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September 30, 2005

Fetus Farming Fears

Robert P. George

The journal Science late last month published the results of research conducted at Harvard proving that embryonic stem cells can be produced by a method that does not involve creating or destroying a living human embryo. Additional progress will be required to perfect this technique of stem cell production, but few seriously doubt that it will be perfected, and many agree that this can be accomplished in the relatively near future. At the same time, important breakthroughs have been announced by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Texas demonstrating that cells derived harmlessly from placental tissue and umbilical cord blood can be induced to exhibit the pluripotency of embryonic stem cells. ("Pluripotency" is the potential of a cell to develop into multiple types of mature cells.)

One would expect that advocates of embryonic stem cell research would be delighted by these developments. After all, they point to uncontroversial ways to obtain embryonic stem cells or their exact equivalent and to create new stem cell lines that are (unlike lines created by destroying embryos) immediately eligible for federal funding. Yet some advocates seem to be unhappy at the news. Why?

The likely answer is ominous.

George says it's because the biotechnology industry is not just interested in embryonic stem cells for use in research for fighting diseases. They have also invested heavily in promoting legislation encouraging development of a business enterprise in "fetus farming", described by George as "an industry in harvesting late embryonic and fetal body parts for use in regenerative medicine and organ transplantation." He advocates legislation now, before the American public stops being revolted by such an idea, as they are today:

The ideal legislation to protect human life and preserve public moral sensibilities would ban all production of human embryos for research in which they are destroyed. Unfortunately, Congress is not prepared to pass such legislation. Indeed, a bill passed by the House of Representatives to ban the production of human embryos, for any purpose, by cloning has been stymied in the Senate. (In this one instance, many American liberals decline to follow the lead of Europe--where many jurisdictions ban all human cloning, including the creation of embryos by cloning for biomedical research--or of the United Nations General Assembly, which has called for a complete cloning ban.) So what can be done?

One possibility is to make a pre-emptive strike against fetus farming by banning the initiation of any pregnancy (whether in a human uterus or artificial womb) for purposes other than the live birth of a child. This has been recommended by the President's Council on Bioethics. Another possible approach would be to add to the safeguards already in the U.S. Code on fetal tissue, stating that it is unlawful for anyone to use, or engage in interstate commerce in, such tissue when the person knows that the pregnancy was initiated in order to produce this tissue. An effective strategy would eliminate what would otherwise almost certainly emerge as a powerful incentive for the production of thousands of embryos that would be destroyed in perfecting and practicing cloning and fetal farming.

Heat Is On

No excuses for the Tribe tonight. They got beat by Chicago's second string position players and an unbelievable pitching performance by their starter and their bullpen. Many chances to win it. No big hit.

Onward. Two tries to win two.

Saddam In Power - 2005

Victor Davis Hanson imagines.

Saddam’s new oil?

Reuters reported today of undisclosed arrangements concerning Saddam Hussein and French and Russian consortia to explore new areas of Iraq for possible petroleum development. But French officials hotly denied charges that they had accepted an offer of 75 percent of the revenues for each barrel pumped from all new fields developed. CIA analysts estimated that recent revenue increases of $30 to $40 per barrel in price hikes had given Saddam over $100 billion in windfall profits. One anonymous analyst asked, “Where does all this money go? Perhaps that is why France, Germany, Russia, and China are lining up to provide Saddam with anything he wants.”

U.N. to monitor windfall profits

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan promised that all the Iraqi windfall profits from recent oil spikes would fall under the auspices of the Oil-for-Food program. To ensure transparency and public audit, Secretary Annan asked his son and special envoy Kojo Annan to fly to Switzerland to consult Swiss financial institutions about monitoring oil vouchers. “No other program except such a U.N. international effort could ensure the integrity of some $50 billion in commerce. The lives of Iraqi children are at stake and we take our humanitarian task very, very seriously. It is another reminder of why we need a strong United Nations.”

Question Answered

I had to go to MLB.com for the answer to this question:

If the Indians sweep the White Sox to tie them for the Central Division lead with identical records, the White Sox are declared the division winner based on a better head-to-head record during the season.

However, if the Red Sox win two out of three games against the Yankees this weekend, tying them for the AL East lead with identical records, they will play a one-game playoff for the AL East title.

What's up with that? Here's the answer...

The reason the White Sox and Indians wouldn't play a one-game playoff is because, with the Red Sox and Yankees playing each other this weekend, one team would be guaranteed to finish out of the playoffs if the Indians swept the White Sox. And in instances in which teams are guaranteed to make the playoffs, MLB does not use a one-game playoff, instead relying on head-to-head matchups to break the tie.

Hey, I didn't say it was a good rule, but it's the rule. If a team has the playoffs made anyway, MLB figures why go through the trouble and expense of staging a playoff game, you know, just to determine something silly like who won the damn division.

Dumb. They should play Game #163. If it's the way the AL East title is decided, it should be the way the AL Central title is decided. The Indians would be prevented a chance to win their division outright because they went and got more wins than any second place team in the American League. With a first place record, they would be penalized for being better than the second place teams in the other divisions.

I repeat. Dumb.

An Indians blog called LetsGoTribe.com has a post outlining all the possibilities.

September 29, 2005

Able Danger in The Tribune

Some of the most detailed mainstream media reporting on Able Danger is here in the Chicago Tribune. The report says that the Pentagon is now insisting that next week's hearings be closed to the public. I am less and less optimistic that we will ever get clear answers about what Able Danger disclosures were passed along to the 9/11 Commission. We do know that if they did have information about a pre-9/11 identification of Mohammed Atta, they ignored it. (via IrishPennants.com)

September 28, 2005

The Left University

One of the best pieces I've read on the web in months is James Piereson's "The Left University". Piereson traces the history of the American university from its beginnings, and through its transition from classic liberalism to its current leftism, and suggests that another transition may be in its early stages.

Too tough to excerpt this effectively, so click and read it all. Pack a lunch, cause it's a bit long, but you won't be sorry.

Chin Up

I'm not ready to panic yet. But I'm getting close. Amazingly, the Indians may still be in the Wild Card lead even after losing their third straight, since it appears that the Red Sox will cooperate by losing again tonight as well. I'll be there tomorrow, and I don't intend to have any voice left by the time the game is over one way or the other.

UPDATE 9/29: Well, I didn't lose my voice, partly because it was decided early tonight. Sabathia was fully in charge after some first inning trouble, and by the third it was 6-0 and essentially over. The White Sox winning the Division today makes them now just another team to beat this weekend to get into the playoffs. Maybe that's a good thing. Less pressure, less emotion. Just business. Two out of three guarantees the Indians a tie for the Wild Card. A sweep of the White Sox wins it, because any outcome of the Red Sox-Yankee series has to add up to three losses for them to divide between them.

A sweep by either the Yankees or Red Sox knocks the other out of the Wild Card assuming the Indians win at least two of three. And if the Red Sox win two of three they'll tie the Yankees (and possibly the Indians too, assuming we win two of three) In that event, the Red Sox, losers of the tie-breaker (based on season record head-to-head) will come to Cleveland for a one game playoff, probably Monday. If the Yankees win more than one of their three games, and the Indians win two, we're in. Got it?

Subtleties Of Media Manipulation

Check out Anatomy of a Photograph.

(via LGF)

Fact vs. Folklore

In the interest of clarity and truth, this post from Gateway Pundit on Katrina. (via The Corner)

UPDATE 9/28: Jonah says the media jumped to assume the worst, and to report even the most incredible of the unsubstantiated rumors and irresponsible speculation.

Recipe For Disaster

More sobering commentary on the attempt by the United Nations to seize control of the Internet. Here are some excerpts from the article by Carlos Ramos-Mrosovsky and Joseph Barillari:

...even those sympathetic to the idea of an internationally controlled Internet are skeptical of WGIG's proposals: John Palfrey, a Harvard Law School professor and executive director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, observes that creating an organization with so broad a mandate would be a "terrible idea." Indeed, the history of large bureaucracies, particularly large international bureaucracies, provides little confidence that the U.N. can handle any task without kilometers of red tape, let alone continue ICANN's minimalist private-sector approach. Will the registration of a domain name, now a five-minute process for anyone with a credit card, eventually require approval from UNESCO? Will domain-registration fees, currently a few dollars per domain, skyrocket to subsidize websites for countries without electricity? There are many ways that U.N. control could make the Internet slower and more expensive, and few improvements that the private sector cannot supply...

...Only dictators, and, perhaps, the doctrinaire internationalists who so often abet them, stand to gain from placing the Internet under "international" control. If, for example, the U.N. were to control domain names, its component tyrannies would find it much easier to censor and repress. After all, "internet public policy" is subject to interpretation, and it is hard to imagine international bureaucrats resisting — as ICANN and the U.S. largely have — the temptation to politicize their task...

...Although the Bush administration will not relinquish U.S. oversight of the Internet, a future president may be more willing to make this seemingly small concession to curry favor with internationalist elites or supposed strategic partners. As with the Kyoto Protocol or the International Criminal Court, Washington's refusal to bend to the "international community" over the Internet might be magnified into another gleefully touted example of American arrogance. America's rivals, less constrained by electoral cycles, tend to view foreign policy over the longer term. They are willing to wait. If we are to preserve the Internet as we know it, the Bush administration must take steps to foreclose the possibility of it ever becoming the plaything of dictators.

September 27, 2005

Skewed And Incomplete

Claudia Rosett has had a chance to review the Volcker commission's report, and the preeminent journalist on the Oil-For-Food beat relates some of her observations...

On September 7, Paul Volcker's inquiry into the Oil-for-Food program issued its "definitive report" on the biggest relief program--also the biggest scandal--in the history of the United Nations. The investigation alone cost $34 million, took over 16 months, and employed some 75 staff from 28 countries. Running to four volumes and totaling 847 pages, the report is hefty. But definitive it is not.

Volcker's report is at best a beginning, and a skewed and incomplete one at that. To be fair, credit is due to some of the investigators on Volcker's staff, who have conducted many interviews and toiled down many byways of the U.N. paper trail to produce such items as footnote 64, page 27, Volume III. Here we find that "kickbacks were levied on all or nearly all contracts" among the thousands of U.N.-approved deals done by Saddam Hussein, as the program, during its final years, hit its full multibillion annual stride. The investigators have also painstakingly documented such findings as the one on page 124 of Volume III. Here we find that, during Oil-for-Food, Secretary General Kofi Annan, his deputy secretary-general, Louise Fréchette, and his chief of staff, Iqbal Riza, "were all informed of the issue of kickbacks, but remained passive."

But somewhere between the Volcker committee's labors on the ground and the conclusions of the three commissioners at the top--former Fed chairman Volcker, South African justice Richard Goldstone, and Swiss lawyer Mark Pieth--a fog descends. Despite the load of detail, illuminating and deeply damning to the United Nations, the result is a patchwork of dropped leads and watered-down judgments, leading in some cases to unwarranted and even bizarre conclusions.

Do read it all.

No Kidding!

U.S. To U.N.: Keep Away From Internet

The U.S. has made it clear that it will fight any attempt to put the United Nations or another international body in charge of the Internet.

At the outset of global talks on information technology in Geneva, Ambassador David A. Gross, U.S. coordinator for international communications and information technology, said the role of the U.S. government is to ensure the "stability and reliability of the Internet.”

He told the Washington Times: "We want to make sure the private sector leads and the Internet continues to be a reservoir of great innovation, and that governments continue to focus on enabling the growth of the Internet, and not of controlling its use.”

Several nations with tightly controlled media, such as China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, plus a number of industrialized countries including Switzerland and Russia, would like to see the U.S. relinquish its control of the Internet.

The same rule applies here that applies to the notion of government-run health care; If an organization is already doing things badly, you don't give them more to do. (via Belmont Club)

VDH on Academia

In an essay from The Claremont Review of Books, reprinted today at OpinionJournal.com, Victor Davis Hanson bemoans the state of the American university. Hanson takes four examples of sitting university presidents to illustrate his case that...

Hypocrisy, faddishness, arrogance and intellectual cowardice are among the ailments of the American university today, and it is hard to say whether even a great president could save higher education from its now institutionalized vices. Amid the variety of scandals afflicting the campuses, the one constant is how the rhetoric of "diversity" trumps almost all other considerations--and how race and gender can be manipulated by either the college president or the faculty in ways that have nothing to do with educating America's youth, but everything to do with personal aggrandizement in an increasingly archaic and unexamined enclave.

Phony Peaceniks

Christopher Hitchens is must reading today. He rips the New York Times and the rest of the liberal media for failing to identify the organizers of the "anti-war" protest in Washington for what they are:

The name of the reporter on this story was Michael Janofsky. I suppose that it is possible that he has never before come across "International ANSWER," the group run by the "Worker's World" party and fronted by Ramsey Clark, which openly supports Kim Jong-il, Fidel Castro, Slobodan Milosevic, and the "resistance" in Afghanistan and Iraq, with Clark himself finding extra time to volunteer as attorney for the génocidaires in Rwanda. Quite a "wide range of progressive political objectives" indeed, if that's the sort of thing you like. However, a dip into any database could have furnished Janofsky with well-researched and well-written articles by David Corn and Marc Cooper—to mention only two radical left journalists—who have exposed "International ANSWER" as a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism...

...To be against war and militarism, in the tradition of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, is one thing. But to have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban, is quite another. It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side. Was there a single placard saying, "No to Jihad"? Of course not. Or a single placard saying, "Yes to Kurdish self-determination" or "We support Afghan women's struggle"? Don't make me laugh.

September 26, 2005

What Shut Down Able Danger?

We know that the Able Danger data-mining operation that uncovered the identity of Mohammed Atta more than a year prior to the 9/11 attacks was shut down abruptly in mid-2000, and that over 2.5 terabytes of data gleaned from that operation was intentionally destroyed. What we don't yet know is why.

The representatives of the Pentagon have used as their justification for the data's destruction the fact that the program had turned up information on U.S. citizens, claiming that to collect such information would violate U.S. law. Andrew C. McCarthy calls such a justification "abject nonsense", and proceeds to demolish that line of argument in his NRO piece today.

The Pentagon's on again-off again decision on allowing the five Able Danger witnesses to testify in congressional hearings is now back on, with the testimony rescheduled for Oct. 5. Ed Morrissey followed up on this post and started looking into one of the key players on the Able Danger technical team. He reports here on Dr. Eileen Preisser, an expert in, and outspoken advocate of data-mining technologies. The 9/11 Commission wasn't interested in what she had to say, but Ed suggests we all might be very interested now.

There has been considerable speculation that the abrupt termination of Able Danger was in response to information that surfaced relative to the Clintons' "Chinagate" campaign funding scandal of the late 90's. These connections were explored in a terrific post by Dafydd at Captains Quarters a few weeks ago, and more recently in this Strata-Sphere post.

McCarthy talks about the Pentagon culture, what he calls the "suicide ethos", which over the years has so grossly distorted our priorities in intelligence gathering, to the detriment of our national security. I don't doubt that this culture exists. It's all part and parcel of the rampant careerism and bureaucratic inertia that has been criticized but not corrected in our intelligence apparatus. (Here is an interesting piece by Peter Brookes that outlines some of the progress being made by Porter Goss in his attempt to reform and reorganize the CIA.)

But at the moment, my concern is with getting the answers to more immediate questions. With the 9/11 Commission's credibility already in tatters, the American people deserve to know if the Commission was actually prevented from seeing the Able Danger data, or if they in fact saw it, but chose to ignore it because it didn't fit their established narratives. Or did they ignore it because disclosing that the government had pre-9/11 knowledge of Mohammed Atta, and failed to act on that knowledge, would outrage the American people to such a degree that a coverup was considered the only option?

September 25, 2005

92 and Counting

With each Indians victory down the stretch of the regular season, I guess it's obvious that the focus is on the Red Sox and the Yankees, since we only have to beat out one of those teams in order to make the playoffs.

It seems likely that even if the Indians overtake the White Sox for the Central Division title, the White Sox are still the probable Wild Card team, since they have a three game lead on both the Yanks and Red Sox with only eight games to play. So we can't be overly concerned about whether or not we catch the White Sox. If we can shave one more game off of their lead between now and Friday, we can win the division by taking two out of three from them next weekend.

The best news for the Indians is that the Yanks and Red Sox play each other three times that last weekend, so there will definitely be three more losses for them to divide up one way or another. That will make it very difficult for both teams to catch the Tribe, unless of course the wheels somehow fall off for the Good Guys.

For the sake of argument, I'm figuring on the Indians for four wins in their last seven games, giving them 96 wins for the year. The Yanks and Bosox each have eight games left, and only 90 wins each, as of this writing. Even if they both manage to win all five of their games before their head-to-head series begins, that would leave them both one victory short of the Indians, and then they have three total losses to distribute between them. The best that one of them can do is tie us with 96 wins. If either team sweeps the other, we're in.

That's if the Indians win just four of their remaining seven games. If we win five out of seven, we're in, no matter what the Yanks and Bosox do..

September 24, 2005

Bucks Roll

The Iowa Hawkeyes were exposed as pretenders in the Big Ten this afternoon, getting totally stuffed by the Buckeye defense, and Troy Smith returned to the form he flashed last November. The result was a lopsided 31-6 OSU victory. Here's Steve Helwagen's game story from Bucknuts.com.

Iraq Info

Want to know what's really going on in Iraq? Start by reading Bill Roggio's The Fourth Rail on a regular basis. Bill has an informative Flash presentation detailing major coalition operations this month, and is constantly cranking out interesting analysis and commentary. Keep scrolling.

And be sure to check out the new informational blog Good News Central, which picks up where Arthur Chrenkoff's "Good News From Iraq (and Afghanistan)" series left off.

September 23, 2005

Cave Men And Crack Whores

OK, so Jonah Goldberg is kind of known for his colorful analogies, but I had to salute today when he pulled off these two in succession:

Sure: Bush’s response to Katrina wasn’t racist, and not nearly so incompetent as it seemed at first, but it was still far less than sufficiently competent — and it was indisputably politically disastrous. As we look to the future, what are we supposed to say? Hell no his overspending isn’t irresponsibly lavish! His overspending is simply responsibly lavish! The porkbusters fight is fun now, but not since early cave men tried to train grizzly bears to give them tongue-baths has a project seemed more obviously doomed to end in disappointment. Expecting Congress — of either party — to give back pork which has already been approved and passed into law is like expecting crack whores to give refunds days after services have been rendered.

Gelernter's Proposal

David Gelernter proposes taking the abortion issue away from the courts and putting it back where it belongs:

How can democracy reassert itself given American political reality? Congress could propose, and the nation could ratify, a two-part constitutional amendment.

Part one would legalize abortion with suitable restrictions. Part two would nullify Roe and reaffirm that only Americans and their elected representatives have the power to make law in this nation. All courts would be implicitly instructed by this slap-in-the-face clause to butt out of law-making.

Obviously, pro-abortion liberals would gain if such an amendment were ratified. Anti-abortion conservatives would too — not in their fight against abortion, perhaps, but as Americans. They can live in a nation where abortion is legal and democracy is under a cloud, or a nation where abortion is legal and democracy has been resoundingly reaffirmed.

Abortion poses vitally important problems, but liberty and democracy are even more important. If we lose them, we lose everything — including all possibility of making things better in the future.

Overdue Attention

The national media are finally discovering the Cleveland Indians. SI's Albert Chen has a feature on them tonight along with their game story on the Tribe's 90th win.

And this CBS story on the White Sox' ongoing fade rightly credits the stellar play of the Tribe as the main reason Chicago appears to be choking.

September 22, 2005

Able Danger Hearings

Congressional hearings on the Able Danger disclosures began yesterday, and the Washington Times previewed the testimony. At The Corner, Andy McCarthy (here, here, and here) and John Podhoretz (here and here) have posted their various theories and observations.

The Pentagon has barred several witnesses from testifying before Sen. Specter's committee, and they are being criticized for doing so. Out front on this story as usual is Ed Morrissey, who scoffs at the notion that there are any national security issues or fears of the disclosure of intelligence gathering techniques at work here. It's old fashioned CYA...

After all, if the Senators want to discuss how the identifications worked, they would gladly go into closed session for that testimony. What the Committee and the rest of us want is open testimony about what they found in relation to 9/11 and the known hijackers, who they identified, what they did with that information -- and who insisted on covering it up, both at the Pentagon and on the 9/11 Commission.

None of that comes under the heading of national security -- it falls into the category of covering some high-ranking ass...

...The American people suffered the worst attack on our soil four years ago. We deserve answers about how that attack could have been prevented. The Pentagon has five witnesses that speak directly to that issue who have been prevented from speaking to the representatives of the people. Arlen Specter needs to subpoena those five witnesses, all of the senior officers in the chain of command for Able Danger, and Donald Rumsfeld himself to answer for why the Pentagon will not cooperate. Four years of hiding Able Danger is long enough.

Check out Ed's previous Able Danger post as well.

September 21, 2005

Exclamation Point



It was a tight game tonight until John Garland tried to get a high 3-2 fastball past Travis Hafner in the 8th inning. Hafner muscled it out for a 3-run homer, and added another clout in the 9th for good measure. Hafner reached 30 home runs and 100 RBI tonight, stats that are more impressive when you realize he missed 10% of the season after getting hit in the face with a pitched ball. His 1.008 OPS (OBP + SLG) trails only Ortiz and A-Rod in the AL and is 5th in all of MLB.

This blog's preoccupation in recent days with sports, especially baseball, is an accurate reflection of how it consumes my consciousness when the Indians are in the pennant race this time of year. I had almost forgotten what it was like.

The Legend

The Bengals are 2-0, and that's not the only thing that looks upside down in the NFL after two weeks. David Fleming of Page 2 reflects on this state of affairs with a multiple choice quiz. Here's Question #1:

John Elway once said the worst thing about getting old as a quarterback is that just as the game begins to slow down for you mentally you begin to break down physically, a statement that now seems to apply to:
A. Brett Favre
B. The Packers' quarterback
C. Hall of Famer, Brett Favre
D. Favre, Brett
E. All of the above

It doesn't give the Browns any credit for beating Favre on Sunday, but it's funny anyway.

The U. N. - Unplugged

The power was out only for a short time, but Claudia Rosett reflects on what might have been.

September 20, 2005

They Just Play

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com:

This can't be happening. Can it?

A 15-game lead, melting like the polar ice caps?

A magical season, turning messier than a mudslide?

This can't be happening. But it is. It's happening to those Chicago White Sox. Right before our eyes.

Seven weeks ago, the White Sox were 34 games over .500 -- and the Cleveland Indians were four over. Four.

So everybody who figured they'd be waking up on the morning of Sept. 20, finding those same two teams suddenly separated by 2½ games, raise your hands. We'd like to come hang out with you on your next trip to the Powerball machine...

...Whether the Indians want to know this or not, they are now within reach of doing something not just historic but borderline impossible. Wiping out a 15-game lead with two months to play? What are the odds of that?

Stark goes on to document the worst ever historical collapses by first place teams for perspective. I wasn't aware that the White Sox were so close to making baseball history. The whole Stark piece is must reading for Tribe fans.

Count me as still skeptical that we can overtake the White Sox. But I am amazed at what has happened to and for the Indians in the last 45 games or so. When they were 60-52 after winning six of seven, I figured that if they could go 15-5 against the Royals and the Devil Rays and play .500 ball (15-15) against everybody else, they could reach 90 wins, the upper end of anyone's April expectation of what this team could do.

Soon after that came the deflating sweep at home by the Devil Rays, but the Indians are 25-7 since that debacle, and have lost consecutive games only once during that stretch. That leaves them two short of 90 with 12 games to play, and now the only question is how many wins over 90 it will take to make the playoffs one way or another.

And to be fair, if I'm linking back to April's 90-win prognostication, I have to also recall my post-All Star Game blues when I said they didn't look like a playoff-caliber team. Never more glad to be wrong.

Roberts Endorsements

So far, the Washington Post, Boston Globe and now the reliably liberal L.A. Times have endorsed the confirmation of Judge Roberts as chief justice, all of which leaves the New York Times looking kind of silly. Here's how the L.A. Times editorial begins:

It will be a damning indictment of petty partisanship in Washington if an overwhelming majority of the Senate does not vote to confirm John G. Roberts Jr. to be the next chief justice of the United States. As last week's confirmation hearings made clear, Roberts is an exceptionally qualified nominee, well within the mainstream of American legal thought, who deserves broad bipartisan support. If a majority of Democrats in the Senate vote against Roberts, they will reveal themselves as nothing more than self-defeating obstructionists.

That sounds about right.

Eyeing The U.N.

Power Line points to a new site devoted to keeping tabs on the United Nations. It's called Eye on the U.N., and is run by Anne Bayefsky among others. I've browsed the site a bit, and the authors list is impressive. The Bayefsky archive alone is worth some of your time, even it doesn't contain this definitive treatment of the history of The U.N. and the Jews, (pdf document) from Commentary Magazine.


Previous Wizblog posts linking Bayefsky

September 19, 2005

Dueling Sports Analogies

Mark Steyn is an entertaining read as usual, this time on the Roberts hearings.

Bush's Hand Up

President Bush's initiative to provide a "hand up" as opposed to a "handout" for victims of hurricane Katrina is praised by Michael Barone and David Brooks. Here's a sample from the Barone column:

...despite the Great Society tone of his speech, he did not promise another Great Society. He proposed instead a Gulf Opportunity Zone -- presumably, a tax-free status to encourage investment. He called for Worker Recovery Accounts of up to $5,000 for job training, education and childcare. He proposed an Urban Homesteading Act on federal lands.

Bush's liberal critics have been hoping that the Katrina disaster would increase support for big government, and they have a point when they say that there are some things only government must do and that it -- or they: local, state, federal -- must do them well. Bush's proposals use government differently. Like the GI Bill of Rights and the no-down-payment VA home mortgages of Franklin Roosevelt, Bush's Worker Recovery Accounts and Urban Homesteading would help people out, but only those who in turn do something to lift themselves up. And his Opportunity Zone turns on its head the liberal notion that the most effective way to help the poor and helpless is to tax everyone else heavily and hand out money to those in need.

(Because the N.Y. Times has decided to begin charging for online readers to view their editorial content effective this week, I am pasting the full Brooks piece at the link below. Brooks is the only person I will miss reading at the Times site. Now I'll probably have to click all the way over to Free Republic.com to read him.)

The New York Times

September 18, 2005
A Bushian Laboratory

On Oct. 5, 1999, George Bush went to the Manhattan Institute and delivered the most important domestic policy speech of his life. In what was mostly a talk about education, he made it quite clear he was no liberal. But he also broke with mainstream conservatism as it then existed.

He distanced himself from the cultural pessimists, the dour conservatives who were arguing that America was sliding toward decadence. Then he bluntly repudiated the small government conservatism that marked the Gingrich/Armey era.

It's not enough to cut the size of government, Bush said, or simply get government out of the way. Instead, Republicans have to come up with a positive vision of "focused and effective and energetic government."

With that, Bush set off on a journey to define what he called "compassionate conservatism" and what others call big government conservatism.

It's been a bumpy ride. Over the past five years, Bush has overseen the fastest increase in domestic spending of any president in recent history. Moreover, he's never resolved the contradiction between his compassionate spending policy and his small-government tax policy.

But gradually and fitfully, Bush has muddled his way toward something important, a positive use of government that is neither big government liberalism nor antigovernment libertarianism. He's been willing to spend heaps of federal dollars, but he wants that spending to go to programs that enhance individual initiative and personal responsibility.

On Thursday, President Bush went to New Orleans and gave the second most important domestic policy speech of his life. Politically it was a masterpiece, proof that if the president levels with the American people and admits mistakes, it pays off.

But in policy terms, the speech pushed the journey toward Bushian conservatism into high gear. The Gulf Coast will be a laboratory for the Bushian vision of energetic but not domineering government.

Bush proposed an Urban Homestead Act, which will draw enterprising people to the area, giving them an opportunity to own property so long as they're willing to work with private agencies to put up their own homes. He proposed individual job training accounts, so much of the rebuilding work can be done by former residents. Children who have left flooded areas will find themselves in a proto-school-choice program, with education dollars strapped to each individual child.

This is an effort to transform the gulf region, which had become a disaster zone of urban liberalism. All around the South, cities are booming, but New Orleans never did. All around the country, crime was dropping, but in New Orleans it was rising. Immigrants were flowing across the land in search of opportunity, but as Joel Kotkin has observed, few were interested in New Orleans.

Now the Bush administration is trying to change all that. That means trying to get around the corruption that made the city such a rotten place to do business. The White House is trying to do this by devising programs in which checks and benefits flow directly to recipients, not through local agencies.

That means challenging the reigning assumptions. Right now the White House is fighting with Louisiana over where to house evacuees. The state wants to put temporary trailer parks on faraway military bases, where there are no jobs and where they will live in "abject dependency," as one senior White House official puts it. The Bush folks want to put temporary housing within a mile of the original neighborhoods so people can become self-sufficient as quickly as possible.

On Thursday, the president was honest about the cost of all this, but he only began to lay out a plan. The Bushies are still trying to figure out how to help people from broken families and those with mental disabilities. They're trying to figure out where to cut government to offset the costs. There are arguments about what New Orleans should try to be, a smaller controlled-growth Portland or a booming and spreading Houston.

Like Franklin Roosevelt in the New Deal era, Bush doesn't have a complete vision of what he wants to achieve. But he does have an instinctive framework.

His administration is going to fight a two-front war, against big government liberals and small government conservatives, but if he can devote himself to executing his policies, the Gulf Coast will be his T.V.A., the program that serves as a model for what can be done nationwide.

E-mail: dabrooks@nytimes.com

German Vote

I thought John Fund of OpinionJournal.com had some of the clearest analysis of the election in Germany. You'll also want to read Victorino Matus at TWS and Jim Geraghty at NRO. It was Geraghty who came up with what I thought was the "keeper" line of the day:

Eventually someone will form a government, but the negotiations could take weeks. The only time we get these kinds of messes in the American system is when a presidential candidate withdraws his concession, turns around the motorcade, and sends out his spokesman to declare, "our campaign continues." And thankfully, that's rare.

Insights On Iraq

Read Wretchard's post at Belmont Club on the operation in Tal-Afar by coalition forces earlier this month. The insurgents placed great importance on defending this stronghold and yet they were defeated decisively. Still, the prospects of avoiding Iraqi civil war are not terribly good.

And Greg Djerejian makes the case against a policy of announcing a phased, timed withdrawal, as advocated by Kevin Drum among others.

'Tis A Puzzlement

The hottest team in Major League Baseball drew an embarrassingly small crowd of 22,654 Sunday, as they cruised to an 11-0 win over the Royals. I heard a late night SportsCenter anchor the other night say "C'mon, Cleveland, you can do better than that!"

The Indians have won 12 of their last 13. It was a Sunday afternoon game. The weather was fine. This is the same town that sold out every game for over four complete seasons. I don't get it.

September 18, 2005

No. 1 For Romeo

Just wanted to congratulate Romeo Crennel for his first win as an NFL head coach. The Browns won a game that nobody in their right mind thought they would win, going up to the legendary Lambeau Field and knocking off the legendary Packers, led by the legendary Brett Favre, on the day the legendary Reggie White's number was retired.

OK, the Packers aren't the team they have been in recent years, but that hardly makes this victory any less huge for the guys in the orange hats. It was most encouraging to see the Browns refuse to get conservative with a two point lead and a first down with under four minutes to go in the game. They caught the Packers thinking run with under two minutes to go and stunned them with a 62 yard TD to the tight end. By the time Brett the Legend scored again, there were only four seconds left on the clock.

Kudos to Trent Dilfer who had a terrific game, matching all of Favre's numbers except for the Legend's two interceptions. Heh.

Here's Braylon Edwards pulling away from two Packer defenders on his 80-yard TD reception.


September 16, 2005

On Top Of That, He's A Jerk

Bill Simmons has won me over with this bit of analysis from NFL Week One:

...Indy's near shutout of the Baltimore Ravens has more to do with Brian Billick's continued offensive ineptness than the Colts' unveiling a defense capable of winning in January. Billick might be the worst offensive coach in the history of the NFL. Billick is the man who decided Kyle Boller was a franchise quarterback. If not for Marvin Lewis and Ray Lewis' carrying the Ravens to a Super Bowl title, Billick would be in the unemployment line.

September 15, 2005

Bush's Two Mistakes

Peggy Noonan is on top of her game today as she critiques the Bush White House handling of Katrina and looks toward the rest of the second term:

...the White House made two big mistakes. The first was not to see that New Orleans early on was becoming a locus of civil unrest. When an American city descends into lawlessness, and as in this case that lawlessness hampers or prevents the rescue of innocents, you send in the 82nd Airborne. You move your troops. You impose and sustain order. You protect life and property. Then you leave. That's what government is for. It's what Republicans are for. The White House didn't move quickly, and that was the failure from which all failure flowed. The administration was slow to see the size, scope, variations and implications of the disaster because it was not receiving and responding to reliable reports from military staff on the ground. Because they weren't there. When the administration moved, it moved, and well. But it took too long.

Second, lame gazing out the window is mere spin, not action. Soulful looks from the plane are spin. The White House was spinning when it should have been acting. I do not agree with the critique that Mr. Bush should have done a speech with a lot of "emoting." This is the kind of thing said by clever people who think everyone else is dumb. Bill Clinton felt everyone's pain, and that is remembered as a joke. What was Mr. Bush supposed to do, criticize the hurricane and make it feel bad? Say that the existence of bad weather is at odds with the American dream? Hurricanes come, disasters occur; don't talk, move. In this area the administration has gotten way too clever while at the same time becoming stupider...

...Mr. Bush is famously flinty. I sometimes think of what a friend said of him years ago: There are two misconceptions about Mr. Bush; one is that he's dumb, and the other is that he's sweet. He puts great emphasis on personal loyalty, and personal loyalty is important. But when that preference becomes a governing ethos, you wind up surrounded only by loyalists. His father wound up surrounded by tennis players. This doesn't help you govern...

...Mr. Bush probably needed a humbling experience. He just got one. May he absorb, understand, keep the helpful lessons, ignore the unhelpful ones, and waste no time being mad. And may he reach out to some old wise heads on the Democratic side who can give him a read on how his honest critics view him.

Enviros Stop Levee Work

The problems getting Louisiana levee reconstruction projects done aren't all about federal funding. Two recent articles are focusing on the substantial role of the environmentalists in delaying or stopping altogether federal government plans to complete levee projects in Louisiana, among other places. John Berlau explains that "levee" is a dirty word to these folks:

The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because “a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all.”

But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at “the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands.” The lawsuit stated, “Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley.” In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.

The lawsuit was settled in 1997 with the Corps agreeing to hold off on some work while doing an additional two-year environmental impact study. Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain.

But it is just one illustration of a destructive river-management philosophy that took hold in the ‘90s, influenced the Clinton administration, and had serious policy consequences. Put simply, it’s impossible to understand the delays in building levees without being aware of the opposition of the environmental groups to dams, levees, and anything that interfered with the “natural” river flow. The group American Rivers, which leads coalitions of eco-groups on river policy, has for years actually called its campaign, “Rivers Unplugged.”

Over the past few years, levees came to occupy the same status for environmental groups as roads in forests — an artificial barrier to nature. They frequently campaigned against levees being built and shored up on the nation’s rivers, including on the Mississippi.

And Bob Tyrell recounts how Al Gore had a speech in New Orleans cancelled by Katrina in which he was to have blamed global warming for the hurricane season. Instead...

On Sept. 9 he spoke in San Francisco, where he said "The warnings about global warming have been extremely clear for a long time. We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences." And he urged that "the leaders of our country be held accountable" for the flooding of New Orleans. Unfortunately he was addressing the Sierra Club, which was not the best place to bring up the flooding of New Orleans.

The very day he spoke a congressional task force reported that the levees that failed in New Orleans would have been raised higher and strengthened in 1996 by the Army Corps of Engineers were it not for a lawsuit filed by environmentalists led by who else but the Sierra Club. Among those "leaders of our country" to "be held accountable" for the flooding of New Orleans, would Al include the Sierra Club? How about the Save the Wetlands stalwarts? According to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times, a 1977 lawsuit filed by Save the Wetlands stopped a congressionally-funded plan to protect New Orleans with a "massive hurricane barrier." A judge found that New Orleans' hurricane barrier would have to wait until the Army Corps of Engineers filed a better environmental-impact statement.

Now, because those who would have improved hurricane protection in New Orleans were prevented by the environmentalist rigorists, the wetlands are polluted and imperiled and New Orleans has suffered the damage that practical minds have been trying to prevent for three decades...

In addition to the Al Gores of the world, Tyrell cites also...

...a well-intentioned piece of legislation that has become a major stumbling block to improving the nation's infrastructure and energy production, the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970 (NEPA). The legislation might have been sensible at the time but it has grown like a bureaucratic cancer. Environmentalist lawyers have expanded its reach until it now entoils practically any construction done by the federal government in red tape that stops projects large and small, some mere pork barrel expense, some critical to the safety of the citizenry.

September 14, 2005

Bunts, Brownouts, And Broussard

What a bizarre game we saw at Jacobs Field Tuesday night. I've never seen a game like this one, but then I've only been watching baseball for about 45 years. Some of the weird plays and events that reminded me why baseball rules:

- A guy who was in a 1 for 23 slump coming into the game hit two home runs in his last two at-bats accounting for all five Indians runs.

- An Oakland batter was called out for interference with the catcher on a bunted ball in front of the plate. (The catcher interfering with the batter is a rare call, but much more common than this)

- About one third of the stadium lights went out in the sixth inning, causing a 21 minute delay.

- Indians manager Eric Wedge had a disagreement with the umpire's version of the strike zone, and got thrown out of the game without coming out of the dugout. He then proceeded to get his money's worth on the field and in the ump's face, demonstrating his flair for theatrics, and managing to get the crowd into the game for the first time. The embarrassing gathering of 21,000 had been comatose through the first six innings, doing a remarkable imitation of Indians batters to that point.

- The Indians made three errors, all in the early innings, none of which figured in the scoring for Oakland. This was mostly because the Indians defense also turned five double plays to minimize the damage.

- The last of the double plays came in the ninth, and saw closer Bob Wickman stumble over toward first base trying to cover the bag, throw himself into the path of the relay throw, smothering the ball while colliding with the batter, who failed to touch first base as a result of the collision. As the injured batter lay on the ground, Wickman calmly picked up the ball, and stepped on first to complete the double play.

- Pitcher Kevin Millwood, who leads the AL in ERA and in lowest run support, looked like he was in for another tough loss. He got through the top of the 7th, and saw the Indians tie the game to get him off the hook for the loss, but it seemed unlikely that he would come back out for the 8th with a pitch count already in the 90's. But he gutted it out, and Broussard gave him a win with his second homer with two outs in the 8th.

- Meanwhile, the Yankees scored 17 runs, and didn't gain any ground on the Indians. Heh.

Media Watch

The guys at Power Line do an exceptionally good job of identifying liberal bias in mainstream media and presenting it with cogent commentary. Two recent examples, here and here, are particularly well done, and worth the clicks.

September 13, 2005

NYT and Gaza

As AIM has noted, a respected liberal ripping the New York Times editorial page is a "man bites dog" story, and it gets people's attention. So I'm not sure how I missed the recent column by New Republic editor Martin Peretz on the treatment of the Gaza evacuation by The New York Times, until it was brought to my attention by an Accuracy in Media piece by Roger Aronoff. Both articles are worth reading in full, but here's a sample of Peretz railing at the Times, a paper he admits he can't do without, for focusing on the one violent exception to what was on the whole a very peaceful evacuation, given the emotional circumstances:

There was far more hysteria and hatred vented at the police in Chicago in 1968 (I was there) and at the marches on the Pentagon or the bust at Columbia University than there was in Gaza, and there were many more injured. No question about it. But it did not fit the Times' editorial line to admit the fact that almost no one was really hurt, and no one was killed, in Gaza. (I was not at Kfar Darom, the most extreme settlement, where paint, eggs, oil, and some apparently not-very-dangerous chemical agent were thrown at police and army by demonstrators. A few were injured, apparently none seriously. In any event, this distress occurred long after the Times editorial appeared.) For killings, the Times had to focus on the West Bank, where a "settler grabbed a security guard's gun and opened fire, killing several [there were actually four] Palestinians." The Times went on to say that this was "an act that Prime Minister Sharon rightly denounced as 'Jewish terror.'" (What he, in fact, said was that "it was an exceptionally grave Jewish act of terror.") It is indeed Jewish terror, as the atrocity in Shfaram was "Jewish terror," and the Jews of Israel have notably identified the crime with the extremism in their own political culture.

Once again, the renunciation and the denunciation cut through the entire society. But do the Times editorialists have no shame? Finally, they have shed their reluctance to call an act of terror "terror," but only when they can put the adjective "Jewish" before it. Was the Dolphinarium bombing in Tel Aviv, which merited no Times editorial, not Palestinian terror? And to how many of the dozens and dozens of other helter-skelter murders of Israelis has the Times affixed the term? The Jewish killer, standing in the Petakh Tikvah courtroom, asserted that "I hope someone also kills Sharon." When has a Palestinian terrorist been arrested and brought to a Palestinian court as an accused? Does the Times editorial page ever call the murder of 30, 40 innocent Iraqis a day — looking for work or at the market — terrorism? Hardly. It is insurgency.

Lots more where that came from.

The Media and Islam

Check out a terrific TCS piece by Stephen Schwartz on how media organizations, four years after 9/11, still don't understand Islam. That explains why they misreport and distort key features and concepts of Islam, and perpetuate myths about the faith, all of which leads to a false perception among the Western public. I learned a few things.

Spoiling The U.N. Party

Claudia's back, at NRO, explaining how the timing of the 60th birthday party for the U.N. could have been better:

There are by now too many signs that under Annan's stewardship the U.N. has already partied quite enough. President Bush owes it to his own constituents — who are not foreign heads of state, but American voters and taxpayers — to pull the punchbowl. Scandals at the U.N. have proliferated to where they need cross-indexing simply to keep track of, from incompetence to theft to bribery to money-laundering to rape — in (mix and match) New York, Geneva, Lebanon, Gaza, Iraq, and West Africa, to name just the short list of recent examples. In an 847-page report last week, Paul Volcker's U.N.-authorized probe into Oil-for-Food disclosed findings of corruption, waste, and top-level incompetence, all bathed in a "pervasive culture of responsibility avoidance and resistance to accountability." Annan, as he has done with U.N.-observed genocide in Rwanda and Srebenica, promptly took "responsibility" — though what that means in practice, as he parties right on, is anyone's guess.

Nor is Volcker's investigation over. Next month he is expected to report on the widespread corruption among the thousands of companies that did business with Saddam Hussein's regime, via the U.N., under the 1996-2003 Oil-for-Food program. There could be more than a little embarrassment there for some of the heads of state now gathered for the festivities in New York. Saddam threw well-padded business to his pals, in places such as Syria, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia, and especially among veto-wielding Security Council members France, Russia, and China — all of whom in 2002 and early 2003 opposed the U.S. and U.K. arguments for enforcing the U.N.'s own resolutions against Saddam. Annan had access at the time to the U.N.'s trove of confidential information confirming many specifics of this targeted and tainted trade carried out under the U.N.'s corrupted program. Had he spoken up then, to protect the integrity of the U.N.'s own operations and debates, he might enjoy some credibility today. He said nothing.

September 12, 2005

Tribe Sizzles

Late Sunday the Indians salvaged an otherwise disheartening weekend, definitively bouncing the Twins from the Wild Card race, 12-4. We took in both ends of the downtown doubleheader, roasting in the sun at Browns Stadium watching the Bengals' offense take apart the Browns, and then enjoyed a beautiful night at Jacobs Field as Grady Sizemore and Coco Crisp did the roasting. Here's hoping they can do for the Athletics what they did for the Twins, starting tonight.

September 9, 2005

How Soon They Forget

From ESPN.com's "Page 2"

Browns (+3.5) over Bengals

When in doubt, take the points. By the way, do you think Trent Dilfer ever brings his Super Bowl ring into work to show his teammates, leading to the following exchange:

Rookie on the team: "That thing is awesome! What team did you win it on?"

Trent (proudly): "The 2000 Ravens."

Rookie: "Cool. Who were you backing up that year?"

Trent (proudly): "Actually, I started every game."

Rookie (breaking up laughing): "C'mon, man -- I know you start for us, but we suck! You didn't start for no Super Bowl champs!"

Trent (grimacing): "No, seriously, I did -- I started that year."

(Awkward silence. Finally...)

Rookie (breaking up again): "Get the hell out of here!"

September 8, 2005

They Knew Better

The 9/11 Commission no longer exists, so they're not apt to answer Stephen Hayes' questions about why they chose to ignore virtually all Iraqi links to the 9/11 attacks. But the commission's credibility problems are getting worse, and those questions are going to be aired in new congressional hearings that are likely to deal with the Able Danger disclosures as well as the glaring omissions from the commission report of evidence showing Iraqi involvement, like the story of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir for starters.

It's tough to get a credible result from an investigation when your mind is made up before it begins. Hayes is again asking the questions, and the reporting he has done on Iraqi links to 9/11 is so impressive. And I mean two and a half years worth. From his latest...

Why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention Abdul Rahman Yasin, who admitted his role in the first World Trade Center attack, which killed 6 people, injured more than 1,000, and blew a hole seven stories deep in the North Tower? It's an odd omission, especially since the commission named no fewer than five of his accomplices.

Why would the 9/11 Commission neglect Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, a man who was photographed assisting a 9/11 hijacker and attended perhaps the most important 9/11 planning meeting?

And why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention the overlap between the two successful plots to attack the World Trade Center?

The answer is simple: The Iraqi link didn't fit the commission's narrative.

As the two sides in the current flap over Able Danger, a Pentagon intelligence unit tracking al Qaeda before 9/11, exchange claims and counterclaims in the news media, the work of the 9/11 Commission is receiving long overdue scrutiny. It may be the case, as three individuals associated with the Pentagon unit claim, that Able Danger had identified Mohammed Atta in January or February 2000 and that the 9/11 Commission simply ignored this information because it clashed with the commission's predetermined storyline. We should soon know more. Whatever the outcome of that debate, the 9/11 Commission's deliberate exclusion of the Iraqis from its analysis is indefensible.

The investigation into the 9/11 attacks began with an article of faith among those who had conducted U.S. counterterrorism efforts throughout the 1990s: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not--could not have been--involved in any way. On September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks, George W. Bush asked Richard Clarke to investigate the attacks and possible Iraqi involvement in them. Clarke, as he relates in his bestselling book, was offended even to be asked. He knew better.

Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, started from the same assumption. So did Douglas MacEachin, a former deputy director of the CIA for intelligence who led the commission's study of al Qaeda and was responsible for the commission's conclusion that there was "no collaborative operational relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. (Over the course of the commission's life, MacEachin refused several interviews with The Weekly Standard because, we were told, he disagreed with our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.)

More On U.N. Corruption

It seems as though the release of the Volcker (IIC) report yesterday marks the beginning not the end of the fact-finding on the Oil-For-Food scandal. Several congressional probes are underway, and so far Annan/Volcker have controlled the lion's share of the documentation. That should be about to change.

And U.S. federal prosecutions of Alexander Yakovlev, and now Vladimir Kuznetsov are no doubt just the beginning. Here's the amazing Claudia Rosett, this time at Fox (stay tuned) on the widening of the criminal investigation into procurement practices under the Russian Yakovlev, which coincided with Russia being the No. 1 contractor to Oil-For-Food, as well as the nation most showered with Saddam's bribery cash. (Fox link via Roger Simon)

And over at NRO (she's everywhere) Ms. Rosett makes a much-needed point about the so-called "exoneration" of Annan on the Kojo Annan/Cotecna contract issue, which is a serious matter, but almost a trivial detail in the context of Annan's overall responsibility:

The problem here is that whatever the truth about the secretary-general’s family ties to U.N. business, he was responsible for a great deal more than simply that particular U.N. contract. Even after the many scandals broken so far, a full account of the U.N.’s management of Oil-for-Food — starting with Annan’s starring role as head of the organization — would be an eye-popping thriller, and probably the healthiest thing to hit the U.N. since its founding. Oil-for-Food was not a bookkeeping exercise. It involved oversight of Saddam Hussein, an oil-rich war-mongering tyrant who gamed every angle of one of the most corruption-prone relief programs ever devised. Out of more than $110 billion in oil sales and relief purchases supervised by the U.N., Saddam by some estimates grafted out anywhere from $10 to $17 billion. While the U.N. praised the program, Saddam used his ill-gotten money not only for palaces, but to rebuild despite U.N. sanctions his networks of secret bank accounts, illicit political payoffs and arms traffic — and squirreled away billions that congressional investigators say may be funding terrorism today.

But if the preface to Volcker’s report is any guide, readers will find themselves slogging through such stuff as: “The Secretary-General — any Secretary-General — has not been chosen for his managerial or his administrative skills, nor has he been provided with a structure conducive to strong executive control and oversight.” In other words, as the preface also states, although the U.N. charter “designates the Secretary-General as Chief Administrative Officer,” the Volcker committee believes his real role has become that of “chief diplomatic and political agent of the United Nations.”

That leaves us with a secretary-general who is apparently excused from competent management, but also failed to alert the world to such vital political matters as Saddam’s attempts to corrupt the U.N.’s own Security Council via Oil-for-Food deals — information obvious from records the U.N. kept secret from the public, but not from Annan.


The Australian editorial

Washington Post editorial

The London Times editorial

September 7, 2005

Volcker Report

The complete report of the IIC is now available (in pdf format) here.

September 6, 2005

No One In Charge?

The Guardian:

The UN is guilty of "corrosive corruption", according to a long-awaited investigation published today into the handling of the multimillion-pound Iraq oil-for-food programme.

The 1,000-page report by Paul Volcker, former head of the US Federal Reserve, found "serious instances of illicit, unethical and corrupt behaviour within the United Nations"..."The inescapable conclusion from the committee's work is that the UN organisation needs thoroughgoing reform - and needs it urgently."

The Volcker commission (IIC) web site is here, although as of this writing I am unable to access the five-page "Preface" released Tuesday.

A Reuters article on the upcoming report says it calls for sweeping new financial controls:

"An adequate framework of controls and auditing was absent," said the report's preface, released on its Web site. "There were, in fact, instances of corruption among senior staff as well as in the field."...

Indeed there were, but then the Volcker commission looks to the top of the U.N. organizational chart...and finds no one there...

...But the report said a major problem was that no one was in charge -- neither the Security Council, meant to supervise the program, nor the U.N. secretariat, the semi-independent U.N. aid agencies and the General Assembly. Therefore when problems arose decisions "were delayed, bungled or simply shunned."

I'm sure Kofi Annan appreciates this charitable reading of the situation, finding him guilty only of "mismanagement", and the kid glove treatment is to be expected, since Annan appointed Volcker and oversaw the investigation (while funding it with $30 million of Iraqi oil revenues.)

But the "no-one-in-charge" finding doesn't comport with what we know about how the Oil-For-Food program was actually run. From Claudia Rosett's definitive Oil-For-Food primer, here is part of her description of Annan's oversight of the program. It should be noted that references to the "U.N. Secretariat", or simply "The Secretariat" refer essentially to the staff and operations of the Secretary General's office (as opposed to the Security Council or the General Assembly) which was of course supervised by Kofi Annan personally. (emphasis mine - DW)

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. It was this body that fielded a substantial presence in Iraq (the U.S., apart from weapons inspectors ejected early on, had none), employing at the height of the program some 3,600 Iraqis plus 893 international staff working in Iraq for the nine UN agencies coordinated by the Oil-for-Food office; another 100 or so were employed back in New York. 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...

...Are we supposed to conclude that, in order to deliver this amount of aid, the UN had to approve Saddam’s more than $100 billion worth of largely crooked business, had to look the other way while he skimmed money, bought influence, built palaces, and stashed away billions on the side, at least some of which may now be funding terror in Iraq or beyond?

No, something was at work here other than passive acquiescence. At precisely what moment during the years of Oil-for-Food did the UN Secretariat cross the line from "supervising" Saddam to collaborating with him? With precisely what deed did it enter into collusion? Even setting aside such obvious questions as whether individual UN officials took bribes, did the complicity begin in 1998, when Saddam flexed his muscles by throwing out the weapons inspectors and when Oil-for-Food, instead of leaving along with them, raised the cap on his oil sales? Did it come in 1999, when, even as Saddam’s theft was becoming apparent, the UN scrapped the oil-sales limits altogether? Or in 2000 and 2001, when Sevan dismissed complaints and reports about blatant kickbacks? Did it start in 2002, when Annan, empowered by Oil-for-Food Plus, signed his name to projects for furnishing Saddam with luxury cars, stadiums, and office equipment for his dictatorship? Or did the defining moment arrive in 2003, when Annan, ignoring the immense conflict posed by the fact that his own institution was officially on Saddam’s payroll, lobbied alongside two of Saddam’s other top clients, Russia and France, to preserve his regime? Certainly by the time Annan and Sevan, neck-deep in revelatory press reports and standing indignantly athwart their own secret records, continued to offer to the world their evasions and denials, the balance had definitively tipped.

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.


Previous Wizblog posts on Oil-For-Food

Volcker Independent Inquiry Commission web site

Thanks Again, Tampa Bay

The Indians refuse to go away. They moved back to within a half game of the Wild Card lead tonight, beating the Tigers, while the Devil Rays beat the Yanks again to go 10-4 against them on the season.

Do you suppose that Clevelander George Steinbrenner is a bit peeved that the Indians and their $42 million payroll are running even with his $210 million roster. Now if I can't have both, I'm partial to owners with more money than sense, as opposed to the other way around. But you do have to credit Dolan with getting results by letting his baseball people do their jobs, and winning on the cheap.

It does look though like nothing short of making the playoffs will roust the Cleveland community from its apathy, and that's truly sad. The team and the organization deserve better.

Sticks And Stones

A few days ago, a reading of religious jokes was held to see if telling them would violate proposed British legislation against fomenting religious hatred.

Religious leaders from churches across the denominational spectrum, as well as secularists and comics such as Rowan Atkinson, are united in opposition to the Racial and Religious Hatred Bill, which had its third reading in July.

The Bill, which will now go to the Lords, where it is expected to arouse strong opposition, recommends a maximum seven-year jail sentence for anyone convicted of intending to stir up religious hatred. More than 1,000 church leaders have petitioned Downing Street urging Tony Blair to abandon it.

A sensible approach to drawing attention to bad law, it seems to me. Sanctioning or deporting clerics who make public appeals to murder and holy war is understandable, but anytime you're proposing punishing words instead of deeds, you've jumped on the proverbial slippery slope.

The article includes the text of the winning entries for "funniest", but allowed that those judged "most offensive" weren't fit for publication. (via aldaily.com)

Ott On Balance

As usual, Scott Ott has an amusing take on replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist:

Democrats Demand Justice Just Like Rehnquist

by Scott Ott

(2005-09-05) -- Just hours after the death of William H. Rehnquist, Senate Democrats demanded that President George Bush nominate a replacement whose ideology and judicial philosophy match that of the late Supreme Court justice.

"When Sandra Day O'Connor retired, we insisted Bush appoint a centrist to replace her and maintain the balance on the court," said one unnamed Senator. "Now, we demand that the president name a right-wing, conservative, originalist to replace Rehnquist for that same reason."

The Senator explained that balance is the most important feature of the high court, trumping ideology, logic and the intent of the framers of the constitution.

"As much as we'd like to have another lefty like [Ruth Bader] Ginsburg, we must maintain balance," the anonymous legislator intoned. "Even if it means overturning Roe v. Wade, we Democrats shall remain true to our principles."

September 5, 2005

Annan Hopes Report is "Survivable"

Kofi Annan is said to believe that he has done nothing that should compel him to resign as U.N. Secretary General even though the final report of Paul Volcker's investigative commission will find him to have been primarily responsible for mismanagement in the billion dollar fraud that corrupted the U.N. Oil-For-Food program. From the L.A. Times:

UNITED NATIONS — Investigators confronted Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday with findings of their probe of the $64-billion Iraqi oil-for-food program, concluding that he bore primary responsibility for mismanagement and faulting him for not acting to halt suspected abuses by contractors and laxity by member states, said diplomats who spoke to Annan after the meeting.

The investigators, led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, are expected to issue a public report Wednesday about abuses in the relief program. A committee spokesman said it would be at least 700 pages and would also examine the responsibility of Security Council members who knowingly allowed Saddam Hussein to reap billions from smuggling and kickbacks.

Annan's office refused to comment publicly Thursday on the meeting between the secretary-general and the investigators. Diplomats who talked to Annan afterward, but asked to remain anonymous, said he told them that the investigators had "no smoking gun" or evidence of wrongdoing on his part.

A senior aide to Annan, who also asked to remain anonymous, said, "I very much hope that while it may be a damaging report, it will be a survivable report.

No smoking gun? No evidence of wrongdoing? I guess the swindling of billions of dollars from the Iraqi people by the murderous dictator the program was set up to sanction and contain, all personally supervised and presided over by Kofi Annan, doesn't constitute "evidence."

The "evidence" is the missing 10 billion dollars!

The U.N. under Kofi Annan has become known for corruption and ineptitude, its "peace-keeping" forces guilty of participation in bribery, child sex scandals, rape, prostitution, and all manner of exploitation of the people they are charged with protecting. Can it be unreasonable to suggest that the leader of this tragically compromised organization consider stepping down so that new leadership can emerge, and some level of increased transparency and accountability might result?

Does the U.N.'s incompetence in most everything they touch, from their impotence in stopping genocide in Darfur, to Annan's complicity in the looting of Oil-For-Food, to the reprehensible behavior of the peace-keeping troops add up to "a smoking gun"?

Annan's track record coupled with the continuing presence of Annan defenders makes one wonder what a person would have to do in this job in order to lose it?

Annan must go.

Sarkozy Profile

Nicolas Sarkozy is positioned to become the next president of France. He is currently more popular than any other French politician, and is unabashedly pro-American and a free-marketer. He has managed to work with and for Chirac while staying free of the taint of the corrupt and unpopular incumbent. Check out an interesting profile in Foreign Policy.

Murray on Inequality

If you haven't yet, take a few minutes to read Charles Murray's "The Inequality Taboo" from the new Commentary Magazine. This excerpt is a prety good summation of the article's thesis:

Good social policy can be based on premises that have nothing to do with scientific truth. The premise that is supposed to undergird all of our social policy, the founders’ assertion of an unalienable right to liberty, is not a falsifiable hypothesis. But specific policies based on premises that conflict with scientific truths about human beings tend not to work. Often they do harm.

One such premise is that the distribution of innate abilities and propensities is the same across different groups. The statistical tests for uncovering job discrimination assume that men are not innately different from women, blacks from whites, older people from younger people, homosexuals from heterosexuals, Latinos from Anglos, in ways that can legitimately affect employment decisions. Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 assumes that women are no different from men in their attraction to sports. Affirmative action in all its forms assumes there are no innate differences between any of the groups it seeks to help and everyone else. The assumption of no innate differences among groups suffuses American social policy. That assumption is wrong.

September 3, 2005

Local Breakdowns

Good post from Ed Morrissey on Katrina response. He links to an AP article from Sunday that reports the personal phone call made by President Bush to Governor Blanco appealing for a mandatory evecuation order for New Orleans, and has interviews with residents who either chose to ignore the order when it finally came, or didn't have the transportation to get out of town. Meanwhile, the city had the fleet of school buses that could have served the purpose, but they failed to move them to high ground in the days before or even after the storm. A sample from Ed:

What did George Bush do? He had a wide area of devastation to manage. Mississippi has also sustained catastrophic damage, with entire towns destroyed, flooded, and unable to fend for themselves. He does not have the authority to call out anyone's National Guard until he federalizes the units, a move usually reserved for use when governors prove recalcitrant in mobilization. Yet within three days of the levee burst and the drowning of New Orleans, Bush had 40,000 troops entering the city to take over the management from Nagin and Blanco, delivering the aid that had waited for lines of communication to get established and the order that the NOPD and Louisiana could not maintain.

We work within a federal system, where cities and states control the allocation of resources used within their borders. We do this because we recognize that, for the most part, federalism works. Local decisions about resource allocation usually create better results than top-down bureaucratic management. The main requirement for that to work is local leadership. Blaming George Bush because he delivered results within three days of the major catastrophic event while following these rules is as silly as blaming Congress for taking five days to pass an aid bill.

The main failure in New Orleans came when the local and state governments refused to recognize that the storm had a high chance to cause catastrophic damage and use its assets to get the poor and infirm out of its way. They had plenty of resources (in vehicles) with which to do that, but left them right where the floods would destroy them. All the rest of the damage would have been mere property destruction, difficult to rebuild but nonetheless easier to accept than the unbelievable hardship we've seen this week.

From a Washington Post editorial:

...if blame is to be laid and lessons are to be drawn, one point stands out as irrefutable: Emergency planners must focus much more on the fate of that part of the population that -- for reasons of poverty, infirmity, distrust of officialdom, lack of transportation or lack of information -- cannot be counted on to leave their homes after an evacuation order.

Tragically, authorities in New Orleans were aware of this problem. Certainly the numbers were known. Shirley Laska, an environmental and disaster sociologist at the University of New Orleans, had only recently calculated that some 57,000 New Orleans Parish households, or approximately 125,000 people, did not have access to cars or other private transportation. In the months before the storm, the city's emergency planners did debate the challenges posed by these numbers, which are much higher than in other hurricane-prone parts of the country, such as Florida. Because a rapid organization of so many buses would have been impractical, the city's emergency managers considered the use of trains and cruise ships. The New Orleans charity Operation Brother's Keeper had tried to get church congregations to match up car-owners with the carless, and it had produced a DVD on the subject of hurricane evacuations that was to be distributed later this month. Unfortunately, none of these plans was advanced enough to have had much impact this week.

Media Blog documents the hypocrisy of the New York Times on the federal funding for flood projects that the administration is being criticized for "slashing."

Game Day


The Buckeyes open the season today loaded with talent on both sides of the ball. But there are key questions facing them as they take on a tough Miami University team.

Can Josh Huston do an adequate job replacing All-American placekicker Mike Nugent?

Can Justin Zwick do an adequate job keeping the quarterback spot warm for Troy Smith's return from his suspension for this game?

Will a reliable tailback emerge? Will it be Antonio Pittman or one of the other youngsters behind him, like Eric Haw, or freshman Maurice Wells?

Note that all of these questions have to do with the offense. The defense is so good that I don't think Miami will be able to score more than about 10 points. And Ted Ginn Jr. might just beat that on punt returns alone. Buckeyes, 27-10.

UPDATE 9/3: All three questions are answered in the affirmative this afternoon, as the Bucks roll 34-14, dominating the Miami Redhawks, who got two late scores against the Buckeye backups.

Pittman had 100 yards rushing with a 7.1 yard average. Zwick was sharp, and Josh Huston had a perfect day kicking. Bring on the Horns.

UPDATE: Here's Steve Helwagen's game story from Bucknuts.com

Hanging In

If you had told me in April that the Indians and the Yankees would have identical records on September 2, that would have been an acceptable outcome of the first five months of the season for me. It will only take a 15-13 record the rest of the way for the Tribe to reach the 90-win level that seemed so unattainable just a week or two after the All Star break. I think it will take at least two or three more wins than that though, to win the Wild Card playoff spot.

In the meantime, enjoy the ride. Looking ahead, I like our starting pitching and our bullpen as well as any of the other Wild Card contenders. In terms of national attention, I don't think this team could be any more under the radar. All the ink is devoted to the Yankees of course, with the race between Oakland and the Angels getting second billing. When they talk about MVP candidates, there's not a whiff of anyone wearing the Wahoo. In fact, the absence of any obvious candidate on the Indians is their calling card in a way.

None of this disturbs me in the least though. I'm happy to see us lying in the weeds, out of the limelight and away from the pressure of expectations and press scrutiny. We'll either get trampled down there, or rise up to bite somebody.

September 2, 2005

Heterodoxy Is Back

In 1992, David Horowitz and his long-time writing partner Peter Collier founded Heterodoxy, a newsmagazine that they subtitled "Articles and Animadversions on Political Correctness". Over the next several years they diced and sliced the PC silliness and hypocricies of academics and other Leftists in those early 90's years before the Internet was so universally accessible as a platform for exposing such things.

I wasn't a charter subscriber, but I jumped on board as soon as I could, and came to relish every word thereafter. Now David is bringing Heterodoxy back, eventually republishing every issue in pdf format over the course of the next two years. Here Collier explains the rationale behind the irreverent tone of the publication:

...It could have been an intellectual journal. But it occured to us that, mutatis mutandis, those of us who opposed this new treason of the clerks were in a position similar to the one we had been in the early 60s--a counter culture fighting against an establishment. (Except that in the historical turning of the tables this ruling elite was now leftist with a deconstructive agenda.) And our publication should therefore resemble the counter cultural underground papers of our wicked youth--irreverent and provocative and willing to enter the house of power and rearrange its furniture. Heterodoxy therefore set out, in the famous formula of A.J. Leibling, to comfort the oppressed and oppress the comfortable. For the next eight years, we attacked the world of PC relentlessly, fingering its villains and forcing them to do the perp walk. We named names. We ridiculed the fatuous. We constructed an intellectual CT-scan of the malignancy that was spreading throughout high culture. Heterodoxy was funny and brash. It took no prisoners. The magazine sometimes seemed inconsequential to us even as we produced it because its targets were, in the final analysis, such paintywaists and lightweights. But examined once again after more than a decade, it has integrity as an artifact from an era when bad ideas were in the saddle riding mankind. Then it gave our side ammunition and camp songs for the culture war. Today it is a rich archive chronicling the dada and nihilism of the plague years of Clintonism.

The first issue is here, and the second, from May, 1992 is here. I still have some of my back issues, and have archived as much as possible as DH made it available at FrontPage Magazine, but I'm looking forward to enjoying it all, all over again.

September 1, 2005

Culture Of Death

Michael Ledeen on "doomed cities":

New Orleans is one of a handful of cities that are defined in large part by the recognition that it can all come to an end most any day. Joel Lockhart Dyer wrote that "New Orleans is North America's Venice; both cities are living on borrowed time." New Orleans and Venice are both subject to the vagaries of the water gods, and both have acted sporadically to fend off their seemingly inevitable fate. But their basic response to the looming disaster has been defiance, a ritual assertion of life in the face of the inevitable, and an embrace of human frailty that echoes the frailty of the city itself.

Clarett Cuts Himself

Terry Pluto of the Akron Beacon, and the PD's Bill Livingston both had good takes on Maurice Clarett yesterday. Who did you wrong this time, Maurice?