A marketing idea that may be just the first of many. Be the first on your block to have online BudMail.
A marketing idea that may be just the first of many. Be the first on your block to have online BudMail.
Recently revisited despair.com, and found some "Demotivators" I hadn't seen before. Something for everybody.
The French say no to the EU Constitution. Glenn Reynolds has an excellent roundup of the coverage and commentary. Be sure to catch Mark Steyn's take. Before the outcome was sure Bill Kristol suggested the exercise could have a liberating effect on public debate, in France and in the whole of Europe.
If not me, who? If not now, when?
Our kids are an ongoing source of pride for Cindy and me, so like last week, this blog serves as a vent for some of that good feeling.
Our son is a computer engineer with IBM, and is part of a team associated with the Global Services division that develops and hosts websites for major sporting events, including golf "majors" like The Masters, and the tennis Grand Slam championships.
In a couple of weeks, he takes off for London, where he will serve as one of two Webmasters for the wimbledon.org project. The company uses these events as a marketing opportunity, entertaining key corporate clients and prospects while demonstrating their latest and greatest computing capabilities.
Andy will be one of just a handfull of techies in the sea of suits. His job has nothing to do with the content of the site, but rather the support of the dozens of computers that make it work, from the on-court scorekeeping to the servers that will handle more "hits" per minute during the busy finals weekend than the top bloggers get in a day.
So enjoy the strawberries and cream, kid. I'll settle for a T-shirt.
Larry Elder has written an article that should be kept around for reference whenever our media puts Al Sharpton on camera or quotes him as some kind of spokesperson for black Americans, or as a commentator on race relations in this country. The stories of the Tawana Brawley hoax and the Freddy's Fashion Mart deaths are familiar, and yet Sharpton is catered to as if he is some kind of agent for racial harmony and tolerance. It's amazing.
Each year as the college football magazines start hitting the newsstands, and the sports websites release their preseason rankings, Steve Helwagen of Bucknuts.com compiles the "Preseason Consensus Poll", and updates it as new polls are added to the running average.
With eight early polls included, here's how the preseason Top Ten looks for the 2005 season, with last year's record in parentheses:
1. USC (13-0)
2. Texas (11-1)
3. Tennessee (10-3)
4. Ohio State (8-4)
5. Michigan (9-3)
6. Iowa (10-2)
7. Oklahoma (9-3)
8. Florida (7-5)
9. Virginia Tech (10-3)
10. LSU (9-3)
One lesson to be taken from this information for us Buckeye fans (aside from its utter preseason meaninglessness) is not to get too cocky with a Top 4 ranking, since a lot of people think Iowa and/or Michigan are just as good or better than the Bucks. It's also sobering to realize that Ohio State will have to play three of the other five teams listed in the top six (not counting a possible matchup with USC in the Rose Bowl-National Championship Game).
One thing is fairly predictable. The winner of the OSU-Texas game on the evening of September 10 in Columbus will probably be ranked 2nd in the country, and the loser that night could see their title hopes fade away before the leaves even turn brown. That game will also kick off the Heisman Trophy race, as two of the top four contenders, Texas QB Vince Young, and Buckeye sophomore Ted Ginn Jr. flash their stuff with the nation watching in prime time. Other ticket-seekers I've talked to tell me the asking price is already in the $400-500 range for the Longhorns game, too rich for me to see most any football game in person, with the possible exception of the aforementioned affair in Pasadena.
I guess we should see if the Buckeyes beat Miami(OH) on September 3 before we start checking E-Bay for Rose Bowl seats.
Grady Sizemore was supposed to be in Buffalo getting one more year of seasoning, or at least that was the CW until Juan Gonzalez came up with the eternal hamstring pull. But it has become quite apparent after 44 games that Sizemore has played his last game in the minor leagues.
He leads Indians starters in batting average at .276, and is tied for the RBI lead while batting mostly at the top of the lineup. He stole a home run tonight with his glove over the top of the centerfield wall, and hit one of his own to help keep the Indians in the game. Even with Jody Gerut back from injury now, there's no sitting Grady down.
Even in February, before all of the enthusiasm for a successful season had been sucked out of me by the White Sox incredible start and our offense tanking, I was convinced that Sizemore needed to play every day, since we weren't in a position yet to win it all. Little did I know then how far away we were.
Sizemore has a hell of a future. But as Victor Martinez can tell him, there are bumps along the road to stardom.
Interesting comparison chart of tax rates by country, from Forbes.com
Whether or not "The Deal" is a good one or a bad one for Republicans, I'm glad that several of Bush's key judicial nominees will get up or down confirmation votes in the Senate. And after reading this speech (in pdf format) by Janice Rogers Brown, I'm more convinced than ever that we need more thinkers like her in our judiciary.
That said, the Democrats' threats to obstruct and otherwise slow down all routine business and legislative action in the Senate were laughable. What more could they possibly do along these lines than they have been doing since November? Having agreed to rule out any rules changes outlawing the filibuster for judicial nominees, while leaving open the possibiliy of a future filibuster in some undefined "extreme circumstances", the GOP leaves themselves open to some serious second guessing. Haven't we already been treated to certain Democrats' definitions of "extreme"? Don't we know that their dirt machine is already digging?
(speech link via Conservative Revolution)
If you can, take the time to read Stephen Hayes' summary of the U.N. Oil-For-Food program, based in part of the recent findings of our congressional investigations and interrogations of former officials of the Saddam regime. This is a few days old now, but important enough to post for the record.
I don't really expect any French heads to roll as a result of the emerging proof of Saddam's bribery. Their society truly expects and winks at official corruption; witness Chirac's survival. And the bribed Russian politicians, diplomats and officials don't answer to voters and probably won't be held to account. But one hopes that George Galloway's corrupt political career will be ended by the British public when the evidence of his involvement in the scandal sinks in. As for Kofi Annan, Hayes explicitly calls for his ouster:
The basic outline of the scandal is simple: Saddam Hussein used the Oil-for-Food program to circumvent U.N. sanctions imposed after the Gulf war and to enrich himself and his allies. He did this by bribing leading journalists and diplomats and demanding kickbacks from those who profited from selling Iraqi oil. That he was able to do so indicates at least that the U.N. badly mismanaged the program it set up in December 1996. None of this is particularly astonishing. No one is surprised to learn that Saddam Hussein cheats, that politicians take bribes, and that the competence level of the U.N. bureaucracy is, well, suboptimal.
Nevertheless, the details of the Oil-for-Food scandal--who participated, and what they apparently did--are jaw-dropping. Vladimir Putin's chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, appears to have accepted millions of dollars in oil-soaked bribes from Saddam Hussein. The same appears to be true of the former interior minister of France, Charles Pasqua, a close friend of President Jacques Chirac. And the same appears to be true of three high-ranking U.N. executives including Benon Sevan, handpicked
by Kofi Annan to administer the Oil-for-Food program. Oil-for-Food money even went to terrorist organizations supported by the Iraqi regime and, according to U.S. investigators, might be funding the insurgency today.
Through seven years' worth of deals that should never have been made, compromises that should never have been struck, and concessions that should never have been granted, Oil-for-Food strengthened Saddam Hussein. What we know about all of this now is a fraction of what will eventually be uncovered. But even this limited understanding should mean an end to Kofi Annan's term as secretary general.
In a new FrontPage Magazine piece previewing his new book "The End of Time", David Horowitz reflects on life, love and death. It shows a side of Horowitz we haven't seen much, as he admits to writing in a different "voice" in describing a new love in middle age, his fight with prostate cancer, and an ongoing wrestling match between agnosticism and faith.
As much as life may have changed David Horowitz, one theme remains constant since he famously parted company with the radical Left more than 30 years ago. And that is the recognition of the human misery, repression and death that inevitably attend attempts at forced utopianism by "earthly redeemers" of whatever stripe...
The world we live in -- unjust, chaotic, and suffused with suffering -- is full of earthly redeemers. They are both secular and religious. These are people who cannot abide the life they have been given or who cannot wait to see if the end of their time on this earth will bring them a better in the next. These are the radicals who believe that without a divine intervention they can build a kingdom of heaven in this life, on this earth.
To realize their mission, both secular and religious radicals divide the world into two realms â€“ the realm of those who are saved and the realm of those who are damned. Believers and infidels, oppressors and oppressed.
Therefore radicals are permanently at war; their lives are a perpetual jihad.
The fact is that we all long for a judgment that will make the world right. A God who will reward virtue and punish the wicked. Therefore, every God of Love is also a God of righteousness and death. And that is why the radical belief in a redemption in this world is the most destructive force in the heart of mankind.
I once shared this radical faith. Life was intolerable to me without a redemptive hope. This quest for a world transformed brought tragedy to me as it has brought tragedy to the lives of so many others. The Twentieth Century is a graveyard in which millions of corpses were sacrificed to the illusion of an earthly salvation.
No book I have read in the last 20 years affected me more profoundly than did Horowitz' autobigraphy Radical Son, both in terms of helping to understand the destructiveness of the utopian impulse, and also in getting a perspective on the 60's and the Vietnam era that I was too preoccupied and/or disengaged to grasp at the time. I have long admired him for backing his liberal principles with action and inspiring others with his words. Good luck David, with the new book, the relationship, and best wishes for continued good health.
It's not often that this blog deals with personal family matters, but what's a rule without exceptions?
This coming weekend offers one of the increasingly rare opportunities for Cindy and me to be with both of our "kids" at the same time. The occasion is the opening of a play in Columbus, OH which marks the professional acting debut of our daughter Susan. She has been performing for several years in the Columbus area, in OSU and off-campus productions, and is a co-founder and principal of WETCO, a theater company formed two years ago with four other OSU students, but this is the first time she'll be drawing a paycheck for her hard work and talent.
The show is "Big Love", an adaptation by Charles Mee of Aeschylus' play "Suppliant Maidens". (Here's a review of another company's performance of the show.) "Big Love" is a production of the Red Herring Theatre Ensemble at their downtown Columbus home, the Vern Riffe Center on S. High St. I'm anxiously anticipating what is billed as "an explosive hybrid", "a vaudevillian tragicomedy".
Having now plugged the show, the company, the building, and even the Ancient Greeks, I just want to congratulate my sweet girl on what I'm sure is just the first of many such openings.
Here's to you, my dear Susan!
Discovered the blog Sane Nation today via an article linked at RCP. Keith Thompson is a transplanted Ohioan living in California, and is a recovering leftist it appears. Not only did his piece "Busting the Moral Equivalence Racket" strike me as very well done, I got a kick out of these comments from today's blog post:
...Barbara Boxer, for whom women and African Americans are invisible unless they declare themselves victims, has encountered a black woman she can't quite bring into view. "Out of the mainstream." That's Senator Boxer's mantra against Justice Rogers Brown's nomination for the D.C. Court of Appeals.
Well. California voters have had the opportunity to pass electoral judgment on both women. Janice Rogers Brown was re-confirmed to the California Supreme Court by 76 percent of voters, compared with 58 percent for Barbara Boxer.
Who's further from the mainsream by this count?
In the World According to Barbara Boxer, there aren't supposed to be any Janice Rogers Browns complicating the pristine horizons of identity politics. In order to be successful, Janice Rogers Brown is supposed to need Barbara Boxer to explain why Brown isn't supposed to be able to succeed on her own. There's no evidence that Brown has called Boxer for a leg up...
People who are blaming Newsweek for the recent deaths of innocents in the Middle East are just deflecting responsibility from the actual killers. Andrew C. McCarthy is on the mark with this column at NRO:
Here's an actual newsflash â€” and one, yet again, that should be news to no one: The reason for the carnage here was, and is, militant Islam. Nothing more.
Newsweek merely gave the crazies their excuse du jour. But they didn't need a report of Koran desecration to fly jumbo jets into skyscrapers, to blow up embassies, or to behead hostages taken for the great sin of being Americans or Jews. They didn't need a report of Koran desecration to take to the streets and blame the United States while enthusiastically taking innocent lives. This is what they do.
The outpouring of righteous indignation against Newsweek glides past a far more important point. Yes, we're all sick of media bias. But "Newsweek lied and people died" is about as worthy a slogan as the scurrilous "Bush lied and people died" that it parrots. And when we engage in this kind of mindless demagoguery, we become just another opportunistic plaintiff â€” no better than the people all too ready to blame the CIA because Mohammed Atta steered a hijacked civilian airliner into a big building, and to sue the Port Authority because the building had the audacity to collapse from the blow.
UPDATE 5/19: Lots of commentary and links on this topic in this Instapundit post.
Excerpts from Jeff Jacoby:
...what ''Muslims in America and throughout the world" most need to hear is not pandering sweet-talk. What they need is a blunt reminder that the real desecration of Islam is not what some interrogator in Guantanamo might have done to the Koran. It is what totalitarian Muslim zealots have been doing to innocent human beings in the name of Islam. It is 9/11 and Beslan and Bali and Daniel Pearl and the USS Cole. It is trains in Madrid and schoolbuses in Israel and an ''insurgency" in Iraq that slaughters Muslims as they pray and vote and line up for work. It is Hamas and Al Qaeda and sermons filled with infidel-hatred and exhortations to ''martyrdom."
But what disgraces Islam above all is the vast majority of the planet's Muslims saying nothing and doing nothing about the jihadist cancer eating away at their religion. It is Free Muslims Against Terrorism, a pro-democracy organization, calling on Muslims and Middle Easterners to ''converge on our nation's capital for a rally against terrorism" -- and having only 50 people show up.
and Walid Phares:
... Newsweek's article didn't create the "Big Bang"; it triggered it. The explosion was coming, but the apparent motive had to be supplied. It could have been a rape, a killing, or another Western desecration. Newsweek's "investigative journalists" provided this fuse...
...One element lost in all the coverage of the jihadist-inspired riots is the rioters' utter hypocrisy. Their concerns for the Muslim holy book did not manifest when they burned mosques to the ground in Pakistan over the past few months. Nor did they launch demonstrations after they destroyed mosques in Iraq throughout the year. There were certainly hundreds of Korans burned into ashes. (It didn't hurt that the owners of these mosques were Shi'ites.) A couple of decades earlier, Hafez Assad's brutal brigades leveled off the mosques of the city of Hama. Thousands of Korans were destroyed (along with 20,000 Sunnis). Yet, the Arab and Islamic world didn't raise a ruckus. The selective outrage over the destroyed Korans is not theological but political. It is only when the Islamists want to wage a jihad for their holy book that infractions begin to make any difference to them. When Arab militias raids black Muslim villages in Darfur, and destroy them, along with their holy books, that is acceptable, but one sentence in an article published in a U.S. magazine deserves a whole holy war? Who are we kidding here?
The United Nations thinks it's time for them to "refurbish" their New York City digs. They suggested the United States ante up an interest free loan for the $1.2 billion they say it will cost, eventually settling for a low-interest U.S. government loan. Power Line's John Hindraker runs some of the numbers , and it appears to be another "black hole" for member dollars, something of a U.N. specialty these days.
The U.N. appears to have overstated the square footage to be renovated by a factor of two, and now people in the office building construction business, Donald Trump among them, are looking at the cost projections and crying foul. This new post at Power Line adds another expert opinion to the growing public objection to this huge outlay of taxpayer money.
Robert Novak reports on a Democratic political consulting firm making unprecedented inquiries into the personal financial records of any and all likely Bush appointees to an upcoming Supreme Court seat. The research is being paid for by NARAL, the abortion lobby, and Novak notes that the consultant involved has strong ties to Senate minority leader Sen. Harry Reid.
UPDATE 5/19: An NRO article by Jeffrey Lord suggests that the inquiries into financial records of potential judicial nominees is just "the tip of a massive iceberg".
Professor Bainbridge is having some fun with the Discovery Channel and AOL's list of nominees for a "Greatest American" reality TV show, so why shouldn't I? It's really a pretty silly list, compiled as it was from online submissions from the public, but one would think the Discovery people could have done some fudging to come up with something less laughable.
OK, the obligatory Presidents (13), inventors (8) and industrialists (7, not counting Hef and Oprah) are there, and I have no issue with most of these, though like Bainbridge, I think more attention to Founders and early American leaders would have been warranted (see his list of obvious omissions). Apparently one of the most important considerations for being a great American is to be a famous entertainer, as fully 27 of the 100, by my count, are figures from the entertainment industry.
If we're going to accept as legitimate the notion that a legendary career entertaining millions of fellow citizens makes one a great American, or if just becoming an identifiable symbol of American popular culture does the trick, then I guess I wouldn't have any quarrel with Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Johnny Carson, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, and even Steven Spielberg.
In the marginal but arguable category (pop culture "icons" all, but great Americans?) are nominees Bill Cosby, Kate Hepburn, Oprah Winfrey, Marilyn Monroe, Rush Limbaugh, Ray Charles, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Hugh Hefner (yes, entertainment), Clint Eastwood, and Michael Jackson.
(The longer this goes, the more ridiculous it seems to be talking about these people as among the 100 greatest Americans of the last 250 years.)
In my "you've got to be kidding me department" are the following nominees: Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Dr. Phil, Christopher Reeve, Madonna, Mel Gibson, and perhaps most ridiculously, Ellen Degeneres. I like Ellen Degeneres. Saw her live at a comedy club once. Talented comedienne. Very funny. In fact, I imagine Ellen herself laughing uproariously when she finds out she's on the list. Am I missing something?
Some great sports stars make the list too, seemingly at random; Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Brett Favre(?), Tiger Woods. A few not at random whose accomplishments actually transcended sports and might even be found in history books, Muhammed Ali, Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson make more sense. Alongside some of the the guys above whose first names suffice, I'd nominate some just-as-great players who put aside their sporting careers in order to serve their country in time of war. Ted Williams and Bob Feller spring immediately to mind, though I'm sure I'm forgetting many more. Speaking of which, Pat Tillman is on the list.
Some of the political names on the list of nominees are pretty much indefensible. For starters, it's lousy with Bushes, as G.H.W. Bush, Barbara and Laura are there to keep George W. company. And I guess Jimmy Carter and Bill and Hillary Clinton were Presidents, after all.
Oh yeah....John Edwards.
The list is noticeably P.C. as well. Maya Angelou makes the cut. (Apparently no spots available for Poe, Dickinson, Longfellow, Whitman, or Frost). Barack Obama appears to be the only first-term Senator to have made the list. He's been serving his country about long enough to have located the restrooms. Then there's Ellen. That's it. I knew I was missing something.
One sterling example of American values and patriotism that was nominated for Greatest American is the man who said to his fellow citizens.."You're stuck with being connected to this country of mine, which is known for bringing sadness and misery to places around the globe."....and of his fellow Americans..." they are possibly the dumbest people on the planet"...and...""We need to change our ethic and aspire to be more Canadian-like". Michael Moore, great American.
Just a couple of people that I think should have made the list (in addition to several already named by Professor Bainbridge...no, not Julia Child):
If Bill Gates and Henry Ford make it, why not Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin? How about Alcoholics Anonymous founders Dr. Bob and Bill W.? Clara Barton. Ernest Hemingway. Lou Gehrig. Whittaker Chambers. Jerry Garcia. I'm thinking on it...
A great column by Christopher Hitchens: History and Mystery - Why does the New York Times insist on calling jihadists "insurgents"?
Don't postpone a debate you know you'll win. Good advice from Bill Kristol.
The Senate leadership correctly understands that judges are the preeminent issue of the session. But that issue can wait for June, when it will set the stage for the forthcoming Supreme Court nomination. The time for the debate over Bolton, and the United Nations, is now. Thursday's Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Bolton suggested why. Chairman Richard Lugar definitively discredited the charges against Bolton's fitness for the job--not that this deterred Voinovich from repeating the bogus charges. But if this debate is repeated on the floor of the Senate, the fact that Lugar had the best of this argument will become abundantly clear. More important, the fact that Republicans have the better of the arguments on U.S. foreign policy, and on the United Nations, will also become clear. The nation will especially enjoy watching Bolton's Democratic critics join with Voinovich in explaining that we do not want a representative with--gasp!--"sharp elbows" at the U.N. and that the U.N.--and its member dictators--needs to be treated with kid gloves.
As we've argued before on this page, Republican senators should challenge their Democratic counterparts to debate John Bolton's record, and the U.N.'s record, every day, for as long as the Democrats want. The Bush administration should put senior spokesmen on TV every night to ask whether the U.N. is just fine as it is, or requires tough-minded reform. After one week of such debate, I suspect Democratic senators with competitive races looming in 2006--especially in states that Bush carried in 2004--might lose their enthusiasm for stalling Bolton. Frist could probably pull off a vote before Memorial Day. Bolton would win. Republicans would be out of the doldrums. And we would have a good U.N. ambassador, an ambassador who knows how that institution works--and doesn't work--and is knowledgeable about the very issues (North Korea's and Iran's nuclear programs) that are likely to dominate its agenda in the coming months...
...So let's have two weeks of debate on the floor of the Senate on John Bolton, U.S. foreign policy, and the United Nations. It will prove a valuable tonic for a White House and a Republican Congress that need a pick-me-up--and it will produce a result that will be good for the country.
UPDATE 5/15: Mark Steyn says John Bolton's problem is that he's unwilling to wink at the corruption and incompetence of the United Nations.
You never know where Claudia Rosett's byline is going to turn up next, but whether its at Opinion Journal, the New York Sun, or like yesterday at NRO, she's the preeminent reporter on the Oil-For-Food scandal. Her latest update revisits the "Al-Mada list", the compilation of names of politicians, diplomats, journalists and organizations that had reportedly received oil vouchers from Saddam that were worth hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to each recipient. We noted it here when it was first published early last year in a Baghdad newspaper and MEMRI translated it on their site.
Senator Norm Coleman's Senate subcommittee has now issued a report (in pdf format) that unravels how Saddam bought influence and rewarded supporters British MP George Galloway and former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua. Galloway and Pasqua both deny receiving bribes, but former Iraqi officials have been talking...
The importance of this Senate report goes well beyond those two names, however. Using documents from Saddamâ€™s own records, supplemented by interviews with officials of the former Saddam regime, Senate investigators are uncovering detailed new evidence that Oil-for-Food served as a vehicle for Saddam to thwart sanctions, fund terrorists, and buy political influence within the U.N.â€™s own Security Council.
Citing interviews with Saddamâ€™s former deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz, former vice president Taha Yassin Ramadan, and an unnamed former senior Iraqi official, the Senate report says that Iraq's Baathist regime, in doling out rights to buy cheap oil through the U.N. program, â€œgave priority to foreign officials, journalists and even terrorist entities.â€ Ramadan, Saddamâ€™s former vice president, told Senate investigators that such oil allocations were â€œcompensation for support.â€ According to the report, the list of terrorists named by these Iraqi officials as engaging in this quid pro quo includes â€œthe Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Abu Abbas, and the Mujahedeen-e Khalq.â€
Another of the reportâ€™s findings is especially interesting in light not only of Saddamâ€™s subversion of Oil-for-Food to bust sanctions, but also as context for the hot debate within the U.N. Security Council just prior to the U.S.-led military overthrow of Saddam in 2003. The report explains that the prime targets of Saddamâ€™s scheme to buy influence were â€œindividuals and entities from countries on the U.N. Security Council.â€ Both documents and interviews with former senior officials of Saddamâ€™s regime confirm that â€œThe regime steered a massive portion of its allocations toward Security Council members that were believed by the Hussein regime to support Iraq in its efforts to lift sanctions â€” namely, Russia, France, and China.â€
I've read the Senate Subcomittee report, and the evidence against Galloway and Pasqua is convincing. Documents from the Iraqi Oil Ministry, confirmed by testimony from top government officials of the Saddam regime. No, there are no records of Galloway's personal bank accounts to prove conclusively that he received cash payments, but it sure looks, walks and quacks like a duck. Galloway has said he is willing to testify in front of the Coleman subcommittee. I trust Sen. Coleman won't let this despicable, corrupt blowhard turn the hearing into a circus.
Jonah Goldberg offers his "notes toward a definition" of conservatism, and it's a good read. I won't try to excerpt him (OK, I tried) because his style resists doing that effectively, and besides, it's one click away.
Sometimes it seems like the U.S. media has but one source for quotes and reaction from Muslim Americans to developments in the War on Terror; the ubiquitous Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). An article at FrontPageMagazine by Andrew Whitehead and Lee Kaplan reports that a number of CAIR officials have been engaged in more than the promotion of good Islamic-American relations. One would think that the indictments and convictions of CAIR officials on charges relating to fund-raising and money laundering for terrorist groups might cause media people to seek out a more credible source of information and reaction for their reporting. We'll see how that works out.
The conviction of a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) state operative is but the latest apparent link between that Islamist organization and Islamist terrorism. On April 13, 2005, Ghassan Elashi, founder of the group's Texas chapter (CAIR-Texas) â€“ as well as longtime associate of CAIR's top leadership and beneficiary of CAIR fundraising and support â€“ was convicted of laundering money for Islamic terrorist organizations from November 1995 through April 2001. Dating back to the early 1990s, Elashi had close ties to CAIR's leaders Bassam Khafagi, Imam Siraj Wahaj, and Randall Todd "Ismail" Royer, former civil rights coordinator and communications specialist for the "Muslim civil rights group."
It has long been reported that the Saddam Hussein regime bribed Arab media figures to guarantee favorable spin. But now there is video evidence that proves beyond doubt that Al Jazeera was on the take. Better yet is the fact that a new satellite Arabic news network funded by the U.S. is broadcasting that video evidence to the people who need to see it. Al Hurra is now reaching 120 million people in 22 countries, and providing a counterbalance to the pro-insurgency broadcasts of Al Jazerra.
(-ous ; adjective suffix; 1: full of : abounding in )
The pundits are out in force talking Hillary, starting with Peter Beinart's Washington Post article, which makes the case that Mrs. Clinton's much noted shift to the political center isn't a shift at all:
In May 1993, in a long profile in the same New York Times, Clinton spoke at length about her Christian youth group, about theologians such as Paul Tillich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and about her guest sermons for the United Methodist Church. "She is moved," wrote Michael Kelly, "by the impatient conviction that moderates and liberals have wanly surrendered the adjective 'religious' to the right." That was 12 years ago.
In the same article, Clinton attacks "rights without responsibilities," endorses welfare reform and lavishes praise on an article by Daniel Patrick Moynihan called "Defining Deviancy Down," which argued that Americans were tolerating more and more antisocial behavior.
In truth, Hillary Clinton was basically as "centrist" when she entered the national stage in the early 1990s as she is today.
Maybe. She definitely appears more centrist than ever before because her party has lurched so far left since the end of the Clinton co-Presidency. To be fair, her voting record on security and War on Terror issues has been responsible, and she has left most of the shrill rhetoric to the designated Democratic hitmen among her colleagues. But you don't have to be a Clinton-hater to get a sense that the woman does absolutely nothing that is without political calculation. Within days after the November 2004 election and the ensuing "values voters" talk, there she was at Tufts University, giving a speech in which she acknowledged that Democrats need to pay attention to such issues, but only it seems, as a way to win elections. Quoting Hill:
I don't think you can win an election or even run a successful campaign if you don't acknowledge what is important to people. We don't have to agree with them. But being ignored is a sign of such disrespect. And therefore I think we should talk about these issues.
In other words, patronize them. You know, start working little phrases into your routine like "I have more on my plate than I can say grace over". Get it? Back in December, Peggy Noonan predicted what we might expect from a smart politician who had learned a lesson from November 3, 2004:
...she is about to get very spiritual. She knows it's not enough to run around quoting scripture on the stump, as John Kerry did. On the other hand she cannot speak as Bush did of Christ as the center of her life because that would not be credible: She has never spoken that way and strikes no one as born again.
But she can go about it in her own way. She will begin giving interviews in which she speaks of the importance of the teachings of Christ in her thinking about policy issues. She will also begin to emphasize as never before her Methodist youth, and her hometown pastor's emphasis on public service. Something tells me a big black Bible is being put on a coffee table in her office even as I type.
I admire and respect Peter Beinart as one of the most principled and sensible liberal writers I can think of in the major media today. But he's still relying on a few selected quotes and not so many specific deeds to argue that Hillary has been a centrist all along. OK, she made some politically necessary compromises in her attempt to socialize health care in the 90's. But her arrogance and statist instincts were betrayed by her insistence on conducting the health care task force in secret, in violation of federal law in a telling ploy to keep the negotiations for the plan from the public. The federal court fine for this law-breaking was in six figures. The taxpayers had to pick it up, and the press gave Hillary a complete pass.
One convenient circumstance for Hillary is that she rarely if ever deigns to answer any questions from the press about things like this in her past. She doesn't hold press conferences or give interviews beyond the negotiated, scripted Barbara Walters-type affairs. And while it has worked out nicely so far, you can't run for President that way. Unlike John Bolton, she has never been made to account for her temper tantrums, her lamp-throwing fits of fury in the White House, her open contempt for Secret Service personnel and military escorts. I would think that, should Hillary be the Democratic nominee in 2008, Gary Aldrich's book Unlimited Access might make a comeback. And her remarks as First Lady to the trained professionals working as her Secret Service detail might be compared to some of John Bolton "rudeness" for which he is being given the third degree. Aldrich quoting Hillary in Unlimited Access..."Stay the f--k back, stay the f--k away from me. Don't come within ten yards of me, or else!"
Anyone who has the bad form to bring up these outbursts or any of the other unseemly episodes of Hillary's White House years will have to deal with charges of practicing "the politics of personal destruction" from her spin doctors. And if anyone should know it when they see it....
Another liberal writer, Joe Klein at Time Magazine, thinks Hillary in '08 is a really bad idea. I don't recall ever agreeing with Joe Klein on much of anything, and he manages to base his case against Hillary's candidacy largely on the amount of sheer hate it would engender from the evil right wing, but some points he makes about what I'll call "the Bill factor" sound a lot like things I've said before. Here are a couple of excerpts from Klein's Time piece:
A few weeks ago, the New York Post ran a photo of Bill Clinton leaving a local restaurant with an attractive woman, and the political-elite gossip hounds went berserk. Prominent Democratsâ€”friends of the Clintonsâ€”were wringing their hands. "Do we really want to go through all that again?" one asked me. I don't knowâ€”should the sins of the husband be visited upon the wife? Absent any evidence, the former President should be considered guilty until proved really guilty. But there is another problem: What role would the big guy play in a Hillary Clinton Administration? Would he reform health care? Does anyone believe that a man with such a huge personality would have a less active role in her Administration than she had in his?...
... The Clinton line in 1992 was, Buy one, get one free. We've already had that co-presidencyâ€”for its full, constitutional eight years.
...compared to a Wizblog post from November:
...anytime there's talk of Hillary running for President is the fact that, as long as she's still married, electing Hillary would be putting Bill Clinton back in the White House, and I'm not sure the majority of the American people will ever choose to let that happen. In fact, if the same elite opinion holds in 2008 as held sway in 1992, the Democrats and the media will gush about the special package deal we would get. Co-Presidents they called it back then, and Hillary assumed control over much of the domestic policy-making apparatus and had more than nominal oversight of the Justice Department, without so much as a ballot being cast for her or an appointment being made. Huge power with zero accountability. Nice work if you can get it. Sort of like Kofi Annan when you think about it. Would Americans in 2008 be eager to take advantage of the manifest intellectual gifts and incredible career experience of the President's spouse, and hand him a significant unelected, unappointed policy-making role? I'm doubting it.
And then Dick Morris suggests that the Hillary candidacy could be over before it begins, if it turns out that the Justice Department has enough on David Rosen to force him into a plea bargain.
No summaries. No conclusions. The story is just beginning.
(hat tip RCP)
(As is my practice with NYT articles, full text at link below)
The New York Times
May 8, 2005
Calling Democrats' Bluff
By DAVID BROOKS
Don't take people at their word. Don't listen to them when they tell you how to be virtuous.
They're faking it. They don't care about virtue, or you or the common good. They're just taking opportunistic potshots under the guise of sermonizing. They're just a bunch of hypocrites.
This little bit of moral philosophy is drawn from the political events of the past few years.
Over this time, Democrats have been hectoring President Bush in the manner of an overripe Fourth of July orator. The president should be summoning us to make shared sacrifices for the common good. The president should care for the poor, and stop favoring the rich. He should make the hard choices and impose a little fiscal discipline on government.
Sometimes you had to walk through Democratic precincts in a gas mask, the lofty rhetoric was so thick. But now we have definitive proof that they didn't mean it. It was all hokum.
Over the past few weeks, the president has called their bluff. By embracing the progressive indexing of Social Security benefits, the president has asked us to make a shared sacrifice for the common good. He's asking middle- and upper-class folks to accept benefit cuts so there will be money for the people who are really facing poverty.
He has asked us to redistribute money down the income scale. Why should programs for children and families be strangled so Donald Trump can get bigger benefit checks?
He has made the hard choices. By facing up to the fact that there are going to be benefit cuts, he's offended Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, the supply siders and other important Republican constituencies.
So how has the St. Francis of Assisi wing of the Democratic Party responded to Bush's challenge? Does it applaud him for doing what it has spent the past years telling him he should do? Of course not.
The Democratic leadership has dropped all that shared sacrifice talk and started making demagogic appeals to people's narrow self-interest. Nancy Pelosi cries out that Bush's progressive indexing idea means "cutting the benefits of middle-class seniors." Representative Sander Levin protests it "would result in the biggest benefit cut in the history of Social Security."
What about the sober chin-pullers - the fiscally prudent worriers and deficit-fearing editorialists? Have they come out and applauded Bush for his courage? Are they mobilizing to take advantage of this moment? No, their silence is deafening.
And what about those moderate Democrats? For two decades they've been courageously saying we need to means-test Social Security, so we can focus our resources on those who need it. Now Bush has embraced their view. Are they saying that since Bush has moved so far in a redistributionist direction that perhaps the Democrats should budge slightly, too? Of course not. They're inventing lame reasons to explain why they shouldn't be for the policy they have been for over the past 20 years. Bush could tell them he loved their mothers and they'd invent reasons to be against him. Politics trumps policy.
George Bush has been willing to address a long-term, politically thorny problem. He's pursued it doggedly while most members of his party wish he would just drop it. But his Democratic counterparts are behaving like alienated junior professors. No productive ideas. No sense of leadership. Just half-truths from the peanut gallery.
This is the difference between the party with a governing mentality and the party with the opposition mentality. The governing party leads. It takes the arrows. It casts about for productive ideas and slowly absorbs the other party's good ones. Bush has now absorbed progressive indexing of retirement benefits.
The opposition party opposes. It doesn't feel any responsibility to come up with positive alternatives. Its main psychological need is to be against its nemesis at all costs. If the governing party steals one of its ideas, it will oppose that idea.
In this way the opposition party is pushed further and further to the edge. It loses control of its identity - it's simply a negative reactive force to whatever the governing party happens to be doing at the moment. It finds itself in a cycle of opposition, negativity and irrelevance.
This is what's infected the Tories in Britain, and it's infected the Democrats here. When a Republican president embraces progressive indexing, something big is happening. When the Democrats oppose it, you know their party has betrayed an animating ideal.
Ever since 9/11, liberals have been struggling with the problem that - as pointed out by Michael Walzer, editor of the left-wing Dissent - jihad can't fit into liberal ideology. One of the tenets of modern liberalism is the supposed conflict between the corrupt West & the innocent Third World, an idea that stems from Rousseau's 'noble savage' sulk.
Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven gives the Crusades the Rousseau treatment with murderous Westerners & pacifist Muslims, but this is only possible if you're selective about history.
In a previous post, Jeff noted:
A NY Times piece on the film notes "Muslims are portrayed as bent on coexistence until Christian extremists ruin everything." Coexistence: the First Crusade was launched in 1096. Prior to that, Muslims conquered Syria (635), Palestine (638), Persia (642), Eqypt (642), North Africa (642-698), Kabul (711), the Indus region (712), Samarkand (712), Spain (712), Toulouse (721), Kyrgyzstan (751, Chinese army defeated), & Armenia (1071).
Muslim expansion into Europe was only stopped when the French defeated them at Tours (732). Someone should tell French actress Eva Green, who says, "It's not like a stupid Hollywood movie. It's a movie with substance. I hope it will wake up people in America ... to be more tolerant, more open toward the Arab people."
It is this 450 years of Muslim jihad against Jews, Christendom and the West which preceded the Crusades that is examined in Andrew G. Boston's essay at The American Thinker. (Thanks to Jeff for that link.) Boston traces the roots of jihad, and uses footnoted Muslim sources to document the centuries of Muslim expansion by conquest, and in the words of Bat Ye'or, "the actual methods of these conquests: pillage, enslavement, deportation, massacres, and so on."
As but one example, here Boston describes the subjugation of the Iberian peninsula:
The Iberian peninsula was conquered in 710-716 C.E. by Arab tribes originating from northern, central and southern Arabia. Massive Berber and Arab immigration, and the colonization of the Iberian peninsula, followed the conquest. Most churches were converted into mosques. Although the conquest had been planned and conducted jointly with a faction of Iberian Christian dissidents, including a bishop, it proceeded as a classical jihad with massive pillages, enslavements, deportations and killings. Toledo, which had first submitted to the Arabs in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. The town was punished by pillage and all the notables had their throats cut. In 730, the Cerdagne (in Septimania, near Barcelona) was ravaged and a bishop burned alive. In the regions under stable Islamic control, subjugated non-Muslim dhimmis -Jews and Christians- like elsewhere in other Islamic lands â€“ were prohibited from building new churches or synagogues, or restoring the old ones. Segregated in special quarters, they had to wear discriminatory clothing. Subjected to heavy taxes, the Christian peasantry formed a servile class exploited by the dominant Arab ruling elites; many abandoned their land and fled to the towns. Harsh reprisals with mutilations and crucifixions would sanction the Mozarab (Christian dhimmis) calls for help from the Christian kings. Moreover, if one dhimmi harmed a Muslim, the whole community would lose its status of protection, leaving it open to pillage, enslavement and arbitrary killing.
Read the whole Boston piece. It's a keeper. Part Two here.
George Bush didn't exactly apologize for the 1945 Yalta Agreement but he took the occasion of a speech in Riga, Latvia today to say "We will not repeat the mistakes of other generations, appeasing or excusing tyranny, and sacrificing freedom in the vain pursuit of stability". It's classic Bush Doctrine stuff, but it goes where previous Presidents have declined to go, that is to take some of the blame for 45 years of subjugation of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Union. From the Washington Times coverage:
Second-guessing Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Bush said Saturday the United States played a role in Europe's painful division after World War II - a decision that helped cause "one of the greatest wrongs of history" when the Soviet Union imposed its harsh rule across Central and Eastern Europe...
...Bush singled out the 1945 Yalta agreement signed by Roosevelt in a speech opening a four-day trip focused on Monday's celebration in Moscow of the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat.
...In recent days Bush has urged Russia to own up to its wartime past. It appeared he decided to do the same, himself, to set an example for Vladimir Putin, the Russian president...
..."Once again, when powerful governments negotiated, the freedom of small nations was somehow expendable," the president said. "Yet this attempt to sacrifice freedom for the sake of stability left a continent divided and unstable."
Bush said the United States and its allies eventually recognized they could not be satisfied with the liberation of half of Europe and decided "we would not forget our friends behind an Iron Curtain."
The United States never forgot the Baltic peoples, Bush said, and flew the flags of free Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania over diplomatic missions in Washington.
"And when you joined hands in protest and the empire fell away," the president said, "the legacy of Yalta was finally buried, once and for all."
Putin had to love this stuff.
UPDATE: 5/10: Jacob Heilbrunn rips Bush for what he calls "an old right-wing canard", that blames Roosevelt and Churchill's Yalta negotiations for Soviet domination of Eastern and Central Europe, which he says was a done deal by the time Yalta took place.
Mikheil Saakashvili, the President of the Republic of Georgia has a different view.
UPDATE 5/11: More on the topic from Pejman, writing at Red State.
UPDATE 5/12: More from Anne Applebaum.
(Wizblog now segues effortlessly from French foreign policy to the college choices of 17-year old high school basketball players. Smooth, huh? - DW)
It's a big weekend for the Ohio State basketball program. Coach Thad Matta has already landed two recruits for his Class of 2006 in Daequan Cook and David Lighty, probably the two best juniors in the state of Ohio. And visiting in Columbus this weekend are center Greg Oden and point guard Mike Conley, both of Lawrence North H.S. in Indianapolis, and both nationally rated at their positions. The 7-footer Oden is generally regarded as the top player in the country, and Conley is rated as the #1 or #2 point guard nationally. The two Ohio kids are both also considered blue-chippers, with Cook rated as one of the top two shooting guards in the land, and small forward Lighty is ranked as a Top-20 player overall.
Oden and Conley have stated their wish to play college ball together, and most reports have them down to a decision between Wake Forest and Ohio State, with that decision expected before the end of May. The proximity of Columbus to their Indianapolis homes and families has the Buckeyes liking their chances right now. Needless to say, landing the Indiana pair would probably give the Buckeyes the top recruiting class in the country. They hope to round it out by landing either Thaddeus Young, a top-rated 6-8 wing forward from Memphis, and/or Raymar Morgan the star 6-7 forward from Canton McKinley.
ESPN.com gives Coach Matta and the Buckeyes program some love today. He deserves it after winning 20 games last season in spite of the distractions of being on probation and ineligible for the postseason tournaments. Now he's proving he can recruit as well as he can coach.
After reading David Pryce-Jones' long Commentary essay, "Jews, Arabs, and French Diplomacy: A Special Report", I felt like I had taken a 4-hour college course. Tracing the 200 year history of France's attempt to colonize and otherwise cultivate the Arab world to serve it's self-interest, Pryce-Jones demonstrates that French anti-Semitism is but one factor in that country's almost reflexive pro-Arab and anti-Israel policies today. Throughout, the author makes use of the memoirs of the members of the French foreign service, the Quai d'Orsay, and emphasizes how this tiny aristocratic elite shaped the perceptions and attitudes of the French citizenry down through the years. It's a terrific read when you have a few minutes to get through it.
An Opinion Journal.com editorial today warns that it might not be such great news that former investigator Robert Parton, having resigned his job with the Volcker Oil-For-Food inquiry, has now supplied documents to Dana Rohrabacher's Congressional probe. The Volcker investigation, flawed or not, is not completed, and it would be a victory for the U.N. status quo if its findings are discredited:
...for Republicans to now focus their attention on the bona fides of the Volcker probe because of the claims of a disgruntled investigator is to shoot the wrong target. Sure it will get some good headlines for the Members, and it may even further damage Mr. Annan's credibility. But it will also damage the Volcker probe, perhaps irreparably, and just when his Committee is getting into the meat of the scandal, which is why and how Oil for Food got started and why it was allowed to prop up Saddam Hussein for so many years.
Put simply, the Volcker Committee will be crippled if it cannot guarantee its witnesses--many of them not beyond reproach--that their confidential testimony won't end up being aired on C-SPAN as part of a Congressional hearing. This is especially so since many of the Committee's witnesses are not U.S. citizens and could not be compelled to cooperate with a Congressional or Justice Department investigation.
It's not good for your overall appearance to be wanted by the U.S. military. Some examples from Arthur Chrenkoff.
We're learning more about the degree of corruption, and the methods by which Saddam Hussein exploited the very U.N. program that was set up to sanction and restrain him, and to feed the Iraqi people with their own oil revenue. Little by little, the workings of the financial machinery used to circumvent the program are being examined, and what they reveal shows that the inmate was running the asylum, and that the U.N. leadership was complicit or incompetent, or both.
Dana Rohrabacher's Congressional committee is doing what Paul Volcker's investigation would not. He's digging into the practice by BNP Paribas, the French bank contracted by the U.N. to dispense contract payments in the Oil-For-Food program, of violating the U.N.'s own rules by internally diverting hundreds of millions of dollars in contractor payments to third party companies and organizations.
And Claudia Rosett is scooping the rest of the media with her determined reporting and clarification of the committee's findings. Here's an earlier Rosett article on the probe of BNP. Excerpted from yesterday's NY Sun article:
...the documents provided by BNP under congressional subpoena and examined by The New York Sun suggest to congressional investigators that some of these mistakes involved the rerouting of money through a global web of companies linked not only to terrorist funding and arms trafficking but also to anti-sanctions campaigning and front operations for the Iraqi regime itself.
Even in the context of an oil-for-food program that encompassed more than $110 billion of Saddam's oil sales and relief purchases, these payments to third parties were not small change. Payments rerouted inside BNP - against U.N. rules but evidently without protest from Turtle Bay - totaled at least $470 million, documents in the possession of Congress indicate.
Rosett proceeds to follow the money, and it leads to some familiar names:
The number of companies involved was relatively small, a few dozen out of the more than 3,000 contractors tapped by Saddam under U.N. terms that let him choose, subject to U.N. veto, his own business partners. Among several of this band, the rerouted payments were copious. In some cases, they form a latticework of disturbing associations. These include such U.N.-approved dealers as Al Wasel & Babel General Trading, based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which sold $384 million of goods to Saddam under oil for food.
Last April, the U.S. Treasury designated Al Wasel & Babel as a front for officials of the Saddam regime. According to the Treasury, Al Wasel & Babel - under the guise of selling Saddam humanitarian goods - not only tried to buy a surface-to-air missile system for Iraq when it was under U.N. sanctions, but also "played a key role in the former Iraqi regime's schemes to obtain illicit kickbacks in goods purchased through the oil-for-food program."
As it turns out, BNP, by its own account, rerouted more than $5.7 million due to Al-Wasel & Babel to another company, Al Douh, in 2002. BNP's report to Congress describes this company as a Jordanian company with U.N.-approved affiliates, although Al-Douh itself was not a U.N.-approved dealer. But Al-Douh had other connections: BNP's roster of third-party payments shows that in the final year of oil for food, just before the American-led coalition overthrew Saddam in April, 2003, Al-Douh received more than $29 million redirected by BNP from funds that Saddam's regime owed to a South African company, Falcon Trading.
Falcon Trading belonged to a Detroit businessman, Shakir al-Khafaji. According to a Wall Street Journal report last year, Mr. al-Khafaji, a campaigner against U.N. sanctions on Iraq, not only brought American and South African political delegations to Baghdad to denounce American policy, but also funded an anti-sanctions documentary by a former U.N. weapons inspector, Scott Ritter.
Millions in "food" funds were diverted to companies in the arms business, to firms controlled by members of the Saudi royal family, but much of the money just seems to have lined the pockets of Saddam and his loyal business partners:
At least half a dozen of the companies involved in the rerouted payments were among the biggest 40 suppliers selected by Saddam under oil for food - all doing well over $100 million of business. That alone should sound alarms because Saddam's regime doled out contracts as favors, overpaying for relief supplies in order to skim funds by way of kickbacks. At least two of the U.N.-authorized companies from which payments were redirected, Al-Riyadh International Flowers and Pacific Inter-Link, showed up in a 2003 Pentagon study as having sold overpriced goods to Saddam - vegetable ghee overpriced by 28% or more, and palm oil overpriced by 15%.
Another Congressional committee, this one chaired by Henry Hyde, has received subpoenaed documents from Robert Parton, former investigator with the Volcker's Independent Inquiry Committee investigation. Parton resigned from the Volcker investigation last month in protest of what he said was the commission's downplaying (whitewashing?) of Kofi Annan's role in the Oil-For-Food fraud. This Fox News report says some of the documents supplied by Parton demonstrate inconsistencies in Annan's story about his role in the scandal. Stay tuned.
You know, The Penis Monologues, a spoof on The Vagina Monologues, the Eve Ensler play revered by campus females of a leftist bent. Someone was bound to do it. It begged to be done. But once again, the humorlessness and double standards of the campus left are on display. Christina Hoff Sommers at NRO has it covered.
A blog of interest to Ohioans concerned about public policy debates is the Buckeye Institute Blog, a service of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions. Check out the main site here, and henceforth locate the blog on the blogroll at right.
The Institute conducts research and publishes articles in five policy areas; Education, Economic Growth, Health Care, Quality Growth, and Telecom Policy in Ohio. They publish an admirable Mission Statement and list of Core Values that emphasizes their independence and non-partisanship.
The decline of Ohio relative to other states in areas of jobs, business, schools, and taxation means that the debate on important policy issues needs to be broader, more inclusive, more substantive, and more civil. This organization looks to be a step in that direction.
Great piece on North Korea by Christopher Hitchens:
In North Korea, every person is property and is owned by a small and mad family with hereditary power. Every minute of every day, as far as regimentation can assure the fact, is spent in absolute subjection and serfdom. The private life has been entirely abolished. One tries to avoid clichÃ©, and I did my best on a visit to this terrifying country in the year 2000, but George Orwell's 1984 was published at about the time that Kim Il Sung set up his system, and it really is as if he got hold of an early copy of the novel and used it as a blueprint. ("Hmmm â€¦ good book. Let's see if we can make it work.")
You know things are going badly for your baseball team when they have a day off and the word that comes to mind is "merciful". The Indians have stumbled out of the gate at 9-15, and every Tribe fan I know joins me in my head-shaking bewilderment and abject disappointment with what we have seen from them so far this year.
Everybody thought the Indians were capable of 85-90 wins this season, so it's not like I was some Pollyanna when I predicted 90 a month ago. And even six games under .500 wouldn't be so bad if the White Sox hadn't started out like a house afire. But they did, so it is. It was so important to get off to a fast start, if only to get the fans and the city into the team early. But we didn't, and they aren't. So it's early, but it's getting late.
Today G.M. Mark Shapiro spoke out to take some of the understandable heat off of Manager Eric Wedge. The question of whether or not we overestimated the talent of our players has been on my mind for a while now, and Shapiro was asked that in so many words the other day. He insists not, that the numbers these guys (presumably Hafner, Martinez, Belliard, Crisp, Westbrook, Broussard, Blake) put up last year would turn out to be pretty close to their seasonal averages for their careers when they quit this game.
The players seem to genuinely like playing for Wedge, and it's time for them to start winning some games for him. They're certainly not being inspired by the "fans". The record at home is a pathetic 3-8, but I've got to say that if I had to play in front of that lifeless collection of ticket-holding stiffs that has been the customer base at Jacobs Field for the last couple of seasons, I think I'd be playing uninspired baseball too.
I haven't gone back to see if I was bitching on this topic in the blog a year ago, but it's not a new development. I am fortunate to be able to attend about one of every five home games, and I am becoming more and more embarrassed by the growing numbers of disinterested, uninformed, uptight, emotionless people that populate the park with me these days. If that makes me a snob, so be it. I'd be happy to hear someone stand up and yell something totally inappropriate and stupid just to hear someone else with a set of lungs. Win or lose, it's like a morgue.
I love observing the copycat behavior that goes on at the ballpark when it comes to yelling encouragement to players or just applauding. I try to yell something positive to most every Tribe hitter, usually just "Let's go, Victor", or "OK, Coco", or whatever, not only because I sit close enough, and the crowd is quiet enough, for the players to actually hear me over the pall, but because I find that by doing so, a few other people summon the nerve to yell something themselves. When the majority of the vocalizing is being done by the beer vendors, it's not hard to notice the cause-effect relationship between my cheering and the immediate, almost reflexive response of some other folks who were apparently just waiting for an ice-breaker. This little game helps pass the time on those 41-degree April nights.
Old-fashioned, traditional applause is rarely practiced at all. When the home team takes the field for the top of the first, tradition dictates applause for the good guys. We've got nothin'. When the home team's hitters are announced by the P.A. guy before their first at bat, we've got nothin'. We've got me and the guy five rows down that I reminded it's OK to clap your hands together. When the opposing team has two men on, two men out and two strikes on the hitter, Yankee Stadium for example, is deafening in its encouragement for the Yankee pitcher to throw strike three. We've got nothin'.
That is, unless the brand new, colorful, all-digital scoreboards ringing the field put up their lame "On Your Feet! Make Some Noise!" message to the majority of dunderheads who otherwise wouldn't know enough to look up from their nachos, and we get some "on-cue" manufactured emotion for a few seconds. It is at this moment that I want to puke.
No, actually that comes later, in the eighth inning of a one-run ballgame, when The Wave starts.
The local conceit that Cleveland has "the greatest fans in the world" is just that. It's nonsense. And it hurts me to say so. Cubs fans, Yankee fans, Red Sox fans, Cardinal fans....it's not even close.
Even though the team got off to a 2-4 start in their season opening road trip, I had expectations that there would be some excitement for that first homestand. Of course the opener sold out, but I showed up for Game Two expecting 25,000 or so. 15,000 showed up, and it's been pretty much downhill from there, as the "greatest fans in the world" have already set the record for smallest crowd in Jacobs Field history twice this year. And the people who do show up are definitely not your father's baseball fans. I've been sitting in the same seat for 12 years now, and I've never seen the place so dead.
Sorry, but that rant has been building up in me for a while, and it had to come out. So, I'm an insufferable baseball snob. I'll live with that.
However, I refuse to join in the "Cleveland is Cursed Club" that is once again so popular around town. This city has long had a major inferiority complex when it comes to professional sports, and with the Browns having bottomed out, and the Cavs having choked, and the Tribe starting badly, it is once again trendy to descend into pessimism and talk "curse". Northern Ohio Live has a story on LeBron this month that speculates on the cover that James will bolt this backwater for the bright lights elsewhere.
I'm not buying into that stuff. It's only been 41 years. The Tribe will turn it around. LeBron is here for at least two more years. The Browns are under new capable management. They have their potential star tight end coming back off last year's season-ending injury.
This Karl Zinsmeister analysis on the progress toward democracy in the Middle East has been out for several weeks at The American Enterprise magazine site, but I just got around to reading it in the print edition and thought it was worth sharing. Among my favorite passages was this one:
The forbearance that Iraq's Shiites have demonstrated over the last year strikes me as heroically impressive. Despite scores of horrible provocations--terrorists blasting weddings, shrines, beloved leaders, all in the hope of inciting a backlash that might spark an Iraqi civil war--the Shia have refused to retaliate or match tit for tat (as the longstanding Arab tradition of vengeance calls for). Clearly, a critical mass of Iraqis are ready to experiment with political tolerance and pluralism for the first time ever.
While a replay of the Khomeini nightmare seems dubious, we should keep our expectations modest when it comes to the newly emerging politics of the Arab world. In particular, we need to give Iraq's Shiites room to be Shiites. Many of the people the Iraqis choose as their leaders will not look or sound like Western politicians. The constitution they will draft this year is not likely to be one that Americans would want to live under. Some new Iraqi laws will make us squeamish. All this we must accept.
Introducing democracy does not mean that other people must remake themselves in our image. Beyond respecting basic human dignities, Iraqis should have the right to shape their society as they see best--including basing it on traditional Islamic precepts if they choose. We in the West must not anathematize Islamic law; our goal should instead be to housebreak Islamic fundamentalism, to link it to democratic due process so that the potential for tyrannizing and bellicosity is tamed out of it.
The first Islamic democracies are not likely to be places where we would be tempted to take our kids for vacation. Even the friendliest ones will sometimes be rhetorically quite anti-American. Then again, so is France. We don't need affection from Middle Easterners; we need only peace.
Read it all, along with lots of other good stuff at the TAE Online site.