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February 28, 2006

Grab A Suitcase

Kofi Annan's selection for an "environmental" award of $500,000 from Dubai was the result of a stacked deck. But that's really not the point, says Claudia Rosett:

So entwined were Annan's own U.N. colleagues in the process that selected him for this award that it's tempting to relabel the entire affair as one of the U.N.'s biggest back-scratching contests. Chairing the jury panel, which voted unanimously for Annan, was the executive director of the U.N. Environment Program, Klaus Toepfer, and among the jurors was the U.N. undersecretary-general for Economic and Social Affairs, José Antonio Ocampo. Both men owe their current jobs to Annan. Serving as an "observer" of the jury panel was Pakistan's ambassador to the U.N., Munir Akram, who just finished a term as president of the U.N.'s Economic and Social Council, which works closely with Annan. On the website for the Zayed prize, the public relations contacts include a U.N. staffer, Nick Nuttall, listed complete with his U.N. email account and phone number at the Nairobi headquarters of the U.N. Environment Program.

But let us assume these folks were impartial. It's possible that with the Zayed prize already handed out in earlier years to Jimmy Carter and the BBC, the depleted global pool held no candidate more worthy than Annan.

The real issue is why on earth Kofi Annan thinks it a good idea while serving as secretary-general to accept $500,000--for any reason--from a high-ranking official of a U.N. member state. Sheikh Mohammed is not only the ruler of Dubai but the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. No doubt he bestowed this award as a gesture of appreciation. But if the other 190 U.N. member states were to follow his lead, Annan would be rolling in $95 million worth of personal prize money. Once the secretary-general allows himself to become a collector of cash awards, where's the line to be drawn? If Syria were to offer him a $10 million environmental prize, or China were to up the ante to $100 million, should he grab a suitcase and go pick it up?

Read it all, naturally.

Iran's Iraq Strategy

Rich Lowry linked to a couple of what he calls "back-from-the-brink" stories from the WaPo, about the civil strife in Iraq. On the flip side of that relatively positive news is this article by Michael Rubin which demonstrates how, in the long term, we are likely being outmaneuvered by the Iranians, who are now duplicating their successful Lebanon strategy in Iraq.

Meanwhile, over at National Review, the editors responded to their founder's pessimistic assessment of the Iraq campaign, calling his declaration of defeat and those like it "pre-mature." Lefty bloggers immediately recalled conservatives' unbridled scorn for Howard Dean's declaration that the Iraq war was not winnable, and compared it to the rather muted conservative response to the similar assessment of their own icon. Indeed, I have heard no one on the Right questioning Mr. Buckley's support for the troops. Touché, I suppose, but as the Left gloated over the Buckley column, NR's Ramesh Ponnuru made the point that this was not really a reversal by WFB.

February 27, 2006

Sportsman of the Year?

Just when you think you've seen it all.....

...sports surprises you.

UPDATE 2/27: A story from CBS on Jason McElwain, with a little better quality version of the CBS video.

UPDATE 3/4: I find that the first link to the video is no longer working. Try the second one.

February 26, 2006

13 Years Ago

Today is the 13th anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. The Counterterrorism Blog has the story. By the way, if you're paying attention to this war we're in, The Counterterrorism Blog is a good place to visit regularly.

Coincidentally, I ran across a link today to a remembrance of that other WTC attack, which is also worthy of a periodic reminder.

Ledeen Interview

Via the blog Regime Change Iran, here's an interview with Michael Ledeen on U.S. support for democratic revolution in Iran. His usual theme of more, better, and faster please, is on display.

Ledeen has always urged the U.S. government to be more direct and outspoken in its support for Iranian democrats, so it was somewhat encouraging to hear the President, in his speech the other day, requesting some $75 million for assistance to Iranian democracy groups, and speaking plainly on the matter of Iranian independence:

The international community is...speaking with one voice to the radical regime in Tehran. Iran is a nation held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people, and denying them basic liberties and human rights. The Iranian regime sponsors terrorists and is actively working to expand its influence in the region. The Iranian regime has advocated the destruction of our ally, Israel. And the Iranian regime is defying the world with its ambitions for nuclear weapons.

America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats, and Iran's aggressive behavior and pursuit of nuclear weapons is increasing its international isolation....The free world is sending the regime in Tehran a clear message: We're not going to allow Iran to have nuclear weapons.

The world's free nations are also worried because the Iranian regime is not transparent. You see, a non-transparent society that is the world's premier state sponsor of terror cannot be allowed to possess the world's most dangerous weapons. So, as we confront Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions, we're also reaching out to the Iranian people to support their desire to be free; to build a free, democratic, and transparent society.

To support the Iranian people's efforts to win their own freedom, my administration is requesting $75 million in emergency funds to support democracy in Iran. This is more than a fourfold increase over current levels of funding. These new funds will allow us to expand radio and television broadcasts into Iran. They will support reformers and dissidents and human rights activists and civil society organizers in Iran, so Iranians can organize and challenge the repressive policies of the clerical regime. They will support student exchanges, so we can build bridges of understanding between our people and expose more Iranians to life in a free society.

February 25, 2006

On The Front Lines Of War

Caroline Glick is sounding the alarm over the murder of Ilan Halimi with her characteristic bluntness and passion. And with unapologetic advocates of the genocide of Jews now in charge of the governments of Iran and the Palestinian Authority, and even the Israeli government and the Israeli press in denial, who's to say a bit of genuine alarm isn't called for?

Ilan Halimi's barbarous murder in France should awaken all Jews to the most significant truth of our times: Today, every Jew in the world is on the front lines of war.

As was the case 70 years ago, every Jew today is a target for our enemies, who shout from every soapbox and prove at every opportunity that their goal is the annihilation of the Jewish people. From 1933-1945, the enemy was Nazi Germany. Today, the enemy is political Islam. Its call for jihad aimed at annihilating the Jews and dominating the world is answered by millions of people throughout the world.

Among the lessons of the Holocaust, there is one that is almost never mentioned. That lesson is that it is possible, and indeed fairly easy to exterminate the Jews. The fact that the Holocaust happened proves that it is absolutely possible for the Jewish people to be wiped off the map - just as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal promise....

Glick is unsurprised by the absence of Israeli response to the Halimi murder...

....there has been absolutely no official Israeli reaction to the abduction, torture and murder of a Jew in France by a predominantly Muslim terrorist gang that kidnapped, tortured and murdered him because he was a Jew.

No Israeli government minister, official or spokesman has condemned his murder. No Israeli official has demanded that the French authorities investigate why the police refused to take anti-Semitism into account during Ilan's captivity. No Israeli official flew to Paris to participate in Ilan's funeral or any other memorial or demonstration in his memory. The Foreign Ministry's Web site makes no mention of his murder....Halimi's murder has not appeared on the front pages of the papers or at the top of the television or radio broadcasts.

Although appalling, the absence of an official Israeli outcry against Halimi's murder is not the least surprising. Today, the unelected Kadima interim government, like the Israeli media, is doing everything in its power to lull the Israeli people into complacency towards the storm of war raging around us. Against the daily barrages of Kassam rockets on southern Israel; nervous reports of al-Qaida setting up shop in Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the ascension of Hamas to power in the Palestinian Authority; and Iran's threats of nuclear annihilation, Israel's citizenry, under the spell of Kadima and the media, appears intent on ignoring the dangers and pretending that what happens to Jews in France has nothing to do with us.

(via Belmont Club)

February 24, 2006

Refusing To Be Taken Down

We've all seen the human interest stories about athletes who have overcome hardship or tragedy of some sort, ultimately to succeed in sport or life. It might be poverty or injury, or a brush with the law. But after reading the Page 2 story about high school wrestler A.J. Detwiler, I'm left to conclude that there is overcoming adversity, and then there is overcoming adversity. Great read.

Preconditions For UAE

A Corner post by Andy McCarthy raises one issue on the UAE-ports matter that hasn't been talked about much, but perhaps should be:

I was surprised and saddened, watching Sean Hannity interview Attorney General Gonzales last night, at the fact that, though Sean pressed the issue a couple of times, the AG obstinately refused to answer the question of whether we should be doing business (or regarding as an ally) a country that refuses to recognize Israel.

Israel is one of our closest and most loyal allies. It is fighting for its survival against people who yearn for its destruction – people who may be being backed financially as well as politically and morally – by the UAE.

I would think it would be a condition precedent to being considered a good ally of the United States (in the war on terror or otherwise), and certainly to being entrusted with an important role in the operation of the ports (where we are vulnerable), that a country expressly acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. The failure to concede Israel’s right to exist can only sensibly be considered the equivalent of endorsing terrorist initiatives (such as the Intifada) to destroy Israel.

If the UAE, or any country, endorses – however passively – the proposition that indiscriminate bombing attacks against civilian targets can ever be legitimate, why should we allow such a country to be in a position to affect our border security? How could we consider it a good ally (even if it may be less offensive than a country like Iran)? I’m not saying we need to go to war with them, but why would we give them a place at our table?

Later, when challenged that this wasn't a good enough reason to oppose the UAE company's operation of our ports, McCarthy comes back at it:

An ideological war can’t be won unless it is engaged. That means there are some basic things you’ve got to get in their face about. On that score, Israel is not just an airy matter of principle; it is a very practical proxy for basic things we have to prevail on in order to win.

Refusal to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist – particularly when it is coupled with financial and other support for Palestinians who will not back down from a pledge to destroy Israel – is not an “imperfection.” Refusing to permit Christian missionary work is an imperfection. Refusing to acknowledge Israel is tantamount to supporting terrorists.

On that last point, I could not agree more, and to my mind it's a compelling reason to find another company to operate the ports.

Too Tough

My choice as Inopinion.com joke of the week:

Wayne Gretzky says he is upset about the lack of passion the Canadian Men’s Hockey Team is showing at the Olympics. Said the hockey legend, “Come on fellas! Don’t you realize how much my wife has riding on this?”

"...tryin' to find a way to give back, man"

Quoting from a Fox Sports Radio interview with Randy Moss, we hear Randy talking about his new business ventures, a clothing line he has coming out, and a franchise operation. "Humanitarian" is the word that comes to mind.

"I had a good name going and you know, my taste in fashion, and I just thought that it was just something that I could bring out to the people - just give 'em a little finesse of myself - just tryin' to find a way to give back, man. I think, you know, I got a few things going with this clothing line. I just signed a deal with a Smoothie franchise, so everything is going good man, so I'm doing good in the world right now."

I feel all tingly inside.

February 23, 2006

A History Of Hamas

This primer on Hamas and its origins in the Muslim Brotherhood will serve as a worthwhile reference when the inevitable debates rage on about the goals and the legitimacy of the Palestinian government. David Meir-Levi's "Hamas Uber-Alles", at FPM, is clip-and-save stuff. Read it all, but pack a lunch.

February 22, 2006

Savage Priorities

Browns G.M. Phil Savage has been pretty open about what the Browns are looking for in the draft, and which players they'd like to bring back in 2006. Here's what he has said to the press in recent days.

Savage said the Browns are working on new deals for free-agents-to-be L.J. Shelton and Orpheus Roye, as well as an extension for Reuben Droughns, whose current contract runs through the 2006 season.

Other potential Browns' free agents, including Antonio Bryant, Kyle Richardson, Ben Taylor and Aaron Shea, will be allowed to test the market. But Savage said the Browns "aren't shutting the door" on any of them potentially re-signing here.

"You never really know until it's done," he said.

Savage said the Browns will look to upgrade their pass rush both in free agency and in the draft, and they'll look to use free agency to add a veteran wide receiver. In either the draft or free agency - maybe both - they'll also look for a linebacker to play inside next to Andra Davis, a punter, a "change-of-pace" running back, and depth on the interior of the offensive line.

Read John Clayton for most everything you need to know about the labor deal, free agents, and salary caps in the NFL. And Len Pasquarelli has the goods on who may end up as franchise players this year.

I'd like to see the Browns use the 12th pick on either a defensive end (Penn State's Tamba Hali or Boston College's Mathias Kiwanuka) or a nose guard - DT (Oregon's Haloti Ngata or FSU's Brodrick Bunkley). Failing that, I'm hoping they go offensive tackle with that pick. USC tackle Winston Justice or Jonathan Scott from Texas might be the pick if they go that direction. I'm not a Chad Greenway fan. He's the Iowa linebacker who lots of mock drafts show going to the Browns at #12. He was about the fifth best linebacker in the Big Ten. No way is he the 12th best player in the draft.

Looks like at least four Buckeyes could go in the first round. A.J. Hawk most likely will not make it past the Raiders at #6, though I'm hoping the Packers might take him at #5, (I don't want to see A.J. in Silver and Black). WR Santonio Holmes and OLB Bobby Carpenter are almost sure-fire first rounders, and a lot of people think CB Ashton Youboty might be as well.

I think safety Donte Whitner and C Nick Mangold will probably go in the second round, and I will be surprised if DE Mike Kudla lasts through the third. Nate Salley, Rob Sims and possibly kicker Josh Huston are middle to late round picks, and DT Marcus Green and LB Anthony Schlegel will be drafted late, if at all. Based on Browns needs, it's hard to project any of these Buckeyes into orange helmets, though I could see us taking a late round shot on Sims, or possibly Kudla if he's still there in the fourth round.

February 21, 2006

Free David Irving

It is amazing to me that in 2006, in the free Western world, a man can be sentenced to prison for something he said. Yes, I understand that denying the Holocaust is despicable speech. And I appreciate the popular sentiment that led to the laws in Germany and Austria that prohibit and punish Holocaust denial. But this looks like a show trial, and a pose.

During his one-day trial in Vienna, the 67-year-old historian admitted that in 1989 he had denied that Nazi Germany had killed millions of Jews.

He said this is what he believed, until he later saw the personal files of Adolf Eichmann, the chief organiser of the Holocaust.

"I said that then based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that anymore and I wouldn't say that now," Irving told the court.

"The Nazis did murder millions of Jews."

Irving is being sentenced in 2006 for something he said in 1989, and which he no longer believes. Even if he did still believe it, the precedent of punishing words instead of deeds is a scary one. Andrew Stuttaford in The Corner today lamented the timing as well..

"while the philosophical basis for jailing Irving may be troubling, its timing is even worse. This decision is bound to be used by those on the Islamic extreme clearly now so intent on limiting freedom of expression in Europe and, doubtless, it will give useful cover to those European politicians clearly so set on appeasing them."

Are the cartoonists next?

UPDATE 2/22: I loved this line from WFB:

Austria is wrong, of course. Though one can still believe in the free press and take discreet pleasure that, when it is violated, things can happen to the David Irvings of this world.

Still A Story

Ed Morrissey is doing his level best to keep the Able Danger story in the public eye, at a time when both political parties and the FBI all want to make it go away. Ed links to the other bloggers who are providing coverage of a conference call with Mark Zaid, attorney for Lt. Colonel Tony Shaffer. Worth a look if you're keeping score at home.

February 20, 2006

National Spotlight on KB

George Will on Ken Blackwell:

Polls suggest that Blackwell, 57, can win the Republican primary May 2. National party leaders think that only he can keep the governorship Republican, because the state GOP establishment has been hostile to him, and Ohio voters are now robustly hostile to it.

He annoys the establishment because he, unlike it, believes things. He believes that the establishment is proof of a conservative axiom: Any political group or institution that is not ideologically conservative will become, over time, liberal. That is so because, in the absence of a principled adherence to limited government, careerism -- the political idea of the unthoughtful -- will cause incumbents to use public spending to purchase job security.

This used to be an argument that Republicans tried to use against Democrats. I think that effectively ended when the GOP ran on a platform advocating term limits in 1994, gained control of Congress, and promptly scuttled any such silly talk thereafter. And Bush's five years of budget busting has been the exclamation point. I believe voters are much more cynical now than just 12 years ago. At least this one is. Convincing Ohioans that they should return a Republican to the State House in 2006 after the term of Gov. Robert Taft is the task now facing Ken Blackwell.

If he wins the Republican nomination, he'll be running against a moderate Democrat from downstate. He'll be running without the good graces of the Ohio GOP establishment. And he'll be running against the miserable track record of his own party's incumbent.

How good is this guy? Pass the popcorn. This I gotta see.

Misc. Meat

Why can't I go a week without linking to something Ace has written, usually something in questionable taste? Don't even click if you are opposed to good, clean penis humor.

February 19, 2006

A City Down On Itself?

What is it about Cleveland? Do the city's residents have a collective inferiority complex? Why are natives more cynical than people who move here from outside the area. Maybe Clevelanders just obsess more about the image of their city than people from other areas? The Plain Dealer does some more navel-gazing in a feature today.

Scores of responses from The Plain Dealer's Reader Advisory Board and others show many Clevelanders take deep offense at jokes made by outsiders. And some are bothered by the suggestion of an inferiority complex, blaming the media for hammering away at the negative.

But many more sense the pessimism even as they extol Northeast Ohio for its cozy small-town feel, world-class cultural attractions, relative ease of travel and its lakefront.

"Nothing has happened here that hasn't happened in many other cities," said Mel Maurer of Westlake. "The difference is they got over it and went on to better days. Too many here dwell on the past, even when the past was not that bad and when the future could look so bright.

"We are our own worst enemies."

...Polling shows Northeast Ohioans lag when it comes to loyalty. Just 11 percent of us in Cleveland and Akron feel "very loyal" to our cities, while 17 percent of city residents across the nation feel that way, according to the Gallup Organization.

Some blame our gloom on the struggles of Cleveland's pro-sports franchises, but that seems more like a symptom than a cause. Others cite the weather, but if winter ices the spirit, why do Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul thrive?

The fact is, things have been bad.

Since our post-World War II heyday, the region has gone through two shattering downturns, losing more than 20 percent of its manufacturing jobs each time. Cleveland now ranks as one of the poorest cities in the country, and poverty has spilled into the older suburbs. Two generations of Clevelanders have known nothing but the city's decline.

(via BFD)

I've felt the negative vibe from other people for most of my adult life around here, but never shared their cynicism. I don't buy the "divided city" talk for a minute either, especially when it comes to matters of race. The people of Cleveland have a long history of enfranchising blacks, and suburbs like my hometown of Cleveland Heights are held up nationally as models of successful integration. I get no sense that race relations in Cleveland are worse than they are in other major cities. There is the age old Eastside-Westside rivalry, but that has never been a function of race or class differences, at least since the 60's when I became aware of it.

I won't presume to diagnose the city's problems over two generations, but they clearly have included uninspiring political leadership to go along with the same economic issues faced by the other Rust Belt urban areas in transition. A youthful "brain drain", along with a boomer retirement surge that sees 65 Ohioans move to Florida every 24 hours, are among the challenges that the local and state leadership must now face with imagination.

I don't think you can understate though, as the article does, the importance to the self-image of a city of having a championship team in a major sport. I truly believe that there's nothing wrong with Cleveland's "collective psyche" that a World Series or Super Bowl win wouldn't cure.

Good schools, good jobs, safe communities. That's harder. But there's nothing in the Lake Erie water that makes us losers. And now that I'm finished, I favor a mandatory 10-year citywide moratorium on tortured self-examination as a starting point for better civic health.

UPDATE 2/20: George Nemeth's link to my comments above generated a lively comment thread over at his blog Brewed Fresh Daily, and I'd recommend you take a look. George and his co-bloggers are far more active and in tune with local and state issues than I am, so I go to BFD to see what's going on in my hometown. As much as our political orientations may differ at times, the commentary there is always thoughtful and fair-minded, and their activism in the interest of a better community is truly admirable. I'm officially a regular. (There. Isn't that the way we rehearsed it, George?)

It's About Fear

Jeff Jacoby on media motivations...

Rationalizations notwithstanding, the refusal of the US media to show the images at the heart of one of the most urgent stories of the day is not about restraint and good taste. It's about fear. Editors and publishers are afraid the thugs will target them as they targeted Danny Pearl and Theo van Gogh; afraid the mob will firebomb their newsrooms as it has firebombed Danish embassies. ''We will not accept less than severing the heads of those responsible," an imam in Gaza preaches. ''Whoever insults a prophet, kill him," reads the sign carried by a demonstrator in London. Those are not figures of speech but deadly threats, and American newspapers and networks are intimidated.

February 18, 2006

Davis Wins Gold

Congratulations, Shani Davis , American gold medal winner in the Olympic 1000 meter speedskating event. No word yet on whether or not Bryant Gumbel was watching.


Since the New York Times started their Times Select pay site, I don't get to read David Brooks as regularly as I used to. That's the only thing I miss. His 2/9 column is a keeper, and is preserved in full, for my personal archival use of course, at the link below. But if you click now and read the whole thing, you will not be sorry.

New York Times, February 9, 2006

Drafting Hitler

By David Brooks

You want us to know how you feel. You in the Arab European League published a cartoon of Hitler in bed with Anne Frank so we in the West would understand how offended you were by those Danish cartoons. You at the Iranian newspaper Hamshahri are holding a Holocaust cartoon contest so we'll also know how you feel.

Well, I saw the Hitler-Anne Frank cartoon: the two have just had sex and Hitler says to her, "Write this one in your diary, Anne." But I still don't know how you feel. I still don't feel as if I should burn embassies or behead people or call on God or bin Laden to exterminate my foes. I still don't feel your rage. I don't feel threatened by a sophomoric cartoon, even one as tasteless as that one.

At first I sympathized with your anger at the Danish cartoons because it's impolite to trample on other people's religious symbols. But as the rage spread and the issue grew more cosmic, many of us in the West were reminded of how vast the chasm is between you and us. There was more talk than ever about a clash of civilizations. We don't just have different ideas; we have a different relationship to ideas.

We in the West were born into a world that reflects the legacy of Socrates and the agora. In our world, images, statistics and arguments swarm around from all directions. There are movies and blogs, books and sermons. There's the profound and the vulgar, the high and the low.

In our world we spend our time sifting and measuring, throwing away the dumb and offensive, e-mailing the smart and the incisive. We aim, in Michael Oakeshott's words, to live amid the conversation - "an endless unrehearsed intellectual adventure in which, in imagination, we enter a variety of modes of understanding the world and ourselves and are not disconcerted by the differences or dismayed by the inconclusiveness of it all."

We believe in progress and in personal growth. By swimming in this flurry of perspectives, by facing unpleasant facts, we try to come closer and closer to understanding.

But you have a different way. When I say you, I don't mean you Muslims. I don't mean you genuine Islamic scholars and learners. I mean you Islamists. I mean you young men who were well educated in the West, but who have retreated in disgust from the inconclusiveness and chaos of our conversation. You've retreated from the agora into an exaggerated version of Muslim purity.

You frame the contrast between your world and our world more bluntly than we outsiders would ever dare to. In London the protesters held signs reading "Freedom Go to Hell," "Exterminate Those Who Mock Islam," "Be Prepared for the Real Holocaust" and "Europe You Will Pay, Your 9/11 Is on the Way." In Copenhagen, an imam declared, "In the West, freedom of speech is sacred; to us, the prophet is sacred" - as if the two were necessarily opposed.

Our mind-set is progressive and rational. Your mind-set is pre-Enlightenment and mythological. In your worldview, history doesn't move forward through gradual understanding. In your worldview, history is resolved during the apocalyptic conflict between the supernaturally pure jihadist and the supernaturally evil Jew.

You seize on any shred - even a months-old cartoon from an obscure Danish paper - to prove to yourself that the Jew and the crusader are on the offensive, that the apocalyptic confrontation is at hand. You invent primitive stories - like the one about Jews who kill children for their blood - to reinforce your image of Jewish evil. You deny the Holocaust because if the Jews were as powerful as you say, they would never have allowed it to happen.

In my world, people search for truth in their own diverse ways. In your world, the faithful and the infidel battle for survival, and words and ideas and cartoons are nothing more than weapons in that war.

So, of course, what started in Denmark ended up for you with Hitler, the Holocaust and the Jew. But in your overreaction this past week, your defensiveness is showing. Democracy is coming to your region, and democracy brings the conversation. Mainstream leaders like Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani are embracing democracy and denouncing your riots as "misguided and oppressive."

You fundamentalists have turned yourselves into a superpower of dysfunction, demanding our attention week after week. But it is hard to intimidate people forever into silence, to bottle up the conversation, to lock the world into an epic war only you want. While I don't share your rage, I do understand your panic.

February 17, 2006

Spring Has Sprung

Forget the groundhog. Winter is officially over. Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training camp in Florida today. It's all downhill from here.

There's not going to be a lot of suspense about the player makeup of the 2006 Indians. That is especially true of the pitching staff, where the starters are all set, barring injury. Sabathia, Lee, and Westbrook return, and Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson join the rotation for '06. And the bullpen would appear to have only one job up for grabs, as Wickman, Betancourt, Sauerbeck, Matt Miller, and Fernando Cabrera are joined by recent acquisition Guillermo Mota as virtual locks to start with the major league club in April. That leaves Jason Davis and Andrew Brown competing with veteran retreads Danny Graves and Steve Karsay for the one remaining roster spot. I wouldn't be surprised or disappointed though, if both Davis and Brown stick with the team at the expense of Miller.

Here's hoping 25-year old Kelly Shoppach will beat out Einar Diaz to back up Victor Martinez at catcher. Shoppach has spent two seasons at Triple-A, and has nothing left to prove there. He would likely be a better bat off of the bench than Diaz, and he is said to be a good defensive player with a strong arm. Did I mention all he has to beat out is Einar Diaz? The catch could be that Shoppach may be packaged in a trade, assuming that Mark Shapiro is still trying to improve the club by acquiring a legitimate corner outfielder, if that is still possible at this late date.

More soon on the position players, where again, the question isn't who they'll be, but how good they'll be.

Here's Jayson Stark's long Spring Training column, featuring all the best and worst of teams' off-season moves, trades, signings, and 2006 prospects, and in which the word "indians" does not appear.

February 16, 2006

Not A Trick Question

Saw this at Ace of Spades HQ, and as Ace said..."thought it was interesting, even if complete bullshit".

Read this question, come up with an answer and then scroll down to the bottom for the result. This is not a trick question. It is as it reads. No one I know has got it right.

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing. She believed him to be her dream guy so much, that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister.

Question: What is her motive for killing her sister?

Give this some thought before you answer, and then click on the link below to see the answer...


She was hoping the guy would appear at the funeral again. If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American Psychologist used to test if one has the same mentality as a killer. Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly. If you didn't answer the question correctly, good for you. If you got the answer correct, please let me know so I can take you off my email list, unless that will tick you off, then I'll just be extra nice to you.

Please give this the same level of credence you give to your average fourth-hand junk email.

Hayes' Latest

Stephen Hayes on Iraq Documents

For more than a year, The Weekly Standard has sought the release of documents captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have pressured Pentagon officials, cajoled intelligence analysts, listened to would-be whistleblowers, interviewed Iraqis and filed numerous Freedom of Information Act requests with multiple government agencies. Today, because of two developments that have nothing to do with these efforts, we will all learn more about the captured documents and what they tell us about our enemies in the global war on terror.

Yesterday, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, released 28 captured al Qaeda documents in connection with the publication of a study called, Harmony and Disharmony: Exploiting al Qaeda's Organizational Vulnerabilities. The documents come from the Department of Defense's HARMONY database. They provide a fascinating look into the ideology of terror that motivates al Qaeda members and sympathizers, the conflicts among these individuals and groups, and their widely disparate views on everything from Mohammad Farah Aidid in Somalia to the late King Fahd in Saudi Arabia, from working with "infidels" to the terrorists' reaction to the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Hayes counsels against putting either too much or too little stock in the contents of these documents:

Already, some are touting the tapes as a "smoking gun" that will prove Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Others are dismissing the tapes as old news and insignificant. All of this before anyone other than a handful of people know what is on the tapes and before one second of any of the tapes has been played in public.

So let's take a step back and put this in context. Estimates from people involved in the document exploitation project tell us the U.S. government has in its possession some 2 million "exploitable items." Of that number, less than 3 percent--somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 items--have been fully exploited. The information that will be made public by the end of this week--28 captured al Qaeda documents and 12 hours of audiotape from Iraq--will provide a glimpse of a fraction of a fraction of the total collection.

Lots of good related reading in this post from Jeff Goldstein.

February 13, 2006

KIPP - Doing Whatever It Takes

KIPP - the Knowledge is Power Program, an innovative public charter school program started by "two Ivy League-educated white guys" that enrolls largely kids from underclass neighborhoods in inner cities, is featured in a U.S. News Special Report by Susan Headden. The program is built around student commitment, parental involvement, motivated teachers, and accountability for everyone. The results so far are remarkable, if not surprising:

Today, KIPP boasts 44 middle schools, two high schools, and one prekindergarten from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. And the results are raising eyebrows throughout the educational world. KIPP students consistently outperform their counterparts in traditional public schools on standardized tests, and more than 80 percent of KIPP students from the classes of 2004 and 2005 are enrolled in four-year colleges.

The premise of KIPP is simple: Do whatever it takes to learn. Under a contract signed by students, parents, and teachers, students go to school from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. every weekday, every other Saturday morning, and for an extra month in the summer–over 60 percent more class time than the average school year. Teachers are on call 24-7 to answer questions about homework (the better they teach, the fewer the calls), and parents are held accountable...

....it is passionate teaching that makes KIPP work. And Feinberg and Levin, no slouches in the passion department themselves, have handpicked and nurtured exceptionally smart, creative, and energetic educators who are willing to give their utmost to reach their students, even if it means leading them in silly multiplication-table raps. "Traditional education for the hip-hop generation," Levin calls it. When a teacher asks a question, most of the hands in the room fly up.

It is a crucial part of the founders' mission to foster a culture in which these kinds of teachers can thrive. "We don't have a monopoly on hardworking teachers," says Feinberg. "All over the country there are teachers' cars in the parking lot at 7 in the morning that are still there at 5 at night. But they are often working alone. At KIPP, all the cars are in the parking lot at 7, and they're still there at 5."

Read it all. (via the Michael Barone Blog)

Defending The Right To Offend

Ayaan Hirsi Ali (2).jpg

If this blog appears to be single-minded lately, so be it. I'll make no apologies. Let Letterman and Leno deal with Dick Cheney's marksmanship. I'll suggest you read the op-ed by Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali . Excerpting...

Today I am here to defend the right to offend within the bounds of the law...

...Today, the open society is challenged by Islamism, ascribed to a man named Muhammad Abdullah who lived in the seventh century, and who is regarded as a prophet. Many Muslims are peaceful people; not all are fanatics. As far as I am concerned they have every right to be faithful to their convictions. But within Islam exists a hard-line Islamist movement that rejects democratic freedoms and wants to destroy them. These Islamists seek to convince other Muslims that their way of life is the best. But when opponents of Islamism try to expose the fallacies in the teachings of Muhammad then they are accused of being offensive, blasphemous, socially irresponsible – even Islamophobic or racist.

The issue is not about race, colour or heritage. It is a conflict of ideas, which transcend borders and races.

Why me? I am a dissident, like those from the Eastern side of this city who defected to the West. I too defected to the West. I was born in Somalia, and grew up in Saudi Arabic and Kenya. I used to be faithful to the guidelines laid down by the prophet Muhammad. Like the thousands demonstrating against the Danish drawings, I used to hold the view that Muhammad was perfect -- the only source of, and indeed, the criterion between good and bad. In 1989 when Khomeini called for Salman Rushdie to be killed for insulting Muhammad, I thought he was right. Now I don’t.

I think that the prophet was wrong to have placed himself and his ideas above critical thought.

I think that the prophet Muhammad was wrong to have subordinated women to men.

I think that the prophet Muhammad was wrong to have decreed that gays be murdered.

I think that the prophet Muhammad was wrong to have said that apostates must be killed.

He was wrong in saying that adulterers should be flogged and stoned, and the hands of thieves should be cut off.

He was wrong in saying that those who die in the cause of Allah will be rewarded with paradise.

He was wrong in claiming that a proper society could be built only on his ideas.

The prophet did and said good things. He encouraged charity to others. But I wish to defend the position that he was also disrespectful and insensitive to those who disagreed with him.

I think it is right to make critical drawings and films of Muhammad. It is necessary to write books on him in order to educate ordinary citizens on Muhammad.

I do not seek to offend religious sentiment, but I will not submit to tyranny. Demanding that people who do not accept Muhammad’s teachings should refrain from drawing him is not a request for respect but a demand for submission.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali lives in hiding today, protected constantly by bodyguards, because Islamists would like to kill her for her opinions. They would kill her for her apostasy from Islam, or for writing the script for the film Submission, a film for which director Theo Van Gogh has already been murdered. Friday the Dutch Prime Minister said "we don't have much use" for Hirsi Ali's contribution to the debate in the Netherlands. Pity.

Der Spiegel interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali
TCS article on Hirsi Ali

February 12, 2006

Losing It

Check out the latest from VDH. It's all good, but two points seemed to me especially well made. First, that appeasement of the extremists does a disservice to reform-minded Muslims:

...millions of brave reformers in the Muslim world are trying each day to create a tolerant culture and a consensual society. What those in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Egypt want from us is not appeasement that emboldens the radicals in their midst, but patient, careful, and firm explanations that freedom is precious and worth the struggle — even though its use can sometimes bother us. Surely the lesson from Eastern Europe applies: the oppressed there did not appreciate the realpolitik and appeasement of many in the West, but most often preferred a stalwart Reagan to an equivocating Carter...

...and second, the idea that the rejection of Western decadence by Islamists serves to preserve a society that is more "virtuous" than ours, is one that we must vigorously rebut with facts:

...we in the West can live according to our own values and should not allow those radicals who embrace or condone polygamy, gender apartheid, religious intolerance, political autocracy, homosexual persecution, honor killings, female circumcision, and a host of other unmentionables to threaten our citizens within our own countries.

The deluded here might believe that the divide is a moral one, between a supposedly decadent secular West and a pious Middle East, rather than an existential one that is fueled by envy, jealousy, self-pity, and victimization. But to believe the cartoons represent the genuine anguish of an aggrieved puritanical society tainted by Western decadence, one would have to ignore that Turkey is the global nexus for the sex-slave market, that Afghanistan is the world's opium farm, that the Saudi Royals have redefined casino junketeering, and that the repository of Hitlerian imagery is in the West Bank and Iran.

UPDATE 2/13: Reuel Marc Gerecht makes that first point the theme of his Weekly Standard essay "Selling Out Moderate Islam".

February 11, 2006

Manufactured Anguish

It took a lot of effort and four months time to generate the anger in the Muslim world over the cartoons in the Danish press. Most of that effort was by Muslims themselves, and it was a dishonest effort at that. Amir Taheri called it a "Rent-A-Riot"

The cartoons were published last September and, for more than three months, caused no ripples outside small groups of Salafi militants in Denmark.

In December, a group of Danish Muslim militants filled their suitcases with photocopies of the cartoons and embarked on a tour of Muslim capitals.

They failed to get to Tehran: The Iranians, being Shi'ites, saw them as Sunni activists bent on mischief. But they managed to go to Cairo, Damascus and Beirut and, were allowed to send emissaries to Saudi Arabia.

The Danish Muslim group also did something dishonest — it added a number of far more derogatory cartoons of the Prophet to the 12 published by the Jyllands-Posten newspaper, and misled its interlocutors in Muslim capitals into believing that all had appeared in the Danish press.

Take a look also at Bill Kristol's Weekly Standard editorial, and Michelle Malkin has numerous posts on the incendiary efforts of the Danish imams, including here and here.

But they're fighting back now, with inflammatory imagery of their own. Take that, Queen Margrethe!

February 10, 2006

Who's Politicizing Intelligence?

A Washington Post piece uncritically reporting the statements of habitual CIA leaker Paul Pillar as news appeared above the fold yesterday, and before the proverbial ink was dry, Stephen Hayes had shredded it into tiny little pieces. Do you suppose the editors of the Post have read anything Stephen Hayes has written over the last three years?

February 9, 2006

Crisp Trade

Jim Banks of MLB.com broke down the Indians trades of Coco Crisp and Arthur Rhodes into four separate one-for-one deals and concluded that Tribe G.M. Mark Shapiro made not a good trade, but a great one. Then when the fan reaction poured in, he followed up with an even more in-depth analysis of the deal. I'm with Banks on this one, assuming of course that Andy Marte turns out to be something closer to Buddy Bell than to the last blue-chip third base prospect we got from the Red Sox.

Best Of The Year?

Ross Douthat makes me want to go see The New World.

February 7, 2006

Injustice Served

Phyllis Schlafly's account of the questionable conviction of a Michigan man who has now served over 20 years in prison reminded me of the infamous Amirault case in Massachusetts. The justice system perpetuates and compounds its own mistake, because to right the wrong would cause them embarrassment:

...Michigan appears determined to make him serve 30 years because he won't admit guilt and because the bureaucracy won't admit it made a mistake.

Almost everyone who reads the record of what happened to William Hetherington concludes that he was unjustly accused, unjustly convicted, unjustly sentenced, unjustly denied his due process and appeal rights, unjustly denied a new trial based on physical evidence of inaccurate testimony by government witnesses, and unjustly denied parole.

Other than that it was by the book.

February 6, 2006

Tribe Preview

OK, football's over. Let's get that bad taste out of our mouths. Here's the Spring Training preview from the Indians official site.

It occurs to me today that, if the Pistons do what everyone expects them to do, and win the NBA title, all three major sports championships in the past year will have been won by teams that play in the same divisions as do our championship-challenged Cleveland teams. And from the looks of things, all three teams, the White Sox, the Steelers and the Pistons, figure to be strong championship contenders for several more years to come. So ending our 42-year streak isn't going to get any easier anytime soon.

Restating Obvious Precepts

Christopher Hitchens: The Case For Mocking Religion. Can't excerpt Hitch. You know what to do.

February 5, 2006

Language Cranks

I got a kick out of this Times Online column by an obviously cranky Jeremy Clarkson, partly because the misuse of "myself" was long a pet pieve of my Dad's, and so one of mine:

And please, can you stop saying “at all” after every question. Can I take your coat at all? Would you care for lunch at all? Or, this week, on a flight back from Scandinavia, “Another beverage for yourself at all, sir?” What’s the matter with saying “Another drink?” And what’s with all the reflexive pronoun abuse? I’ve written about this before but it’s getting worse. Reflexive pronouns are used when the subject and the object of a sentence are the same person or thing. Like “I dress myself”. You cannot therefore say “please contact myself”. Because it makes you look like an imbecile.

If you send a letter to a client saying “my team and me look forward to meeting with yourself next Wednesday”, be prepared for some disappointment. Because if I were the client I’d come to your office all right. Then I’d stand on your desk and relieve myself. (via aldaily.com)

February 4, 2006

"Do Not Apologize" - Ibn Warraq

Ibn Warraq's must read piece from Spiegel Online starts this way:

The great British philosopher John Stuart Mill wrote in On Liberty, "Strange it is, that men should admit the validity of the arguments for free discussion, but object to their being 'pushed to an extreme'; not seeing that unless the reasons are good for an extreme case, they are not good for any case."

As a practical matter, if our goal is to win hearts and minds in the Muslim world, or to help our allies in moderately friendly Arab governments to assist us in the War on Terror, we are not helped by the perception that we are praising or celebrating the work of the Danish cartoonists, as Hugh has argued in recent days. But Warraq says it is crucial for us to show our solidarity with them on the principle of freedom of expression. More from Ibn Warraq:

A democracy cannot survive long without freedom of expression, the freedom to argue, to dissent, even to insult and offend. It is a freedom sorely lacking in the Islamic world, and without it Islam will remain unassailed in its dogmatic, fanatical, medieval fortress; ossified, totalitarian and intolerant. Without this fundamental freedom, Islam will continue to stifle thought, human rights, individuality; originality and truth.

Unless, we show some solidarity, unashamed, noisy, public solidarity with the Danish cartoonists, then the forces that are trying to impose on the Free West a totalitarian ideology will have won; the Islamization of Europe will have begun in earnest. Do not apologize...

...On the world stage, should we really apologize for Dante, Shakespeare, and Goethe? Mozart, Beethoven and Bach? Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Breughel, Ter Borch? Galileo, Huygens, Copernicus, Newton and Darwin? Penicillin and computers? The Olympic Games and Football? Human rights and parliamentary democracy? The west is the source of the liberating ideas of individual liberty, political democracy, the rule of law, human rights and cultural freedom. It is the west that has raised the status of women, fought against slavery, defended freedom of enquiry, expression and conscience. No, the west needs no lectures on the superior virtue of societies who keep their women in subjection, cut off their clitorises, stone them to death for alleged adultery, throw acid on their faces, or deny the human rights of those considered to belong to lower castes.

(Clip and Save)

February 3, 2006

Cartoon Rage

Robert Spencer's essay Cartoon Rage vs. Freedom of Speech includes the notorious cartoons themselves, and links to the evolving stories of the aftermath.

Meanwhile, the fury continues to build. See Michelle Malkin's "In Their Own Words", on the protest in London. Here we have Muslims expressing themselves freely, in opposition to the free expression of others, all permitted by the society they hate for being so permissive. More from Michelle on the violent Muslim reaction to the growing insistence by the European press that freedom of speech must be defended.

And regardless of the cartoonists' right to publish them, Hugh Hewitt calls the Danish cartoons a "gift to the jihadists". His thoughtful post today advises "don't cheer the vulgar and the stupid."

Most of the cartoons deemed so offensive by Muslims, however, seem downright tame compared to the vile anti-Semitic cartoons published regularly in the Arab press. Rodger Morrow has more examples here.


Times Online: Danish cartoonists go into hiding.

The Guardian covers the reaction in the Muslim world.

UPDATE 2/4: More reality therapy from Hugh Hewitt today:

So, did the cartoons and their aftermath make it easier or more diffcult for Musharraf of Pakistan to continue to guide his country away from the lure of the jihadists? Easier or more difficult for Turkey to remain a friend of the West's? Easier or more difficult for the pro-Western people of Iran to summon the courage to change their government? Easier or more difficult for Jordan's King Abdullah to continue his course, which has included support for the reconstruction of Iraq even in the face of Zarqawi's murderers?

In a wired world, there aren't any inconsequential actions, and everything is grist for the propagandists among the jihadists.

That doesn't mean censorship, or even self-censorship. Only a bit of reflection before rushing off to start new battles which divert attention from those already underway.

There is a chasm of difference between serious commentary on the Islamic challenge facing Europe and the West... and crude, sweeping anti-Muslim propaganda. It isn't necessary to defend the latter in order to uphold and praise the former.

An online video presentation from danishcartoons.ytmnd.com

UPDATE 2/6: Glenn posted a large online gallery of various images and artistic depictions of Mohammed down through the years, so it seems it hasn't always been something that incited Muslims to riot.

Cowher's Girls

Page 2's Bill Simmons picks the Steelers (who doesn't?) and along the way relates his five most underrated stories of Super Bowl XL. Among them:

Peter King casually revealed in his column this week that Bill Cowher has three daughters, one on Princeton's hoops team, the other two on the same high school hoops team. Then he moved onto another story. Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking to myself, "Wait, how was this not the greatest reality TV show of all time? Bill Cowher raising three teenage daughters? You wouldn't have watched that every week?" I mean, my Uncle Bob could barely handle three daughters at the same time, and he was the most stable member of the Simmons family. How could someone pull that feat off while also coaching an NFL football team? ...

...(By the way, could someone please reassure me that the Cowher girls look more like Mrs. Cowher than Mr. Cowher? Every time I think of them, I keep picturing these female basketball players running around with giant chins and mustaches and spit flying everywhere as they scream at the referees. It's a little disturbing. I'm not asking for pictures, just a little reassurance, that's all.)

I think the Steelers will probably win the game. I have great respect for the Pittburgh organization and the Rooney family, and I like the city of Pittsburgh a lot, now that I've visited a few times. I almost invariably root for the AFC team in the Super Bowl. But I hope Seattle kicks their ass. I'm a Cleveland boy, and some things are just ingrained too deeply to ever change.

Answering Questions On Iraq

The American Enterprise editor-in-chief Karl Zinsmeister reports from Iraq. Take it from a journalist who hasn't been holed up in the Green Zone. Here's the intro:

Your editor has just returned from another month in Iraq, my fourth extended tour in the last two and a half years. During November and December I joined numerous American combat operations, including the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, walked miles of streets and roads, entered scores of homes, listened to hundreds of Iraqis, observed voting at a dozen different polling sites, and endured my third roadside ambush. With this latest firsthand experience, here are answers to some common queries about how the war is faring.
Zinsmeister sugarcoats nothing. A great read.

Clarity Helps


The Palestinian people have spoken. According to their apologists, sure, Hamas wants to destroy Israel, wage permanent war and send suicide bombers into discotheques to drive nails into the skulls of young Israelis, but what the Palestinians were really voting for was efficient garbage collection.

It is time to stop infantilizing the Palestinians. As Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said in a news conference four days after the election, ``The Palestinian people have chosen Hamas with its known stances.'' By a landslide, the Palestinian people have chosen these known stances: rejectionism, Islamism, terrorism, rank anti-Semitism, and the destruction of Israel in a romance of blood, death and revolution. Garbage collection on Wednesdays.

February 1, 2006

Logo Quiz

See how well you do identifying common corporate logos in this Logo Quiz. Is it a good thing to have a high score on this test of consumer consciousness? I was almost embarrassed by how many I knew in an instant.

(via I See Invisible People)