And Then The Second Half Arrived

When one hears that a college football team suffered a historic fourth-quarter collapse, one only thinks of two teams, both of them in the Big Ten: Michigan State and Minnesota. Last night, it was the Golden Gophers who gave their opponent an entree into the record books, as they have up a 31-point lead in the second half to lose the Insight Bowl in overtime to Texas Tech:

The Gophers football team played arguably its finest half of football this season before halftime and built a 38-7 lead against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the third quarter of the Insight Bowl …
And then gave it all away.
Shannon Woods’ 3-yard touchdown run in overtime capped the largest comeback in NCAA Division I-A bowl game history as Texas Tech stunned Minnesota 44-41 before an announced crowd of 48,391 at Sun Devil Stadium.
“Needless to say, that was a game of two different halves,” Gophers coach Glen Mason said. “All coaches preach that no lead is sufficient until the clock says it’s mathematically impossible to come back.”

Unfortunately, I watched the Michigan game in 2001, coached by Glen Mason, and saw pretty much the same thing — a team that ran up a decent lead and then forgot that football games last 60 minutes. I missed this collapse on TV, but somehow I don’t feel badly about that this morning.
The Gophers have their first losing season since that 2001 season. Perhaps it’s time for a change.

Northern Alliance Radio Live Today

The Northern Alliance Radio Network goes back to live broadcasting today after the Christmas break. That means that all six hours will be fresh, but none so fresh as Mitch and I broadcasting live from the showroom of White Bear Lake Superstore! The six-hour block starts at 11 am CT on AM 1280 The Patriot (and on the Internet stream at that link), but Mitch and I will go live between 1 – 3 PM CT. If you’re on the east side of the Twin Cities, make your way to the best car dealership and say hi to Paul Reuben and the gang — especially if your New Year’s resolution is to upgrade the ride.
So what will we be discussing? I’d say Saddam’s execution will be the hot topic today, but we’ll also cover the revelation that our own State Department knew for decades that Yasser Arafat had murdered two of its own diplomats. I’m sure we’ll have time to discuss the sale of the Star Tribune and its ramifications. And of course, we’ll talk about Gerald Ford and perhaps even debate the pardon. If you can’t join us at White Bear Lake Superstore, you can call 651-289-4488 and join the discussion.

It’s Over (Live Blog)

Three Arabic news stations and MS-NBC are broadcasting the report that Saddam Hussein has been executed this evening, right around 10 pm ET.
Right now, without any text reports, MS-NBC is telling viewers that a delegation of seven witnesses saw Saddam hanged a few minutes ago. The witnesses included members of the tribunal that convicted and sentenced him as well as a doctor to declare him dead. They also report that the Iraqi government recorded the event, and that the images and/or video will eventually be released to demonstrate that the former dictator and genocidal monster has truly died.
Sic semper tyrannis? Unfortunately, no, although it’s certainly an appealing thought. I’ll settle for an “et tu, Brute?” from each of them, if we can get it.
Here’s the first wire report — from Reuters, reporting on an al-Hurra TV broadcast:

U.S.-backed Iraqi television station Al Hurra said Saddam Hussein had been executed by hanging shortly before 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) on Saturday.

Also, the Iraqi government executed Barzan al-Tikriti and Awad al-Bandar after hanging Saddam. The three were sentenced to death together, and they have now been put to death at essentially the same time.
UPDATE: MS-NBC reports that Americans “were present” at the execution. I assume that means the security detail that delivered Saddam to the gallows. Meanwhile, here’s USA Today with a bare-bones announcement and a recap of the activity today.
UPDATE II: ‘Hanged’, not ‘hung’, and thanks to Only One Cannoli in the comments. So far, not much new on the internet or on TV about the executions.
9:47 PM CT – May as well make this a live-blog, if you’ll pardon the irony. The updated AP wire describes the announcement on Iraqi TV:

Saddam Hussein has been hanged, state-run television reported Saturday. “Criminal Saddam was hanged to death,” state-run Iraqiya television said in an announcement. The station played patriotic music and showed images of national monuments and other landmarks.

Perhaps the Maliki government still believes it can use this as a unifying event for Iraqis. It would be nice …
9:52 – MS-NBC, which I’m forced to watch in my hotel room, now reports that the Iraqi witnesses to the execution were cheering and dancing around the body of Saddam Hussein.
9:56 – Reportedly, the Tikrit area had roadblocks put up all around it. Apparently the Iraqis want to isolate the Tikritis in case they get a little too boisterous in their disapproval. The Iraqis control Tikrit, and the MS-NBC analysts say that it has been a success story for the Iraqi Army.
More …
10:09 – Not much new in the details, so let’s take a look at the politics. Will this help or hurt in Iraq? I think this will be a net positive by a wide margin. In the first place, history has shown that leaving a deposed tyrant alive makes their return likely — Napoleon would be one example. It at least keeps hope alive among their partisans, and the Jacobites might be an example of that. That cuts two ways; it’s not just Saddam’s dead-enders who foresaw his return, but also those who would oppose him and those on the fence. His death removes all doubt and clears the deck for the future.
10:13 – How about American politics? I don’t think it moves the needle here at home. For one thing, we’ve just finished a national election, and we won’t have another for two years — and Bush won’t be running. It might give a slight bump upward in support of the war for a brief period, but the death sentence has long since figured into the support figures. I don’t see it having much of an effect one way or the other.
10:40 – CNN now reports that video and images will be given to the media. I’m going to pack it in for the evening, but I’ll check to see what they have in the morning.

The Execution Is A Go For Tonight … Perhaps

The execution of Saddam Hussein will take place within hours, as I predicted, according to “top Iraqi officials”. Meanwhile, Saddam’s lawyers try a more friendly court system to get him a stay of execution:

The witnesses to Saddam Hussein’s impending execution gathered Friday in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in final preparation for his hanging, as state television broadcast footage of his regime’s atrocities.
A top Iraqi official said Saddam will be executed before 6 a.m. Saturday, Baghdad time, or 10 p.m. Friday EST. …
“Saddam will be executed today or tomorrow,” Haddad said. “All the measures have been done. … There is no reason for delays.”

That puts the execution at 9 pm CST, which will make this a prime-time execution. One can suppose the cable news networks will go wall to wall with Saddam coverage, and the broadcast networks may even be tempted to pre-empt their entertainment schedules. However, Saddam’s legal team has decided to try the American courts for a restraining order that would prevent US authorities from transferring physical custody of Saddam to the Iraqis:

Hussein’s lawyers filed documents Friday afternoon asking for an emergency restraining order aimed at stopping the U.S. government from relinquishing custody of the condemned former Iraqi leader to Iraqi officials, a spokeswoman for a federal court in Washington D.C. said.
The documents were being processed and were not immediately made public. The Justice Department had not yet responded to the request.
A similar request by the former chief justice of the Revolutionary Court, Awad Hamed al-Bandar, was denied Thursday and is under appeal. Al-Bandar also faces execution. The Justice Department argued in that case that U.S. courts have no jurisdiction to interfere with the judicial process of another country.

This is a stretch. The Iraqis have legal custody of Saddam and have had it for over two years. They have asked the US to provide physical security, but they can end that arrangement whenever they like, and the courts have no power to restrain the Iraqi government. The Americans would like to maintain physical security of Saddam until the noose is placed around his neck, but that doesn’t mean they have to do so, or that courts could force them to do so.
Having the witnesses on alert means that the execution will indeed occur shortly. The story of this genocidal monster is about to come to an abrupt end.
Question: The Iraqis supposedly plan to tape the execution, if not show it live. Do CQ readers believe that American networks should broadcast the execution, either live or on tape?
UPDATE: I’m late in linking to this, but please read Bill Ardolino’s look at the “Not To Forget Museum” in Kuwait. It will remind people of a few of the many reasons Saddam should exit this world at the soonest possible moment. While you’re at it, toss a few dollars into his tip jar for his embed mission among the troops.
UPDATE II: I didn’t notice this before, but Dafydd notes that the request for a restraining order came to the US district court of Colleen Kollar-Kotelly. If you will recall, this is the same Clinton appointee that forced the FEC to regulate Internet political speech. This should be … interesting.
UPDATE III: Don’t forget to keep checking Memeorandum for blogger coverage of the news.

Saddam To Transfer To Iraqis Today

The confusion in Baghdad regarding custody of Saddam Hussein appears to have lifted somewhat. After a rumor circulated that the US had handed over the genocidal dictator to the Iraqi government, officials in Washington have told ABC News that they will complete the transfer later today:

A senior official in Washington tells ABC News that Hussein will be transferred to Iraqi custody by the end of today.
The actual date for the execution is still a closely guarded secret, and will be decided on solely by Iraqis, the official says.
Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki was quoted on Iraqi television this morning, saying there should be no delay in implementing the sentence, but he said nothing about the timing.
Hussein’s lawyers say they have been told to prepare to pick up his personal effects, but they do not know when they should do that.

My guess is that they should do it expeditiously. Technically, the Iraqis have had him in their custody all along, but the US provided the security for his detention. If the US transfers the security responsibility to the Iraqis, it would only be for days or even hours before his execution. We would not run the risk of an escape via some infiltrator into the Iraqi security team until it became absolutely necessary.
Yesterday, MS-NBC reported that Saddam would die by Eid, almost a poetic palindrome. This seems to support the report. It could happen even more quickly than that. Personally, I think this is just a conspiracy to keep Mitch from claiming victory.

Three Years Later, A ‘Rush’

A little more than three years after Saddam Hussein meekly came out of his spider hole, the Iraqis have finally removed the last obstacle to his execution. Saddam attempted, with some success, to transform his trial into a political showpiece, using it to rail against the American occupation and to inspire the Ba’athist remnants to terrorist attacks. Despite having several members of the court assasinated or attacked, the tribunal convicted Saddam for crimes consistent with the evidence. And yet, this is not enough for the New York Times:

The important question was never really about whether Saddam Hussein was guilty of crimes against humanity. The public record is bulging with the lengthy litany of his vile and unforgivable atrocities: genocidal assaults against the Kurds; aggressive wars against Iran and Kuwait; use of internationally banned weapons like nerve gas; systematic torture of countless thousands of political prisoners.
What really mattered was whether an Iraq freed from his death grip could hold him accountable in a way that nurtured hope for a better future. A carefully conducted, scrupulously fair trial could have helped undo some of the damage inflicted by his rule. It could have set a precedent for the rule of law in a country scarred by decades of arbitrary vindictiveness. It could have fostered a new national unity in an Iraq long manipulated through its religious and ethnic divisions.
It could have, but it didn’t. After a flawed, politicized and divisive trial, Mr. Hussein was handed his sentence: death by hanging. This week, in a cursory 15-minute proceeding, an appeals court upheld that sentence and ordered that it be carried out posthaste. Most Iraqis are now so preoccupied with shielding their families from looming civil war that they seem to have little emotion left to spend on Mr. Hussein or, more important, on their own fading dreams of a new and better Iraq.

So let’s get this straight. What is really important isn’t the hundreds of thousands of people that Saddam had killed on his whim. It isn’t lengthy public record of his “vile atrocities”. It isn’t the long string of living victims that had to bear witness under difficult circumstances to those who could not appear in court. What really matters, the Times insists, is that the process did not “nurture hope”.
Well, the purpose of trials is not to nurture hope — it’s to determine the truth regarding guilt or innocence of the accused. In this, the tribunal succeeded, although as the Times notes, the issue was not in much doubt. The trial also succeeded in giving voice to many of Saddam’s victims, something the Times must have missed in its zeal to find hope-nurturing elements in a genocide trial. The tribunal also established solid legal precedents for a fledgeling judiciary that has to establish itself mostly from scratch.
The reluctance of the Times to support Saddam’s conviction is puzzling, given that they concede all available evidence paints him as one of the worst monsters in the past few decades. It seems to spring from an objection to his sentence rather than his conviction, as they end with a warning that Saddam’s execution will not create a “new and better Iraq,” but that’s not the purpose of criminal sentencing, either. Sentences serve dual purposes: to protect society and to serve as a deterrent to others, neither of which has anything to do with creating a new and better anything.
As I am opposed to the death penalty in civilian courts, Saddam’s execution presents an interesting challenge. Michael Stickings says he cannot support the death penalty under any circumstances, but I think there is a large distinction between civil death sentences and those under wartime and genocidal conditions. The execution of spies and saboteurs, for instance, offers a deterrence to those who would commit those acts during wartime, and the elimination of that as an assured result of capture would create a flood of saboteurs and spies, especially if they received the same treatment as POWs. Similarly, genocidal tyrants tried by their own people and executed for their crimes serve as an example for other tyrants to fear — and it removes the jailed tyrant as a focus for restoration, a situation that history has proven to be dangerous to recovering societies.
In any case, the Times proves itself laughable once again by proclaiming a three-year process towards Saddam’s execution as a “rush” and complaining about a verdict and sentence that even they admit were completely justified by the evidence at hand. Perhaps next time, the editorial board should not be in such a “rush” to opine. (via It Shines For All)
UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers from both links! And don’t miss Jules Crittenden’s take on this story.
UPDATE II: Stephen Bainbridge addresses Pope Benedict’s objection to the execution and agrees with my take in a post well worth a full read.

Supplying The Means Of Their Destruction

Ehud Olmert has decided to go all out for his new bestest buddy, Mahmoud Abbas, with the blessing of the United States. Olmert has arranged for Abbas and his Fatah faction to receive new guns and equipment from Egypt in an attempt to tilt the balance of Palestinian power away from Hamas:

After coordination with Israel and the United States, Egypt has sent a shipment of weapons and ammunition into the Gaza Strip to forces loyal to the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah, Israeli officials said today.
Senior Palestinian officials denied the report, including the spokesman for Mr. Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, calling the story “Israeli propaganda aimed at aggravating the situation between Fatah and Hamas.”
But Israeli officials confirmed a report in the Haaretz newspaper that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, approved the shipment in his meeting Saturday evening with Mr. Abbas. Four trucks with some 2,000 automatic rifles, 20,000 ammo clips and some 2 million bullets passed from Egypt through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing, where Gaza, Israel and Egypt meet. The shipment was turned over to Mr. Abbas’s Presidential Guard at the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel.
Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, an Israeli cabinet minister and former defense minister, appeared to confirm the transfer to Israeli Army Radio, saying that the weapons are intended to give Mr. Abbas “the capability to hold his own against those organizations that are trying to spoil everything.” That was an apparent reference to Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist and rejects previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements that call for a permanent two-state solution.

Two million bullets. I wonder how many of those will find Israelis as their point of impact. If they fall into the hands of Fatah’s Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, the number will not be insubstantial. And yet Olmert and the US have decided to place these weapons and ammunition into the care of Fatah, which has never — never — taken any concrete steps towards recognizing Israel or towards a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
It’s difficult to see the larger strategy here, unless it’s just to ensure that the radical-Islamist terrorists do not overwhelm the somewhat less religious terrorists. It could be more cynical than that; the weapons shipment could be meant to create an open war between the two groups in order to expedite the rise of leadership dedicated to peace. A source within the Bush administration tells the New York Times that this isn’t the intent of the mission, but to restore a balance between the two factions in Gaza.
I can understand a desire to see Abbas prevail over Ismail Haniyeh, but it seems to me that rooting for that outcome is literally choosing the lesser of two evils. Abbas and his predecessor Yasser Arafat never have unequivocally committed to a two-state solution in front of their Arabics-speaking constituences. Both have toyed with the Israelis to keep the Oslo cash flowing, but neither have supported any of the other Oslo terms. It certainly won’t happen now, when such a change in policy would hand the Palestinian territories to Hamas.
And that’s the real problem here. So far, the Palestinian people do not want a two-state solution — they want the elimination of Israel altogether, and it’s people like Abbas and Arafat who insisted for decades that they could get it. The Palestinians have yet to hear any differently from Abbas, and Arafat went to his grave insisting on that solution. Hamas now offers it if Abbas changes his mind. It’s hard to see what “balance” between the factions buys except more of the same noise we have experienced for the last five decades. Instead of supplying anyone of any money or materiel, the world should just cut off the Palestinians altogether until they develop leadership interested in peace.

Chavez To Shut Down Independent Television

Even after winning his re-election bid in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez wants to eliminate any hint of dissent. He has ordered an end to the broadcast license of Radio Caracas TV, which opposed him and supported a 2003 strike in protest of his regime:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has said he will not renew the licence for the country’s second largest TV channel which he said expired in March 2007.
In an address to troops, Mr Chavez said he would not tolerate media outlets working toward a coup against him.
Radio Caracas Television, which is aligned with the opposition, supported a strike against Mr Chavez in 2003.

RCTV also came out in support of the coup that briefly removed Chavez from power, a coup for which Chavez blames the US. The two editorial positions as well as consistent criticism of his regime has long irked the Castro acolyte, and he has started down a path that will bring him closer to the governing philosophy of his mentor. Venezuela already has issues with freedom of the press, but this is his biggest move against independent journalists thus far. Before this, he has contented himself with forcing reporters to register with the government and passing onerous laws against ostensibly irresponsible reporting.
Chavez enjoys some fairly uncritical press here in the United States. His efforts to give heating oil away garnered friendly headlines, and his unhinged rant at the UN got a lot of attention in the press, most of it approving or neutral, of the comparison between George Bush and the devil. One wonders whether Chavez’ assault on free speech will generate any effort at all by the American media to start taking a far more critical look at Chavez and his accelerating efforts to transform Venezuela into Little Cuba.
Hint: that’s not a good thing. Perhaps some in the media still don’t realize that.

Nifong In Trouble

Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong faces charges of ethical violations at the North Carolina Bar Association due to his inflammatory and misleading comments to the press during the rape investigation of three Duke lacrosse team members. The statements that the NCBA highlights look especially questionable, given the withdrawal of the specific counts of rape last week, and the complaints could result in Nifong’s disbarment:

The North Carolina Bar Association filed ethics charges Thursday against the prosecutor in the Duke University rape case, accusing him of saying misleading and inflammatory things to the media about the lacrosse players under suspicion.
The punishment for ethics violations can range from admonishment to disbarment.
Among the four rules of professional conduct that District Attorney Mike Nifong was accused of violating was a prohibition against making comments “that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”

The comments made by Nifong come from the first weeks of the investigation of the supposed gang-rape at a team party. He told the press that he was convinced that a rape occurred, despite the later revelation that Nifong had not even spoken to the complainant until December. Nifong tried to explain away a lack of DNA evidence linking any of the men to the supposed attack by suggesting they wore condoms, even though he knew the accuser had already insisted to a nurse that they had not. He called the Duke players “hooligans” and derided their decision to seek representation, saying in effect that hiring lawyers was a suspicious act.
The NCBA opened its investigation almost as soon as the case hit the papers, and it looks like they have focused on just the earlier peccadilloes of Nifong. It does not include the revelation that Nifong conspired with the head of a laboratory to keep exculpatory findings from the defendants in violation of not just ethics but the law. That came out just last week when Brian Meehan testified under oath to the agreement he and Nifong made to keep secret the findings that the DNA of several men had been found on the victim, none of whom were the accused rapists, despite the insistence of the accuser that she had not had recent relations with anyone else.
Perhaps the charges that Nifong does face do not rise to a high enough level to disbar him, but the disciplinary committee should consider how badly Nifong has twisted the system even outside of the specifics in front of them when considering his fate. Durham and these defendants should not have to wait for the NCBA to play catch-up to his latest and most egregious malfeasance. Nifong has made it clear that he has no business inside a courtroom, and the longer the NCBA takes to reach that conclusion, the more damage Nifong does to the community. Prosecutions should be about exposing the truth, not hiding it to save the reputation of a thoroughly incompetent district attorney at the expense of the unfairly accused.
And think about this: we only know about this one case, and that’s because of the high profile of the defendants. Think about what Nifong may have done that flew under the national or even regional media’s radar.

Grassroots Lobbying ‘Disclosure’?

Mark Tapscott and Brad Smith both warn about a new initiative from Nancy Pelosi to require disclosure of grassroots “lobbyists” in the next Congress. Instead of disclosing contributors, it appears that Pelosi wants the names of the individuals involved. Smith has written several essays warning that disclosure, in this case, can chill dissent:

In proposals to disclose grassroots lobbying, we are witnessing two canons of political law on an apparent collision course: that government corruption is cured by disclosure; and that the right of individuals to speak and associate freely depends upon their ability to do so anonymously. But the conflict is a false one — a byproduct of fuzzy thinking — because each canon, when properly applied, protects citizens from abusive lawmakers. Disclosure of campaign contributions protects citizens from lawmakers who can confer benefits on large contributors (and pain on opponents) through legislation. Disclosure of true lobbying activities, that is, consultants engaged in face-to-face meetings with lawmakers, protects citizens in a similar manner. Because disclosure is beneficial in these contexts, people presume it is always harmless. This is wrong. The right to speak anonymously with fellow citizens about issues or pending legislation also protects citizens by reducing lawmaker ability to visit retribution on those who oppose his policy preferences. …
Disclosure is not always a good thing. The rationale for requiring disclosure of contributions to candidate campaigns, and disclosure of direct lobbying activity, is the same for protecting anonymity in the discussion of policy issues: to protect citizens from retribution by abusive officeholders. History demonstrates that while such retribution may be uncommon, it is real. Indeed, even today we read of a Texas prosecutor who has subpoenaed donor records for a group after the group ran grassroots lobbying ads that took a position contrary to that of the prosecutor.

Mark continues the thought:

Smith also warns, as I have in this space and in many other forums over th e years, mere registration is never the only thing the politicians and bureaucrats in Washington want. After registration will come regulation of content, followed by prohibition of some kinds of content officeholders find threatening.

Once again, it seems we have the burden of cleaning up corruption placed on those who would use the right to free political speech to accomplish it. I agree that there is a difference between registering lobbyists who directly contact legislators and registering citizens who band together in affiliations for the purposes of engaging in political speech, but I can also see that there will be some gray areas between the two. After all, lobbyists represent groups of citizens who band together for political purposes, but the critical difference is the direct interaction with legislators and the kinds of favors that pass when that occurs.
The burden of disclosure belongs on the politicians. It will be enough to know the sources of their contributions and their favors without having to expose everyone who works in true grassroots organizations. I’m not sure I buy into the doomsday scenarios painted by Smith; after all, anyone making any political contributions already has to “register” with their legal name and full address, so anonymity has mostly gone by the wayside. Let’s focus on getting the politicians to fully and immediately disclose their contributions and their earmarks first, and then see where else we need to work to reduce or eliminate corruption. The Senate would be a good place to start.