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January 31, 2005

GNFI Part 20 and Election Commentary

Chrenkoff has tons of election links, not only in his Good News From Iraq, Part 20, but also in another post-election roundup, which includes this great slideshow (.wmv file).

More of what people are saying...

WSJ editorial: Now that Iraqis have voted, the new line among American critics of the Iraq war is that "elections are not democracy." Well, elections may not be sufficient for democracy but they are necessary. Everyone knows that struggle and compromises lie ahead if the new Iraq is going to succeed. But yesterday's demonstration of courage and hope by millions of Iraqis belies those cynics who say Arabs and Muslims don't want democracy.

As a certain American President said recently, the spread of freedom is essential to winning the war against terrorism. Some of America's leading lights scowled and said that Mr. Bush was "over-reaching"; yesterday, millions of Iraqis offered a more eloquent rebuttal.

John Podhoretz - When you heard about the stunning success of the Iraqi elections, were you thrilled? Did you see it as a triumph for democracy and for the armed forces of the United States that have sacrificed and suffered and fought so valiantly over the past 18 months to get Iraq to this moment?

Or did you momentarily feel an onrush of disappointment because you knew, you just knew, that this was going to redound to the credit of George W. Bush? This means you, Michael Moore. I'm talking to you, Teddy Kennedy.

And not just to the two of you, but to all those who follow in your train.

There are literally millions of Americans who are unhappy today because millions of Iraqis went to the polls yesterday. And why? Because this isn't just a success for Bush. It's a huge win. It's a colossal vindication.

It's a big fat gigantic winning vindication of the guy that the Moores and Kennedys and millions of others still can't believe anybody voted for.

And they know it. And it's killing them.

New York Times: - Many fierce political struggles lie ahead. Yet all who claim to be fighting in the name of the Iraqi people should now recognize that - in an open expression of popular will - Iraqis have expressed their clear preference that these battles be fought exclusively in the peaceful, constitutional arena.

This page has not hesitated to criticize the Bush administration over its policies in Iraq, and we continue to have grave doubts about the overall direction of American strategy there. Yet today, along with other Americans, whether supporters or critics of the war, we rejoice in a heartening advance by the Iraqi people. For now at least, the multiple political failures that marked the run-up to the voting stand eclipsed by a remarkably successful election day.

Jonah Goldberg - John Kerry grumpily says we shouldn't "over-hype" the election, which is just one more grain of sand on the vast beach of reasons why he deserves to remain the junior senator from Ted Kennedy's state. We should hype this to the hilts. Not as a Republican or "neoconservative" I-told-you-so — the pro-war side has gotten too many important things wrong to ever blithely use I-told-you-so and Iraq in the same sentence — but rather as Americans: We should hype this because the heroic effort of millions of Iraqis to un-pry the clenched fists of murderers is the stuff nations are built on. Our public diplomacy requires such hyping.

Fred Kaplan: One thing is clear: The day marked a terrible defeat for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had declared democracy to be an "infidel" belief. He and his goons passed out leaflets threatening to kill anyone and everyone who dared to vote; they dramatized their threat by killing dozens of police and poll workers in the days leading up to the election. And yet millions of Iraqis—including a fairly large number of Sunnis who live in Shiite areas—defied their fears and voted. Whatever mayhem they inflict in the coming days, it will be hard for anyone to interpret their actions as reflecting the beliefs of "the street."

At times like this I guess it's good to remember that pride and humility can co-exist in one heart. That a feeling of triumphalism and a healthy dose of trepidation needn't be mutually exclusive. Those of us who supported the liberation of Iraq are already being accused by its critics of, you name it, "gloating", the dreaded "hubris", "over-hyping" the election results, and so on.

Exhilaration, yes. An uptick on the hope-meter, yes. Pride in our country? Damn right.

January 30, 2005

Google Browser

They've got their fingers in everything else. Their own browser makes sense. From John Dvorak's Second Opinion column:

...there has been persistent speculation that Google is going to release its own browser. The reasons for this probably stem from the fear that sometime in the future searching functions could be built in to the browser and the search engine might not be Google. This possibility was proven likely when Firefox introduced its browser with a built-in search box. The default engine for the feature turned out to be Google, but it could have been anything. It's long been known in the technology community that most people simply keep the default and never explore other options.

Then the announcement was made this week that Google had hired the lead developer for the Mozilla Firefox browser, Ben Goodger. Since April Google has had on file its ownership of the domain name gbrowser.com After doing an e-mail service called gmail, it should be apparent what gbrowser is. I suspect that this new browser will be an offshoot of the open source Mozilla Firefox browser and Goodger's job will be to ensure a smooth transition.

(via The Open End)

All of which prompted me to revisit this.

The People Have Won

A post by Iraqis Mohammed and Omar, from the blog Iraq The Model sums up the triumphant feeling among the people of Iraq today. Read it all.

How can I describe it!? Take my eyes and look through them my friends, you have supported the day of Iraq's freedom and today, Iraqis have proven that they're not going to disappoint their country or their friends.

Is there a bigger victory than this? I believe not.

I still recall the first group of comments that came to this blog 14 months ago when many of the readers asked "The Model?"… "Model for what?" Take a look today to meet the model of courage and human desire to achieve freedom; people walking across the fire to cast their votes.

Could any model match this one!? Could any bravery match the Iraqis'!? Let the remaining tyrants of the world learn the lesson from this day.

Jeff Jarvis has a list of Iraqi bloggers and others covering the election, and some updated commentary and links here. Keep scrolling.

January 29, 2005

Lost Liberalism In Iraq

If you read nothing else about Iraq this week, read Lawrence Kaplan's The Last Casualty at TNR. (free registration required) (again via J. Last)

Not Your Father's Churchill

Is Ward Churchill's voice closer to the extreme edge or to the center of American leftist thinking? Sample the blogosphere via this Glenn Reynolds post which started out just pointing out that Churchill's appearance is as silly as his rhetoric, and turned into a pretty interesting linkfest.

Is There a Moderate Islam?

Lawrence Auster's article, "The Search For Moderate Islam" argues not only that moderate Islam does not exist as an identifiable political movement, but also that it cannot exist. He goes about this in the context of refuting what he calls the "ecumenist" view of a benign, moderate Islamic majority, as articulated by Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes:

Daniel Pipes is perhaps best known for his idea that "radical Islam is the problem, moderate Islam is the solution." As Pipes argues, radical Islam, though currently the dominant political force in the Muslim world, is supported by only 10 to 15 percent of Muslims worldwide, while moderate Islam represents the great, though so far mostly silent, majority of Muslims. He further points out that radical Islam, also known as militant Islam or Islamism, is a very recent phenomenon, having more in common with modern totalitarian ideologies than with true, historic Islam. While he warns that militant Islam aims to overthrow the West and regain lost Islamic glory, he insists with equal conviction that traditional, moderate Islam is fully capable of living at peace with the rest of the world...

...If we subscribe to the promise of a moderate Islam, we will make its cultivation the central focus and goal in the war against militant Islam. If this moderate Islam in fact exists, our efforts may help Muslims transform their civilization for the better and relieve the world of the curse of Muslim extremism. But if moderate Islam does not exist, yet we delude ourselves into thinking that it exists, we would inevitably find ourselves trapped in a cultural equivalent of the Oslo "peace process," forever negotiating with and empowering our mortal enemies in the pathetic hope that they will turn out to be friends.

Failing to find any real evidence of a moderate Islamic majority that can and will renounce jihadism and radical Islamism and act in opposition to it, Auster concludes that Pipes' support for its existence is based more in a fear of the alternative:

(In Pipes' view) we are obligated to believe that Islam can change, because disbelief in that possibility would lead to unacceptable results. Pipes is no longer basing his promotion of moderate Islam on any claim of factual or historical truth. He is basing it on hope and fear—the hope that Islam may someday become something inconceivably better than that which it has always been, and the fear of the intolerable things that would happen if we abandoned that hope.

Part 2 discusses the implications for the U.S. if we base our policies on the assumption of the existence of moderate Islam, and then turn out to be wrong. The whole piece is a bit long, but well worth reading in full.

UPDATE 2/4: Daniel Pipes responds to Lawernce Auster.

More Keyhole

I went ahead and sprang for a year's subscription to Keyhole for $30. If you haven't yet, do the download and the 7-day free trial. Trust me on this. It's amazing. Or am I just easily amazed?

January 28, 2005

Blair Speech at WEF

A major speech by the Prime Minister. I'll not excerpt it, but read it all. When I do disagree with him, it doesn't diminish my gratitude to him for his friendship and leadership, and to the British people for their help. (via Rodger Morrow)

UPDATE 1/29: Jay Nordlinger is in Davos, and was knocked out by Tony Blair. Read it all.

Tony Blair has arrived, and he's about to give his speech. I note, as he is listening to the introductions, that I have never seen a politician look more earnest. I mean, I doubt that the finest actor could summon such a look of earnestness.

And when it is his turn to speak, he is simply — dazzling. Masterly. In control of voice, body, mind — extraordinary. You have to experience this pol, up close, to believe it.

Not Moving Over Yet

Skip Bayless isn't ready to concede Tom Brady or Bill Belichick "best ever" honors just yet. He makes a great case for Parcells and a better one for Montana.

Maloney's Latest

Evan Coyne Maloney with his latest film, doing protestor-on-the-street interviews at the Inaugural, for the most part with a straight face. (via Galley Slaves)

January 27, 2005

The Past Is In The Present


There are several good commentaries up today on the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp. (mostly via RCP) Here's a sample from Jeff Jacoby's intensely personal column:

By the time the Soviet Army reached Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945 -- 60 years ago today -- my father was no longer there. Ten days earlier, the Nazis had evacuated about 67,000 of the death camp's inmates, dispatching them on brutal forced marches to the west. My father, then 19, was in a group sent into Austria. He ended up at the concentration camp in Ebensee, near Mauthausen. Liberation there didn't come until May 9, with the arrival of US soldiers from the 80th Infantry Division.

My father had entered Auschwitz the previous spring, together with his parents, his two brothers, and two of his three sisters. They, too, were gone by the time the camp was liberated. Unlike my father, they didn't leave on foot. They ''left" through the chimney. For the overwhelming majority of the more than 1.1 million Jews who were sent to Auschwitz, there was no other way out.

Aharon Applefeld, a Holocaust survivor, writes in a N.Y. Times op-ed of building psychological and distance "barriers" from the horror: (full text of Times article at "continue reading" link below)

Some entered hell as pious people and came out of it just as pious. That position deserves respect. But most survivors - myself, and especially the young - were outside the realm of faith, and from the first stages of the liberation, we were engaged with the question of how to go on living a life with meaning. The temptation to forget and be forgotten and to assimilate back into normal life lurked for every survivor. We can barely grasp and internalize the death of one child. How can we grasp the death of millions?

For the sake of sanity, the survivors built barriers between themselves and the horrors they had experienced. But every barrier, every distance, inevitably separates you from the most meaningful experience of your life, and without that experience, hard as it may be, you are doubly defective: a defect imposed on you by the murderers and a defect you perpetrated with your own hands.

Comparing the recent tsunami, a "natural" disaster, with the man-made Holocaust Richard Cohen says in both cases we struggle to answer the question of "what sort of God is this?" that permits mass death and suffering. Cohen says of the tsunami...

...it was impenetrably scientific, something geological, about volcanic pressures and tectonic plates -- and breathtakingly swift, to boot. Maybe God had just turned His back.

The Holocaust, in contrast, was not an instantaneous event. It lasted years. It consumed about 6 million, 10 million, who knows how many million people, Jews and non-Jews, but 1 million Jewish children -- infants, too. This had nothing to do with oceans and lava and tectonic plates and stuff only scientists could really understand. Auschwitz was the diligent work of man, a constellation of camps and factories, all of it worked by slaves, all of them marked for death. Auschwitz was essentially about murder, about what people did to people. A human being could go from physician or musician or mother or child to ash in the course of a couple of hours. Geology had nothing to do with it. The mysteries are not scientific. They are theological.

More chilling even than photos like these is the realization that the state of Jew-hatred today is such that millions would rejoice at a repeat of this horror, this time perhaps under a nuclear mushroom cloud. Jacoby says that the murder of Jews "was an end in itself: The reason for wiping out the Jews was so that the Jews would be wiped out." No better justification is offered by those who would liquidate them today.

Suzanne Fields' column quotes Elie Wiesel:

"The past is in the present, but the future is still in our hands."

Related links:

Auschwitz Web Gallery

Auschwitz Photos

aerial photos of Auschwitz

UPDATE 1/29: I discovered a series of posts beginning in 2003 by Bigwig, who blogs at Silflay Hraka. They concern a discovery made by his father of some old photographs of the 1945 Allied liberation of Ohrdruf, a Nazi labor camp. I suggest you scroll to the bottom, to the original "Unseen History" post, and work your way back up.

(Full text of New York Times article is presented below, since the Times archives articles after a couple of days - Ed.)

January 27, 2005 OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

Always, Darkness Visible



In January 1945, 60 years ago today, the wheels of destruction in Auschwitz stood still.

The few people left alive describe the prevailing silence as the silence of death. Those who came out of hiding after the war - out of the forests and monasteries - also describe the shock of liberation as freezing, crippling silence. Nobody was happy. The survivors stood at the fences in amazement. Human language, with all its nuances, turned into a mute tongue. Even words like horror or monster seemed meager and pale, not to mention words like anti-Semitism, envy, hatred. Such a colossal crime can be committed only if you mobilize the darkest dark of the soul. To imagine such darkness apparently needs a new language.

"Where were we?" "What did we go through?" "What's left of us?" the survivors wondered. Primo Levi tried to use images of Dante's hell; others turned to the works of Kafka, especially "The Trial" and "In the Penal Colony."

In the penal colony of Auschwitz, the Jew was not condemned because of his old or new beliefs, but because of the blood that flowed in his veins. In the Holocaust, biology determined a person's fate. In the Middle Ages, the Jew was killed for his beliefs. A Jew who chose to convert to Christianity or Islam was saved from his suffering. In the Holocaust, there was no choice. Observant Jews, liberal Jews, communist Jews and Jews who were sure they weren't Jews were crammed into the ghettos and camps. Their one and only offense: the Jewish blood in their veins.

The Holocaust stretched over six years. Such long years there probably never were in Jewish history. Those were years when every minute, every second, every split-second held more than it could bear. Pain and fear reigned, but even then, in the midst of hunger and humiliation, the amazement sprouted: "Is this Man?"

During the Holocaust, there was no place for thought or feeling. The needs of the hungry and thirsty body reduced one to dust. People who had been doctors, lawyers, engineers and professors only yesterday stole a piece of bread from their companions and when they were caught, they denied and lied. This degradation that many experienced will never be wiped out.

Under conditions of hunger and cold, the body, we learned in the camps, is liable to lose its divine qualities. That too was part of the wickedness of the murderer: not only to murder, but first to humiliate the victim utterly, to exterminate every shred of will and faith, to turn him into a despicable body whose soul had fled, and only then, that degradation complete, to murder him. The lust to debase the victim until his last moments was just as great as the lust for murder.

In 1945, the ovens were extinguished. Jean Améry, a prisoner of Auschwitz and one of the outstanding thinkers on the Holocaust, says in one of his essays: "Anybody who was tortured will never again feel at home in the world."

Great natural disasters leave us shocked and mute, but mass murder perpetrated by human beings on human beings is infinitely more painful. Murder reveals wickedness, hatred, cynicism and contempt for all belief. All the evil in man assumed a shape and reality in the ghettos and camps. The empathy that we once believed modern man felt for others was ruined for all time.

In 1945, the great migration of the survivors began: a sea of bodies, killed many times over and now resurrected. Some wanted to return to their countries and their homes, and some wanted to go to America, and some wanted to reach the shores of the Mediterranean and go from there to Palestine. Even then, in that strange resurrection, the first questions arose: What is a Jew? Why are we persecuted so bitterly and cruelly? Is there something hidden in us that condemns us to death? Many felt - if an individual may speak for the many - that the six years of war were years of profound trial. We had been in both hell and purgatory and we were no longer what we were.

Some entered hell as pious people and came out of it just as pious. That position deserves respect. But most survivors - myself, and especially the young - were outside the realm of faith, and from the first stages of the liberation, we were engaged with the question of how to go on living a life with meaning. The temptation to forget and be forgotten and to assimilate back into normal life lurked for every survivor. We can barely grasp and internalize the death of one child. How can we grasp the death of millions?

For the sake of sanity, the survivors built barriers between themselves and the horrors they had experienced. But every barrier, every distance, inevitably separates you from the most meaningful experience of your life, and without that experience, hard as it may be, you are doubly defective: a defect imposed on you by the murderers and a defect you perpetrated with your own hands.

God did not reveal himself in Auschwitz or in other camps. The survivors came out of hell wounded and humiliated. They were betrayed by the neighbors among whom they and their forefathers had lived. They were betrayed by Western culture, by the Germans, by the language and literature they admired so much. They were betrayed by the great beliefs: liberalism and progress. They were betrayed by their own bodies.

What to hold onto to live a meaningful life? It was clear to many that the denial of one's Judaism, which characterized the emancipated Jew, was no longer possible. After the Holocaust it was immoral.

No wonder many of the survivors went on to Israel. No doubt, they wanted to get to a place where they could leave their victimhood behind and assert responsibility over their fate, a place where they could connect with the culture of their forefathers, to the language of the Bible, and to the land that gave birth to the Bible.

This is not a story with a happy ending. A doctor who survived, from a religious background, who sailed to Israel with us in June 1946, told us: "We didn't see God when we expected him, so we have no choice but to do what he was supposed to do: we will protect the weak, we will love, we will comfort. From now on, the responsibility is all ours."

Aharon Appelfeld is the author, most recently, of "The Story of a Life." This article was translated by Barbara Harshav from the Hebrew.

January 26, 2005

HRW on Iran

From the summary of a Human Rights Watch report on Iran titled:

"Like the Dead in Their Coffins: Torture, Detention, and the Crushing of Dissent in Iran"

No one knows how many people are held in Iran’s prisons and secret detention centers for the peaceful expression of their views. Over the past four years, as the window of free expression has closed in Iran, abuse and torture of dissidents have increased in Evin Prison’s solitary cells and secret detention centers.

In the years following the election of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997, on a platform of supporting rule of law and civil society, independent newspapers and journals flourished in Iran. In 2000, a large class of more vocal and reform minded representatives entered a revitalized parliament, promising to introduce new laws that would challenge the status quo. Intellectuals, journalists, and writers debated publicly some of the most critical issues facing Iranian society. In response, the judiciary and the extra-legal security and intelligence agencies of the Iranian state have sought to destroy these voices.

Since then Iran’s independent newspapers have been almost completely destroyed, the result of a campaign launched by the Office of the Leader and the judicial authority in April 2000 to silence growing dissent.2 Said Mortazavi, then the judge of Public Court Branch 1410, was the leading force behind the crackdown in its early years, directed mainly at newspapers and journals which had become critical voices for change. He was subsequently appointed to the powerful position of Tehran Chief Prosecutor, a post he holds today.

This report demonstrates a nexus between the press closures that began in 2000, the systematic arrests of journalists, writers and intellectuals in the following years, and the treatment of political prisoners. With the newspapers closed, treatment of detainees worsened considerably in Evin prison and in detention centers operated clandestinely by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the judiciary. Members of parliament and defense attorneys who have spoken out against the crackdown have themselves been summoned to court, and some jailed. Few platforms outside of the Internet remain available to expose the reality of conditions for Iran’s political prisoners in detention centers. The closure of the newspapers has secured an environment of impunity for judges and security forces who routinely violate international human rights law and Iran’s criminal and penal codes.

The Iranian authorities have managed, in the span of four years, to virtually silence the political opposition within the country through the systematic use of indefinite solitary confinement of political prisoners, physical torture of student activists, and denial of basic due process rights to all those detained for the expression of dissenting views. Paradoxically, criticism of government policies has increased over the past several years on the streets, in shopping lines, in taxis, within homes. But those engaged in criticism on the record — newspapers, websites, public statements of members of parliament, and legally organized protests—have been silenced.

(via TIWIT)

January 25, 2005

Nearly Spring

The slow season in sports, consisting of the next month, will be only briefly interrupted by the Super Bowl, and if history is any guide, after two weeks of Super-hype we'll be screaming to get The Game over with. Beyond that the landscape is pretty bleak for a while. Yes, there is LeBron, and a Cleveland team in first place is something to take note of, but it is at times like this, when the snow is a foot deep, that a man's thoughts turn to baseball.

The urge to engage in some Triblogging was prompted somewhat by Terry Pluto's column today, in which he expresses his belief that the Indians could win the Central Division, if new acquisitions Kevin Millwood and Juan Gonzalez both come through with good seasons. Pluto also admits those are big "ifs". I also saw the White Sox projected starting lineup today, and thought to myself "we're better than that." Of course it's the Twins that we'll have to beat to win the Central, and while they've lost Corey Koskie and Christian Guzman (addition by subtraction, I'm afraid) they still have great young position player talent, and a solid 1-2 punch in starters Santana and Radke. But I'm ahead of myself.

Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro knows that people remember his prediction (promise?) three years ago that the team would "contend" by 2005. We had shed Manny Ramirez, Bartolo Colon and Jim Thome, and the amazing streak of home sellouts was becoming a memory. Shapiro had stocked the farm system with great prospects and had traded for several more, but the team was too young to win anything. Despite the obviously bright futures of players like Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, and Brandon Phillips, they remained "futures".

Shapiro wisely resisted rushing his young talent to the big leagues and stockpiled even more young players over the last two years, figuring he'd fill in with stopgap players like Lawton and Blake, and squeeze a year or two more out of Vizquel, while the kids grew up. The problem has been that the kids just keep on coming, and the clock has been running out on Shapiro's timetable of contending in '05. The team won 80 games last year, but was still pretty green. So while the Youth Program is not exactly over, Shapiro can no longer justify playing rookies, no matter how promising they may be, by saying "we're not going to win the pennant anyway". It's time to try like hell to win one.

Every move the club has made this offseason has been geared toward getting older and deeper. And I can't argue with that. Much. In addition to signing the aforementioned Gonzalez and Millwood, he went out and signed veterans Alex Cora and Jose Hernandez for the middle infield, and traded for Arthur Rhodes for the bullpen. He brought in Aaron Boone for some reason that I am still trying to figure out. He went "old" for his closer by bringing back Bob Wickman, and is counting on another veteran lefty, Scott Sauerbeck, to come back from injury to help the pen as well.

Here's where I must admit my engrained bias for promising young players over the older known entities. I have been conditioned I guess, by years of following a team which lacked a satisfying "present", to live in the more appealing perception of a glorious future. Richie Scheinblum, Vic Davillio, Charlie Spikes, Joe Charboneau, Von Hayes, Cory Snyder. Each one was destined to be the Next Big Thing. I pick those examples strictly to garner the reader's sympathy. Or empathy, as the case may be. All Tribe prospects don't turn out to be flops. Many in fact go on to play for postseason glory for fans in other cities. Dennis Eckersley, Joe Carter, and Manny spring immediately to mind. To wrack my brain for others is masochistic. And of course, the "present" was not always unsatisfying. We had a great run in the late 90's complete with multiple World Series, an All-Star Game and lots of heart-stopping, memorable moments. All of which though, merely highlights the really important number. 1948.

No doubt Shapiro will look like a genius if Juan "Back Spasms" Gonzalez drives in 100 runs and helps the Indians win the Central. But the possible casualty of that signing is the first full big league season for Grady Sizemore. And that would be a real shame. Sizemore finished the 2004 season on a tear, and looks to be The Next Big Thing a star waiting to happen. I was convinced last September that he had played his last minor league game.

Crisp has earned a starting outfield job, and he's our best shot at a legitimate leadoff hitter. And the Boone signing forces Casey Blake out to the outfield, where he's never played in his career, and forces Sizemore to AAA Buffalo where he has absolutely nothing to prove. The fact that Brandon Phillips will probably also be headed to Buffalo bothers me only slightly less, but it's silly to try to argue that re-signing Ronnie Belliard was a bad move, after the year he had in '04. I hope Phillips stays with the organization long enough to become our starting second baseman by 2006. Too much talent is a unique situation for the Cleveland Indians. We'll live with it.

The original concept of this post (yes, there was one) was to speculate on the batting order for the team as we assume it will be constituted on Opening Day, along with their 2004 hitting stats. Here goes:

Coco Crisp CF --- .297, 15 HR, 71 RBI
Ronnie Belliard 2B --- .282, 12 HR, 70 RBI
Juan Gonzalez RF --- .276, 5 HR, 17 RBI (33 games)
Victor Martinez C --- .283, 23 HR, 108 RBI
Travis Hafner DH --- .311, 28 HR, 109 RBI
Casey Blake LF --- .271, 28 HR, 88 RBI
Ben Broussard 1B --- .285, 17 HR, 82 RBI
Aaron Boone 3B --- .267, 24 HR, 96 RBI (2003)
Jhonny Peralta SS --- .326, 15 HR, 86 RBI (AAA)

If Boone's knee isn't healthy enough to go in April, put Blake back at third, Sizemore in center, Crisp in left. You could make the case to switch to any combination of the 3-4-5 hitters. I actually think Martinez is more of a natural #3 hitter (high average, hits to all fields, switch hitter, some power) but he performed so well at cleanup last year, it's tough to go away from that.

6, 7, and 8 are also nearly interchangable. You want to hit Broussard between Blake and Boone just to break up the two righties. And Belliard also led off a lot last year. Crisp could end up ninth. I think Peralta will eventually be a top-of-the-order hitter, but Wedge will protect the 22 year-old from pressure this year.

With Gerut out, I guess the rest of the position players are Bard, Cora, Hernandez, and Ludwick. (Give me Sizemore over Ludwick as the 4th outfielder any day)

When I look at it, I'm impressed by the potential of that bottom third of the order. You've got the 2004 AAA International League MVP hitting 9th. Peralta hit .326 and nearly won the batting title. He's a line drive hitter who will develop more power with age. With all the lefty starters we face in the Central (KC, Chi, Minn) it's good that we have a lot more pop from the right side of the plate this year than we did at the start of last season. In '04 it was mostly Belliard and Blake (and switcher Martinez). By adding Boone, Gonzalez and Peralta to the everyday linep (plus Ludwick), we'll wear out some of those lefthanders. It looks like we'll have no soft touches in that batting order. The bench is much improved. The bullpen is way better than last April. The starters are as good as any group in the division, with only the Twins coming close.

No predictions till April Fool's Day, but I'm officially jazzed.

UPDATE 1/26: I just added the hitting stats to the lineup above, and WOW, it's fun to imagine the offensive potential of this team.

Doubly jazzed.

A New Low

I suppose I could carry on again about how Ted Kennedy is a detestable blowhard and an embarrassment to the Senate (no mean feat). Talked me into it. Why this time? Well, he took the occasion of Condi Rice's confirmation hearings to refer to liberated Iraq one week before their first free election in history as "a catastrophic failure", and to say that had Ms. Rice not provided Congress with "false reasons" for going to war, "it might have changed the course of history". He's certainly correct that if Bush had not led a coalition to free Iraq, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, and that Bush has indeed altered the history of the Iraqi people from how it might have looked under Uday and Qusay. Silly me, I thought the prospects of next week's elections might redound to Rice's credit.

Nothing galls the Democrats more it seems, than the suggestion made by next week's historic events that George Bush might have accomplished something positive by deposing a vicious tyrant, liberating 25 million people and planting the seeds of democracy in Iraq. It's certain that their focus next week will be on whatever violence may result in opposition to the election, instead of the fact that the election is actually taking place with what appears to be a higher level of participation than this two century-old democracy can muster.

The performance today by the pompous windbag Kennedy, his cohort the former Klansman Sen. Byrd, and Sen. Dayton was disgraceful. Byrd ("once a Klansman,..."?) sought to block the doorway to the Cabinet for this brilliant black woman from Birmingham. Dayton flat out called the Secretary of State designate a liar. And Teddy, called again into service by his party to step to the microphone as their most vicious partisan attack dog, proved again why he lacks the respect both of his brothers earned. But then again, (to steal Taranto's line) it's "not the first time he's tried to sink a woman."

Real Relief

For a listing of some of the U.S. accomplishments in the tsunami relief effort, see this post by The Diplomad. Oh yeah, and the U.N. has some folks over there too. You know, coordinating and assessing and stuff.

January 24, 2005


Nice Carson obituary from the Chicago Tribune. (via Power Line) Most celebrity deaths have minimal impact on me, but I was surprised at how this one hit me as I watched some of the TV coverage on Fox last night. When I considered that he was perhaps the one person that I had seen more on TV than any other in my entire life, it made a little more sense. And most of that time was spent in good, light-hearted fun.

For years, the end of Johnny's monologue was the signal that it was OK to roll over and go to sleep. As aloof as were always told he could be in real life, I don't think anyone had more on-screen charisma and charm than Carson. I think he was kind of a "guy's guy" too. At least he connected with this guy. He was a talkshow host before there was a job description for that. David Letterman said "All of us who came after are pretenders...". How true.

January 23, 2005

Quandary For Browns Fans

Watching the Patriots-Steelers game tonight, I'm sure many Browns fans had to emotionally weigh their Steeler-hatred against their Belichick-hatred in deciding which team to root for. For me it never came close to a coin-flip. I hate the Steelers.

I never did muster much hate for Belichick when he was here, unlike so many of my fellow Browns fans. His utter lack of skills in dealing with media and fans was irritating, but right from the start you could tell that players loved playing for the guy. He inherited a truly horrible team from Bud Carson that had gone 3-13 the year before, but wasn't really that good.

He had the team competitive in every game, almost from the very start, and after two rebuilding years, had the Browns in the playoffs. He always had solid defense and excellent special teams, with trick plays that almost always worked because they were obviously so well-drilled and well-timed. Nothing has changed there.

And of course he will never be forgiven for being the bearer of the unfortunate news that Bernie Kosar had "diminishing skills", and that he was going to go another direction. He was right of course, and Kosar never had another productive starting gig in the NFL after that. Even after being fired by Modell when he moved the team to Baltimore, Belichick garnered no sympathy from Browns fans, because he had never bothered to try connecting with them in any way while he was here.

Any rational football fan has to admit not only that he is an excellent football coach (and that he didn't become one all of a sudden when he went to New England), but that he has built something admirable in terms of the conduct and attitude of his team. No stars, no egos, very little self-aggrandizement by players on the field. They're nice to opposing players while they're kicking their butts. I love that.

Now that they've disposed of the arch-enemy however, they sit as the prohibitive favorite in the Super Bowl. In two weeks, I'm rooting for the Eagles. Not because of Belichick, and not just because the Eagles are the underdogs. There's a lot to like about the Eagles. I've been saying all year long that they're the best team I've seen. So it's partly about wanting to be right.

UPDATE 1/24: The New York Times has a feature on Belichick today that tells how he changed his ways after Cleveland:

Only a decade ago, Belichick was among the inflexible and the arrogant as the curmudgeon of Cleveland, where he ran off the beloved Bernie Kosar, where he trusted too many Andre Rison attitudes. He alienated the public with his grouchy disposition and imposed his authority on his assistants. Soon, he was out of a job.

He stepped back and changed. After jilting the Jets, Belichick started over in New England by consulting P.R. specialists about his personality flaws, selecting players with a love of the game and surrendering his many hats to his savvy assistants.

So somewhere inside this socially arrested soul, there is apparently a people person. True, he is still grumpy, but he is no longer insulting. True, he is a slouch in an oversized sweatshirt, but it has become endearing.

His hoodie is like the housecoat of a cybernerd waking up with a Big Gulp for breakfast. He is all geek, but Belichick is Bill Gates cool - a brainiac capable of outfoxing the powers of Steelers passion.
(full text of Times article at "Continue reading" link below)

January 24, 2005


A Beautiful Mind Trumps a Steel Chin Every Time


BEAUTIFUL mind or cruel mind? Here in the hometown of Fred Rogers and Bill Cowher, where a retro-franchise values its own, where a community has survived Big Steel abandonment, Bill Belichick outsmarted the city's throwback heart and outwitted its quaint romance last night.

Such is the harsh power of Belichick's methodical detachment. If Belichick were not able to separate himself from emotion, if he could not inspect his flaws with the clinical eye of a forensics expert, he would not be able to correct his faults.

He admits mistakes when his peers make excuses. And this is his greatest strength: self-evaluation. Bill Parcells can recite the "Man in the Mirror," but Belichick lives by the importance of self-reflection.

Once again, he slipped on his decoder ring last night to make sure that, in his second lap with the Steelers this season, he would not end up twice fooled.

Where did the Patriots go wrong on Halloween? What did Pittsburgh do so right in that game? By simply dissecting that question, the brainiac applied a chaos theory that put the Patriots in the Super Bowl after a 41-27 victory in the American Football Conference championship game.

It may sound contradictory, but this genius redux happens all the time. He is 14-0 as Patriots coach when facing a quarterback for the second time in a season, a sign that he is able to confound and confuse the senses of an opposing team, its star and its coach.

The pressure of matching Belichick's intellect drove Cowher into a panic - and it was only eight minutes into the game, only a 3-0 deficit. Acting with awkward desperation, Cowher chose to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the New England 39.

Jerome Bettis played the bully who was supposed to kick sand on the Patriots' pencil necks. Instead, he was stopped behind the line of scrimmage and fumbled, the Steelers' second turnover of the game.

"That was huge," Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson said. "It was huge for our psyche and state of mind."

Suddenly, the Terrible Towels were turned into lap blankets as the Steelers played into Belichick's strategy of insecurity. The Steelers were so demoralized, they were caught with their self-esteem down on the Patriots' next play, when Tom Brady threw a 60-yard spiral that hit receiver Deion Branch in stride just before he crossed into the end zone.

"The key to that play was David Givens," Belichick said. "He ran an over route that ate up the corner and safety."

Givens was the receiver the Steelers knew, the one who had 101 yards receiving against them on Oct. 31. Branch, injured and inactive in that game, hadn't entered the Steelers' thoughts. By the end of the game, Branch had become the object of Brady's affection with 116 yards receiving, 37 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.

This is what Belichick does to opponents. He jukes them with his moves of the mind, going with one player when they expect another, an implementer of decoys and deceptions. "I've been a believer in Bill Belichick for a long time," the Patriots' owner, Robert K. Kraft, said. "He is a very special coach."

He makes other coaches look pedestrian. All week, Cowher went with the stale philosophy mouthed by many coaches: We're sticking with what we do best.

Great, if Ben Roethlisberger was the same rookie sensation he had been in October. Great, if the Steelers hadn't fallen behind so soon, so fast.

The Steelers made themselves predictable. How easy for Belichick.

Unlike other coaches, Belichick believes in evolution, in the opportunity to change with second chances, in lessons learned from mistakes. Other coaches point at players for losses - as in Herman Edwards's rant against Doug Brien. Other coaches apply the same conservative game plans in times of crisis - see Schottenheimer, Marty. Others are stubbornly one-dimensional - as in Mike Martz in Rams Land.

Only a decade ago, Belichick was among the inflexible and the arrogant as the curmudgeon of Cleveland, where he ran off the beloved Bernie Kosar, where he trusted too many Andre Rison attitudes. He alienated the public with his grouchy disposition and imposed his authority on his assistants. Soon, he was out of a job.

He stepped back and changed. After jilting the Jets, Belichick started over in New England by consulting P.R. specialists about his personality flaws, selecting players with a love of the game and surrendering his many hats to his savvy assistants.

So somewhere inside this socially arrested soul, there is apparently a people person. True, he is still grumpy, but he is no longer insulting. True, he is a slouch in an oversized sweatshirt, but it has become endearing.

His hoodie is like the housecoat of a cybernerd waking up with a Big Gulp for breakfast. He is all geek, but Belichick is Bill Gates cool - a brainiac capable of outfoxing the powers of Steelers passion.

There was Cowher, standing to disprove the attention-deficit gang of N.F.L. owners - as in Dan Snyder in Washington - by showing his staying power in Pittsburgh. There was Cowher, a product of Dan Rooney's patience and Pittsburgh genetics in a land where smokestacks once popped up like cake candles on the cityscape.

Cowher had a chance to prove a franchise with an old soul still had a Super Bowl in it. Hard math is cruel, though. There is little room for sentiment in Belichick's beautiful mind.

Hermit Kingdom

Here's Nicholas Kristof's review of two books on North Korea in the NYRB. He rips Bush administration policy toward the North Koreans as having exacerbated a bad situation, but beyond a vague more engagement-less isolation strategy, he admits the regime is so remote and unpredictable that it's hard to say what exactly might work better. It's worth a look. (via aldaily.com)

Bucking The System

An interesting but disturbing story from the Los Angeles Times on Thursday regarding the deaths last month of businessmen and arms contractors Dale Stoffel and Joseph Wempel in an ambush in Iraq. (The online article is already archived, but the full text is at the "continue reading" link below. Via Laurie Mylroie- Ed.)

The killings came after Stoffel alerted senior U.S. officials in Washington that he believed Iraqi Defense Ministry officials were part of a kickback scheme involving a multimillion-dollar contract awarded to his company, Wye Oak Technology, to refurbish old Iraqi military equipment...

...Stoffel's death has prompted new worries about the integrity of the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which has been plagued by accusations of corruption and cronyism almost from the start.

One U.S. official said that corruption problems involving middlemen and kickbacks were become increasingly widespread as the Iraqis began to exercise more control over the contracting process.

Stoffel and Wempel were two businessmen having trouble getting paid for their company's work, but who were also reporting what they assessed to be fraud and corruption in the contracting process. They had written a letter to Rumsfeld and tried to enlist help from Sen. Rick Santorum.

It's disturbing not just because two Americans are dead. But also because it looks we could be allowing to happen under our reconstruction auspices the same kind of skimming and corruption by Iraqi Defense bigwigs that we found so odious in the U.N.'s Oil-For-Food fraud.

Thickening the plot is the Times disclosure that Stoffel a has a track record of doing business in weapons with the Pentagon:

Stoffel worked on a top secret U.S. program in the 1990s to buy Russian, Chinese and other foreign-made weapons for testing by the U.S. military, according to documents and interviews...

...Stoffel had long been active in the arms business. Since at least the mid-1990s, he worked with U.S. intelligence officials to obtain enemy weaponry to allow the U.S. military to examine and test the items, according to contract documents obtained by The Times.

In this work, Stoffel developed contacts across Eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine and Bulgaria. He purchased weapons including surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft systems, the documents show.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. Our military intelligence people need to be evaluating the weapons that might be sold to our enemies. But it might help explain why the Stoffel and Wempel killings were reported in The Australian like this:

A militant group killed two US intelligence agents in Iraq on December 8, according to a video released on an Islamist website today.

The video shows two armed and masked men reading a statement announcing the deaths of the two men near Taji, north of Baghdad, described as "two members of the Pentagon and the CIA".

For good measure the dead Americans were accused by the killers of having taken "archaeological artefacts belonging to (Mesopotamian) heritage and secret documents". Huh? The Islamic group that did the killing, Saraya al-Jihad Al-Islami, was, according to the Times, "not previously known to terrorism experts".

Sounds to me more like "silencing the whistle-blowers" than it does your garden variety "killing the infidels".

UPDATE 1/25: Rodger Morrow has much more on the Stoffel and Wempel killings at his terrific blog This isn't writing, it's typing. Check it out.

Los Angeles Times

U.S. Contractor Slain in Iraq Had Alleged Graft

The weapons dealer had accused officials in the Defense Ministry of a
kickback scheme.

By Ken Silverstein, T. Christian Miller and Patrick J. McDonnell
Times Staff Writers
January 20, 2005

WASHINGTON - An American contractor gunned down last month in Iraq had accused Iraqi Defense Ministry officials of corruption days before his death, according to documents and U.S. officials.

Dale Stoffel, 43, was shot to death Dec. 8 shortly after leaving an Iraqi military base north of Baghdad, an attack attributed at the time to Iraqi insurgents. Also killed was a business associate, Joseph Wemple, 49.

The killings came after Stoffel alerted senior U.S. officials in Washington that he believed Iraqi Defense Ministry officials were part of a kickback scheme involving a multimillion-dollar contract awarded to his company, Wye Oak Technology, to refurbish old Iraqi military equipment.

The FBI has launched an investigation into the killings and whether they might have been retaliation for Stoffel's whistle-blowing activities, according to people familiar with the inquiry. The FBI declined to comment.

Stoffel, of Monongahela, Pa., made his allegations in a Dec. 3 letter to a senior Pentagon official and in a meeting with aides to Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). Soon after, Stoffel was summoned to the Taji military base in Iraq by coalition military officials to discuss his concerns about his contract. He complained about payment problems with a mysterious Lebanese businessman designated by the Iraqis as a middleman, sources said.

As Stoffel, Wemple and an Iraqi interpreter left the Taji base in a car Dec. 8, another vehicle rammed theirs head-on. Two masked men jumped out and executed the two Americans in a fusillade of bullets, according to news accounts at the time. Their interpreter fled and is missing.

Stoffel's killing drew scrutiny from investigators not only because of his whistle-blowing activities but also because of his mysterious and controversial past. Stoffel worked on a top secret U.S. program in the 1990s to buy Russian, Chinese and other foreign-made weapons for testing by the U.S. military, according to documents and interviews.

Stoffel's Iraq deal was the first large-scale contract issued and funded directly by the Iraqi government for military purposes, and was crucial for training and equipping the Iraqi army, considered a key component of the U.S. strategy for exiting Iraq.

Failing to stop the alleged corruption "will set a very negative precedent for subsequent dealings with the Iraqi military, harm U.S. companies seeking to do business according to U.S. law, and be the source of embarrassment and political tension to the Bush administration with respect to the effort in Iraq," said Stoffel's letter to the Pentagon, which was obtained by The Times.

According to the letter, Stoffel's Pennsylvania-based firm was awarded a contract last year by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense to help overhaul its aging Soviet-era military equipment, mostly T-55 tanks and artillery. Wye Oak Technology delivered some refurbished tanks in November to Iraq's 1st Mechanized Brigade.

As part of the contract, senior Defense Ministry officials required Stoffel's payments to be processed through a Lebanese middleman appointed by the ministry, according to the Dec. 3 letter.

By November, Stoffel was seeking a payment of $24.7 million, submitting invoices directly to the Defense Ministry. The ministry, in turn, cut three separate checks, sending each of them to the Lebanese businessman for "processing," people familiar with the contract said.

The middleman's role was to act as a sort of escrow account for the financial transactions, reconciling invoices and dispensing the payments, sources said.

But after the businessman failed to send him the money, Stoffel complained to U.S. officials in Washington that he suspected that the middleman's true role was to route payments back to Iraqi officials in the form of kickbacks, people familiar with the contract said.

He also told the Pentagon in his letter that the middleman was withholding payments in an attempt to force him to use subcontractors linked to the middleman and to Defense Ministry officials.

Stoffel spoke about his concerns with representatives from Santorum's office. Santorum, in turn, wrote Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Dec. 3 asking him to raise the issue with Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan.

"I would appreciate comment on how the Department of Defense can assist" Wye Oak Technology in recovering payment for services provided, Santorum wrote.

Stoffel also met with John A. "Jack" Shaw, deputy undersecretary of Defense for international technology security, whose office monitored weapons sales to Iraq. In a later letter, Stoffel urged Shaw to require that a known accounting firm be hired to oversee the contract. He warned in his letter that the weapons contract "has fallen prey to . corruption and self-dealing."

Shaw was profiled in Times stories last year after coming under investigation in an unrelated matter. He was subsequently removed from his job. His office forwarded Stoffel's complaint to the Department of the Army.

"We are looking into the issue," said Army Lt. Col. Joseph Yoswa, a Pentagon spokesman.

One source said that Stoffel's complaints trickled down to British Brig. Gen. David Clements, the deputy commander of the mission to train Iraqi troops. Clements called together Stoffel, Wemple and the Lebanese businessman to sort out the problem.

Clements summoned Stoffel from the U.S. to Iraq meet at the Taji military base in early December, several sources said.

After several days of discussions, Clements told the businessman to release the money, sources said. On Dec. 8, Stoffel and Wemple were returning to Baghdad with their Iraqi interpreter when they were attacked.

The attackers stole Stoffel's computer from the scene. About a week later, a video showing photographs and identity documents of Stoffel and Wemple was posted on a website frequently used by insurgent groups. A group calling itself the Brigades of the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the killings. The group was not previously known to terrorism experts.

The timing and the unusual details of the killings have raised suspicions in the U.S. and Iraq that the video was a ruse to disguise an assassination.

"The video was very unusual," said Evan Kohlman, a terrorism consultant who examined the video.

"It didn't show bodies or the killing, but only photos, documents and materials taken from the bodies. It is certainly possible that someone [other than insurgents] manufactured the video."

Army Capt. Steve Alvarez, a U.S. spokesman, acknowledged that Clements had spoken with Stoffel, but denied that Stoffel had mentioned "any corruption" during their conversations.

Instead, he said that Stoffel had complained about the "difficulties he was experiencing in getting the start-up funds" for equipping the mechanized brigade. Clements refused a request for an interview.

"There really isn't much more to our involvement," Alvarez wrote in response to a query from The Times. He referred further questions to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense.

Nick Hutchinson, the U.S. senior advisor to the Ministry of Defense who also met with Stoffel, did not respond to requests for comment.

An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman arranged an interview with a senior defense official, but then forbade a reporter to ask questions about the contract, calling it too "dangerous."

The Lebanese businessman could not be reached for comment.

Stoffel had long been active in the arms business. Since at least the mid-1990s, he worked with U.S. intelligence officials to obtain enemy weaponry to allow the U.S. military to examine and test the items, according to contract documents obtained by The Times.

In this work, Stoffel developed contacts across Eastern Europe, particularly in Ukraine and Bulgaria. He purchased weapons including surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft systems, the documents show.

After the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, Stoffel went to Baghdad to pursue business opportunities afforded by the Pentagon's multibillion-dollar Iraqi reconstruction program.

He became concerned about possible corruption in the U.S. contracting process, and reported his suspicions to U.S. investigators in spring 2004.

A U.S. official said the investigation into those charges was ongoing.

Miller and Silverstein reported from Washington and McDonnell from Baghdad.

January 22, 2005

Top Zip

If he's still around by the time the Browns pick in the second round of the draft, we might see Akron U. quarterback Charlie Frye in an orange helmet. Check out a nice profile of Frye from the Browns web site.

January 20, 2005

More CBS Commentary

A little sampling of what's being said this week by the punditry on the CBS Thornburgh-Boccardi report. First, former CBS exec Van Gordon Sauter just diagnoses the ailment:

What's the big problem at CBS News?

Well, for one thing, it has no credibility. And no audience, no morale, no long-term emblematic anchorperson and no cohesive management structure. Outside of those annoyances, it shouldn't be that hard to fix.

John Podhoretz says the Thornburgh-Boccardi finding that the culprit was not bias, but simply "haste"...

...is a preposterous line of argument. The problem with the story had nothing to do with the purity or lack thereof of the reporting process--and anyway there is no such thing as a reporting process. If the documents had not been exposed as fabrications, Mary Mapes and CBS News would still have made every mistake for which they are tasked in the report--and yet they would have been garlanded, hailed, rewarded with journalism prizes. The haste for which they are now being attacked would instead have been considered wondrously aggressive competitiveness. And they might have taken home the ultimate prize--the knowledge that their reporting had brought down a presidency...

...The problem with the story wasn't that it was rushed to air. The problem with the story wasn't that it violated journalistic protocols. The problem was that the story was a lie based on a fraud, and a conveniently timed lie at that--coming as it did only eight weeks before the nation was to go to the polls. And the lie was laid out before the world for all to see in a matter of hours.

Krauthammer rips the willfull blindness of the Thornburgh report and closes here with the line of the week:

The independent investigation -- clueless, uncomprehending and in its own innocent way disgraceful -- pretends that this fiasco was in no way politically motivated.

The investigation does note that the show's producer called Joe Lockhart of the Kerry campaign to alert him to the story and to urge him to contact the purveyor of the incriminating documents. It concludes that this constitutes an "appearance of political bias." What would producer Mary Mapes have had to do to go beyond appearance? Show up at the Kerry headquarters?

CBS had been pursuing the story for five years. Five years! The Manhattan Project took three.

Finally, read Ron Rosenbaum's empassioned plea for Dan to resign and try to regain some dignity:

The way it looks now, you’ll be remembered as the craven boss who let all his underlings get fired because they went the extra mile to please you. You’ll be remembered as the Nixonian character who hid behind a screen of "My underlings made mistakes, not me; I wasn’t in on it."

While everyone in the world knows they rushed the "story," skipped steps, rushed the verification process for the greater glory of you, Dan. What if the bloggers hadn’t blown the whistle, and you and your crew never learned how pathetically you were gamed by your "sources" ("Lucy Ramirez," come on down!)—and you succeeded in putting one over on the public? Who would be getting the credit? Mary Mapes? No it would be Dan (the President Slayer) Rather.

You’d be happy to claim the credit, but look at you now—hiding under the covers of the "outside report," clinging to your official position while your credibility as a journalist and as a stand-up guy is shredded.

You'd Never Guess...

...so I'll tell you the answer to a tough NFL trivia question.

Q: If Philadelphia and Pittsburgh should win this Sunday and set up a Super Bowl between those two teams, what "first" in NFL history would be created?

A: It would be the first time ever that every single NFL playoff game was a rematch of a game played during the regular season.

I'm trusting the person who told me this that it's true. I haven't checked it out. I realize that with something this important I probably should have, but I had to sort my socks.

Bush Speech

Click for the full text of the Inaugural Address. Here's the meat of it...

Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

"So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world...

... The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations. The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it. America's influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America's influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom's cause.

May the people of Iran, Cuba, and China hear these words, and take heart.

Congrats, LJ

lebron james.jpg

A lot of people might be surprised that it hadn't happened already. He'd missed it a couple times this year by just a rebound or a couple of assists. I watched the game, and at no point did he ever force anything. To quote Stuart Scott, he was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

LeBron had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a win at Portland tonight, to become the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. He added four steals and a handful of his trademark breakaway dunks.

James has made me go back to watching NBA basketball, which I could never have predicted would happen. Thanks, man.

January 19, 2005

Earth To Sen. Boxer

Let's review. From 10/20/2003...

...most of what everyone knew about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction had nothing to do with this or any other government's intelligence collection and analysis. Had there never been a Central Intelligence Agency--an idea we admit sounds more attractive all the time--the case for war against Iraq would have been rock solid. Almost everything we knew about Saddam's weapons programs and stockpiles, we knew because the Iraqis themselves admitted it.

Here's a little history that seems to have been completely forgotten in the frenzy of the past few months. Shortly after the first Gulf War in 1991, U.N. inspectors discovered the existence of a surprisingly advanced Iraqi nuclear weapons program. In addition, by Iraq's own admission and U.N. inspection efforts, Saddam's regime possessed thousands of chemical weapons and tons of chemical weapon agents. Were it not for the 1995 defection of senior Iraqi officials, the U.N. would never have made the further discovery that Iraq had manufactured and equipped weapons with the deadly chemical nerve agent VX and had an extensive biological warfare program.

Here is what was known by 1998 based on Iraq's own admissions:

* That in the years immediately prior to the first Gulf War, Iraq produced at least 3.9 tons of VX, a deadly nerve gas, and acquired 805 tons of precursor ingredients for the production of more VX.

* That Iraq had produced or imported some 4,000 tons of ingredients to produce other types of poison gas.

* That Iraq had produced 8,500 liters of anthrax.

* That Iraq had produced 500 bombs fitted with parachutes for the purpose of delivering poison gas or germ payloads.

* That Iraq had produced 550 artillery shells filled with mustard gas.

* That Iraq had produced or imported 107,500 casings for chemical weapons.

* That Iraq had produced at least 157 aerial bombs filled with germ agents.

* That Iraq had produced 25 missile warheads containing germ agents (anthrax, aflatoxin, and botulinum).

Again, this list of weapons of mass destruction is not what the Iraqi government was suspected of producing. (That would be a longer list, including an Iraqi nuclear program that the German intelligence service had concluded in 2001 might produce a bomb within three years.) It was what the Iraqis admitted producing. And it is this list of weapons--not any CIA analysis under either the Clinton or Bush administrations--that has been at the heart of the Iraq crisis.

January 18, 2005

Rather, JFK and Blogosphere '05

-- Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day...the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. - Thomas Jefferson, 1807

-- "We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets, and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows." - Katharine Graham, Publisher of the Washington Post, in a 1988 speech at CIA Headquarters.

-- The history of the CIA’s involvement with the American press continues to be shrouded by an official policy of obfuscation and deception . . . . Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Pres International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald-Tribune.

By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS, and Time Inc. - Carl Bernstein, "The CIA and the Media"; Rolling Stone Magazine; 1977

It was pure coincidence that the stories of Armstrong Williams' Department of Education payola and the release of the CBS-Rathergate report were hitting the news at about the same time I was reading one of my Christmas presents, the riveting 2003 book, The Assassinations, (edited by James DiEugenio and Lisa Pease), but I couldn't help but be struck by how trivial the Williams case seems when compared to the shocking and repulsive stories of media manipulation by our government, in this case from the 60's, related in this book. I'm talking about character assassination and witness tampering, bribery and intimidation, but also the more subtle varieties like the well-spun story in a major magazine, and just as often, the story not told at all.

I'm not defending Armstrong Williams. Far from it. But the (Old and New) media outrage over his reverse-lobbying seems a bit like commenting on the wallpaper pattern while ignoring the hippopotamus in the middle of the living room. In other words, important information has been, and continues to be withheld from or misreported to the American public on matters as wide ranging and important as Watergate, the Kennedy murders, and TWA 800 because the mainstream media is cowed, if not bought, by the intelligence apparatus, and we blithely accept that scary reality, perhaps in part because we're convinced we're powerless to change it. Yet we get ourselves worked up about this blogger or that pundit taking cash from a government source to plug a candidate or a program, convincing ourselves that this represents the height of journalistic malpractice.

It's certainly not an original thesis to say that the American media climbed into bed with the government and the intelligence community when that community took shape in the early 50's, and has never been truly independent since that time. But never in the second half of the 20th century did we have an engine of research, communication, and dissemination of information and ideas like the blogosphere of 2005. So it occurs to me, in considering the appalling abuses of power and public trust by the media/government complex in the last 50 years, that today's blogosphere has the potential to shine the same light of day on the journalistic malpractice of the PAST, that it has shone on the mainstream media malpractice of the present, as evidenced by the role of blogs in the CBS-Rathergate story and the exposure to the public eye of countless other issues ignored by the old guard. By no means do I suggest that I am performing that light-shining function in this post, nor that I am prepared to carry that banner into battle by simply throwing out the suggestion and the challenge. I'm just stating what I believe to be the potential of the blogosphere as a diverse, self-policing, independent information source that has already changed journalism, and seems poised to do so in greater, and as yet unimaginable ways.

In tracing the history of the relationship of the American press and the intelligence community, Lisa Pease highlights (with Harrison Salisbury's help) the very personal nature of the connections. James Jesus Angleton and Ben Bradlee, for example, were close friends. The media elites and the intelligence community leaders were cut from the same slice of monied, establishment America...

People sometimes create an artificial distinction between powerful men in the Eastern Establishment and those in the CIA. These people mixed often at parties, they dined together, argued together, and on occasion worked together. As Harrison Salisbury noted, (In "Without Fear or Favor" pp.584-585 - Ed.)

What really was more important than whether a piece of paper might turn up in the file of The Times or the CIA was an understanding of the personal relationships of the men who made up the CIA...and the men who made up the New York Times in those days. They were for the most part men of the same social and geographic circle...thgey had married into each other's families; they were Yale and Harvard and Princeton...they were lawyers and bankers and businessmen and journalists. They wer General Adler and Allen Dulles; Ben Welles and Walter Sullivan and James Angleton; they were John Oakes and his brother..they were Kim Roosevelt, the CIA man who pulled off the Mossadegh coup and Sam Pope Brewer and Kenneth Love; they were James Reston and his deputy in the Washington bureau...Wallace Carroll and his intimate friend Richard Helms, with whom he had worked in prewar UPI days in Europe; they were all the correspondents who had been wined and dined and flattered by Allen Dulles and Frank Wisner and Des FitzGerald

...They knew each other, they stayed at each other's houses, they drank together, they dined together and golfed together and traveled together and talked together and they knew each other's secrets - a lot of them anyway

The cordial relationship between press bigwigs and this group was not limited to The New York Times. Bill Moyers, McGeorge Bundy, Cord Meyer, Richard Salant (President of CBS News), Zbigniew Brzezinski, Paul Henze (CIA chief of station in Ethiopia)and Leonard Marks (director of USIA, the United States Information Agency) served together on a secret CIA task force. They explored a means to beam anti-Communist propaganda into China in 1964. Journalists such as Jeremiah O'Leary and Hal Hendrix worked hand in hand with CIA propaganda chief David Phillips. CBS founder and Chairman of the Board William S. Paley had a close relationship with Allen Dulles. Even Walter Cronkite had performed favors for the Agency. Is it any wonder that the true story of JFK 's assassination has never emerged in the press, given the tight relationship between the Agency and even highly visible, well-respected journalists?

If I were to use history as my guide, I suppose the 2004 story of Rather and CBS advancing a specific political agenda could be viewed as but the latest in a long history of accommodation by that network to the interests of the U.S. intelligence community. Is it not common knowledge that today's CIA bureaucracy is staunchly liberal, and as such opposed the re-election of Bush? (see Wilson/Plame, Michael Scheuer, et al). I'd like to leave recent history alone for the time being, and go back to the time when the newly-formed CIA started forming partnerships with media figures. In his 1977 Rolling Stone article "The CIA and the Media", Carl Bernstein wrote that from the outset of the Agency's cultivation of media "assets"...

...CBS was unquestionably the CIA’s most valuable broadcasting asset. CBS president William Paley and Allen Dulles enjoyed an easy working and social relationship. Over the years, the network provided cover for CIA employees, including at least one well-known foreign correspondent and several stringers; it supplied outtakes of newsfilm to the CIA; established a formal channel of communication between the Washington bureau chief and the Agency; gave the Agency access to the CBS newsfilm library; and allowed reports by CBS correspondents to the Washington and New York newsrooms to be routinely monitored by the CIA. Once a year during the 1950s and early 1960s, CBS correspondents joined the CIA hierarchy for private dinners and briefings.

A long time ago, I agree. It's definitely not my purpose here to posit that the CIA was behind the CBS-Rather-Mapes forgeries. I'm basically an Occam's Razor man, and so I assume it was the network's own institutional leftist bias that allowed in-house partisans like Mapes and Rather to get away with what was an obvious attempt to influence the election in Kerry's favor at the eleventh hour.

But it's also good to know that CBS has historically been an organization that the CIA can count on to spin events their way, isn't it? In fact, in "The Assassinations", James DiEugenio's article "The Failure of the Fourth Estate" takes us back 40 years to Rather in Dallas: (all quotes and references footnoted in original - Ed.)

Dan Rather of CBS was the first to break the news that the President was dead. Howard Bliss, in his book Now the News , wrote that within CBS and elsewhere, there has always been a mystery as to how it was that Rather was the first to break this news on CBS radio and how CBS television was the first television network to report this. CBS was also the key to tracking down Abraham Zapruder, the man who filmed the assassination from Dealey Plaza. Rather was the first to see the Zapruder film, and gave a description of what he saw on that film that has never matched what the public saw in that film. Rather described Kennedy’s head falling "forward with considerable force."

But all of us who have seen the film know that Kennedy’s head goes back and to the left. Was the film edited since that first time Rather saw it? Or was Rather somehow that wrong about what he saw? Did CBS’ close relationship with the CIA have anything to do with these events? CBS’ Walter Cronkite, whose heartbreaking announcement of Kennedy’s death is seared forever in our collective consciousness, was said to have been on the CIA’s list of assets by Sam Jaffe. Sam Jaffe was an FBI informant who was also working with the CIA. The CIA was forbidden to operate domestically, but the FBI of course was not. On occasion, the CIA asked the FBI to work with an operative, presumably because anything of importance reported to the FBI would be forwarded back to CIA through the FBI liaison office.

C.D. Jackson ordered Richard Stolley to acquire the Zapruder film for Life magazine. C.D. Jackson was a former OSS operative, as well as a friend of Allen Dulles. Could that CIA relationship have had anything to do with the purchase, which effectively kept the film locked up and away from public view for many years?

Rather has tried to explain his misrepresentation of what the Zapruder film showed. Decide for yourself how convincing he was. This excerpt begins with a quote from Rather, and is from an article called Dan Rather Blinked:

"...Regrettably, it was not without error, in terms of what was unsaid about the movement of the President's head. A few who had tried to sell themselves as assassination experts misused that account to build themselves a false premise.

"It is gruesome even now, and always will be, to talk about this scene, but the single most dramatic piece of the film is the part where the President's head lurches slightly forward, then explodes backward. I described the forward motion of his head. I failed to mention the violent, backward reaction. This was, as some assassination buffs now argue, a major omission. But certainly not deliberate."

The handling of the Zapruder film has been dishonest from the beginning. LIFE paid a tremendous price with the stated purpose of withholding the film from the people. This done by a group to whom the people had granted the right of freedom of the press so the people could be informed.

The public first saw the film during the famous 1968 Claw Shaw trial in New Orleans as then District Attorney Jim Garrison got a copy of the film from LIFE by court order. He showed the film at least thirteen times to the jury and to the entire courtroom audience. All were shocked. One of the two rulings made by that jury was that there was a conspiracy that killed President Kennedy. The other jury ruling was that Clay Shaw was not involved. That jury determination would be different in light of 1976 CIA documents revealing Shaw was CIA.

Years later we learned LIFE had delivered to Garrison a copy of the film deliberately made fuzzy or out of focus which hid much of the incriminating evidence. But at the time, no one was able to know LIFE had deliberately withheld this evidence in violation of the Federal courts order.

Only in 1973 when Robert Groden came forward with his clear copy of the famous film did we know of LIFE's contempt for truth, for Garrison and for the Federal courts.

By way of disclaimer, let me say here that I am neither a JFK assassination "researcher" nor an expert of any stripe on the subject. But if the definition of a "conspiracy theorist" is a person who believes that JFK was killed as a result of a conspiracy, then count me proudly among their number. I remain shocked by the number of people I still encounter who have no awareness (or memory?) that the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded in 1979, after their two-year investigation, that a conspiracy was probably responsible for the JFK murder. It's right there in the U.S. National Archives, for heaven's sake. I do admit to being fascinated by the Kennedy murders and the research industry that continues to look into them, but I have no interest in becoming an "expert".

In fact, had I been more knowledgeable on the subject, I surely would have known more about the release during the mid-90's of some 3 million pages of previously classified documents from the Warren, HSCA and Garrison investigations, by virtue of the 1992 JFK Act in Congress, which created the ARRB.

Those ARRB documents have given DiEugenio and his colleagues fresh insights into how our government shaped public opinion through the major media in the aftermath of the political assassinations of the 60's. The CIA/FBI effort to undermine New Orleans D.A. Jim Garrison's JFK investigation, and help obtain an acquittal in the 1967-1968 Clay Shaw trial was a particularly illuminating example of this fraud.
(In the section below, I draw on two articles by James Eugenio in "The Assassinations"..."The Obstruction of Garrison" and "The Failure of the Fourth Estate" - Ed.)

In 1967, Garrison's investigation began to tie various CIA assets like Clay Shaw and David Ferrie among others to Lee Harvey Oswald, and to tie Oswald himself to the Agency. And that's when the network of journalists, so carefully cultivated by the CIA'a James Jesus Angleton and Hoover's FBI started to bear fruit. When Garrison indicted Shaw for conspiracy to commit the murder of the President of The United States and the trial began, the orchestrated assault on Garrison's character and credibility also began in the American press.

It wasn't until 1995 that the ARRB declassified the records of Shaw's attorney, Edward Wegmann, and it was only then that the extent of the government's assistance in the Shaw defense became clear. Since I'm concerned mainly with the willing assistance of the press in this matter, I'll give only a brief mention of the other non-journalistic assistance given the Shaw defense team:

These would include the services of two private investigation firms, (including the now infamous Wackenhut group, made up of a large group of former FBI agents) who provided many interviews and reports to the defense, presumably on the taxpayer dime. Also the services of Gordon Novel, who had been hired by Garrison to provide electronic security for the D.A.'s investigative offices, and instead bugged the offices and turned over the information to the FBI. In addition, whole teams of Agency-related lawyers were made available to the Shaw defense team.

And in the category of "journalistic assistance" to the Shaw defense, (to include character assassination of Garrison) the following are some samples from a very long list:

- The work of Edward J. Epstein, an early JFK writer who became James Angleton's protegé and was long one of his most overt and well-known assets. Epstein wrote a hit piece on Garrison that appeared in The New Yorker early in the trial, which mocked the Garrison investigation and followed the CIA/lone-gunman storyline. In his later years, Epstein admitted to working for the CIA.

- Hugh Aynesworth, who in 1963 was a writer for the Dallas Morning News, applied to work for the CIA in October of that year. He wrote several early articles on the assassination, but by the 1967 Garrison investigation, he was informing for the FBI while writing for Newsweek, and served as an informal member of the Clay Shaw defense team. He was sent by the defense team before the trial to attempt to badger and intimidate witnesses who claimed to have seen Shaw together with Oswald and Ferrie.

- Walter Sheridan was a former NSA official, who by the time of the Shaw trial was officially an "NBC Correspondent" who produced for NBC a one-hour network "Special" on the Garrison investigation, which was deemed so one-sided and defamatory (under the Fairness Doctrine) that Garrison was granted on-air rebuttal time by the network. Sheridan was at the heart of the CIA's covert effort to undermine the District Attorney's investigation, paying informants inside the D.A.'s office and coordinating activities with attorneys and arranging favorable press coverage for the anti-Garrison spokespeople.

- James Phelan, a nationally known reporter for over 20 years with The New York Times, and The Saturday Evening Post, two of the best known CIA-friendly publications, was another reporter being used by the FBI to report on Garrison's activities. He attempted to bribe a key Garrison witness to change his story. Phelan was also a good friend of Howard Hughes' CEO Robert Maheu, a key player in the CIA's anti-Castro plots, at a time when Garrison was fingering anti-Castro Cubans in the plot to kill JFK.

"Mainstream" journalists all. Committing bribery, witness tampering, assisted journalism, and producing propaganda masquerading as network specials. All working against the elected representatives of the law enforcement community.

Well, that was 37 years ago, and it was only a handful of journalists, right?. As referenced above, in 1977, Carl Bernstein did a famous Rolling Stone article on the CIA and the media. Mostly through interviews with Church Committee staffers Bernstein was able to come up with a list of some 400 American journalists that were, in one way or another working for the CIA. An article by Daniel Brandt talks about Bernstein's work:

This figure included stringers and freelancers who had an understanding that they were expected to help the CIA, as well as a small number of full-time CIA employees using journalism as a cover. It did not include foreigners, nor did it include numerous Americans who traded favors with the CIA in the normal give-and-take between a journalist and his sources. In addition to some of the names already mentioned above, Bernstein supplied details on Stewart and Joseph Alsop, Henry Luce, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Hal Hendrix of the Miami News, columnist C.L. Sulzberger, Richard Salant of CBS, and Philip Graham and John Hayes of the Washington Post.

Bernstein concentrated more on the owners, executives, and editors of news organizations than on individual reporters. "Lets's not pick on some poor reporters, for God's sake," William Colby said at one point to the Church committee's investigators. "Let's go to the management. They were witting." Bernstein noted that Colby had specific definitions for words such as "contract employee," "agent," "asset," "accredited correspondent," "editorial employee," "freelance," "stringer," and even "reporter," and through careful use of these words, the CIA "managed to obscure the most elemental fact about the relationships detailed in its files: i.e., that there was recognition by all parties involved that the cooperating journalists were working for the CIA -- whether or not they were paid or had signed employment contracts."

The reaction to Bernstein's piece among mainstream media was to ignore it, or to suggest that it was sloppy and exaggerated. Then two months later, the New York Times published the results of their "three- month inquiry by a team of Times reporters and researchers." This three-part series not only confirmed Bernstein, but added a wealth of far-ranging details and contained twice as many names. Now almost everyone pretended not to notice.

We're still pretending not to notice.

I know the age of the JFK-related subject matter will raise some eyebrows, and if I had been reading a book on the OKC bombing, or Waco, or TWA800, I might have had a whole different tack to take. I certainly wouldn't have had less material with which to work.

And there are modern day Hugh Aynesworths. Seymour "Sy" Hersh is one of those journalists whose career spans the four decades between the 60's and today's The New Yorker magazine, and that career has always been marked by the carrying of water for the CIA. His career-making books on the My Lai massacre denied any CIA involvement in the atrocity, even after the disclosures about the Phoenix Program, a CIA operation which targeted suspected Viet Cong for assassination, and amassed a five-figure body count. Hersh also minimized any CIA involvement in the Watergate break-in when working for the N.Y. Times, in spite of Hunt and Sturgis' involvement. Other examples abound, but today's New Yorker piece is as good an example as any it seems to me.

Hersh cites what appear to be excellent CIA sources, but the tone of the piece seems like less one of concern that the U.S. military has secret reconnaissance teams inside Iran to size up nuclear sites, and more of a whine that the Pentagon has effectively screened the Agency out of the operation. It's an anti-Bush, anti-Rumsfeld hit job through and through. Once a water-carrier, always a water-carrier.

So it's not all ancient history. If anything, I think there are more people than ever before in Old Media who, like Katharine Graham, think that "there are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn't", and that "the press can decide whether to print what it knows". I think the line between the press making that call, and the government making that call on behalf of the press, has been blurred beyond distinction for at least 40 years.

Maybe it's not that we all pretend not to notice. Maybe there's just an understanding by people who are paying attention that our media is co-opted, and we're resigned to it. Then there are of course, the millions who aren't paying attention.

All I know is that the blogosphere gives me hope. We've already seen that bloggers are not immune from corruption by government interests. But the blogosphere isn't about two guys in South Dakota and some guy named Kos. It's a collective force. And it's gaining size and momentum. And it's learning more every day about what it can do.

The truth will out.

UPDATE 1/21: Michael Ledeen's column today underlines some of the points I made about Sy Hersh

UPDATE 1/27: Another look at Sy Hersh from Max Boot in the LA Times.

January 17, 2005

O-F-F Investigations Progress

Glenn posted it so the whole world knows about it, but I have tried to post any important updates in the Oil-For-Food scandal, and this U.S. News feature certainly fits in that category. Sources within the official U.N. investigation by Paul Volcker and the various congressional probes say that early estimates of $21 billion in total fraud have been vastly overstated, putting the real figure (so far) at between $4-5 billion. Boy, what a relief that is. So why didn't member countries that were aware of the fraud do more to stop it?

Summaries of U.N. sanctions committee meetings make it clear that member countries, including the United States, were aware that Saddam was attempting to game the system. More than once, committee members were shown evidence that kickbacks were being paid by aid suppliers, that Saddam was diverting aid to his military, and that Iraqi oil was being smuggled illegally. The question now for everyone examining the sieve like oil-for-food program is why so little was done to stop such abuses and what responsibility Washington may have. A Senate investigator who has reviewed some of the sanctions committee minutes told U.S. News that, overall, U.S. performance looks to have been pretty good. "When the U.S. or the Brits or the Dutch bring up a concern with the program," the investigator explained, "the Russians and the French and the Chinese stop the proper oversight." Other investigators say it is too soon to allot responsibility for the program's many failures. "At this point," one says, "we don't know if the U.S. was up against a brick wall or not, and if the laxity was coming from the U.N. or if it was really at the member states."

Mr. 101

I can't quote exact numbers on this, but I read somewhere recently that there were only about a dozen pitches thrown at 100 mph or more in all of major league baseball last season, and about 80% of them were thrown by Cubs reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Among starting pitchers, C.C. Sabathia led the American League with an average fastball speed of 93.9, and National Leaguers Kerry Wood (95.3) and Jason Schmidt (95.0) were 1-2 in all of baseball.

All of this background info is meant to help explain the excitement in Tribeland about young Adam Miller, a 20 year old righthanded starter in the Indians system, who is said to throw an "easy 96, 97, or 98", and topped 100 mph several times late last season. He is considered the top prospect in the Indians minor league system, and is projected for the major leagues "no later than 2006". He'll start the 2005 season in AA Akron, so I'll have ample opportunity to see him pitch this year.

Scouts rave about his work ethic, mental toughness and maturity, as well as his smooth, effortless delivery. His slider is said to be almost "major league ready", and he's working on mastering the changeup, a pitch that will help him get to Jacobs Field sooner instead of later. Check out this profile from today's Plain Dealer.

Chrenkoff's GNFI Part 19

Chrenkoff is back, with Good News From Iraq

CBS Comes Clean


(via This isn't writing, it's typing)

January 15, 2005

Columbia and F.I.R.E.

Stanley Kurtz' post in The Corner has all the links and background on the controversy at Columbia University over the intimidation of students by professors, and the overall state of academic freedom there. Is there any segment of our society, outside of the academic left, in which this kind of enforced orthodoxy and suppression of dissent exist? In a monastery maybe?

January 14, 2005

Insanity Chic

At NRO, Kathryn Jean Lopez has an engaging interview with Andrew Breitbart, co-author of Hollywood Interrupted. (saw it at Galley Slaves) Here's a sample:

NRO: How long before Kaballah is out of style in your parts? Will Scientology ever be?

Breitbart: I didn't grow up in a particularly religious house, or neighborhood, so I understand skeptics of organized religion. But the same people who mock the story of Jesus, the ones that speak incredulously of the "Virgin birth" or bemoan the Gospels, are the first people to line up outside L. Ron Hubbard's pulp-science-fiction temple or to buy Madonna-endorsed Kaballah-water and her voodoo bracelets. Twenty years ago it was Shirley MacLaine and her myriad lives, all of which were strangely historical leading roles. Astrology will always be a given here. Hollywood will always be a reliable place to study comically trendy belief systems. In a strange way, I find this a good thing.

Fatah Rules Palestine

A Tuesday 1/11 editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle made the following statement following the Palestinian election of Mahmoud Abbas:

"Palestinian voters have done their part. Now it's up to the United States and Israel to support the revived message of peace embodied in the election of Mahmoud Abbas as Palestinian president."

In a great post today, Bill Roggio points out the glaring difference between any "message of peace" sent by the election, and the altogether different message embodied in the PLO Charter. It's going to difficult for Abbas to make the case that it is now incumbent upon Israel to show good faith, as long as his party, indeed his whole government is sworn, in writing, to Israel's destruction:

The Yasser Arafat Martyrs Brigades is part of Fatah, the political party of the recently elected President Mahmoud Abbas which falls under the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The PLO Charter explicitly calls for the destruction of the state of Israel, this can be clearly seen in Articles 2 and 19:

Article 2: Palestine, with the boundaries it had during the British Mandate, is an indivisible territorial unit...

Article 19: The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel are entirely illegal, regardless of the passage of time...

The PLO, as explicitly stated in the Charter, relies on terrorism to defeat the “Zionist entity” (Israel):

Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase...

Article 10: Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution...

Not satisfied with hatred for Israel and the promotion of terrorism to achieve their goals, the PLO puts forth conspiracy theories to scapegoat the Jews as international imperialists:

Article 22: Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement...

While it has been claimed that the PLO Charter was amended to remove these and other offensive passages, the Charter has not been amended. This is the party of Mahmoud Abbas.

Seems to me a formal renunciation by Abbas and the PLO of the offending portions of the PLO Charter is a prerequisite to negotiations of any kind over the issue of Palestinian statehood. It's nutty for Israel to make a single concrete concession as long as the opening negotiating position of the PLO remains "you all die."

Obviously, not a single original thought is expressed in any of this. But Roggio and others are right to keep reminding people that Abbas has so far shown little inclination to "moderation". The election was a show necessitated by the death of Arafat, not a concession of any sort on the part of the PLO. We'll see that Abbas is in charge if and when the PLO Charter is revised.

Campus Conservatives

A very good piece from City Journal on the phenomenon of conservatism on college campuses. The faculties may remain dominated by liberals, but the students are trending right.

January 13, 2005


I've admitted my fondness for...okay, my addiction to Jeff Goldstein's Martha Stewart Chronicles, but I simply must link to the page where the MSC archive is located. I've just come from there. The tears are still streaming down my cheeks.

On The Front Lines

The Diplomad, a new blog written by career U.S. Foreign Service officers has been providing on-the-ground reports from the areas stricken by the tsunami. They have pulled no punches in describing the ineptitude of the United Nations personnel, and praising the tireless efforts of the Australians and Americans who are actually out there working to save lives. They tell the story better than I could summarize. Read their posts here, here, here, and here.

January 12, 2005

Inspector Dan

Funny stuff from Iowahawk:

Thornberg peeled off his tortoise shell glasses and gave me a blank stare.

"We've been through this several times now, Rather," he sighed. "The evidence was fake. Forgeries. Made up from whole cloth. There is no Lucy Ramirez. The entire TxANG case is closed."

"So," I pondered, "you're thinking we need to set up a stakeout in Crawford?"

"Rather," he bellowed, "The Guard letters were on Starbucks stationery, and originally discovered in the trunk of Mary's '99 Hundai. Military officers do not address each other as 'Dude' and Bro. Mary FedEx'd them to Terry McAuliffe six times for spell checking."

"No speaky Esperanto, Commissioner! What's your angle?"

"You ran the story seven days before contacting document experts, and when you did, they were recruited from a methadone clinic. You spend $47,000 of network money on a schizophrenic man who said he could build a steam-powered word processor and a time machine."

I planted my hands on the desk, and leaned over into Thornberg's face.

"I see where this is all going, Commissioner. You're in on it too! You're just going to sit there and take it when there is a criminal in high office who stole over 20 XBox systems from Texas National Guard!"

"That's enough, Rather," he growled. "Turn it your microphone. You're suspended."

"Too late Thornberg. I'm suspending myself, at full pay."

I slammed the door behind me. It looked like this investigation would be strictly freelance.

Another Ohio State Scandal?

This just in from Brushback.com. Read it all.

COLUMBUS, OH--An ex-Ohio State Buckeye came forward recently with allegations that Maurice Clarett and others received “special benefits” from boosters while playing on the Buckeye’s football team. Specifically, the ex-player stated that Tressell personally arranged for Clarett to have the salt passed to him at a team dinner on more than one occasion. The player, who asked not to be identified, spoke to ESPN’s Seth Wickersham in this month’s issue of ESPN the Magazine.

“Oh, yea, I remember that team dinner when coach [Tressell] hooked Maurice up with some salt,” said the player, who left Ohio State two years ago. “We were all sitting there eating our meals when Maurice said that he needed some salt for his spaghetti. The salt was down the other end of the table, so he couldn’t get it himself. He was complaining, you know? He really wanted to add some seasoning to his food.”

The player then went on to describe the “special arrangement” made by coach Tressell, with the help of his brother and assistant coach, Dick.

“Dick was sitting closest to the salt, so when coach Tressell saw that Maurice needed it, he went right to Dick,” said the player. “He yelled ‘Hey, Dick. Pass the salt!’ And just like that, Dick picked up the salt and passed it down the table to coach, who handed it to Maurice. Just like that. Right out in the open. That’s just how it was. If you were on the football team and needed salt, you’d get it. No receipts, no paper trail, no evidence. And he wasn’t the only one, either.”

Words fail me.

January 11, 2005

LJ Worship

It's nice to see credible sports industry people around the country acknowledge what has become apparent to those of us who see LeBron James play regularly. Bill Simmons of ESPN.com finishes his column on "a few of my favorite NBA things", with this observation on his top candidate (so far) for MVP...

1. LeBron James
In my opinion, this isn't even a debate right now: He's headed for 55 wins on a team with an overmatched coach, two decent starters, three role players and a bunch of stiffs. More importantly, he's reached "There's nothing on right now, maybe I'll flick on The Package and see if LeBron is playing" status -- which hasn't happened since MJ was playing in Chicago. Not only is LeBron the most talented young player since MJ 20 years ago, he's going to average a triple-double within the next 5 years. And he just turned 20. This is unbelievable.

Two questions remain ...

A. Over the past three months, have you seen anything to make you think that we're NOT watching someone in the early stages of becoming the greatest basketball player ever?

(Um ... no.)

B. And did you ever think we would see a player who combined the best qualities of a Young MJ and a Young Magic?

(Me neither.)

He's got me wondering which one of McInnis, Ilgauskas, and Gooden he considers the other "good" starter. And I'm not enough of a "X's and O's" guru to know just how "overmatched" Paul Silas is as coach, but he's got the players winning for him (and he's got that "coach" out on the floor).

Libertarianism Run Amok

Two excerpts from a sad story in the Lincoln Star Journal, in inverted order:

In a column written for the Daily Nebraskan in September, Derek attacked seat belt laws as intrusions on individual liberties and expensive to enforce.

"It is my choice what type of safety precautions I take," he wrote.

"There seems to be a die-hard group of non-wearers out there who simply do not wish to buckle up no matter what the government does. I belong to this group."

Point made.

(Derek) Kieper, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, died early Tuesday morning when the Ford Explorer he was a passenger in travelled off an icy section of Interstate 80 and rolled several times in a ditch. Kieper, who was riding in the back seat of the Explorer, was ejected from the vehicle.

Two others in the vehicle, including the driver, Luke Havermann of Ogallala, and the front-seat passenger, Nick Uphoff of Randolph Air Force Base in Texas, sustained non-life threatening injuries...

Derek, who was thrown from the vehicle, was not wearing a seat belt, Lefler said. He said Havermann and Uphoff were wearing seat belts at the time.

It's The Diversity, Stupid

Power Line:

...the fundamental problem that led to the downfall of 60 Minutes and, perhaps, CBS News, was the fact that no one involved in the reportorial or editorial process was a Republican or a conservative. If there had been anyone in the organization who did not share Mary Mapes's politics, who was not desperate to counteract the Swift Boat Vets and deliver the election to the Democrats, then certain obvious questions would have been asked: Where, exactly, did these documents come from? What reason is there to think that they really originated in the "personal files" of a long-dead National Guard officer, if his family has no knowledge of them? How did such modern-looking memos come to be produced in the early 1970s? How can these critical memos, allegedly by Jerry Killian, be reconciled with the glowing evaluations of Lt. Bush that Killian signed? Why haven't you interviewed General "Buck" Staudt, who is casually slandered in one of the alleged memos? Why didn't you show the memos to General Bobby Hodges, rather than reading phrases from them to him over the telephone? Isn't it a funny coincidence that these "newly discovered" memos are attributed to the one person in this story who is conveniently dead?

And so on, ad nearly infinitum. But, because virtually everyone in the CBS News organization shared Mary Mapes's politics and objective (i.e., the election of John Kerry), skeptical questions were not asked. If there is a single overriding explanation for how a fake story, intended to influence a Presidential election through the use of forged documents, could have been promulgated by 60 Minutes, it is the lack of diversity at CBS News.

For some years now, the party line of the mainstream media has been: of course we're pretty much all Democrats, but that doesn't influence our news coverage. If nothing else, Rathergate should put that defense to rest once and for all.

Steyn on Gratitude

Among other great stuff by Mark Steyn in The Australian is this gem: (via Galley Slaves)

Muslim leaders divide the world into the Dar al-Islam and everybody else. Yet the deaths of 100,000 members of the club in Banda Aceh alone isn't enough to catch the eye of the big shots in the Arab world. The Arab world's principal contribution these past two weeks has been the usual paranoia: "Was it caused by American, Israeli and Indian nuclear testing?" wondered Mahmoud Bakri in the Egyptian weekly Al Usbu. "The three most recent tests appeared to be genuine American and Israeli preparations to act together with India to test a way to liquidate humanity."

Colin Powell was foolish to suggest that, in its response to this crisis, the Muslim world would come to appreciate the true nature of the US. Fat chance. "It's OK that aid from the US is here," said Hilmy Bakar Almascaty, spokesman for the Islamic Defender Front. "But if they open bars, sell alcohol or open prostitution centres, then we will fight them." Almascaty also warned the Australian charity Youth Off the Streets that its plan to open homes for 35,000 Indonesian orphans was all very well, but on no account was it to try converting Muslim children. Jeez, man, would it kill you once in a while just to send a box of chocolates and a card saying "Thank you, you infidel sons of whores and pigs", and leave it at that?

January 10, 2005

What If They Got Their Wish?

Joseph Joffe proposes a thought experiment for those who insist on laying the blame for the political pathologies of the Middle East on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His essay in Foreign Affairs examines A World Without Israel. He lists five ways in which the region would remain "stunted, or worse" if the state of Israel went "poof" tomorrow. I've excerpted two of them. Read it all.

States vs. States: Israel’s elimination from the regional balance would hardly bolster intra-Arab amity. The retraction of the colonial powers, Britain and France, in the mid-20th century left behind a bunch of young Arab states seeking to redraw the map of the region. From the very beginning, Syria laid claim to Lebanon. In 1970, only the Israeli military deterred Damascus from invading Jordan under the pretext of supporting a Palestinian uprising. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Nasser’s Egypt proclaimed itself the avatar of pan-Arabism, intervening in Yemen during the 1960s. Nasser’s successor, President Anwar Sadat, was embroiled in on-and-off clashes with Libya throughout the late 1970s. Syria marched into Lebanon in 1976 and then effectively annexed the country 15 years later, and Iraq launched two wars against fellow Muslim states: Iran in 1980, Kuwait in 1990. The war against Iran was the longest conventional war of the 20th century. None of these conflicts is related to the Israeli-Palestinian one. Indeed, Israel’s disappearance would only liberate military assets for use in such internal rivalries...

Believers vs. Believers: Those who think that the Middle East conflict is a “Muslim-Jewish thing” had better take a closer look at the score card: 14 years of sectarian bloodshed in Lebanon; Saddam’s campaign of extinction against the Shia in the aftermath of the first Gulf War; Syria’s massacre of 20,000 people in the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold of Hama in 1982; and terrorist violence against Egyptian Christians in the 1990s. Add to this tally intraconfessional oppression, such as in Saudi Arabia, where the fundamentalist Wahhabi sect wields the truncheon of state power to inflict its dour lifestyle on the less devout.

... Can anybody proclaim in good conscience that these dysfunctionalities of the Arab world would vanish along with Israel? Two U.N. "Arab Human Development Reports," written by Arab authors, say no. The calamities are homemade. Stagnation and hopelessness have three root causes. The first is lack of freedom. The United Nations cites the persistence of absolute autocracies, bogus elections, judiciaries beholden to executives, and constraints on civil society. Freedom of expression and association are also sharply limited. The second root cause is lack of knowledge: Sixty-five million adults are illiterate, and some 10 million children have no schooling at all. As such, the Arab world is dropping ever further behind in scientific research and the development of information technology. Third, female participation in political and economic life is the lowest in the world. Economic growth will continue to lag as long as the potential of half the population remains largely untapped.

Grasping At Strawmen

Peter Kirsanow exposes the Democrats' lame attempt (yes, still) to add Ohio/2004 to Florida/2000 in the mythology of black voter disenfranchisement.

When initial claims of disappearing votes, voter intimidation, and rigged "Republican" election machines proved false, they tried to make the most of less-titillating claims that long lines, inadequate numbers of voting machines, and partisan election officials "disenfranchised" voters...

...If there was a conspiracy to disenfranchise Ohio voters, black or white, its execution was profoundly inept. Ohio voter turnout increased from 4.9 million in 2000 to 5.5 million in 2004. Estimated black-voter turnout alone rose by 25 percent.

Many of these black voters apparently failed to pay attention to the subtext of the disenfranchisement claims — that Republicans were trying their best to prevent blacks from voting. Yet President Bush's percentage of the black vote in Ohio increased from 9 percent in 2000 to 16 percent in 2004. The total number of black votes cast for the president in Ohio increased by more than 100 percent...

...The final refuge of the mythologists was purported irregularities related to Ohio's 160,000 provisional ballots. The mythologists contended that Blackwell had erected formidable barriers to casting provisional ballots and had discarded/invalidated huge numbers of them (presumably to the detriment of John Kerry). But as the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports, more than 75 percent of such ballots were counted as valid — a percentage more than three times greater than the percentage of provisional ballots counted in Kerry's home state of Massachusetts. In fact, it just so happens that Ohio counted a higher percentage of provisional ballots than any other state in the country.

Timothy Carney suggests the reason the Democrats have made such a big issue of the Ohio vote is that it gave them a pretext for inflicting some political damage on Ohio Secretary of State, Kenneth Blackwell. He fits a profile that scares the stuffing out of Democratic leadership...a young, intelligent, competent, charismatic black Republican:

As a party, the Democrats need to fear Blackwell. He is skilled, conservative, and on his way up. He could be governor in a couple years and who knows where he could go from there. So Democrats have an interest in sullying his name before it gets big.

After Thursday's debates and the protests Ohio Democrats have raised since the election, once Blackwell's name is mentioned on the national stage again, every major newspaper reporter will reflexively call him a "controversial figure" who is "at the heart of the much-criticized 2004 election in Ohio."

Rathergate Links

As far as I can see so far, the places to go for news, links and comment on the CBS News report and the terminations by the network are Buzz Machine, Ratherbiased.com, and TVNewser. Rather's retirement as CBS News anchor functions for him as a Get Out of Jail Free Card apparently. That he will continue with 60 Minutes as though he was above the fray in this journalistic travesty is proof that CBS still doesn't get it. The "myopic zeal" that the report criticized was nowhere more evident than in the reporting of Dan Rather, and in his behavior after the fraud came to light.

UPDATE 1/10: Power Line's Hindrocket reacts to the CBS Report.

UPDATE 1/10: I take it all back. Nobody has more and better stuff on "CBS Watch" than Michelle Malkin. Just keep scrolling.

January 9, 2005


I've made a conscious effort to stay away from my computer this weekend in order to start putting a dent in the stack of books I received for Christmas. That combined with NFL Playoffs has made for a virtually blogless weekend. I am currently engrossed in "The Assassinations", about which I will surely be writing more soon.

January 8, 2005

Millwood Signing

CIR has the story of the Indians signing of pitcher Kevin Millwood. G.M. Shapiro and agent Scott Boras got very creative with the signing bonus, given Millwood's recent history of arm trouble. I like this move even more now after learning that the team isn't committed to paying the guy the full $7 million if his elbow isn't healthy.

Having Millwood should give the club the chance to make or break Jason Davis as a possible future closer in the course of the 2005 season. Davis would have been forced into the rotation if Shapiro hadn't been able to sign a veteran starter. Now if one of the top five starters gets hurt, we should be able to reach down and get Stanford or Guthrie or Tallet or Kyle Denney to start a few games, without tampering with the Jason Davis Experiment.

January 7, 2005

The Company You Keep

This item is a few days old, but I wanted to comment on the way Richard Gere has allowed his name and image to be used in connection with a hateful message and some decidedly illiberal characters, whether he intended to or not. Gere has made a Public Service Announcement for Palestinians claiming "I am speaking for the entire world", after which he encouraged all Palestinians to get out and vote in the coming election.

It's an innocuous message in itself, and one that a majority of "the entire world" might endorse; the hope that all Palestinians will participate in their self-government by voting, (even though the process resembles a Saddam-like "done-deal" weeks beforehand). The problem is with Gere's co-stars in the PSA, Sheik Taissir Tamimi, the head of the Islamic court in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Atallah Hanna, the spokesman of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, we could grant that maybe Gere wasn't aware that his segment of the PSA, taped separately in the U.S., was going to be used in conjunction with the appearances by two men who are on record with statements like these:

Atallah Hanna - (on suicide bombers) "These martyrdom freedom fighters are the heroes of the people and we are proud of them. We categorically reject suspicious attempts to cast suspicion on their deeds. They are not suicidal, as some are claiming. Nor are they terrorists, as others are claiming. They are resisting the occupation." According to the report, he also called for the liberation of Palestine "from the [Mediterranean] sea to the [Jordan] river."

Sheik Taissir Tamimi - "the Jews are destined to be persecuted, humiliated and tortured forever,and it is a Muslim duty to see to it that they reap their due. No petty arguments must be allowed to divide us. Where Hitler failed, we must suceed."

If he didn't know he'd be appearing with these characters, he should say so. To Gere's credit, he has traveled several times to the region, and seems well intended, although he has demonstrated where his primary sympathies lie . But if he's a disinterested observer promoting only peace, this project is a poor choice of vehicle for making his point.

Had it not been for his pompous and presumptuous remark about speaking for all mankind, his connection to a project involving these bigots might have slipped under the media radar. I mean, that's the quote that got people riled up. Instead of declining comment, Gere should make a statement disassociating himself from people calling for the liquidation of the Jews. At least if it's really peace that he wants.


Don't miss Power Line's shredding of the Columbia Journalism Review piece by Corey Pein on the Memogate-CBS scandal. As if Pein's criticism of bloggers could ever put the pieces of CBS' journalistic credibility back together again.

In a subsequent post, Hindrocket notes that the long-awaited Memogate investigation report is due out tomorrow (probably at about 4:45 p.m.)

More than three months after they were appointed to investigate the peddling of fake documents on President Bush's National Guard service by 60 Minutes, Dick Thornburgh and Louis Boccardi are expected to release their report tomorrow. I have no doubt there will be a report; I have no idea whether there was actually an investigation.

There is a story to be told here: a story about how CBS coordinated its attack on President Bush with the Democratic National Committee; a story about how fake documents were put into the hands of a mentally ill, obsessively anti-Bush crank named Bill Burkett; a story about how Burkett (if he can be believed) not only got the documents into the hands of 60 Minutes, but also into the hands of the Kerry campaign, via Max Cleland; a story about how left-wing CBS producer Mary Mapes pursued the Bush National Guard "story" for five years, beginning when he was Governor of Texas, without finding anything worth reporting until the fake documents came along; a story about how 60 Minutes was warned that the documents appeared to be fakes, but published them anyway...

...But I doubt whether Thornburgh and Boccardi will tell that story...

...The fundamental question here is whether CBS was the victim of a hoax, or the perpetrator of a hoax. It has been our view for a long time that Rather and his colleagues were perpetrators, not victims, in part because the documents were such obvious fakes that it strains credulity to suppose that they were actually fooled. When you read the Thornburgy/Boccardi report, keep that question constantly in mind: victim, or perpetrator?

January 6, 2005

Bluster Instead of Evidence

Conspicuously absent from the reports of today's election certification in Congress was much discussion of the hard evidence that Ohio's vote or the recount was anything but legitimate. I'm not sure if Conyers' 100-page report on Ohio election irregularities is publicly available, but I'm sure it will explain how bipartisan election boards certified the vote and the recount in every county despite all the problems. I can't put it any better than Power Line did: "Congressional Democrats Disgrace Themselves"

Thus the Democrats seek to perpetuate they myth that their votes somehow go uncounted, with the de facto result that all elections they lose are more or less illegitimate.

Maxine Waters appeared on Fox News this afternoon to speak for the supporters of today's "objection", and after spouting unconnected soundbite buzzphrases about provisional ballots, long lines and every vote counting, she admitted that it was simply the national news forum today that the Democrats craved. I suppose the strategy is to never pass up an opportunity to question the legitimacy of George Bush's presidency, no matter how base and incredible a lie you have to conjure up to do it.

I was a Republican Party observer in an approximately 95% black, urban precinct in Ohio, so I have an idea of how things went that day in the Buckeye State. Our precinct didn't have anyone waiting for "hours" in line, though I'm not suggesting that it didn't occur in a few places downstate. But it's the leap from "people had to wait in long lines in some precincts" to "massive election day fraud favoring Bush", which was attempted today in the absence of compelling evidence that should embarrass the grandstanders. I know it embarrasses their constituents.

Toward Recovery

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. OK, I'm addicted to the Martha Stewart Chronicles. There, I've said it.

Question of 2005

From Edge.org...

"What do you believe is true, even though you cannot prove it?"

Here are a few samples from a very absorbing site. Pack a lunch. Thanks, norm.

I believe that life is common throughout the universe and that we will find another Earth-like planet within a decade. - Stephen Petranek

Numbers that are exact powers of two are 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 and so on. Numbers that are exact powers of five are 5, 25, 125, 625 and so on. Given any number such as 131072 (which happens to be a power of two), the reverse of it is 270131, with the same digits taken in the opposite order. Now my statement is: it never happens that the reverse of a power of two is a power of five. - Freeman Dyson

Something I believe is true even though I cannot prove it, is that both cannibalism and slavery were prevalent in human prehistory. Neither belief commands specialist academic consensus and each phenomenon remains highly controversial, their empirical "signatures" in the archaeological record being ambiguous and fugitive. - Timothy Taylor

I think human-level artificial intelligence will be achieved. - John McCarthy

True love. I've spent two decades of my professional life studying human mating. In that time, I've documented phenomena ranging from what men and women desire in a mate to the most diabolical forms of sexual treachery. I've discovered the astonishingly creative ways in which men and women deceive and manipulate each other. I've studied mate poachers, obsessed stalkers, sexual predators, and spouse murderers. But throughout this exploration of the dark dimensions of human mating, I've remained unwavering in my belief in true love. - David Buss

If I were to flip a coin a million times I'd be damn sure I wasn't going to get all heads. I'm not a betting man but I'd be so sure that I'd bet my life or my soul. I'd even go the whole way and bet a year's salary. I'm absolutely certain the laws of large numbers—probability theory—will work and protect me. All of science is based on it. But, I can't prove it and I don't really know why it works. That may be the reason why Einstein said, "God doesn't play dice." It probably is. - Leonard Susskind

Stupid Tsunami Quotes

More lists, this one compiled by Arthur Chrenkoff, demonstrating the cynical use of huge numbers of dead people to advance other agendas, left, right, and otherwise.

UPDATE 1/6: Then there are these lower lifeforms who do more than say cynical things. (via TEO)

Savage Is The Man

Owner Randy Lerner and the Browns acted yesterday to correct the biggest flaw in the organization since they returned to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999. They hired Phil Savage, a man with a track record of successful NFL talent evaluation, as their new General Manager. Local writer Terry Pluto didn't originate the idea, but he summed it up nicely in a recent column.."the most important guy in the organization is the one who picks the players". Seems obvious enough, but the Browns have been deafened by Butch Davis' echo chamber of a front office for four years, and had to strip the organization down to bare walls in order to get things turned around.

Davis brought Pete Garcia with him from Miami in 2001, and never admitted that he and Garcia were in over their heads in evaluating college and pro personnel. Now that he's gone, stories have surfaced showing that even when his personnel experts had it right (like recommending drafting Richard Seymour in 2002) they weren't heeded by Davis, who would overrule them based on his hunches or personal knowledge of players (like opting for Gerard Warren over the Pro Bowler Seymour).

Savage is limited in his experience, lacking NFL salary cap management experience, and management experience in general, it appears. But Randy Lerner's money and passion should suffice to surround Savage in the front office with the talent to supplement his player personnel skills.

Multiple reports suggest that Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan is Savage's preference for Head Coach at the moment. Nolan would be immediately available, since the Ravens are not in the playoffs. It will be interesting to see how much true authority will be granted to Savage to pick his man as coach, now that he appears to have tipped his hand about who that man is. Russ Grimm, assistant head coach and offensive line coach of the Steelers will be interviewed this Saturday. If he pushes Randy Lerner's buttons like I suspect he might, we could see the first test of wills in the new Browns hierarchy. If the Browns haven't named a coach by next Friday, I'd bet that they're going to wait for the Steelers' season to be over before they name the new man.

Say It Ain't So, Dave

Dave Barry is quitting his regular humor column, saying "I want to stop before I join the horde of people who think I used to be funnier. And I want to work on some other stuff." (link requires free registration)

I sure hope his blog continues. Where else would I go to find Productivity Enhancers like the Copter Game?

January 5, 2005

Belle For Baseball HOF?

This guy makes a pretty persuasive case that Albert Belle belongs in Cooperstown. I know there was no more dangerous hitter in the game from about 1994-1996. I personally attended at least ten games in that three year stretch at Jacobs Field that he won with home runs in the Indians' last at bat. And I'm also aware that being a complete asshole is not a disqualifier for election to the Hall of Fame. And since the Hall of Fame has now become a place that elects not only players who were great, but also players who were simply good, but for a very long time, I say why not elect a guy who was truly great just for a while. Even a jerk like Albert Belle.

And here's another article I saw today about a former Cleveland Indian. He's not going to make anyone forget Bo Jackson, but he's a two-sport star now. (via Ben Maller Rumors and Notes)

UPDATE 1/6: Jim Caple throws out the same question in the Albert Belle debate with his column on Koufax vs. Blyleven.

Who do you pick? The Hall of Fame pitcher who had three 25-win seasons, threw four no-hitters and won three Cy Young awards in a four-year span, but who only won a dozen games six times and was done by age 31? Or the non-Hall of Famer who won 20 games only once and never won a Cy Young award, but who won at least 14 games a dozen times, was still pitching at age 42 and finished with 122 more wins than Koufax?

Do you pick a short span of greatness or a long career of good, solid performances? Do you want the spectacular pitcher, knowing you'll have to find someone else to replace him soon? Or do you go for the guy you can build a rotation around for two decades? The pitcher who may put your team over the top right now? Or the pitcher who will help keep your team near the top for years to come?

Basically, I'm asking whether six great seasons (and Koufax was great for only six years and mediocre the rest of his career) are worth more than 15 good years (which is essentially what Blyleven had). It isn't an easy question.

Going in Style


I told you it was the season for Top Ten lists. Here then are the Top Ten Most Fascinating Urinals. Courtesy of the ever bizarre flabber.nl, we are treated to urinals from Kabul to Sheboygan, including one for women at a Dairy Queen. (They call it a "She-inal", or a "Urinette". What's wrong with "Herinal"? Too easy?) And frankly, from the Taj Mahal I was expecting something a bit more ornate.

Read These Guys

The Diplomad has another post on the U.N. approach to disaster relief titled "almost fUNnny", that includes this update:

More on "The UNcredibles": WFP (World Food Program) has "arrived" in the capital with an "assessment and coordination team." The following is no joke; no Diplomad attempt to be funny or clever: The team has spent the day and will likely spend a few more setting up their "coordination and opcenter" at a local five-star hotel. And their number one concern, even before phones, fax and copy machines? Arranging for the hotel to provide 24hr catering service. USAID folks already are cracking jokes about "The UN Sheraton." Meanwhile, our military and civilians, working with the super Aussies, continue to keep the C-130 air bridge of supplies flowing and the choppers flying, and keep on saving lives -- and without 24hr catering services from any five-star hotel . . . . The contrast grows more stark every minute.

Read it all, along with another terrific Diplomad post here.

And do yourself a service and check out Chrenkoff, who has been a blogmaniac these past few days. Amazing posts, from tsunami relief news and links to Part 18 of Good News from Iraq. The guy's a machine. Thanks Arthur.

Stuff For Baseball Freaks

'Tis the season for Top Ten lists of all sorts, and ESPN's Page 2 had their offering of the Top Ten pitching rotations of all time the other day. I would submit one rotation, perhaps in the also-ran category, as the best rotation on an otherwise lousy team. The 1968 Cleveland Indians, who went 86-75 with the AL's best starters (quick, name the Tigers' starters after McClain and Lolich). Consider the numbers for these guys:

Luis Tiant (21-9, 1.60 ERA)
Sam McDowell (15-14, 1.81 ERA)
Sonny Siebert (12-10, 2.97 ERA)
Stan Williams (13-11, 2.50 ERA)

Too bad they pitched every day in front of a starting lineup that featured Joe Azcue(C), Tony Horton(1B), Vern Fuller(2B), Max Alvis(3B), Larry Brown(SS), Jose Cardenal(OF), Tommy Harper(OF), and Lee Maye(OF). (That last guy not to be mistaken for Lee May, a reasonably good ballplayer).

By the way, for a wonderful reference concerning any team, any year, any player, it's hard to beat baseball-reference.com

January 4, 2005

New Horizons in Loafing

Blogging productivity (an oxymoron?) is down following the installation of my new ATI TV Wonder Pro, a TV capture card that has brought the curse miracle of television to my computer monitor. I used to have to get up out of my computer chair and walk some ten steps through the kitchen in order to see the TV in the family room. With rare exceptions, this only happened when there was a game on involving a ball of some sort, in which I had a rooting interest. What's that, 363 days a year? The trip also offered the only chance to interact with my wife during the evening hours, even if that was limited to a kiss on the top of her sleepy head.

Her reaction when I opened this gift from my son on Christmas Day was predictable. "Now I'll never get you out of your computer chair". The woman is psychic, it turns out.

I realize these TV tuner cards aren't new (although some of the accompanying software may be) but I've been putting it through its paces, and there are enough cool features to keep me amused for hours. On top of all that, it's been NFL playoff crunch time and Capitol One Bowl Week all wrapped into one for the last ten days. I think I remember briefly embracing my wife at midnight on Friday. Something about a new year.

The thing installs in a minute in a PCI slot, and you just split the incoming broadband cable right in front of the cable modem, and run it to the card. I'm not using any booster/amplifier on it and am getting good results. Whether I'm full-screen or running a tiny 2x2 window in the corner of my browser, or any size in between, the picture is great and I've got a choice of mouse or keyboard commands for channel and volume. As I write this, the National Championship game is out of control, so I'm just grabbing a few select screen shots for demo purposes. I don't suppose I have the express written consent of ABC for any rebroadcast or other use of their telecast, so I'll not post any of the video stuff I've captured tonight. I'm sure Oklahoma would like the entire video to self-destruct anyway.

The software includes a web-based, on-screen program listing guide, with the capability to pre-schedule the recording of shows, a la DVR or VCR, and a choice of video file formats to select (mpeg, avi, Windows Media, and a proprietary ATI format). Or the capability to preview all of your available channels at once in tiny windows on your screen, and watch 10-second mini-previews of any of them.

I know nothing of video from a technical standpoint, so my DVD burner has been unused since I bought the machine, until I began experimenting with it using the newly captured video files. Now I'm scheming on the kinds of things I can commit to disc that I can grab from TV (for my personal use of course).

But all the video capturing and DVD burning aside, I am amazed at how much more TV I am willing to watch when I am one mouse-click instead of ten steps away.

January 3, 2005

Putin Punishes Illarionov

Andrei Illarionov, a top economic advisor to Russian President Vladimir Putin was stripped of much of his government responsibility Monday, after what the N.Y. Times characterized as his "sweeping criticism of the Kremlin's leadership" and his expression of "deep misgivings about the direction in which Russia was headed". (the full text of the NYT article is at the "Continue reading" link below - Ed.)

Putin is wearying of this "freedom of speech" thing, at least as it relates to the outspoken critic Illarionov, who jabs continuously at the Putin government, with the approval of a majority of Russian citizens it seems. A recent radio station poll, while unscientific, speaks volumes about the regard in which he is held by the people:

The station, even as Mr. Illarionov appeared on the air, conducted a swift call-in poll, asking listeners to answer one question: Should Mr. Illarionov stay in government and try to influence its decisions, or quit?

The poll lasted four minutes. More than 9,200 people called; 86 percent said he should stay.

Illarionov may have sealed his fate by referring to Putin's state takeover of the oil giant Yukos as "the swindle of the year", and his recent criticisms of the Kremlin have been more general than specific. But he has been a persistent critic of Russia's involvement with the Kyoto Climate Accords, characterizing them as nothing less than an assault on freeedom. In fact, he seems to have a real thing about freedom. Maybe that's what has Putin's panties in such a bunch.

Illarionov first came to the attention of this blog when in July of 2004 he published a blistering assessment of both the science and the morality of the Kyoto Accords and the political machinery required to enforce them. The lack of scientific consensus on climate change causes is well known, and he touches on that, but it was this quote that had me wondering if Illarionov would be walking around a free man for long:

The next point brings us directly to the Kyoto Protocol, or more specifically, to the ideological and philosophical basis on which it is built. That ideological base can be juxtaposed and compared, as Professor Reiter has done just now, with man-hating totalitarian ideology with which we had the bad fortune to deal during the 20th century, such as National Socialism, Marxism, Eugenics, Lysenkovism and so on. All methods of distorting information existing in the world have been committed to prove the alleged validity of these theories. Misinformation, falsification, fabrication, mythology, propaganda. Because what is offered cannot be qualified in any other way than myth, nonsense and absurdity.

This is not a simple war. Like any war it cannot be easy and simple. Regrettably like any war it has its losses and victims, and we must understand that. The main thing is that we have now obvious evidence that we have got over the past two days, although we had some hints before that time, and it was the approach to Russia practiced by some people attending the seminar, an approach to Russia as a kind of banana republic, an approach to a country that is not a colony yet but about to become it as soon as it ratifies the document. At least we now know how people in colony feel towards other people who are trying to make them a colony. (emphasis mine - Ed.)

No sooner had I picked my jaw up off my chest following that strikingly candid acknowledgement of Russia's collective guilt, than Illarionov was back at it with another piece at envirotruth.org in November, in which he likens "Kyotoism" to fascism and communism as "an attack on basic human freedoms behind a smokescreen of propaganda". There's more.

Less than a month ago, Illarionov had an op-ed in The Australian that again trod on Putin's toes, questioning the "bureaucratic monster" required by the Kyoto agreement that Putin had only recently agreed to sign, under pressure from the E.U.:

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.

Small wonder that Putin has decided to take this freedom-talker down a peg.

It is also worth noting that the word "Kyoto" appears nowhere in the N.Y.Times article. I don't profess to know much about why Putin acted now to strip Illarionov of power. He has weighed in on the Yukos issue and on the Ukrainian election fiasco, undoubtedly getting under Putin's skin on those scores. But much of his recent public profile seems to have been in the context of his passionate objection to Russian involvement with the Kyoto Accords. One would think that would deserve a mention in the Times coverage, no?

The New York Times

January 4, 2005
Putin Demotes Adviser Critical of the Kremlin


MOSCOW, Jan. 3 - President Vladimir V. Putin on Monday abruptly reduced the responsibilities of a senior adviser who last week issued a sweeping criticism of the Kremlin's leadership and expressed deep misgivings about the direction in which Russia was headed.

In a presidential decree released without further comment, Mr. Putin relieved the adviser, Andrei N. Illarionov, of his duties as Russia's envoy to the Group of 8, comprising the world's major industrialized nations and Russia. Mr. Putin reassigned those duties to a presidential aide who is seemingly a more loyal Kremlin insider, Igor I. Shuvalov.

Mr. Illarionov, 43, has been an economics adviser to Mr. Putin since 2000, and at times a vocal critic of the Kremlin's course. Both the Kremlin and Mr. Illarionov's spokeswoman said that for the moment he would retain his principal post. But his sudden removal as envoy to the Group of 8 carried an implicit rebuke.

In a long news conference here last week and then in an interview on an independent radio station, Mr. Illarionov issued a searing and comprehensive assessment of the state of affairs in Russia, saying the country had sharply shifted direction for the worse, and risked becoming a third world state.

For more than a year the debate about Russia's course and its political chill has been lively, with much public worrying over the plans and judgment of Mr. Putin and the group of former K.G.B. officers with whom he tightly controls the nation's political life. What made Mr. Illarionov's remarks so striking was not their substance - they reflect widely held views among Western critics of the Kremlin and those few in Russia who still risk speaking publicly - but their source, from an insider.

Mr. Illarionov described the government as both arbitrary and wrong-headed, criticizing the Kremlin's crackdown on the news media, its expropriation of the main asset of Yukos, the oil giant, its centralization of political power and its foreign relations.

His assessments were unsparing. He called the seizure last month of the Yukos unit "the swindle of the year."

In the government's attack on a healthy company, and its signals about which companies were Kremlin favorites, Mr. Illarionov said, "financial flows are rerouted from the most effective companies to the least effective ones."

Moreover, Mr. Putin's decision to do away with elections for governors throughout Russia, and to appoint governors through the presidency, Mr. Illarionov said, ensured that political competition was undermined, to ill effect. "Limited competition in all spheres of life leads to one thing," he said. "To stagnation."

At times Mr. Illarionov also appeared to put himself personally at odds with Mr. Putin, for example, dismissing as absurd Kremlin defenses of the Yukos seizure. Mr. Putin has been vocal in his support of Yukos's near liquidation.

"This entire affair regrettably demonstrates that any of the official or semiofficial explanations given to the public regarding the Yukos affair do not have a leg to stand on," the economics adviser said.

Mr. Illarionov also spoke warmly of the United States bankruptcy judge in Texas who had tried to block the auction of the Yukos unit, even though only days before Christmas Mr. Putin had personally ridiculed her at his own news conference.

"We should thank the Texas court and the judge for having done everything possible to help Russia avoid falling into the abyss they have pushed us to," Mr. Illarionov said.

Finally, Mr. Illarionov congratulated Ukrainian voters and demonstrators for successfully overturning the fraudulent presidential election of Nov. 21, and forcing a new vote last month that the opposition candidate, Viktor A. Yushchenko, appears to have won. Mr. Putin had supported the government's candidate, Viktor F. Yanukovich.

In a biting portion of his remarks at the news conference, Mr. Illarionov sarcastically thanked fellow Russian politicians for so clumsily handling their support of Mr. Yanukovich, who appeared to have won an earlier round of voting accompanied by widespread accusations of electoral fraud, saying that they helped energize the opposition.

"One has to pay tribute to our colleagues, who did all they could, by making their crude, uncouth and offensive statements," he said, because as a result Ukrainians "who may not have intended to vote or least did not intend to vote for Mr. Yushchenko, did go to the polls and cast ballots and made Mr. Yushchenko's win so convincing, so obvious and so doubtless."

Mr. Yushchenko won the race by nearly eight percentage points, according to the Central Election Committee's count. His victory is not official, and awaits the outcome of a court challenge by Mr. Yanukovich.

Having staked so many positions distinctly opposite of Russia's official line, Mr. Illarionov had been expected to attract attention from the Kremlin. His future was unclear Monday night; neither his spokeswoman nor the Kremlin remarked publicly about the reasons behind the presidential decree, or his future in the government.

Last week, however, the Echo of Moscow radio station demonstrated that he had some support away from the Kremlin's walls.

The station, even as Mr. Illarionov appeared on the air, conducted a swift call-in poll, asking listeners to answer one question: Should Mr. Illarionov stay in government and try to influence its decisions, or quit?

The poll lasted four minutes. More than 9,200 people called; 86 percent said he should stay.

Is Belarus Next?

Could the next domino to fall in the democratic revolution of the new millenium be Belarus? The power of non-violent civil disobedience was unleashed in Kiev, and the democratic activists in Belarus were watching. The forces of Vladimir Putin have moved to intimidate activists and arrest political leaders in a test of wills with the West. Will the democrats of Belarus get the vocal support of George Bush, or is his tenuous relationship with Putin more important than their freedom? This could be an amazing year.

Before and After Pics

A friend sent me the link to this series of before and after satellite photos of various tsunami locales. Click on the "Before" button to see the "After" view. Sets #5 through #7 are particularly chilling. After all I had heard and read to this point, I thought I "got it". But this series of photographs proved to me that I had no earthly idea of the enormity of what had happened.

January 2, 2005

Free Browns Analysis...And Worth It

It was a weekend of scintillating football games, but today's Browns win was not one of them. What it was was a decisive road win for a team that had exactly zero road wins this year going in. It was a victory for the team that wanted it more, outplayed the opponent, and appeared to have the more talented group of players on the field. That has been a rare confluence of events in 2004 for the Browns. The upside to being 3-12 going into the game is that there's not much to be nervous about, for fans anyway, so it was great to just sit back and savor a victory like we haven't done since the opening win over Baltimore. And breaking the nine-game losing streak in the last game of the season, and doing it the way the Browns did it, put all sorts of issues into doubt that had seemingly been all but decided before the game.

Most of the smart money had Kelly Holcomb gone to free agency after this year, but I would say there's now a decent possibility that the new managament team will decide he's our best shot to win games in 2005. They may well decide to try and sign him with a promise that he'll have one year as the starter to show he can be a competent NFL QB. At least that's what I think they should do. Not so much because I think the team can ever win big with Holcomb, but because the alternatives are so unappealing. I'm also guessing that the line of teams forming to talk with a free-agent Holcomb about making him their starter will be a short one, and a starting opportunity is all he really wants.

Garcia is owed a bunch of money for 2005, and that's the biggest factor that may keep him here, although Randy Lerner has shown a willingness to eat huge amounts of contract liability to be rid of people he considers mistake hires. Garcia will be nothing but a year older and slower next season, and I'm afraid that's a story with no possible happy ending. Luke McCown is clearly not ready for the bigtime, and drafting another young quarterback with a top ten draft selection would be lunacy for a team with so many other screaming needs.

Gerard Warren had a great game today, and has played well in the last four or five games. I hope that his negative image among fans doesn't encourage the new regime to get rid of him. The defense is fairly solid when you put Daylon McCutcheon and Andra Davis back on it, along with Sean Jones, Chris Crocker and a draft pick or two. Warren and his D-line mates completely dominated the game today, and even if we do spin off the disappointing Courtney Brown next year, that unit is one of the bright spots for 2005.

Another question now is if Terry Robiskie has made himself a serious candidate for the Head Coach position with today's win. Even though I have serious doubts that he's the right guy, he deserves a fair hearing. By already having named him a "finalist" for the position, and by naming him Interim Head Coach in the first place, surely the team has satisfactorily addressed the concerns of the NFL's affirmative action monitors. At least they won't be put in the position of the Miami Dolphins who put their annointed candidate Nick Saban on hold for a week while they brought in Art Shell for an awkward-looking, obligatory interview. Kudos to Shell by the way, for doing this for the league and the team. Who would have blamed him for telling them to stuff it (and who knows how many others did?) since the outcome was so clearly already determined?

I am not implying that Lerner and the Browns would evaluate Robiskie on any basis other than his coaching merits, just commenting on the current reality of NFL political correctness. I think and hope that the NFL is rapidly approaching the day (already reached by the NBA) when they are beyond this league-mandated race-consciousness. It is in the interests of owners and franchises to win games, and so more qualified black coaches who can win games will eventually be hired to do that, (and fired when they stop doing that). All that said, I would be surprised if Robiskie got the job, but nobody would even be asking the question if the Browns hadn't won the game today.

I also think today's win was important for how it will affect the search for a general manager and a head coach. Winning an NFL game today, a road game no less, changes the look of this team from one careening off a cliff and yet to hit the bottom, to one that simply had an unfortunate nine game losing streak in mid-season. In other words, it's not a five-year project to turn things around. The new man essentially adds two 1st round picks and two 2nd rounders to the 2004 team with Winslow and safety Sean Jones coming back from injuries. The 2004 Chargers proved that a major upgrade at offensive line can turn a bad team into a good one in one year.

I admit I've been accused of wearing the rose-colored glasses from time to time, and my nature in most things is as a glass-half-full type of guy. But I don't think this team is that far away from being a .500 team or even a marginal playoff team. Hear me out. I've discussed the defensive side of the ball a bit, and retaining Campo as coordinator of the defense in 2005 seems like a no-brainer to me. Our talent at cornerback with Henry and McCutcheon is solid if unspectacular, and we have discovered capable backups in Sanders, Bodden and Lehan. The D-line is good, as stated before, and if Andra Davis comes back strong, the linebacking is solid as well. Draft safeties and outside backers. (Antrell Rolle?)

We're two guards and two tackles away from having a decent offensive line. Stop laughing. Faine, Verba and Tucker are good veteran players. Add two linemen in free agency and throw a couple of high round draft picks into the fire early to take their lumps as soon as possible. Draft a left tackle high (1st), move Verba to left guard and sign a free agent right guard. Fill in with other high draft picks. Done.

After the pedestrian Holcomb (or Garcia), our skilled position talent is passable, assuming Winslow Jr. and Andre Davis return. Better line play and a fresh offensive concept are the two most important components to a return to respectability for this team. (The latter issue is the reason I don't personally favor Robiskie's return as head man.) We're good at tight end (Winslow, Heiden, Shea) and OK at running back (Suggs, Green, Echimandu). Receivers Bryant, Northcutt, Davis, Alston, and Frisman Jackson don't keep defensive coordinators awake nights, but they're not slouches either. Upgrade the WR position down to the 4th and 5th guy, and try for a late-round sleeper.

As to the draft, I would try to pick up an extra 3rd or 4th rounder by trading down, but not out of the top ten picks. (No team would be dumb enough to give up a 2nd round pick just to move up a slot or two in the first round. would they?) Then use the pick on the best offensive tackle available. This should not be difficult for the new G.M. to figure out. Say, Jammal Brown of Oklahoma or Alex Barron of Florida State? I could see opting for a defensive player that might appear too good to resist with that first pick (the aforementioned Rolle from Miami, Derrick Johnson of Texas, or Erasmus James of Wisconsin?) as long as the next two or three picks, and the free agency emphasis, is on offensive linemen. Next in order of my preference would be picks at safety (Dustin Fox?), cornerback, linebacker, wide receiver. There will certainly be seductive skill-position talents available at the top of the draft where we're sitting right now (USC's Mike Williams, Michigan's Braylon Edwards, Texas' Cedric Benson and the two Auburn RB's) but we have to resist, and perform the unglamorous chore of adding some top-flight OL talent to this team.

First lets get on with hiring a guy who knows what that looks like.

UPDATE 1/3: Oops. Not sure what I was thinking about when I said "Garcia is owed a bunch of money for 2005". Yes, the team will have a salary cap hit for the 2005 portion of his salary plus a portion of the signing bonus, but of course NFL contracts are not guaranteed for players who don't make the final roster for whatever reason.

January 1, 2005


U.S. aircraft carriers and helicopters are hard at the task of trying to save lives in south Asia, having determined that waiting for "coordination" with the United Nations bureaucrats might be somewhat counter-productive, not to mention deadly. I'm sure that in reality, we are in consultation with the U.N. folks. It's just our refusal to let them "process" all the money that drives certain internationalists batty.

Serial America-basher Clare Short, a former something-or-other in Britain said the other day that "Only really the UN can do that job...It is the only body that has the moral authority". Right.

What the U.N can do is try to take credit for work undertaken by USAID, along with Australian aid workers and military, according to this post at Diplomad (via Power Line):

Well, we're heading into Day 7 of the Asian quake/tsunami crisis. And the UN relief effort? Nowhere to be seen except at some meetings and on CNN and BBC as talking heads. In this corner of the Far Abroad, it's Yanks and Aussies doing the hard, sweaty work of saving lives.

Check out this interview (on the UN's official website) with SecGen Annan and Under SecGen Egeland shows,

Mr. Egeland: Our main problems now are in northern Sumatra and Aceh....In Aceh, today 50 trucks of relief supplies are arriving...Tomorrow, we will have eight full airplanes arriving. I discussed today with Washington whether we can draw on some assets on their side, after consultations with the Indonesian Government, to set up what we call an "air-freight handling centre" in Aceh.

Tomorrow, we will have to set up a camp for relief workers - 90 of them - which is fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything, because they have nowhere to stay and we don't want them to be an additional burden on the people there.

I provided this to some USAID colleagues working in Indonesia and their heads nearly exploded. The first paragraph is quite simply a lie. The UN is taking credit for things that hard-working, street savvy USAID folks have done. It was USAID working with their amazing network of local contacts who scrounged up trucks, drivers, and fuel; organized the convoy and sent it off to deliver critical supplies. A UN "air-freight handling centre" in Aceh? Bull! It's the Aussies and the Yanks who are running the air ops into Aceh. We have people working and sleeping on the tarmac in Aceh, surrounded by bugs, mud, stench and death, who every day bring in the US and Aussie C-130s and the US choppers; unload, load, send them off. We have no fancy aid workers' retreat -- notice the priorities of the UN? People are dying and what's the first thing the UN wants to do? Set up "a camp for relief workers" one that would be "fully self-contained, with kitchen, food, lodging, everything."

The UN is a sham.

Chuck Simmins is tracking the stinginess of Americans on his site. As of this writing, private sector donations (personal and corporate) are over $200 million, according to Simmins' tally, and the latest commitment of taxpayer dollars by the Bush administration is some $350 million. Of course, both totals are going nowhere but up.

Tim Blair has lots of good info on relief efforts as well, and Belmont Club comments with "Swine Before Pearls" on the logical extensions of deference to U.N. bureaucrats:

Leaving the issues of moral authority aside, the operational question is whether the world is better and more efficiently served by the UN organizational model. The real thought experiment that proponents of UN legitimacy must pass is whether they would entrust Paris, not just Kigali to the bureaucrats on the East River. Clare Short is probably perfectly happy to entrust Rwandan lives to the United Nations; whether she would entrust her own to it is another question.

So while the U.N. posts press releases and convenes international conferences in Geneva, thank God America and Australia and other good people are willing to do what the U.N. can't or won't. Act to save lives now. Worry about who gets the credit for being the most multilateral and cooperative later. Thanks to all who are a part of this effort, Americans and non-Americans alike, and to all who donate to the cause.