« March 2007 | Main | May 2007 »

April 30, 2007

Scorching Tenet

Andy McCarthy, Christopher Hitchens and Michael Ledeen rip the new George Tenet book and his "60 Minutes" appearance. This from Hitchens' piece, which calls the Tenet book "a disgrace":

...Tenet informed the Senate armed services committee that: "We believe that Saddam never abandoned his nuclear weapons program." It is a little bit late for him to pose as if Iraq was a threat concocted in some crepuscular corner of the vice president's office. And it's pathetic for him to say, even in the feeble way that he chooses to phrase it, that "there was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat." (Empasis added) There had been a very serious debate over the course of at least three preceding administrations, whether Tenet "knew" of it or not.


In the post-Kuwait-war period, there was little political risk in doing what Tenet had always done and making the worst assumption about anything that Saddam Hussein might even be thinking about. (Who but an abject idiot would ever make a different assumption or grant the Baathists the smallest benefit of the least doubt?) But we forget so soon and so easily. The problem used to be the diametrically opposite one. The whole of our vaunted "intelligence" system completely refused to believe any of the warnings that Saddam Hussein was about to invade and occupy Kuwait in 1990. By the time the menace was taken seriously, the invasion itself was under way. This is why the work of Kenneth Pollack (this time titled The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq) was received with such gravity when it was published in 2002. Pollack had interpreted the signals correctly in 1990—and been ignored—and was arguing that another final round with Saddam was inevitable. His book did more to persuade policy-makers in Washington than anything ever said by Ahmad Chalabi. To revisit these arguments is to be reminded that no thinking person ever felt that the danger posed by a totalitarian and aggressive Iraq was a negligible one. And now comes Tenet, the man who got everything wrong and who ran the agency that couldn't think straight, to ask us to sympathize with his moanings about "Iraq—who, me?"

UPDATE 5/2: Throw in Jonah for good measure.

A Sense of Urgency....Finally

Even if Browns fans (like me) aren't thrilled with the Brady Quinn selection, they've got to give Phil Savage points for aggressiveness as he tries to drag this franchise up to respectability. If he's able to fill the three toughest positions to fill on an NFL team...a top cover corner, a blue chip left tackle and a productive quarterback...in one draft, and all three turn out to be reliable, long term starters, he's off the hook for giving up next year's top draft choice.

That, and he's got to win....now.

This Browns draft had just a whiff of desperation to it. Most teams don't trade draft choices two for one, multiple times in one draft. But frankly, after eight years of mediocre, boring football, some buzz for buzz' sake is welcome. So I'll salute Savage's roll of the dice, even though I'm skeptical about Quinn's potential. We have seen entirely too little sense of urgency with this organization, especially pre-Savage. To his credit, Crennel has been consistent in stressing nothing but the winning of games. But they both know that now they need to win in a hurry.

I sensed in Savage in this draft period, a real urge to throw off this unbelievable streak of freak injuries, staph infections, crotch-rocket crashes, and every bad break one could imagine...to go along with, and contribute to, playing losing football. That's refreshing to see, although the way this guy has maintained such a positive outlook throughout all the grief is laudable in itself. That said, despite his reputation for talent evaluation, his track record selecting quarterbacks is spotty. And he really needs to be right on this one to keep his gig in Cleveland going.

I had not seen in Brady Quinn what many scouts saw: a franchise quarterback, and one of the top five players in the draft. Apparently, quite a few NFL teams agreed. I advocated for Peterson and Thomas, and was delighted by the Thomas pick. And now that Quinn is in the orange and brown, that pesky Irish problem is all over with for me. I fully acknowledge that I may have been blinded to the merits of Quinn by my anti-Notre Dame bias. It's not personal. I've never minded seeing him have great games in Irish losses, for example. The Buckeyes recruited the Columbus kid relentlessly. He's one of the few recruiting battles with Notre Dame that OSU lost in those days. (I guess it's a "Quinn" thing. Seems the kid was Irish all his life. OSU had no chance.)

Still I can't wait for the Baltimore Ravens to come to town, one fine Sunday within the next two or three years, with Glenville's Troy Smith as their starting quarterback, to face off with the Browns and Quinn. High drama. Will Ozzie have the last laugh?

I relished almost every minute of Troy Smith's playing career, but 2006 was the year he owned. First he owned Notre Dame and Quinn in early January in the Fiesta Bowl. Then he out-dueled his Heisman co-favorite Quinn throughout the season, and walked off with the hardware in December. I will probably have to squirm a little bit in my seat over in Sec 129, and engage in some mental gymnastics to convince myself to root for the Brady Quinns over the Troy Smiths. Baby steps.

April 27, 2007

Big Fish

Thomas Joscelyn has some suggestions for U.S. interrogators questioning recently captured al Qaeda operative Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. Seems they have been questioning him for several months already, however, as reports indicate he was captured in late 2006, and has been held at a secret detention facility before being sent to Guantanamo Bay within the last few days.

More at worldwidestandard.com , at CQ, and at Hot Air, on the arrest of al-Hadi.

Savage Pick

Page 2's D.J. Gallo has a tongue-in cheek NFL Draft Preview, predicting that the Browns will select Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn with the third pick tomorrow. But he's too close to being right to be very funny.

Although the Browns drafted Charlie Frye just two years ago as their quarterback of the future, Quinn is seen as a slight upgrade over Frye and will be the pick here. Expect the Browns to continue this draft strategy of making small improvements at the quarterback position every two years, culminating in their having a slightly above-average NFL quarterback in the year 2027.

It's exactly the reason most Browns fans I talk to don't want any part of Quinn. His selection would leave the Browns with three young, unproven quarterbacks instead of the current two. Many of us just don't see a franchise-caliber quarterback in Quinn, much as we'd love to see the Ohio kid make good....somewhere. And we have grown tired of seeing Browns QB's get tossed around like rag dolls, and have their legs broken, because the team lacks a decent offensive line and a good running game. He might be an upgrade over Frye, but not enough to justify using the third pick in the draft on him.

On top of that, Coach Romeo Crennel needs to win this year in order to save his job, making it less likely that he'll be enthusiastic about drafting a long-term project like Quinn. My hope is that GM Phil Savage will go with running back Adrian Peterson or offensive tackle Joe Thomas when they select shortly after noon on Saturday. I wouldn't be too upset to see them trade down a couple of spots (not any lower than the 6th or 7th spot) in order to pick up an extra pick or two, but I don't expect that to happen. Expect Thomas or Peterson to be wearing the orange hat in the Fall.

April 26, 2007

Iran in Iraq, Joe, and Yellowcake

From the press conference held today by Gen. Petraeus: (via PJM- Michael Ledeen), when asked to comment on Iranian involvement in the Iraqi insurgency:

The Iranian involvement has really become much clearer to us and brought into much more focus during the interrogation of the members — the heads of the Qazali network and some of the key members of that network that have been in detention now for a month or more. This is the head of the secret cell network, the extremist secret cells. They were provided substantial funding, training on Iranian soil, advanced explosive munitions and technologies as well as run of the mill arms and ammunition, in some cases advice and in some cases even a degree of direction. When we captured these individuals — the initial capture, and then there have been a number of others since then — we discovered, for example, a 22-page memorandum on a computer that detailed the planning, preparation, approval process and conduct of the operation that resulted in five of our soldiers being killed in Karbala. It also detailed — there are numerous documents which detailed a number of different attacks on coalition forces, and our sense is that these records were kept so that they could be handed in to whoever it is that is financing them. And there’s no question, again, that Iranian financing is taking place through the Quds force of the Iranian Republican Guards Corps.

Ledeen adds this:

Petraeus was pressed on the “how high up the Iranian line does this chain of command go? And he repeated that we know that some of the people we’re interrogating report to General Sulemaini, the head of the Qods Force, but beyond that we don’t know.

As I’ve said before, this is lawyer-talk, not intelligence talk. And of course the journalist’s question betrays the usual lack of knowlege of the Iranian chain of command. The Revolutionary Guards, of which Qods is the foreign arm, report to the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei), NOT to the president. So the reference to Ahmadinejad shows the journalist’s ignorance. But to believe that a Qods campaign is being conducted without Khamenei’s approval is as silly as the belief that a Special Forces campaign could be conducted without White House approval. No way.

Senator Lieberman went public in a big way today, with an op-ed in the Washington Post , which included his rejoinder to Harry Reid:

When politicians here declare that Iraq is "lost" in reaction to al-Qaeda's terrorist attacks and demand timetables for withdrawal, they are doing exactly what al-Qaeda hopes they will do, although I know that is not their intent.

Even as the American political center falters, the Iraqi political center is holding. In the aftermath of last week's attacks, there were no large-scale reprisals by Shiite militias -- as undoubtedly would have occurred last year. Despite the violence, Iraq's leadership continues to make slow but visible progress toward compromise and reconciliation.

But if tomorrow Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds were to achieve the "political solution" we all hope for, the threat of al-Qaeda in Iraq would not vanish.

Al-Qaeda, after all, isn't carrying out mass murder against civilians in the streets of Baghdad because it wants a more equitable distribution of oil revenue. Its aim in Iraq isn't to get a seat at the political table; it wants to blow up the table -- along with everyone seated at it.

And Lieberman's floor speech from the Senate today was powerful. Please don't miss this.


Proving the validity of the theory that if you repeat a lie often enough it will come to be regarded as the truth, the AP, in a story about congressional investigations of the Bush administration, ran this whopper:

By 21-10, the House oversight committee voted to issue a subpoena to Rice to compel her story on the Bush administration's claim, now discredited, that Iraq was seeking uranium from Africa.

I initially saw this linked by CQ, and was surprised that the statement went unremarked by Ed, (although one of his commenters landed on it). Because of course the finding that Iraq sought to purchase uranium in Africa has never been "discredited". Not by Joe Wilson, nor by anyone else. Wilson's debriefing by the CIA upon his return from Niger left the Agency more convinced than before that Saddam had indeed been trying to buy yellowcake there, and British intelligence has never backed down from their multiple-sourced report on the matter.

In any event, Taranto was all over it today, citing the non-partisan Factcheck.org as the authority. Even their take on the issue sounded as though they had bought into Wilson's Big Lie, and were surprised to find out that Bush's famous "16 words" in the 2003 State of the Union Address were truthful. These are the first words of the Factcheck summmary: (emphasis mine)

The famous “16 words” in President Bush’s Jan. 28, 2003 State of the Union address turn out to have a basis in fact after all, according to two recently released investigations in the US and Britain.

The "after all" of course refers to the constant repetition in the media of the "Bush lied" meme, alongside the celebration of Joe Wilson as a whistle-blower, when in reality Wilson has been exposed as a partisan liar and a shameless publicity hound....after all.

April 24, 2007

Glimmers of Hope

Reuel Marc Gerecht's piece for the editors of the Weekly Standard will likely be missed by the people who need to read it the most...but maybe someone will slip Harry Reid a copy:

...politically, Iraq is coming alive again. A Shiite-led Iraqi democracy is taking root--an astonishing achievement given the concerted efforts of the Iraqi Sunnis, and the surrounding Sunni Arab states, to attack and delegitimize the new Iraq. The country's obstreperous, stubborn, highly nationalist, Shiite prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, appears increasingly to be a man of mettle and courage. Slowly but surely, he is distancing himself from the clerical scion, Moktada al-Sadr, the overlord of the Sunni-shooting Mahdi Army. Maliki is so far holding his ground after the resignation of Sadr's men in his government.


Senator Reid should take note: As a Shiite-led democracy grows, the calls for an American withdrawal will increase. Which is fine. Iraqi nationalism is vibrant among the Shiites, especially those who are religious. And democracy in Iraq, as elsewhere in the Muslim Middle East, is unlikely to be particularly affectionate toward the United States. Iraqi democracy is much more likely to free American soldiers to go home than is chaos in Mesopotamia.


The Sunni insurgency will likely cease when the Sunnis, who have been addicted to power and the perception of the Shiites as a God-ordained underclass, know in their hearts that they cannot win against the Shiites, that continued fighting will only make their situation worse. Thanks in part to the ferocity of vengeful Shiite militias, we are getting there. And the growing realization in Iraq, and among Western oil companies, that substantial oil deposits exist in the Sunni Arab zone could prove helpful in assuaging Sunni fears about starving in the new Iraq. Even for Iraqi Sunnis, the signs for a better future are increasing. A livable democratic arrangement is there if Sunni Arabs choose to take it. One thing ought to be clear: Without President Bush's surge, the only thing Iraq's Sunnis can look forward to is war, death, and exile. If there are potentially influential moderates among Iraq's Sunni Arabs, the "surge" is their last chance to change the rejectionist temperament and tactics of the community.

So the surge deserves to be supported. This is not the time for talk of timetables for withdrawal--much less talk of a war that is lost. It isn't inconsistent to scorch Bush for his failures--and still to argue that the American blood we will spill in Iraq in the surge is worth the possibility of success. Do thoughtful Democrats really believe that the Middle East, America's long fight against Sunni jihadism, and our standing in the world against potential aggressors and bullies will be improved by a precipitous and mandated departure from Mesopotamia?

Better question yet....Do they care about such things more than their 2008 electoral prospects?

Max Boot has also been in Iraq, traveling with Gen. Petraeus, and his account of the current situation on the ground doesn't so much contradict the mainstream media portrayal of the conflict (although he is cautiously optimistic) as it does reveal the superficiality of that portrayal. I suppose it could be fairly argued that the hosting of Boot and Fred Barnes of the Standard by the U.S. military command is the administration's way of getting their version of the state of affairs in Iraq out to the American public, although Boot's article is not a sugar-coating of the operation by any means. How else to attempt to balance the daily doomsaying in the media by Reid and the defeatists? Generate light...not heat. Pack a lunch, it's a good read.

April 23, 2007

Acknowledging Reality at 59

"Israel at 59" - by Steven Plaut

The world is now well into the post-Oslo, post-911 era, in which the delusions and denials of reality that were the foundations of the "Middle East peace process" are at last being acknowledged for what they were. For those returning to the planet Earth from Fantasyland in the "Oslo" parallel universe, it behooves them and us all to bear in mind some of the unpleasant facts of life about the Middle East.

1. The Arab world has never come to terms with Israel's existence within ANY set of borders whatsoever and is still seeking the annihilation of Israel and its population.

2. ANY Palestinian state, regardless of who rules it, will produce escalated violence, terror and warfare in the Middle East, and neither stability nor peaceful relations. ANY Palestinian state will seek warfare with Israel and not solutions to the economic and social problems of its citizens.

3. The only reason Arafat and the PLO ever wanted control of the West Banka nd Gaza Strip was to use them as bases for attacks on Israel. This is the only real use to which they will be put by any future Palestinian state.

32 more...

April 21, 2007



I make it a fairly regular practice to go the the OSU Spring game, and this Saturday, 75,000 or so other folks had the same idea. That was a record crowd for OSU, and the gorgeous weather no doubt played a large part in the turnout, but I had wondered on the way down if the same stunned, shocked, bitter hangover from the BCS Game that I observe in many of the hardcore Buckeye football fans I know would hold the attendance down for this meaningless exhibition. Not so much, it turns out.

'Not so much' would also describe the offensive output for both sides, unfortunately. I guess it's tough to lose a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback, a two-time 1000-yd. rusher (Pittman), and a top ten draft pick receiver (Ginn), plus two O-line starters and Roy Hall, and not see holes where they used to be. And since sophomore running back Chris Wells sat the game out, that left one scholarship tailback, Maurice Wells, and a bunch of walk-ons trying to run against the OSU defenders. Tough duty. Throw in a large dose of inexperience at QB and you have a game in which two of the three touchdowns were scored by the defenses, and no one of the three candidates for the quarterback job distinguished himself.

Which means Todd Boeckman is probably still the starter, although I had to give Robb Schoenhoft the edge Saturday, based mostly on what I think are better running instincts and agility. I think all speculation that redshirt freshman Antonio Henton might beat them both out disappeared with his performance. Henton hit Scarlet jerseys all day long. That was all right in the second half, but he played the first half for the Gray, and overall had three picks, two of the "what on earth were you thinking?" variety, one for a touchdown. Boeckman threw better early than he did late, (Hartline dropped a perfect bomb on the first Scarlet play) and Schoenhoft led the winning drive late for the Gray with some scrambling completions and some nifty runs.

The Bucks are dangerously thin at running back, and the health of Chris Wells could be the key factor in their 2007 season. One of the incoming freshmen, Brandon Saine or Boom Herron will have to help out early, but if Wells goes down, the inexperience at QB will be even more conspicuous. The Bucks have no worries on the offensive line. They are talented and deep, with probably the best tackle tandem in the country in Alex Boone and Kirk Barton. Ditto the wide receivers. The offense will go as far as a green QB takes them.

The good news is that the defense is loaded. And there was a noticeable agressiveness to the defense Saturday, in terms of sending people after the quarterback. Could the Florida debacle have finally convinced Jim Tressel that the key to defense in college football is sending more pass rushers than the offense has pass-blockers, or at least disrupting the backfield with penetration and speed. They were playing a lot of five-man fronts, walking two outside linebackers (or safeties) up to the line, and sending them after the quarterback.

We have not seen much of that from Jim Tressel's defenses in the past. His standard is "avoid the big play at all costs", and that works quite well, until an Urban Meyer comes along and is quite willing to take his yardage in 10-15-yard chunks....all night long. Anyway, the change was a refreshing and welcome trend. I hope it carries over to when it counts. Either way, this defense is capable of winning some games this year all by themselves. And they may have to.

Scout.com game story

O-Zone Photo Gallery - Jim Davidson

O-Zone game story

As a final note, I see that U. of Alabama has even more fans without a life than OSU does. 92,000 showed up for their Spring Game yesterday, and another 10,000 were reportedly turned away. Incredible.

Tough Decisions

Tipped by The Scrapbook at TWS to this Atlantic Monthly piece by Marguerite Kelly, mother of journalist Michael Kelly, who died in Iraq four years ago this month.

On the Fairness of Life

Whatever Mike’s take on the Mideast would be today, this much is clear: he knew that holocausts start small; that evil is real; that somebody has to stand up and stop it, and that others must watch and tell the world that evil had really been stopped. And sometimes, he said, good people would die in the doing.

That our son was one of them still breaks our hearts, but we can’t say that his death was unfair. If we did, we would have to say that it was unfair that he had enjoyed life so thoroughly; that he had such a fine career, such an excellent wife and such jolly, healthy sons and that he had parents and three sisters who loved him so much. Mike knew you can’t always have it both ways. And so did we.

Life is neither fair nor unfair; it just is. We have no more right to expect it to be perfect than we have to expect perfection in each other.

Speaking of Scrapbook, (and unrelated to the above) read the take on Imus, via Goldstein, both of whom hit the ball out of the park.

April 19, 2007

This Just In

This afternoon, the Cleveland Indians ripped their fans' guts out, and left them lying on the field at Yankee Stadium.

And as if that's not enough to discourage a northeast Ohioan from trying to use sports as a refuge from grim world realities, there are two other items in this evening's sports news to dampen spirits in these parts:

OSU's Oden, Conley and Cook all to declare for NBA Draft

Browns' top free agent signee has surgery.

The Pose of Alienation

In a must-read piece from the 4/16 National Review, (via The Manhattan Institute) John McWhorter discusses what he calls an "attitudinal tic" in America over the last thirty years or so. The growing cadre of "Americans Without Americanness" is a cultural phenomenon that McWhorter fears may only be abated by a sustained attack on America, which would have the potential to snap the emotionally needy out of their "therapeutic alienation", and help recent immigrants come to view America more as an identity, and less as simply an opportunity. Do read it all.

...a cherished observation on a certain circuit is that “America was founded upon racism from its very beginnings,” which regularly cops vigorous applause from white as well as black audience members. There’s some truth to this, to be sure — but in that we cannot change it, the charge implies that it would have been better if Jamestown and Plymouth had never been settled and Africans had remained in their villages. Patriotism, obviously, does not apply here.

Certainly one would not expect scholarly people to devote careers to mere celebration. But one might imagine them fashioning a nuanced but vigorous brand of patriotism, calling America on its weaknesses with a basic pride in what we do right. A model would be typical intellectuals in France. Instead, we are taught that the enlightened orientation to our native land ought be more like the one that reigns in Germany, so deeply embarrassed about the Holocaust as to recoil at any prideful view of their Vaterland. The enlightened soul must therefore sneer at such notions as a U.S. policy titled Homeland Security.

The extreme nature of modern leftist academics’ writings suggests that empirical engagement with reality is not the driving force in such ideology. For example, most of this work, while presented as advocacy for the downtrodden, reveals a curious lack of genuine commitment to change. The tacit assumption is that nothing could make America a worthy project short of a seismic transformation in its operating procedures and in the fundamental psychologies of its inhabitants. No reasonable person could have any hope that this could actually happen, and this can only mean that people who think this way maintain their opinions for reasons other than practical ones.

Those reasons are emotional rather than political — a desire to wear alienation from the Establishment as a badge of insight and sophistication. It reaffirms that the wearers are good people, good in a way unavailable to those less learned and aware. This cynicism is calisthenic: It benefits its bearer rather than the people it purports to be concerned about. It is something I have elsewhere termed therapeutic alienation.

Therapeutic alienation is not, however, confined to the ivory tower. Beyond the campus, explicit, acrid contempt for the Establishment is a fringe taste — but the therapeutic alienation at the roots of this contempt is now widespread, and has equally dire consequences for proud American identity. Existential alienation and oppositional sentiment for their own sake have a way of discouraging people from saluting a flag.


Alienation as performance, to be sure, began the first time an early Homo sapiens child had a tantrum. But under ordinary conditions of human society, this behavior, while more typical of some individuals than others, does not become a zeitgeist. It is treated as an emotional indulgence that real-life exigencies must keep in check. Societies living on the land, ever in fear that weather or warfare will leave them in danger of starvation, do not know of alienation as sport. Modern America, however, is a wealthy society where few are hungry, and where there has not been a war on our own soil in 150 years (and not one that all able-bodied men were required to participate in in 40 years). Under these conditions, the tantrum no longer constitutes a threat to survival. Enter, then, alienation embraced as a cathartic pose.

April 18, 2007

Out of It

I've been neglecting the blog for a couple of days now, feeling like I need to soak up what is being written in the mainstream and the alternative media on the VT murders much more than I need to try to add to it. People like Allahpundit at Hot Air are doing such a great job of reporting the news as it breaks, and if you choose to, you can wade into the words being written about the killings and the killer at RCP and Memeorandum and PJM, for starters. Have at it. I'm speechless.

It is at times like these that my escapism device of choice....sports fanaticism....serves its purpose nicely. How 'bout those Cavs!

April 16, 2007

Cuban Opposition Uniting?

Via the blog Uncommon Sense

Some of the leading lights of the Cuban opposition — like Oswaldo Payá and Marta Beatriz Roque, who in the past have expressed different ideas on how to fight the dictatorship — on Sunday issued a document calling for unity in their common struggle for freedom and democracy. Other signatories includes members of the Damas de Blanco and the independent journalist Guillermo Fariñas.

Taken to heart, it may be a blueprint for victory.

Via Misceláneas de Cuba:

All nations and governments, as well as citizens and organizations, should attend to and respond to this call for solidarity. We call on all Cuban associations and citizens inside and outside Cuba to support this call and make it theirs, because this declaration of unity is for all Cubans, and is a sign of organic unity, which is so important for the Cuban nation in its aspirations for democracy, freedom, reconciliation, and sovereignty.

We Cubans who individually or as a part of peaceful groups defend and promote Human Rights, reconciliation and peaceful changes towards the democracy, want to proclaim our unity for freedom.

We know that the people of Cuba and all those who in the world support democracy for Cuba, wish, with good will, that all of the peaceful democratic Cuban opposition be united, since this unity is a necessity in order to advance the changes that the people want and need. Our unity must symbolize the goals of peace, justice, reconciliation and freedom that we want to reach.

A peaceful campaign for basic human rights, freedom and self-government in Cuba....who wouldn't support that? Oh yeah...this guy.

May they grow and prosper and succeed. Read it all.

April 14, 2007

French Vote

Two worthwhile pieces on the French elections, now just a week away;

The Economist says Sarkozy is the best hope for France.

And Nidra Poller at PJM says the killing of a cop at an amusement park is being soft-pedaled by the media, because the greater the incident's notoriety, the more the Sarkozy campaign benefits.

UPDATE 4/17: Christopher Hitchens

Edge 2007

Just now getting around to the Edge Question of 2007, the annual exercise in which a hundred or so people who are way smarter than the average bear are asked to weigh in on the human condition. This year's question: "What are you optimistic about, and why?

You can't read it all in one sitting, but it's worth coming back to. One I liked in particular was Roger Schank's contribution; "The End of the Commoditization of Knowledge"

Fifteen years ago I was asked to join the board of editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. In short order, I learned that these editors saw themselves as guardians of knowledge. They knew what was true and what was important and only knowledge that fit those criteria would be in their encyclopedia. I asked if the encyclopedia could be say, ten times bigger, economic issues aside, and they said ‘no' the right information was already in there. I started to explain that the world as they knew it was going to change before their eyes and they would soon be toast, but they didn't understand.

I have had similar conversation with newspaper editors, librarians, heads of testing services, and with faculty at top universities. Like the Britannica folks, they see themselves as knowing what is true and what is not and what is important and what is not.

I am optimistic that this is soon all about to change.

What I mean by ‘this' is the era that we have lived in, ever since the invention of the book, but clearly including the era where knowledge was contained in scrolls. In this era, knowledge is a commodity, owned and guarded by the knowledge elite and doled out by them in various forms that they control, like books, and, newspapers, and television, and schools. They control who can get access to the knowledge (through admission to elite schools for example) and exactly what knowledge matters (through SATs but also through intellectual publications that true knowledge owners would be embarrassed to have failed to have read.)

We are beginning to see the change in all this now. If anyone can take Harvard's courses on line then one wonders why one has to go to Harvard. Elite universities have struggled with this new world, but eventually people will take whatever course they want from whomever they want and a real competition about quality will take place.

Browse on.

April 13, 2007

VDH Fantasy

Victor Davis Hanson is dreamin':

In this apparition of mine, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, in Syria at the time, would lecture the Assad regime that there would be consequences to its serial murdering of democratic reformers in Lebanon, to fomenting war with Israel by means of its surrogates, and to sending terrorists to destroy the nascent constitutional government in Iraq.

She would add that the United States could never be friends with an illegitimate dictatorship that does its best to destroy the only three democracies in the region. And then our speaker would explain to Iran that a U.S. Congresswoman would never detour to Tehran to dialogue with a renegade government that had utterly ignored U.N. non-proliferation mandates and daily had the blood of Americans on its hands.

April 12, 2007

Regime Change

The Guardian:

The Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky has told the Guardian he is plotting the violent overthrow of President Putin from his base in Britain after forging close contacts with members of Russia's ruling elite.

In comments which appear calculated to enrage the Kremlin, and which will further inflame relations between London and Moscow, the multimillionaire claimed he was already bankrolling people close to the president who are conspiring to mount a palace coup.

"We need to use force to change this regime," he said. "It isn't possible to change this regime through democratic means. There can be no change without force, pressure." Asked if he was effectively fomenting a revolution, he said: "You are absolutely correct."

Hope he's watching what he eats.

April 11, 2007

Duke Case Dropped

KC Johnson, commenting on the statement by the North Carolina State Attorney General:

An astonishing statement from the state AG, a complete vindication of the players.

The highlights:

(1) The players are innocent--not victims of a case with insufficient evidence, but innocent. This statement should leave no doubt as to whether a crime occurred.

(2) Nifong might be guilty of criminal misconduct.

(3) Nifong is a "rogue prosecutor."

(4) Lots of people owe the three players an apology, and a rush to judgment took place.

(5) The accuser has serious mental problems (hinted, very strongly, by the AG).

(6) North Carolina needs to change its laws to deal with rogue prosecutors in the future.

Lots more at Durham-in-Wonderland.

And Roger Kimball says that even if the AG acknowledges that the case should never have been brought...

...that does nothing to compensate the three lacrosse players for the humiliation and obloquy they have unfairly suffered at the hands of a media, and an academy, too full of the sour milk of self-righteousness to practice anything so antique as the presumption of innocence. As the French poet and polemicist Charles Péguy once observed, "It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been motivated by the fear of not looking sufficiently progressive."

April 10, 2007

First/Last Imus Post

We've come to expect the grandstanding from the Sharptons and Jacksons when offensive racial comments are uttered by celebrities. After all, they make a living feeding on the outrage, and extracting the groveling apology from the perpetrator du jour. And the media just lap it up, for days on end. But John McWhorter says all the attention given to a few words is a distraction from the many real, chronic problems affecting black society. Here's a sample:

Imus hosts a radio show and a lot of people listen to it. During a few seconds last week he said something tacky. The show went on, as did life. Black people continued to constitute most new AIDS cases, black men continued to come out of prison unsupervised. And we're supposed to be most interested in Imus saying "nappy-headed ho's"?

What creates that hypersensitivity is a poor racial self-image. Where, after all, did Imus pick up the very terminology he used? Rap music and the language young black people use themselves on the street to refer to one another.

What Imus said is lowdown indeed, but so is the way blacks refer to each other. And life goes on.

Street theater is not strength. It saps energy better put to other uses.

UPDATE 4/12: Jason Whitlock is another black writer lamenting the overblown focus on the words of a celebrity hack:

Thank you, Don Imus. You extended Black History Month to April, and we can once again wallow in victimhood, protest like it’s 1965 and delude ourselves into believing that fixing your hatred is more necessary than eradicating our self-hatred.

The bigots win again.

While we’re fixated on a bad joke cracked by an irrelevant, bad shock jock, I’m sure at least one of the marvelous young women on the Rutgers basketball team is somewhere snapping her fingers to the beat of 50 Cent’s or Snoop Dogg’s or Young Jeezy’s latest ode glorifying nappy-headed pimps and hos.

I ain’t saying Jesse, Al and Vivian are gold-diggas, but they don’t have the heart to mount a legitimate campaign against the real black-folk killas.

It is us. At this time, we are our own worst enemies. We have allowed our youths to buy into a culture (hip hop) that has been perverted, corrupted and overtaken by prison culture. The music, attitude and behavior expressed in this culture is anti-black, anti-education, demeaning, self-destructive, pro-drug dealing and violent.

Rather than confront this heinous enemy from within, we sit back and wait for someone like Imus to have a slip of the tongue and make the mistake of repeating the things we say about ourselves.

Revisionist Hisstory

The Contentions blog once again dips into the Commentary magazine archives to shed light on current events. The occasion for revisiting the historical record in Commentary was a recent one day conference at NYU with the quixotic mission of trying (once more) to rehabilitate the reputation of Alger Hiss. Talk about trying to get the toothpaste back in the tube. Read the articles while they're up, or snag copies of the pdf's for later.

I went through a period several years ago when I read everything on the Chambers-Hiss case I could get my hands on, which led in turn to several books on the Venona transcripts, and Soviet espionage in general, and that era continues to fascinate me. I would recommend the following as the best of those books:

Witness - Whittaker Chambers

Perjury: The Hiss-Chambers Case - Allen Weinstein

The Venona Secrets - Herbert Romerstein and Eric Breindel

Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America - John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr

The Haunted Wood: Soviet Espionage in America -The Stalin Era - Allen Weinstein and Alexander Vassiliev

There is also a pdf file on the history of the Venona Project , that I found online a few months ago, and to which you are welcome. (The file is distributed for free by the NSA, so I think I'm OK posting it here.)

April 9, 2007

Lost Weekend


Having the Indians shipped off to play three games in Milwaukee is maddening and bizarre, but apparently MLB doesn't want to risk another postponement, and the main question now becomes how the team will respond to their frustrating circumstance. They started hot in Chicago, and were one strike away from being 3-1 when Mike Hargrove did his snow slow dance Friday night.

This PD article is followed by irate fan comments, many directed at Bud Selig for depriving us of three home games that the team could well have played, in wet conditions and 40-degree temperatures, just like most April baseball games in Cleveland. But having already lost a 4-game series to the North Coast weather, Selig decided to grab the sure thing that is the roof on Miller Park.

Ryan at Let'sGoTribe thinks MLB wanted to mess with as few teams as possible...that's one...

The correct solution would have been to switch home series with the Angels, as the Indians are scheduled to travel to Los Angeles in May for a three-game series. The Indians would not lose any additional home dates, and they would get the upcoming series in without dealing with the weather in Cleveland. But because most of the games in Los Angeles had big pre-sales for the series, MLB didn't want to upset another franchise, so they deigned to screw just one team and be done with it, shifting three Indians home games elsewhere. Also working against this possible solution was a clause in the Collective Bargaining Agreement stating that any trip from the West Coast to the East Coast had to include an off-day; the schedule is such that a proposed swap could not happen unless the Player's Association agreed to it.

So the Indians are punished for losing four home games to a freak April blizzard by losing three more home dates after the blizzard...just in case there's another one, I guess...(last time I looked, the forecast for Tuesday was for a balmy 39 with only "a.m. snow".) Largely lost in the national coverage of the snowout story was the little matter of Paul Byrd's no-hitter, also one measly strike away when the umpire decided to delay the game. Plus, our best hitter is hurt, thanks to the muscle-tightening cold.

The DiaTribe has a slide show from the Opener, that shows how diligent the grounds crew was in trying to clear the entire grass outfield of snow with about eight or ten little pissant snowblowers.

I had tickets for Sunday, and was actually relieved when I heard that my Easter Sunday afternoon wouldn't be spent freezing at The Jake. And it brought to mind the mind the second regular season game ever at Jacobs Field in 1994. Just like this year, there had been a beautiful 75-degree sunny day three days prior, the occasion for my first look at the brand new ballpark, a Saturday exhibition against the Pirates before the Monday Home Opener, if I recall correctly.

Like this year, in 1994 it was the Mariners, then featuring Griffey Jr., who were in town for the first series. The opener went 11 innings, and it was cold. For Game Two on Wednesday, I was taking my 15-year old son to see the new park, and we were 10 minutes out of downtown when the white-out shut down the ballgame. Well, it was too nasty to play baseball, but it wasn't too nasty to walk around outside the place and check it out a little...and hit the Flats for a cheeseburger and such. Then it was back the next day for a frozen nine innings of April baseball in Cleveland.

See, this is what we do here! This is not new.

My preference for snowy games in Cleveland however, is for the ones in late October.

Best of the Best Freeware

This very useful resource for the best Free and Open Source Software was new to me, and I thought, linkworthy.

April 6, 2007

Strickland's Regressive Education Policy

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has been doing his level best to reverse the state's substantive progress on providing school choice for Ohio students stuck in failing schools. Parents and students are the immediate losers...but at least the teachers unions are happy to be getting an immediate return on their investment. Ken Blackwell, writing at Townhall:

Calling school vouchers "undemocratic" and charter schools a "dismal failure," Gov. Strickland, in his first major public policy address, slammed the door of educational opportunity on thousands of poor children and crushed the hopes of their parents.

By denying these children the equal access to a quality education that choice programs offer, he also denied that the bloated public education bureaucracy and its entrenched unions have failed our children. Gov. Strickland positions his opposition to choice as part of an overall effort to eliminate inefficiency and force accountability, but he misleads.

Currently, large numbers of Ohio's public schools, particularly those in the state's urban areas, fail to teach our children. Public school failure can be measured in many ways. For example, over 115,550 students in Ohio's eight largest cities are attending 251 schools not meeting even the state's minimal education standards. Far larger numbers of children are receiving educations that leave them completely unprepared for today's global economy.

In contrast, school choice programs are working and growing. First in the form of charter schools for 76,000 pupils in over 200 schools, then in an autism scholarship expanding choice to key middle class constituencies, and now to the EdChoice program making another 50,000 students eligible for 14,000 vouchers to escape failing public schools.

These fledgling choice programs are becoming increasingly popular because public schools are performing so poorly. In fact, Ohio's charter schools and vouchers are only available to students living in districts in academic emergency or academic watch.

Parents like the programs because they empower them. Teacher unions oppose the programs because they weaken their position at the collective bargaining table.

April 4, 2007


It was 80 degrees in northern Ohio on Tuesday, but tradition is not something to be trifled with, so it will be in the 30's for the Indians' Home Opener on Friday...with snow flurries. The schedule makers though, are no dummies. They didn't have the Tribe opening at home in the first four days of the season. That's what Chicago is for!

Jason Michaels fought the flurries and a gusting wind this afternoon at Comiskey Park, and made an awkward-looking, staggering catch at the wall in left field to record the final out of the game for the good guys (video here). The Indians averaged ten runs in their first two games, both wins over the White Sox.

UPDATE 4/5: Sizemore bolts from the gate with home runs in the first three games.

Fitzgerald Cover-Up

The Wall Street Journal today says that Patrick Fitzgerald is fighting the release of the affidavits he used to compel reporters to testify in the Lewis Libby case. The WSJ's parent, Dow Jones and the Associated Press are pressing for their release.

By demanding that the reporters betray their sources, Mr. Fitzgerald caused a legal collision that went all the way to the Supreme Court. The public, the press and other prosecutors all have what the Dow Jones-AP motion calls "an undeniable and overwhelming public interest" in knowing the arguments and information that Mr. Fitzgerald made to the court.

His demand and the D.C. Circuit ruling set a precedent that may well encourage other prosecutors to force journalists to betray their sources too. His effort also appeared, at least to us, to violate long-standing Justice Department guidelines concerning such pursuit of journalists. His pursuit is all the more puzzling in retrospect because we now know that Mr. Fitzgerald already knew--at the time he was demanding that the reporters betray their sources--that the real leaker was Richard Armitage, not Mr. Libby.

The two reporters he subpoenaed and their lawyers did not know this at the time, however, and if they had it might have changed their arguments or decisions. At a minimum, prosecutors and reporters deserve to know what evidence the D.C. Circuit found so compelling so we can all avoid such future collisions. Congress also has an interest now that it is contemplating a "shield law" to protect media sources.

Clarice Feldman at The American Thinker has much more:

In September of last year, I asked the Department of Justice to look into several actions of Patrick Fitzgerald in connection with the Libby case suggesting that on their face this conduct seemed unethical. To the best of my knowledge that investigation is continuing. One of the areas of my concern was the apparent factual misrepresentations he made to the U.S. Court of Appeals in connection with his efforts to force reporters to testify in that case.

IBM Donates Translation Software

Next time you hear about greedy corporations and overpaid CEO's and obscene profits, remember what IBM CEO Sam Palmisano just did for the Iraq war effort.

To honor an employee's son who was badly wounded in Iraq, IBM Corp. plans to give the U.S. military $45 million worth of Arabic-English translation technology that the Pentagon had been testing for possible purchase.

The offer - made from the highest reaches of the company directly to President Bush - is so unusual that Defense Department and IBM lawyers have been scouring federal laws to make sure the government can accept the donation.


IBM would not make Palmisano available for comment. But according to other IBM executives, Palmisano had heard from several IBM employees who have returned from active duty in Iraq that a shortage of Arabic translators has severely hampered U.S. forces' efforts to communicate.

With that and Ecker's experience in mind, Palmisano called and wrote Bush, offering to make IBM's Multilingual Automatic Speech Translator software, known as MASTOR, "immediately available for use by our forces in Iraq." Palmisano offered 10,000 copies of the MASTOR software and 1,000 devices equipped with it, plus training and technical support.

The article points out that IBM does some $3 billion in revenue annually with the federal government, and it looks like this was a product the Pentagon may have purchased anyway had Palmisano not decided to throw them a $45 million freebie. It's an admirable gesture any way you look at it. The need to speed up he translation of the millions of documents captured in Iraq alone is acute.

I happen to have some first-hand knowledge of just how acute the problem is. I work in the professional and technical recruiting industry, and our firm has among its clients several private contractors and sub-contractors who are involved in the Pentagon's DOCEX (Document Exploitation) work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our work for them is to identify, screen and recruit people with Arabic language skills (as well as Farsi, Pashto and others) to work on translation assignments in the Middle East and some here in the States.

Suffice to say that the demand for people with these language abilities (also required are Top Secret and other clearances) is unending. If we were able to recruit and place 100 Arabic linguists this week, we would have open requisitions for 100 more next week, and we are but one of numerous recruiting firms supplying these people to the translation effort. It has been several months since I heard any figures on the percentages of captured documents that have been exploited so far, but late in 2006 the figure I heard was about 3%...and that was three and a half years after the fall of Baghdad.

As you might imagine, it isn't always easy to get skilled linguists to accept these assignments..("did I mention the job is in Iraq?"), but the money is quite good, often a lot more than comparable work in the U.S. Many of the successful placements are of recently discharged soldiers who have been doing similar work in Iraq for the U.S. military, and when they get out, they return to the war zone as civilian contractors, translating the same documents, but now making four or five times the money they were earning in the military.

Typically these kids are at one extreme or the other about returning to Iraq...there's not a lot of middle ground. Either they have no qualms at all about returning to Iraq to work...they've been there, so there's no fear of the unknown...or they say they'd rather dig ditches for a living than ever go back to the Middle East. So it doesn't take too long to rule a qualified candidate in or out.

Certainly the demand for "clearable" Arabic and other linguists isn't going away anytime soon, and one hopes the gift of the IBM translation software can make the DOCEX job go more quickly. It's sobering to think that we still have only scratched the surface of the written documentation left behind by the Saddam regime, now four years out. (Full disclosure - I have a family member employed by IBM)

April 2, 2007

Google TiSP

Take a look Google's newest beta, introduced on April 1: Welcome to Google TiSP

Be sure to read the installation instructions, and then check out these links to previous Google innovations.

(via Dark Roasted Blend)

April 1, 2007

It's Logical


Jason Stark's estimation of the prospects for the 2007 Indians is based on simple logic, and the law of averages:

Start with this: What happened to this team last year can't possibly happen again, if only because it was practically impossible in the first place.

There's an old saying in baseball -- that you're only as good as your record.

But not in the Indians' case.

It's never safe to say how many games a team should have won. But based just on their run differential, which is almost always a reliable barometer, the 2006 Indians should have been a 90-win kind of team -- not a 78-win kind of team.

How hard is it to outscore your opponents by 88 runs and still have a losing record?

Well, no other team in history had ever done it. So we wondered what a "normal" team's record would have been in a season like that. We found 11 other teams in the last decade that outscored the opposition by 85-100 runs. They averaged 93 wins.

Let me see if I have this right. Stark has the Tribe pegged as a surprise team this year, because they played so much worse than they should have last year. This is obviously a man who has not been paying close attention to the Cleveland Indians in recent years. Last year's team managed to be less than the sum of its individual components. They had good players who played well, putting up impressive individual statistics, but the brand of baseball they played as a team was decidedly poor.

To be fair, the club has tried to address the weaknesses of the 2006 team, by re-tooling the bullpen, bringing in veterans like Dave Delucci, Roberto Hernandez and Trot Nixon, and making moves to improve the infield defense, but only time will tell if the chemistry is any better this year. The team's tendency under Wedge has been to fold when the going gets tough. The end-of-season collapse in 2005 is just the best remembered example.

The field manager is the person accountable for the quality of the baseball being played on the field, and for the mental and emotional preparation of the players for each of 162 games. When a team fails to cohere as a unit, and under-performs based on its talent, there is only one place to point the finger. I think the Indians will win if and when Eric Wedge learns how to better push those buttons, or when he is replaced by someone who can.

But I'm all for the April optimism. The consensus is that the AL Central is brutal, and that as many as four teams could win 90 games. I see the Twins and the White Sox going into this season with starting pitching that is down a notch or two from last year. The 2006 Tigers did it with pitching and Leyland...that Detroit lineup wasn't that good...and I'm not convinced all the stars will align for them again.

So it turns out that the Tribe is a trendy pick with lots of the pundits in addition to having the law of averages and the power of logic on their side. As if I needed logic to jump on the Indians bandwagon.


ESPN.com Indians Preview

SI.com Indians Preview

Fox Sports Indians Preview

Deadspin.com Indians Preview

David Pinto's AL Central Preview

Baseball Savant Indians Preview

BA's Indians Top Ten Prospects

Unloading Hitler

I was a little surprised to see an essay from Der Spiegel quite this critical of German anti-Americanism....but more power to them.

For us Germans, the Americans are either too fat or too obsessed with exercise, too prudish or too pornographic, too religious or too nihilistic. In terms of history and foreign policy, the Americans have either been too isolationist or too imperialistic. They simply go ahead and invade foreign countries (something we Germans, of course, would never do) and then abandon them, the way they did in Vietnam and will soon do in Iraq.

Worst of all, the Americans won the war in 1945. (Well, with German help, of course -- from Einstein and his ilk.) There are some Germans who will never forgive the Americans for VE Day, when they defeated Hitler. After all, Nazism was just an accident, whereas Americans are inherently evil. Just look at President Bush, the man who, as some of SPIEGEL ONLINE's readers steadfastly believe, "is worse than Hitler." Now that gives us a chance to kill two birds with one stone. If Bush is the new Hitler, then we Germans have finally unloaded the Führer on to someone else. In fact, we won't even have to posthumously revoke his German citizenship, as politicians in Lower Saxony recently proposed. No one can hold a candle to our talent for symbolism!

UPDATE 4/2: David's Medienkritik can't believe it either, given the standard theme at Der Spiegel. The problem is that the media is in denial of their own role in fomenting and perpetuating the anti-Americanism they criticize.

Hostages and War with Iran

The EU cannot or will not take any meaningful action against Iran. Even economic sanctions are out. Labour's The Guardian's Malcolm Rifkind says it is shameful that Britain's EU allies have abandoned her.

The firm statement made by EU foreign ministers calling for the 'immediate and unconditional' release is welcome. But the apparent lack of any agreement over economic pressure has two serious consequences. First, it makes it very unlikely that Britain will be able to secure the release of the service personnel in the short term. Second, it is now almost inevitable that Iran will try to impose conditions from the international community and, in particular, the US, on their ultimate release.

This lack of agreement shows how hollow are the aspirations to a common European foreign policy. France and Germany should be ashamed at their refusal to assist their European partner in a humanitarian cause of this kind. If there had been a political will, there could already have been agreement.

In answering the question of what the EU is going to do about the hostage situation, Mark Steyn writes...

Short answer: Nothing.

Slightly longer answer: The 15 "European" hostages aren't making that much news in "Europe." And, insofar as they have, other "Europeans" -- i.e., Belgians, Germans and whatnot -- don't look on the 15 hostages as "Europeans" but as Brits. Europe has more economic leverage on Iran than America has. The European Union is the Islamic Republic's biggest trading partner, accounting for 40 percent of Iranian exports. They are in a position to inflict serious pain on Tehran. But not for 15 British servicemen. There may be "European citizens," but there is no European polity.

OK, well, how about the United Nations? Those student demonstrators want the execution of "British aggressors." In fact, they're U.N. aggressors. HMS Cornwall is the base for multinational marine security patrols in the Gulf: a mission authorized by the United Nations. So what's the U.N. doing about this affront to its authority and (in the public humiliation of the captives) of the Geneva Conventions?

Short answer: Nothing.

Slightly longer answer: The British ambassador to the U.N. had wanted the Security Council to pass a resolution ''deploring'' Iran's conduct. But the Russians objected to all this hotheaded inflammatory lingo about ''deploring,'' and so the Security Council instead expressed its ''grave concern'' about the situation. That and $4.95 will get you a decaf latte. Ask the folks in Darfur what they've got to show for years of the U.N.'s "grave concerns" -- heavy on the graves, less so on the concern.

Jed Babbin, writing at Human Events;

Iran’s gradual conquest of the Middle East proceeds uninhibited. Its supporters, China and Russia principally, have no intention to limit Iran’s ambitions. Khamenei and his face man, Ahmadinejad, are claiming dominance over the shallow waters of the Persian Gulf. Their capture of the British troops coincided with a large naval wargame that emphasizes the point. Every neighboring nation -- including our allies such as Kuwait and Israel -- is threatened.

We need to challenge Iran to greater effect than it challenges us. To do so we need not -- openly -- go to war with Iran. But we should begin by imposing real penalties on Iran for each act of aggression. Every time an American is hurt or killed by an EFP in Iraq, Iran should pay the butcher’s bill. Every act of war, every act to subvert friendly governments in the Middle East, every attack on one of our allies by an Iranian force or proxy should be answered quickly with acts that cost Iran dearly, and assists Iranians to rebel against the ayatollahs. Each of our allies should be assured -- publicly -- that we will defend them against Iranian aggression.

EU Referendum is all over the hostage story from the standpoint of how and why it happened in the first place, with posts here, here and here.

Jules Crittenden
wonders why we haven't attacked Iran already. A Russian journalist says the U.S. attack will occur this Friday.

But Britain is said to be in direct negotiations for the hostages' release. This regime-orchestrated attack on the British Embassy by Iranian "students" can't help, although it is probably aimed more at whipping up internal solidarity than at impacting the hostage crisis itself.

NR's Rich Lowry on Iran and talk:

Iran wants to quit the international community, but the international community won’t let it. No act of warfare against the civilized world, no defiance of the United Nations, no violation of international norms, no brazen lie is ever enough to mark Iran as unworthy of outreach, dialogue and the art of sweet persuasion...

...Where are the human-rights groups expressing their outrage? The liberal filmmakers readying their scathing documentaries? The European opinion-makers condescendingly tut-tutting? Nowhere to be found, because they never want to give up their pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Engagement.

If talking with the Iranians doesn’t work, it is because we aren’t talking to them enough, or the wrong people (i.e., not the U.S.) are talking to them, or when we’re talking to them, we aren’t saying the right things, or we haven’t talked to them long enough, or maybe they don’t realize just how very sincere we are in our talking. But, surely, sometime soon, if we just keep talking and offering to talk, all these “misunderstandings” will fade away.

You could hardly blame the 15 captured Brits if they felt unwanted back home. Here's Scott Ott of Scrappleface:

In a fresh, un-coerced video communiqué released today by the Iranian government, 15 British sailors and marines held captive for eight days, said they would seek asylum in Iran, “the only country that really seems to want us.”

The hostages said they have already begun the paperwork to become Iranian citizens, and have started classes to prepare them for conversion to Islam.

“Whatever else you might think about President Ahmadinejad,” said one British sailor under no duress, “at least he took risks to get us, and genuinely desires to keep us in his country; which is more than we can say for Prime Minister [Tony] Blair.”

The British prime minister, upon hearing of the defections, said, “We did all we could, within the bounds of diplomatic propriety, to request the release of our troops. We really were fond of them. I do hope that they’ll come back and visit us sometime.”