went at it hammer and tongs. The election focused both on vitally important issues and on the crucial matter of the character of the man who would be president.

The differences between competing camps received a full and complete airing, and in the process the passions of the electorate were fully engaged.

Then, on Nov. 2, the electorate finally got its chance to speak. And it spoke. It spoke more loudly than it ever had before, with 120 million Americans participating. The yearlong controversy was resolved seven hours after the last polling place closed (in Hawaii), when John Kerry graciously conceded.

A fight was waged, and it was concluded. The pressure built up to a nearly intolerable level and the election released it. It's the glory of our system, and maybe 52 days from now the Iraqi people will experience some of the same relief after they go to the polls for the first time as a free nation.

Here's hoping.

December 10, 2004

Pluto on Pete

Radio sports talk pioneer Pete Franklin died a couple of weeks ago. I thought it a little crass that in the notice of his death in the Plain Dealer, the first word in the headline was "abrasive". He certainly could be that at times, but I suspect that the man portrayed in this remembrance by Terry Pluto is closer to the real Pete Franklin. As a teenaged sports nut in Cleveland, when the Indians weren't playing, it would be Franklin on the transistor radio in my room at night.

PD writer Bob Dolgan remembers that not everything Pete "pioneered" was positive:

Franklin was the first man to make a street fight out of Cleveland radio, using a mix of egomania, hokum and cruelty...

...Franklin once said his on-air personality was purposely obnoxious, as a form of showmanship, but few believed him. He appeared to enjoy his attacks too much to be faking it.

The occasional listener probably couldn't get past the bluster, and lots of people I knew refused to listen to even a minute of Pete's show. But I couldn't get enough talk and information about the players and the games of my home teams. In those years, Pete was the one way to get more than what the Plain Dealer was telling us about sports in this town. As Pluto notes, his mind was encyclopedic on sports trivia, and he bluffed when he had to. And at times, he could be really funny. In an abrasive sort of way.

December 9, 2004

Mass Graves


The next time you hear someone suggest that it was wrong to invade Iraq and depose Saddam Hussein, send them here, and have them look at 62 pages of photographs. (via Normblog)

Pictures of Everything

As indebted as I am to The Corner for quadrupling my traffic for a couple of days, I would have tipped my hat to them anyway for Jonah's link today to The Picture of Everything. Take a look. It's kinda cool.

Cooler yet is this amazing 2.5 gigapixel digital photo, the largest of its kind in the world. It's a panoramic shot of Delft, The Netherlands. Probably suitable for broadband users only, but fun if you're as easily awed as I am by digital technology.

Of course, Keyhole is way cooler than either of these other sites. Because Keyhole really does have a picture of everything. OK, just this planet. For now.

A Sober Assessment

I try to use the Google News page to give me a sense of how the mainstream media is reporting things. They will sometimes carry feeds from a right-leaning news source or two, but for the most part it's the standard fare from Reuters, The N.Y. Times, etc. One of the headlines the other day was from an article in the San Francisco Chronicle reporting on the President's speech to an assembly of U.S. troops in San Diego. It read:

"Bush acknowledges toll war taking on military / President offers Marines sober assessment of conflict's progress"

I probably wouldn't have clicked through to read the whole article if this phrase hadn't jumped out and grabbed me from the "teaser" paragraph:

President Bush offered an unusually sober assessment Tuesday of the war in Iraq, acknowledging that the insurgency is getting worse..." (emphasis mine)

Now that didn't sound like something George Bush would have said to a group of 7000 Marines, especially in the weeks following the taking of Fallujah, with some positive momentum gathering for the elections next month. (Even AS thinks so).

So I read the Chronicle piece, but found no quotes from Bush cited in it that sounded anything like an acknowledgement of a worsening of the insurgency. My suspicions aroused by now, I clicked on the email link to the article's author and dashed off a quick email to the reporter, James Sterngold. I told him I wasn't denying that the President had said the insugency was getting worse, since I hadn't read the whole speech, but that it seemed hard for me to believe that he had done so. I asked as politely as I could if I had somehow missed something.

I was a bit surprised to get a reply from him within a couple of minutes that simply thanked me for my note, and included a link to the full text of the speech for my convenience.

At least he was right about the "sober assessment" part. Of course, that has been Bush's consistent theme from the first day of the Iraq invasion. It will be difficult, we must stay the course, the enemies of democracy will not go quietly, etc.

Bush made several points showing that he remains very realistic and cautious about the situation we face in Iraq, specifically about the problems we have had with some troops from the Iraqi army, who have been and continue to be targeted for murder by the insurgents for cooperating with the Americans. Some of these newly minted Iraqi troops have not performed as well as we had hoped they would, Bush admitted.

But there was absolutely nothing in that speech that any sane and sentient English-speaking person could have taken as an acknowledgement by Bush that the insurgency was getting worse. Read it yourself, and tell me if I'm missing something.

Anyway, my next email to Mr. Sterngold wasn't as cordial as the first. I asked him if his editors routinely directed him to insert this kind of fabrication into his "news" pieces, or if he took that initiative upon himself. I know I shouldn't expect straight journalism from the state organ of the Peoples Republic of San Francisco, but this agenda-driving was so obvious and so shameless that I couldn't let it ride.

For most people, a major newspaper's account of the speech would be all they ever read, or cared to read. Every reader of that article now thinks that Bush said things were getting worse with the insurgency in Iraq. And that is an outright lie.

And that is outrageous.

Lawton for Rhodes?

CIR has everything you need to know about the rumor that the Indians and Pirates are talking about a trade of Matt Lawton for lefthanded pitcher Arthur Rhodes. I have been on record advocating a trade of Lawton if someone was willing to give us a dozen baseballs and a used glove for him, but Rhodes sounds like he might be washed up. You decide.

December 8, 2004

Humor on Steroids

Late night comedians are having fun with baseball's steroid scandal:

"Barry Bonds has admitted he used steroids, but he said he didn't know they were steroids, and today, in a related story, Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston said, 'That was cocaine!?'

First Place For Now

Just a reminder that the best basketball player on the planet plays here. Forgive me for savoring this brief foray into first place for the Cavaliers. It's been a long Browns season already. And it's been a long 40 years since a team from this town won a championship. I guess you'd have to go back to that time to make the claim that the best player in the game wore Cleveland colors. Anyhow, Brown was debatable then, and certainly my claim about LeBron is debatable today. For the doubters, let me just say this. He's nineteen. If he's not the best now, he will be soon.

At 12-6, the Cavaliers have the best record in the NBA's Eastern Conference -- the first time they've had that distinction after 15 games since March 21, 1989, when they were 48-17 and James was 4 years old.

There's a long way to go this season, but Cleveland is looking more and more like a legitimate power -- and James is the biggest reason why.

Baby steps.

Proof Of Poisoning


Two weeks ago, the BBC published these "before" and "after" photos of Viktor Yushchenko, suggesting that the dramatic change in his appearance could have resulted from intentional poisoning.

Now it appears that the only remaining question is "who did it?"
(via Drudge)

MEDICAL experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine's opposition leader, was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning, the doctor who supervised his treatment at an Austrian clinic said yesterday.

Doctors at Vienna's exclusive Rudolfinerhaus clinic are within days of identifying the substance that left Mr Yushchenko's face disfigured with cysts and lesions, Nikolai Korpan told The Times in a telephone interview.

Specialists in Britain, the United States and France had helped to establish that it was a biological agent, a chemical agent or, most likely, a rare poison that struck him down in the run-up to the presidential election, he said. Doctors needed to examine Mr Yushchenko again at the clinic in Vienna to confirm their diagnosis but were in no doubt that the substance was administered deliberately, he said.

"This is no longer a question for discussion," Dr Korpan said. "We are now sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim."

Asked if the aim had been to kill him, Dr Korpan said: "Yes, of course."

December 7, 2004

History Lesson

I strongly recommend this Michelle Malkin post for Pearl Harbor-related links and insights.

Not A Bleg

If you're here via K-Lo's link in The Corner, welcome!

What you'll find if you stay a while is a mixture of conservative politics and policy, alongside Cleveland and Ohio sports commentary.

My intent in posting this was definitely not to generate a response from NR (my lawyer hasn't been returning my phone calls) but thanks anyway K-Lo. The check's in the mail.

Three and Out

Phil Taylor of SI.com wonders what would have happened if some of the greatest coaches of all time had been given "the Notre Dame treatment".

Clarett "In Touch"

Well, you can't say the guy doesn't have balls the size of grapefruits. After Maurice Clarett and his willing accomplices at ESPN The Magazine splashed a fairly hollow story of improprieties at Ohio State across the pages of the magazine, making good on Clarett's vow to "get" the Buckeye program, he has apparently been trying to weasel his way back into the university's good graces. Talk about your uphill battle. From a report in today's Canton Repository (free registration required):

Word is that Clarett recently tried to patch things up with Ohio State. He supposedly called Geiger to say he was willing to apologize and admit he fabricated most of what he told ESPN The Magazine. In turn he wanted OSU officials to issue public statements of support in order to help his reputation for April's NFL Draft.

I do so hope that Geiger has a tape recording of that phone call for the NCAA investigators to hear. The purported reason for going to ESPN with his exposé in the first place was to buff up his image for the NFL General Managers. If he could convince them that he was but another pampered yet exploited star athlete at the big, bad football factory at Ohio State, then maybe they would see that he wasn't really a trouble-maker after all.

You see, he was just a victim, who had lied last year during the NCAA investigation into improper academic practices at the school, when he denied any improper behavior by Tressel, but says now that he had done so at the time only to protect Tressel and the program. You know, a good soldier.

Now, he is prepared to admit that he lied to ESPN this fall when he said he lied in 2003 to NCAA investigators about the absence of program improprieties. But he's only willing to admit these various lies if the OSU Athletic Department is willing to tell NFL people the lie that Maurice Clarett is something other than a liar. Hard to believe A.D. Andy Geiger didn't jump all over that deal.

Clarett continues to suffer from LeBron-wannabeitis. Most draft pundits say he's a Day 2 selection, (although I maintain he'll go no lower than the 3rd round). He has squandered what would surely have been a million dollar signing bonus, not to mention what might well have been a second National Championship at OSU in 2003. He's in full panic mode. He must sense that the ESPN article and their follow-up didn't get much traction (although it did get the NCAA back on campus) so he's back spinning once again.

(The full text of the Canton Repository article is at the link below for your convenience)

OSU, Clarett have been in touch

By TODD PORTER Repository sports writer

Even as Ohio State begins to prepare for the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, there is a sense among some close Buckeye observers they are waiting for the other shoe to drop.


As has been the case since he was suspended from Ohio State last season, former running back Maurice Clarett and ESPN The Magazine may not be finished with the Clarett scandal that rocked OSU a year after winning the national title.

Rumors have circulated for the last 10 days that Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel and/or Athletics Director Andy Geiger are on the hot seat and in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Geiger told The Repository on Monday there was no truth to that rumor — although he, too, has heard it.

“I just spent all day in Bricker Hall (OSU’s administrative offices) today and no one there seems to know anything about it,” Geiger said. “There is no truth to that whatsoever.”

Word is that Clarett recently tried to patch things up with Ohio State. He supposedly called Geiger to say he was willing to apologize and admit he fabricated most of what he told ESPN The Magazine. In turn he wanted OSU officials to issue public statements of support in order to help his reputation for April’s NFL Draft.

Ohio State supposedly declined the offer.

Geiger did not deny that such a scenario took place.

“There is always communication,” Geiger said when asked if he received a call from Clarett to patch up the relationship. “Beyond that, I cannot elaborate.”

If Clarett would rescind what he told ESPN The Magazine, it could lend credence to Ohio State’s assertion that the publication sought to tarnish the Buckeye football program.

Following Sunday’s Browns-Patriots game, Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown spoke to the media in Cleveland’s locker room. Brown was an adviser to Clarett during the NCAA investigation, but seems to have distanced himself from the Warren Harding graduate.

Asked what he made of Clarett’s recent comments about Ohio State, Brown shrugged his shoulders. Clarett told ESPN The Magazine that Tressel set him up with boosters who made sure he had money in his pocket and a car to drive. He also alleged tutors did class work for players.

Ohio State’s athletic department and football program were cleared of any wrongdoing in a months-long investigation by the NCAA after Clarett was suspended.

Brown saved his harshest criticism for Clarett and Geiger, and praised the job Tressel has done. Essentially, Brown said Clarett should have kept his mouth shut and not gone to ESPN The Magazine with the story.

“I think the whole thing is a tragic affair,” Brown said. “I think Geiger handled things improperly from the start. But I also think Maurice talked about things he should not have talked about. It’s a tragedy for everybody. Jim Tressel is a good man. He’s been my friend for a long time. I hope nothing happens to damage his reputation, and I hope Maurice can play in the NFL.”

Asked if he thought Tressel would break NCAA rules for Clarett, Brown did not address the question.

“I don’t get into that,” said Brown, who has publicly criticized the NCAA in the past. “I don’t know what the NCAA rules are anyway. I think their rules are ridiculous, so I can’t get into that.”

You can reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail:


Legal Disclaimer

This cartoon must be credited to National Review, because I shamelessly ripped it off from there. Consider it a test to see if anybody is reading this blog, much less someone from National Review. Much less somebody from National Review who gives a damn. But I liked it so much I just had to post it here at Wizblog. Didn't someone once say that theft is the sincerest form of flattery? So let the old chips fall where they may. Carry me off in chains to illegal downloaders prison. Besides, if a print and digital subscriber can't lift a little cartoon, who can? By the way, might I humbly suggest a subscription to this fine magazine? Thank you. Thank you very much.


December 6, 2004

The Big Loser

From The Weekly Standard

Whoever wins, Russian president Vladimir Putin is a clear loser. No matter what the endgame, Putin has suffered a serious setback because of the way he tried to deal with his most important neighbor. Putin's behavior has weakened Russia's influence in strategic Ukraine and damaged the Russian president's reputation in the West. It should call into question the Bush administration's embrace of the Kremlin leader.

December 4, 2004

That's The Ticket

"Why Liberals Think Conservatives Are Stoopid". This is an 18-month old TCS piece by Keith Burgess-Jackson. Found it via Baldilocks, and liked it enough to drag it over here. Enjoy. Or not.


When Notre Dame fired Ty Willingham the other day, a lot of eyebrows were raised. Appearances can be deceiving I know, but it sure looked like the availability of Urban Meyer, the Utah coach who had spent five years as a Notre Dame assistant, was a primary factor in the premature dismissal of Willingham. Meyer is this year's Next Big Thing, and he supposedly had a lifelong dream to coach the Irish. The alumni had to be salivating. Their only problem was that they already had a coach under contract. But they couldn't risk losing this Meyer guy to someone like the University of Florida. What was the problem again?

My own assumption was that enough back-channel contacts had been made to assure the Notre Dame people that they had Meyer in their hip pocket, and that all they had to do was create a vacancy before they made the public move to contact their new coach. Surely the Athletic Director who had embarrassed himself and the university three years ago in the George O'Leary mess wouldn't risk the certain wrath of the national media for firing a talented and honorable black coach in the middle of his contract unless he was sure he could deliver to South Bend the guy who could return the Irish to the glory days. Right?

Well, today the only guy in the world who looks more ridiculous than Notre Dame A.D. Kevin White is Barry Bonds claiming that he didn't know they were steroids. It is reported this morning that Meyer has accepted an offer to become the new coach at Florida. Jim Caple of ESPN's Page 2, is ruthless:

Notre Dame fired football coach Tyrone Willingham on Tuesday and with this one craven move, the Fighting Irish officially changed a famous saying inscribed on a campus building from "God, Country, Notre Dame" to "Notre Dame: Just Like Everyone Else."

The dismissal marked the first time "The School That Is Above All That Stuff" fired a coach while he still had years remaining on his contract. What will be the school's next low move to appease the alumni and attract recruits? Hiring Nicollete Sheridan to leap naked into the arms of Touchdown Jesus?

The entire university should be ashamed. Willingham was 21-15 and had one losing season yet Notre Dame let him go just three years into his five-year contract. Three years! His predecessor, Bob Davie, had a worse record after three years but still got an extra two years to coach. Three years! Good lord, even Gerry Faust got five years.

"Coach Willingham is an outstanding football coach," Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White said Tuesday. "He's got an impeccable reputation."

So naturally, he fired him.

Somehow, you get the feeling they're probably not going make an inspirational movie about what happened in South Bend this week...

...Despite the dismissal, Willingham will do just fine. He's a good coach with a great reputation and a strong resumé and he'll be re-hired quickly (rumor has it that he's going to Washington, much to the joy of beleaguered Husky fans everywhere). The big loser is Notre Dame. The next coach may win or he may not but the school's reputation will never recover from this.

Ivan Maisel thinks Willingham might be getting a bit of satisfaction out of the Irish predicament:

...it feels like something has changed in the DNA of college football. Notre Dame is no longer Notre Dame.

Schadenfreude is not an Irish word. It's German for enjoying the trouble of others. Even Willingham, class act that he is, must have had trouble suppressing a smile Friday.

Let's just say I'm not suppressing my smile.

UPDATE 12/4: Skip Bayless says it was a mistake for Notre Dame to have hired Willingham in the first place. He also reports that Willingham's job was in jeopardy before the start of this season, and that his contacts with U. of Washington were weeks old at the time of his termination.

Get Serious II

There's been quite a bit of buzz over Peter Beinart's terrific essay the other day entitled A Fighting Faith; An Argument For a New Liberalism. Beinart urges the Democratic Party to purge itself of it's Michael Moore/MoveOn.org wing, much as the Truman wing of the party cast off the socialists of Henry Wallace starting at a watershed meeting at the Willard Hotel in 1947. According to Beinart, it's time for another meeting:

Today, three years after September 11 brought the United States face-to-face with a new totalitarian threat, liberalism has still not "been fundamentally reshaped" by the experience. On the right, a "historical re-education" has indeed occurred--replacing the isolationism of the Gingrich Congress with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's near-theological faith in the transformative capacity of U.S. military might. But American liberalism, as defined by its activist organizations, remains largely what it was in the 1990s--a collection of domestic interests and concerns. On health care, gay rights, and the environment, there is a positive vision, articulated with passion. But there is little liberal passion to win the struggle against Al Qaeda--even though totalitarian Islam has killed thousands of Americans and aims to kill millions; and even though, if it gained power, its efforts to force every aspect of life into conformity with a barbaric interpretation of Islam would reign terror upon women, religious minorities, and anyone in the Muslim world with a thirst for modernity or freedom.

When liberals talk about America's new era, the discussion is largely negative--against the Iraq war, against restrictions on civil liberties, against America's worsening reputation in the world. In sharp contrast to the first years of the cold war, post-September 11 liberalism has produced leaders and institutions--most notably Michael Moore and MoveOn--that do not put the struggle against America's new totalitarian foe at the center of their hopes for a better world. As a result, the Democratic Party boasts a fairly hawkish foreign policy establishment and a cadre of politicians and strategists eager to look tough. But, below this small elite sits a Wallacite grassroots that views America's new struggle as a distraction, if not a mirage. Two elections, and two defeats, into the September 11 era, American liberalism still has not had its meeting at the Willard Hotel. And the hour is getting late.

Beinart compares today's Democratic Party factions to the "hards" and "softs" of the early Cold War Left:

The hards, epitomized by the ADA, believed anti-communism was the fundamental litmus test for a decent left. Non-communism was not enough; opposition to the totalitarian threat was the prerequisite for membership in American liberalism because communism was the defining moral challenge of the age.

The softs, by contrast, were not necessarily communists themselves. But they refused to make anti-communism their guiding principle. For them, the threat to liberal values came entirely from the right--from militarists, from red-baiters, and from the forces of economic reaction. To attack the communists, reliable allies in the fight for civil rights and economic justice, was a distraction from the struggle for progress.

Moore is the most prominent soft in the United States today. Most Democrats agree with him about the Iraq war, about Ashcroft, and about Bush. What they do not recognize, or do not acknowledge, is that Moore does not oppose Bush's policies because he thinks they fail to effectively address the terrorist threat; he does not believe there is a terrorist threat. For Moore, terrorism is an opiate whipped up by corporate bosses. In Dude, Where's My Country?, he says it plainly: "There is no terrorist threat." And he wonders, "Why has our government gone to such absurd lengths to convince us our lives are in danger?"

Moore views totalitarian Islam the way Wallace viewed communism: As a phantom, a ruse employed by the only enemies that matter, those on the right. Saudi extremists may have brought down the Twin Towers, but the real menace is the Carlyle Group. Today, most liberals naively consider Moore a useful ally, a bomb-thrower against a right-wing that deserves to be torched. What they do not understand is that his real casualties are on the decent left. When Moore opposes the war against the Taliban, he casts doubt upon the sincerity of liberals who say they opposed the Iraq war because they wanted to win in Afghanistan first. When Moore says terrorism should be no greater a national concern than car accidents or pneumonia, he makes it harder for liberals to claim that their belief in civil liberties does not imply a diminished vigilance against Al Qaeda.

Moore is a non-totalitarian, but, like Wallace, he is not an anti-totalitarian. And, when Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe and Tom Daschle flocked to the Washington premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11, and when Moore sat in Jimmy Carter's box at the Democratic convention, many Americans wondered whether the Democratic Party was anti-totalitarian either.

I loved this piece, and obviously would urge you to read it all. It sometimes seems as if Beinart and The New Republic are waging this battle on their own among their fellow Democrats. It brings to mind Michael Walzer's wonderful essay from 2002, Can There Be A Decent Left?, which urged the same kind of seriousness of purpose, and return to first liberal principles. Quoting that piece just briefly here:

The encounter with Islamic radicalism, and with other versions of politicized religion, should help us understand that high among our interests are our values: secular enlightenment, human rights, and democratic government. Left politics starts with the defense of these three.

UPDATE 12/4: Bigwig has a cool post up along with the Beinart essay on what "true liberals" might or might not be doing.

UPDATE 12/4: Jim Geraghty wonders what person of the left, beside Beinart, will step up to denounce Moore.

December 3, 2004

Get Serious

Anyone familiar with this blog knows that the unsubstantiated smear by Democrats, including John Kerry himself, claiming racially motivated voter disenfranchisement by Republicans in Florida in 2000 makes my blood boil. I believe I have observed in this space before that if even one such disenfranchisee existed, he or she would surely by now have had a Time cover story and an hour on Oprah to tell the harrowing tale. See Peter Kirsanow here , here and here for more.

This excellent piece by David Limbaugh takes on that canard, and also suggests that John Kerry disassociate himself from the loonies still contesting Ohio's 2004 vote. The original parties to the unnecessary recount effort, the Green and Libertarian candidates, on their own probably couldn't survive court challenges to their recount scheme, since the complete impossibility of either candidate winning as a result of the recount would make doing it a waste of taxpayer dollars. It is disappointing that now Kerry joins the fray, lending mainstream Party legitimacy to the exercise, and temporarily propping up an expensive farce.

Rich Lowry and others have effectively debunked this silliness as what it is. But Limbaugh worries about the longterm damage to the integrity of the electoral process. Read it in full at the link below.

David Limbaugh - Townhall.com December 3, 2004

More Nuance and Flipflops

The Democratic Party keeps agonizing over why it lost the election and how to recover. Let me suggest this: Quit undermining the electoral process in the name of protecting it.

And quit exploiting African-American voters by stirring fear in their hearts over fraudulent claims that Republicans want to disenfranchise them.

It's hard to estimate how much damage occurred to our democratic process with the spate of litigation and unsubstantiated allegations of GOP voter fraud in Florida in 2000.

Neither the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights nor the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division found any credible evidence that the GOP harassed or tried to suppress black voters in Florida in 2000. But these findings did not deter disgruntled, race-baiting Democrats from repeating those charges for the next four years.

They did not stop John Edwards from telling "a largely African-American crowd" at a rally in Miami Gardens, "Whatever it is, we know they're going to be up to their old tricks, right, trying to keep people from voting." They did not keep John Kerry from telling African-American church congregations in Florida and Ohio, "Never again will a million African Americans be denied the right to exercise their vote in the United States of America."

On election night, Kerry apparently saw Ohio 2004 as a potential Florida 2000 -- a state whose electoral votes could reverse his defeat -- and so delayed conceding the election until the next day when a challenge seemed farfetched. Nevertheless, his decision to spare America the uncertainty of another protracted series of contests was wise and decent.

When the Green and Libertarian candidates sought a recount, Kerry continued in that posture, saying he wouldn't get involved. But this week, he appears to have changed his mind -- by trying to intervene in their suit to include Delaware County in the recount -- yet says he hasn't. Kerry campaign attorney Daniel Hoffheimer denied Kerry was trying to overturn the Ohio outcome, but said Kerry just wanted the recount to proceed in all counties to ensure that all votes were counted. Is that a vintage Kerry flipflop or merely sophisticated Kerry nuance that is beyond the ability of ordinary mortals to fully understand?

Just for the record, all the votes have been counted. Hoffheimer must mean he wants all the votes recounted. That seems to be the new standard for Republicans these days: They have to win twice.

Hoffheimer admitted that no evidence has been found proving fraud, but turned right around and said, "We know there were a lot of problems in this election. We want people to feel the election was fair."

Do we see a pattern here? Just as in Florida, there is no evidence of fraud, but they're going to insist on an expensive, unwarranted recount anyway, just to make people feel better?

Which people are they talking about? Surely not the Left's black helicopter crowd, who wouldn't be convinced of a legitimate Bush victory if they personally counted all the votes themselves -- the people whose loony "proof" of election fraud is the skewed exit polling results.

Their demagogic mantra, "Every vote must count," is getting old. No, only legal votes should count. And they don't always have to be counted twice.

The Democrats started a very dangerous precedent in Florida, and they're playing with fire again in Ohio. While they profess to be motivated by a desire to restore public confidence in the process, they are going to degrade our system to that of a glorified banana republic if they don't stop these reckless assaults.

It seems, as usual, that Kerry wants it both ways: to promote the recount behind the skirts of the other parties while denying his interest in it. Admittedly, I have no way of knowing for sure whether Kerry is trying to overturn the Bush victory. What I do know is that even if he isn't, his participation in this charade is destructive and he must put an end to it.

Kerry certainly cannot control the Green and Libertarian windmill chasers, but he can take charge of his own campaign. And if he refuses to exhibit the statesmanship to opt out of this disgraceful nonsense, then adults at the helm of his party, if there are any left, should take him to the woodshed and persuade him to cease and desist.

The Democratic Party is at a crossroads. It needs to decide whether it wants to continue to marginalize itself as the party of Michael Moore, or be a constructive force in the future of American politics and governance.

LGF has more on this "non-story".

Hypocrisy Hype

Not sure who linked me to this essay from TNR, (RCP?) but I find myself enjoying the writing there more all the time. Jeffrey Friedman takes apart the premise of a N.Y. Times piece charging "values voters" with hypocrisy because ratings say they also watch "Desperate Housewives" in numbers. After making mincemeat of the Times fallacy, he trashes the whole notion of using charges of hypocrisy as a political weapon at all. And persuasively so, IMHO. Here's a sample. You know what to do: (free registration req'd)

...it's an elementary point of logic that a claim's validity is independent of the character of those who advocate it. A truth is a truth, no more or less true because of who believes it. The whole issue of hypocrisy, then, for all the importance it routinely assumes in political discourse, is a red herring.

If a professed atheist secretly worships God "just in case," we're entitled to say that he lacks the courage of his convictions. But we aren't entitled to say that those convictions are false. God exists, or doesn't exist, regardless of what any atheist secretly believes. The same goes for the beliefs of values voters: They are valid, or they aren't, irrespective of whether a voter who believes in their validity succeeds in bringing them to bear when he turns on the TV set. And that voter has a right to impose those values on others, or he doesn't, regardless of whether he himself adheres to them. By the same token, John Kerry and Ted Kennedy's redistributive instincts are justified, or they aren't, irrespective of the wealth they enjoy, despite conservative charges that they're hypocrites; and Bill Clinton's professed feminism is right or wrong in principle, regardless of how he treated women in his personal life.

Goldberg often makes a related point. That there are worse things to be accused of than being a hypocrite. Take his example of the glutton who tries to persuade his son not to overeat. The man is surely a hypocrite. He's advocating a behavior in opposition to his own, trying to make rules for another that he is not willing to follow himself. Is he doing the right thing though, as a parent and a responsible citizen, quite possibly with entirely noble, even altruistic motives? If I'm a horse thief, but tell others not to do that, which of my character flaws should be on my tombstone; "Horse Thief" or "Hypocrite"? (Thanks JG, however badly I may have paraphrased).

December 2, 2004

Noonan on Rather

Peggy Noonan is about the only conservative who has anything positive to say about Dan Rather these days. Noonan worked closely with Rather, writing his daily commentaries for three years, and her sendoff to him is thoughtful and gracious.

Sexual Amputation in the 21st Century

Female genital mutilation is increasingly being practiced in Europe by immigrant Muslims in addition to its continued widespread practice in Arab Africa. Jamie Glazov reports on the struggle of a few courageous activists to stop the practice, and how they are frustrated in that effort by multiculturalism:

European authorities, with the exception of those in France, are benignly standing by, operating according to the progressive Party Line that disallows any criticism of Third World cultures in general -- and Islamic culture in particular. Police officers, social workers, teachers, doctors and nurses operate under the social obligation not to report this crime.

This sexual lobotomy of women is usually performed on girls at the age of seven or eight, right before their menstrual periods begin. The impulse behind this savagery is clear: the hatred of women and the terrifying fear of their sexuality. Demonizing female sexual desire and pleasure -- and annihilating it -- becomes the priority. To successfully achieve female genital mutilation, therefore, the mutilators have to legitimize and institutionalize it. As a result, they socially construct the pathological ideology that a girl's genital area is "dirty" and, therefore, unacceptable. In Egypt, an uncircumcised girl is considered nigsa (unclean). The way she becomes non-nigsa is to have her clitoris sliced off. In Sudan, the term used for getting rid of the clitoris is tahur -- which means "cleansing" or "purification."...

...female genital mutilation produces the oxygen that Islamic fundamentalism needs to breathe. It helps militant Islam keep intact the foundation on which its life depends: the subjugation and enslavement of women under a rigid system of gender apartheid.

Iran Building Secret Facility

The source for this report about a secret nuclear facility being built by Iran was the German magazine Der Spiegel. I haven't seen much about it in the U.S. media.

Davis Panic

A pretty good line from the PD's Bud Shaw this morning:

A report for HBO's Inside the NFL claims Butch Davis suffered a panic attack before Sunday's game in Cincinnati.

Five out of five doctors recommend that if you are seriously panicked over playing the Bengals, get out before New England comes to town.

Shaw compares the stress undergone by Davis for a week or so with the three years of nonstop grief that Bill Belichick endured here in Cleveland. Davis reportedly was worried about his health according to an interview he gave to Peter King of Inside The NFL, and says it is unlikely that he will coach anywhere in 2005. I guess I wouldn't either if I had a check for $12 million in my pocket and no place to go on Monday morning.

Yesterday the Plain Dealer published an early list of possible candidates for both the General Manager position and the Head Coach slot. For me, the priority in hiring a G.M. would have to be getting a proven player personnel evaluator. It's easy enough to identify and hire all the contract negotiators, salary cap gurus and face men you need for the front office later. The job of the G.M. is to evaluate and acquire talent for the coaches to coach. Since the Browns returned in 1999, they haven't had that guy. The Ravens' Phil Savage stands out as a candidate with an enviable track record.

Will on SS Reform

Alan Greenspan is the man to sell Social Security reform to the American people, suggests George Will. An excerpt on the alternative:

...two years ago two former senators, Democrat Bob Kerrey of Nebraska and Republican Warren Rudman of New Hampshire, proposed a thought experiment:

"Suppose that a member of Congress introduced legislation called 'the Social Security Do Nothing Act.' Under this bill, promised retirement benefits would be cut by 16 percent for today's 30-year-olds, by 29 percent for today's 20-year-olds and by 35 percent for today's newborns. Alternatively, payroll taxes would go up by roughly 40 percent in 2041. How many politicians would rush to endorse this bill? And yet these are the choices under the Do Nothing Plan."

December 1, 2004

Call It By Its Name

Anne Bayefsky writes today at NRO on the systemic anti-Semitism of the U.N. As she demonstrates in this previous essay from Commentary (PDF document) Ms Bayefsky is something of an authority on the subject.

Sen. Coleman's Statement

December kicks off with Senator Norm Coleman's WSJ article on his committee's investigation of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program. The Chairman of the Senate Permanent Committee on Investigations uses the forum of the Wall Street Journal to call for the resignation of Kofi Annan. Fitting that, because it has been the Journal, mostly in the person of Claudia Rosett, that has led the reporting on the scandal for the past ten months.

And when Coleman is finished, there's not a lot more to say. Read it all , but here's the meat:

Our Investigative Subcommittee has gathered overwhelming evidence that Saddam turned this program on its head. Rather than erode his grip on power, the program was manipulated by Saddam to line his own pockets and actually strengthen his position at the expense of the Iraqi people. At our hearing on Nov. 15, we presented evidence that Saddam accumulated more than $21 billion through abuses of the Oil-for-Food program and U.N. sanctions. We continue to amass evidence that he used the overt support of prominent members of the U.N., such as France and Russia, along with numerous foreign officials, companies and possibly even senior U.N. officials, to exploit the program to his advantage. We have obtained evidence that indicates that Saddam doled out lucrative oil allotments to foreign officials, sympathetic journalists and even one senior U.N. official, in order to undermine international support for sanctions. In addition, we are gathering evidence that Saddam gave hundreds of thousands -- maybe even millions -- of Oil-for-Food dollars to terrorists and terrorist organizations. All of this occurred under the supposedly vigilant eye of the U.N.

While many questions concerning Oil-for-Food remain unanswered, one conclusion has become abundantly clear: Kofi Annan should resign. The decision to call for his resignation does not come easily, but I have arrived at this conclusion because the most extensive fraud in the history of the U.N. occurred on his watch. In addition, and perhaps more importantly, as long as Mr. Annan remains in charge, the world will never be able to learn the full extent of the bribes, kickbacks and under-the-table payments that took place under the U.N.'s collective nose.

And on the U.N.'s own investigation headed by Paul Volcker, Coleman notes:

Mr. Annan has named the esteemed Paul Volcker to investigate Oil-for-Food-related allegations, but the latter's team is severely hamstrung in its efforts. His panel has no authority to compel the production of documents or testimony from anyone outside the U.N. Nor does it possess the power to punish those who fabricate information, alter evidence or omit material facts. It must rely entirely on the goodwill of the very people and entities it is investigating. We must also recognize that Mr. Volcker's effort is wholly funded by the U.N., at Mr. Annan's control. Moreover, Mr. Volcker must issue his final report directly to the secretary general, who will then decide what, if anything, is released to the public.

Therefore, while I have faith in Mr. Volcker's integrity and abilities, it is clear the U.N. simply cannot root out its own corruption while Mr. Annan is in charge: To get to the bottom of the murk, it's clear that there needs to be a change at the top. In addition, a scandal of this magnitude requires a truly independent examination to ensure complete transparency, and to restore the credibility of the U.N. To that end, I reiterate our request for access to internal U.N. documents, and for access to U.N. personnel who were involved in the Oil-for-Food program.

All of this adds up to one conclusion: It's time for Kofi Annan to step down. The massive scope of this debacle demands nothing less. If this widespread corruption had occurred in any legitimate organization around the world, its CEO would have been ousted long ago, in disgrace. Why is the U.N. different?

Wretchard follows up with the statement from Annan's spokesperson that amounts to...if I have this right...the U.N. is not empowered to empower Volcker with the powers he needs to investigate our abuse of power, or some such nonsense. Annan continues to stonewall and sit on the evidence, demonstrating the real problem with the U.N. That he and the organization are accountable to no one.

And by the way, where are the voices of the principled Left on the Oil-For-Food scandal, and on Kofi Annan's continued viability as the General Secretary of the United Nations? I'm not saying they're not out there. I just haven't heard much from them. I'm sure France and Russia will erupt in indignation at having been singled out by Coleman for their roles in the selling of Security Council influence. They should be squirming. The evidence against them is piling up.

It's about time some prominent U.S. political leader made this case this clearly and candidly (Mr. Bush has been walking on eggshells on this whole rotten business). I'm proud of Senator Coleman for his courage and leadership. He's a rising star.