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December 30, 2005

ESPN's Phil Savage Report

Chris Mortensen of ESPN is reporting:

The Cleveland Browns plan to fire Senior VP and General Manager Phil Savage over "philosophical differences," primarily over salary-cap management issues, league sources tell ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

However, there are ongoing talks between Browns owner Randy Lerner, team president John Collins and Savage to try to reach a deal in which Savage would accept a reduced role and still keep a job with the team.

In that proposed new role, Savage would run the football personnel department, while an additional executive would be hired to manage the salary cap. Both would report to Collins.

Savage had resisted the proposed reduced role over the past several days, but there were talks late Friday afternoon to see if a compromise can be reached without Savage losing his job.

Collins has denied that the team plans to fire Savage -- including through a statement on the team's website that said Savage "is and will continue to be our senior vice president and general manager" -- but Mortensen has confirmed the team's plan with several sources.

What is a sensitive internal issue for the Browns is now also an embarrassing national story for the team, since millions across the country are seeing Mortensen's report run as an ESPN ticker on the Miami-LSU telecast as I type. But if there are "negotiations" going on, and the Browns' plans to bring in another executive on the business side of the organization have been "confirmed...with several sources", then perhaps ESPN's wording in their "plan to fire Savage" headline is not really warranted.

The headline was on a shorter version of Mortensen's report posted on the ESPN site earlier this afternoon. That report was more definitive on the fact that Savage would be fired, and it mentioned the Falcons' Ray Anderson as a possible replacement. The later story reports the negotiations to find a compromise solution that would keep Savage with the team. So ESPN has backed off the firing story somewhat, but kept the headline in place. It's a bit sensational, based on how Mortensen has amended his original report.

Since the ESPN.com report has riled the local radio talk show scene, the Browns have issued a statement denying that Savage will be fired, and saying he retains his title and his job, spinning the whole thing as a "rumor". The Plain Dealer has this report up on their web site this evening. I respect Mortensen's work too much to buy into the idea that there's nothing at all to it. The team has been putting out feelers around the league, and reports of Savage's displeasure with the proposed changes are plausible and understandable.

I do hope that Savage can swallow a slight reduction from his previous job description as Executive Vice President and General Manager and the Browns can keep a proven talent evaluator and a promising executive, one who would have no trouble finding lucrative employment elsewhere in the NFL. Salary cap management is for lawyers, and if Savage is under-equipped to handle that job... and he probably is... so what?

He may however tell the Browns to stick it after this embarrassing gaffe, and the Browns will kiss off a quality guy when they really didn't have to. This is an organization that has too few assets already, and is coming off a pathetic football performance last Sunday. No doubt Berea headquarters has not been a warm, fuzzy place this past week, but I hope Savage isn't scapegoated just because his background is scouting and not law school and he may have been in over his head on the financial side of the business.

But my 100% speculation says this is about more than salary cap management. Something to think about is that the Browns are reported to be $30 million under the salary cap this offseason, and I suspect that as the ranking football executive, Savage feels it is his complete responsibility to determine how that money is spent on player personnel, including salary cap decisions, no questions asked. That's a lot of money, and maybe owner Randy Lerner and John Collins have different ideas. Or maybe Romeo Crennel does.

From a strategic standpoint, and just as much from a P.R. standpoint, the Browns cannot afford to lose Phil Savage. He may have taken a hard line when approached about a reduced role, or they wouldn't have had to consider firing him. That they are known to have interviewed, at least informally, potential front office talent from around the league says that Lerner has decided to bring someone new into the organization, with or without Savage.

I 've been impressed by the steady and discrete management of the football organization so far under Phil Savage, but he is not calling the shots anymore, and it shows with this ham-fisted affair. And unless this is a done deal, and Savage is gone, then Randy Lerner has really screwed this one up. If he manages to retain Savage in a reduced role, he will have humiliated him needlessly. And if he loses Savage, how is this a better football organization for it?

It's obviously Lerner's call to fire Savage or not to. But this limbo, however long it lasts, is unfair to Savage and to the fans, and a black eye for the ownership. Mortensen is very well-connected and I believe that his reporting is accurate.

The bad publicity will hasten a resolution of this thing, I hope. What I fear is an awkward attempt to retain Savage, followed by his resignation in order to save face. Best case...he stays, because there is probably a very short list of NFL teams prepared to sign him as Exec V.P. and GM or better. If he goes, the Cleveland Browns will be the losers.

Never before have the Browns failed to win even one game in the Central Division in a season. At 0-5 going into the Ravens game Sunday, there's a good chance they'll make bad history. Since they returned to the NFL in 1999, the Browns have made seven selections in the first round of the NFL Draft. Not one of those players will be playing for the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. Now I feel like a loser for having paid these guys for a ticket to see a 5-10 team on New Years Day!, after having witnessed them barely show up on Christmas Eve.

I can count the home games I have missed since 1988 on the fingers of one hand. And right now I couldn't care less about this one coming up.

Of course I'm overreacting.

More Annan Arrogance

In keeping with my three year practice of posting every public utterance by Claudia Rosett on the issue of the U.N. Oil-For-Food scandal, here is her latest, on the "untouchable" Benon Sevan, who ran Oil-For-Food, and was found by the Volcker Commission to have personally received $147,000 from Saddam Hussein's government. Investigators for Rep. Henry Hyde's Congressional investigation recently came face-to-face with Mr. Sevan when they visited the apartment building where Sevan's aunt took a fatal fall down an elevator shaft. It's a great story that demonstrates how Sevan is still clearly grieving over his personal loss...

As it happens, they were not expecting to find Mr. Sevan in person. They went to Nicosia, the capital of Cyprus, trying to track down details of the case, including the fate of Mr. Sevan's deceased aunt, Bertouji Zeytountsian. By Mr. Sevan's account to Mr. Volcker, this aunt, while living in Nicosia as a retired government worker on a pension, had sent him funds totaling some $160,000 during the last four years in which he was running Oil for Food, 1999-2003. The day after the U.N. investigation into Oil for Food was announced, in March, 2004, Zeytountsian fell down an elevator shaft in her Cyprus apartment building. A few months later, she died.

Mr. Hyde's investigators decided while in Nicosia to have a look at the elevator shaft. On Oct. 14, a Cypriot police official showed them the way to the building. There, printed plainly on a mailbox at the entrance to the apartment block, was the name not of Mr. Sevan's aunt, but of Benon Sevan himself. After shooting the picture shown nearby, the investigators went up to the eighth-floor apartment where the aunt had lived. They knocked, and the door opened.

There stood Benon Sevan. As one of the investigators describes it, Mr. Sevan came to the door "in shorts, no shirt, and sandals, smoking a cigar." Apparently everyone was surprised to come thus face-to-face. Mr. Sevan was polite but did not invite them in. They chatted across the threshold. He told the congressional investigators to address all questions to his lawyers, saying, "My conscience is clear."

The investigators turned to go, and, as one of them recounts, as they headed for the stairs, Mr. Sevan told them, "You can take the elevator. It's fixed now."

December 29, 2005

Sports Guy on MNF

Don't be the last person in the world to realize that Bill Simmons is the funniest sportswriter working today, or maybe ever. Here are his reminiscences of Monday Night Football.

December 28, 2005

Cancer Prevention?

An interesting article from The Independent on the possible preventive powers of Vitamin D. (saw it at Ace)

American Conservative Mind

Here is Jeffrey Hart's statement of conservative principles from yesterday's OpinionJournal that has (at least) the right half of the blogosphere buzzing. I was struck by his lament that, "embarrassingly for conservatives", environmentalism has become mostly an issue for liberals in this country. It is regrettable that environmentalism has become a cover for left-liberal anti-capitalism and anti-development agendas, and an excuse for expansion of government power, conservation being (well, duh) a conservative idea.

Browsing reaction to the Hart piece at The Corner, (lots of dissenting opinion, scroll on) I came upon another speech by novelist Michael Crichton, in which he continues his environmental myth-busting, and documents the ways that government has failed to be a good steward of wilderness lands over the years. Lots of great stuff here about understanding and managing complex systems, and the power of false information (a specialty of the modern environmental movement) to do great harm. Read it all. And check out other Crichton speeches here.

Yet more on environmentalism as but one of competing preferences, to put it in economic terms.

UPDATE 12/28: Here's a useful summary of the reaction to the Hart article by conservative writers, pundits and bloggers.

December 20, 2005

Germany Frees Murderer For Hostage

Mohammad Ali Hamadi, the Hezbollah terrorist who tortured and murdered U.S. Navy diver Robert Stethem in 1985 received a sentence from a German court of "life without the possibility of parole". Today he is a free man because Germany negotiated his release in return for the release of a German citizen held hostage by Islamists in Iraq.

The message from Germany to the United States? Forget our promises to you, and forget our signed extradition treaty with the U.S.

The message from Germany to terrorists all over the world? Hostage-taking pays.

Read the whole sickening story by Debbie Schlussel.

UPDATE 12/28: The Germans have made their bed, and now it appears they are lying in it.

December 19, 2005

Not Listening Would Be A Scandal.

The story of the NSA operation to conduct wiretaps on international communications in the fight against terrorism continues to reverberate in the blogosphere. I have little to add to the words of the distinguished commentators linked below, except to note the timing of the publication of the story by the New York Times. A story they have been sitting on for a year is released one day after the historic and successful Iraqi elections in a transparent attempt to blunt any positive momentum for the Bush presidency.

Fortunately, Mr. Bush has come out swinging in defense of his policy, and the strategy of the Times and the anti-Bush forces may yet backfire on them.

I liked Ed Morrissey's early reaction to the Times story. Read it all, but here's a sample:

...does the Constitution allow the United States to take the necessary actions to defend itself against asymmetrical warfare without unduly curtailing individual liberties? Does the Constitution require us to sacrifice thousands, perhaps millions, of our citizens to murderers and infiltrators simply because we might not like the idea of international communications being subject to random monitoring?

I would argue that it does not -- and the professional way that the Bush administration handled the NSA program demonstrates that perfectly well. The White House engaged the leadership of both political parties and made partners of the other two branches of government to make this a success. It kept the operation secret as long as possible, it did not use the data to abuse the citizens of the US for any reason; it conducted its operations within the letter of the law, although perhaps outside the spirit that some see it containing. It succeeded at the balancing act required of it, and they deserve great credit in their administration of the project.

Michelle Malkin has a first-rate roundup, as usual.

Mark Levin comments at The Corner

Byron York at NRO explains why the President authorized the wiretaps. And we must hear from George Will.

In depth legal analysis of the President's action from Orin Kerr at Volokh Conspiracy.

And Hugh Hewitt is all over the story, with his customary passion and erudition. Just keep scrolling...and returning to the site.

A New York Sun editorial today I thought said it well...

Reasonable people may differ over the correct place to draw the line between civil liberties and national security in wartime, but this strikes us as a pretty clear-cut case. The Fourth Amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

At issue is whether the listening in on overseas phone conversations is, in a time of war, "unreasonable." A person is now subject to a warrantless search when boarding an airplane, entering the New York subway system, or even entering the building that houses the office of the New York Civil Liberties Union. Why should an international phone call be inviolate?

As the Sun later noted, it would be a scandal if listening to these conversations was not taking place.

UPDATE 12/20: Excellent op-ed at OpinionJournal today:

The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.

The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

...The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.

Inside the executive branch, the process allowing the wiretaps was routinely reviewed by Justice Department lawyers, by the Attorney General personally, and with the President himself reauthorizing the process every 45 days. In short, the implication that this is some LBJ-J. Edgar Hoover operation designed to skirt the law to spy on domestic political enemies is nothing less than a political smear.

Insurgents On Dope?

Amid anecdotal reports of coalition finds of methamphetamines and heroin in Iraq, and evidence that some suicide bombers may have been using heroin before going to their deaths, Robert B. Charles asks the pertinent questions in an interesting post at the Counterterrorism Blog. First, are the reports true? And if they are, should we be drug testing captured or killed insurgents in order to learn more? More from Charles:

...Where is the heroin coming from, if it is heroin or a similar potent opiate? One guess.

The obvious answer is the country now supplying 82 percent of the world’s heroin – namely, Afghanistan. The drugs would have to be moving into Iraq via a sea route or across Iran. The latter is more likely, given porous borders on both sides of Iran, a history of smuggling drugs across both borders, and close ties between Shiites in southern Iraq and Iran.

Notably, earlier this year, the International Narcotics Control Board just observed that "high levels of insurgent violence and porous borders have drawn traffickers to Iraq," and that "Jordan has seized large quantities of drugs on the Iraq border."

....What is to be done? The answer is simple: Engagement of the Iraqi Shiites to assist in closing down transshipments, public discussion of the issue, and a more aggressive effort to address the problem at its source, namely inside Afghanistan.

December 17, 2005

Purple Reign

When the Mount Union College Purple Raiders go three years without winning the Division III national championship, it feels like a long drought. There were doubters this year, especially when Mount Union lost their first regular season game since 1994. But Coach Larry Kehres and his Raiders reclaimed the national title this afternoon in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, beating the previously unbeaten Warhawks of Wisconsin-Whitewater 35-28.

It was the eighth national championship for your humble blogger's alma mater in the last thirteen years. Not since John Wooden's UCLA Bruins dominated NCAA basketball in the late 60's and early 70's has any college team in a major sport amassed a run of championships like this one.

The game turned on a mid-third quarter goal line stand by Mount Union, which preserved their 14-7 advantage, and was soon followed by a 95-yard dash for a touchdown by freshman running back Nate Kmic to put the Raiders up 21-7. They then held off a determined fourth quarter comeback by the Warhawks to seal the victory in a highly entertaining game. Mount Union drove for the decisive touchdown with just under three minutes to go, after Whitewater had pulled to within seven points with a late rally.

Congratulations to Coach Kehres and his fine team. Again.

Where Are The Feminists?

Phyllis Chesler on what it means to be a woman in the Islamic world. This is a wonderful article by one brave woman. I highly recommend you take a few minutes to check it all out.

December 16, 2005

CK - Don't Get Giddy, Iran Looms

Congratulations are certainly in order today for the Iraqi people, and for the coalition that has helped them on the path to true self-government. But Charles Krauthammer's column today is sobering for anyone getting carried away with our Middle East successes. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's messianic self-image, coupled with Iran's nascent nuclear weapons capability, represent a looming crisis. And Krauthammer is not optimistic. Read it all.

To be sure, Holocaust denial and calls for Israel's destruction are commonplace in the Middle East. They can be seen every day on Hezbollah TV, in Syrian media, in Egyptian editorials appearing in semiofficial newspapers. But none of these aspiring mass murderers are on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons that could do in one afternoon what it took Hitler six years to do -- destroy an entire Jewish civilization and extinguish 6 million souls.

Everyone knows where Iran's nuclear weapons will be aimed. Everyone knows they will be put on Shahab rockets that have been modified so they can now reach Israel. And everyone knows that if the button is ever pushed, it will be the end of Israel.

But it gets worse. The president of a country about to go nuclear is a confirmed believer in the coming apocalypse....

... Negotiations to deny this certifiable lunatic genocidal weapons have been going nowhere. Everyone knows they will go nowhere. And no one will do anything about it.

New Bin Laden Video?

According to the Counterterrorism Blog, a group called IntelCenter is reporting that a new video of Osama Bin Laden has been released, but it has not yet been seen by anyone in the U.S. intelligence community. If authentic, it would be the first new footage of Bin Laden in over a year.

December 15, 2005

The Anti-Murtha

Power Line's John Hinderaker sat down for a talk with his Congressman, Rep. John Kline, who recently returned from a trip to Iraq, and recorded some of Kline's observations of our military to share with readers. Kline demonstrates his frustration with Democratic doomsayers who purport to "support the troops" but who in fact are making their jobs harder. Read it all, but here's an excerpt:

Just the fact that the level of debate has gone up, and you have some leaders, Kerry, Pelosi, Dean, saying we can’t win and we’ve got to get out, that’s not reassuring to our troops, that’s not supporting our troops, and what is always lost in this discussion is, by God it’s not reassuring our allies, including the Iraqi leadership.

Howard Dean’s casual comment that we can’t win is not just irresponsible, it really is a betrayal of the trust of our men and women in uniform. That’s what makes me so angry about Jack Murtha, more than any of the others, because he was a Vietnam vet, and he did serve many years in the Marine reserve and he ought to know better. Howard Dean, I just have so little regard for his opinion on anything, but he is the leader of the Democrat party, and for him to come out and say that is certainly irresponsible, but even more than that, I think it is harmful to our service men and women, it is a betrayal of their trust, it is very damaging to our allies.

What does this say to our coalition partners who are small countries who have made large commitments of men and equipment, because they trust us and they think that what we’re doing is right and is important? And you have national leaders who come out and say things like that.

What I tell these folks is, you really are not supporting the troops if you are not supporting what they are doing. Because the troops don’t feel like it’s support if you say, “What you guys are doing is not working. It’s a disaster, we can’t win and we’re going to pull you out. So all of the sacrifices that you’ve made have been for nothing." They don’t think that’s support. It sounds very hollow to them. It does wear on them.

"Freedom is the Greatest Gift..."

Iraqi election reports, roundups and commentary:

Iraq The Model
Gateway Pundit
Michelle Malkin
Pajamas Media
W. Thomas Smith Jr. - NRO
President Bush
Zalmay Khalilzad - WaPo
Ed Morrissey
Jeff Jacoby

The Rooster Weeps

Claudia Rosett's remembrances of Gebran Tueni.

An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."

He paused and smiled, "Better," he said, if they stop at "one."

They didn't.

December 13, 2005

Purple Power

No, it's not Iraqi fingers. It's Mount Union College football.

It's fair to say that no college football team has ever dominated their competition like the Mount Union College Purple Raiders have under Head Coach Larry Kehres. Consider just a few of their accomplishments during this incredible recent run:

- Seven NCAA Division III National Championships, including three straight from 2000-2003.

- A regular season winning streak of 110 consecutive games, (ending this season with a 21-14 loss to Ohio Northern.)

- Advanced to the NCAA championship game eight times in the past ten years.

- 14 undefeated regular seasons.

Kehres was the senior starting quarterback when yours truly was a freshman at Mount in 1970, and I've followed his remarkable career ever since he became the head man in purple. Once again in 2005, Kehres has led his team to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, VA for the Division III National Championship, where they'll meet the Warhawks of Wisconsin-Whitewater (14-0).

Coach Kehres has delegated much of the offensive play calling to assistant coaches this year, as Terry Pluto relates in a recent Beacon-Journal article. They haven't crushed all of their opponents this year as in seasons past, and the offensive attack features two 1000-yard rushers instead of the high-powered passing attack that has become a trademark of Kehres' teams.

No matter. The result is the same. A trip to the finals. A shot at the championship. Who'd bet against these guys on Saturday?

Go Purple!

December 12, 2005

Fear Of Winning

A couple of important new essays on the war in Iraq have hit the Web in recent days, and I've been remiss in not getting them posted here sooner. They are both reactions to all the "withdrawal" talk lately, coming mostly from the political left, who seem to think it a sound strategy to hurt the President, but who also have been paying enough attention to administration hints over several months that some kind of troop drawdown is in the cards regardless of what Nancy Pelosi says. But for the Democrats, if they call for it and then it happens, they can congratulate themselves on their relevance. In "Fighting To Win", Frederick W. Kagan says the troop numbers may well decline, but it's not because we're quitting, it's because things are going pretty well...

Advocates of withdrawal point to continuing attacks on coalition and Iraqi targets and to the steady, somber flow of U.S. casualties, as well as the increasing fear that our Army will break under the strain of prolonged occupation.

Administration supporters of course share these concerns, and some seem (privately) to share the view that the war may be unwinnable. Even a few inside the administration may have their doubts. In any case, the administration clearly believes that it has to promise a significant reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq--"conditions permitting"--in 2006. Reports are circulating that preparations for troop reductions have already begun.

The irony is that demands for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces do not spring from any particular recent bad news from Iraq (there has been little) or justified alarm about the Army's ability to sustain itself (high levels of retention continue to make up for problems with recruitment). On the contrary, the most recent news from Iraq is promising. American strategy has improved, and prospects for success are better than they have ever been.

The January issue of Commentary has a new Norman Podhoretz essay entitled "The Panic Over Iraq", which suggests that the increasingly desperate attempt by the Democrats to portray Iraq as "a failed policy" is one born less of fear that we will lose, than of a panic that we are winning, and that you-know-who might get some credit. There is of course much, much more here, but I'll excerpt one segment that I referenced today in response to Madeline Albright's ridiculous assertion on Meet The Press the other day that there was "no reconstruction" going on in Iraq.

Mr. [Max] Boot (relying on a Brookings Institution report) tells us that "for all the insurgents' attempts to sabotage the Iraqi economy," per capita income has doubled since 2003 and is now 30% higher than it was before the war; that the Iraqi economy is projected to grow at a whopping 16.8% in 2006; and that there are five times as many cars on the streets than in Saddam Hussein's day, five as many more telephone subscribers, and 32 times as many Internet users.

Finally, Mr. Boot points out that whereas not a single independent media outlet existed in Iraq before 2003, there are now 44 commercial TV stations, 72 radio stations, and more than 100 newspapers.

To all of this we can add the 3,404 public schools, 304 water and sewage projects, 257 fire and police stations, and 149 public-health facilities that had been built as of September 2005, with another 921 such projects currently under construction.

I guess it's easy to miss 5000 different reconstruction projects, Ms. Albright, if you have your blinders firmly in place.

Ms. Albright and the other doomsayers might be interested to read the new ABC News survey of Iraqis, which reports that:

"seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead...

...Surprisingly, given the insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, more than six in 10 Iraqis feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, up sharply from just 40 percent in a poll in June 2004. And 61 percent say local security is good — up from 49 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004...

...There are positive political signs as well. Three-quarters of Iraqis express confidence in the national elections being held this week, 70 percent approve of the new constitution, and 70 percent — including most people in Sunni and Shiite areas alike — want Iraq to remain a unified country.

December 11, 2005

China Shooting Protesters

Gateway Pundit has a roundup of stories on the civil unrest in the Chinese town of Dongzhou, where reports say at least 70 people, mostly in their twenties, have been shot dead by Chinese government troops.

December 10, 2005

Lieberman Out Of Lockstep

The Democratic leadership is making it clear that they will not sit idly by while a prominent member of their party commits the heresy of refusing to parrot their "Iraq is a failure" mantra. Voicing an agenda that takes into account the security of our country and the morale of our troops instead of a knee-jerk anti-Bush narrative will get a Senator taken to the woodshed by the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.

Here's the editorial that got Lieberman in trouble. It contains much for Democratic leaders to find objectionable, like the title 'Our Troops Must Stay", for example. Then there's the thinly veiled suggestion that Bush's Iraq policy might be something other than an abject failure:

Progress is visible and practical. In the Kurdish North, there is continuing security and growing prosperity. The primarily Shiite South remains largely free of terrorism, receives much more electric power and other public services than it did under Saddam, and is experiencing greater economic activity. The Sunni triangle, geographically defined by Baghdad to the east, Tikrit to the north and Ramadi to the west, is where most of the terrorist enemy attacks occur. And yet here, too, there is progress.

It is with this kind of independent thought that Lieberman, who was the Democratic nominee for the Vice-Presidency of this country only five years ago, has been cast out to the margins of his party. Ed Morrissey has an excellent post on Lieberman being on the outs with his Democratic colleagues. Ed suggests that the Democrats "could have waltzed into the White House on a Lieberman-led ticket" in 2004, but they chose to abandon the one member of their party who could have convinced Americans of his credibility on national security. More from Ed:

One has to wonder why, under the circumstances, Lieberman hasn't left the party that so obviously has left him. His dogged loyalty probably explains that, and that makes his latest stand all the more remarkable. Lieberman is no babe in the political woods; he understands perfectly what his statements did to the Democrats. Instead of openly wondering what motivated Lieberman to take this kind of action, Reid and other Democrats in party leadership should ask themselves why they made it necessary for him to do so.

December 7, 2005

An Iranian Democrat

Excerpts from an interview with Iranian journalist and democracy activist Amir Abbas Fakhravar. I think this is what a freedom fighter looks like.

Iranian Amir Abbas Fakhravar is a hunted man. A former medical student and journalist for the now-banned reform newspapers Moshareka and Khordad, Fakhravar came to prominence with the publication of his book This Place Is Not a Ditch, in which he criticized Iran’s rulers and called on the Iranian people to reject the mullahs’ regime. For doing so, he was sentenced in 2002 to eight years in prison. His status as a political prisoner and his mistreatment while incarcerated — he was reportedly denied medical care, and suffered frequent physical attacks — brought international attention and demands for his release. The mullahs proved less than accommodating, but they did allow Fakhravar occasional prison leaves in order to visit his family and take his university exams. In May of this year, while on such a leave, he decided he had had enough, and ran. He has been a fugitive ever since, and moves about Iran in an effort to escape the authorities.

Fakhravar’s decision to run and his pesky refusal to keep quiet have put his life in danger. An Iranian tribunal informed his sister earlier this year that Iran’s anti-riot police have a standing order to shoot him on sight. But the threat of death appears not to have intimidated him, and he continues to devote his energies to the cause of Iranian democracy.

He does this by communicating with Iranian students, whom he characterizes as deeply hostile to the rulers in Tehran. It is a strange commentary on the extent to which Iranian speech is suppressed — and on the peculiarities of the Internet age — that among the best ways for Fakhravar to reach his audience is by speaking with American journalists whose work finds its way to the Iranian underground...

...Fakhravar believes the theocracy has failed in its efforts to inspire hatred of the United States and Israel: “For two decades, they have been teaching us that the U.S. and Israel are our enemies. But we think the people who live in these countries are our brothers and sisters, and if they try to do anything in Iran in the near future, we know it is solely to help us get rid of this regime.”

It's all good.

December 6, 2005

Talk Radio In Baghdad

An independent talk radio station in Baghdad is a huge hit with the Iraqi people:

Radio Dijla, which transmits to a 90-mile radius from a two-story villa on a sleepy residential side street in west Baghdad, gets up to 1,000 calls per day and more than 1 million hits a month on its Web site, according to the station manager, Kareem Al-Yousif.

"We want to bring people together, and make everyone feel welcome no matter who they are and what their viewpoint is," says Omar Fadhia Al-Azaouwey, the station's 28-year-old program director. "We give our listeners a topic to discuss, and then we let them call in and talk without interrupting them, as long as they're respectful."

(via Free Republic)

OSU B-Ball Preview

The serious college basketball fan should try to catch the game between Indianapolis Lawrence North and Dayton Dunbar, this Thursday Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. on ESPN2. It's an opportunity to see three of the top 15 high school seniors in the country. For Buckeye basketball fans however, it's "must see TV", since all three high school stars are committed to attend Ohio State in the Fall of 2006.

Lawrence North features the consensus No. 1 high school player in the country, 7-foot center Greg Oden, and one of the top ranked point guards in the land, 6' 1" Mike Conley.

Oden gets raves from everyone for his defensive and shot-blocking prowess. He had seemed ticketed for the NBA before the 20 year-old minimum rule came in this year. In fact, many scouts had projected him as the first overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft.

Playing for Dunbar will be 6' 5" shooting guard Daequan Cook, a top five overall player in his own right, and Oden and Conley's teammate on a championship AAU squad.

I know, there are only a few isolated fanatics out there who will care about this high school basketball game. But I also know that some of them are among the few isolated readers of this blog. So set the TIVO, or something.

More Buckeye Stuff...

The 2006 Buckeye recruits of Thad Matta are filled out by 6"9" power forward Othella Hunter, a promising junior college kid who will come in with freshman eligibility, and 6"5" swingman David Lighty of Cleveland St. Joseph, another elite player who is coming off an ACL surgery. The "Thad Five" as they are (sadly) coming to be called, will be joining an already solid team, and it's not too early to be dreaming of a Matta powerhouse for the next several years. The NBA may pluck Oden early, but Matta is a recruiting beast who is keeping the talent coming.

He looks like a good bet to land Solon's 6' 9" Dallas Lauderdale and Canton Glen Oak's Kosta Koufos, a 7-footer, both currently juniors, for the class of 2007. All the top programs in the country are coming after these two talented big men, but I trust Matta to close on the Ohio guys based on his track record so far. Sharp-shooting guard Jon Diebler of Upper Sandusky is already committed for 2007, and Matta has two commitments for the class of 2008 already, in SG Walter Offut of Indianapolis, and big man B.J. Mullens from Columbus. The program is in good hands.

Oh yeah, and the 2005 version doesn't look too bad either. More on this year's Bucks soon.

(All links via Bucknuts.com)

A Teaching Moment

Tom Bevan at RCP is asking Democrats if DNC head Howard Dean really speaks for their Party in his latest remarks.

December 5, 2005

BCS Got Lucky

So the BCS came up with a compelling championship game in USC-Texas, and has marquis matchups up and down the bowl lineup, but something's still wrong with a system that matches up the #3 team in the country (Penn State), a team one last-second play away from being unbeaten, against a team that was unranked going into last Saturday (Fla. St.) , the human interest value of Bowden vs Paterno notwithstanding. Pat Forde reminds how close it was to an unhappy ending

...let's offer grudging acknowledgement to the Bowl Championship Series: It got it right.

It got lucky, too. We're a Michigan touchdown at the gun away from having Paterno and Penn State howling like Tommy Tuberville and Auburn in 2004. We're a Reggie Bush push of Matt Leinart away from a rhetorical firestorm over who joins the Longhorns in the Rose Bowl.

It's still a flawed system.

And a catch in the end zone by OSU tight end Ryan Hamby on Sept 10 beats Texas, and throws the whole thing wide open too. (Ryan, I love ya; the kid has taken so much heat it's ridiculous)

At bowl time my concerns are with the fortunes of the Big Ten, and the matchups this year look great.

Ohio State - Notre Dame
Penn State - Florida St.
Michigan - Nebraska
Wisconsin - Auburn
Iowa - Florida
Northwestern - UCLA
Minnesota - Virginia

I think Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern might be in over their heads, but I like the chances of the Big 3 in the Big Ten.

We're With You!

The message from the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) to the anti-democracy insurgent group that holds their members hostage couldn't be clearer: We're on your side in this thing. Isn't that a good reason not to cut our heads off?

Here's an excerpt from the official CPT statement by director Rich Mayer:

"We are working on revealing the occupation's violence and acts. Those people (hostages) are believers who work against the occupation," Mayer told Al Jazeera.

"So we appeal for their release so they can continue their work on your behalf and on behalf of the Iraqi people."

Straightforward enough, until that last phrase, "on behalf of the Iraqi people." True enough, the hostages wish to "continue their work on your (the hostage-takers) behalf." That is, to oppose the American effort to establish self-government for the Iraqi people. But in what sense can these insurgents who behead innocent hostages, bomb citizen recruitment centers, and intentionally target Iraqi innocents be said to be working "for the Iraqi people"?

For the CPT to equate their agenda in Iraq to a movement on the side of Iraqi citizens, the vast majority of which are working with the Americans to establish democracy, is breathtakingly dishonest. They cannot have it both ways. It is a political and anti-American project first, and only secondarily a "peace" movement. In what sense do the insurgents with whom CPT is now trying make common cause represent a movement for peace? Or for humane treatment of detainees, for that matter?

It's telling that Mayer's statement refers to the hostages as "believers". The faith referred to here though, is the opposition to "the occupation." In this way, the hostages are brothers of the hostage-takers. Becaue if the CPT crowd was truly interested in the treatment of detainees in Iraq, we might have heard a word of concern from them about the ritual beheadings of innocent Europeans and Americans by the fascist insurgents. Don't hold your breath. They can't even hold the hostage-takers responsible for the hostage-taking. From a CPT statement:

“We are angry because what has happened to our teammates is the result of the actions of the U.S. and U.K. governments due to the illegal attack on Iraq and the continuing occupation and oppression of its people”

There's more:

Asked if he was worried about the hostages' lives, Mayer said: "We are worried about the lives of these people. But we know that thousands of Iraqis are held illegally by the U.S. forces in prisons that violate international law and in worse conditions than these four."

One assumes they refer to the "conditions" of their CPT team members in their current state...with their heads still attached. Much more on CPT from Ben Johnson of FPM.

In my first post on the hostage story, I wondered why the insurgents had not realized that what they were holding were walking advertisements for the anti-American position, which might be put to much better propaganda uses than as random heads rolling around the floor. As James Robbins notes in an illuminating piece today, they get it now. The Arab organizations, terrorist and otherwise, are lining up to advocate for the hostages' release:

CPT friends and fellow travelers have rallied around the effort to get the hostages released. And what a list. A letter in the Mennonite Weekly Review featured a letter signed by the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), the Palestine People’s Party, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Union of Palestine, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Palestinian Liberation Front, and the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front. “We appeal to our brothers in the resistance and all those with alert consciences in Iraq,” the letter said, “with whom we consider ourselves to be in the same trench confronting American aggression and occupation, to instantly and quickly release the four kidnapped persons from CPT, in appreciation for their role in standing beside and supporting our Palestinian people and all the Arab and Islamic peoples.” The Council on American Islamic Relations has called for their release as well. The Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq seeks freedom for all five hostages.

Robbins calls this whole situation "bad terrorism"...

The targets are all wrong. The point of taking hostages is to gain publicity, to bring issues and demands to the public eye whether they are realistic or not. If you can also raise money, so much the better. And if you execute people who are working on rebuilding projects or aiding Coalition forces, you might scare others away. However, you do not abduct the “useful idiots” on the other side who support you. This serves no purpose whatsoever.

The CPT must not go unchallenged when they invert the roles of the parties to the Iraq conflict by making the murderous insurgents into the victims, and the liberators and builders into the oppressors. Cliff May was quoting the late Steven Vincent in The Corner yesterday, and I think it's appropriate to close with Vincent's words:

[W]ords matter. Terms like "paramilitaries," "death squads," and "fascists" clarify the nature of our enemy and underscore a fundamental point that the American media has inexcusably ignored: it is the Iraqi people who are under attack. They are the victims, their future is threatened, they are bleeding from wounds inflicted by pan-Arab Baathists and pan-Islamic jihadists. By calling these neo-fascists the "Resistance" the media reverses the relationship of assailant and defender and renders a terrible disservice to the millions of Iraqis who oppose, in ways large and small, these totalitarian forces.

UPDATE 12/6: Read the whole Vincent article from December 2004. It's terrific.

December 4, 2005


The Buckeyes got the matchup the fans wanted today when the Fiesta Bowl came calling for the third time in the last four years, this time with Notre Dame as the opponent. Here's the setup from Bucknuts.com.

I'm expecting a fired up Irish bunch in Tempe. They've got to be still stinging from the two successive spankings the Buckeyes put on them in '95 and '96. New coach, different kids, same sting. Notre Dame gave USC a great effort, proving they can hang with anyone, but they only beat three teams with winning records all year, and I don't think they've played a defense as good as Ohio State.

My early feeling is the Bucks by 6.

December 3, 2005

Tribe Talk

Indians G.M. Mark Shapiro answers questions from fans:

Q: Are you looking for veteran pitching in free agency or looking to your farm system? Who are some of the internal candidates?

A: I would certainly like to add one quality starter through either free agency or a trade. Internally, I feel very good about one starter being given the opportunity to earn the fifth spot. The most prominent pitchers that will compete for that spot will be Jason Davis, Fausto Carmona and Jeremy Sowers, although others could certainly work their way in.

Q: Who is the hottest Minor League prospect that we could see at the Major League level this year?

A: We have a lot of good, young prospects. Ones that we expect to make a contribution this year are Carmona, Sowers, Garko and possibly Gutierrez.

Arafatism Lives

An Israeli Arab Muslim reporter calls it like he sees it:

According to Abu Toameh, the greatest threat both to Arab Palestinians and Israelis is the scourge of corruption that is bred-in-the-bones of the Palestinian Authority. He insisted that the corruption of the Palestinian leadership is far more corrosive than any other single factor. And he blames Israel for creating the situation. The single worst move that created and exacerbated the conflict was when Israel brought Arafat and his cronies out of mothballs in Tunisia and set them up as a government for the Palestinian Arabs.

When challenged as to Israel’s “hidden agenda” in perpetuating the violence, Abu Toameh responded to the questioner:

“Explain to me what the Israeli occupation has to do with the total absence of a free Palestinian press;

“Explain to me what the occupation has to do with the Palestinian Authority funneling off $6.5 billion in international aid to their own personal bank accounts?

“Explain to me why, after years of misery and billions of dollars of aid money made available, not one hospital, not one housing project, has been built in the Palestinian refugee camps?

But hasn’t there been a dramatic change in the Palestinian Authority following Arafat’s death? The way Abu Toameh sees it, Mahmoud Abbas is probably a decent man, one who would like there to be real change and movement toward peace. But the problem is that although Arafat is dead, Arafatism lives.

(via Solomonia)

December 2, 2005

Intimidation and Self-Censorship

Bruce Bawer has an interesting piece on the decline of free expression in Europe, as expressed in government legislation as well as in self-censorship. I saw this over at Michael Barone's blog, and I liked his turn of phrase to set up the article: "The impulse of intellectual elites in Europe, and North America as well, is to show their tolerance by tolerating intolerance of tolerance. If Muslims object to some free expression, then that free expression must be suppressed."

Iranian Dissidents Speak Out

A group of 674 Iranian personalities, "including former Members of the Iranian Majles (parliament), well known academics, political and cultural personalities as well as student activists, has "a word with the nation" by way of a joint statement released in November. Regime Change Iran has the full text, which is excerpted below. Powerful stuff. Here's to the Iranian democrats!

Today the government controlled media which operates on the basis of resources that are made available to it by our nation, is engaged in a boring and one sided propaganda campaign to praise and justify the current government and its policies, in the futile hope that they may succeed in 'brainwashing' the Iranian nation. The majority of newspapers, media and web sites who are critical of government policy have either been shut down or severely censored by the regime (filtering in the case of the web sites). This is at a time when all newspapers sympathetic to the government are left completely free. There are also those amongst the media who while fearing death have resorted to committing suicide, as in the case of those newspapers who fearful of government intervention, themselves resort to a policy of self censorship in the hope of sustaining their operations.

Meanwhile the foundations of religious belief amongst the people have been seriously undermined and in some cases severely damaged as a consequence of the actions of those who have abused religion in order to lie and perpetuate injustice. The unchecked rise in drug addiction, the devaluation of personal and family values, murders, suicides, political assassinations (such as the 'Chain Murders'), illegal and uncalled for interference in the rights and privacy of citizens, as well as the growing disillusionment and unhappiness amongst the country's younger generation and many other such complaints are all part and parcel of the actions of the ruling clique in the socio-cultural arena.

In the economic sphere, growth of corrupt monopolies, rising unemployment and inflation, the continuing brain drain, money laundering, rampant corruption - particularly on the part of those close to the centers of power, are all exacerbated by a flawed legal system that acts preferentially and without consistency in the case of those who have wasted or usurped the nation's national wealth. And finally in the international sphere, a damaging, confrontational and most alienating public and customary diplomacy which is oblivious of Iran's national interest and devoid of any thoughtful planning is yet another reminder of a defunct government that simply lacks the competence to address the many issues that are before it.

December 1, 2005

Whole Lotta Shreddin'

Much more original U.N. reporting from Claudia Rosett in two new articles this week. She's tracking the newly formed Alliance of Civilizations, a whole new bureaucracy into which Kofi Annan has recycled a couple of U.N. officials already badly tainted by corruption and scandal. But the group's goals seem modest enough considering this august leadership team...

According to a statement issued by Annan in July, the Alliance is supposed to “overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions, and polarization” and assemble by late next year an action plan meant “to promote effective responses to emerging threats to world peace.” But in the short term, the Alliance has so far been mainly busy hiring its own secretariat on an initial budget of $3.7 million, and preparing for the first meeting of its ‘High-level Group” this weekend in Majorca, Spain.

Beyond its hazy mandate and vague chain of command — both similar to some of the flaws in U.N. methods criticized by Paul Volcker’s investigation of the Oil-for-Food scandal — the most striking things about the Alliance are the close aides Annan has used to organize and supervise the venture.

Two names in particular stand out: Iqbal Riza, Annan’s former chief of staff from 1997 to 2004, and Giandomenico Picco, a longtime U.N. senior staffer who returned to the organization as a part-time personal envoy of the secretary-general and then as a special adviser, under a contract that does not expire until January 1. Riza was badly tarred in the Oil-for-Food scandal and its subsequent investigation; Picco has been involved in an equally high-profile conflict of interest arising from the multimillion-dollar scandal in the U.N. procurement department that is still under investigation...

...Riza’s close ties with Annan go back at least to the early 1990s, but were clearly underlined when he became the secretary-general’s chief of staff in 1997, a position in which he was deeply involved in the management of the now disgraced Oil-for-Food program. He abruptly left that job early this year after Volcker’s investigation revealed that on April 22, 2004, the day after the U.N. Security Council authorized an investigation into Oil-for-Food, Riza had approved the shredding of mountains of documents in his office pertaining to the early years of the program, from 1997 to 1999. The shredding took months. These were files that Volcker had specifically ordered the Secretariat to preserve as having “potential relevance” to the investigation.

Then her WSJ contribution (alternate Wednesdays are not often enough) is a plea for attention to the alarming fact that Paul Volcker's Oil-For-Food investigative commission may be about to begin shredding their massive evidence archives before we even ascertain the questions, much less know the answers in this scandal. Ms. Rosett says that in many ways, Volcker barely scratched the surface of the corruption:

let us turn to the $39 billion or so in U.N.-approved payments by Saddam to his chosen Oil for Food relief suppliers. When Sen. Norm Coleman's investigators last year estimated the amounts scammed by Saddam out of this relief money, they came up with a total of some $7 billion--almost four times larger than what Mr. Volcker reports. Why the big difference? Saddam used a variety of scams, and Mr. Coleman's investigators took into account most of them, while Mr. Volcker focused on only two--illicit transportation fees, and the $1.8 billion in standardized kickbacks to Saddam--which he was able to measure fairly precisely. Basically, if Mr. Volcker could not attach precise numbers to a graft scheme, he did not try to measure it at all--even if the amounts involved almost certainly totaled billions. Notably, after puzzling over one of the biggest flows of suspect relief money, Mr. Volcker concluded in a comment buried on page 299 of his 623-page Oct. 27 final report that "this matter likely warrants further investigation and review."...

...Another odd oversight in the Volcker report is the glaring lack of follow-up on suppliers--especially ones that were, according to Mr. Volcker, based in places such as Cuba and Afghanistan--that, as far as Mr. Volcker could determine, paid no kickbacks. That could mean they were just companies so honest, selling goods so desirable, that in these cases Saddam simply forsook his crooked ways. Or it could mean Saddam for more worrisome reasons was so eager to transfer money to these companies that he did not even bother to demand a kickback. These companies include U.S. suppliers of food and equipment, a drug manufacturer in Cuba; and a company listed by Mr. Volcker as operating out of both the United Arab Emirates and Afghanistan, some of that during the years in which Osama bin Laden, courtesy of the Taliban, was resident there, planning the Sept. 11 attacks on the U.S.

The likeliest explanation of Saddam's growing zest to overpay for relief, and his apparent benevolence toward select companies in places not generally famed for their shopping centers, is that both these tendencies offered Saddam ways to transfer purloined relief money to suppliers who were in a position not only to sell him rice, soap and medicine, but to do sanctions-busting favors for Saddam--such as procure illicit goods, forward money to secret bank accounts, or send it onward to people whom Saddam wished to support. Arms dealers and terrorist groups come to mind. All that would have been possible, under cover of these U.N. contracts, no less. Saddam's suppliers under the U.N. program included companies based in or linked to such financial havens as Liechtenstein and Switzerland; such arms-trafficking hubs as Russia, China and Belarus; and such trouble spots as Syria, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and--as Mr. Volcker notes in passing--Cuba and Afghanistan.

The willingness of our Congress to threaten to withhold U.N. funding is apparently our only leverage to prevent Annan from starting up the shredders.

And in keeping with that U.N. mission to “overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions, and polarization”, Anne Bayefsky is reporting that "country-specific criticism" is definitely out of fashion these days at the U.N. :

The debate over country-specific resolutions -- resolutions which specifically name states that violate human rights standards -- now rages at the General Assembly. The issue is also in the center of a debate over the attempt to reform the UN Human Rights Commission. UN representatives of dictators far and wide are yelling foul; "naming and shaming" is just plain unneighborly, uncooperative behavior. Talking is a better way of resolving genocide, rape, and torture. Any attempt to do more is an imperialist plot.

UPDATE 12/2: Talks on a terrorism treaty break off at the U.N., increasing the chances of a cutoff of U.S. funds to the U.N. budget.

Is Belle A Hall Of Famer?

SI.com's Mark Bechtel evaluates the candidates for Cooperstown, and votes thumbs up for Albert Belle. Here's his case:

Albert Belle, OF (.295, 381 HRs, 1,239 RBIs)

A very interesting case, one that cuts right to the question of, "What are we looking for in a Hall of Famer?" A player's career is in two segments: his prime and his twilight. For my money, when we're deciding who's Hall-worthy and who isn't, the former is far more significant. Cooperstown is for players who -- for a substantial amount of time -- dominated the game, were truly feared by their opponents and excited you every time they came to the plate or took the mound. And for the better part of a decade, Belle was every one of those things. Alas, his career had no twilight, through no fault of his own. He was done at age 34 thanks to a bad hip.

In 10 full seasons, Belle failed to hit 30 homers twice and failed to drive in 100 runs once. He hit 50 homers in a strike-shortened season. He ranks 17th in career slugging percentage (.564), yet he only struck out 100 times in a season twice. For a couple years, you could argue he was the most feared hitter in the game. If you give him five years of anything approaching decent production (I'm talking 15 homers per year) at the tail end of his career, then there's no question he's a Hall of Famer. I don't think the fact that he wasn't able to play out the string should be held against him.

We shouldn't put too much stock in how well these guys played when they were 39. We should judge them on how well they played in their prime. And in his prime, Belle was ridiculously good -- far better than a shoo-in like Paul Molitor was in his. (Molitor's average 162-game season was .306-14-72, and his single-season bests were .353-22-113. Belle's average season was .295-40-130, and his single-season bests were .357-50-152.) He was one of the few players you would stop what you were doing to watch hit, and he was like that for almost 10 years. I know he was a jerk and he had some bat-corking issues, but the Hall is littered with imperfect personalities. The verdict: Yes.

I'd have to agree. Nothing I have experienced before or since the 1994 and 1995 seasons at Jacobs Field comes close to the "electric" impact that Albert Belle had on a game when he came to the plate, especially in the late innings. In just the games I attended in those two seasons, I saw him win at least seven or eight games with home runs or RBI hits in the Indians last at bat. (That's a conservative guess. It seems like it was a dozen, so I'm rounding down.)

Belle was hitting in a lineup so potent that we had guys hitting 6th and 7th in the order named Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome, so I guess he got a lot of pitches to hit, as they say. (In fact, the case can be made that the 1995 Indians had six eventual Hall of Famers on the team. Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield are already in, and Thome, Belle, Ramirez and Omar Vizquel are all likely to make it. Orel Hershiser, Sandy Alomar and Kenny Lofton will probably come up short, and it's too early to speculate on Brian Giles.)

None of that takes away from Belle's accomplishments, nor does the fact that he acted like a jerk most if not all of the time. For that reason, though, I don't expect the writers to vote for him in sufficient numbers to get him inducted. Call it reaping what you sow, but the fact is that writers do the voting, and Belle made a career of treating them with contempt.

For the record, the SI.com writer Bechtel is a native Clevelander and avid Tribe fan. Not that those two things can make a person less than 100% objective on these matters. Right?