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10/24/2005
THE GODS MUST BE CRAZY
CATEGORY: WORLD SERIES


WHITE SOX RIGHT FIELDER JERMAINE DYE TURNS AWAY FROM A PITCH BY ASTROS RELIEVER DAN WHEELER. THE BALL GLANCED OFF DYE’S BAT BUT THE UMPIRE RULED IT HIT THE SOX BATTER AND AWARDED HIM FIRST LOADING THE BASES FOR PAUL KONERKO WHOSE GRAND SLAM HOMER GAVE THE SOX A TEMPORARY TWO RUN LEAD IN THE 7TH INNING

Once every year when the dogwoods bloom and the snows on the Holy Mound of Mounds have melted to reveal the Sacred Slab, the Gods of Baseball wake from their winter slumber and gather to decide which team will win the World Series.

These past couple of years, the Gods have been busy. Or drunk. If so, they’ve been doin’ some thinkin’drinkin’ because the turn of the New Millennium has seen some of the most unlikely World Series Champs imaginable.

Starting in 2000 with the first “subway series” in more than a generation, the hated Yankees defeated the nearly-as-hated Mets in a battle of teams who believe that New York is the center of the universe. The Gods witnessed this hubris and were mightily displeased, cursing the Mets by making them acquire high-priced free agents that turned into busts like Carlos Beltran and hexing the Yankees and their fans by allowing them to make it to the World Series twice in the next four years only to be buried by inferior National League teams.

One of those teams, the Arizona Diamondbacks defeated the 2001 Yanks in seven games on a broken bat line drive single by Luis Gonzalez the wasn’t hit hard enough to make a dent in the outfield grass. The D’Backs had two of the best pitchers of this or any other generation in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and not much else which only goes to prove that when the Gods are on your side, nothing else much matters.

The same could be said for the 2002 Champs, the Anaheim-LA Angles who still can’t make up their minds about what to call the team after 30 years but who have something the White Sox don’t have – a recent World Series title. The Gods, being the mischief makers they are, have since sentenced the Angels to the illusion that they can win another World Series without David Eckstein.

More heavenly tomfoolery in 2003 occurred when the Florida Marlins won their second World Series title in less than 10 years by defeating those Yanks. This gives the Marlins exactly the same number of World Series Championships as the Cubs, the difference being the Marlins have been in the league only since 1993 while the Cubs have been playing baseball in Chicago almost since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over the lamp in the barn that started the Chicago Fire. The Gods love Florida because they like to vacation in Palm Springs during the winter where they sit by the pool and drink Cuba Libres and then play shuffleboard with the old folks in the afternoon. (They disguise themselves as tourists from Rio).

No such favoritism was shown the Boston Red Sox by the Baseball Deities for the longest time. It seems that when the God’s only begotten son, the great Babe Ruth, was sent down to show the locals what the game was really all about, he was badly mistreated by the then owner of the Bosox Henry Frazee. The Babe, one of the greatest pitchers in the history of baseball, was sold to the Yankees in 1919 for the sum of $100,000 and a loan for $350,000. To understand what an unbelievable amount of money that was at the time, President Wilson was pulling down $25,000 a year while trying to embroil the United States in the grubby power politics of Europe following World War I. For that, Mr. Wilson was soundly chastised by the Senate who refused to ratify US entry into an even more hopelessly idealistic and corrupt organization than the United Nations – the so-called League of Nations. Not quite as wholesome as the American and National Leagues plus they had players who couldn’t hit straight fast balls to save their lives but were very adept at throwing curves.

Frazee wanted the money to finance Broadway shows. The people of New York showed their gratitude for giving them the greatest baseball player in history in their usual effusive manner; they refused to attend any of the shows he so lavishly produced thus causing his bankruptcy, early retirement and death at the age of 48 in 1929.

Those whom the Gods destroy, they first make into laughingstocks.

But something happened when the Gods met on The Holy Mound of Mounds last year before the 2004 season. They apparently decided that enough was enough as far as the Red Sox were concerned and lifted the curse that had plagued the club since 1919. Besides, they saw ratings for their fair game falling like a stone and, having just added the God of Marketing to their little club, felt that it was good for the game to have a heart-tugging storyline that featured 90-something seniors weeping like infants when the Red Sox finally triumphed. And the nice touch of absolutely destroying Yankee fans by allowing the Pinstripers to go up 3 games to none in the LCS only to see the Carmines come back and take the series by winning 4 straight must have been enormously satisfying to the God of Records. He not only hates the Yankees for having so many of his precious “bests” and “firsts” and “mosts” but also because of the attention paid to New York sports franchises by the national media, especially the god-like network ESPN (Eastcoast Sports Please Network).

But the Gods had a problem going into 2005. How do you top 2004? They not only decided to tap the God of Destiny on the shoulder and send him to sit in the Chicago White Sox dugout all year long, it appears that they also decided to finally reveal themselves to unbelievers by causing a rash of events in the playoffs where divine intervention would be the only way to explain the simple, dumb, luck experienced by the formerly hapless Pale Hose.

The most recent revelatory episode occurred in last night’s 7-6 White Sox victory. With the Chisox trailing 4-2 in the bottom of the seventh inning, men on first and second, two out, and Jermaine Dye at the plate, a sudden gust of wind blew dirt in the home umpire’s ears and allowed a foul ball tipping off the bat of the White Sox right fielder to make the exact same sound as a ball hitting human flesh. The fact that the two sounds share absolutely no similarities means that the only possible explanation for the umpire’s error was divine intervention.

What happened next was to be expected, given how the baseball deities have taken such an active interest in helping the Chisox this fall. Paul Konerko sent the first pitch from brand new pitcher Chad Qualls on a line into the seats in left for a Grand Slam homer.

The fact is, you can talk all you want to about the bad calls and lucky breaks of the Sox this playoff year. But those events would be simple footnotes in history without the Sox taking advantage of them and making the best of them. Also, beware if you utter such nonsense and you live in a town with a professional baseball franchise. The Gods are listening and will brook no opposition to their decisions.

That said, the rest of the game was far from predictable. Phenom Bobby Jenks appeared to be human after all when he gave up two runs in the ninth and allowed the Astros to tie the score. Jenks suffered from a low strike zone being called by home plate umpire Jeff Nelson. To be effective, Jenks needs to throw high strikes. Otherwise, Major League hitters have little problem getting to his fastball especially when it’s below the belt. When batters can use gravity as an assist in speeding up their bats, power pitchers are in trouble.

The Gods had one more shock in store for fans when they gave Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik temporary rights to Babe Ruth’s ability. Pods slammed a ball into the right field seats to win the game and send the Sox to Houston with a 2-0 series lead.

All the signs point to a White Sox series win in Houston. But perhaps the Gods will take pity on the Astros and give them a couple of wins in front of their long suffering fans. With two of the classiest players in the game – Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell – the Astros deserve to shine a little before their own folks.

But judging by how the playoffs have been going for the White Sox, it appears that the Gods of Baseball are already starting to think about how they can top 2005 next year. Perhaps they’ll turn to the North Side of town…

Not a chance.

By: Rick Moran at 8:21 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

UN BURIES A PALESTINIAN CONNECTION TO THE HARIRI ASSASINATION

Not content with redacting portions of the Mehlis report that named Syrian President Assad’s brother in law and other high ranking Syrian nationals as assassins of Lebanese nationalist Rafiq Hariri, the United Nations has also suppressed a report from the Lebanese Medical Examiner in the case that shows a “70% probability” that the driver of the Mitsubishi truck that exploded last February 14 killing Hariri and 21 others was a Palestinian:

BEIRUT: The UN team investigating the assassination of former Premier Rafik Hariri has disregarded a report by the Lebanese medical examiner Fouad Ayoub following a thorough investigation of its content.

Ayoub said a tooth was found belonging to a Palestinian whose remnants were subject to DNA analysis and is now believed to be the suicide bomber who drove the explosives laden Mitsubishi truck to the site of the explosion.

According to his report, these remnants belong to a 23rd corpse at the bomb site.

The bones of the corpse were found by a British diving team off the coast of the St. George Yacht Club, where the explosion occurred.

The remnants were matched with others found 100 meters away from the scene, on the premises of the Riviera Hotel.

Other forensic evidence that would point to a possible Palestinian connection to the assassination was also ignored:

The security sources also indicated the Swiss experts who took samples of explosives from the scene were able to determine the explosive used was C4.

C4 is commonly used in Eastern Europe, a region where the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command is known to have procured explosives in the past.

One of the names in the report not suppressed by the UN was the notorious head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command Ahmad Jibreel. The PFLP Commander has been a thorn in the side of Israel for many years and is the author of dozens of terrorist attacks directed against the Jewish state.

Although suicide attacks in Lebanon were prevelant at one time, today they are all but unknown, the preferred method of assassination and terror being the remotely detonated bomb. The occurences of suicide bombings are rare enough that responsibility has usually been traced to factions in sympathy with the Palestinian cause; most notably Hizballah and the Amal Militia:

Modern suicide bombings was introduced by the Shi’ite terrorist organization Hizballah in 1983 in Lebanon, and it was in Lebanon that this modus operandi was refined throughout the 1980’s. During the 1990’s the attacks continued, but declined in frequency, until today, suicide attacks in Lebanon are a rare occurrence. All together, 50 suicide bombings were carried out in Lebanon, half of which were perpetrated by the Hizballah and Amal, and the remainder by secular communist and nationalist organizations, including the Lebanese Communist Party, the Socialist-Nasserist Organization, the Syrian Ba’ath Party, and the P.P.S.

The rise in the political power of Hizballah in Lebanon can be directly correlated with the drop in suicide attacks against other factions in Lebanese society. This presents an enormous problem for the US State Department in that they have named the so-called “Party of God” as a terrorist organization. The fact is that Hizballah political leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah is one of the most popular and charismatic politicians in Lebanon. And despite his call for continued attacks agains the Jewish homeland, his influence in the government currently taking shape in Lebanon cannot be ignored. Even though UN Resolution 1559 calls for the disbanding of all militias, Nasrallah has so far refused to cooperate in disarming Hizballah’s military wing which has in the past worked side by side with Syrian intelligence to control the population.

How to disarm Hizballah and mitigate Nasrallah’s influence so that Lebanon doesn’t become a base for terrorist attacks against Israel is perhaps one of the biggest under reported stories in American foreign policy. It will test our resolve in the war against terror as well as prove to the rest of the world whether or not our deeds will match our rhetoric in this war.

And complicating this picture is the UN’s Mehlis report that now brings the issue of direct Syrian interference in the affiairs of the Lebanese state into stark relief. Could the Syrians have been in cahoots with Hizballah in the assassination? Such a revelation would roil the streets of Lebanon and tax the abilities of the new government to deal with such a crisis.

One curious note also via the Daily Star: They originally reported that it was not the UN that suppressed the names of Syrian nationals in the assassination plot but rather the US State Department who asked the names be redacted. I have seen no other media reports that implicate the State Department in the cover-up and the PDF version of the dead tree Daily Star story has been taken off their website.

For the UN to ignore the report from the on-scene pathologist so that they would not have to deal with the implications of Palestinian fingerprints on the assassination of a popular, non-sectarian politician shows to what length that international body will go to in kowtowing to the murderous thugs currently in control of the Palestinian cause.

Here’s the Daily Star’s story on the missing paragraphs from the Mehlis Report.

By: Rick Moran at 9:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

NIF linked with Excuses are like ...
NIXING THE “FREEDOM CENTER” AT GROUND ZERO: AN ELITIST’S VIEW
CATEGORY: Politics

Deyan Sudjic is the architectural critic for The Guardian’s Observer Magazine and is considered one of the doyens of the architectural world.

He is also a member in good standing of that amorphous group of international elitists who have discovered that their purpose in life is to tell the rest of us how truly insignificant and banal is our existence – probably because we don’t recognize their brilliant intellects and breathtaking cleverness.

In fact, Sudjic is so clever that when writing this OpEd in Sunday’s New York Times, he tied himself into rhetorical knots in his attempt to connect opponents of the so-called “Freedom Center” at Ground Zero to Nazis, Mussolini, and Imelda Marcos:

Messrs. Pataki and Bloomberg may or may not know it, but they are following a trail that takes them right back to the pyramids, not to mention mad King Ludwig of Bavaria, who bankrupted his country building ever more elaborate palaces, and Imelda Marcos, whose passion for monumental architecture was vastly more expensive than her better-known enthusiasm for footwear.

The use of an obscure historical figure like King Ludwig to chastise critics of the Freedom Center is a perfect example of how elitists like Sudjic try and show how vastly superior they are to the rest of us. And it underscores the problem with Mr. Sudjic’s editorial; by trying to connect opponents of the Freedom Center to dictators and tyrants, Mr. Sujdic obscures the fact that Governor Pataki made his decision to abandon the Center based on good old fashioned democratic politics. The fact is, the organized effort to toss that monstrous affront to the memory of the victims who lost their lives on 9/11 was solidly grounded in something elitsts always have a hard time understanding: The Will of the People.

Sudjic doesn’t have a clue. He tries to compare Pataki’s decision to ax the Freedom Center with former Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s meglomaniacal attempt to rebuild the state capitol of Albany:

During his 18-year campaign to turn Albany into a Brasília-on-the-Hudson as some sort of bereavement therapy for his dashed White House ambitions, Rockefeller spent hour after hour looking in awed wonder at renderings of a city of dazzling white marble towers rising from the ruins of some 2,000 perfectly good homes he had ordered torn down.

In late 1962, hours before Rockefeller was to finally unveil to the press the big model of his project (and it was as much his creation as that of his court architect, Wallace Harrison) he was observed frantically trying to remove the tiny pieces of affordable housing at the margins of the mock-up, for fear it would spoil the look of his utopia.

Mr. Pataki made his most recent mark on ground zero because he objected to what the Freedom Center might or might not contain, not because he was displeased with the design of the Norwegian architecture firm Snohetta. Nonetheless, he swept the project off the board with just as regal a gesture as Rockefeller’s.

This last paragraph is curious. After telling us that Pataki nixed the Freedom Center for reasons entirely different than Rockefeller’s ambitious decisions regarding the remaking of Albany, Sudjic then asks us to ignore that fact in favor of his theme that Pataki is a acting in a “regal” manner…just like Rockefeller!

This would be true if Pataki believed in the Divine Right of Kings and acted like an annointed sovereign in asking that the Freedom Center be moved to more appropriate climes. What’s that you say? Pataki was elected by the people of New York? The organized campaign, led by Debra Burlingame whose brother was the pilot of Flight #77 that flew into the Pentagon on 9/11, was supported by an extraordinarily broad-based coalition. Not just conservatives but more significantly, several groups that represent families of the 9/11 fallen took up the cause to keep the Ground Zero Memorial from being hijacked by the anti-American left. To try and posit the notion that Pataki was acting like a king or a dictator is ridiculous:

Saddam Hussein, following in the footsteps of Hitler and Mussolini, was a determined builder. It was only his decision to invade Iran that stopped him from building a state mosque in Baghdad designed by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. And his Mother of all Battles Mosque, designed so that the dimensions of the minarets and fountains are a semiotic reference to the dictator’s day of birth, has an unfortunate echo in the symbolism of the Freedom Tower, which is to stand at 1,776 feet, marking a different sort of birthday altogether.

Leave it to an elitist to compare July 4th with Saddam’s birthday. There is no other way to put it; only an idiot makes such a comparison. Only someone without a shred of common sense not to mention historical perspective can make such a statement with a straight face. It underscores what the Freedom Center, in fact, will be. It will glory in comparisons such as this one to the detriment of both America’s image and historical fact.

Finally, Mr. Sudjic bemoans the loss of architectural coherence to the project:

The electricity, alas, has long since faded away. What makes the rebuilding of ground zero so difficult a project is the ambiguity about who is guiding the architectural symbolism. The rhetoric is that the client here is that wonderful amorphous mass, the public. The reality, however, is that ground zero is being shaped in private by Mr. Pataki’s often arbitrary and incoherent decisions, by the wishes of the developer, Larry Silverstein, and sometimes by the brute force of the security consultants whose interventions have a tendency to sweep away the obfuscation about the nature of the project.

Is it any wonder things have reached a state of inertia? Somebody needs to impose his will, and the only one with a mandate and money to do so is Governor Pataki. He should stand up and acknowledge that ground zero will be rebuilt in his image, just as Nelson Rockefeller did with Albany. I have no illusions that he will make all, or even any, of the right decisions. But his attaching his name indelibly to the project would at least concentrate his mind on setting things back in motion at New York’s most sacred ground.

The rebuilding of Ground Zero is an enormous project. It is something akin to building a small town, so widespread and total was the devastation caused by the collapse of the towers. Everything from sewers and electrictiy to subways and other infrastructure projects are necessary so that life can return to that part of Manhattan. The Ground Zero Memorial is a tiny part of the enterprise. Even if one were to include the Freedom Center with the memorial, the cost would be a beggar’s portion of the total.

The centerpiece of the project is the aforementioned Freedom Tower. While the skyscraper has had design problems from the beginning – most notably as Mr. Sudjic mentions, security issues – Governor Pataki has exercised his authority as holder of the purse strings in a restrained manner. This has led to competing visions of the massive building and what it represents. But it is important to remember that the entire project (overseen by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation) is costing tens of billions of dollars. The Memorial, the Freedom Center, and even the Freedom Tower taken together still amounts to only a fraction of the monies to be spent in “rebuilding” Ground Zero. The rest of the massive project continues apace and is being obscured by arguments over the meaning and architectural asthetics of these designs.

What elitists like Mr. Sudjic object to is the intervention of amateurs like you, me, and even Governor Pataki in this debate. Only the learned, the cultured, should debate the merits of one design over another. In short, only our betters have the wisdom, the insight, and the special knowledge to tell us what we should think about how buildings should relate to our everyday lives. The 9/11 Memorial was nearly stolen by people like Mr. Sudjic because we almost believed them. It took the widows and loved ones of the victims of that horrible day to remind us what freedom is and how it should be exercised.

By: Rick Moran at 7:47 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (1)

10/23/2005
YOUTH WILL BE SERVED
CATEGORY: WORLD SERIES


24 YEAR OLD BOBBY JENKS FINISHES A GAME FOR THE WHITE SOX THAT FEATURED HOUSTON STARTER 43 YEAR OLD ROGER CLEMENS

It’s pretty hard to refer to White Sox closer Bobby Jenks as a “kid.” After all, the man is 24 years old and been making a living throwing his 100 MPH fastball for more than 5 years. On the other hand, one look at the roundly cherubic face and the 270 pound body with what appears to be some adolescent “baby fat” on it and one could be excused the exaggeration.

But perhaps because the game of baseball contains more than its fair share of fabulists and myth makers, the appellation “The Kid” evokes a powerful subtext to any story. “Youth will be served” in both sport and life. And nowhere was this theme explored any better than in the short story by Jack London entitled A Piece of Steak.

Published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1909, the story is about an aging boxer who wakes up on the day of what he knows will be his last fight hankering for a piece of steak. But there is no money for meat. The promoter has advanced him the loser’s purse just so he could pay the rent and what was left over was barely enough to purchase some bread and flour to make a weak, unsatisfying gravy.

As he readies himself for the fight, the boxer reminisces about his youth and how he used to eat steak three times a day when he was a winning fighter. Back then, people gladly bought him steaks just so they could sit with him and bask in his celebrity. But no more. Now aging and tired, he realizes that in order to win and receive the balance of the money from the winners purse that will see him through until he can get a job, he must use all of his wiles, all of his wisdom and knowledge to defeat his opponent.

For his opponent is a young, up and coming fighter, a mirror image of who and what he was many years ago. In fact, his foe is youth itself for, as London brilliantly shows time and time again, “youth will be served.” And the aging fighter wonders if he can defeat not only his opponent, but life itself which has played such a horrible trick on him by making him grow old.

The youth has power and grace and an endurance that the old boxer realizes he doesn’t possess. Therefore, his strategy will be to conserve his strength, hoping that the young fighter will make a mistake and give him an opening. He will then unleash his remaining strength in a hail of blows that will knock out the youngster and give him the winner’s purse he so desperately needs.

The fight unfolds as a one sided affair with the youth predictably beating up on the older boxer. But the aging fighter knows how to deflect the young man’s blows just enough so that their power is reduced. He also has the guile and experience to slip away from blows that would have hammered him into the canvas. And then, with the young boxer way ahead on points, his overconfidence gets the better of him and he momentarily drops his guard.

This is what the aging fighter had been waiting for and he immediately tries to take advantage. He hurts the youth with several well aimed shots to the head and then begins to pound away at the body. He can feel victory in his grasp as the youth starts to sag. He can see that the young man is ready to drop. All he needs to do to knock the youngster out is deliver the final, coup de grace to the jaw.

As he rears back and readies himself to deliver the final blow, the aging boxer realizes to his horror that the strength just isn’t there. The blow lands but doesn’t have the power behind it to bring the young man down. Sadly, the old fighter believes that if only he had a piece of steak, the blow he delivered would have been powerful enough to bring him victory. As the young man holds on to the ancient boxer in the clinch, he can feel the strength returning to the younger man while his own diminishes.

And thus, is youth served in the end as the youngster knocks out the now tired and defeated older man.

London’s fable, one of the best short stories ever written, reveals the universal truth that the young lion will eventually defeat the old lion as the torch of life is passed to another generation. And while it is impossible to diminish the career of last night’s starter for Houston Roger Clemens, watching the 43 year old fireballer limp off the mound in the second inning last night immediately brought to mind London’s tale of bitterness and life’s betrayal of all of us as our physical abilities diminish just at the time that our experience and knowledge would allow us to dominate our world in a way that was impossible in our youth.

And stepping into the spotlight last night was that raw power of youth represented by Bobby Jenks. Now it is his fastball not Clemens’ that blows away hitters like the autumn leaves swirling around outside of US Cellular Field. It is the youngster that, with seeming ease, plowed through the last 4 batters for Houston by striking out three of them, hurling his Thor-like thunderbolts with terrifying speed and accuracy.

Jenks has what Clemens had twenty years ago; a fastball so overpowering and intimidating that hitters never were able to get comfortable in the batters box. The batter’s self-preservation instincts were on full when facing Clemens back then. Now, although still an outstanding pitcher who led the Major League starting pitchers in Earned Run Average (1.87 runs per nine innings), Clemens is much more apt to use his knowledge of hitters and his resourcefulness to get batters out.

No, there is no parallel between Roger Clemens and the aging boxer except in the fact that both are now old by athletic standards and that the skills and abilities they possessed as youths have been replaced by experience and guile. Clemens, like his fellow Texan Nolan Ryan, will always be remembered for both a stratospheric ability to throw a baseball and a longevity that defied the gods that allowed both to pitch well into their 40’s. Nothing Clemens does in this World Series will dim the luster off of a career full of record shattering accomplishment and marvelous athletic feats. But his fastball – once the scourge of the baseball world – is no longer the powerful weapon that allowed him to dominate batters in a way seen perhaps once in a generation.

And Bobby Jenks? Here’s how I described the “kid” from Spirit Lake, Idaho a couple of weeks ago:

He can throw a baseball more than 100 miles per hour. At that speed, the ball screams toward the hitter appearing to be a tiny, jet propelled pellet of white-hot molten plasma, a blur to the eye of even the best of Major League hitters and forcing them to begin their swing almost before the pitch leaves his hand. And his 12 to 6 curve ball thrown almost 20 miles per hour slower has made more than one Major League hitter look like a busher with cataracts.

But what Bobby Jenks has that makes him a potential star closer for the White Sox during the upcoming post season is the heart of a lion and the soul of a serial killer – two attributes that a successful baseball fireman must have in order to succeed when the game is on the line and the pressure so intense that equally gifted pitchers have buckled and broken.

Jenks showed last night that he indeed has “the heart of a lion.” And it is just possible to imagine that by the end of Game 1 of the World Series, the young lion established himself as leader of the pride while the old, tired male limped off into history realizing that yes, youth will always be served when it comes to athletic endeavors.

UPDATE

Although Crank picks the Chisox is 7 games, he has some rather interesting comments about the luck of the Sox in not having to face healthy #1 starters in both the Angels series (Colon) and now against the Astros (Clemens).

Nice try but doesn’t that statement ignore the White Sox starters? Is Crank saying that any of the games would have turned out differently? Is he saying that either a healthy Colon or Clemens would have shut out the White Sox?

This is the problem with playing “what if” games in baseball. It wouldn’t have mattered who pitched last night for the Astros unless they had scored more runs than the White Sox. In other words, unless you’re willing to say that the Sox would have scored 3 or fewer runs, the notion that a healthy Clemens would have beaten them is a fallacy. This is true especially because of the Astros bullpen which was horrid last night.

Ain’t baseball great?

By: Rick Moran at 1:37 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

10/22/2005
CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #18 - “THE CAT ATE MY INTERNET” EDITION

As regular readers of the Carnival know, I generally use this space at the start of the Carnival to highlight who I believe to be “Cluebat of the Week.” I was all set this week to name Syrian President Bashar al Assad for the honor thanks to his part in what has to be considered the most botched “conspiracy” in world history.

Think about this for a minute: More people probably knew about and participated in the assassination of Lebanese nationalist Rafiq Hariri than are going to vote for Harriet Miers for Supreme Court Justice. There was Assad, of course and his brother in law, Assef Shawkat. Then there was apparently most of the Syrian President’s cabinet. And there was Syrian intelligence that, according to the Mehlis report, used the sovereign state of Lebanon as its personal, brutish playground for more than a quarter century.

But that was only Syrian involvement. Syrian-siding Lebanese turncoats were also in on the plot. There were 4 high ranking Generals who have been implicated as well as radical islamists. Even the clueless puppet President of Lebanon Emile Lahoud was kept abreast of developments.

This was the dumbest conspiracy ever. Dumber than trying to sell arms for hostages. Dumber than using wadded up duct tape to prop open an access door at the Watergate in order to bug the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. It was even dumber than sending thugs to the homes of women you’ve bedded down in the past to threaten them with physical harm if they opened their mouths about it.

But Assad has to take a backseat this week to the clueless antics of my pet cat Snowball.

Now Snowy is a beautiful girl, still just a baby at 14 weeks but nevertheless, a demon. She is the kitty from hell. She is Snowball the Destroyer, Snowball the Terrible, Snowball the Merciless. Since moving in, she has chewed through $70 set of headphones, shredded the cord to a floor fan, and gnawed into a pair of Ferragamo sandals.

But her latest caper is what she is being honored for; she clawed her way through the wire on my broadband connection box. And she was doing it while I was busy trying to keep the cord to my brand new $90 set of headphones away from her.

I thought I was clever. I thought I was outsmarting her. But while I believed she was sitting at my feet waiting for the headphone cord to come within her kitty grasp, she was actually sort of absent mindedly batting the cord to my broadband connection back and forth like a metronome, idly passing the time until my attention was elsewhere and she could go after her main target. Of course, her razor sharp claws were ripping the insulation off the broadband box wire as easily as they shred my skin whenever I pick her up to move her off our bed. The amazing thing is it only took her a couple of hours on Friday to accomplish what the Democratic Underground, the Kos Kids, and Oliver Willis could only dream; she kicked me off the internet.

The young ladies at Comcast service center who gave me another connector box thought it was cute. I wanted to slug them. Let them live with this devil’s familiar for a few weeks and those laughs will turn to heretical thoughts of selling the clueless animal to Mr. Lee’s Chinese take out down the street to be turned into soup a la Snowball.

So for deviltry above and beyond the call of any kitty I know, Snowball gets the nod as Cluebat of The Week. And as you peruse the Carnival entires below, I’m sure you’ll find your own candidate whose cluelessness will shock you, entertain you, and perhaps even bring a smile to your face.

One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.
(Edward Abbey)

Spot on, Eddie! I see you’re a Cubs fan.
(Me)

******************************************************************************
Ferdy the Cat gives a spirited defense of his species and their utility as blog fodder as he angrily responds to a Toronto Mail article dissing blogs that use cat pictures and stories as filler. Now what kind of a blogger would shamelessly use their cat for “humor and whimsy?”

Adding a little international flavor this week is Angry in the Great White North with this bit of idiocy from north of the border. It seems that Canadian correction officials want to house a transgender inmate at a woman’s prison – this after moving him/her from a male prison and (here’s the clueless part) paying for his sex change operation!

Superhero (Boy! Does she look good in tights or what?) Pamela at Atlas Shrugs fisks Wesley Clark, grinding him into talcum powder for his clueless comments on Iraq.

Update on Don Surber’s campaign for “King of the Cotillion:” Um…know any good concession speeches? But Don concedes nothing in this great post on political correctness in Great Britain.

After a too long hiatus from the Carnival, the Palmetto Pundit is back and piling on cluebat Madonna. Says PP: “I’m having trouble imagining a scenario in which my parental skills could be improved by turning to Madonna for advice and guidance...” Um…yeah.

AJ at The Strata-Sphere has that clueless gadfly Larry Johnson, former CIA agent and Plame defender, dead to rights. Johnson once left me a comment on a Plame post reminding me that he “knows the people who killed drug kingpin Pablo Escobar.” Yeah? Impress me some more, Larry.

Miriam made the mistake of listening to NPR while they interviewed the clueless member of an Iranian rock band who wrote a song about Guantanamo. The mental image conjured up when thinking of what the group’s female back-up singers might look like makes me wonder how anyone can take them seriously.

Raven take aim at Cluebat Hall of Fame nominee Joe Wilson and fires off a few choice barbs at his contention that he’s actually a hero for lying through his teeth about his trip to Niger.

Here’s your weekly dose of satire from our dynamic duo of The Nose on Your Face and Mr. Right. It is suggested that you not be drinking any carbonated beverages when reading these two masters of the genre. TNOYF has “Top 10 PETA Comics” while Mr. Right brings us “Ronnie Earle Indicts Much of Texas on Conspiracy Charges .”

And while you’re in the mood for funny, check on Kender’s post comparing Vampires and Werewolves with the left and the ACLU. Classic Kender.

Tinkerty Tonk goes after the anti-war meme “Who would Jesus Bomb?” and wonders if the clueless lefties have ever met a Christian.

Josh Cohen is rightly up in arms over a little Republican hypocrisy regarding pornography and how it is defined. Whenever a politician starts talking about “protecting the children” grab your wallet and an extra copy of the constitution to protect them from the ravages of clueless legislators.

Those pain dealing pachyderms at Academic Elephants review Barbara Boxer’s new novel about Washington and dole out punishment requisite to the crime. Wonder which character Boxer sees herself as? I doubt whether she included a clueless, stumbling, bumbling Senator in the book.

Fred Fry correctly diagnoses the idiocy behind striking down the Georgia voter ID law. To compare the law to a poll tax is pure politics, as Fred points out. What gets me is that you can’t buy booze in Georgia unless you have an ID. But you can vote? Something is wrong there.

Blogbud Maryhunter has the skinny on the rapidly-fading-from-view Cindy Sheehan’s fallout with the possible Democratic nominee for President in 2008 Hillary Clinton. Very soon we’re going to get to the point that Democrats are going to welcome a non-endorsement from Mother Sheehan.

Cao of Cao’s blog (pronounced “key”) has the perfect cartoon for your weekend pleasure; a cluebat and a terrorist.

Regular House reader Bill Martin from the town with the great name of Thunder Bay, Ontario links us with this piece of more cluelessness from Canadian correction authorities. This time it involves publishing floor plans for prisons on the internet – in full view of the inmates who may be interested in the best way to escape their incarceration.

More fisking of the Canadian justice system, this time from the North American Patriot. Wonder Woman has some head scratching examples which show that we’re not the only ones who have idiots dispensing punishment to criminals.

Dan Melson is positively speechless about the cluelessness of California bureaucrats as he wrestles with provisions of that state’s Megan Law.

The Headmistress at Common Room has a hilarious take on one of the most curious stories ever published; AP’s take on Karl Rove’s garage.

Pat Curely links to a comparison between Gore and Hillary and make some salient points about Gore’s viability and qualifications.

Matt Johnston has a thoughtful article on the DC schools and the cluelessness of officials who cave in to special interest groups at the first sign of trouble.

Iris Blog successfully debunks the idea – pushed most notably by Timothy Noah of Slate - that Dame Margaret Thatcher is now opposing the United States in the Iraq war.

Is there any group more clueless than Neo-Nazis? Orac has the lowdown on the group’s demonstration in Toledo recently and the riot that ensued.

Different River blogs about the House passing liability protection for gun manufacturers. Perhaps the tide against gun regulation is turning as this bill will keep the trial lawyers from destroying the gun industry in America.

Finally, here’s my take on the cluebats in Syria who planned the Hariri assassination

By: Rick Moran at 5:19 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

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Blog Carnival linked with Blog Carnival index: CARNIVAL OF THE CLUELESS #18 - “THE CAT ATE MY INTERNET” EDITION
10/21/2005
WHERE’S THE CARNIVAL?
CATEGORY: Blogging, Books

My internet connection has been down since early this afternoon. It came on briefly at around 4:00 pm and again about 5 minutes ago.

Comcast says they don’t have a clue what’s wrong. I’ve already lost about 1/3 of the Carnival as it went off before I could save it.

What a mess. And depressing.

At any rate, it may be my little black box in which case I won’t have internet until Monday (didn’t get a dial up capability when I bought the computer, damnit). I’ll try again in the morning.

By: Rick Moran at 10:44 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

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REACTION TO THE MEHLIS REPORT
CATEGORY: Middle East

Rather than my usual habit of simply updating a post to detail other reactions by blogs to the same story, I’ve decided to go ahead and devote an entire post on reaction to the Mehlis Report regarding the Hariri assassination.

The MSM has given the story front page treatment. The New York Times leads with the supposedly embargoed information that President Bashar Assad’s brother in law Syria’s military intelligence chief, Asef Shawkat has been implicated in the plot to kill Hariri.

I find it interesting that the State Department would ask that the information be censored while knowing that it would probably leak anyway. According to the “diplomat” quoted in the story, Assad himself may be on the ropes as a result of this obviously botched conspiracy. If so, State may be trying to head off a coup d’etat:

“There is evidence in abundance,” the diplomat said. “But to get every piece of the puzzle they need more time.” He spoke on condition of anonymity because of what he described as the extreme sensitivity of the matter.

Mr. Shawkat is considered the second most powerful man in Syria and has been seen as a likely candidate to take over the country if the embattled Mr. Assad were removed from office.

The diplomat, describing Syria as a “country run by a little family clique,” said the involvement of any one in Mr. Assad’s inner circle would be a severe blow to the government.

“There is absolutely no doubt, it goes right to the top,” he said. “This is Murder Inc.”

By implicating Shawkat, State has cut the legs from underneath any cabal that would wish to overthrow Assad. You’ve got to believe that no one in Syria wants an international criminal as President. Also, relations with Syria are at an extremely delicate point now and publicizing the fact that Assad’s relation is directly responsible for murder would complicate any diplomacy that’s going on. Besides, it’s a nice club to hold over Assad’s head not to publically humiliate him by having his brother in law named as a murderer.

The Washington Post talks about the impact the report might have on the international community:

The findings have been eagerly awaited by U.S. and European officials. Along with a second U.N. report on Lebanon due in days, key members of the Security Council hope to use the findings to increase pressure on the Assad government to end years of meddling in Lebanon and to generally change its behavior both at home and throughout the region, including ending support for extremist groups.

That last may be wishful thinking as Assad needs those “extremist groups” to project his power in Lebanon as well as bother the state of Israel.

The Washington Times takes a different approach, highlighting the potential unrest in Lebanon that the report could engender:

Lebanese police and soldiers have been deployed throughout the capital to maintain order in an increasingly tense environment.

Many Lebanese fear a revenge campaign by Syrian soldiers or loyalists. “Given the infiltration of Lebanese institutions and society by the Syrian and Lebanese intelligence services working in tandem, it would be difficult to envisage a scenario whereby such a complex assassination plot could have been carried out without their knowledge,” wrote Detlev Mehlis, a German criminal investigator and head of the U.N. panel.

The theme of Lebanese reaction is taken up by Michael Totten:

Lebanon this morning was quiet and subdued in the wake of the news. Automobile traffic is down. Foot traffic is down even more. Downtown Beirut is eerily silent. Military checkpoints have been beefed up substantially. Armored vehicles and heavy artillery are set up in front of potential targets. I noticed some hotels won’t allow cars to enter their parking lots without first having bomb squads check under the chassis with mirrors for bombs. But I saw that last time I was in Lebanon, in April, and I’m unsure if this is a resumed policy or if it has been in place the whole time. I will say that I haven’t noticed it on this trip until now.

I did see a number of large old white people with hats and cameras wandering around downtown. Perhaps a cruise ship just deposited them blissfully unaware into a frying pan.

Global Voices has reaction from from bloggers inside Lebanon:

The Lebanese Blogger Forum came to this Conclusion:

There is probable cause to believe that the decision to assassinate former Prime Minister, Rafik Hariri, could not have been taken without the approval of topranked Syrian security official and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security services.

While the Lebanese Political Journal says:

The streets of Beirut are incredibly quiet. The last time I experienced this was the day after Hariri was assassinated when no cars roamed the streets. Today, is not like that day, but the city is in an unusual state.

The Captain points out that the report will finally get some action against Syria in the Security Council:

This UN report does make it almost impossible for the UN Security Council to dither any longer on this issue. The US-French effort to push devastating sanctions onto Assad’s narrow shoulders should continue apace, and perhaps the report might even convince Russia and China to step aside and withhold their vetoes and protection from Assad. Dictatorships can’t act this stupidly and still expect their allies to unquestionably endorse them forever.

Now if we could only get them to move on Iran’s nukes…

Joe Gandelman has a good analysis highlighting more MSM reaction.

And Mark Noonan puts the report in perspective:

Last week we noted that Syria’s Interior Minister, – and former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon – Kanaan was reported to have committed suicide in his office. Given that the UN investigation – for what it was worth – was coming to a head and was bound to show clear Syrian, and especially Kanaan, involvement in the murder of a Lebanese politician, I thought the suicide rather convenient

Kanaan’s “suicide” must be seen in this light. Perhaps the Interior Minister was contemplating turning on his collegues. Or perhaps someone thought he told Mehlis’ people too much. Either way, he was a danger to someone, probably Shawkat.

In this way are minor annoyances dealt with in Assad’s Syria.

By: Rick Moran at 10:22 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)

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SYRIA AND THE HARIRI CONSPIRACY
CATEGORY: Middle East

This article originally appears in The American Thinker

The report released by the United Nations today that details Syrian involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri reads like a bad spy novel. It seems unbelievable, but the facts are clear; so many people were involved in the conspiracy to kill the popular Lebanese nationalist that it was inevitable that the truth would eventually come out.

The list of accomplices is staggering. Not only Syrian President Bashar Assad himself, who personally threatened the life of Hariri by telling him in a meeting on August 26, 2004 he would “break Lebanon over your head” unless Hariri backed an extension of the term of office of Lebanon’s puppet President Emil Lahoud for three years, but also the Syrian intelligence service, a faction of the Lebanese armed forces loyal to Syria, and even the personal bodyguards of Hariri himself.

The detailed report was authored by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis and involved more than 400 interviews and a review of more than 16,000 pages of documents. Among those interviewed was Ghazi Kanaan, the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, who committed suicide last week under suspicious circumstances. President Assad declined to be interviewed, and interviews with top Syrian cabinet officials only seemed to confirm the extent of the conspiracy. According to Mehlis, these top government officials gave “uniform answers” that contradicted the weight of evidence.

One other thing that the Mehlis investigation found was that Syrian influence on the day-to-day operation of the Lebanese government was “pervasive” and was managed by an extensive network of Syrian intelligence officials. While this comes as no surprise, it is shocking to read in black and white the bullying from Damascus that the Lebanese people had to endure for more than a quarter century.

In an interview with Hariri’s son Saad who was recently elected to the Lebanese parliament, investigators got a flavor of Bashar Assad’s brutality as well as some insight into the extent to which Lebanon was treated like the personal fiefdom of the Syrian President:

Saad said: “I discussed with my father, the late Rafik Hariri, the extension of President Lahoud’s term. He told me that President Bashar Assad threatened him telling him: “This is what I want. If you think that President Chirac and you are going to run Lebanon, you are mistaken. It is not going to happen. President Lahoud is me. Whatever I tell him, he follows suit. This extension is to happen or else I will break Lebanon over your head and Walid Jumblat’s. (…) So, you either do as you are told or we will get you and your family wherever you are.”

Jumblat is the old, canny, Druze warlord who has survived these many years by staying one step ahead of the assassin’s knife. He basically kept his mouth shut about the extension of Lahoud’s term until more than a million Lebanese went into the streets to demand the ouster of Syrian troops last spring. To his credit, he then joined with Saad Hariri and several other factions in a grand coalition that swept to victory in the elections last summer.

In addition to being personally threatened by Assad, Hariri was warned by Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to Washington Walid Mouallem, in a meeting just days before the assassination, who told him that Syrian security services had him “cornered” and not to “take things lightly.” The former Prime Minister said after the meeting that “it was the worst day of his life.”

Four Lebanese Generals (who are imprisoned on unrelated charges) have also been implicated, as well as the notorious head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, Ahmad Jibreel. The PFLP Commander has been a thorn in the side of Israel for many years and is the author of dozens of terrorist attacks directed against the Jewish state.

One curious note is that there was an intervention at the last moment by the US State Department, who asked that a portion of the report be redacted. The Daily Star report linked above says that “Sources have stated that the uncensored report names the primary suspects in the crime as: Assef Shawkat, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law and head of Syrian intelligence; Bahjat Suleiman, a high ranking Syrian intelligence officer; Ghazi Kenaan, the former Syrian Interior Minister and commander of Syria’s intelligence apparatus in Lebanon between 1982 and 2002.”

One shadowy Lebanese operative appears to have been a conduit for several of the factions involved in the killing. Sheikh Ahmad Abdel-Al, a prominent figure in the Al-Ahbash, Association of Islamic Philanthropic Projects, and a close friend to President Lahoud, made a call minutes before the blast, at 1247 hrs, to the mobile phone of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud and at 1249 hrs had contact with the mobile telephoneone of one of the Lebanese Generals implicated in the plot, Raymond Azar.

The Hariri assassination has clearly been a disaster for Assad’s regime. Showing little of the guile of his father Hafez al Assad, who ruled Syria with an iron fist for nearly 30 years, Bashar has placed his country in an impossible position. Kicked out of Lebanon by a combination of massive protests by the Lebanese and international pressure led by the US and France, Assad’s strategic position in the Middle East is in shambles.

Assad’s father Hafez al Assad was a classic “strongman” controlling the army and intelligence service through a combination of fear and bribes (Assad milked Lebanon commerce dry and used the proceeds to stay in power) while using an efficient and deadly secret police to stifle dissent and maintain control of the populace. His Soviet allies sold him modern weaponry while backing him diplomatically in his quest to use Lebanon as both a buffer state against Israel and a foward staging area to precipitate attacks on the Jewish homeland.

Hafez Assad was a player in the sometimes deadly game of Middle East politics because he could stay one or two steps ahead of his adversaries in Beirut as well as Washington and Tel Aviv. He was sure-handed in his dealings with other Arab states, especially his fellow Ba’athists in Iraq. And he was a survivor, realizing after the first Persian Gulf War that, in order to maintain his position, he would have to at least give the appearance of talking to Israel.

His son Bashar succeeded to the Presidency upon Hafez’s death in 2000. Bashar, an ophthalmologist by training, came to politics late. His older brother Basil, groomed by his father to succeed him, died in a car crash in 1994. Bashar, then, was thrust into the role of putative successor. After 6 years in the military, Bashar was “elected” by the Syrian parliment to the presidency.

There have been reports of dissatisfaction in both the military and factions in the Ba’athist party itself over young Assad’s rule, and this botched conspiracy may threaten his hold on power. The fact that Bashar couldn’t see all this coming has apparently troubled many of the old guard Ba’athists who saw Lebanon as a cash cow, filling their pockets by exploiting that country’s commercial enterprises to the fullest. This begs the question: why kill Hariri in the first place?

A clue may lie in Assad’s relationship with the fanatical Islamists whose guns once did his dirty work in Lebanon. They may have forced his hand regarding Hariri due to the former Prime Minister’s non-sectarian approach to the muddle that is Lebanese politics.

Rafik Hariri was a much-respected political figure. He favored giving women and young people the vote, as well as reconciling with Lebanon’s Christian minority. Although a Shia Muslim by birth, he had a knack for drawing support from all segements of Lebanese society. Two events may have sealed the former Prime Minister’s fate. On January 31st, Hariri met with the Pope in Rome, an event obviously opposed by the Islamists who saw the meeting as confirmation that Hariri was cozying up to the Christian minority. Then, the very next day Hariri gave an interview to the Lebanon Daily Star in which he said he was “not concerned with sectarian issues” and was friends with everyone.

This may have been the last straw for the radical Islamic terrorists who are very concerned with sectarian issues, wanting more than anything else to have Shar’ia law govern the country. Assad may have felt that he had little choice, especially since Hariri’s opposition to an extension of President Lahoud’s term would have complicated the political situation enormously. Under pressure from the international community Syria had granted Lebanon the right to have parliamentary elections in June. With Hariri a logical choice for the opposition to rally around, Assad may have forseen what occurred anyway; instead of the usual fractured sectarian muddle, a powerful, united opposition emerged and is in the process of sweeping away Lahoud and his henchmen.

A second U.N. report on Lebanon is expected next week. It will focus on the implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the end of Syria’s meddling in Lebanon and the disbanding of armed groups that are tied to Syria. This would include the terrorist organization Hizballah, whose militia has so far refused to disarm. This has caused problems for the United States because Hizballah may be considered a terrorist organization by the State Department, but the Lebanese people just elected two dozen of its members to parliament. There have been some proposals to incorporate the militia into the regular Lebanese army, but that has been so far rejected by Hassan Nasrallah, Hizballah’s senior political leader. However, Nasrallah has shown some flexibility in the matter and a compromise may still be reached.

The assassination of Rafiq Hariri was a Syrian blunder of monumental proportions. It has isolated Syria from most of the international community. It has placed Syria in a much weaker military position in the Middle East. And it has placed the rule of Bashar Assad himself in danger. On top of all that, the act of assassinating Hariri failed to achieve the desired result, and indeed had the opposite effect: it united the Lebanese opposition who, with the courage of and determination of the Lebanese people, kicked the Syrians out of Lebanon for good.

UPDATE

Michael Young has a fascinating explanation for why several Syrian official’s names were redacted from the published report. While The Daily Star is reporting that it was the US State Department who asked that the report be censored, Young has evidence that it was actually done at the highest level of the UN: The Office of the Secretary General:

It was especially interesting that initial copies of the Mehlis report released to journalists at the United Nations last night came as a Word document, with tracked changes in the text. The final emendations were made by the office of Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In the initial Mehlis draft of the particularly damning paragraph 96 (here is a link to a non-annotated version of the final report), two very senior Syrian officials—Military Intelligence chief Assef Shawkat, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s brother-in-law, as well as the president’s own brother, Maher, are mentioned by a witness as having helped plan Rafik Hariri’s assassination. However, in the final draft redacted by Annan’s office, the names were removed, though the original text is clearly visible via the tracked changes.

This seemed to indicate timidity from Annan’s office, or at least a desire to avoid any accusation of high-level Syrians in the context of a statement by a single witness. However, that may be half the story: Why was the document released in this fashion? It would have been very easy to just make the changes and leave no editing marks. Was this a compromise between Mehlis and Annan, so that people like me could mention that detail, while the U.N. could later claim that the official version was “clean” of the names in question? Judge for yourselves.

For some reason, I trust the Daily Star on this. While UN “timidity” would be perfectly in keeping with Anan’s lack of spine, the only possible explanation I can think of for the UN redacting the information on its own would be its concern for peace in the streets of Lebanon. This kind of censorship would be logical only if Anan’s office feared a bloodbath in Beirut. It would make better sense if Anan censored the report at the behest of the State Department for the reasons I listed here.

Nevertheless, a fascinating theory in that once again, the UN proves its spinelessness. This is the consequence of trying desperately not to offend anyone; you end up covering up murderer’s names.

By: Rick Moran at 8:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (15)

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10/20/2005
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By: Rick Moran at 11:42 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

A STUDIED INDIFFERENCE TO THE FACTS

With all the stories and articles about the Miers nomination, the imminent denouement of the Special Prosecutor’s investigation into L’Affaire d’Plame, and the Republican party crack up, you may be forgiven for missing the biggest news of all.

War has been put on the endangered species list.

Yes. it’s true. The number of armed conflicts around the world have declined by 40% since the early 1990’s. And that’s not all. Several other indices of human suffering and wanton slaughter have also gone south. To wit:

  • armed secessionist conflicts are at their lowest point since 1976
  • the number of genocides and politicides plummeted by 80% between the 1988 high point and 2001
  • International crises, often harbingers of war, declined by more than 70% between 1981 and 2001
  • The dollar value of major international arms transfers fell by 33% between 1990 and 2003. Global military expenditure and troop numbers declined sharply in the 1990s as well.
  • The number of refugees dropped by some 45% between 1992 and 2003, as more and more wars came to an end

Is this some kind of witchcraft? Are we humans finally, after warring, butchering, murdering, and torturing each other for thousands of years, learning to live with one another in peace? What could possibly account for this sudden transformation of the human condition? Religious revival? Intervention by aliens?

If you guessed Kofi Annan and the United Nations, you win a cookie.

Yes, that United Nations. And yes, that Kofi Annan. It seems that while the United States was busy winning the cold war, containing Soviet expansionism, not to mention overthrowing two of the most repressive regimes on the planet, we were completely unaware that the good old UN was right there with us, standing shoulder to shoulder and cheek to cheek as together we overcame the odds and brought freedom and democracy to the peoples of eastern Europe, Asia, and Afghanistan and Iraq.

At least, that’s the UN’s story and they’re sticking to it.

Actually, the information is contained in a report by the Human Security Center, a non-profit group funded by public and private foundations from 5 countries including Britain, Canada, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. The UN connection comes from one of the Center’s co-chairs, Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The report finds that “the best explanation for this decline is the huge upsurge of conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding activities that were spearheaded by the United Nations in the aftermath of the Cold War.” The document is full of neat little graphs and charts all showing a downward trend in political violence over the last decade or so. From the looks of it, it seems that the Center has done a most thorough and complete treatment of the subject.

All but the part where America is largely responsible for these surprising developments. That particular element seems to have been misplaced in the report. Perhaps the authors screwed up the footnotes because for the life of me, I couldn’t find a single reference to the United States in the entire screed. Evidently, being a hyper-power has its limits. Maybe we should have bought an ad on their website.

The Human Security Center is puzzled that these remarkable trends have not been picked up by the media and trumpeted to the skies. The answer to that is a no brainer. Richard Fernandez has the easy explanation:

That’s not surprising given that probably nowhere has the process lauded by the Commission on Human Security been more in evidence than in Afghanistan, and more studiously ignored. The UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees] itself admits that “more than 3.5 million Afghans have returned to their homeland since the end of 2001”, one of the most remarkable reversals of refugee flows in history—and then gives the credit to the United Nations—“when the Bonn Agreement set Afghanistan on the long and bumpy road to political stability and socio-economic development.” But what else happened in that time frame? Inquiring minds want to know.

Indeed. This kind of willful blindness is prevalent throughout the report. The Center’s myopia regarding US diplomatic and military triumphs in places like Kuwait, the Balkans, the Middle East, and elsewhere is symptomatic of a more troubling deficiency among global elites; a studious and deliberate obfuscation of history to achieve a desired political end. It’s not that the facts are hidden away collecting dust in some obscure academic institution. One would hope that at the very least, the authors of the report would have had access to the New York Times or The Washington Post to fill them in on what was going on in the world during the period under study.

Then again, maybe they did have access to those publications which is why they wrote what they did.

In a recent email exchange with a friend of mine, we both spoke of our emotional response to pictures of Iraqis going to the polls and how because of the disinterest of the national media, our grandchildren will probably be better informed of the struggle of the Iraqi people for freedom than we are today. Will they ask what it was like to be alive at such an exciting time in history when human freedom was on the march, spearheaded by the indomitable spirit of the United States? Sadly, reports such as this one will probably be more important to the historical record than contemporary accounts from eyewitnesses. Will our offspring notice the discrepancies between history as written by Internationalist organizations like the Center for Human Security and the first-person dispatches of observers like Michael Yon whose inspired writing of the struggles of the Iraqi people and the American military detail what our own media is either too lazy or too biased to report?

Clearly, the Center for Human Security’s report has succeeded in bringing to light the under reported drama of the progress being made around the world in conflict resolution and the sidebar story of the spread of freedom into areas where it never existed except in the dreams and aspirations of oppressed people. But to not mention the role of American leadership in these encouraging developments is pure cynicism. It bespeaks a mindset among many internationalists that the nation state is dying out and only supra-national organizations like the United Nations are relevant in the power calculations of the dictators, the holy men, the corrupt colonels and Generals who are responsible for so much human misery on the planet.

They see no correlation, for instance, between 135,000 American troops going through Saddam’s vaunted army with ease and Libyan strongman Ghaddafi giving up his weapons of mass destruction programs. Nor do they see that the powerful words spoken by an American President at his second inaugural could inspire democrats around the world to take to the streets and demand freedom and justice.

These are the underlying forces of history at work around the world, not the vainglorious pomposities and empty rhetoric of a powerless and cowardly United Nations. It must be up to us as contemporary witnesses to this transformational era in world history, not to let future generations be confused as to just who and what is responsible for these monumental changes. It is American power and American ideals that are rocking the world not the platitudinous nonsense of international elites.

By: Rick Moran at 11:02 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)