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April 30, 2006

No Stars, No Moralizing, No Letup

Got out to see a matinee of United 93 this afternoon with Mrs. Wiz. Unfortunately, the hand-held camera shots, especially those inside the plane, gave her motion-sickness, and she couldn't watch much of the second half of ther movie. The best I can say is that it wasn't as hard on her as Twister, which virtually paralyzed her for hours. And she wasn't the only one with an upset stomach. The knot in my gut started with the opening scene, and it never left. No review here, just a comment or two. Links to real reviewers follow.

This is not a film you can walk out of and decide whether or not you "liked" it. How can you "like" a meticulously detailed recreation of real, live historical terror, blood and murder? It is unsettling. It is numbing. It is horrifying. It is unsatisfying. It is irritating. I recommend it highly.

The filmmakers refrain from doing much in the way of character development, and United 93 is devoid of political content. There are no explicit Hollywood "messages", as several reviewers have pointed out. By necessity, some of what happened on the plane is fictionalized, but so much of what went on on the ground, in air traffic control towers, at NORAD, and on television news, is on the historical record, that the film feels much more like documentary than dramatization.

I have read comments from some people who say that the film reminds us that we are in fact at war. I need no convincing on that point, but United 93 did not say that to me. The film does acknowledge that the four hijackers on board the airplane were in league with the hijackers on the other three planes. But it doesn't go beyond that to suggest a worldwide Islamist jihad against America. The term "al Qaeda" and the name "Osama" never come up. Instead, we get a lot of the things you might expect to see on a doomed U.S. airliner. Normal people saying telephone goodbyes to families. Bravery and fear. Tears and prayer. Hope and ingenuity. Chaos.

Go see it. It's not too soon.

Reviews and commentary on United 93:

The American Thinker

Gerard Vanderleun

Margaret Carlson

Rich Lowry

Ron Rosenbaum

John Podhoretz

April 29, 2006

All First Name Team


Phil Savage is a smooth talker, and chooses his words carefully, but at the same time he seems like a guy who couldn't B.S. you if he tried. Savage sounded sincerely surprised and delighted that he was able to land both Kamerion Wimbley and D'Qwell Jackson in today's draft, and it didn't come off as spin. You can listen to his press conference and read some of the things he said about Wimbley here.

"I'm in a little bit of a state of shock that Kamerion and D'Qwell are both Cleveland Browns," Savage said. "If someone had said to me before the draft that we'd get both of them, plus an extra sixth-round pick (as result of a trade with the Ravens earlier in the day), I wouldn't even have gone to the draft meeting. I would have done that right then.

"With what we did in free agency and what we've done so far in the draft, the picture is starting to come together for us."

As to D'Qwell Jackson, consider;

- The first player taken overall was Mario Williams, a defensive end from N.C. State, of the ACC.
- Florida State, also of the ACC, had four defensive players taken in the first round.
- Four other ACC defensive players went in the first round.
- In all, nine ACC defensive players were taken in the first 29 picks in the draft, a pretty amazing stat in itself.

However, the 2005 ACC Defensive Player of the Year was, as they say, none of the above.

It was D'Qwell Jackson.

Jackson is small for an inside linebacker at 6' 0", 230 lbs., but fast, and a vicious tackler. He led the ACC in tackles each of the last two seasons. You know what Phil Savage had to be thinking. It didn't take him long in the Saturday afternoon interview to say the name Ray Lewis, who was taken at about the same position in the draft when he came out of Miami. Obviously, it's way too early to compare the two. Jackson has yet to either win a Super Bowl or oversee the knife murder of two people.

I am scratching my head a bit over Savage's pick of Oklahoma WR Travis Wilson with the 3rd round pick. I was hoping for linemen on both sides of the ball before skill position people.

Wimbley is featured in this Len Pasquarelli piece on the trend toward versatility and playmaking ability in defensive players in this year's draft. It certainly helped Buckeye Donte Whitner shoot up draft boards, all the way to the No. 8 pick.

Speaking of Bucks, five 1st rounders should certainly help recruiting. Their seven first-day picks included a couple of surprises for me. I thought the Jets reached a bit to grab Anthony Schlegel in the 3rd round, and I assumed like most people that CB Ashton Youboty would go long before the 3rd. I expect Rob Sims, Mike Kudla, Josh Huston, and possibly Nate Salley to be drafted on Sunday.

UPDATE Sun. 4/30: Gabe Watson becomes the first Michigan Wolverine selected, in the 4th Round. Just sayin'.

Here are the ESPN player profiles on Wimbley, Jackson, and Wilson.

Fox Sports Pick-by-Pick Analysis of First Round.

Sunday 4/30:

Leon Williams, a 6' 3" inside linebacker from Miami U. (FL) is selected with the 110th pick (4th Rd.), Here are some excerpts from Scout.com's report on him (NAWS):

Tremendously gifted athlete with an impressive combination of height, build, speed and athletic ability. Shows good range vs. the run and can be a sideline-to-sideline pursuit ILB when he makes the right reads. He shows good closing burst and power as a tackler...

...He is a powerful tackler but he is too inconsistent in the open field. He will take some false steps and will bite on some play-fakes. He has great speed and athleticism for his size, but his marginal instincts and awareness in coverage make him a liability. In fact, it got so bad at Miami that he was taken out in every obvious passing situation.

D'Qwell Jackson Press Conference report.

Round 4 - Isaac Sowells, OT/OG, Indiana, 6' 3" 323 lbs.

Round 5 - Jerome Harrison, Running Back, Washington St. 5' 9 205 lbs. OBR story.

Round 5 - DeMario Minter, Cornerback, Georgia, 5' 11" 190 lbs.

Round 6 - Lawrence Vickers, Fullback, Colorado, 6' 0", 246 ibs.

Round 6 - Babatunde Oshinowo, Defensive Tackle, Stanford, 6' 1" 305 lbs.

Round 7 - Justin Hamilton, Safety, Virginia Tech, 6' 3" 230 lbs.

PD coverage of Day One here and here

Beacon Journal coverage here and here.

Browns picks as a group from ESPN.com

April 28, 2006

American Boom

Larry Kudlow

Today’s economy may be the greatest story never told. It’s an American boom, spurred by lower tax rates, huge profits, big productivity, plentiful jobs, and an ongoing free-market capitalist resiliency. It’s also a global boom, marked by a spread of free-market capitalism like we’ve never seen before.

The political resolution to the disconnect between fear (high energy prices) and reality (a great economy) remains to be seen. But as the data keep rolling in, the economy continues to surpass not only the pessimism of its critics, but even the optimism of its supporters.

April 27, 2006

Cancelled Postage

More funny business at the U.N. There seems to be an incredible collective memory loss among U.N. officials about who approved the auction of the organization's rare stamp archive. Who else is on the case but Claudia Rosett?

It would be comical if it weren't so pathetic. U.N. officials don't follow their own guidelines and procedures for authorization to sell the archive, and then the few people who have any memory at all of what happened say they sold it to raise some "seed money" for the U.N. Postal Administration, which loses millions on its own. Then the buyers turn around and break up the archive and resell it at several times the prices that the U.N. got for it at auction. We're talking only millions here, for an organization that has proven its capacity to squander billions at a time. But it's another symptom of the same disease of unaccountability.

Fresh Thinking

It's not 2000 anymore, and the economic and domestic policies that largely worked for Bush in the first term won't cut it in the second. So says Irwin Stelzer in an article that's full of reasonable criticisms and positive suggestions for the next three years.

Another List of Worsts

There's something for everyone to groan about in Page 2's compilation of the "100 Worst Draft Picks Ever". Many of these are less about who was picked and more about who wasn't. The first 18 picks in the 1983 baseball draft all make the list not just because they were no-names, but because the 19th pick was Roger Clemens. Kurt Brown, picked by the Tigers 5th overall in 1985 would be just another 1st round disappointment if the next pick had not been Barry Bonds. Same deal with the #1 guy on the list.

Worst Ever Songs

CNN.com readers voted on the worst songs of all time, and I must say I have very little disagreement with them on the Top Five vote-getters, especially when you consider that such deserving tunes as "Billy, Don't be a Hero", "Feelings", and "Sugar, Sugar" didn't even make the final cut. Take a look. You must admit it would be hard to bump any of these five losers from the list. My dad might have voted for "Take a Letter, Maria", which always caused him psychic pain when he was subjected to 70's pop music against his will, and we always mocked "Laurie", the silly 1965 Lee Dickey bit about the dead girl, the sweater, the graveyard...c'mon, tell me you remember. ("...strange things happen in this world".) Gag me. (saw it at Ace)

April 25, 2006

Spring Game 2006

Chris Wells.jpg

The guys sitting next to us couldn't quite believe that my friend and I would drive two hours to see an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday in Columbus. But a Spring Game record 63,649 showed up to see the Buckeyes play each other, so how crazy are we? I took this shot to show how full even C-deck was on the North end. OK, we're crazy, but we had a lot of company.

The game featured the OSU debut of heralded freshman-to-be Chris Wells (#28 pictured above) and the 17-year old running back did not disappoint the sun-drenched crowd. While his Garfield High School senior classmates back in Akron are getting ready for the Prom, Wells was butting heads with Division I college football players for the first time in public, and he gave Buckeye fans a taste of what's to come.

Wells had 48 yards in 11 carries, and a pass reception for a 9-yard first down. He's the real deal, Buckeye fans. He's 17 and he's got a body like a young Bo Jackson, (6' 2" 230 lbs). He broke the tackle of the first guy to hit him on almost every rushing attempt. and showed good speed to the outside. He delivered a blow to the defender and consistently fell forward for a couple of extra yards. Maurice Clarett without the baggage. Actually, I am convinced he is a better open field runner now than Clarett ever was. He has better lateral movement and open field instincts than MoC. There's no chance he redshirts now, even if he's starting the season as the third string RB. Eric Haw looked very strong too, so it looks like the team is as deep at the running back position as they have been in over a decade.

Not to be outdone, the other two true freshman who enrolled early for Spring practice stood out too. Linebacker Ross Homan was drawing comparisons to a guy named Hawk after recording 10 tackles and a sack for the Scarlet, and cornerback Kurt Coleman showed very well in coverage and in run support, and he had an acrobatic interception at the goal line in the 4th quarter that squelched a Gray drive.

The wide receiver corps is another embarrassment of riches for the Bucks. The starters, Ted Ginn Jr., Tony Gonzalez and Roy Hall are as good as any group in the country going into 2006, and my Spring Game MVP, freshman Brian Hartline (seven catches, 88 yards) teams up with sophomores Albert Dukes, Devon Lyons and Brian Robiskie to allow the Bucks to go seven deep at WR without missing a beat. And that's before speedster Ray Small shows up in August.

Troy Smith barely broke a sweat leading the Scarlet to the game's only touchdown in one quick series before he took off the pads for the day. The competition to see who plays QB in 2007 was the most talked about matchup of the day. I thought sophomore Todd Boeckman looked better on this day than did his rival, redshirt freshman Robb Schoenhoft. Boeckman has two years in the program, and the extra year of experience showed. He was more poised and in control than Schoenhoft, and threw a better ball, even though he had two picks to Robbie's one. Both guys are big kids with very strong arms, and they both made enough good throws and showed enough mobility to give fans encouragement for the future at the QB spot.

The key to the 2006 season, as it was in 2005, is the early September matchup with Texas. If the young Buckeye defense can mature faster than the young Texas offense, and we can steal a win in Austin, there might be no slowing down this team. Some say they are replacing nine defensive starters, but that's not entirely true. DE Lawrence Wilson and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins were starting at season's end, and they return along with DT's Quinn Pitcock and David Patterson. One impressive aspect of Saturday's game was the look of the team's pass rushing contingent. This is of course tempered by the fact that the starting offensive line had two starters sitting out altogether and the other three split between the two teams, so there was little cohesiveness in the OL play, but Vernon Gholston is back healthy and looked great rushing the passer, and Jay Richardson played like we have been waiting for him to play for three years. Wilson looked unblockable. Lots of depth there at DE, and also at DT where underclassmen Todd Denlinger and Nader Abdallah played impressively.

Projected linebacker starters Marcus Freeman and James Laurinaitis played solid if not spectacular games, and Chad Hoobler, who is my personal choice to play the middle ("Mike") position, was impressive, especially in defending the pass. Homan may just play himself right onto the field as a freshman, possibly at Hawk's "Will" linebacker spot, and JUCO transfer Larry Grant has the speed and athleticism to help coming off the edge, although he looked a bit lost in his first ever game action at the D-1 level.

Tressel proved last year that he'll start a freshman (Jenkins) at cornerback if he's the best player, and Coleman might eventually play a significant role this season. He looks that good. But so does redshirt freshman Andre Amos, who is bigger and stronger against the run than Coleman, and can also cover. Jenkins and Amos should start at corner, and Jamario O'Neal at one safety. The other safety is still up for grabs, but there are plenty of talented athletes competing for the job. The most experienced is Brandon Mitchell, who would probably start if they had to play a game today. But youngsters Anderson Russell and Donald Washington looked good Saturday and will push Mitchell out if he's not consistent.

The kicking was borderline spectacular in this game. Punter A.J. Trapasso dazzled, and both competing placekickers, Ryan Pretorius and Aaron Pettrey have big legs. One thing Tressel can do is develop kickers. The NFL keeps snatching up his punters and placekickers every year it seems.

Some of the early polls have the Bucks as preseason picks at #1 or #2. We know the offense will roll as long as Troy Smith is healthy. The defense is green, but hugely talented and well-coached. I think the D-line is good enough to cover for the back seven while they get their sea legs early in the season. The schedule is favorable after the trip to Austin and a tough game at Iowa (Penn State and Michigan in the Horseshoe). All is well in Columbus.

Bucknuts Photo Gallery

O-Zone Photo Gallery

April 24, 2006

LeBron's Debuts

Beacon Journal Cavs beat writer Brian Windhorst has been following LeBron James since they were classmates at Akron St. Vincent - St. Mary High School. Today Windhorst chronicles LeBron's firsts for ESPN.com. If the Cavs don't beat the Wizards again Tuesday, the triple-double from Saturday will be quickly forgotten. It'll be a happening in downtown Cleveland tomorrow night. I'll be across the plaza from "The Q", watching Curt Schilling try to go to 5-0 agaianst the Tribe. But I'll have my radio to keep tabs on The Chosen One.

The Start of Something?

A new "progressive alliance" has begun with the start-up of a website and a statement of principles, both known as The Euston Manifesto. In its Preamble, the founders state:

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

There are plenty of differences in priorities and outlook with conservatives, but this group speaks for and advocates a principled Left that returns to admirable liberal values, and their manifesto contains much with which conservatives can find common ground.

The founding group includes Norm Geras, Professor Emeritus of Politics at Manchester University, author of Normblog, a wonderful writer and friend of this blog, our political disagreements notwithstanding. I wish Norm and his movement all the best. I suspect they'll be looking to their left for most of the incoming fire. Here are the first three items of the manifesto, but please go read it all:

1) For democracy.

We are committed to democratic norms, procedures and structures — freedom of opinion and assembly, free elections, the separation of legislative, executive and judicial powers, and the separation of state and religion. We value the traditions and institutions, the legacy of good governance, of those countries in which liberal, pluralist democracies have taken hold.

2) No apology for tyranny.

We decline to make excuses for, to indulgently "understand", reactionary regimes and movements for which democracy is a hated enemy — regimes that oppress their own peoples and movements that aspire to do so. We draw a firm line between ourselves and those left-liberal voices today quick to offer an apologetic explanation for such political forces.

3) Human rights for all.

We hold the fundamental human rights codified in the Universal Declaration to be precisely universal, and binding on all states and political movements, indeed on everyone. Violations of these rights are equally to be condemned whoever is responsible for them and regardless of cultural context. We reject the double standards with which much self-proclaimed progressive opinion now operates, finding lesser (though all too real) violations of human rights which are closer to home, or are the responsibility of certain disfavoured governments, more deplorable than other violations that are flagrantly worse. We reject, also, the cultural relativist view according to which these basic human rights are not appropriate for certain nations or peoples.

They reject anti-Americanism, favor a two state solution for Israel and Palestine, and renounce terrorism in the strongest terms, including refusing to blame America and its policies as terrorism's cause. The flavor is a bit too internationalist for me, although we agree international institutions like the IMF and the WTO require "radical reform". Most conservatives I know, and most of the center-right bloggers and pundits I read and admire would applaud a return to first liberal principles by a majority segment of American Democrats, and would welcome an infusion of these values into today's Democratic Party.

Bill Kristol hopes for "...a rebirth of political courage and moral clarity on the American left..."

Reaction from Will Hutton in The Guardian

April 22, 2006

All We Want...

It's a few days old, but I wanted to share this great post by Jim Geraghty of TKS about how we want to have everything, and make sure it costs us nothing. He reacts to complaints from seniors that the new Medicaid prescription drug plan is "too complicated"...

... the message from America’s seniors on this issue is generally, “We want Medicare to cover the cost of every prescription drug we could need or want, and we want it paid for by somebody else.” We want a program that isn’t susceptible to fraud, but doesn’t make verification of claims too complicated or bothersome. We want it simple, but we want it to be responsive to the different needs of different seniors.

I can’t get too mad at seniors. As a whole, Americans want their taxes low, spending on their favorite programs to increase, and for the deficit to be reduced. In fact, on just about every major political issue, the public at large, when speaking through polls and man-on-the-street interviews, wants it both ways.

We get angry over high gas prices, but we don’t want to drill in Alaska. Or off the east coast. We don’t mind 50 states having fifty different fuel blend requirements, or local, state and federal taxes that can add up to anywhere from 33 cents (N.J.) to 62 cents (N.Y.) per gallon. We don’t want ugly oil refineries anyplace near communities, even though that’s where the demand for gasoline is.

On energy in general, we don’t like building power plants. Even clean coal pollutes too much for most of the environmental crowd. We can’t build nuclear power plants, because Jane Fonda was in a scary movie about them in the 1970s. Wind farms kill birds who fly into the blades. We can’t build a wind farm off Cape Cod because it would ruin the view of a certain environmentalist senator.

We hate sprawl and like efforts to preserve undeveloped areas and that beautiful countryside, but we find housing prices to be exorbitant, and lament the lack of nice neighborhoods with housing affordable for young families.

I applaud Porkbusters for a good effort, but by and large Americans’ views of pork barrel spending echoes their local lawmakers’ – spending on projects in the other guy’s district is pork; spending on projects in my district is a vital national priority.

There's lots more. Check it out.

April 21, 2006

Don't Doze Off

I got a kick out of 24: The Composite Celebrity Interview .

April 20, 2006

Sujiatun Follow-Up

A couple of weeks ago, this blog linked to Jay Nordlinger's account of the Chinese hospital facility at Sujiatun, which Chinese human rights activists insisted was being used to harvest the organs of living prisoners, principally the undocumented Falun Gong practitioners who are confined to Chinese prisons by the tens of thousands.

Horrific accounts of surgeons removing eyes, skin, livers, and kidneys from thousands of prisoners, many guilty only of practicing the Falun Gong meditation and exercise regimen, have prompted outrage and calls for investigations. A series of reports in The Epoch Times, an Asian news website, contained interviews with a Chinese journalist and the wife of a surgeon who worked in the organ harvesting facility at Sujiatun (see here and here, and an article archive.) These people describe a vast system of underground facilities beneath the main hospital at Sujiatun for surgical procedures, which includes a crematory to burn the human remains.

Some kind of investigation by U.S. Embassy officials has taken place by, as reported last Friday in a statement to reporters by State Department spokesman Sean McCormack:

"Officers and staff from our embassy in Beijing and consulate in Shenyang have visited the area and the specific site mentioned in these reports on two separate occasions," McCormack said.

"In these visits the officers were allowed to tour the entire facility and grounds and found no evidence that the site is being used for any function other than as a normal public hospital."

"We have raised these reports with the Chinese government and urged it to investigate these allegations," the spokesman said, noting that the Chinese government has denied the Falun Gong's allegations.

McCormack added: "We remain concerned over China's repression of Falun Gong practitioners."

(Official State Dept. site report)

An article in The Australian concedes that the charges are difficult to substantiate, in part because the two interviewees from the Epoch Times stories have insisted on remaining anonymous, and are in hiding in the United States. It goes on to say that:

It appears the claims by Falun Gong have been at least substantially exaggerated. Initial investigations by researchers for a US congressional committee have identified the site at Sujiatun as a hospital, where it is suspected organ harvesting occurs but on nowhere near the scale claimed by Falun Gong. The Chinese Foreign Ministry has dismissed the allegations as "absurd lies".

That is the quote cited by a commenter to my original post as proof that the whole thing was a hoax. But the Australian piece goes on to say the following:

But given past Chinese behaviour, the Falun Gong claims cannot be completely discounted. It is well established that China conducts so-called organ harvesting, including among the 5000 to 12,000 people sentenced to death each year, and not necessarily with their permission or that of their families. It is a lucrative trade, with overseas patients flying to China for transplants.

What is also clear is that China has a terrible human rights record, including in its repression of Falun Gong. According to the recently released US State Department report on human rights for 2005, the trend in China is towards increased harassment and imprisonment of those perceived as threatening government authority.

It estimates there are tens of thousands of political prisoners and about 300,000 people in "re-education through labour" camps, including thousands of Falun Gong adherents. The report quotes overseas estimates that up to 2000 of its members have died in custody and cites accounts of torture, rape and treatment in psychiatric hospitals.

The response of The Epoch Times to the State Department statement is to tell the U.S. government to "dig deeper."

The Epoch Times first reported on March 9 that organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners was taking place at Sujiatun, and our coverage of the atrocities taking place there has helped drive calls for an investigation.

We are glad to see that the U.S. has now taken the first steps to try in its own name to uncover the truth of what has been happening in China's hospitals and labor camps these past five years. Much more needs to be done.

The Chinese regime remained silent for three weeks as we reported more and more details about the organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners.

We have learned since that during those three weeks practitioners were transferred out of Sujiatun, and a cover-up was devised. The area was flooded with security agents pretending to be vendors, passerby, and tricycle drivers in order to deceive the journalists and investigators expected to appear in Sujiatun. In order to provide "legal" cover, a new directive on organ transplants was issued—although it will not go into effect until July 1...

... A U.S. investigation should involve direct interviews, unsupervised by Chinese regime officials, of health personnel throughout China...

...This investigation should demand answers to such questions as why a nation that in the seven years from 1991-1998 only performed 78 liver transplants performed 3,000 such liver transplants in 2003?

An organization called the Falun Dafa Information Center has called for a new international investigation into the allegations, and has also responded to the U.S. State Department's statement with one of its own. Excerpts from that response:

[The Falun Dafa Information Center] believes the conditions seen at the site are the product of a two-week “housecleaning” by Chinese communist authorities. “When China’s communist rulers start inviting the outside world to come investigate rights abuses—whereas normally they threaten and arrest any who try to do so—one has to pause and consider the motives,” said Center spokesperson Mr. Erping Zhang Sunday...

...While the Center applauds U.S. pressure on China’s communist regime over the organ harvesting of Falun Gong followers, it wishes to point out the trickery of Chinese communist authorities. What appeared to U.S. staff to be absence of evidence of abuse should not be confused with evidence of absence. Notably:

* The first visit, by one staff member, took place two weeks after the camp was first exposed

* The staff member was given a tour, as would be a prospective patient there, by Chinese authorities

* China’s regime had more than ample time, and warning, to sanitize and disguise the camp

* China’s regime quickly removed a number of Websites related to the Sujiatun area, including sites detailing the vast underground tunnel system of Shenyang, of which Sujiatun is a suburb

* China’s regime took fully three weeks to formulate a public reply concerning the camp

* Sources say the PRC has deployed in Sujiatun plainclothes police, posing as vendors, and hired local residents to give false information to investigators and media

* The state-run, Xinhua New Agency admitted on 4/12 that, “There were Falun Gong followers in Sujiatun, but all of them are now receiving rehabilitation [sic] programs in places outside the district.”

* The Center warned against PRC-facilitated visits, sensing a propaganda maneuver

* China’s regime has lied to foreign investigative bodies before, even when many lives were at risk

* As recently as 2003 it lied to WHO investigators, journalists, and foreign governments about the presence of SARS patients in hospitals; it evacuated hospitals before inspections and hid patients

* Six out of the last seven years China’s regime has refused to meet terms set by UN Torture Inspectors

So, could a group of U.S. officials be given a tour of a hospital, and not be aware of all that had been going on there? This excerpt from the interview with the wife of one of the surgeons gives us some idea of the answer to that question:

From 2001, our hospital started to detain Falun Gong practitioners. At the beginning, these people were detained in the single-storey houses in the back yard of the hospital. Later, the hospital authorities demolished the single-storey houses, and it was unknown where in the hospital the Falun Gong practitioners were transferred. Many staff of the hospital discussed in private that these Falun Gong practitioners had been secretly transferred to the underground chambers of the hospital. According to some people working inside the hospital, the hospital has a huge system of secret underground chambers.

At the time when we went to work there, the person in charge of logistics and purchasing in the hospital said that the quantity of disposable sterile gloves used for operations and daily supplies that the hospital authorities asked to be purchased had increased dramatically. The logistics people estimated based on the scale of purchases at that time that there were at least 6,000 Falun Gong practitioners detained in this hospital.

These Falun Gong practitioners were not detained in the 4-story building under the in-patient department and administration at the front of the hospital, in order to keep the hospital staff from seeing them at all. We only occasionally saw Falun Gong practitioners being sent on a mobile intensive care bed to the first floor for physical examinations. These people were very weak. For the majority of the Falun Gong practitioners, nobody knew where they were being secretly kept. While they still did not know where these people were kept, some staff inquired to the hospital authorities about why so much food and so many sterile gloves and daily supplies were purchased. The hospital authorities said, "You only need to do your job well. There is no need for you to ask any other questions."

Oh yes, back to the commenter on my original post on Sujiatun. A guy calling himself Bobby Fletcher posted multiple comments linking to articles casting doubt on the story of large-scale organ harvesting at Sujiatun. Seems he runs a recently-started Blogspot blog called "Sujiatun Concentration Camp - Fact or Fiction?", devoted obviously to the latter conclusion.

Whether he is operating on his own or at the behest of the Chinese Communist Party authorities, it's clear he has an ambitious agenda. A look at his Blogspot profile reveals that he has several other Blogspot sites as well, including one called "A Church in China", which argues that religious freedom exists in China. And if you think that one is fighting an uphill battle, take a look at "The Myth of Tiananmen Square Massacre". Talk about your full-time job!

Whether or not the claims about Sujiatun are exaggerated, what seems to be beyond dispute is that practitioners of Falun Gong are viciously persecuted by the ruling regime, and imprisoned by the tens of thousands, often without formal charges or even notification to their families. And coincidentally or not, the Chinese business in human organ sales and transplantation appears to be booming.


Who's in China's Prisons?

April 18, 2006

McCarthy's List

"Must Read" - "Clip and Save" - "Read the whole thing" - [Insert favorite tired blog cliché here]

Along the way to compiling a listing of the many, varied, and persuasive links that have now been shown to exist between Saddam and the al Qaeda terrorist organization, Andy McCarthy wonders aloud (again) why the administration refuses to forcefully make their own case justifying the invasion of Iraq.

The Bush administration evidently believes revisiting the case for toppling Saddam Hussein is a political loser. That this conclusion — which, of course, has played in the media like a tacit admission of guilt — is a terrible miscalculation becomes clearer with each passing day. As journalists, scholars, and analysts pore over more of the intelligence haul seized when U.S. forces toppled the Iraqi regime, the case for removing an America-hating terror-monger responsible for the brutal torture and murder of — literally — tens of thousands of people looks better and better. Still, the administration maddeningly refuses to go on offense in its defense.

McCarthy is compelling as usual, and this article sent me scrambling to my archives to retrieve something McCarthy wrote in a similar vein nearly two years ago. I saved it because I had been scratching my head for months wondering why the Bush team wasn't loudly touting the abundant evidence of the Saddam - al Qaeda connection.

McCarthy's words then made more sense to me than anything I had read to that point, and they make just as much sense today. It's all good, but this is what stuck with me...

Plainly, there is a case to be made that Saddam was, at the very least, an aider and abettor of a militant Islamic terror network with which we have been at war for over two years. If he was, then that was at least as good a rationale as fears about WMD for toppling him militarily. Why, then, has the administration, besieged by peals of thunderous criticism about the Iraq venture, failed to make the case?

It is hard to say. It could be that the country's fervor for the summoning rhetoric of the Bush Doctrine is not matched by true conviction about what it literally commands. Iraq is hardly the only state sponsor of terrorism — Iran and Syria come instantly to mind, and the jury is still out on whether the Saudis (who say all the right things and fund all the wrong things) are friends or foes. The administration must thus ask: Do we really want to posit that evidence of terror ties is sufficient cause for us to launch military operations? Plainly, it is a far easier thing to heed the Bush Doctrine as a matter of hortatory aspiration than to execute it — which would involve explaining to an already weary country, through the din of an anti-war press, that Iraq is far from the last stop on the long march. Yet, when the case for war is argued as a "links with al Qaeda" test, it immediately implicates uncomfortable matters of policy: What's the principled reason for not having invaded Iran? Do we have a sufficiently robust military to execute the Bush Doctrine? Do we have the budget to carry it out? Do we have the will?

As far as I can see, the answers to McCarthy's last three questions are, regrettably, "probably not", "probably not", and "no".


FPM interview with Thomas Joscelyn

Stephen Hayes Archive

April 17, 2006

Hitch on Wilson-Zahawie

Christopher Hiitchens follows up last week's piece on the Iraqi nuclear specialist who was Saddam's diplomatic envoy to Niger with more on him, and on "the utterly clueless Joe Wilson". The money graph:

In other words (I am prepared to keep on repeating this until at least one cow comes home), Joseph Wilson went to Niger in 2002 to investigate whether or not the country had renewed its uranium-based relationship with Iraq, spent a few days (by his own account) sipping mint tea with officials of that country who were (by his wife's account) already friendly to him, and came back with the news that all was above-board. Again to repeat myself, this must mean either that A) he did not know that Zahawie had come calling or B) that he did know but didn't think it worth mentioning that one of Saddam's point men on nukes had been in town. In neither case, it seems to me, should he be trusted with another mission that requires any sort of curiosity.

Hitchens paints a picture of a Joe Wilson completely in the dark while in Niger, not considered by his own contacts there to be consequential enough to entrust with important information. I don't buy the "clueless" bit, though. I think the results of Wilson's mission were determined before he even left the U.S.A. He was to return with findings that would discredit and undermine the Bush administration's Iraq policy, even if, as it in fact turned out, those "findings" were necessarily lies. I'm glad someone is still holding Wilson's feet to the fire on this.

April 16, 2006

Defensive Choices

A Canton Repository story suggests that the Browns options for the 12th selection in the NFL Draft seem to have narrowed to four players, and writer Steve Doerschuk identifies the likely targets as:

- Oregon defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

- Florida State defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley.

- Florida State defensive end Kamerion Wimbley.

- North Carolina State defensive end Manny Lawson.

This all makes sense to me. I'd be shocked if the Browns failed to use their first round pick on a "front seven" defensive player, and from what I've read, any of these four guys could help immediately on a defense that currently lacks athleticism at the "outside" positions of end and linebacker. Ngata is the only one of the four projected to play inside, as the Browns are reported to favor moving Bunkley to an end position to utilize his speed, although he played at a tackle spot in college. Ngata is a 345 pound, prototype nose guard for the 3-4 defense. While I'd love to have a guy like that, I'm leaning toward the pass-rushing, outside speed guy in the first round. For the record, Phil Savage has not yet asked for my advice on this matter.

ESPN.com's latest Mock Draft has the Browns taking Wimbley (with Bunkley already gone to Buffalo at No. 8, and passing on Ngata, who they project going 13th to Baltimore.)

ESPN's Mel Kiper has now projected four full rounds of draft selections. After Wimbley, he has the Browns taking Iowa LB Abdul Hodge in Round 2, Pitt OG Charles Spencer in the 3rd round, and Georgia CB DeMario Minter and Texas DT Rodrique Wright with their two fourth round selections.

OSU fans will be interested to note that Kiper projects six Buckeyes going in the first 37 picks...A.J. Hawk - #5 to Green Bay; Donte Whitner- #16 to Miami; Santonio Holmes - #21 to New England; Ashton Youboty - #31 to Seattle; Nick Mangold - #34 to New Orleans; Bobby Carpenter - #37 to San Francisco.

For the second year in a row, the Bucks have the No. 1 rated placekicker in the draft in Josh Huston. Last year Mike Nugent was drafted in the second round, but Huston will probably have to wait until the draft's second day to hear his name called.

SI.com's Mock Draft has the Browns passing on both Wimbley and Bunkley to take FSU's Ernie Sims, an outside linebacker. Can't see that happening. Fox Sports Mock Draft says the Browns take Wimbley. Fox also has a detailed look at the draft needs and personnel situations for all the AFC North teams.

A fairly new phenomenon in the NFL Draft preparation is the private workout for top draft prospects, and part of that program is the college-sponsored "Pro Day" workout, where a school's draft eligible players, as well as some underclassmen, get to show their stuff for NFL scouts. Last year, Maurice Clarett bombed out of the top rounds by showing up fat and slow to a private pre-draft workout. This year, SI.com rated the top 10 players who helped themselves with good Pro Day showings. I'm not sure how A.J. Hawk can be rated No. 1, since he was a Top 5 prospect even before the Pro Day workouts, but it's not surprising that he knocked scouts' socks off with his performance. I may adopt the Packers as my second team.

Thinking About Iran

Three good pieces on our policies and options regarding Iran, excerpted briefly, and presented without comment except to recommend reading them in their entirety.

Mark Helprin - After Diplomacy Fails

If, like his predecessors Saladin, the Mahdi of Sudan and Nasser, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad goes for the long shot, he may have in mind to draw out and damage any American onslaught with his thousands of surface-to-air missiles and antiaircraft guns; by a concentrated air and naval attack to sink one or more major American warships; and to mobilize the Iraqi Shia in a general uprising, with aid from infiltrated Revolutionary Guard and conventional elements, that would threaten U.S. forces in Iraq and sever their lines of supply. This by itself would be a victory for those who see in the colors of martyrdom, but if he could knock us back and put enough of our blood in the water, the real prize might come into reach. That is: to make such a fury in the Islamic world that, as it has done before and not long ago, it would throw over caution in favor of jihad. As simply as it can be said, were Egypt to close the canal, and Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to lock up their airspace -- which, with their combined modern air forces, they could -- the U.S. military in Iraq and the Gulf, bereft of adequate supply, would be beleaguered and imperiled.

Reuel Marc Gerecht - To Bomb or Not to Bomb?

The diplomatic process, no matter how hard the Europeans and the Americans may try, is coming to a close. Unless the Iranians prove more helpful than they have been since the election of Ahmadinejad and, as important, since the highly intelligent and tough former Revolutionary Guard commander Ali Ardeshir Larijani assumed responsibility for the nuclear portfolio in August 2005, it will take a near miracle to keep the diplomatic dialogue going on this subject for more than another twelve months.

To avoid thinking about preventive military strikes or a public avowal of failure against the clerics, the Bush administration may have one more "realist" moment, and attempt to bribe the clerical regime into giving up its uranium-enrichment capabilities. It does not appear that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, let alone the president, really believes that "carrots" could satisfy the mullahs' two-decade-old appetite for nukes. To believe in such "realism" when it comes to the clerical regime, you have to believe that economics trumps politics among the ruling elite. Yet modern Middle Eastern--and especially Iranian--history clearly shows that ideology has run roughshod over economic pragmatism.

Mark Steyn - Policy on Iran nukes seems to be off-target

You know what's great fun to do if you're on, say, a flight from Chicago to New York and you're getting a little bored? Why not play being President Ahmadinejad? Stand up and yell in a loud voice, "I've got a bomb!" Next thing you know the air marshal will be telling people, "It's OK, folks. Nothing to worry about. He hasn't got a bomb." And then the second marshal would say, "And even if he did have a bomb it's highly unlikely he'd ever use it." And then you threaten to kill the two Jews in row 12 and the stewardess says, "Relax, everyone. That's just a harmless rhetorical flourish." And then a group of passengers in rows 4 to 7 point out, "Yes, but it's entirely reasonable of him to have a bomb given the threatening behavior of the marshals and the cabin crew."

That's how it goes with the Iranians. The more they claim they've gone nuclear, the more U.S. intelligence experts -- oops, where are my quote marks? -- the more U.S. intelligence "experts" insist no, no, it won't be for another 10 years yet. The more they conclusively demonstrate their non-compliance with the IAEA, the more the international community warns sternly that, if it were proved that Iran were in non-compliance, that could have very grave consequences. But, fortunately, no matter how thoroughly the Iranians non-comply it's never quite non-compliant enough to rise to the level of grave consequences. You can't blame Ahmadinejad for thinking "our enemies cannot do a damned thing."

Just In Case...

Hey, you never know when this stuff might come in handy. (via Ace)

The "16 Words" - True

It's no news flash for anyone who is familiar with the Butler Report or the SSCI Report that Iraq really did seek to buy uranium in Niger, contrary to the CW that "Bush lied" in his 2003 State of the Union address. But there are a couple of good articles this past week persuasively making the case that indeed Bush was right when he uttered those 16 words.

Christopher Hitchens' Slate piece in particular, provides information not widely publicized previously, about the Iraqi diplomat involved in the Niger effort, and about the crudely forged documents which were used to try to discredit the true story of Iraq's quest for Nigerian uranium. Read it all.

And as John Leo's column points out, even the Washington Post has come around to admit that the "16 words" were true.

In a surprising editorial, The Washington Post deviated from the conventional anti-Bush media position on two counts. It said President Bush was right to declassify parts of a National Intelligence Estimate to make clear why he thought Saddam Hussein was seeking nuclear weapons. And the editorial said ex-ambassador Joseph Wilson was wrong to think he had debunked Bush on the nuclear charge because Wilson's statements after visiting Niger actually "supported the conclusion that Iraq had sought uranium."

Of course, Wilson didn't "think he had debunked Bush". He lied about what he had discovered in Niger once he got home. He told the truth in his CIA debriefing, and then lied to the New York Times. That much of America still believes the lie is a testament to the media's willingness to abandon truth-telling when it suits their agenda.

Here is what the Butler Report, the British investigation of pre-war intelligence, concluded about reports of Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from Niger:

From our examination of the intelligence and other material on Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Africa, we have concluded that:

a. It is accepted by all parties that Iraqi officials visited Niger in 1999.

b. The British Government had intelligence from several different sources
indicating that this visit was for the purpose of acquiring uranium. Since
uranium constitutes almost three-quarters of Niger’s exports, the intelligence
was credible.

c. The evidence was not conclusive that Iraq actually purchased, as opposed to
having sought, uranium and the British Government did not claim this.

d. The forged documents were not available to the British Government at the time
its assessment was made, and so the fact of the forgery does not undermine it.

More doubt about the conventional wisdom on Iraqi WMD comes up in this story from The Spectator. (via Ace)

April 14, 2006

OSU Librarian Charged With Harrassment

How embarrassing it is, at this moment, to consider myself a "fan" of anything having to do with this university. Incredible. (via The Corner)

UPDATE 4/16: More details on the seemingly illogical "sexual" nature of the charge against the librarian, from this post at Volokh Conspiracy. Seems one of the books was perceived to be "anti-gay" and the complainants are two gay male professors who are making a "hostile environment" claim. I see.

April 13, 2006

Spring Break

Back from a week out of town having had only minimal Internet access during that time. That feels like a good thing, by the way, I wasn't complaining. I'll spare you the travelogue except to say we had a great week in the state of North Carolina, from RTP to Asheville. Much to read and digest before deciding what cries out to be posted here from the past week of bloglessness. I think my baseball team is still in first place, for example.

April 6, 2006

Baby Steps

After an ugly start in the rain-delayed 10-4 loss to the White Sox on Sunday in the opener, I was hoping the Indians could salvage one win in the 3-game series in Chicago this week. But the Tribe bounced back in a big way to take the series, winning the rubber match today 4-3, in 11 innings. A couple of observations:

- The one-run win today is one more than the Indians won all last season against the White Sox. They were 0-9 in one-run games against the White Sox in 2005, and 5-14 overall against Chicago.

- Beating the Chisox two out of three was due in no small part to the fact that leadoff man Scott Podsednik and cleanup hitter Paul Konerko went a combined 1 for 26 in the series. Hope the other Indians pitchers were taking notes.

- Bob Wickman, who got the save for the Tribe today, looks amazingly fit this Spring (it's all relative, people). I'd guess he's at least 10-15 pounds lighter than last year. We'll find out soon.

- The bare-handed pickup and throw by Ronnie Belliard on a slow roller to second, preventing what would have been the winning run for the Sox in the ninth inning, was as good a play as we'll see out of any second baseman all year, I'd bet. Vizquelesque.

April 5, 2006

Blogger of the Year

Just a quick shout out to congratulate Ed Morrissey of Captains Quarters for being named Blogger of the Year by The Week Magazine. Ed is always one of the first stops in my daily blog routine. Give it a look if you're not already in the habit.

April 3, 2006

Carry That Weight

If you haven't seen the juggling video of Chris Bliss set to Abbey Road music by now, you must be hanging out in a tree with lizards. I had heard the Bliss routine knocked for being relatively simple by juggler standards, as he used only three balls. Now there's a guy who disses Bliss, doing a similar routine with five. It's referred to as a "parody". I'd call it TwoUpmanship. Now, I'm impressed! (via NLT)

April 2, 2006

Ebola Is The Answer

It's not so shocking to hear that a University of Texas evolutionary ecology professor advocates depopulating the planet Earth by killing a few billion people with the Ebola virus, because we are "no better than bacteria", and we are despoiling the planet, scourging the earth, you know the drill. There are cranks with tenure in universities all over the world. He probably didn't even make Horowitz's book.

What is much more disturbing is that after a recent speech before The Texas Academy of Science, in which Dr Eric Pianka put forth his gruesome mass-death scenario as environmental policy, he was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation, and has also been named the recipient of the Academy's 2006 Distinguished Scientist Award.

A last minute decision prohibited videotaping of the speech, because Pianka says the general public is not yet ready to hear what he has to tell us, and that for now, he "speak[s] to the converted". You know, the enlightened of the Texas Academy of Science, and other bien pensant types, who already realize that if we are to save the planet, we are going to have to kill two thirds of the human beings on it, preferably in the most horrific fashion. It's quick, you understand. The rest of us will presumably be told when we're "ready."

Dr. Pianka is said to have several students who "idolize" him. Have any kids in college? (via Drudge)

UPDATE 4/2: A follow up article on Dr. Pianka and his weirdness.

UPDATE:4/3: Wow. Amazing comment thread here, generated by a link from this post, featuring acquaintances of Dr. Pianka on both sides of the debate. Even if we were all agreed (we aren't) that man is the scourge of the Earth, and agreed that hypothetically the Ebola virus would be an efficient killer of huge quantities of humans, I guess the question must be; is that an outcome that is to be hoped for, or thought desirable, as seems to be Dr. Pianka's view?

No, that's a sick and reprehensible view, in the opinion of your humble blogger. Carry on.

The April Fools Day hoax idea did occur to me, and if Dr. Pianka is somewhere in Texas tonight still chortling into his beard over the furor he has caused, then good for him. I doubt it.

UPDATE 4/3: Pianka responds. He was taken out of context, he says:

Pianka said he was only trying to warn his audience that disease epidemics have happened before and will happen again if the human population growth isn't contained.

He said he believes the Earth would be better off if the human population were smaller because fewer natural resources would be consumed and humans wouldn't continue to destroy animal habitats. But he said that doesn't mean he wants most humans to die.

2006 Predictions


It's Opening Day, and the experts are going on record with their 2006 predictions for Major League Baseball. Oh yeah, and me too. At ESPN, where fully 19 baseball experts reside, 11 guys pick the White Sox to repeat as Central Division champs, and 7 go with the Indians to win it. Only two of the nineteen ESPN.com writers however, pick the Chisox to repeat as World Series winners. The A's are the popular choice with 7 votes, followed by the Yankees with four.

Only 3 of 19 writers picked a National League team to win the World Series. I think that reflects a consensus among baseball people that the American League is clearly the superior league at the moment. My sense is that until the Mets or someone else prove it, the Cardinals are the only NL team on a par with as many as 6-8 AL teams. The Power Rankings have AL teams dominating the top four to six spots. Fox. ESPN.

Seeing two of the ESPN guys picking Grady Sizemore to be the AL MVP excites me. But I think there are three other guys on the Indians who could conceivably win it. One writer picks Travis Hafner, and I'd think Martinez and Sabathia could be on somebody's short list if the Indians win the pennant or something. And I had to go look up Ian Kinsler, a popular AL Rookie of the Year pick, and a totally new name to me.

All six of the PD experts pick the White Sox to win the Central. They obviously don't like the Tribe as much as their national counterparts. Keep in mind, this is the same PD group who, with one exception, picked the Twins last year.

A win tonight in Chicago would be so huge. Just one of the 92 I think they'll win this year, but it would supercharge the fan base and the city, and jumpstart the home attendance. We need that.

April 1, 2006

Eye-Opener On The U.N.

Here's the second half of a Claudia Rosett double-dip. It's her new Commentary Magazine feature "How Corrupt is the United Nations?" It's too tough to excerpt, so go read it all...even if you know the answer to the question.

Scot Free

Claudia Rosett meets Benon Sevan...

I knocked. The tall, bespectacled 69-year-old answered, wearing a gray-and-blue T-shirt, warm-up pants, slippers and a thin gold watch. He recognized me instantly, and protested: "I don't want to talk to you. I have nothing to say." We stared at each other, and he volunteered: "I am not ashamed to look in the mirror when I shave myself." Then: "I am closing the door now."

But he didn't.