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March 31, 2005

One of A Kind

They're calling him The Freak.

...one AFC general manager said. "He's the best athlete in the draft. It may not even be close. Honestly, he's the most mesmerizing player I've ever evaluated."

"He was the best player in the SEC the past two years," said Ron Zook, the ex-Florida coach now at Illinois.

LSU coach Nick Saban said he "single-handedly won more games than any player in the SEC." South Carolina coach Lou Holtz called him the "MVP" of the SEC.

No, it's not Ronnie Brown or Cadillac Williams.

"It's amazing that a guy that big, that strong and that fast is all in one person," Florida's Tommy Jackson said. "It's not fair."

Chris Mortensen says that when Texas played Arkansas early in the 2004 season this guy was the best player on the field, which included Vincent Young, a 2005 Heisman favorite, and two sure-fire first-rounders Longhorns Derrick Johnson and Cedric Benson.

Mortensen's thinks this kid, who at 6'6", 242 lbs, runs a 4.37 40 yd. dash, and is smart, tough and "a winner" on top of all that, is the best player available in the entire 2005 NFL Draft.

Read his ESPN.com article, but first see if you can name The Freak.

Zimbabwe Votes, Sort Of

Today was the day for the people of Zimbabwe to go to the polls, and at least some of them were peacefully permitted to do so. But from most accounts of the situation before election day, there seems to be little hope of an outcome that would rid the country of its scourge, the dictator Robert Mugabe.

Zimbabweans voted on Thursday in peaceful polls that President Robert Mugabe proclaimed were as fair as any in the world, but which the United States said were conducted in "an atmosphere of intimidation."

Officials and an independent monitoring body said tens of thousands of voters were turned away from polling stations across the country for a variety of reasons.

Foreign critics led by the United States and the European Union dismissed Thursday's parliamentary vote as a sham, echoing opposition charges that Mugabe, 81, has used repressive laws, intimidation and even vital food supplies to engineer victory. "Generally we'd say that the campaigning took place in an atmosphere of intimidation," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters in Washington.

This Times Online piece gives some background on Zimbabwe's best known dissident and freedom fighter, the priest Archbishop Pius Ncube:

From the terrible period in the 1980s, when Mr Mugabe dispatched his notorious Fifth Brigade to suppress dissidents in Matabeleland — a war that is said to have led to the deaths of anything from 2,000 to 8,000 people — to the seizing of white farms by “war veterans”, and the deliberate manipulation of elections, Archbishop Ncube has never flinched from the truth. He has exposed the facts about the destruction of the country’s economy, and the poisoning corruption of Mr Mugabe’s regime.

He has done so in language that is less than blunt. “Our Government engages in lies, propaganda, the twisting of facts, half-truth, downright untruths and gross misinformation, because they are fascists,” he said last year. (how much "less than blunt" is that?? - DW)

The Washington Post displays little hope for a good outcome:

It's easy to see why Zimbabwe's Archbishop Pius Ncube calls for a "people power" uprising in his country. The parliamentary elections on Thursday have been rigged so comprehensively that it's unlikely President Robert Mugabe will be unseated no matter how much his 25 years in office have harmed his countrymen. At least 1 million of the 5.7 million names on Zimbabwe's voter rolls are thought to be fictitious; the ballot boxes are made of transparent plastic; the polling stations will be run by pro-Mugabe thugs from his security forces. The campaign, though less violent than some previously, has featured brutal intimidation. People have been told that districts that support the opposition will be denied food distributions, a potent threat in a country where one-third of the population is on the verge of hunger.

Dr. Roger Bate, the Director of Africa Fighting Malaria, calls Mugabe "Africa's Pol Pot" in a depressing TCS essay that explains how Mugabe's misrule has been the cause of so much death by disease, malnutrition and violence. Please read it all:

Twenty years ago, life expectancy in Zimbabwe was 58; in 2002 it was 33 and dropping. The official HIV/AIDS rate in 2002 was about 25 percent (the highest in the world for any sizeable country), but the real rate is probably much higher. With no hope for treatment, and little for long term survival, behavior rapidly worsens. According to one survey, over a third of Zimbabwean men who are aware they are HIV positive do not tell their partners they have the disease. And astonishingly 79% of women surveyed said they would not tell their partner if they had HIV. As one put it to me - "life is too short here to worry about HIV."

Dr. Mark Dixon from Mpilo Hospital in Bulawayo says that 70 percent of the patients he treats for any reason carry the HIV virus. A possible explanation for this extraordinary number is the high incidence of unprotected sex (usually rape) in Mugabe's youth camps, where sexual power is used to suppress dissent against the ruling party.

The London Independent has some reaction from voters leaving the polls.

UPDATE 4/1: Another piece on the election by Roger Bate, this time at NRO

On Shiavo

Mark Steyn

William Anderson at TWS

NRO Editorial

Next time it will be easier. It always is.

March 29, 2005

Kofi's "Studied Bewilderment" Continues

The TV happened to be tuned to MSNBC (don't ask) when I walked in the house from work tonight and I was able to see Hardball reporting the news from the Volcker Committee Second Interim Report as follows: banner headline across the bottom of the screen "Kofi Annan Cleared of Wrongdoing in U.N. Oil For Food Scandal".


The guest host repeated this same basic statement more than once as the lead-in to his guests' appearance. I knew better, but plainly the other hundred or so people watching MSNBC might not have. It seemed like an outrageous statement to make even if one twisted the actual words from the media reports today to take the benefit of the doubt Annan was getting on the one small, nepotistic sliver of this massive fraud with which the media coverage primarily dealt, and turn it into a "get-out-of-jail-free-card" for Annan's culpability for having presided over the whole corrupt enterprise.

The issue of Kofi's son Kojo and his employer Cotecna, has received much of the media attention, but even to say that Annan was "exonerated" of the charge that he knew his son's employer was bidding for a lucrative Oil-For-Food inspection contract, is stretching the words of the report to the point of distorting them.

The first paragraphs of an AP story on the reports findings said, in part...

Investigators of the U.N. oil-for-food program in Iraq said Tuesday there was not enough evidence to show that Secretary-General Kofi Annan knew of a contract bid by his son's Swiss employer. However, they criticized the U.N. chief for not properly investigating possible conflicts of interest in the matter...

...The report released Tuesday also accused the company, Cotecna Inspection S.A., and Annan's son, Kojo, of trying to conceal their relationship after the contract was awarded. It also faulted Kofi Annan for conducting a one-day investigation into the matter, saying it should have been a more rigorous, independent probe.

Exoneration? That same AP report contained this quote from Volcker:

"Our investigation has disclosed several instances in which he might, or could have become aware, of Cotecna's participation in the bidding process," Volcker said. "However, there is neither convincing testimony to that effect nor any documentary evidence.

It's easy to understand how documentary evidence may have been hard to come by when one hears of the letters sent by Benon Sevan and endorsed personally by Annan to pressure Cotecna to withhold documents from the various investigators, or how certain U.N. officials were ordering their subordinates to shred documents by the boxful in advance of the probes.

We are to believe, just for starters, that the fact Cotecna employed the 23 year-old son of the U.N. Secretary General at the same time Cotecna was trying to land a huge contract with the United Nations, was a coincidence. And that after Kojo had worked for this company for over two years, his father had no idea that his son's employer was attempting to do business with the U.N. by bidding on a contract. I believe in the Tooth Fairy, and I don't buy this.

Roger Simon has been one of the bloggers who has been on the Oil-For-Food story from the early days, well over a year ago, and his recent exclusive on the comings and goings of Kofi and Kojo in 1998, the year that culminated in the award of the inspection contract to Cotecna, sheds some new light on the matter. Rogers reporting now makes it even more difficult to swallow the notion that Kofi was oblivious to his son's business affairs. Here's a taste of what Roger came up with, but go and read his whole post; (and this follow up as well)... (ellipses mine - Ed.)

The committee has been interviewing Pierre Mouselli, a businessman in Paris who was Kojo's business partner. Their relationship started in 1998 when then 45-year old Mouselli met young Kojo (then 23) at a Bastille Day Party in the French Embassy in Lagos, Nigeria...

...Previously unrevealed private meetings between Kojo and two separate Iraqi Ambassadors to Nigeria, arranged by Mouselli in or about August 1998. At these meetings Kojo presented the business card of Cotecna, which subsequently won the lucrative oil inspection contract for Oil-for-Food. Cotecna had previously been blacklisted from doing business in Nigeria for alleged arms trafficking.

...A trip in September 1998 by Mouselli and Kojo to the Non-Aligned Nations Movement Conference in Durban, South Africa during which they traveled with the Secretary General's entourage and later had a private lunch with Kofi Annan. In Mouselli's view, the purpose of the lunch was to make the Secretary General aware of the various business dealings in which he and Kojo were engaged, in order to get the Secretary General's "blessing". It was Mouselli's understanding at the time that Kojo had previously discussed the Iraqi Embassy visits with his father, though he does not recall specific statements regarding the UN inspection contracts.

I too have been blogging on Oil-For-Food since January, 2004 , and one of the many things that are beyond serious dispute is the fact that Kofi Annan was intimately involved in nearly every aspect of the Oil-For-Food program. It was the biggest aid program in the history of the U.N., and it was Annan's baby. From Claudia Rosett's essential Oil-For-Food primer in Commentary Magazine, come these excerpts discussing Annan's role in, and responsibility for the program:

Introduced as an ad-hoc deal, Oil-for-Food soon took on the marks of a more permanent arrangement. It was a project in which Annan had a direct hand from the beginning. As Under-Secretary General, he had led the first UN team to negotiate with Saddam over the terms of the sales under Oil-for-Food. The first shipment went out in December 1996; the following month, Annan succeeded Boutros-Ghali as Secretary-General.

Nine months later, in October 1997, Annan tapped Benon Sevan, an Armenian Cypriot and longtime UN official, to consolidate and run the various aspects of the Iraq relief operation under a newly established agency called the Office of the Iraq Program (but usually referred to simply as Oil-for-Food). Sevan served as executive director for the duration, reporting directly to Annan. The program was divided into roughly six-month phases; at the start of each phase, Sevan would report and Annan would recommend the program’s continuation to the Security Council, signing off directly on Saddam’s "distribution plans."

...If final responsibility lay anywhere at all, it lay with the Secretariat (Annan's office -Ed.). It was this body that fielded a substantial presence in Iraq....The Secretariat was the keeper of the contract records and the books, and controller of the bank accounts, with sole power to authorize the release of Saddam’s earnings to pay for imports to Iraq. The Secretariat arranged for audits of the program, was the chief interlocutor with Saddam, got paid well for its pains, and disseminated to the public extremely long reports in which most of the critical details of the transactions were not included...

...Annan’s studied bewilderment is itself an indictment not only of his person but of the system he heads. If anyone is going to take the fall for the Oil-for-Food scandal, Sevan seems the likeliest candidate. But it was the UN Secretary-General who compliantly condoned Saddam’s ever-escalating schemes and conditions, and who lobbied to the last to preserve Saddam’s totalitarian regime while the UN Secretariat was swimming in his cash.

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

Amen, Claudia.

Oil-For-Food Links

Friends of Saddam blog

"The Oil-for-Food Scam: What Did Kofi Annan Know, and When Did He Know It?", by Claudia Rosett

Wizblog Oil-For-Food posts

UPDATE 3/30: More from the Wall Street Journal on the Kofi-Kojo-Cotecna connections.

Part 24 of Chrenkoff's GNFI

You know the drill. Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News From Iraq".

March 28, 2005

What's The Upside For Israel?

In her weekend Townhall column, Caroline Glick respectfully disagrees with Norman Podhoretz's contention that Sharon's Gaza withdrawal plan and U.S. Palestinian policy in general comport with the Bush Doctrine:

The question of how Palestinian statehood fits into the Bush Doctrine of democratization has always been a nagging one. The president's central premise is that the endemic wars and terrorism in the region are the consequence of repressive regimes that prefer their people be raised on a diet of extremism and hatred under tyrannical governments than be educated in moderation and modernity under free governments. Rejection of Israel's right to exist by the Arabs who need Israel (and America) as their external enemy in order to justify the failure of their own leaders to advance their peoples is, by the reasoning of the Bush Doctrine, the central cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict...

...Given the total disconnect between the Bush Doctrine, which places the onus for change on the Arabs by calling for their democratization and eschewal of terrorism, and the Sharon plan, which makes no demands whatsoever on the Palestinians, it was interesting to see an attempt to conflate the two undertaken by as remarkable an intellectual and as heroic a figure as Norman Podhoretz.

In the April issue of Commentary magazine, Podhoretz, who has been a towering intellectual model for me throughout my career, argues that there is a way to view the Sharon plan as part of the Bush Doctrine. He claims that after Israel removes the Jewish communities from Gaza and northern Samaria, the Palestinians will be held to the Bush Doctrine's policy of democratization – and that Israel won't be forced to make any additional concessions until the Palestinians reform. He argues that if the Palestinians continue to attack Israel after the IDF evacuates the Jewish communities and withdraws from the areas, Israel will be free to take any action it deems necessary to secure itself. He claims that because of Bush's commitment to the Bush Doctrine, the Arab world will now be forced to enact reforms that will transform the Palestinians' operating environment in a manner that will force them to give up terror.

While it is possible to debate the merits of each of the points he makes in favor of the plan, what is most interesting about Podhoretz's analysis of Sharon's plan is the point he does not address. Podhoretz never discusses what Israel is actually accomplishing – for itself – by going forward with Sharon's withdrawal and expulsion plan. Again, as is now clear to all Israelis and Palestinians, the reason it is impossible to discuss what Israel is actually gaining from Sharon's plan is because Israel is gaining nothing from it.

One thing they might be gaining is the perception by certain (European?) skeptics that Israel is unilaterally acting in good faith, and that the ball will clearly be back in the Palestinians' court, as Podhoretz suggested. But what outsiders think will matter little it seems, as long as the Gaza withdrawal is seen and/or spun by Palestinian militants as a victory for terrorism. Which is exactly what is happening:

This week, Israeli Arab parliamentarian Azmi Bishara's Web site, www.Arabs1948.com, published an interview with Hamas spokesman Ahmed al-Bahar in which he discussed the significance of Sharon's plan. Bahar claimed, "The painful and qualitative blows which the Palestinian resistance dealt to the Jews and their soldiers over the past four and a half years led to the decision to withdraw from the Gaza Strip."

"All indications show that since its establishment, Israel has never been in such a state of retreat and weakness as it is today, following more than four years of the intifada," he continued. "Hamas's heroic attacks exposed the weakness and volatility of the impotent Zionist security establishment. The withdrawal marks the end of the Zionist dream and is a sign of the moral and psychological decline of the Jewish state. We believe that the resistance is the only way to pressure the Jews."

March 27, 2005



London Telegraph:

The French judge who first uncovered the corruption scandal engulfing the country's most senior politicians has claimed that bribery and cronyism are still rife at the highest levels of government.

Eric Halphen, whose investigations into kickbacks from public works programmes led to a number of President Jacques Chirac's closest allies going on trial last week, said that the prosecutions "in no way" signalled an end to the corruption that has blighted French politics for decades...

...Investigating judges have said that there is "strong and concordant evidence" that Mr Chirac was at the very least aware of the kickback scheme.

They established in 2001 that he had paid the equivalent of about £330,000 in cash for dozens of luxury family holidays between 1992 and 1995. The source of this money has never been established.

They also unearthed evidence that Mr Chirac had spent about £3,500 of City Hall funds each week on family groceries, including foie gras and truffles, much of it paid for in cash. Some of the reimbursed food bills were found to have been faked.

Mr Chirac may still face charges in connection with a fake job scam while he was the mayor of Paris, and could lose his immunity from prosecution when his presidency ends in 2007. Yet his success in avoiding indictment has led to scepticism that "Supermenteur" (Super-liar), as his critics call him, will ever face a court.

(via The Corner)


For him it was a chance to visit his daughter and grandchildren in Israel and comment on the trends in U.S-Israeli-Palestinian relations. For us it's an opportunity to learn from one of the most astute political writers of our time. From the April issue of Commentary, read "Bush, Sharon, My Daughter, and Me", by Norman Podhoretz.

March 26, 2005

People Power in Taiwan


Hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese gathered today for a massive protest against the passage of anti-secessionist legislation by China. As many as a million people were expected to fill the streets of Taipei to demonstrate for peace and democracy. This post at Publius Pundit has lots of links and pictures.

A Washington Post op-ed by Taiwanese premier Frank Chang-ting Hsieh yesterday included these words:

Taiwan agrees with the democratic vision of President Bush: Security will ultimately be guaranteed only through the advance of liberty. And certainly, over the past two decades, we have seen remarkable progress in democracy in East Asia. In fact, it's no surprise that the most serious security problems we face in East Asia come from the policies being adopted by the region's two remaining one-party dictatorships: China and North Korea.

For all the efforts to "engage" China and help it become a "responsible" power, the reality is that it continues to stifle the democratic aspirations of its own people and to threaten Taiwan's democracy with military force. Unless the great democracies of the world say this behavior is not tolerable, we will only be inviting Beijing to believe it is.

Here's Time Magazine's take on current U.S. - China relations.

Hitler's Plunder

A popular new book in Germany is asking the tough questions, and apparently the German people are now ready to accept the painful answers...

A well-respected German historian has a radical new theory to explain a nagging question: Why did average Germans so heartily support the Nazis and Third Reich? Hitler, says Goetz Aly, was a "feel good dictator," a leader who not only made Germans feel important, but also made sure they were well cared-for by the state.

To do so, he gave them huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also -- in great contrast to World War I -- particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector, says Aly, author of the new book "Hitler's People's State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism" and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich's unsavory, murderous side.

Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

(via aldaily.com)

March 25, 2005

Geiger Airs It Out

The Baltimore Sun caught up with Ohio State Athletic Director Andy Geiger while he was on the east coast watching the Lady Buckeyes play in the NCAA Tournament. Geiger, who will retire in a few weeks, sounded a little bitter about having been hounded from office by ESPN and a habitual liar...

Geiger said he is frustrated that Clarett's allegations continue to get publicity.

"That's part of what I'd had enough of," Geiger said. "That whole episode with a guy who is more than difficult and the fact that what he had to say and what he threw around got traction, that's stunning, because there isn't anything."

Moreover, Geiger said he has tired of what he believes is an alarming trend in American sports, where everyone seems to have an opinion about a matter, whether that opinion is informed or not.

"It's not just sports," Geiger said. "I'm dismayed with where the American culture is going, the dumbing down of the American culture. ... So, private life is for me."...

..."I got to a point where I said, 'Look, I'm 66 years old. I don't need this. I don't want to do this anymore,' " said Geiger.

"They [ESPN commentators] are wannabes, never-weres, failures. They just throw stuff out. They are supposedly our partners, supposedly people that you are doing business with, that the conferences do business with."

(If you aren't registered, the entire article can be viewed at the link below)

As Geiger retires, bitter taste rivals sweet

AD savors achievements at Ohio State, decries growing negative climate

By Milton Kent
Sun Staff

March 25, 2005

COLLEGE PARK - Good times have been hard to come by, of late, for Ohio State athletic director Andy Geiger, so the opportunities to watch the NCAA tournament successes of the Buckeyes' men's ice hockey and women's basketball teams are to be savored.

"This is the fun part. This is the gravy. This is why we do this. It's good stuff," said Geiger earlier this week during a day off in the women's basketball tournament.

There hasn't been enough gravy lately for Geiger, who will retire April 15 after 34 years as an athletic director in a variety of spots, from Brown to Penn to Stanford and to Maryland, before leaving in 1994 to head to Columbus.

Geiger announced his retirement in early January, citing a weariness with the climate of college athletics in particular, and the condition of sports in general.

"When you're at a place like Ohio State, the culture there makes it the best place to do what I do and the hardest in many ways," Geiger said. "The expectations are through the roof. It's too important to the state. It's too important to the culture of the state.

"It's 11 years and the intensity and the constant rumors and sniping. You win a national championship, and they're after you. I know they experienced it here after Gary [Williams] won his [men's basketball championship in 2002]. All of a sudden, it's 'You must be doing something that you shouldn't be doing.' The heck with it. Some of my experiences have been bitter."

Indeed, since the Buckeyes won the college football title in the 2002 season, the first at the school in 34 years, things have been less than ideal for Geiger.

After coach Jim O'Brien guided the men's basketball team to the 1999 Final Four, also for the first time since 1968, Geiger was forced to fire O'Brien last June when it was revealed that the coach gave the family of a recruit $6,000. The school took itself out of consideration for postseason play to forestall NCAA sanctions. O'Brien has sued Ohio State for wrongful termination.

Ohio State faced continued scrutiny over the recruiting and handling of former running back Maurice Clarett, who led the Buckeyes in rushing in that championship season. Clarett has alleged that football coach Jim Tressel helped him and other players get loaner cars, further alleging that football players were placed in easy courses and given minimal jobs that paid big money.

Clarett was suspended his sophomore season and left the program afterward, unsuccessfully entering the NFL draft last year. The school continues to face an NCAA investigation over those allegations, and the football program was further rocked by the suspension of quarterback Troy Smith for taking cash from a booster last spring. Smith was suspended for the Alamo Bowl last season and could face further sanctions this season.

Geiger said he is frustrated that Clarett's allegations continue to get publicity.

"That's part of what I'd had enough of," Geiger said. "That whole episode with a guy who is more than difficult and the fact that what he had to say and what he threw around got traction, that's stunning, because there isn't anything."

Moreover, Geiger said he has tired of what he believes is an alarming trend in American sports, where everyone seems to have an opinion about a matter, whether that opinion is informed or not.

"It's not just sports," Geiger said. "I'm dismayed with where the American culture is going, the dumbing down of the American culture. ... So, private life is for me."

He is particularly incensed at ESPN, which, he believes, adds to the back-and-forth with its opinion shows. Geiger cited an example of where Doug Gottlieb, an ESPN basketball commentator, wondered aloud on the air recently if Rick Hartzell, a men's basketball referee who is also athletic director at Northern Iowa, would be fair to Big Ten schools whose games he worked given that the Panthers, who got into the NCAA field, were a bubble team.

"I got to a point where I said, 'Look, I'm 66 years old. I don't need this. I don't want to do this anymore,' " said Geiger.

"They [ESPN commentators] are wannabes, never-weres, failures. They just throw stuff out. They are supposedly our partners, supposedly people that you are doing business with, that the conferences do business with."

Geiger also defended his record at Maryland against suggestions that he left his successor, Debbie Yow, with deficits that forced her to make massive cuts when she took over in 1994.

"We did a lot of good things here," said Geiger, who began the renovation of Byrd Stadium. "I came here at a time when there were issues with the basketball violation situation. There was not a lot of enthusiasm for Maryland athletics at that point. ... It was very hard to recruit new business and new money into the program that needed to come."

Geiger acknowledged that he left deficits at Maryland, but he pointed out that state officials passed tuition waivers and forgave a considerable amount of the debt the athletic department had built up when Yow took over, steps that weren't taken for him.

"They wanted to be a Division I-A program without Division I-A resources," Geiger said. "When I left, and they hired a new athletic director, they passed tuition waivers, they forgave a lot of the debt. They stepped up and did some things that for Maryland to compete, they had to have to compete."

Geiger will leave the massive Buckeyes athletic program, the nation's largest with 35 varsity sports and a $91 million budget, in decent financial shape. The department has $7 million in reserve, Geiger said, and within the past seven years, the school has built and opened a $115 million, 19,500-seat basketball/hockey arena and renovated and upgraded Ohio Stadium, the home of the football team, which now seats more than 100,000.

In May, a $26 million swimming facility will open to stand alongside new facilities for lacrosse, baseball, soccer and track and field. All that building, however, comes at a cost, and while the athletic department is completely self-supporting, it also has racked up $200 million in debt, a figure that incoming athletic director Gene Smith said "scared the lights out of me," in an interview with The Columbus Dispatch earlier this month.

Geiger, who will act as a consultant to Smith until June, said he and his wife Eleanor will move to the Pacific Northwest when they leave Columbus and devote time to their sons, Philip, who will enter college in the fall, and Greg, who has a year to go in high school.

Mostly, Geiger will enjoy being out of the roasting pan for the first time in a long time.

Copyright © 2005, The Baltimore Sun

Gerecht in Najaf

In his latest piece for American Enterprise magazine, Reuel Marc Gerecht writes of his visit to Najaf and his meeting with the Shiite clerics of Iraq. Gerecht doesn't share the concerns of others that Iraq will devolve into a Khomeini-like theocracy. Sistani has learned from the ways that Khomeini delegitimized clerical rule in Iran, and Gerecht insists he is not to be feared:

Western observers who see in Ayatollah Sistani's growing influence the beginnings of an Iraqi theocratic state are quite simply wrong. Sistani has done what Iran's pro-democracy dissident clerics have dreamed of doing: He has taken the critical moral imperative in Islamic history--"commanding right and forbidding wrong"--and detached it from the state. While by no means liberals, Sistani and the traditional clergy allied with him are inverting this doctrine into a defense of political liberty. They are laying the pillars of a new, clerically protected democratic order.

When I asked Izz ad-Din whether he, his father Grand Ayatollah al-Hakim, Sistani, and the clerical community behind them consider democracy to be maruf ("that which is good"), he answered, "Completely. Muslims are entitled to live in a democratic society. Muslims, be they good ones or bad, have the right to vote."

March 24, 2005

Memory Championships

My brain doesn't work like this:

There are five events in the U.S. Memory Championships. First, contestants are given 15 minutes to memorize 99 names and faces, and 20 minutes to recall them. Next, the contestants have to memorize an unpublished 50-line poem (this year titled, "The Tapestry of Me") in 15 minutes, followed by a series of random digits, a list of random words, and finally a shuffled deck of playing cards. The best memorizers in the world—who almost all hail from Europe—can memorize a pack of cards in less than a minute. A few have begun to approach the 30-second mark, considered the "four-minute mile of memory."


I've read dozens of columns and blog posts over the last week on the Terry Schiavo matter, as many of us have. Two of them in particular struck me today as worthwhile and well-written, and so I share them here.

Like Peggy Noonan, I am at a loss to understand the enthusiasm on the part of a certain contingent of people who favored pulling the tube.

And like Jeff Jacoby, in my mind certainty is in short supply.

March 23, 2005

Giants Have No Plan B

Tim Kawakami has an excellent column on Barry Bonds in the San Jose Mercury News called Giants Must Now Pay the Price. The team has enabled this guy, refusing to ask the questions they didn't want to hear answers to, and putting up with his petulance and self-absorption. Now they're in it up to their necks. It's hard to feel sorry for the Giants. And I'm having a real tough time mustering up any sympathy for Barry either, no matter how much he whines.

(If you aren't registered , you can read the whole article at the link below)

Tue, Mar. 22, 2005

Giants Must Now Pay the Price

Tim Kawakami
Mercury News Staff Columnist

Now the Giants come to the recriminations phase of a blindly co-dependent relationship with an aging, hobbling, steroid-deprived, self-pitying, federally investigated sourpuss and theoretical adulterer/tax dodger, who, by the way, is also one of the greatest baseball players ever.

During the Barry Bonds Era here, that, of course, has been the most powerful "by the way" in the history of sports. The Giants have won games, gotten rich and impressed their fans because of it.

This was a "by the way" that blotted out the Giants' personnel gaps, covered up for Bonds' personality prickles and explained the franchise's inability to think beyond the short-term dream of Bonds leading it to a first-ever San Francisco World Series title.

Now there's a new Bonds "by the way," and it is a doozy: The Giants are good on paper, but by the way, Bonds said Tuesday that he might miss a majority of the 2005 season or more.

This is because his knee isn't recovering fast enough from two surgeries and apparently his feelings have been wounded so deeply by various perceived injustices by media and government, most recently the San Francisco Chronicle's report that an alleged former mistress testified that Bonds had told her he used steroids and that he might have broken tax laws.

"You guys wanted to hurt me bad enough," Bonds said Tuesday. "You finally got there."

This is so typical, I-am-the-center-of-the-world-foo-on-you Bonds frustration. Fine. Everybody gets upset when things don't go well, especially cranky 40-year-old demi-gods with a potentially very angry wife.

But for the Giants? That sudden whisp of ice-cold fear is exactly what they have feared for years, but always ignored.

Bonds is the Giants' sun, moon, source of energy and resident immortal. They played successful baseball by the grace of Bonds. They ignored his weaknesses, his inability to show up for the team picture or be a regular teammate. They snapped at anyone who would dare mention these things.

Purposely, the Giants never had a Plan B: How to compete if Bonds slowed down before reaching the home-run record. The Giants never let themselves address the notion that Bonds' longevity might have been artificially enhanced.

They wore blinders, basically.

Instead, they planned ceremony after ceremony to salute Bonds' epic achievements, they penciled in 50 homers, a .340 average, 200 walks, an MVP season and, assuming they filled in a bunch of veterans around him, about 93 victories.

Just this off-season, as in every Giants off-season, the Giants didn't get younger around Bonds, because that might mean suffering through growth periods. No, and there was logic in it, the Giants wanted Omar Vizquel, Moises Alou and Mike Matheny, all nearing 40.

Even their young guys -- Pedro Feliz, Tony Torcato, Jason Ellison, Todd Linden -- aren't very young.

Last September, long before they had to, the Giants guaranteed Bonds his $18 million salary for 2006 and voided the clause that forced Bonds to get 400 plate-appearances to guarantee the cash.

Back then, General Manager Brian Sabean said there was no risk on the Giants' side because Bonds would get to 400 appearances "in his sleep."

Oops. Now Bonds is talking about possibly missing the entire season and who knows what comes after that. Now, the Giants don't have the option of wiping away Bonds' salary and seeing if they can buy a younger hitter.

They've built everything around one guy; they've refused to admit the truths of it, and now what?

"I'm tired guys, just tired," Bonds said. Tired of what? "Everything."

I remember sitting across from Sabean at the winter meetings in December 2003, as the first serious Balco-Bonds reports were emerging. I asked him plainly if the Giants had any questions that Bonds needed to answer about steroids. For their own purposes. They are the ones paying him, after all.

Sabean was indignant and angry and his only response was: "That's not even a question. There's no reason to answer it."

OK, good. I understood then and I understand now that Sabean wasn't being mean, he was only being truthfully blind. The Giants had no answer for any Bonds-steroid questions and didn't want to know if Bonds was cheating or not.

He is one of the greatest players ever, but, by the way, Bonds' status in that group, as of Tuesday, probably just changed from present tense to past.

By the way, the Giants' status as a contender, through 2006, probably just changed, too.

More On Europe's Decline

A good companion piece to the Mark Steyn article below is this AEI essay by George Weigel, in which he characterizes Europe as being in "a crisis of civilizational morale", and explains why Americans should care. Like Steyn, he references the depopulation of Europe as one symptom of this crisis, and as another, points to the refusal of the E.U. to acknowledge the role of Christianity in their civilization, as in...

...the drafting of the European Union’s new constitution--or, to be technically precise, a new European constitutional treaty. This process set off a raucous argument over whether the constitution’s preamble should acknowledge Christianity as a source of European civilization and of contemporary Europe’s commitments to human rights and democracy. The debate was sometimes silly and not infrequently bitter. Partisans of European secularism argued that mentioning Christianity as a source of European democracy would “exclude” Jews, Muslims, and those of no religious faith from the new Europe; yet these same partisans insisted on underscoring the Enlightenment as the principal source of contemporary European civilization, which would seem to “exclude” all those--including avant-garde European “postmodernists”--who think that Enlightenment rationalism got it wrong...

...J. H. H. Weiler, professor of international law and director of the Jean Monnet Center at New York University...argued that European "Christophobia"--a more pungent term than Taylor’s "exclusive humanism"--was the root of the refusal of so many Europeans to acknowledge what Weiler regarded as obvious: that Christian ideas and values were one of the principal sources of European civilization and of Europe’s contemporary commitment to human rights and democracy. This deliberate historical amnesia, Weiler suggested, was not only ignorant; it was constitutionally disabling. For in addition to defining the relationship between citizens and the state, and the relations among the various branches of government, constitutions are the repository, the safe-deposit box, of the ideas, values, and symbols that make a society what it is. Constitutions embody, Weiler proposed, the "ethos" and the "telos," the cultural foundations and moral aspirations, of a political community. To cut those aspirations out of the process of "constituting" Europe was to do grave damage to the entire project.

...Europe’s statesmen--or, at the least, too many of them--are denying the very roots from which today’s "Europe" was born. Is there any example in history of a successful political project that is so contemptuous of its own cultural and spiritual foundations? If so, I am unaware of it.

The demographics are unmistakable: Europe is dying. The wasting disease that has beset this once greatest of civilizations is not physical, however. It is a disease in the realm of the human spirit. David Hart, another theological analyst of contemporary history, calls it the disease of "metaphysical boredom"--boredom with the mystery, passion, and adventure of life itself. Europe, in Hart’s image, is boring itself to death.

Fehr - Expose Steroid Users

Donald Fehr, head of baseball's players union says that exposing steroid users is the key to stopping use of the drugs:

"The biggest deterrent is exposure. Once that happens, that costs all kinds of things in the job," Fehr said after meeting with Baltimore Orioles players Tuesday. "There's the reputation issue, there's the question everybody's going to look as to whether or not any statistics that individual put up are legitimate or not -- and that can affect future contract negotiations."

While Fehr is probably right about the need to expose steroid users as a way to clean up use of illegal performance enhancers, it's too bad he has to rely only on an argument that emphasizes the financial "costs" to his union members. He might mention little issues like the integrity of the game, the long-term physical health of the players he represents, responsibilities to fans and owners, etc.

Plus Ça Change...

Kofi Annan proposes U.N. reforms that promise more of the same failed approaches and none of the desperately needed transparency and accountability. Claudia Rosett says "we've been here before".

It's The Demography, Stupid

Another smart piece by Mark Steyn. (ellipses mine -Ed.)

Almost every issue facing the EU - from immigration rates to crippling state pension liabilities - has at its heart the same glaringly plain root cause: a huge lack of babies... Most 20-year projections - on global warming, fuel resources, etc - are almost laughably speculative. They fail to take into account the most important factor of all - human inventiveness...

...But human inventiveness depends on humans - and that's the one thing we really are running out of...

...Since 1945, a multiplicity of government interventions - state pensions, subsidised higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything - has so ruptured traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that in Europe a child is now an optional lifestyle accessory. By 2050, Estonia's population will have fallen by 52 per cent, Bulgaria's by 36 per cent, Italy's by 22 per cent. The hyper-rationalism of post-Christian Europe turns out to be wholly irrational: what's the point of creating a secular utopia if it's only for one generation?

March 22, 2005

Off Their Rocker

"If You Were a Democrat", a stirring and important editorial by Terry Eastland of The Weekly Standard on the issue of filibustering judicial nominees.

Who Are These Women?

Christina Hoff Sommers provides some context for the quotes being published about Harvard President Lawrence Summers' remarks and the Harvard faculty hissy fit that has followed. Here's an excerpt from Who Stole Harvard?

The press has widely reported on the overreaction Nancy Hopkins, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologist and feminist activist who says she almost became physically ill. What many press stories fail to mention is that this is not the first time Professor Hopkins had been offended by perceived sexism.

In the late 1990s, she accused MIT of bias against herself and several of her female colleagues. Instead of bringing in objective outsiders to evaluate her complaints, MIT put Hopkins herself in charge of investigating her own charges. She spearheaded a gender-bias study that concluded — surprise, surprise — that there was insidious bias against women at MIT. The study proved to be a travesty. It was altogether unscientific. Hopkins and her co-investigators did not produce any hard data. Most of the "evidence" came in the form of anecdotes about hurt feelings and perceptions of invisibility and discomfort. One critic aptly described the study as part of the dubious legacy of postmodernism: "evidence-free, feelings-based research." In 1999, The Chronicle of Higher Education called Professor Hopkins the "poster child for gender bias," and said that that she had done for sex discrimination what Anita Hill did for sexual harassment. MIT met all of her demands; she was invited to speak on campuses around the country; the Ford Foundation donated a million dollars to her cause, and she was treated like a heroine by the Clinton White House.

Catching Up

Browsing the web after surviving for four full days without Internet access surfaced several articles and blog posts that I thought I would combine into one "items of interest" post.

*** Ace Iraq correspondent for the N.Y. Times, John Burns reports from Baghdad that the tide may be turning in one dangerous neighborhood. Burns is another journalist who is Pulitzer-worthy, IMHO.

*** Charles Krauthammer's article "What's Left? Shame looks at the wave of soul-searching on the left in the face of budding freedom movements in the Middle East.

*** Victor Davis Hanson deconstructs "the Hitlerian slur" as it is applied to George W. Bush by intellectual midgets and other silly, small people.

*** Here's more good stuff from Mark Steyn on the appointment of John Bolton as Ambassador to the U.N.

*** In the course of a critique of George Will's column, Paul Mirengoff, Power Line's "deacon", makes a brief but persuasive case for the legitimacy of changing the Senate rules to prohibit filibusters of judicial nominees if Democrats continue their recent tactics.

*** And finally an item from The Scrapbook at The Daily Standard:

Guy Stuff

An international team of 250 scientists, conducting research first reported last Thursday in the British journal Nature, has completed a full map of the X or "female" chromosome which helps determine sex in human beings. The researchers found much greater genetic variation between the sexes than they had expected. All told, as the Los Angeles Times described the team's conclusions, "men and women may differ by as much as 2 percent of their entire genetic inheritance, greater than the hereditary gap between humankind and its closest relative--the chimpanzee." Huntington Willard of Duke University, one of the key researchers participating in this latest effort, told the Chicago Tribune that by now "any of us over the age of two realizes there are plenty of differences between males and females that are characteristic of the two sexes."

Alas, however, scientists have yet to discover an explanation for the inability of Harvard University faculty members to discuss this subject like grownups.

Carolina's Yankees

Had a great getaway weekend to the NCAA's in Charlotte, even though I was battling a chest cold and cough the entire time. Things went according to plan at our venue, unlike so many other sites where the big boys got knocked off. UNC and Duke are both formidable, though Carolina looked to have the deeper and stronger team overall. I don't believe I have ever seen a team shoot the ball as well as UNC did in the opening round, and they didn't slack off much in the second game.

I had anticipated strong partisan support for the two North Carolina teams at the Charlotte complex, and the folks in the powder blue garb had the place rocking for the UNC-Oakland game on Friday. What stunned me was the crowd behavior when we came back to the evening session for the Duke game. I always expect a little support for the underdog in a #1 seed vs. #16 seed game, and Delaware St. fit the profile as well as anyone could, but this Carolina crowd was clearly not just pro-underdog. They were anti-Duke.

A little questioning of the locals seated around us revealed an open hostility to the Dukies. They are a small school compared to N.C. State and UNC, and are viewed not only as rich and elitist, but are also resented because they're always winning, damn them. One guy explained that they are seen in those parts like most people view the New York Yankees. That I could relate to.

March 17, 2005

Rosett - Pulitzer

Hugh Hewitt posts a well-deserved tribute to Claudia Rosett, and does an eloquent job of stating the obvious. Rosett deserves the Pulitzer Prize for the year 2004.

This blog has perhaps not linked to every word Rosett wrote about the U.N. Oil-For-Food scandal in 2004. But this blog has tried.

And it was all the way back in April 2004 when the words Rosett and Pulitzer were first linked here. So I can only enthusiastically endorse Hugh's suggestion, and thank Ms. Rosett personally for her example. She is illuminating and inspirational, regardless of what the silly-ass little committee decides on April 4.

March 16, 2005

Recreation Weekend

Blogging light or non-existent for four days. March Madness.

March 15, 2005

Still Expansion, After All These Years

The Browns cut Courtney Brown the other day to complete an unprecedented 0-for-4 streak. That prompted ESPN's Len Pasquarelli to go and document for the world that which has been painfully obvious to Browns fans for several years: Since 1999, the Cleveland Browns have a record of drafting incompetence unmatched in modern NFL football history. Thanks, Len. Rub it in.

To be fair, everyone and his brother thought Courtney Brown was one of the two best players in the 2000 NFL Draft. His track record of injuries cannot be laid at the feet of the management team that drafted him. However, Pasquarelli suggests it was more than an injury problem. Click and read.

Shout It Out Loud

Eric Pfeiffer's Beltway Buzz revisits what some prominent Democrats have had to say about floor votes in the Senate on judicial nominees. I've seen all of these quotes before, but these sensible statements should be heard by all American citizens. Maybe in tomorrow's New York Times?

What Democrats Once Said About Filibusters

Hopeful Democrats and many in the media say the Social Security debate could create an electoral backlash against Republicans in 2006.

However, a more rapidly developing story provides evidence we could be seeing an event closer to 1995. When Republicans shut down the government in opposition to Bill Clinton it hurt them. Democrats are now threatening similar action against President Bush’s judicial nominees.

What did several of these prominent Democrats say about filibusters during Clinton’s administration? If these five Democrats stood by their previous arguments, the filibuster battle would be resolved.

Barbara Boxer – 5/14/97:

"It is not the role of the Senate to obstruct the process and prevent numbers of highly qualified nominees from even being given the opportunity for a vote on the Senate floor."

Dick Durbin – 9/28/98:

"If, after 150 days languishing on the Executive Calendar that name has not been called for a vote, it should be. Vote the person up or down."

Tom Harkin – 1/5/95:

"I do not believe that I as a member of the minority ought to have the right to absolutely stop something because I think it is wrong, that that is rule by minority."

Ted Kennedy – 3/7/00

"The Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said: ‘The Senate is surely under no obligation to confirm any particular nominee, but after the necessary time for inquiry it should vote him up or vote him down.’ Which is exactly what I would like."

Pat Leahy - 6/18/98

"If we don’t like somebody the President nominates, vote him or her down. But don’t hold them in this anonymous unconscionable limbo, because in doing that, the minority of Senators really shame all Senators."

March 14, 2005

"Biggest Ever" Arab Protest


Once again the forces of democracy turned out in Beirut, this time in record numbers...

There were no official estimates of the crowd size, but Lebanon's leading LBC TV station and some police officers estimated it at about 1 million. An Associated Press estimate put the number at least 800,000. Either way it was the biggest demonstration ever in this country of 3.5 million.

One out of every four Lebanese shows up for this protest today? Amazing.

The question is whether or not the pro-democracy forces will be able to seize back the momentum from the Hezbollah influences that have turned things around with pro-Syria street protests of their own. Claudia Rosett reports from Beruit:

The tragedy would be if the world community, having finally noticed that the totalitarian regime of Syria was desperately unhealthy for Lebanon, should now give a pass to the terrorists of Hezbollah. Having watched the democratic opposition gain momentum for the first three weeks following Hariri's death, Hezbollah leaders last week stole some tactics from the democrats, wrapped themselves for the first time in the Lebanese flag, held a huge rally last Tuesday in Beirut and a smaller one yesterday in southern Lebanon, and are now singing the national anthem while paradoxically parading pictures of President Assad. By the time Hezbollah held its second demonstration, all of five days after its sudden adoption of the Lebanese flag, experts both in Lebanon and abroad were already deep in discussion over whether, as the New York Times put it in an editorial yesterday morning, Hezbollah leader "Sheikh Nasrallah is not above changing his stripes, if it is politically expedient."

Hezbollah's tactics bear a closer resemblance to the manner in which communist front groups once infiltrated democratic organizations than they do to any sudden conversion to democratic ways. At yesterday's Hezbollah rally in the terrorist group's southern stronghold of Nabatiyeh, talk of freedom and independence for Lebanon was framed in such terms as hatred for America; threatening posters aimed at opposition member Gebran Tueni, editor of Lebanon's leading democratic newspaper, and effusive thanks to the Syrian regime for all it has done for the Lebanese people - by which Hezbollah basically means Syria's interest in supporting Hezbollah's attacks on Israel.

France Paralyzed

When we think we've got a fiscal nightmare with out-of-control entitlements and exploding public sector growth, it's instructive to look to Europe, where unemployment is at roughly double the levels here, and economic growth rates less than half of ours. The French government knows the Golden Goose is greatly diseased, and is desperately trying to negotiate curbs on pensions, get contributions from workers for health care costs, and increase economic output by say, allowing a work week longer than 35 hours.

The response of French civil service workers to this outrageous notion is to shut down the country in a massive shit fit...

Tens of thousands of protesters marched through Paris, answering the call of unions for a massive turnout to defend France's 35-hour workweek and to push for more jobs and salary talks. Protests nationwide drew big crowds, including 35,000 people in Bordeaux and 25,000 in Marseille, police said.

Rush-hour road traffic snaked for kilometers (miles) outside the capital; many schools were shut; and French newspapers devoted their front pages to the mess. Conservative daily El Figaro carried the banner headline: "France Paralyzed."

Paris' commuter trains were badly hit by the strike which started after rush hour Wednesday and was to last until early Friday. Up to 80 percent of suburban lines were suspended.

This is a fairly regular occurrence in France, and as usual, it worked...

In a sign that the street pressure was working, Civil Service Minister Renaud Dutreil announced plans to meet this month with unions and "without any taboos" attached to the talks.

In a juicy bit of serendipity, the public transportation shutdown took place as an Olympic investigative committee was in Paris to check out the city's suitability to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Heh.

Give And Get

George Will likes Lindsey Graham's proposal to raise the current $90,000 limit on income subject to Social Security taxes. And in order for George Bush to get personal accounts through Congress he's going to have to embrace some means to finance the short-term revenue shortfall they will cause. Bush rightly refuses to cut seniors' benefit levels (which would immediately be hung around his neck by Democrats like his Daddy's "no new taxes" were), and as Will points out, we're going to get there eventually anyway.

The idea of raising (Social Security) taxes on people who make more than $100,000 a year is something enough Democrats should rally behind for Bush to gain some support for private accounts from across the aisle in return. At least it should be on the table. It would show flexibility and a willingness to compromise while also seizing the high ground of fiscal responsibility, without giving up the growth engine that private accounts represent.

Many conservatives will no doubt consider this idea a betrayal of principle. Will says, in effect, get real...

...Intelligent people can differ about whether Graham's suggestion is economically unwise or politically imprudent. However, it hardly blurs the distinction between conservatism and Bolshevism.

The Social Security tax rate has been increased 20 times in 70 years, and the cap on income subject to the tax is indexed to average wages and adjusted annually. It was $4,200 when Graham was born in 1955, $60,600 when he was elected to Congress and $84,900 in 2002. It is projected to rise to $100,200 in 2008 and $121,800 in 2013.

Suppose it were immediately raised to $162,000 -- a senator's salary -- but not indexed. That would be, effectively, a temporary tax increase. The increased revenue -- $525 billion over 10 years -- would more than cut in half the borrowing required to cover the transition costs during the phase-in of personal accounts.

Graham believes that some borrowing is appropriate to make stakeholders of future generations, which will be the biggest beneficiaries of personal accounts. But substantially reducing the borrowing would deny Democrats the ability to disguise as fiscal responsibility their opposition to personal accounts, which really is rooted in reluctance to enable people to become less dependent on government.

And the Democrats' recent outrage over Brit Hume's suggestion that FDR himself foresaw the utility of "private annuities" is misplaced, according to John Fund...

...Roosevelt had indeed proposed a plan under which all workers would have been allowed to make periodic voluntary payments in exchange for certificates representing the amounts they had deposited. At 65, workers would have been able to trade in their certificates for annuities that paid up to $100 a month (the 1935 equivalent of some $1,300 today) based on their total deposits plus interest. In fact, Roosevelt expressly cited the need for private plans to become available as the worst of the Depression passed: "I am greatly hoping that repeated promises of private investment and private initiative to relieve the government in the immediate future of much of the burden it has assumed will be fulfilled."

But Congress balked. In an article this month titled "When Congress Killed Private Accounts," National Journal notes that Rep. Frederick Vinson of Kentucky, who later became Treasury secretary under President Truman, helped kill the private annuity plan, saying he saw no "particular need" for it at that time. But he also told his House colleagues, "Many of us think the time will come when the voluntary annuity plan, which rounds out the security program for the aged, will be written into law." Yes, the plan proposed by Roosevelt and rejected by Congress in 1935 is substantially different from the one Mr. Bush is advocating. But taking into account 70 years of progress in financial instruments, there are also many similarities.

March 13, 2005

Bloggers Bracket For NCAA

I was contacted today by Yoni Cohen, who writes a College Basketball blog as well as an online column for Fox Sports. He has organized what he hopes will be a blogosphere-wide competition to pick the results of the NCAA tournament. I'm planning to jump on in with my lame picks, so why not do it. Just go to the YOCO College Basketball site, create an account and have some fun with it. Thanks Yoni, and good luck!

UPDATE 3/13: Yoni says on his site that bloggers and blog readers are welcome to participate in his pool.

NCAA Jackpot

Each year the tickets for the following year's annual NCAA tournament trip are ordered the day after the Finals, and so our group knows where we're going (always somewhere in the warm southeast) long before we know what teams we'll be watching.

Until a couple of years ago, all eight teams assigned to the eight "Sub-regional" (Rounds 1 & 2) venues were from the same regional, so spectators were assured of seeing either the #1 or the #2 seed in that region, as well as either a #3 or a #4 seed. Not so any more.

For a variety of reasons, including having more teams play closer to home in the first rounds, the NCAA is now assigning four teams from each of two regions to each sub-regional site. For example, Cleveland's Gund Arena will play host to four teams from the Midwest Region, and four from the West Region (get that?). It works out OK for those fans because they'll see a #2 seed (Wake Forest), but they'll only have one other team seeded in the top four (#4 Boston College).

The fans who bought tickets for Tuscon must be feeling especially screwed tonight. #3 seeds Gonzaga and Oklahoma are the highest seeded teams playing there. Which brings me to the destination for our little party of 45, Charlotte, NC. Somehow, some way, the Charlotte sub-regional landed two #1 seeds, Duke and North Carolina, who will feast on two #16 seeds in their own back yard on Friday.

And the organizers of our trip are feeling pretty smug tonight. Other nice teams assigned to Charlotte for our viewing pleasure include Minnesota, Stanford, Iowa State and Mississippi State. But it's pretty hard to envision anyone winning either of Sunday's games who's not wearing blue and white and playing in their home state.

And I'm just trying to figure out when I can get to the driving range before Thursday to shake off a winter's worth of rust.

Arab Spring?

Of the millions of pixels expended in the last week or so on the sea change going on in the Middle East, this WaPo piece by Youssef M. Ibrahim captures the way the people of the region have latched on to the hope and spirit triggered by the Iraqi elections. Like all sensible commentators he counsels against giddiness and self-congratulation, because "these regimes still possess the same coercive instruments that have proven effective means of control in the past". But he senses the overriding sentiment..."Kifaya"...

Nowadays, intellectuals, businessmen and working-class people alike can be caught lauding Bush's hard-edged posture on democracy and cheering his handling of Arab rulers who are U.S. allies. Many also admire Bush's unvarnished threats against Syria should it fail to pull its soldiers and spies out of Lebanon before the elections there next month -- a warning the United Nations reinforced last week with immediate effects. For Bush, it is not quite a lovefest but a celebration nonetheless...

...The slogan for this nascent people's revolt has become "Kifaya," which means "enough." It's a word that is both emphatic and vague enough to be all-encompassing yet effective: enough of autocrats, enough corruption, enough occupation, enough repression. It has acquired magical and perhaps lasting power.

UPDATE 3/14: WSJ editorial on "the stakes" in Lebanon.

March 12, 2005


We can't always deal strictly in boring type. I stumbled across a site called Tekhna3d with about nine different interactive visual effects that are pretty cool. (I would think broadband might be necessary to get the best results)

Start with this one, and experiment with your mouse.

Cities, states and nations have been putting "virtual tours" of their tourist attractions or public spaces on their web sites, using 360º photography, and now there's a site called Around the World in 360º to map them for you.

There are also some excellent 360º images here at Panoramas.dk.

Dying Too Fast

I only recently had a chance to plow through Nicholas Eberstadt's fine article at The Public Interest, "Russia - The Sick Man of Europe". The prognosis isn't at all good. A few excerpts...

Russia is now at the brink of a steep population decline—a peacetime hemorrhage framed by a collapse of the birth rate and a catastrophic surge in the death rate...

...In the years ahead, Russia's population decline will continue to accelerate because the prospective flow of net migration into Russia is drying up...

...in post-Communist Russia, the current disproportion between deaths and births is stark, indeed astonishing.

Russia, to be sure, is not the only European country registering more deaths than births nowadays... But, in other European settings, the balance is often still quite close. For example, in Italy—the poster child in many current discussions of a possible "depopulation" of Europe—there are today about 103 deaths for every 100 live births. Russia, by contrast, currently reports about 160 deaths for every 100 births...

... In the late Soviet era, Russian fertility levels were near replacement: The country's total fertility rate (TFR) fluctuated near two births per woman from the mid 1960s through the mid 1980s. But with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian fertility rate likewise collapsed, plummeting from 2.19 births per woman in 1986-87 to 1.17 in 1999...

... the problem of involuntary infertility in Russia today is further exacerbated by the current explosive spread of potentially curable sexually transmitted infections (STIs). According to official figures, for example, the incidence of syphilis in 2001 was one hundred times higher in Russia than in Germany, and several hundred times higher for Russia than a number of other European countries...

...nearly all of the increase in mortality rates for men—and absolutely all of the increase for women—can be traced to an explosion in deaths attributed to cardiovascular disease (CVD—heart disease plus strokes) and injuries. Between the mid 1960s and the end of the twentieth century, CVD mortality rates in Japan, Western Europe, and North America fell sharply. Russia, by contrast, suffered an explosion of cardiovascular death over the same period...

...As for mortality attributed to injury—murder, suicide, traffic, poisoning, and other violent causes-age-adjusted levels for Russian men and women alike more than doubled between 1965 and 2001. Among contemporary societies at peace, Russia's level of violent deaths places the country practically in a category of its own...

...it is impossible to overlook the deadly contribution of the Russian love of vodka...Russia's thirst for hard liquor seems to have reached dizzying new heights in the late Soviet era, and then again in the early post-Communist era...In 1994...the estimate of pure alcohol consumed by the population aged 15 and older amounted to 18.5 liters per capita annually—the equivalent of 125 cc. of vodka for everyone, every day.

...Heavy drinking is directly associated with Russia's appallingly high risk of deadly injury—and Russia's binge drinking habits also seems to be closely associated with death through cardiac failure. (ellipses mine - Ed.)

More bad news; sky high HIV/AIDS rates, deteriorating institutions of family and marriage, and a government fixated unsuccessfully on growing the birth rate.

March 11, 2005

Hoops and Spring Training

- The Buckeyes are struggling after a half against Wisconsin, so on to other things. Like the Syracuse-UConn game which seems like it's being played at a whole different level than the Big Ten action I've been watching. Again this year the Big East and the ACC look the classs of the conferences in early March. There can be little doubt though, that the Bucks would be going to the NCAA tournament with 20 wins, including the biggest win of the NCAA season to date, if not for that little matter of the $6000 cash payment to the Serbian 7-footer.

(Bucks making a bit of a run...within 3...of course I'm still watching.)

- Gene Smith, the new Athletic Director coming in to Ohio State, arrives with a track record of bringing a school through an NCAA investigation and discipline situation. This isn't a coincidence. The smart money has the NCAA keeping open the investigation of the basketball program through the resolution of a couple of lawsuits that are at the heart of the issues that got Coach Jim O'Brien fired. But with O'Brien long gone and the Buckeyes suffering through a self-imposed one year postseason ban, it's hard to envision the NCAA landing on them with anything more than "time served", and I think that would be a fair penalty.

(Bucks fade...lose by 11)

The football program investigation should be wrapping up soon with some determination of the penalty, if any, for QB Troy Smith beyond the one-game suspension he has already served. Beyond that, unless there is some evidence we don't know about that implicates either former A.D. Andy Geiger or Tressel's coaching staff in any wrongdoing, then the whole investigation comes down the actions of one rogue booster and one player (Smith), and the rantings of admitted liar Maurice Clarett. The school has been the model of cooperation with the NCAA, and outside of the ESPN offices in Bristol, CT, there is no outcry for harsh penalties for Ohio State. Anyone?

- I'm just short of giddy about the way the Indians are playing in the first week and a half of exhibition games. They drubbed the Pirates today 16-4, and have been mashing the ball all week. Except for Milwood's one appearance the starting pitching has been nearly flawless. Cora, Bard and Hernandez make the bench so much stronger this year than last, and the bullpen will be way better.

The broadcasters and media people who are around the team every day comment on the confidence and purpose that the Indians are taking to the field every day. I know if I looked at the March 2004 archives, I could find some similarly rose-colored banter.(I did, and I did.) Last year I was optimistic, but not unrealistic. (I did peg the 2004 win total exactly at 80, I will remind all just this one last time.) This year the Central Division has four good teams to beat each other up, so 90 wins could conceivably win it. My official prediction (yawn) is two weeks away, but I'm leaning toward 88-90 wins for the 2005 Tribe.

- I'll be driving to Charlotte Thursday with 40-some of the usual suspects for the first two rounds of the NCAA sub-regional (Fri. and Sun.) with some golf sandwiched in between. I was recalling the '03 trip to Tampa, which we undertook just as the Iraq war was kicking off with the assault on Baghdad. Leaving home for four days just as the invasion was starting had me profoundly ambivalent about college basketball. And though the circumstances are broadly different in that region today, those same soldiers remain in harm's way as I go out recreating once again this year. I resolve to be as mindful of them and thankful for them this time around as I was in March, 2003.

Far From Hollywood

The New York Times at its best is the story of Katie Dallam, a boxer who suffered life-threatening and debilitating brain injuries in the ring, and whose story may have inspired the writer of the "Million Dollar Baby" story. At first driven to attempt suicide, she has resumed her avocation as an artist, and with her sister as a loving caregiver, she is living life on life's terms.

March 10, 2005

Kid Conservative, Message Machine

This 19 year-old Northwestern student has all the conservative talking points down cold. He sounds like an impressive young man. Here's hoping he makes time to have some fun in college too. It all gets serious soon enough, Guy.

Frum on Sgrena

David Frum wrote an article for the Italian paper Il Foglio on the Sgrena checkpoint incident and the tragic death of Nicola Calipari. It nicely communicates to the Italian people that we Americans mourn the loss of a good and brave man, while politely pointing out that Ms. Sgrena was and is objectively on the side of the kidnappers and the insurgent killers, and deserves not an iota of our sympathy. Go and read.

March 9, 2005

Sgrena's Car and Related Updates

The Jawa Report, which has been one of the blogs leading the reporting on the Giuliana Sgrena incident, has a series of photographs up of the car that supposedly was in "a rain of fire and bullets", taking "300-400 shots". Michelle Malkin's blog is a great place to get the whole story, starting here for background, and then on to her latest update which has links back to preceding posts. And Jawa Report raises some great questions in this early post on the shooting at the checkpoint.

It seems to me that Sgrena's account of the shooting incident has more holes than the car, from which she claims to have "collected handfuls of bullets on the seats", none of which shattered any of the windows of the vehicle. Amazing shots, those Americans.

Bolton - The Right Man

I liked Anne Applebaum's defense of John Bolton as the choice to be our U.N. Ambassador, especially this passage:

He has been skeptical of U.N. peacekeeping operations, skeptical of the U.S. obligation to pay its U.N. dues, skeptical of just about everything, really, to do with the United Nations.

All of which makes him an ideal candidate to be America's U.N. ambassador. Bolton -- whom I've met but don't know well -- is blunt, which is an advantage in an institution where words are more often used to disguise meanings than to elucidate. He is unafraid of being disliked, which will be an advantage in a place where everyone will dislike him. In the past he has been unafraid of arguing his points, even in Europe, where they are deeply unpopular. Most of all, though, Bolton, who has been writing about the United Nations for decades, is one of the few people in public life willing to draw the distinction between what the United Nations actually is and what everybody would like it to be.

Heaven knows the U.N. needs more people like that.

The New York Sun had suggested this move two months ago, and toots their horn today. (via LGF)

UPDATE 3/10: Bob Tyrell may top them both with this:

Bolton has referred to North Korea as "a hellish nightmare" governed by a "tyrannical dictator." Ah, the lilt and substance of Moynihan and Kirkpatrick is about to be restored to the Security Council and the General Assembly. On another occasion, Bolton wrote that if the glass zoo on the East River that is U.N. headquarters "lost 10 stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." I look forward to more of this kind of eloquence.

March 8, 2005


On Monday the Washington Post ran a column by Sebastian Mallaby taking the Bush administration to task for so far failing to come up with any stellar candidates for head of the World Bank, a post traditionally filled with an American citizen. It was titled "Clueless on the World Bank", and it made a fair criticism of two of the people whose names have been floated by administration sources as possible candidates, Paul Wolfowitz and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.

Wolfowitz was a non-starter given his close ties to the Bush foreign policy that is anathema to the NGO set, although Mallaby allowed that he was probably qualified, absent political considerations:

Wolfowitz has most of what it takes to lead the World Bank. He is a persuasive communicator; he has experience in public-sector management; and he knows something about developing countries, having served as ambassador to Indonesia.

As for Fiorina, her experience is too much private sector, and she's not exactly coming off of a ringing success:

What of Fiorina? A straw poll of pro-Bush economists last week, including one who held a senior White House position, yielded a unanimous verdict: The idea is preposterous. Fiorina was fired from the top job at Hewlett-Packard because she proved incapable of running a large organization. How could the Bush administration, which claims to respect the judgments of the marketplace, entrust her with the formidable challenge of running the bank's 10,000-strong bureaucracy?

I read the story with interest, since I know precious little about the World Bank except that it funds projects in the developing world, and has come under criticism for bankrolling some real loser projects, and saddling already poor countries with tremendous debt burdens they can't afford, while no doubt having had its share of successes as well.

And running this politically-charged, cumbersome monster has to be a difficult and daunting job for whatever unique soul could be found who was both qualified and willing to say "yes" to the offer. Corporate CEO's are found wanting for just the right type of management experience. High-level government officials with diplomatic backgrounds are coming up short too. This is one tough search for any headhunter.

That's why I thought I must be reading an item from Scrappleface the following day when I read that none other than Bono was being considered for the job.


Yes, he has done many good works, and his is an influential voice, and he is sincere and passionate and all that. But he's an entertainer. Granted, by virtue of his celebrity and his passion he has become an effective activist for all manner of third world causes, all of which is to his great credit. And if the World Bank was looking for a Face Man instead of an administrator and manager and businessman and politician and financial mind, he might be the guy. If he could take the hours and stomach the pay cut, that is.

Dan Engber of Slate took a sober look at the whole Bono for World Bank question today, including a rundown of the duties and responsibilities of the job, which don't remind me of Bono's resumé:

He travels the world, manages an army of 10,000 employees, and shakes lots and lots of hands...The World Bank, founded in 1944, lends money and makes grants to developing countries around the world. On trips to both member nations and developing nations, the president meets with government officials and nongovernmental groups, holds press conferences, and surveys the impact of the bank's aid projects.

When he's not on the road, the president works from Washington, D.C., and presides over semiweekly meetings of the bank's board of executive directors, 24 political appointees representing the 184 countries that control the organization. Board meetings take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays and typically run all day. If the president can't be there, his managing director fills in.

He reviews grant and loan decisions, sets priorities for the bank, and manages its international staff (of which one-third is stationed overseas). He's also responsible for keeping the development committee—which oversees both the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund—happy. He works seven days a week for most of the year, with five weeks of vacation. For his efforts, the president gets paid about $300,000 per year plus travel, and his income is not taxed.

Most of the 300 or so stories linked by Google News that connected Bono's name to the World Bank position on Monday quoted Bush administration officials trying to, on the one hand, say nice things about Bono, while not getting caught saying anything that would encourage serious speculation about his candidacy. That's smart.

So why 300 stories? Talk about celebrity worship. Or maybe just a slow news day. By late Tuesday CNN was throwing cold water on what was probably a non-story from the start:

...experts say Bono's likelihood of being appointed are slim to none, and slim just left the building...

..."The possibility of this happening is zero," said (Steve)Radelet, noting that the successor would almost definitely be an American.

So we had 24 hours of half-hearted media speculation about a big star maybe (but probably not) being considered for a high-profile international position for which he was manifestly not suited. Hundreds of stories exploiting the name of a celebrity for headlines, ratings, readers. A non-story, rightly strangled in the cradle, having served its purpose. Our media in 2005.

March 7, 2005

Yankee-Haters Unite

I have long had a soulmate in Jim Caple, both of us Yankee-haters of some repute. I cede to him the greater credential but not the greater passion. But he can ring the cash register in advance for my copy of his new book, "The Devil Wears Pinstripes", which is excerpted today at Page 2.

Heaven forbid you bring up the 2004 postseason or say something else derogatory about the Yankees. If you don't genuflect before the Yankees altar and ask permission to kiss their World Series ring, their fans want John Ashcroft to tap your phone.

Believe me, I know -- I get a lot of hate mail from Yankees fans because of my columns. I don't pay much attention to it, at least not until it builds up every month or so and I have to hire a crew to move the piles blocking my car in the garage.

What I find most interesting in the hate mail is that the vast majority of Yankees fans simply cannot fathom the possibility that anyone could hate their team unless he or she also roots for the Red Sox. It's simply beyond their capacity to imagine that there are people all over the world who hate the Yankees for their own very legitimate reasons, and not just because they live in Boston.

The thing is, though, people hate the Yankees everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Brazilian researchers recently discovered an Indian tribe in so remote a part of the Amazon that these natives had never been exposed to western society. Although I cannot absolutely, positively vouch for this, I believe the only words they were able to understand were "Jeter sucks."

Many more laughs if you read it all. Speaking of laughs.

Go Bucks

Congrats to Coach Matta and the OSU Buckeyes who made their season Sunday by knocking off #1 Illinois. I can't believe my Tivo stopped recording during the last timeout, with 12 seconds, and the big shot, remaining. I suppose I'll have to watch it half a dozen times on SportsCenter to make up for it.

Tanker Wars

Wretchard recalls Iraq's blockade of the Straits of Hormuz in the 80's to demonstrate how Iran could wreak havoc on the world supply of crude oil by attempting a similar blockade today. Read on.

March 6, 2005

21st Century Pamphleteers

Here are a couple of good pro-blog pieces by Jonah Goldberg and Ralph Kinney Bennett at TCS: An excerpt from Bennet:

Bloggers are the best thing that has ever happened to journalism.

They make a good reporter look better. They expose the phonies, the poseurs, the fast-writing conmen, with the speed of light.

They give the journalist a greater access to more information and informational context than ever before.

They provide swift exposure to varied points of view, and, most importantly, a constant, sometimes rough, but always important gauge of a reporter's skill, judgment, industriousness and integrity.

Never before has weak reporting, biased reporting, dishonest reporting, or lazy reporting been more swiftly exposed.

Indeed, the whole idea of whether journalism is indeed a profession -- or just a happy combination of craft, curiosity, cleverness and confidence tricks -- is being tested for the first time out there in the ether.

If you don't get it, start here.

Pacifists Selling Arms

What's more distasteful than being lectured by Europeans about our use of military force while they hide behind a pose of pacifism, secure in 50 years of American protection? Watching them champing at the bit to sell arms to China while investing minimally in their own militaries, that's what. It's bad enough that Taiwan could never count on France or Germany to help out democratic Taiwan when or if China decided it was "re-unification" time. But these "pacifists" can't wait to sell weapons systems to China that would make our potential job of defending Taiwan that much more difficult and dangerous. In other words, pacifism and principle go out the window when there's a buck to be made selling weapons of war.

Thomas Friedman has an idea for a compromise:

Mr. Bush should simply say to France, Germany and their E.U. partners that America has absolutely no objection to Europeans' selling arms to China - on one condition: that they sell arms to themselves first. That's right, the U.S. should support the export to China of any defense system that the Europeans buy for their own armies first. Buy one, sell one...

...Weapons systems are the loss leader that the E.U. is dangling in front of the Chinese to persuade them to buy more of Europe's civilian airplanes. Indeed, what is really sad about the European arms sale proposal to China is that the E.U. doesn't seem to be demanding any political price, even the slightest change in behavior, from Beijing in return, except some vague "code of conduct." Sure. Ask the software industry about Chinese promises not to pirate technology.

In his piece on Eurobabble, Victor Davis Hanson suggests viewing the still immature E.U. as we would an impudent teenager:

...if Europe sounds conflicted, that's because it is. One symptom of such a troubled patient is its blustering rhetoric — as if words can mask reality, as if idealistic vocabulary and shots at America can substitute for faith in Western values, sacrifice, and risk-taking. One reason that Europe understands so well the braggadocio and sense of inferiority of the impotent Muslim world is that it suffers precisely from some of these same maladies in its own problematic relationship with the United States. A Muslim in Europe who puts a picture of bin Laden on his wall is the equivalent of a European chanting that Bush is Hitler: The Arab does not really wish to destroy the opulent European network that he counts on, nor does the European in jeans with a cell phone truly wish the U.S. would stop protecting his lifestyle. Yet each feels terrible about his own hypocrisy and accompanying appetites for what he professedly hates, and so looks to express angst on the cheap...

...What should the U.S. do about these aggravating moments, these 40-something nesters who like staying in the house but not maintaining or repairing it? Like all parents, ignore the childish slander and wish our Europeans well on their belatedly new lives. So close the door firmly with a warm hug, and remind them that they are still part of the family after all — always welcome for visits, but of course never quite encouraged to move back in.

Bush Boom

Larry Kudlow:

The economy is on a tear. You might not know this from coverage in the mainstream media, which may have a built-in bias against George W. Bush. Sure, some big outlets like the New York Times have come around at least somewhat on the president’s freedom-and-democracy revolution in the Middle East. But they’re not about to concede on the economic power of lower marginal tax-rate incentives.

Too bad, because the evidence is overwhelming that the supply-side tax cuts enacted in the spring of 2003 have triggered an economic boom. Yes, I will call it the Bush boom...

...Since May 2003 — which not coincidentally was the debut period for Bush’s tax cuts on personal income, dividends, and capital gains — the economy has generated 3 million new jobs. Using the Labor Department’s household survey, 2.6 million more people have been employed since the tax cuts. The unemployment rate has dropped to 5.4 percent from 6.3 percent. Weekly unemployment claims have fallen to 300,700 — the lowest since late 2000.

There are lots of other good data points. To wit: January factory orders for non-defense capital goods (excluding volatile aircraft) are 17 percent above year-ago levels, while shipments are running 14 percent ahead of last year. In other words, there is a capital-spending boom going on.

March 5, 2005

Rijo Saves Cubans

Former pitcher and current scout, Jose Rijo has rescued six Cuban baseball players from deportation back to Cuba, where they would certainly have faced imprisonment or worse. I guess all one can say is thanks, for going out of his way to help when he didn't have to.

"They had left to look for a better life," Rijo said before yesterday's exhibition opener between the Nationals and New York Mets. "They came over on a boat and were caught by the police. They were very scared. When they learned they were going to be sent back to Cuba, they almost started crying. They said they would rather be shot in the Dominican. They did not want to go back to receive the punishment they were going to get."

March 4, 2005

BA Top 100

Baseball America has released their annual ranking of the Top 100 Prospects in major league baseball organizations. The Indians had five players listed in the group, with RHP Adam Miller at #16, 1B Michael Aubrey at #41, OF Franklin Gutierrez at #54, OF Brad Snyder at #84, and LHP Jeremy Sowers at #90.

This is obviously a guessing game, as evidenced by a look at the near-misses and never-were's in the"All-Time" Top 100 rankings going back to 1990. That said, nobody has more credibility with baseball fans and writers for this kind of analysis than the people at BA.

Election 2004 - State of Washington

An Investigative Report (.pdf docment) on the 2004 election for Governor of the State of Washington shows widespread fraud and an overall lack of integrity in the election process. (via Michelle Malkin) Here are some of the findings from the Executive Summary of the report by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation:

- Convicted felons have had access to King County’s election-related computer system.

- Homeless people with no proof of residency were allowed to list county buildings as their place of residence.

- Illegal aliens voted.

- An undetermined number of soldiers didn’t get to vote because they received their ballots late.

- At least 8,419 more votes were cast in five counties than the number of people who signed in to vote.

- People who have died are not removed from eligible voter lists in a timely manner. Numerous examples exist of dead people casting votes that were counted.

- On nine occasions, King County election officials discovered unsecured ballots and added them to the vote totals.

- Hundreds of provisional ballots were counted before determining if the individuals were even eligible to vote.

- More than 55,000 ballots were changed ("enhanced") by King County election workers, in some cases wiping out the original intent of the voter.

- Ballots were later found unsecured in voting machines, but they were counted.

- Hundreds of signatures on provisional ballots appear to be fraudulent.

- Voters’ privacy rights were violated when a King County judge ordered their names released to the Democrat Party.

- The Secretary of State certified the election on December 30, guaranteeing by doing so that it was "a full, true and correct representation of the votes cast for the issues and offices." He knew this was not the case.

Our report concludes, at a minimum, gross incompetence and negligence occurred in the election process, and in some cases, fraud was committed. (emphasis in original)

Democrat Christine Gregoire was named the winner after considerable post-election vote gathering by Democratic officials:

Rossi's initial 261-vote margin dropped to 42 following a state-required machine-run recount. In late December, following a Democratic Party-paid hand recount, Gregoire "won" by 129 votes.

Between the two recounts, King County "found" more than 700 ballots officials claim were wrongly rejected. They are included in the recount.

The person in charge of King County ballot integrity, a Democratic political appointee, can't explain why there are 1,800 more votes "cast" than there are people who actually voted. (also via MM)

For The Record

Cliff May says that Jacques Chirac and his French governmnent-owned TV station could clear up the question of who killed Mohammed al-Durra, but they don't seem to want to.

The image is as disturbing and iconic as any seen during the many decades of the Arab-Israeli conflict: Mohammed al-Durra, just 12 years old, caught in a cross-fire in Gaza, trembling against a wall, his father desperately attempting to shield him. And then, heartbreakingly, Mohammed al-Durra, shot and killed by Israeli gunfire.

His death, in September 2000, inspired poems -- and suicide bombings. According to the 2001 Mitchell report it was one of the events that set off the intifada.

A poster of Mohammed al-Durra is in the background of the video of the butchering of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Osama bin Laden used the boy's image in recruitment tapes and began a list of indictments against America by saying that President Bush "must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Durra and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq."

But there is something most people don't know about this story: It didn't happen the way I described it above. It may not have happened at all.

This is not a new revelation. Back in 2002, a documentary made by the German State Television station, ARD, concluded that Palestinian rather than Israeli gunfire must have killed the child. In June 2003, the veteran journalist James Fallows wrote an article in the Atlantic Monthly presenting "persuasive evidence that the fatal shots could not have come from Israeli soldiers."

More recently, Denis Jeambar, editor-in-chief of the French newsweekly, L'Express, and documentary filmmaker Daniel Leconte, were permitted to review the raw, unedited video of the shooting. They reached the same conclusion. "The only ones who could hit the child were the Palestinians from their position," Leconte told the Cybercast News Service (CBN). "If they had been Israeli bullets, they would be very strange bullets because they would have needed to go around the corner."

March 3, 2005

North Korea, Without the Reality

Hugh Hewitt is rightly outraged over an L.A. Times article titled "North Korea, Without the Rancor", that could at best be termed a puff piece, and at worst, shameless propaganda. The North Korean "businessman" who consented to be interviewed "in an effort to clear up misunderstandings" about life in North Korea, is given a platform by the Times writer to suggest that the starving and oppressed millions of North Koreans are happy with their lot in life under the Benevolent Leader. She mentions the State Dept. figures of 200,000 North Korean citizens living in "detention camps" only to give her anonymous interviewee a chance to call that criticism "unfair and hypocritical". (I mean really, define "political prisoner" anyway).

I'm just thinking she might have mentioned that human rights groups have documented much of the horror that attends daily life for the North Koreans. She might have mentioned that to call someone from North Korea "a businessman, with close ties to the government" is to be redundant, though I suppose saying those things might fall under the category of "rancor", and we'll have none of that, thank you.

One nice touch by the Times writer, Barbara Demick is how she refuses to even swing at this fat fastball over the heart of the plate:

...he faulted the United States for the collapse of a 1994 pact under which North Korea was supposed to get energy assistance in return for freezing its nuclear program. The agreement fell apart after Washington accused North Korea in 2002 of cheating on the deal, and the U.S. and its allies suspended deliveries of fuel oil.

Note first the passive voice as the "agreement fell apart", and worse, the failure to even mention that the U.S. accused them of cheating on the deal because they were...um, cheating on the deal, a fact they recently owned up to publicly.

Hugh has email addresses and phone numbers if you'd like to register your displeasure with the Times for peddling this deceptive nonsense. He's also got some sample letters that have already been submitted, and lots of related links.

UPDATE 3/10: Hugh Hewitt has a piece in the Weekly Standard on Demicks puff job.

All Of A Sudden...

Congressional Democrats are full of righteous concern about security at the White House, as they try to milk the Jeff Gannon non-scandal for a few more days (weeks?). Byron York is wondering why they weren't calling for an investigation a dozen years ago when it wasn't the press that needed closer scrutiny, it was the Clinton White House staff.

In The Inbox

teddybearcloud (2).bmp

You may have seen this photo making the email rounds recently. It came to me as one of a series of unique photos that also included this and this.

March 2, 2005

Annan Deputy Obstructed Audits

Ever since the Oil-For-Food scandal broke wide open early last year, Kofi Annan has tried to distance himself from responsibility for the megafraud by suggesting it was the Security Council, and not his U.N. Sercretariat that had oversight (or not) of the program. As nonsensical as this claim has always been, given Annan's direct involvement in every aspect of the program and his semi-annual endorsements of its actions from its inception, he has has still tried to maintain this distance from charges that his office was itself complicit in the fraud.

This Fox News story blows the last shred of credibility from that cover with the disclosure that Annan's second-in-command, Louise Frechette obstructed audits and kept reports of fraud from the Security Council...

Four years into the seven-year Oil-for-Food program, with graft and mismanagement by then rampant, Frechette intervened directly by telephone to stop United Nations auditors from forwarding their investigations to the U.N. Security Council. This detail was buried on page 186 of the 219-page interim report Volcker’s Independent Inquiry Committee released Feb. 3.

This decision from within Annan’s office left only the Secretariat privy to the specifics of the waste, bungling and contractual breaches detailed by U.N. internal auditors in dozens of damning reports. The extent of what Annan’s office knew was not available either to the Security Council or the public until Congress finally forced the issue and the United Nations produced the reports in conjunction with a Volcker "briefing paper" in January...

...Frechette’s actions stand in sharp contrast to the assertions of Annan and his public relations staff that the Security Council – and not the Secretariat – supervised the more than $110 billion Oil-for-Food program. Her decision, as documented by Volcker, also places responsibility squarely in the secretary-general’s office for obscuring mismanagement of the program from the Security Council.

The cover-up did not stop with Benon Sevan, the now-disgraced Oil-for-Food executive director, who reportedly blocked audits that originated lower in the chain of command. The obstruction went all the way up to Annan’s office on the 38th floor.

Savage Likes OL's

An unusually small number of offensive linemen are expected to go in the first round of the NFL Draft this year, but Browns G.M. Phil Savage likes what he sees overall in this year's crop of linemen.

The pressure to draft instant starters is eased somewhat by today's signing of former Patriot guard Joe Andruzzi as a free agent. Something tells me that Savage isn't done signing experienced free agent offensive linemen.

UPDATE 3/3: Here's Len Pasquarelli's listing of the top 32 available free agents, and the teams that are the favorites to sign them.

The Story of Fatima

In his last column at TWS before moving on to become the editor of First Things, Joseph Bottum writes about "What Happened at Fatima", two weeks after the death of that town's most famous citizen:

Here's a curious thought. Maybe the single most important person in the 20th century's long struggle against communism wasn't Ronald Reagan. Maybe it wasn't Karol Wojtyla or Margaret Thatcher, Lech Walesa or Václav Havel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn or Mikhail Gorbachev. Maybe it wasn't anyone whose name might leap to a cold warrior's mind--for the most important figure in that long, dark struggle might have been a 10-year-old girl named Lucia dos Santos.


Things have been a little ripe around here since our 130 lb. Old English Sheepdog got sprayed in the face by a skunk about 48 hours ago.

We did what we could. Immediately whisked him down to the grungy old shower in the basement where we administered the tomato juice bath, the special skunk odor-removing shampoo (this has happened before to our previous canines) and the "Skunk-Off" spray. We made him stay in his kennel/cage in the basement for two days, coming upstairs only to go outside. We burned scented candles and incense, sprayed air fresheners and opened windows. The house is just now starting to get back to normal. The dog still stinks like hell.

I'm thinking that nothing short of a complete shearing is going to do the trick, unless someone can recommend a home remedy we haven't heard of. I'll go Google it, and see what I can come up with.

March 1, 2005

Crunching The 2004 Election Numbers

George W. Bush and the Republicans won the 2004 election by mastering the politics of networking, and in the process may have reshaped the American electorate. From Michael Barone's essay in The National Journal...

The Bush campaign used connections -- networks -- to recruit volunteers and identify voters. The campaign built on existing connections -- religious, occupational, voluntary -- to establish contacts. If a Bush volunteer was a Hispanic accountant active in the Boy Scouts, the campaign would reach out through him to other Hispanics, accountants and their clients, and Boy Scout volunteers. Of course, the campaign put much effort into contacting people in religious groups -- particularly evangelical Christians, but also Catholics and Orthodox Jews. And the Bush campaign reached out to people with shared affinities who tend to be Republicans. The campaign consulting firms National Media and TargetPoint identified Republican-leaning groups -- Coors beer and bourbon drinkers, college football TV viewers, Fox News viewers, people with caller ID -- and devised ways to connect with them...

...America is now, perhaps momentarily, or perhaps at the beginning of a long period, a 51 percent nation, a majority -- a narrow majority -- Republican nation. The evidence is there in Bush's re-election victory, in the Republicans' popular-vote majorities in the 2002 and 2004 elections to the House, in the 2004 National Election Pool exit poll that showed party identification at 37 percent Democratic and 37 percent Republican, compared with the 39 percent-to-35 percent Democratic advantage registered in the Voter News Service exit polls in 1996 and 2000. Clinton had the chance to forge a majority for his party. He failed. Bush had the chance to forge a majority for his party. He succeeded.

Pod People

I think I'm the last person on my block, but I officially became a member of that pack of iPod people that Andrew Sullivan is convinced represent the end of civil society as we know it.

It started with an unsolicited email promotion for a "Free 40 GB iPod", (tell me everybody gets these, please). All that was required was to sign up using a credit card for six different items, from computer training software to vitamin pills, to Blockbuster home DVD subscriptions, etc., all of which had 30-day Free Trial offers or "first month supply free" or some such, but all could be cancelled or unsubscribed in order to avoid any charges to the credit card. (In one case it was a charge and then a credit upon return of "unused portion" of trial offer). So I dove in, and resolved to be on my toes and to be sure to cancel each offer at the first opportunity.

As you progress through the six required services or products, you have to be careful to select only the freebies or "pay shipping only" items, until you can no longer do even that. My last item, after spending only about $10-12 to that point, was to subscribe to Vonage for one month, plus start-up fees totaling $57.00. So I was able to get my $379.00 iPod for only about $70 out-of-pocket. But I was sweating it out until it arrived today.

The cooperating "sponsors" of this program (Blockbuster, Vonage, etc.) have to report your subscription or purchase to the company running the promotion, and there is a web site where you can monitor the progress of your "fulfillment" of the required purchases. After all six items have been purchased and verified by the sponsors (which can take several weeks) the consumer is informed that the company "reserves the right" to substitute another (non-iPod) product of similar functionality, or to sustitute a used or reconditioned iPod if there are no new ones available.

Well, that bugged me, but not as much as the fact that the promotion company had changed their name twice between the time I started this process and the end of it. In addition to that, there were no customer service numbers to call, and several emails I sent with questions went unanswered. Several times I started to get that sinking feeling like a "mark" that had been stung.

But all was well today when I opened the box and found my shiny new 40 GB iPod straight from the factory. It wasn't "free" like the original email said, and it took about three months to get it here, but I'm happy with how it turned out.

"A New High In Chutzpah"

A wonderful column by Noemie Emery highlighting some of the contortions that liberals are going through trying to make the democratic revolution of the early 21st Century be something that is going on in spite of George Bush. This necessarily long excerpt starts with the artful spin of a columnist in the left-wing Guardian...

Michael Barone quotes a Guardian columnist to the effect that the war was "a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance," that nonetheless brought about a wonderful outcome, "which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were" in most cases. Tina Brown, too, displays this syndrome.

"Every Bush hater you meet in New York is engaged in an inner struggle of how much to let go of the past," writes Brown. "Liberals don't want to be left spreading the grumpy notion that liberty can't travel," she tells us, "even if it turns out to be true." Huh? "Cognitive dissonance," as Andersen tells us, is indeed rife in Manhattan, or at least in the tonier neighborhoods. Brown goes on: "If all the fake rationales and pigheaded ideology and bungled management that took us into the debacle of the war end up with the vibrant images we saw . . . at the Iraqi polls, then, well, maybe there's something to be said for the blank slate of the president's historical memory." Is that clear now? A pigheaded debacle led straight to a shining and wonderful moment. Is there something wrong with this thought?

Can anyone improve on this prime piece of logic? Well yes, someone can, someone from the New Yorker, the magazine Brown edited in happier times, which has since evolved into a bitter-end Bush-baiting outlet, what the Nation might be if it ran ads from Tiffany's. In addition to running a two-page cartoon spread during the Republican convention last summer that showed Republican delegates as green and fanged reptiles, the magazine has turned into Quagmire Central on Iraq. "Critics of the Bush Administration can take comfort in the fact that the apparent success of the Iraqi election can be celebrated without having to celebrate the supposed wisdom of the Administration," sniped Hendrik Hertzberg in a recent "Talk of the Town" column. "Iraq is still a very, very long way from democracy. And even if it gets there, the cost of the journey--the more than ten thousand (so far) American wounded and dead . . . the billions of dollars diverted . . . the lies, the distraction from and gratuitous extension of the 'war on terror' . . . will not necessarily justify themselves. But, for the moment at least, one can marvel at the power of the democratic idea. It survived American slavery; it survived Stalinist cooptation . . . Cold war horrors like America's support of Spanish Falangism and Central American death squads. Perhaps it can even survive the fervent embrace of George W. Bush."

Phew. Will someone run next door, please, and borrow a large cup of nuance? Without it we can't take this in. Let's see: The elections succeeded in spite of the one man who caused them, and BECAUSE of the people whose publications and candidates had fought Bush every step of the way. Or, put another way, the elections were a success and a great moral victory; but the ideas that led up to them were the purest examples of bone-headed bungling; and the man who thought them all up was a dunce. But when bone-headed blundering produces success not once but thrice over, we may find that we want a whole lot more of it, much as Lincoln once said that the Union needed more drunken generals like Ulysses S. Grant.

Liberals are always hot for democracy once the struggles are over: It's in the struggles themselves they slip up. If the candidates favored by Brown and by Hertzberg--Carter and Mondale over Reagan; Michael Dukakis over George Bush the Elder, and Al Gore and John Kerry over George Bush the son--had been in power in moments of crisis, democracy would hardly now be on the march, the Berlin Wall would most likely be standing; the Sandinistas and other Communists might well still be spreading terror in Central America; Saddam Hussein would not only be in Iraq but in Kuwait and perhaps Saudi Arabia; and those brave happy voters would still be suffering under a vicious and sadistic tyranny.

Claiming credit in retrospect for things you opposed at the time is a new high in chutzpah, or, if not that, in delusion. But delusion is what people retreat to when reality is much too traumatic. "Here's the great fear that I have," said comedian Jon Stewart once the Iraq elections were over. "What if Bush, the president, ours, has been right about this all along? I feel that my world view may not sustain itself, and I may, and again I don't know if I can physically do this, implode." Why does one feel that he speaks for the Browns, and the Hertzbergs, and beyond them, for millions of others? "We wait to see if Democrats can find a way to talk about the Iraqi elections that isn't madness personified," The Note, the political newsletter of ABC News, said after two weeks of this madness. And so do we all.

Read the first half too.