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March 31, 2006

Murder For Organs In China

As Jay Nordlinger said yesterday, "sometimes, the unthinkable needs to be thought about", which is why he is doing his best to shine the light of day on the horrendous practice of harvesting organs from living Chinese prisoners reportedly going on in a combination hospital/death camp in a town called Sujiatun, in northeastern China.

Nordlinger links two articles from Epoch Times, here and here, in which the details of the slaughter are related by hospital workers. In one case, the wife of one of the surgeons who was active in the organ harvesting activity gives a detailed interview about the gruesome program, and the mental and emotional toll it took on her husband. Other hospital workers are interviewed who say that the victims, thought to number as many as 6000, were all prisoners guilty only of being practitioners of Falun Gong, the popular meditation and exercise regimen which is banned by the Chinese government.

Those whose organs were removed were in various states of health. Because many of the victims were illegally detained, there was neither an arrest warrant nor identification as to who these people actually were. Often after their organs were removed, nobody claimed the bodies. Sometimes their bodies were picked up by crooks who pretended to be their family members.

About three-quarters of the 6,000 people died after their hearts, kidneys, corneas, or skin was removed; their bodies were then burned. This witness, whose family member participated in the removal of Falun Gong practitioners' organs, said that approximately 2,000 Falun Gong practitioners remain in the hospital. She was afraid that the authorities would kill all of them to destroy evidence.

The Epoch Times "Sujiatun Death Camp Archive" page has many previous articles on the Sujiatun complex, if you'd like to read more background.

I've got to believe that only by shaming and embarrassing the Chinese regime through wide publication of the details of this outrage can it be stopped. Some political groups are going public with their opposition to this murder, but I wonder if the rest of the West, in their single-minded pursuit of commerce with the Chinese regime, will be so rude as to even bring it up. Nordlinger isn't optimistic. Thanks anyway, Jay.

March 30, 2006

It's The Incompetence, Stupid

"How the FBI Let 9/11 Happen" - Jeff Taylor - Reason.com

Anyone paying attention to the Zacarias Moussaoui trial gets it now. All the 9/11 blanks are filled in, and the picture is complete. Sorry, conspiracy freaks and blind partisan hacks. Dull, common, gross incompetence is again at the heart of a deadly government cluster-hump.

Do not linger on Moussaoui's bizarre suicide-by-testimony or the literal cheerleading for his execution—He knew. He lied. And 2,749 people died.

Neither of these is the real story of this case. Rather, the story is the definitive proof Moussaoui's case provides that the U.S. government—pre-PATRIOT Act, pre-NSA wiretaps and all—had and missed clear opportunities to stop 9/11. The FBI uniquely and repeatedly punted carefully gathered evidence of an attack in favor of adherence to bureaucratic hierarchies and power trips.

The testimony of FBI agent Harry Samit forever buries the quaint notion that 9/11 was unforeseen and unpreventable. Beginning with Moussaoui's August 16, 2001 arrest Samit mounted a global and indefatigable investigation of the man and concluded that an attack involving hijacked airplanes was imminent.

As far as we know, no one at the FBI has lost his job over this fiasco, just as no one lost a job after Waco, or after Oklahoma City...

No disaster, it seems, can force reform on the Bureau. The same people are still manning the posts at the FBI and Main Justice. They are going to miss the next terror attack because they are dead-certain to stop the last one. That's what bureaucracies do: cover ass.

Outrageous. Read it all. (via Ace)

March 29, 2006

Hayes Answers The NYT

Stephen Hayes - Choosing Ignorance

Hayes maneuvers through the gaping holes in the Times account of the Saddam regime documents. Go and read.

Demonizing John McCain

The demonization of John McCain has begun. The more he looks like the presumptive Republican nominee for 2008, the more the Left has to try to change his image from patriotic moderate to public menace. John McIntyre of RealClearPolitics.com says that exercise might have unintended consequences that end up helping McCain where he is currently vulnerable...with the conservative base. Great read. (ellipses mine)

It's amusing to watch the slow, yet inevitable shift in the media's attitude toward their favorite GOP politician these past six years. You always knew that if McCain were to get the Republican nomination in 2008, all of his liberal media pals who had been singing his praises for years as a backdoor way to criticize President Bush and the GOP would find creative ways to suddenly portray McCain as a danger to the Republic.

What's interesting is that this shift is occurring now in 2006 and is, ironically, strengthening McCain's chances for the GOP nomination and actually lessening the chances of Democrats winning back the White House in 2008. It doesn't matter what the state of the Bush Presidency may be two years from now, McCain will beat the overwhelming Democrat favorite, Senator Hillary Clinton, in just about every scenario....

...The reality is the anti-Republican media have put themselves in a real box with John McCain. They've built up this straight-talking hero since 2000 and are going to find it very difficult to suddenly turn him into a mean, divisive, war-mongering Republican. The earlier they start the process of demonizing McCain in anticipation of the 2008 general election, the more they raise the likelihood that McCain is the eventual nominee, and, in turn, insure a Republican White House through 2012....

...Frankly, I'm surprised the left is attacking McCain so soon. McCain has many advantages in the fight for the Republican nomination, but his major weakness is he lacks the trust of the party faithful and conservatives. That is a major problem that should not be underestimated. The single best thing the McCain 2008 campaign could do over these next 18 months would be to get the left and the MSM to begin a steady diet of attacking John McCain as too right wing.

March 28, 2006

Will Watching Ohio

This George Will column on the 2006 Ohio elections suggests that the nation's eyes will be on the Buckeye State again this year.

Defending The Tribe - Dayn II

I just can't leave well enough alone, where Dayn Perry is concerned. Most of the points the Fox Sports baseball analyst makes to justify his assessment of the 2006 Indians are at least arguable. Some are perfectly legit, while others seem to me uninformed or otherwise dubious. For example, Jhonny Peralta may in fact "regress" in 2006, even though Perry gives not a whiff of a rationale for why this might happen. But there is another statement from the Indians segment of his AL Central Preview that is so detached from reality as to be comical. We are told that one reason for his projection that the Tribe will disappoint in 2006 is that...

"...Ronnie Belliard's pattern of decline will continue"


This struck me as a bit odd when I first read it, because I remembered that Ronnie Belliard had come to the Indians at the start of the 2004 season with a reputation as a good-but-not-great player, both offensively and defensively, and was generally viewed by Indians fans and outsiders alike as a one or two year stop-gap player, allowing management to let young Brandon Phillips develop at his own pace in becoming the Tribe's "second baseman of the future."

All Belliard had done since then was to surprise and delight most everyone with his bat, his glove, and his attitude, getting himself voted to the AL All Star team by his peers in 2004, while showing an ability to turn the double play at second as well as anyone in the league. His bat was better than anticipated too, since he had averaged only .251 over his last two seasons in the National League (2002-2003).

But hey, maybe Perry knew something I didn't know and Ronnie's game had declined in some way, unbeknownst to the fans who had watched him play 300 games or so over two seasons. I figured a statistical look at the last four seasons would be enough to pick up on Perry's perceived "pattern of decline". To the numbers:

It was my sense that Belliard's offensive production had gone up, not down, since he came to Cleveland. That looks right.

Batting average:

2002: .211
2003: .277
2004: .282
2005: .284


2002: 26
2003: 50
2004: 70
2005: 78

Home Runs

2002: 3
2003: 8
2004: 12
2005: 17

Those are the big 3 offensive categories. Kind of looks like an incline so far. Maybe he meant stuff like...

Slugging percentage:

2002: .287
2003: .409
2004: .426
2005: .450

OPS (on base pct. plus slugging pct)

2002: .544
2003: .760
2004: .774
2005: .775

Perry's partially right...there IS a pattern. Maybe he meant a defensive decline:

Fielding pct.

2002: .975
2003: .973
2004: .981
2005: .981


One has to dig for "declines" in Belliard's statistics over the last four years, but there are a couple to be found. In 2004, for example, Belliard ripped an amazing 48 doubles, fifth overall among all major league players. He "regressed" last season to a mere 36 doubles, still ranking him in the top 20% of all major league second basemen. Belliard also walked less in 2005 (35) than in 2004 (60), and because of that, his on base percentage dropped from .348 to .325. This is at least partially explained by the fact that Belliard is an aggressive hitter under the best of circumstances, and last year, when the Indians lineup was struggling mightily, the impulse for Belliard to be impatient at the plate had to be greater than ever.

Ronnie Belliard is 30 years old, just entering his prime as a player, according to the conventional wisdom. The numbers obviously refute the notion of any ongoing decline in his game over the last four years. And Perry could not possibly have been referring to any attitudinal or off-field issues with Belliard. Anyone who has watched him play the past two seasons knows that nobody hustles more, or plays with more spirit and energy than Ronnie does. Perry might have predicted a future decline for Belliard, perhaps even one beginning this season, and thereby retained some credibility, ( to say nothing of avoiding this humiliating trip to the woodshed by Wizblog.) Instead it seems like he just made some stuff up.

Dayn, I gotta know. What were you thinking about?

They Record Speeches, Don't They?

Krauthammer busts Francis Fukuyama

It was, as the hero tells it, his Road to Damascus moment. There he is, in a hall of 1,500 people he has long considered to be his allies, hearing the speaker treat the Iraq war, nearing the end of its first year, as "a virtually unqualified success." He gasps as the audience enthusiastically applauds. Aghast to discover himself in a sea of comrades so deluded by ideology as to have lost touch with reality, he decides he can no longer be one of them....

...I happen to know something about this story, as I was the speaker whose 2004 Irving Kristol lecture to the American Enterprise Institute Fukuyama has now brought to prominence. I can therefore testify that Fukuyama's claim that I attributed "virtually unqualified success" to the war is a fabrication.

Fukuyama, called by some wag today "the Paul Ehrlich of geopolitics", wasn't about to let the facts get in the way of the media attention sure to lavish any repentant ex-neocon. Krauthammer sets the record straight.

March 27, 2006

Catch This

OK, so bloggers are notorious for being nit-pickers, second-guessers and hair-splitters, criticizing the work of others in hindsight, often without contributing much in the way of original content to whatever is being discussed.

Point made. Now let's get on with it.

One of Fox Sports' baseball analysts is a guy named Dayn Perry. He is responsible for the Fox MLB Power Rankings, and he has the Indians pegged for a disappointing season this year, ranking them 11th among all major league teams in his preseason list. That's all well and good. I disagree with several of his points, but he still has the Tribe rated in the top third of the major leagues, and I wouldn't bet the house that he turns out to be wrong. Besides, he's got the Fox Sports gig, and I...well, you know.

Anyway, here's what Mr. Perry has to say about the 2006 Cleveland Indians:

The Tribe is becoming a trendy pick in the AL going into the upcoming season, but there are reasons for concern. To wit, the bullpen has been seriously thinned out, reigning AL ERA champ Kevin Millwood is no more, they'll get inadequate production from third base (at least until Andy Marte takes the job from Aaron Boone), first base and the outfield corners, and Jhonny Peralta is in for a regression. That all adds up to a disappointing season in Cleveland.

On two points, I must agree; a) Kevin Millwood isn't on the team anymore, and b) most winning teams get more offensive production from their corner outfield positions than we can realistically expect from ours this year (much like the production we didn't get last year, when we won 93 games)

Taking Perry's other arguments one by one.... (bear with me here...this post has a point...I'm just not there yet):

a) "the bullpen has been seriously thinned out..." The team lost solid eighth inning set-up man Bob Howry to free agency, and added solid eighth inning setup man Guillermo Mota. Budding star Fernando Cabrera will be here all season, and the rest of the best bullpen in baseball from 2005 returns pretty much intact, (Bob Wickman, Raphael Betancourt, Matt Miller, Scott Sauerbeck, Jason Davis). Losing Arthur Rhodes is a non-factor. He wasn't even around for the last two months of the season, when Cabrera was emerging. The most inconsistent reliever from 2005, David Riske, "is no more"...addition by subtraction, I daresay. A refreshed Danny Graves looks to take Riske's spot, and another comer in Andrew Brown is waiting in Buffalo to step in if Graves stumbles. So even if you make the case that Howry for Mota isn't a 100% even swap, there's nothing "seriously thinned out" about this pen.

b) Aaron Boone will give them "inadequate production" at third base. Of all the people who watched the Indians last year, who would bet against this out-on-a-limb prediction from Mr. Perry? Last season Boone couldn't hit his weight till the 4th of July, and he's not a big man. The point is, the fact that Boone is not Albert Pujols at the plate is not a reason to project fewer wins for the Indians in 2006. We won 93 games with Boone having a horrible offensive season. It wouldn't pain me if we traded him tomorrow, and got the Andy Marte Decade going sooner instead of later, but Boone's spring training attitude and his offensive numbers (.405, 4 HR, 10 RBI) plus the simple law of averages, argue that he'll have an improved offensive season in 2006, if only because it couldn't possibly be as bad or worse than last year. Boone is proud, he's smart, and he's tough. And he's an excellent defensive third baseman. He will rebound in '06.

"Jhonny Peralta is in for a regression" This one is stunning. He is in for a regression based on what? The Sports Illustrated cover jinx? The only thing I can imagine that would be more baseless would be to go on record as predicting that "Grady Sizemore will suck in 2006". I guess Perry's argument would have to be that Jhonny Peralta was just too good in 2005. Well guess what Dayn. He's 23 years old, and he's getting better. He was the MVP of the AAA league at 21, an age when most team's prized prospects are playing A or AA ball. In his first full year in the majors, he set the team record for homers by a shortstop, hit .292, had more homers and RBI than Derek Jeter, and finished in the top ten in the AL in slugging percentage, all while playing a pressure position defensively, and hitting third in the order for most of the season. Yes, that all adds up to one inescapable conclusion for his 2006 season. R-E-G-R-E-S-S-I-O-N. (If Jhonny bats .290 in 2006, Perry can say he told you so)

So I'm giving Dayn Perry all the benefit of the doubt that I can muster. He does, after all, have to cover all the teams for Fox Sports, a big job to be sure. The nuances of the Tribe bullpen personnel and the spring campaign of Aaron Boone can't be foremost in his mind. He has predictions to make for Fox. You know, the preseason picks for MVP, Rookie of the Year and such, that no one remembers or cares about by October, but which must be done every March anyway. So I'm reading Perry's picks for the 2006 AL Awards, all of which I must say are entirely plausible and well reasoned, as far as I can see.

He predicts that Kenji Johjima, the 30-year old Japanese catcher for the Mariners will be the AL Rookie of the Year. I'm fine with that. I hear he's a stud.

But then, in making his case for Johjima, Perry makes a statement that explains everything. It explains why he picks the Indians as the majors' 11th best team...(behind the freaking Tigers, as God is my witness.) It makes clear that covering the American League for Fox Sports is not a job for just one man, even a man as seemingly capable as Dayn Perry. Here's the telling statement:

Johjima's right-handed bat may not play well in Safeco, but he'll put up solid gap-power numbers and provide exceptional defense behind the plate. He'll immediately join Jason Varitek, Joe Mauer and Ramon Hernandez as the top offensive catchers in the junior circuit.

See what I mean? No wonder he thinks the Indians are in for a disappointing season in 2006.

Dayn Perry doesn't even know who Victor Martinez is!

I'm referring to the Victor Martinez who led all major leaguers in batting average after the All Star break last year, finishing with a .305 average, which led all major league catchers for the 2005 season. The Victor Martinez who also led all major league catchers in RBI with 80, and finished behind only Varitek (22) and Rod Barajas (21) with his 20 home runs. The man who finished one double from leading major league catchers in that category as well, with 33.

I'm thinking of the Victor Martinez who has a career batting average 21 points higher than Jason Varitek (24 points higher in 2005) and a career slugging percentage higher than Varitek.

Ramon Hernandez is a solid hitter, for a catcher. He hopes to be as good a hitter as Victor Martinez someday...oops, he's two years older than Victor, and his career numbers in batting average (.262) on-base pct.(.325) and slugging (.418) aren't even within shouting distance of Martinez' career stats of .293 (BA), .365 (OBP) and .463 (SLG).

Joe Mauer's numbers at the tender age of 22 all compare favorably with Victor's and I have no quarrel whatsoever with his inclusion in the Future Studs of the AL Club.

I don't know. Maybe Dayn Perry has Victor figured for a regression this year too. Actually, I think poor Dayn Perry just flat out forgot about Victor when he wrote this piece of copy, although the American League's best hitting catcher rated not a word of mention in Perry's AL Central Preview. Maybe he really doesn't....nah... that's crazy.

Hey, man...all's forgiven. Love ya, babe. Dayn?

Two And A Half Jokes

Ripped from the headlines to the inopinion.com Too Tough For TV page, my favorites:

Charlie Sheen says he thinks the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolitions and not by the impact and fire from two massive airplanes slamming into the buildings. This is why his CBS sitcom is NOT called “Two and a Half Structural Engineers.”


A toy rabbit, pastel-colored eggs and a sign with the words "Happy Easter" have been removed from the lobby of the city council offices in St. Paul, Minnesota, because of concerns they might offend non-Christians. Sorry, make that Paul, Minnesota.

March 26, 2006

Countdown To Opener

It's one week till the Indians open on Sunday Night Baseball against the World Champs in Chicago. ESPN.com has the Indians ranked fourth in their initial Power Rankings (scroll to the bottom), behind the White Sox, Athletics and Yankees, (what NL?) and has this to say about that:

MLB Power Rankings: Week 1

Much has changed since the end of the 2005 season -- amphetamines were banned, the Marlins gutted their roster, the Mets and Blue Jays spent money in Yankee-esque proportions.

But one thing hasn't changed: The Chicago White Sox are still baseball's No. 1 team. Since being crowned the World Series champs for the first time in 88 years, the Sox did nothing to disrupt their standing atop MLB's highest perch in our first Power Rankings of 2006.

Our last Power Rankings, posted immediately after the World Series, predicted that the AL Central rival Indians would be the No. 1 team to start the 2006 season. But the additions of Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez have firmly cemented Chicago as the team to beat once again.


Fox Sports has the Tribe 11th, below the Tigers of all people. Red Sox at #1? Sorry, not buying that either.

Joe is back posting regularly over at Cleveland Indians Report, so check him out. I use his site as a portal to the sites of all the Tribe's minor league teams, league sites, and all manner of baseball resources.

And Behind Door #3....

Lots of people are trying to make sense of the disclosures from the released Saddam regime documents, and there's a ton of stuff to read to stay on top of it. (I realize I just put up a post suggesting you read a 200 page book online...I don't claim to know where you'll find the time to do all this reading...I just post it.) Start with Stephen Hayes' latest, Camp Saddam, and then read Bill Tierney's FPM piece on the Saddam Tapes and what he says is the media distortion of their contents already beginning.

A Pentagon report released Friday says that Russia, our purported ally in the War on Terror, was...how best to put it...screwing us over in the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003:

Moscow had informants inside U.S. Central Command whose information on the March 2003 invasion of Iraq was relayed to dictator Saddam Hussein days before American troops ousted him from power, according to a Defense Department history released yesterday.

And, as U.S. troops encircled Baghdad in April, Russia's ambassador fed information from Moscow's intelligence service to Saddam's regime regarding U.S. troop movements.

Denials all around from Russian diplomats, of course. WaPo coverage is pretty good, and Ed Morrissey reacts here and here.

World Magazine has a good summary of disclosures from Iraqi regime documents, and Dan Darling has a new column up at the Standard called Jihad TV. (Brief break permitted here)

I Look Like My Dog

Not me. The winners of the "I Look Like My Dog Contest"

No Way To Run A Dictatorship

The Joint Center for Operations Analysis (JCOA) is a branch of the U.S. Joint Forces Command that is responsible for operations research and analysis of "lessons learned". They have undertaken research projects recently to evaluate what we did right and what we did wrong in major events from Hurricane Katrina to the Indian Ocean tsunami to the U.S. Presidential elections.

The report of the two-year JCOA study of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) is written from the perspective of the leadership of Saddam's regime through dozens of interviews with regime officials and the review of thousands of captured regime documents. The Iraqi Perspectives Project is now available in full online, (in pdf document format). It concerns itself almost exclusively with the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of March, 2003, and the subsequent three weeks or so until the fall of Baghdad. The early sections of the book are devoted to examining Saddam's rise to power and the nature of the Saddam regime, which proved valuable in helping to explain the conduct of the regime before and during the U.S. invasion.

The report is over 200 pages long (230 in the pdf file) but much of it is in the form of illustrations, maps, footnotes, etc. The actual text is about 150 pages. I ripped through it in a couple of hours last night, and I highly recommend reading it all. I found it to be highly readable and interesting, even when it waded deep into the details of the military maneuvering of the Iraqis during the defense of Baghdad.

The excerpted version of the IPP published recently in Foreign Affairs online was titled "Saddam's Delusions", and after reading the full report, it's apparent that the overriding characteristic of the Saddam regime, in terms of its self-understanding, was delusion.

Saddam rose to power in large part by killing off his political adversaries, and he retained power by systematically purging the intelligent, the competent and the independent in his ranks. He murdered those he suspected might wish to rise to power, and he murdered those who dared to tell him uncomfortable truths. He created a culture of sycophants and liars around him, and his paranoia about being victimized by a coup compelled him to prohibit communications between the top ranks of his military command.

We have heard all of these themes about Saddam before, but the IPP reports directly from the mouths of Saddam's subordinates, so the message is delivered with authority and credibility. Nobody, least of all Saddam, knew what the hell was going on. What little communication existed between key elements of the regime and the military consisted of Saddam's people lying to each other, and to their commander. Small wonder Baghdad fell in three weeks.

Among Saddams delusions was his belief that his bribery and manipulation of the French and the Russians would ultimately prevent a U.S. invasion. This is another emphasis of the report, made largely through the testimony of Tariq Aziz.

Throughout the years of relative external peace for Iraq after Operation Desert Storm, in 1991, Saddam Hussein continued to receive and give credence to optimistic assessments of his regime's prospects dished up by his top military officers. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz described the dictator as having been "very confident" that the United States would not dare to attack Iraq, and that if it did, it would be defeated.... What was the acute source of Saddam's confidence on the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

Judging from his private statements, the single most important element in Saddam's strategic calculus was his faith that France and Russia would prevent an invasion by the United States. Tariq Aziz revealed that this confidence was firmly rooted in the nexus between the economic interests of France and Russia and his own strategic goals:

"France and Russia each secured millions of dollars worth of trade and service contracts in Iraq, with the implied understanding that their political posture with regard to sanctions on Iraq would be pro-Iraqi. In addition, the French wanted sanctions lifted to safeguard their trade and service contracts in Iraq. Moreover, they wanted to prove their importance in the world as members of the Security Council -- that they could use their veto to show they still had power."

Undoubtedly, such confidence was likely perceived to be the fruit of Saddam's decade-long efforts to gain support in the United Nations Security Council through bribery and political influence buying. He had often received assurances and indications during this period that his strategy was paying off. For example, open sources have reported that the Iraqi Ambassador to Moscow sent a note to Baghdad on 4 October 2002, stating the following:

Our friends [in Russian Intelligence] have told us that President Putin has given very clear instructions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs vis-a-vis Iraq. Our friends instruct us that Russia is very clear in its opposition to any attack on Iraq. It will not allow the new resolution to include any intention that would allow the use of force against Iraq

Later in the IPP text, (pp. 90-91) Tariq Aziz goes even farther to explain that the Iraqis knew and admitted (even if the Western anti-war protestors wouldn't) that French and Russian opposition to the invasion was entirely self-interested, and not rooted in some high-minded principle...

The Iraqi regime's constant overplaying of its hand meant it could never muster enough international support to break completely free of the sanctions regimen. Actions such as supporting suicide bombers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and harrassing UN weapons inspectors were enough to keep the Americans and some of its allies highly suspicious of Saddam's motives and intent. Iraq also had to face the fact that its erstwhile friends would defend it only so far. Ultimately, they calculated only their self-interest. Tariq Aziz explained to an interviewer after the war:
Russia and France did not help Iraq, they helped themselves...We had attempted to win favor with the French and the Russians through the oil and other contracts, but our relationship wiith the French began to suffer after 1998, when the Iraqi government began charging a ten percent cash surcharge on each oil-for-food contract. The French refused to do it; they ended up doing it through intermediaries. Their contracts would be made through Jordanian firms, but filled by the French, and this was not as profitable as before. [Prime Minister Lionel] Jospin told me in 1998 the profit [had] reached 400 million by then. After the surcharge went into effect, the French started making negative statements about Iraq. Jospin and [President Jacques] Chirac made anti-Iraq statements, and we began to reconsider our relationship. The French are dubious, they are Westerners...Their opposition to lifting sanctions was in their national interest, just as their support for it was in their national interest prior to the war- they know that the post-sanctions contracts will go to U.S. companies, and they will lose millions. Their opposition proves that their interest in lifting sanctions was not genuine. The French were defending their position, not defending Iraq...

Well said, Tariq.

Amoing Saddam's other delusions as noted in the IPP.

- He believed in the superiority of the Iraqi soldiers over their U.S. counterparts. He never took the American military seriously, using experiences in Somalia, and the Clinton preference for low-risk bombing campaigns over ground forces operations as his guidelines.

- He believed that the U.S. invasion would never get to Baghdad, assuming they would be bogged down and routed in the south, and would withdraw in defeat.

- He came to believe in his own innate wisdom in military strategy, and often made strategic decisions without even consulting his military professionals.

More later on the disclosures of Russian backstabbing of the U.S. in the run up to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

March 25, 2006

I Miss Michael Kelly Too

Jeff Jacoby, in restating the humanitarian case for deposing Saddam, quotes Michael Kelly

Three years into the war, with many Americans wondering if it was a mistake and the media coverage endlessly negative, one voice I miss more than ever is that of Michael Kelly. The first journalist to die while covering the war, Kelly was the editor of The Atlantic and a columnist for The Washington Post. He had covered the liberation of Kuwait in 1991, and in one of his last columns, filed from Kuwait City, he reflected on the coming liberation of Iraq: "Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.

"I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications, of America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti, or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?"

Wizblog - April 4, 2003 - Michael Kelly - R.I.P.

End The Gendercide

The gendercide referred to by Dutch legislator Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her IHT article includes female infanticide, honor killings, genital mutilation, sex slavery and domestic oppression and abuse.

Cultural and moral relativists sap our sense of moral outrage by claiming that human rights are a Western invention. Men who abuse women rarely fail to use the vocabulary the relativists have provided them. They claim the right to adhere to an alternative set of values - an "Asian," "African" or "Islamic" approach to human rights.

This mind-set needs to be broken. A culture that carves the genitals of young girls, hobbles their minds and justifies their physical oppression is not equal to a culture that believes women have the same rights as men.

Three initial steps could be taken by world leaders to begin eradicating the mass murder of women:

A tribunal such as the court of justice in The Hague should look for the 113 million to 200 million women and girls who are missing.

A serious international effort must urgently be made to precisely register violence against girls and women, country by country.

We need a worldwide campaign to reform cultures that permit this kind of crime. Let's start to name them and shame them.

The courage and candor of Hirsi Ali should work to inspire a broadening of the concept of feminism. Such a redefined "global" feminism could win the support of the political left and right, of men and women. The official feminist movement in America doesn't seem to have an opinion on the matter.

Sowell Interview

Nice interview-profile of Thomas Sowell at opinionjournal.com today.

March 24, 2006

"Lighten Up, Francis"

I'm a big fan of the Inopinion.com daily jokes feature Too Tough For TV. A few of my favorites from this week:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin says his city is better prepared for the upcoming hurricane season because of stronger flood walls, better evacuation plans, and the fact that most of the city’s residents now live in Houston.

Susan Sarandon has been tapped to play Cindy Sheehan in an upcoming movie about the anti-war protestor. Gee, I wonder if she’ll be believable as an obnoxious know-it-all who hates America? Oh, wait…

Slobodan Milosevic’s estranged daughter has denounced the rest of his family for burying the former president on the grounds of the family estate. But in their defense, it was the one place they were pretty sure wasn’t already a mass grave.

Vice President Cheney says Iran will not be allowed to have a nuclear weapon. When asked how he could be so sure, he said, “You don’t see Harry Whittington with one, do you?”

How bad is it for President Bush? Today at a press conference, Hillary Clinton said, "Come on, can't you cut the guy some slack?"

A suicide bomber in Afghanistan triggered a car bomb near a convoy of French troops, but only managed to kill himself. This marks France’s first military victory since Bastille Day.

March 23, 2006

News Flash

ABC News is reporting as news, on the basis of the contents of captured Iraqi regime documents, that there seems to have been a connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden after all:

A newly released prewar Iraqi document indicates that an official representative of Saddam Hussein's government met with Osama bin Laden in Sudan on February 19, 1995, after receiving approval from Saddam Hussein.

Andrew Sullivan finds this evidence "interesting".

Many of us found evidence of the meetings between Iraqi intelligence agents and Osama bin Laden interesting when Stephen Hayes reported on it two and a half years ago.

The media may finally pay grudging attention to the Saddam-al Qaeda links now that growing documentary evidence is staring them in the face. No doubt deep thinkers like Clooney, who just "knew it was bullshit", (and who presumably would have opted to leave Saddam in power) will be proffering retractions sometime soon.


Saddam - al Qaeda Links Archive

Yale Taliban Man

John Fund:

Something is very wrong at our elite universities.....

...There is a line beyond which tolerance and political correctness become willful blindness.

There's lots in between those two sentences. Check it out.

Browns Fans Owe Thanks To Tagliabue

Word of the upcoming retirement of Paul Tagliabue has one prominent Clevelander saying that the NFL Commissioner is owed a debt of gratitude for the continued existence of the Browns in Cleveland. Beacon Journal reporter Patrick McManamon relates the story told by local attorney Fred Nance:

The longtime Cleveland lawyer -- a partner in the law firm of Squire, Sanders and Dempsey -- remembered sitting in then-mayor Mike White's office on the first Saturday of November 1995, with a television running in the corner with the sound down.

When the two saw Modell on the screen, they turned the volume up and heard Modell say he would have an announcement on the future of the Browns the following Monday.

At that point, Nance and White knew that Modell really was going to move the Browns.

Nance got on the phone with Jay Moyer, a former lawyer in his firm who became the NFL's General Counsel.

"Moyer set up a meeting in Paul Tagliabue's office the next night,'' Nance said.

That would have been Sunday night, Nov. 5, the night before Modell took to the podium on that infamous day in Baltimore.

"I found myself sitting in Tagliabue's office,'' Nance said. "It was a rainy night. A rainy Sunday night. Chilly. There was Tagliabue, the Mayor, Roger Goodell (now NFL Chief Operating Officer) and me. And Paul Tagliabue was as surprised as we were. He was taken aback by all this.

"That night he and Mike White forged a very special bond and he made a promise. He said: `I don't know how I'm going to do it, but we're going to do right by Cleveland. We're going to make this right for the city. Hang in there. This will take twists and turns. I don't know what paths it will take, but you hang in there. We may go through public battles, but we will make this right.'

We can't blame Tagliabue for seven years of bad football. I guess he did his part. Meanwhile, we're still twisting and turning.

The Dam is Breaking

I realize that it would be a mistake to draw any sweeping conclusions from the small sample of recently released documents captured from Saddam's Iraq, but we can surely learn from certain of them, as Dan Darling demonstrates in his Weekly Standard article the other day. Darling's first example cites Qusay Hussein's authorization to set up Kuwaiti prisoners to be "civilian casualties" of the U.S. bombing campaign, and the second documents the regime's orders to use chemical weapons to kill Iranians and Kurds. Read it all, and stay tuned. (Dan Darling blogs at Regnum Crucis)

The first in-depth study resulting from an analysis of captured Iraqi regime documents is the Foreign Affairs publication of "Saddam's Delusions:The View From the Inside", a two-year study commissioned by the U.S. Joint Forces Command which draws on interviews with regime officials and evaluation of thousands of regime documents. Pack a lunch, but it's worth taking the time to read.

Official site for released documents from Iraq

Official site for released documents from Afghanistan

March 22, 2006

Tolerating Intolerance?

Abdul Rahman is an Afghan facing the death penalty because he is a Christian, and so far the U.S. has not taken a public stand opposing that outcome. Here's a sample from Michelle Malkin's column:

This is a watershed moment in the post-Sept. 11 world. The Taliban are out of power. And yet today, an innocent man sits in the jail of a "moderate" Muslim nation praying for his life because he owned a Bible and refuses to renounce his Christian faith...

Tony Perkins at the Family Research Council raises the unpleasant question Bush evaded and no one in the White House press corps bothered to ask: "How can we congratulate ourselves for liberating Afghanistan from the rule of jihadists only to be ruled by Islamists who kill Christians?...President Bush should immediately send Vice President Cheney or Secretary Rice to Kabul to read [Afghan President] Hamid Karzai's government the riot act. Americans will not give their blood and treasure to prop up new Islamic fundamentalist regimes. Democracy is more than purple thumbs."

Watershed is the right word, it seems to me. If this precedent is permitted, do they go right back to public stoning of gays and strict gender apartheid? And if so, has there been any real "liberation" from murderous theocracy?


Andy McCarthy in The Corner

Andrew G. Bostom at FPM

UPDATE 3/23: NRO editorial.

UPDATE 3/23: I was not aware when I wrote the above post that the State Department's Nicholas Burns did make a statement yesterday that "the Afghan constitution guarantees religious liberty, and therefore Rahman shouldn't be punished for his conversion." One hopes the President can make the case a bit more forcefully in private...with all due respect for Afghan sovereignty, of course.

March 21, 2006

Vive L' Anti-Américanisme

In 2003, Adam Gopnick wrote in The New Yorker of French anti-Americanism:

A kind of generalized anti-Americanism, not simply opposition to the war in Iraq, does exist, but it has become “a routine of resentment, a passionless Pavlovianism,” rather than a critique of United States policy, as the historian Philippe Roger concluded in “L’Ennemi Américain” ..... Anti-Americanism, though of course it has life as a muttered feeling, has almost no life as an idea or an argument.

French writers Bernard-Henri Lévy and Jean-François Revel have written books analyzing the phenomenon, but according to a new piece by Denis Boyles, it shows no signs of abating. And why would it? As Boyles says in his take on the Roger book, "that hatred has existed whether the president is George Bush or George Washington." More excerpts from the Boyles article:

...while your run-of-the-mill French roast is now passé to us, the French passion for anti-Americanism is still very much alive and well and living in Paris: French politicians still parade behind the anti-American banners. French diplomacy still is based on undermining American interests. Cartoons in French newspapers still routinely portray Uncle Sam as a baby-killer and worse...

...French anti-Americanism isn't predicated on a critique of a specific policy — say, tariffs or Iraq or cultural theories — nor even on a particular parsing of history or politics. Instead, it's a general, all-over, feel-good kind of hatred, one that lives in a state of sublime emotional inebriation on several levels at once.

On a personal level, French people who hate America are like American people who hate TV — and not just a particular program, but the invention itself: They loathe it because loathing it makes them feel superior.

On an economic and cultural level, it's the deep jealousy felt by a failed pessimist when confronted by a successful optimist. This is why France is the special love of American liberals.

On a political and social level it has more in common with anti-Semitism, since it's based on a kind of racial hatred of a people and a place: Perhaps hating America is for those for whom hating Jews just isn't enough.

But on any level, it's just goofier than a Sponge Bob weekend. As Paul Johnson noted not long ago in Commentary, "Among academics and intellectuals...[anti-Americanism] has more of the hallmarks of a mental disease."

Americans had to be convinced to even notice. In fact, it took the blow-up over Iraq to make most of us even aware that for more than two centuries anti-Americanism has been the prevailing European intellectual motif, adding a flourish to all those other nihilistic continental contributions to modern thought, including fascism, atheism, socialism, and Communism, all of which have been packaged at one time or another and delivered with the bundle of goods and services — ranging from exotic radio programs to free health care to free funerals — that Europeans have come to expect from their governments.

That notion finds a certain sympathy on this side of the Atlantic. Government-as-provider is the default position of the disgruntled American left, for whom France often holds high the dim, plastic night-light of leftwing virtue...American leftists, and especially our academic slackers, instinctively know that guys smart enough to think up existential atheism and deconstructionism must be right about the wrongs of American mainstream political philosophy and its attendant evils: individualism, faith-based morality, free markets, and the view that the government's job is to be as scarce as possible, since wherever government intrudes, incompetence follows.

Also at NRO, Michael Radu writes about the French students' "mass rejection of reality", as they took to the streets last week to preserve their high unemployment rates:

The immediate reason for the students' outburst is the contrat première embauche (CPE — roughly translated as "first job contract"), Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's idea for reducing France's stubbornly high unemployment rate, which now stands at 9.6 percent, the second worst in Western Europe after Germany's 10-percent plus. The law would allow employers the discretion to fire new employees within their first two years on the job. Currently, any worker who is fired must be paid an enormous severance, no matter what the reason for the dismissal.

Outside of France, that may be seen as economic literacy 101, but France's brightest youth, as the above-mentioned slogan demonstrates, prefer the status quo — namely, 23 percent of those between 18 and 25 years of age being unemployed (a number that rises to 50 percent in the majority-Muslim suburbs).

The French rejection of free market capitalism is implicitly anti-American, or at least derives from those sentiments. In a TAE article on anti-globalism from 2004, Jean-François Revel had this to say:

Resentments that lead to the rejection of every idea that comes from America simply because it is American can only weaken countries. To follow such a course is to let phobias become guiding principles. Does anyone really believe today that nations which substitute government edicts for economic markets are likelier to prosper? Must we close our eyes to the achievements of the last 50 years of increasing economic liberty, when worldwide production grew by a factor of six and the volume of exports by a factor of 17? Must investment capitalism abroad, the engine of extraordinary, racing progress for many previously poor countries, be banned just because it often brings links to America?

We French have had little to say against Saddam Hussein, Muammar Qaddafi, Kim Jong Il, Fidel Castro, Robert Mugabe, the imams of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or the bosses of China and Vietnam. We reserve our admonitions and our contempt and our attacks for the U.S., for Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, and for Europeans like Margaret Thatcher, Silvio Berlusconi, and Tony Blair, because they are insufficiently hostile to capitalism. Our enemy is not the dictator but the free market economy.

Anti-globalizers make the same mistake. What's important to them is not the eradication of poverty. Rather, it is the propaganda value they gain from linking poverty to the spreading market economy. But this puts them on the wrong side of all evidence, of reality, of history.

Taranto today had his own thoughts on the sources of European anti-Americanism (though he was coming at the topic from a context of the U.S.- Israel relationship)

... the close U.S. relationship with Israel has a psychological basis as well as a moral and strategic one. Both the U.S. and Israel, after all, are immigrant nations, founded and originally settled by people who, for various reasons, got the hell out of Europe. One can see why Europeans who stayed behind, and whose societies are considerably less dynamic than either ours or Israel's, would resent those who rejected the European way.

Further, World War II left Europe owing an incalculable moral debt to both America and the Jews: America because it saved Europe from its own savagery, Jews because they were the primary victims of that savagery. European anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism are often hard to tell apart, and it may be because they both reflect a self-loathing aspect of the European psyche--a neurotic need to compensate for an overwhelming sense of historical guilt.


Hating America by Bruce Bawer

The Decline of France by Christopher Caldwell

The Libby Defense

The Lewis Libby defense team will attempt to show that the supposed outing of Valerie Plame was incidental to the bigger picture of the bureaucratic infighting going on between the CIA, the White House and the State Department over the issue of pre-war intelligence, and provide the broader context for the Plame-Wilson affair that has so far been lost in the narrow focus of Fitzgerald's investigation. Byron York reports.

March 19, 2006

Hayes - Saddam and al Qaeda

I have always wished I had a single-link resource to refer to whenever I heard someone say "Iraq had nothing to do with al Qaeda." I think at least some of these people might educate themselves on the issue if the information was put right in front of them. So because Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard is the preeminent journalist on the matter of "The Connection" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, I started out to assemble a list of links to his articles that I had posted at this blog over the last three years. The project got a bit more ambitious than that in the end, but what results is, I think, a good primer for the uninitiated or those still in denial, and a useful reference for...well, me.

For those unfamiliar with Hayes' work, I have marked with a (***) several articles that I felt would give a good overview or summary of the data, since it's tough for anyone to read it all. I would also suggest reading on this list from the bottom up, (oldest first) to get a better feel for the progression and accumulation of information over time. Links to many other related articles appear at the end of the post.

Another good starting point for an understanding of the connection would be Hayes' book; The Connection: How al Qaeda's Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America

Articles by Stephen Hayes; (from The Weekly Standard, except where otherwise noted)

Not What They Supposed - 4/14/08 (New)

Camp Saddam - 3/25/06

The New Documents - 2/15/06

Saddam's Terror Training Camps - 1/6/06 (***)

The Intelligence War - 11/6/05

See No Evil, Hear No Evil - 9/5/05 (***)

Another Link in the Chain - (co-written with Thomas Joscelyn) - 7/22/05

The DIA and CIA Go MIA - 7/18/05

The Mother of All Connections - (co-written with Thomas Joscelyn) - 7/18/05 (***)

Rolling Rockefeller - 6/30/05

Body of Evidence - 6/30/05

"Nothing" - 11/22/04

The Rice Stuff? - 10/20/04

The Kerry-Edwards Front - 10/5/04

Inconvenient Facts - 9/29/04 (***)

Only Connect - 8/2/04

The Missing Link - 7/26/04

Just Friends - 7/21/04

Bill Clinton Was Right - 7/5/04

"The Unvarnished Facts" - 7/4/04

There They Go Again - 6/28/04

Cheney Speaks - 6/24/04

Who Is Ahmed Hikmat Shakir? - 6/23/04

The Connection - 6/7/04 (***)

More Connections - 6/3/04

Stephen Hayes Interview with Jamie Glazov of FPM - 1/28/04

The Clinton View of Iraq - al Qaeda Ties - 12/29/03 (***)

Case Closed - 11/24/03 (***)

Newsweek's "Case" - 11/20/03

The Saddam-Osama Memo - 11/19/03

Osama's Best Friend - 11/3/03

Dick Cheney Was Right - 10/20/03

Saddam's Al Qaeda Connection - 9/1/03 (***)

The al Qaeda Connection, cont. - 7/11/03

The Al Qaeda Connection - 5/12/03

Maureen Dowd's Intelligence - 2/13/03


Related articles on the Saddam - al Qaeda Links

Jihad TV - Dan Darling - 3/24/06

Rethinking Prague - Ed Morrissey - 8/24/05

The al-Douri Factor - Dan Darling - 7/20/05

The Four Day War - Thomas Joscelyn - TWS - 7/19/05

Now You Don't Tell Us - Thomas Joscelyn - 11/29/04

The Evidence Scheuer Ignored - Thomas Joscelyn - 11/23/04

The Clinton Administration's Case Against Saddam - Daniel McKivergan - 6/23/04

The Big Lie Campaign - David Horowitz - 6/18/04

Baathist Fingerprints - Deroy Murdock - NRO - 6/3/04

Time to Tell All About Iraq and al Qaeda - Jay Bryant - 6/1/04

Iraq and Militant Islam - Andrew C. McCarthy - NRO - 6/1/04

Dan Darling of Regnum Crucis blogs on Stephen Hayes' article - 5/29/04

Prague Meeting of Atta and al-Ani - Edward Jay Epstein - 4/04

Saddam's Ambassador to al Qaeda - Jonathan Schanzer - The Weekly Standard - 3/1/04

Saddam's Terror Ties - Deroy Murdock - NRO - 10/21/03

Why We Went to War - Robert Kagan and William Kristol - 10/20/03

Iraq and Al Qaeda - Wall Street Journal - 9/22/03

The Iraq Connection - Micah Morrison; Wall Stret Journal - 9/5/03

The Baluch Connection - Laurie Mylroie - 3/18/03

The World Trade Center Bomb - Who is Ramzi Yousef? And Why it Matters; Laurie Mylroie - The National Interest; Winter 1995-1996

PBS Interview - Laurie Mylroie - 2001

Saddam Link to Bin Laden- The Guardian - 2/6/99

March 18, 2006

Falling Man

In September, 2003, Esquire magazine's extraordinary feature story, The Falling Man, left undetermined the identity of its subject, although it speculated that he might be Jonathan Briley. Michelle Malkin revisits the story as a documentary is about to air with more evidence that Briley was indeed the man in the now famous photos. Here's my 9/03 Wizblog post on The Falling Man.

March 16, 2006

180 Degrees

Two perspectives from black Americans that couldn't be farther apart. First, Shelby Steele's statement of responsibility and self-reliance in an interview with The American Enterprise. Some excerpts from a must-read piece...

TAE: You say many things in black America have not improved as they should have since the 1960s. What do you think happened?

STEELE: Here we were a people who, during the civil rights movement, took charge, fought out a peaceful revolution, and won against a society in which we were outnumbered ten to one.

We won a personal victory, then turned right around and put our future in the hands of the larger society. To understand that, just consider another theoretical option. What if, in 1965, every black person had left America and started a new nation? We would have put all of our energy into education and development—because we’d have had to become competitive with this huge American country. We would have focused on hard work and conservative values. There’s no doubt that our new nation would have had conservative politics.

But we didn’t leave America. We were smack in the middle of a society that knew what it had done to us before. There was a profound amount of guilt. We knew that guilt was there, and we had a U.S. President who was reeling backwards, putting the responsibility on whites to make things up to us, promising to end poverty. We bought into that, and it made us weak. We bought into precisely the opposite of what we should have done.

Our real problem was a lack of development. We weren’t educated. We weren’t competitive. And so rather than really tackle those problems within our group, we just kept saying, “Well, you guys haven’t given us a good enough school yet. You haven’t given us good enough this, or good enough that.” We had this wonderful excuse.

Steele then eloquently makes the case against racial preferences...

TAE: You say that as long as we have affirmative action, blacks will never be able to take full credit for their own advancement.

STEELE: Absolutely. It smears every single black person.

Look at me, for example. My enemies say my career would have gone nowhere without affirmative action. I don’t think that’s true, but because there is affirmative action, they can say that. There are no blacks who are free from that stigma, and that’s a terrible thing to do to people who are trying to succeed on their own. I think affirmative action is the worst cruelty blacks have endured since slavery.

At that point, blacks made the worst mistake in our history: putting our faith in the hands of outside saviors. The idea that somebody else can lift you up, can teach you skills, and make you competitive is just ridiculous. That sort of abject dependence has never worked, and it never will.

Blacks do well in sports, music, entertainment, and literature—because there’s absolutely no white intervention, paternalism, affirmative action, or anything else. We’re asked to compete without any assistance, and sure enough, we compete. We succeed. In these areas, whites never intervene, so we ask the best and we get the best. But in colleges and other places, there are a billion excuses. Whites intervene and convince themselves not to ask much of us. It’s the same old vicious cycle.

TAE: Should affirmative action be abolished?

STEELE: Affirmative action and all of its sundry manifestations should be completely eliminated. It stigmatizes all blacks, and it’s not voluntary. One of the real cruelties of affirmative action is that whether we want it or not, it is imposed on us, simply because of the color of our skin. You don’t get to opt out.

From Steele's pride and optimism to the story of a 7-year old poet with a message of grievance, separatism and anger. I feel sorry for the little girl. In Michelle Malkin's account she appears to be a cruelly manipulated vehicle for her father's radicalism, (she's 7, for heaven's sake). Here's a taste of her poetry:

White Nationalism Put U In Bondage

White nationalism is what put you in bondage
Pirate and vampires like Columbus, Morgan, and Darwin
Drank the blood of the sheep, trampled all over them with
Steel, tricks and deceit.
Nothing has changed take a look in our streets
The mis-education of she and Hegro -- leaves you on your knee2grow
Black lands taken from your hands, by vampires with no remorse
They took the gold, the wisdom and all of the storytellers
They took the black women, with the black man weak
Made to watch as they changed the paradigm
Of our village....
They killed the blind, they killed the lazy, they went
So far as to kill the unborn baby
Yeah White nationalism is what put you in bondage

...and so on, dripping victimhood, the prodigy articulates her father's anger in verse. How very, very sad.....both the destructiveness of the message, and the loss of a normal childhood for the little girl. Teaching kids to hate is child abuse.

Be sure to go read the whole Steele interview. It's Clip and Save stuff.

March 14, 2006

Otherwise Occupied

From Anne Bayefsky and her site Eye on the U.N.:

The UN and Women's Rights: The Scandal Just Keeps Getting Bigger

On Friday, March 10, 2006 the UN Commission on the Status of Women -- the UN's highest body dealing with women's rights -- adopted only one resolution that specifically condemned the abuse of women's rights by any of the 191 UN member states. That state was Israel.

There was no resolution on Saudi Arabia and the million female migrant workers living in slave-like conditions there. There was no mention of Jordan, home to the phenomenon of "honor killings" -- the alleged entitlement to murder female relatives. Nothing on China, land of forced abortions and sterilizations. Nothing on Mali's appalling record on female genital mutilation. No mention of Palestinian women who volunteer to be suicide bombers in order to kill Jews. And of course, no mention of the Israeli women and girls who are their victims.

The Commission on the Status of Women makes it abundantly clear that the victims of the UN's obsession with demonizing the Jewish state go far beyond Israelis. They are the billions of women around the world who cannot garner the attention of this organization because it is otherwise occupied. (3/10/2006)

March 13, 2006

One Sacred Cow

Isaac Hayes has been the voice of Chef, the cook on the Comedy Central show "Southpark", since 1997. He has thus been party to the show's politically incorrect skewering of every conceivable identity group, but now says the show has "crossed the line" into "bigotry", because of their treatment of "the religious beliefs of others". This apparently had not been a problem for Hayes until the show took on Scientology, the system of beliefs followed by Hayes as well as Tom Cruise and John Travolta. Hayes has quit the cast of the show over the issue.

"Religious beliefs are sacred to people, and at all times should be respected and honored," he continued. "As a civil rights activist of the past 40 years, I cannot support a show that disrespects those beliefs and practices."

"South Park" co-creator Matt Stone responded sharply in an interview with The Associated Press Monday, saying, "This is 100 percent having to do with his faith of Scientology... He has no problem - and he's cashed plenty of checks - with our show making fun of Christians."

Last November, "South Park" targeted the Church of Scientology and its celebrity followers, including actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, in a top-rated episode called "Trapped in the Closet." In the episode, Stan, one of the show's four mischievous fourth graders, is hailed as a reluctant savior by Scientology leaders, while a cartoon Cruise locks himself in a closet and won't come out.

Stone told The AP he and co-creator Trey Parker "never heard a peep out of Isaac in any way until we did Scientology. He wants a different standard for religions other than his own, and to me, that is where intolerance and bigotry begin."

I'm sure Stone and Parker know that vocal critics of Scientology have historically not fared well. An L.A. Times series on Scientology in 1990 recounts this story, which might have suggested to the authors of the series that they themselves had something to worry about.

Equally good as a Scientology primer is this 1991 feature article from Time Magazine. This excerpt alone provides ample material for aspiring satirists:

The founder of this enterprise was part storyteller, part flimflam man. Born In Nebraska in 1911, Hubbard served in the Navy during World War II and soon afterward complained to the Veterans Administration about his "suicidal inclinations" and his "seriously affected" mind. Nevertheless, Hubbard was a moderately successful writer of pulp science fiction. Years later, church brochures described him falsely as an "extensively decorated" World War II hero who was crippled and blinded in action, twice pronounced dead and miraculously cured through Scientology. Hubbard's "doctorate" from "Sequoia University" was a fake mail-order degree. In a 1984 case in which the church sued a Hubbard biographical researcher, a California judge concluded that its founder was "a pathological liar."

Hubbard wrote one of Scientology's sacred texts, Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health, in 1950. In it he introduced a crude psychotherapeutic technique he called "auditing." He also created a simplified lie detector (called an "E-meter") that was designed to measure electrical changes In the skin while subjects discussed intimate details of their past. Hubbard argued that unhappiness sprang from mental aberrations (or "engrams") caused by early traumas. Counseling sessions with the E-meter, he claimed, could knock out the engrams, cure blindness and even improve a person's intelligence and appearance.

Hubbard kept adding steps, each more costly, for his followers to climb. In the 1960s the guru decreed that humans are made of clusters of spirits (or "thetans") who were banished to earth some 75 million years ago by a cruel galactic ruler named Xenu. Naturally, those thetans had to be audited.

An Internal Revenue Service ruling in 1967 stripped Scientology's mother church of its tax-exempt status. A federal court ruled in 1971 that Hubbard's medical claims were bogus and that E-meter auditing could no longer be called a scientific treatment. Hubbard responded by going fully religious, seeking First Amendment protection for Scientology's strange rites. His counselors started sporting clerical collars. Chapels were built, franchises became "missions," fees became "fixed donations," and Hubbard's comic-book cosmology became "sacred scriptures."

During the early 1970s, the IRS conducted its own auditing sessions and proved that Hubbard was skimming millions of dollars from the church, laundering the money through dummy corporations in Panama and stashing it in Swiss bank accounts. Moreover, church members stole IRS documents, filed false tax returns and harassed the agency's employees. By late 1985, with high-level defectors accusing Hubbard of having stolen as much as S200 million from the church, the IRS was seeking an indictment of Hubbard for tax fraud. Scientology members "worked day and night" shredding documents the IRS sought, according to defector Aznaran, who took part in the scheme. Hubbard, who had been in hiding for five years, died before the criminal case could be prosecuted.

Today the church invents costly new services with all the zeal of its founder. Scientology doctrine warns that even adherents who are "cleared" of engrams face grave spiritual dangers unless they are pushed to higher and more expensive levels. According to the church's latest price list, recruits -- "raw meat," as Hubbard called them -- take auditing sessions that cost as much as $1,000 an hour, or $12,500 for a 12 1/2-hour "intensive."

Psychiatrists say these sessions can produce a drugged-like, mind-controlled euphoria that keeps customers coming back for more. To pay their fees, newcomers can earn commissions by recruiting new members, become auditors themselves (Miscavige did so at age 12), or join the church staff and receive free counseling in exchange for what their written contracts describe as a "billion years" of labor. "Make sure that lots of bodies move through the shop," implored Hubbard in one of his bulletins to officials. "Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money . . . However you get them in or why, just do it."

A scam, relabeled a "church". But don't make a joke, or say anything disrespectful. That would be bigotry.

Lots of satire (and a fair amount of ridicule) of Scientology and its most famous spokesman and proponent, including the complete video of the Southpark episode "Trapped in the Closet", at this website.

Related: Xenu.net

UPDATE 3/14: James Taranto, as usual, says it with more pizzaz in BOTW today...

Well, after all, it's one thing to mock Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, Evangelicals, blacks, gays, whites, Mexicans, Asians, Canadians, Frenchmen, people with birth defects, women, transsexuals, Democrats, Republicans, lawyers, cops, cows, people with red hair and freckles, goths, the handicapped and fat kids. But satirizing Scientology--that's just intolerant!

Browns Spend Fast

I am of course delighted with the Browns aggressiveness in free agency so far, especially bringing back hometown boys Joe Jurevicius and LeCharles Bentley to Cleveland.

Coming to town for the first time is young left tackle Kevin Schaffer from the Falcons, who the Browns must feel will be there for a long time, since they handed him a six-year $36 million contract, as big a deal as the Pro Bowler Bentley's. Hope they're right.

It's also reported tonight that punter Dave Zastudil and Ted Washington, the ancient (38) nose tackle of the Raiders, have signed deals with the Browns too.

What's next? The Plain Dealer's Mary Kay Cabot says tonight that Savage and Crennel are now looking primarily on the defensive side of the ball, and have Detroit defensive end Kalimba Edwards in their sights. Cabot's Sunday paper article mentions Pittsburgh safety Chris Hope as another target of the Browns.

March 12, 2006

The Saddam Files

You'd think he could snap his fingers and make it happen, him being the President and all...

Stephen F. Hayes:

Bush told Hadley to expedite the release of the Iraq documents. "This stuff ought to be out. Put this stuff out." The president would reiterate this point before the meeting adjourned. And as the briefing ended, he approached Pence, poked a finger in the congressman's chest, and thanked him for raising the issue. When Pence began to restate his view that the documents should be released, Bush put his hand up, as if to say, "I hear you. It will be taken care of."

It was not the first time Bush has made clear his desire to see the Iraq documents released. On November 30, 2005, he gave a speech at the U.S. Naval Academy. Four members of Congress attended: Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee; Sen. John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee; Rep. John Shadegg of Arizona; and Pence. After his speech, Bush visited with the lawmakers for 10 minutes in a holding room to the side of the stage. Hoekstra asked Bush about the documents and the president said he was pressing to have them released.

Says Pence: "I left both meetings with the unambiguous impression that the president of the United States wants these documents to reach the American people."

Negroponte never got the message. Or he is choosing to ignore it. He has done nothing to expedite the exploitation of the documents. And he continues to block the growing congressional effort, led by Hoekstra, to have the documents released.

Stephen Hayes gets the clever title of the week award. Click to see.

UPDATE 3/13: Here is Hayes' follow up piece, "Finally". It appears the President will get his wish to have many of the documents released. Stay tuned, and read it all.

Bucks Fall, Get #2 Seed

Iowa wins the Big Ten Tournament 67-60 over Ohio State. Here's the game story from Bucknuts.com

Thad Matta's Buckeyes finish 25-5, and are given a #2 seed in the Midwest Regional. On to Dayton for Davidson, and then the Georgetown / Northern Iowa winner. It looks like a reasonably good draw for the Buckeyes to get to the Sweet 16, where a game with Florida or Oklahoma could happen in Minneapolis. I'm way too far out on this, aren't I?

Here's a printable NCAA tournament bracket in pdf, via ESPN. Web version.

March 11, 2006

Economy Humming, Media Soft-Pedaling

John Hinderaker of Power Line on how media works to shape widespread public perceptions that are at odds with demonstrable realities.

The Labor Department announced today that employers added 243,000 payroll jobs in February. The market is up on the news, with the Dow over 11,000 once again. So the economy continues to hum along.

It occurs to me that the economy is a useful benchmark for interpreting public opinion polling. One of the things that have frustrated us in recent years is the fact that poll respondents consistently underrate the economy, describing it as mediocre or poor, when in fact it's been good or excellent. I don't know how to explain this other than by attributing poll respondents' opinions about the economy, at least in part, to misleading reporting. I think that's true, of course, across a broad range of issues. For example, selective reporting about Iraq has given most people an unduly negative view of our progress there.

What's different about the economy is that, unlike most issues, we have lots of objective data that have been maintained, on a reasonably consistent basis, for many years. So, when inflation is under 3%, unemployment is under 5%, millions of jobs are being created, GDP growth is strong and consistent and incomes are rising, we can say, objectively, that poll respondents who rate the economy mediocre to poor are wrong. That is strong evidence, I think, that incomplete and biased reporting is driving Americans' perceptions down on this issue. It is reasonable to believe that the same thing is happening on other issues where press coverage is relentlessly negative, as well.

He Gets Paid For This

Terry Pluto is back from Florida, and he's bullish on the Indians. He may revise the prediction before the season starts, but for now he's saying the Tribe can win 90 games, but probably won't catch the White Sox in the Central. I think I'll avoid making predictions about the White Sox, since last year I said they were a third place team in the division, but Pluto's 90-win prediction for the good guys sounds about right. And for the record, Terry is still turning down all those folks graciously offering to trade jobs with him.

It's tough to predict that the Indians will be able to repeat the 93 wins of last year, if only because going 15-3 again in interleague play is so unlikely against this year's tougher schedule of NL Central opponents. I don't think the team will start as badly as they did last year, but I also think the starting pitching, having swapped out Kevin Milwood and Scott Elarton for Paul Byrd and Jason Johnson, loses a little something from the 2005 staff.

So many of Terry's Spring Training observations are things we really needed to hear...like Ryan Garko is playing a passable defensive first base, for example....and Andy Marte looks good on defense, and maybe better on offense. Neither of these guys is likely to start the season on the big league club, but just having promising, major league-ready players at these two transitioning positions for the club makes this a stronger and deeper overall 40-man roster than a year ago. It's too much to expect Garko and Marte to be this year's Sizemore and Peralta because they can't play regularly at the beginning of the year. But look out. Even if Boone plays all year at third, holding off a charging Marte, surely Garko could supplant Eduardo Perez sometime after Memorial Day as the platooning righthander at first base, no?

It does look like the management wants both Hafner and Martinez to play some at first base this year. I presume this is designed both to get Victor more days off from catching, and also to give Hafner (and/or Broussard) an occasional day off against a tough lefty, and give Kelly Shoppach (C) and Martinez (DH/1B) four right-handed AB's each instead.

At several positions, over the course of the Spring and then the 2006 season, promising young talent will push replaceable veterans for playing time and eventually, roster spots. Catcher Kelly Shoppach pushing Einar Diaz toward retirement....Franklin Gutierrez making Todd Hollandsworth look over his shoulder as the fourth outfielder...Andrew Brown potentially forcing Steve Karsay and Danny Graves out to pasture...Jeremy Sowers, Fausto Carmona and Jason Davis waiting confidently in the (Buffalo) wings, ready if a starter should stumble. And of course, Marte and Garko, champing at the bit for those corner infield spots.

After all that, you look at the core of the team: the five core position players; Grady Sizemore, Jhonny Peralta, Victor Martinez, Ronnie Belliard, and Travis Hafner...and the three core starting pitchers; C.C. Sabathia, Cliff Lee and Jake Westbrook, and you see eight guys who are all possible AL All-Stars. To have a playoff team, the Indians will need to get production from the other guys, especially the four corner positions that were the trouble spots last year.

The observer among us lacking the rose-colored glasses will note that on Opening Day 2006, three of those four positions, which cried out for an offseason upgrade, will likely be manned by Casey Blake, Aaron Boone and Ben Broussard, the same trio that disappointed so in 2005. The fourth will no longer be manned by Coco Crisp. Now, I'm prepared to love Jason Michaels, based on everything I've heard about him, and I also understand that there were not many free agent corner outfielders available this offseason, but Shapiro (with Dolan) has left himself open to legitimate criticism by not doing more to upgrade those "power" positions for 2006. I'm fine with the Crisp for Marte deal as a way to get a long term answer at third base, and I realize that people like Brad Snyder or Gutierrez may be just a short year away from being contributing major leaguers as outfielders, but I had been so hoping that the Casey Blake Era was about to be over.

I suppose it's possible that everything could go right this season....(now why in the name of Jose Mesa would I entertain that notion?) Boone could return to pre-injury productivity. Michaels could repeat his .400 on-base percentage of 2005 in the 2-hole in the order. Shapiro could pull a last-minute deal for a rightfielder who can hit. By mid to late-season, Marte and Garko and Carmona and Gutierrez and Brown could be making real contributions. Wickman might hold up and continue to close games at a 90% clip. Cabrera and Betancourt and Sauerbeck and Mota could blossom into a hell of a bullpen. Sizemore and Peralta could keep improving and explode into the national consciousness, joining Sabathia, Martinez, Hafner and Lee as legitimate star quality players. Jason Johnson could eat innings AND win more games than he loses. The White Sox could catch a bad break or two. It could all come together.

But the more I think about it, the more it looks like the Indians are a team built to win big in 2007. The good news is that it's built for 2008 and 2009 and 2010 and 2011 too. The fact that 90 wins in 2006 would be a disappointment for most of us tells us how far the team has come in three years. If I felt a little better about the starting pitchers, I'd be predicting a Division title. As it is, I'd be very happy with last year's win total, and hope that gets us into the postseason.

Fresh Start

As expected, the NCAA will not impose any further post-season tournament bans or other major future sanctions on Ohio State as a result of the scandal involving a cash payment to a recruit by former Coach Jim O'Brien, a report from the group confirmed on Friday.

The outcome was virtually assured almost two years ago when Ohio State summarily fired O'Brien, forced Athletic Director Andy Geiger to retire a year before he had intended to, took a self-imposed one-year postseason tournament ban for 2005, and in general, threw themselves on the mercy of the all-powerful NCAA court.

It was the prudent thing to do from the standpoint of getting the NCAA monkey off of their backs, and getting on with the business of athletics at OSU in the present. But there are a lot of questions remaining about the school's dealings with O'Brien. An AP story on the NCAA penalties against Ohio State states what most observers assumed was a no-brainer; that a cash payment of $6000 by a coach to the family of a 7'3" Serbian basketball recruit represented a major NCAA violation, and from the university's standpoint, sufficient cause for firing the coach and voiding the remainder of his contract.

However, O'Brien sued the university claiming wrongful termination, and a judge has now ruled in his favor, saying that the university did not have sufficient cause to terminate him. O'Brien's argument was that his payment to the player's family was a humanitarian gesture, and that it wasn't a violation because O'Brien knew that the recruit, Aleksandar Radojevic, who never played for Ohio State, had already forfeited his amateur status by playing professionally. O'Brien claims to have used his own personal funds, not university money, and says he did it to help the family in the war-ravaged area of Yugoslavia. It remains unclear whether O'Brien had any humanitarian concern for the families of Serbs under 7 feet tall.

In addition to the various penalties against OSU, which mostly amount to refunding $800,000 in revenues gained from NCAA Tournament participation from 1999-2002, and wiping out records of games won during that era, the NCAA also came down hard on O'Brien:

Should he seek employment with another NCAA school before March 10, 2011, he and that school would have to appear before the infractions committee to discuss what stipulations might be placed on that program by hiring O’Brien. The NCAA could determine whether his duties should be limited, as allowed by the "show cause" penalty. Limitations could include, for example, stringent restrictions on recruiting.

O’Brien said yesterday he will appeal the decision.

And why not? The guy wins every time he goes to court. John Porentas of the O-Zone has some good insights on the issues involved in the firing of O'Brien and the judge's decision in the lawsuit against OSU. Serious OSU program-watchers will want to read it all.

Related: Columbus Dispatch has some reader reaction to the O'Brien lawsuit result.

Real Clear (Iraqi) Politics


The key question is who is going to control the two critical ministries: interior and defense. In Iraq, as in much of the world, interior does not control the national parks. It controls the police. And under the current government it has been under Shiite control and infiltrated by extreme Shiite militias. Some of these militias launched vicious reprisal raids against Sunnis after the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, jeopardizing the entire project of a national police force exercising legitimate authority throughout the country.

The main objective of U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who worked miracles in Afghanistan, is to make sure that the Interior Ministry is purged of sectarianism by giving it to some neutral figure, perhaps a secular Sunni with no ties to the Baath Party. Similarly with the Defense Ministry, which controls the army. The army has, by most accounts, handled itself well following the mosque bombing and subsequent riots, and it has acted as a reliably national institution. It is essential that it not get into sectarian hands.

Political success in Iraq rests heavily on these two institutions. Which is why these negotiations, tiresome and endless as they seem, are so important.

March 9, 2006

Fallaci Excerpt

Tigerhawk excerpts Oriana Fallaci's book "The Force of Reason", just out in English. Makes you want more. (via LGF)

Steyn On The Radio

Read the whole Mark Steyn interview by guest host Jed Babbin on the Hugh Hewitt Show today.

JB: We're fighting an ideological war. And it seems to me that the kinetic war, the bullets and bombs, are no more and no less important than the ideological war. And the ideological war is really not being fought. I mean, how should we be doing this, Mark?

MS: Well, I think we have to be able to address it honestly. I mean, for example, you saw in this bizarre thing at the University of North Carolina, where an American...an Iranian Muslim goes to rent a big Jeep Cherokee for the purpose of crashing it into as many bodies as possible, at the university he was studying at just a couple of months ago. And the unwillingness to address the fact that he was motivated by his Muslim identity to do that, the fact that we cannot even address that honestly, five years after the war, is, I think, a problem. We have to be able to say look, there are millions of law-abiding, peaceful Muslims around the world, but nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that Islam is the main challenge to Western civilization at this hour....


JB: Well, have we not gone from tragedy to farce already? I mean, we have, for Heaven's sake, at one of the top schools in the United States, we have a former part of the Taliban government, unreconstructed, enrolled at the school. I mean, how much farther can we descend into political correctness?

MS: Well, exactly. And these are the same Ivy League colleges that refused to let ROTC on campus, because they have the don't ask, don't tell policy on gays in the military. The Taliban doesn't have a don't ask, don't tell. Even if you don't ask, they build a wall and crush you if you're homosexual. I mean, this is the complete decadence of the kind of non-judgmental, multi-cultural, everything's equal thing. And that is the way...people are very foolish, They don't realize that incrementally, you can lose your world, unless you're prepared to actually make a choice about which values, which society you want to live in.

March 8, 2006

Something About Barry

Here's the book excerpt from Sports Illustrated on Barry Bonds and his performance-enhancing drug program. It is absolutely devastating to the reputation of a guy whose reputation wasn't all that good to begin with. The timing couldn't have been a coincidence. Bonds is about to begin a season in which he'll make a run at the home run record of Babe Ruth and then possibly Hank Aaron, but this story assures a great big fat asterisk beside his name in the record books forever. He may be the greatest baseball player ever. After reading this, all I can say is "so what?"

UPDATE 3/8: Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN.com is unforgiving:

I believe the book. I think Bonds is -- or was -- a human Walgreens, a grotesque and insulting example of better baseball through chemistry. And I think he should slither away, joining Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Rafael Palmeiro in forced baseball exile.

Bonds is finished. He might play again, but there is only a chalk outline left around his integrity and home run totals. And the only way he gets into Cooperstown is if he spends the $14.50 for a Hall of Fame admission ticket.

Winstrol. Deca-Durabolin. Insulin. Testosterone decanoate. Human growth hormones. Norbolethone. Trenbolone. Clomid. These are the substances and steroids Bonds is alleged to have injected or ingested. They are the medicine cabinet of a cheater.

March 6, 2006

Fake Reform At UNCHR

A bevy of former Nobel Peace Prize winners, including Jimmy Carter, have produced a letter calling for U.N. approval of the text for "reform" of the current discredited version of the United Nations Council on Human Rights. Carter has called it "a good compromise", and has said he hopes that United States objections to it will be outvoted by other U.N. members. (It may be helpful to remember here that Carter also thought the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea was "a good compromise."...it did win him the Peace Prize, after all.)

I have been accumulating articles on the subject for a couple of weeks now, and would like to share some of the arguments in opposition to United States approval for this so-called reform. I happen to be one of a growing number of people who are convinced that the U.N. as presently constituted is incapable of real reform, which is yet another reason not to sign on to something that purports to be an improvement over the status quo, but isn't... as the WSJ argues:

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has made it clear to his U.N. colleagues that the current proposal is not something the Bush Administration can endorse. That's a stand that will surely burnish his reputation in certain liberal circles as an "obstructionist." But fake reform is worse than no reform at all, and whatever else might be said of the current system, it at least has the virtue of being discredited.

The world can certainly wait a few months more to get the human-rights agency that genuine human-rights victims deserve. The fact that the U.N. is incapable of providing one is yet another reminder of what ails the organization, especially under its current management.

Here's Anne Bayefsky:

Regardless of its content, Secretary General Kofi Annan desperately wants the creation of this new council to stand as the crowning achievement of his nine years in office. So, shortly after the text was announced, Annan released a statement dramatically raising the stakes. He claimed that failure to adopt Eliasson’s proposal “would undermine this Organization’s credibility, render the commitments made by world leaders meaningless, and deal a blow to the cause of human rights.”

The reality, however, is that the proposed council represents an enormous step backward for the international protection of human rights and the spread of democratic governance....

...The heart of the problem with the commission lies with its membership. Current members include some of the world's worst human-rights violators: China, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe. Throughout the months of negotiations over a new entity, such states vehemently opposed efforts to introduce criteria for membership on the council. They succeeded. Not one criterion is included. Instead, the draft merely suggests “when electing members” a state's human-rights record be "taken into account." Even states under Security Council sanction for human-rights violations (although this includes, at the moment, only Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire) would not be excluded automatically.

Read the whole Bayefsky piece for her more detailed criticism of this Kofi Annan fig leaf.

National Review editorial

Without meaningful eligibility requirements, any "reform" of the UNCHR is unworthy of the name. The UNCHR's basic problem — which is, come to think of it, also the basic problem of the U.N. — is that it puts liberal democracies side by side with genocidal despotisms as though they were equally legitimate. That's how it happened that six of the 53 current UNCHR members — China, Cuba, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe — are on Freedom House's list of the worst human-rights abusers. That's also why the UNCHR has barred Israel from its meetings over invented human-rights abuses while failing to rouse itself to action against real ones (to take one example, it has never passed a resolution against the Chinese government). The proposed human-rights council would do nothing to solve this problem. Even a laughably weak eligibility criterion — that any country under U.N. sanction for human-rights violations be barred from membership — self-destructed during the negotiations.

Brett D. Schaefer, writing at NRO:

When asked about the negotiations over the Human Rights Council, U.S Ambassador John Bolton declared, "We want a butterfly. We're not going to put lipstick on a caterpillar and declare it a success." Such a position indicates a willingness to walk away from the Council if the chrysalis does not yield a butterfly. The question is, what is there to walk toward? Another round of fruitless negotiations in the U.N.? Indisputably, the effort to strengthen basic human rights and representative government could be greatly bolstered by an effective human rights body in the U.N. Sadly, such a body does not exist today, and news reports on the Human Rights Council negotiations indicate that such a body is unlikely to be created soon....

...Human-rights advocates should not shy away from uncomfortable truths. Perhaps the U.N. will one day be dominated by democratic states that respect the freedoms of their citizens and demand similar standards from all U.N. member states. But that is not the U.N. of today. The likely failure of the U.S. and other nations to create a smaller, more effective Human Rights Council that excludes human-rights abusers and non-democracies from membership should be a clear sign that the U.N. cannot serve as the focal point for human-rights abuses. If the U.N. cannot serve as the primary vehicle in pursuit of that goal, the U.S. and like minded countries should pursue alternatives.

The Islamic lobby has managed to insert a clause that has generated a lot of negative reaction, and not just from conservative commentators, it should be noted:

Apart from such concerns as those relating to membership criteria and size, some critics are also unhappy with a last-minute addition to the text's preamble, made at the insistence of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) because of the current dispute over cartoon depictions of Mohammed.

It refers to "the need for all states to continue international efforts to enhance dialogue and broaden understanding among civilizations, cultures and religions and emphasizing the states, regional organizations, non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and the media have an important role to play in promoting tolerance, respect for and freedom of religion and belief."

Observers noted that there was no explicit endorsement of freedom of speech.

U.N. Watch, a Geneva-based NGO, said the clause "would impose demands on the media to respect religion, but ... omits any mention of freedom of speech or freedom of the press."

"This rewards the violent agitators who burned buildings and killed innocent people [during anti-cartoon riots] with a grant of international legitimacy," said the group's executive director, Hillel Neuer, whose overall assessment of the proposal was that "this is hardly mission accomplished."

International Humanist and Ethical Union president Roy Brown worried that the clause would allow the OIC "to stop NGOs discussing human rights abuse by OIC states on the grounds of 'failure to respect' religion."...

...U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour acknowledged the text was not ideal but said "there is no reason to believe that more negotiating time will yield a better result."

Sorry, but that's not a good enough reason for the United States to go along with this charade.


U.S. State Dept. release of 2/27/06

March 5, 2006

It's All Buckeyes


Ohio State owns the Big Ten Championship in both mens and women's basketball, the first time a conference school has ever accomplished that feat. The Buckeyes (23-4) ran away from Purdue this afternoon after a close first half, to win 76-57, and clinch their first outright conference title since 1992. Bucknuts.com game story here.

Thad Matta's guys did it by going 5-3 on the road in the Big Ten, and had only one loss at home. Even though Matta and the Bucks won 20 games last year, most of the experts pegged them for the middle of the pack this season. Now they look like a #2 seed in the NCAA tounament barring a dismal showing in the Big Ten Tournament. Ranked No.8 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll currently, their RPI rating has risen to #4.

The fifth-ranked Lady Buckeyes (25-2) dominated the conference from start to finish, as the Big Ten postseason awards indicate. Jessica Davenport repeated as Big Ten Player of the Year, Kim Wilburn was named Defensive Player of the Year, and Coach Jim Foster won conference Coach of the Year honors. The only real blemish on their stellar season was a 16-point loss at home to 3rd-ranked LSU. They still have to prove they can play with the elite teams in the country, an opportunity that will come within a couple of weeks.

Conference tournaments and the Big Dance loom, but it's not too soon to say that congratulations are in order for Coach Foster and Coach Matta and their fine teams.

You might say it's a great time to be a Buckeye fan. Head football coach Jim Tressel has one title already, and has the team in the chase for the National Championship every year. He's coming off of a Big Ten co-championship and a No.4 national ranking in 2005, and landed the nation's No.1 ranked high school player in Akron running back Chris Wells for 2006.

Matta did him one better by winning the conference outright, and has also landed the top high school player in the nation for next season. 7-foot center Greg Oden will arrive in Columbus next year along with his teammate point guard Mike Conley, and two other touted recruits in swingmen David Lighty and Daequan Cook, giving Matta what some experts think is the best 2006 recruiting class in the country.

So the future looks bright, but the present group of basketball Bucks is promising too. Teams that have excellent coaching, strong senior leadership, especially at guard, shoot free throws well, and play solid half-court defense typically do well in the NCAA's. That our 2005-06 Ohio State Buckeyes.

UPDATE 3/5: The Lady Buckeyes advanced to the finals of the Big Ten Tournament Sunday, beating Michigan State 68-64.

March 3, 2006

Free Agent Plans On Hold

The Browns know they have to be right this year in their decisions about free agents. All indications are they're ready to move decisively, but the labor negotiation process has everybody pulling their punches.

A settlement also would raise the 2006 salary cap from the announced figure of $94.5 million to about $104 million. While that increase would allow other teams to keep some starting-caliber players off the market, it would raise the Browns' free agency bankroll to close to $30 million.

"If there's an 11th-hour agreement, we'd have even more room to operate and we might be able to accomplish things we're hopeful of doing, plus something else," Phil Savage, Browns general manager, said....

...With a full season as GM under his belt, Savage has been readying for free agency since December. He has identified club needs at defensive line, linebacker, receiver and punter.

Players who would fit those needs include:

Nose tackle Ma'ake Kemoeatu of Baltimore; defensive ends Anthony Weaver of Baltimore, Aaron Kampman of Green Bay and Brett Keisel of Pittsburgh; linebacker Bart Scott of Baltimore; linebackers Julian Peterson of San Francisco and Matt Wilhelm of San Diego; receivers David Givens of New England and Joe Jurevicius, a Chardon native, of Seattle; and punter Dave Zastudil of Baltimore, a native of Bay Village.

I haven't seen a lot of Matt Wilhelm as a pro, and he has been a backup for most of his three years with the Chargers, but if he's the same sure-tackling, tough All Big Ten kid I watched help win a National Championship in 2002 for the Buckeyes, I'd like to see him playing next to Andra Davis in the middle of the Brown' 3-4 defense this Fall. He's got good hands, he's smart, he's fast enough, and I don't think I saw a better tackler at Ohio State between Chris Speilman and A.J. Hawk.

I think the Browns finally have a personnel man in Savage who values what local kids and Buckeyes could bring to this franchise. I love the idea of bringing Joe Jurevicius, Wilhelm, and former Ohio U. Bobcat Dave Zastudil back to Cleveland. Punter Zastudil would be a 100% improvement over what we lived with last year. And the Browns have had a gaping hole where a good, veteran wide receiver should be since about, oh...1999. There will be tough competition for Jurevicius, I understand. The Steelers and several other teams are said to like the former Nittany Lion as well. However....

Crennel may prefer David Givens, a known entity to him from New England days. Givens is supposed to be coming to Cleveland to talk to the Browns. His career is impressive already, and he's only 25 (six years younger than Jurevicius.) Givens is another northeast Ohio guy, from Youngstown. He attended Notre Dame, but if he wears the orange hat I guess can forget that one strike against him. (After all, he didn't lose eight bowl games in a row all by himself, for heavens sake. He only played there for four of those years)

A bigger test for Savage and Crennel than just bringing the local boys home will be trying to land a top free agent like OLB Julian Peterson from the 49ers. I guess it would be a matter of Crennel convicing Peterson that he could thrive in the 3-4 scheme...plus a whole lot of money. Another former Buckeye and Clevelander, Pro Bowl center LaCharles Bentley was thought to be a possibility for Cleveland, where he would play either play guard or replace Faine at center. But I read today that he's all but signed with the Eagles.

Savage did sign two important guys already this week though, announcing just today the re-signing of Reuben Droughns to a three year deal, after retaining Orpheus Roye on Tuesday.

Back to the labor issue. The players have decided that they now must not only have a guarantee of 60% of team revenues, (while 55% was deemed fair to play for in the last contract) but they must also have a redefinition of what constitutes "revenue", adding in things like stadium naming rights and local radio deals for the first time. And Gene Upshaw categorically states "I'm not coming down".

This is nuts. We can assume that team revenues will continue to rise, can't we? I mean, they keep raising my ticket prices, the price of everything from parking to beer to T-shirts keeps going up, and the TV contracts set records every time they're renewed. So if the players get a fixed percentage of the gross, they will continue to make more every year. Why do they arbitrarily now decide that the minimum acceptable percentage of a redefined revenue formula must go up five percentage points...or else?

I'm not saying that the players have a monopoly on greed here. But the costs of all the things owners spend the other 45% of revenue on keep going up too. Gene Upshaw and the players union will not be serving their membership well if they hold to this unrealistic demand, which will cause dozens of players to lose their jobs or be forced to compete for offers in a "tight money" market for team management. Upshaw has made the silly statement that "only the owners can make a proposal". This on top of "I'm not coming down". Really, Gene? What are your union brethren paying you for then? To sit there and say to the owners, "keep raising your offer, and I'll let you know when to stop"? This thing will end when NFL players put enough pressure on Upsahw to strike a deal.

Agent Leigh Steinberg said:

As teams peer into the abyss, as they peer into the apocalypse, sanity will return. When the NFLPA and management truly recognize the nature of no agreement, their intelligence and rationality will force them into making a deal."

Trust in the intelligence and rationality of both sides? I'll just stay tuned.

Indians Undefeated

Tribe wins!, Tribe wins!

March 1, 2006

Life Lessons

This post by blogger Tom McMahon has been getting kudos around the blogosphere the last few days. Check it out to see why. I was unaware of McMahon's blog prior to this, but one reason his regular readers have been so impressed with this post is that they had no idea till now what he had been going through all these years.