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The Mad Hibernian Archives

April 15, 2004
WAR/POLITICS: Beyond 9/11

The 9/11 Commission is moving forward, yet not everyone seems to think it’s very useful. The Crank doesn’t. Michele Catalano doesn’t. Most of the folks over at The Corner don’t. I respectfully disagree.

With its public hearings falling during an election year, it was inevitable that partisanship would creep into the Commission’s work. And it has. From the grandstanding of some of the Commission members (Richard Ben-Veniste comes to mind), the opportunism of Richard Clarke, the activism of some of the victims’ families and the notable defensiveness of many of the Bush Administration officials, politics have hardly been a distant consideration. There are also other faults with the Commission, including the fact that Jaime Gorelick, though one of the less partisan-seeming members, has a clear conflict of interest which should have kept her off of it. And there isn’t nearly enough discussion about immigration breakdowns (or, as Lou Dobbs puts it, enough calling our enemies by their name).

Yet, call me naïve, the Commission strikes me as a necessary and useful public service, both for history and for the future. The September 11, 2001 attacks were too earth-shaking and too paradigm-shifting not to have a full public reckoning on why they happened and on how to reshape the government to help prevent similar attacks from ever occurring again. As I’ve written before, it is not about blame – we know who was to blame for the attacks – it’s about identifying and fixing any systemic problems which can be addressed.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 12:14 PM | Politics 2004 • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2004 | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)
March 25, 2004
BASEBALL: 2004 Mets Preview

I’ve picked the Mets to finish in 4th place in the NL East, but I’m actually a lot higher on them than that. Overall, I think the Mets should be a lot more watchable this year and could surprise. They have improved defense up the middle (especially if Reyes avoids recurring hamstring problems), more speed, more youth and a solid lineup at every position except RF (see here). The pitching is a bit of concern, due to the age of the starters and the reliance on Braden Looper as closer. However, I think the Mets are better off in the pitching category than many teams. I especially hope they go with a young, hard-thrower like Tyler Yates as their fifth starter, rather than another finesse guy like Scott Erickson or Aaron Heilman (see here for more).

Most of all, though, there is reason for enthusiasm because of the guys on the horizon: Scott Kazmir, David Wright, Victor Diaz, Justin Huber, Bob Keppel, Royce Ring, Lastings Milledge, Matt Peterson, etc… Add them to Reyes, Kaz Matsui and Jason Phillips and you have some reason for long-term optimism going forward. If you take the long view, there is reason for Met fans to hope and, to quote from one of my favorite movies, “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.”

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 01:18 PM | Baseball 2004 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
BASEBALL: 2004 MLB Preview

For what it’s worth, I’m offering my attempt at prognostication for the 2004 season here. With Opening Day right around the corner – the Yankees and Devil Rays open in Japan on Tuesday - it’s time, for me at least, to focus a little more on baseball and a little less on turbulent and often unpleasant current events. I don’t have any crystal ball; my picks here are based almost entirely on gut feelings and hunches, rather than any kind of studied analysis. But here goes:

1) Phillies
2) Marlins
3) Braves
4) Mets
5) Expos

1) Astros
2) Cubs
3) Cardinals
4) Reds
5) Brewers
6) Pirates

1) Giants
2) Dodgers
3) Diamondbacks
4) Rockies
5) Padres

NL MVP: Jim Thome
NL CY YOUNG: Mark Prior
NL PLAYOFFS: Astros beat Phillies. Cubs beat Giants. Cubs beat Astros.

1) Yankees
2) Red Sox
3) Blue Jays
4) Orioles
5) Devil Rays

1) Twins
2) Royals
3) White Sox
4) Indians
5) Tigers

1) A’s
2) Angels
3) Mariners
4) Rangers

AL MVP: Carlos Beltran
AL CY YOUNG: Curt Schilling
AL PLAYOFFS: Yankees beat Twins. A’s beat Red Sox. Yankees beat A’s.

WORLD SERIES: Yankees beat Cubs.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 01:16 PM | Baseball 2004 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
February 10, 2004
POLITICS: Politicians and Their Back Pages

I’ve been trying to figure out what it is exactly that doesn’t sit right about efforts by Michael Moore, Terry McAuliffe and their apologists to center the upcoming Presidential campaign on the attendance policies of the 1972 Texas Air National Guard.

Two reasons are obvious. One, most obviously and most importantly, I think the charges against Mr. Bush distort the historical record and appear largely baseless (see here, here and here). Secondly, while I am critical of his policies on a number of fronts, supported his opponent in the 2000 primaries and think there is far more he should be doing, I support President Bush. Further, I believe he has a significant record of accomplishments and achievement to provide a sound basis for either supporting or opposing his re-election.

The third reason, though, is a little more subtle and took awhile to fully dawn on me. It has to do with the relevance of a candidate’s history in general and the relationship between the individual running for President and his or her behavior before ever entering political life. These questions are certainly neither always entirely relevant nor always entirely irrelevant. How does one differentiate?

The issue, to me, seems to be the relationship between the charge and the candidate’s current character. Except for extremely serious allegations (i.e. murder, treason, rape, etc…) which are always germane, the relevance of the allegation hinges on whether it tells us anything about the individual today.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:31 AM | Politics 2004 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)
January 22, 2004
POP CULTURE/HISTORY/BASEBALL, etc...: More From the Book Shelf

Following up on the Crank’s list of his favorite books, I thought I’d make a similar list. It turns out this is pretty hard to do – I’ve read, either by assignment or by choice, so many books over the years, that it’s not easy to remember them all and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few big ones. Very unsurprisingly, since the Crank and I have read many of the same books, there’s a lot of overlap between our lists; what may be more interesting is the differences (I think I read a little more history and war-related books, a little less baseball and politics). I tried to stick by the “one book per author” rule, yet I organized my list differently:

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 10:29 AM | Baseball 2004 • | History • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
January 06, 2004
BLOG: More Patriot League Punditry

I am back from my extended Christmas break and ready for 2004.

First things first, I would be remiss if I did not provide a link to a new web log set up by my friend, Greg Antrim. A patent lawyer, libertarian, cigar aficionado, “Iron Chef” enthusiast and all-around renaissance man, Greg has a very interesting and unique perspective on all things. There’s not too much up on his site yet, aside from a bizarre picture of a Barbie doll in a milkshake, but check back as it’s updated more.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:30 PM | Blog • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
December 18, 2003
BASEBALL/HISTORY: The Switch-Pitcher from Cork

In 1995, Expos reliever Greg Harris pitched with both hands, becoming the first pitcher in the major leagues to “switch-pitch” in over one hundred years. According to the Baseball Library web site, only four pitchers in baseball history have ever pitched ambidextrously and the first man to have ever done it is also the only man to have done it more than once, Anthony “Tony” Mullane. Nicknamed “The Apollo of the Box” as well as “The Count”, Tony Mullane played between 1881 and 1894 and had a fascinating life and career.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 09:56 AM | Baseball 2002-03 • | History • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
December 03, 2003
POP CULTURE: The Great Debate

In its most recent issue, Rolling Stone Magazine lists its top 500 albums of all time. As these things go, it’s not a bad list and has a nice sense of history. Here is the top ten:

1. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
2. Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
3. Revolver - The Beatles
4. Highway 61 Revisited - Bob Dylan
5. Rubber Soul - The Beatles
6. What's Going On - Marvin Gaye
7. Exile on Main Street - The Rolling Stones
8. London Calling - The Clash
9. Blonde on Blonde - Bob Dylan
10. The Beatles ("The White Album") - The Beatles

All of these albums are classic, but, at risk of sacrilege, this list is too Beatles heavy. I love the Beatles and think there’s a very good case to be made that they are indeed the greatest band of the rock & roll era, but I never thought of them as an album band. Instead, it is their near endless supply of classically melodic singles which secure their immortality. I also disagree with Exile on Main Street which I think is somewhat overrated among Stones’ albums.

Anyway, this stuff is always incredibly subjective, but my own person list would be something like this:

1. Who’s Next – The Who
2. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
3. Dark Side of the Moon – Pink Floyd
4. The Joshua Tree – U2
5. Led Zeppelin IV – Led Zeppelin
6. Achtung Baby – U2
7. Highway 61 Revisited – Bob Dylan
8. Let it Bleed – The Rolling Stones
9. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band - The Beatles
10. The Doors – The Doors

Long live the debate.

UPDATE: Edna Gundersen of USA Today ruminates on the slow death of the album, as well as offering her own eclectic take on the top 40 of all-time.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 10:34 AM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (7) | TrackBack (0)
November 25, 2003
WAR: Mobilizing NATO

The United States was targeted on September 11, 2001 and is the target of ever-present threats by al Qaeda and ongoing insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Turkey has been the target of two sets of bloody bombings, believed to be al Qaeda-affiliated, in recent weeks. British interests in Turkey were the targets of the second set of those bombings and, like the U.S., Britain is also under constant threat from al Qaeda. Italian troops have recently been targeted by terrorist attacks in Iraq. All are NATO members.

This raises the question - why isn’t NATO, as a collective security entity, more actively involved in prosecuting the War on Terror? After the 9/11 attacks, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty was invoked, calling the attack on the U.S. an attack on all of NATO. Are the recent attacks on other member states any different, except in scale?

The U.S. should be looking for opportunities to shore up the NATO alliance, which showed worrisome signs of fracturing during the lead-up to the Iraqi war. Despite our superpower status, the U.S. needs allies and NATO has been the most rewarding alliance in history, keeping the peace in Europe for over 50 years.

Giving NATO a new mission – the combating of anti-Western global terrorism – and a more prominent role, rather than just mopping-up duties, should give the member states a cause to rally around and a purpose to unite behind. This would require some deft diplomacy, which has not been the Bush Administration’s specialty, as well as a return to common sense by the French and Germans, but it is clear that al Qaeda represents a threat to the interests of every NATO member. It would also require a more serious European view of security issues and a commitment to joint training with American forces. Yet, the U.S. should urge NATO to organize to fight and pursue al Qaeda, the least controversial target of the ongoing war, and should look for ways for NATO to recapture its unity and its relevance. It is in the interests of both the U.S. and Europe to fight the War on Terror under the banner of NATO, even if it ends up necessarily being the U.S. that does most of the heavy lifting.

While not NATO-specific, David Ignatius makes a similar point in today’s Washington Post.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 01:34 PM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
November 11, 2003
WAR: The Past and Future of the Party of God

This is old news, but worthwhile reading nonetheless: New Yorker reporter Jeffrey Goldberg’s lengthy, but excellent, two-part examination of Lebanese Hezbollah, the organization which until September 11, 2001, was responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group. Read Part One, Part Two and Goldberg’s follow-up interview on CNN.

Particularly interesting are the references to the mysterious, Keyser Soze-esque Imad Mugniyah, who, according to Goldberg, is still considered by some experts to be the most dangerous terrorist in the world. He is certainly among the most elusive.

Mugniyah was back in the news in August of this year with regards to possible connections with al Qaeda. Overall, Hezbollah is a fascinating and ruthless organization with global reach and a distressingly successful track record. There are those who’ve suggested that it will be the eventual focus of a third phase of the war on terrorism and, while that does not appear likely in the near future (Phase Two is going to take awhile), it is a group that demands interest and concern, if not respect.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 09:08 AM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
November 04, 2003
WAR: Iraq Strategy

One of my pet peeves about the media’s coverage of the war in Iraq is when reporters use headlines or catchphrases like “U.S. Death Toll in Iraq Mounts.” The fact that a death toll goes up over time is not surprising (by way of analogy, the total number of car accident victims in the U.S. mounts virtually every day and that trend is unlikely to reverse…ever). It would be more surprising, since it is impossible, if the flat number of casualties were going down.

Yet, there is no denying that there have been setbacks of late and that our military is paying a heavy price for our temporary occupation of Iraq. The sacrifices of our individual soldiers over there are staggering. They are truly bearing an awesome burden. Every casualty is to be regretted and should focus our efforts on doing what needs to be done in Iraq as quickly and efficiently as possible to allow for the eventual turnover of control of that country to its population. Every serious American observer must recognize that, regardless of one’s view of whether the U.S. should have invaded, our military needs to remain in country until the Iraqis can effectively govern itself without reverting to chaos and radicalism. Leaving prematurely would run the risk of leaving Iraq an even greater threat to regional security than it was before, if that is possible.

With the exception of the fringes of both parties (objectively, a larger segment on the left), most responsible politicians generally recognize this fact. However, I do think it is fair to ask more from the Bush Administration than to simply reaffirm that we will not cut and run. We need to make sure we win the reconstruction just as decisively as our military won the actual war.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:04 AM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
October 08, 2003
LAW: The Wisdom of Solomon

In the news down here in Washington, students at Georgetown University’s Law Center protested the school’s decision to allow the military to recruit on campus, since the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allegedly conflicts with school policies mandating “anti-discrimination” compliance by employers. Similar grumbling recently took place at my former law school and, I suspect, goes on at virtually every such institution.

These protests, however, highlight the wisdom of the Solomon Amendment, which threatens revocation of all federal funding from a school if it refuses to allow the military to recruit on campus. Since the Vietnam War, liberal academic institutions, while proudly welcoming the most outrageous of advocacy groups, always find some reason to oppose allowing military or national security-related institutions to recruit or organize on their campuses. The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, an imperfect product of political meddling by the Clinton Administration, is their most recent target and, indeed, the merits of that policy are quite debatable.

Yet, in a post-9/11 world, one would think that schools would show a little more gratitude to the military, perhaps the most highly respected profession in modern America, and would somehow find a way to hold their noses and their tongues while the services come to speak to a new generation of willing individuals, prepared to serve their country and to defend the lives and rights of ungrateful idiots who dwell in ivory towers.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:02 AM | Law • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
October 01, 2003
WAR: Brave New World

I went to see William Kristol of The Weekly Standard speak this morning at the State Department on the topic of "The Bush Doctrine: Theory & Practice". It was an interesting presentation, with Kristol echoing Tony Blair’s sentiments from yesterday that his greatest fear is not of American hegemony & unilateralism, but American isolationism. Kristol appears to be an avid interventionist, indicating that he advocated earlier American intervention into Bosnia, Kosovo and even Rwanda, which he argued is now widely viewed as a missed humanitarian opportunity. Also of interest was Kristol’s admission that he, like myself, was not originally a Bush supporter, having backed John McCain in 2000, and his assertion that the current size of America’s military is “manifestly inadequate” and needs to be expanded.

For me, the Bush Doctrine, articulating the right for the U.S. to launch preventive war against rogue states, was a necessary doctrinal response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and provides a welcome framework to current American foreign policy. Its full implications, however, remain somewhat troubling. For example, I still think its applicability needs to be defined. The United States cannot invade or otherwise deter every country pursuing weapons of mass destruction. Both the U.S. and the international community need to figure out who is allowed to have WMD and who isn’t and provide clearer definitions. Aside from the fact that they have them already, why are Pakistan, India or France allowed to have such weapons and, aside from the fact that we don’t like them, why aren’t North Korea, Iran or Syria? I don’t disagree that the latter countries should never be allowed to have WMD in their current incarnations, but a clearer international standard for why would be welcome.

Furthermore, the notion of the U.S. preventively or preemptively going to war is clearly a break with our historical behavior. As such, it raises the question about the degree to which the major powers in the world (primarily China, Russia, Britain & Europe) will come to feel threatened by American hegemony and eventually might seek to unite to counter-balance us. This was clearly the aim of France and Germany with respect to Iraq – they wanted to obstruct us, however irresponsibly, primarily just for the sake of showing we could be obstructed. Both of those countries currently lack the military power to stand in our way and, in the War on Terror, great power conflict seems to be the last thing on our mind, but history tends to indicate that a preponderance of power by any state inevitably comes to threaten others and leads to conflict. By potentially over-using our power and alienating too many of our current allies, we risk turning on to that road. In particular, sustaining the continued viability and unity of NATO, the most successful alliance in history, remains critical and a goal unto itself.

Yet, in the end, I still believe the Bush Doctrine provides a useful strategic framework and I believe that, so long as the U.S. attempts to work with the world community, as it tried to do in Iraq, and limits the application of preventive might to the most vile of rogue states (such as Iraq & North Korea), America can continue to be both a hegemonic power and a recognized force for good in the world, even if other states frequently resent us for it.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 03:30 PM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
September 22, 2003
POLITICS: The Unknown Soldier

According to a Newsweek poll released this weekend, retired General Wesley Clark has vaulted to the front of the field of Democratic presidential candidates. Call me skeptical.

I could be very mistaken, but I continue to feel that Clark is a virtual unknown entity to 90% of the American public aside from the military and the chattering political classes. I find his candidacy very odd for this reason.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 12:08 AM | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
September 19, 2003
BLOG: From Isabel’s Path

As Bob Dylan might say, here comes the story of the hurricane – Isabel has pretty much come and gone here in Northern Virginia. Power has been restored where I live after about 12 hours of it being out. A few of the trees outside my window are at 45-degree angles. Washington, DC is still effectively shut down, as it has a tendency to do whenever anything remotely bad happens. And nearby Old Town Alexandria is clearing debris after the tides of the Potomac apparently overflowed far up onto King Street, the main downtown thoroughfare. All in all though, the area is still standing and should be back to normal in a few days.

As for me, I feel that, in general, when nature unleashes its full fury and your main concern the next day is that the beer in your fridge may have become skunked, you’ve been pretty lucky.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 09:37 AM | Blog • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
August 22, 2003
BLOG: Greetings from Northern Virginia

Just thought I’d check in here. I’ve been inactive on this site for awhile, which is a good indication that I have been very active away from it. Anyway, to make a long story short, I’ve relocated to the Washington, DC area to pursue advanced education in a fairly specialized field. Not sure how much I should say about that, since it may lead to work of a sort not particularly well-suited to discussion on a web log. But we shall see.

Though I’ve been too busy of late to comment intelligently on current events, I do hope to keep checking in as time permits and to happily report on goings on from yet another vibrant northeastern metropolitan area.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 02:32 PM | Blog • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
July 25, 2003
POP CULTURE: Live From the Swamps of Jersey

I know I'm pre-empting a post by the Crank here, but I also attended the Springsteen concert at Giants Stadium last night. My attempt at a review follows. Backstreets.com helpfully supplies the setlist and I’ve provided some brief editorial comments:

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 07:08 PM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
July 10, 2003
WAR/POLITICS: Misreading the Street

Though I’m no expert on public opinion, it seems to me that the American people are a lot more interested in whether or not our leaders are doing enough to combat emerging nuclear threats from the likes of Iran and North Korea than they are about whether the those leaders may have exaggerated the extent of the threat posed by Iraq. The Bush Administration’s ultimate case for war against Saddam Hussein’s regime was not predicated upon certitude of facts, but upon the overall knowledge that Hussein was a bloodthirsty tyrant with the worst of intentions in a region which desperately needs cleaning up and that, though there was much we did not know, it was far safer and far more responsible to presume, and prepare for, the worst.

To this end, most Americans are unlikely to feel they were “deceived” over Iraq, no matter how often they are told they were by the media, and are far more interested in identifying and defending against the next threat, rather than in second-guessing a preemptive action which removed the last one. The results and implications of the Washington Post poll of June 24, in which 56 % of those surveyed indicated they would support attacking Iran to prevent it from developing nuclear weapons, are worth thoughtfully considering (see views from the right and left).

It all makes sense if you depart from the Beltway mindset and stop viewing every bit of news through the prism of either attacking or defending President Bush; the American people, most of whom are fairly unconcerned with politics, ultimately are more concerned with protecting against imminent or looming threats to the peace and security of the nation and themselves than they are with political debates over how those threats have been met in the past.

It is worth remembering that the location where America is always most likely to find itself submerged in a paralyzing quagmire is Washington, DC.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:49 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
July 01, 2003
POP CULTURE: “If You're a Scottish Lord, Then I Am Mickey Mouse!”

Britain’s "Empire Magazine" has named the ten worst movie accents and dumps Sean Connery in the Number One spot for “The Untouchables”. This is an inherently funny list which brings countless other candidates to mind and provokes a number of questions:

1) If you’re Sean Connery and you have, by far, the world’s coolest natural accent, the Scottish burr, why on Earth would you want to change it…no matter how much they’re paying you?

2) If you are going to pick on Connery though, “The Untouchables” isn’t the best place to start. This may sound like heresy (I remember Mike Myers’ “If-It’s-Not-Scottish-It’s-Crap!” character pummeling a visitor to his store for this offense), but most Americans cannot readily tell the difference between an Irish and a Scottish accent. Connery is more convincing as an Irish cop than as, say, Mulay Achmed Mohammed el-Raisuli the Magnificent in “The Wind and the Lion”.

3) Speaking of Irish accents, they are probably the most frequently mangled in all of cinema. Relatively recent examples include Tom Cruise as well as the rest of the cast of “Far and Away” and Richard Gere in “The Jackal”.

4) Did anyone see Kevin Costner in “Thirteen Days”? Enough said.

5) Alas, the actor who played Roman Moroni in “Johnny Dangerously” is sadly omitted from this list. I suppose intentionally bad accents do not qualify.

6) Finally, I never saw it, but I can only assume by his absence here that John Wayne made no effort whatsoever to attempt an accent when he (ahem) played Genghis Khan in “The Conqueror”.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:07 PM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
HISTORY: Dark Winds in Chicago

I just finished reading historian Erik Larson’s “The Devil in the White City”, a non-fiction account of the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and the two men who came to define it: architect Daniel Burnham who oversaw the design of the spectacular fair and serial killer Henry H. Holmes who lived near the fairground and preyed on its visitors. It’s an interesting juxtaposition, but the book is really, at heart, a subtle allegory about the emerging and competing impulses of technological wonder, human achievement and unblinking evil which came to define the 20th century.

I’d recommend the book for the enlightening descriptions of turn-of-the-century Chicago and for the chilling portrayal of the almost supernaturally evil Holmes. The 1893 fair is a long-forgotten event in American history but Larson brings it all vividly back to life and captures the critical, and difficult to comprehend, importance the fair held to the civic pride of both Chicago and of the young country as a whole.

For another highly regarded book on Chicago at this time, you might also want to read “City of the Century” by Lafayette College Professor Donald L. Miller, which I hope to check out at some point.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:00 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 30, 2003
HISTORY/WAR: Enemy at the Gates

After becoming frustrated watching Al Leiter and the Mets last night, I switched over to the Discovery Channel to watch “Spartans at the Gates of Fire”, a documentary about the legendary ancient battle of Thermopylae. Considering the times in which we live, it is not difficult for a modern western viewer to choose sides in this battle, where 300 Spartan defenders, along with relatively small allied Greek forces, were able to temporarily hold off King Xerxes’ advancing Persian armies, numbering in the hundreds of thousands, along the coastal mountain pass at the “hot gates” of Thermopylae in northern Greece, before eventually being wiped out.

The program was very well done and featured a number of insightful talking heads including Steven Pressfield and Victor Davis Hanson. Pressfield, of course, is the author of the gripping and stirring historical novel “Gates of Fire”, which captures the stand of the 300 Spartans in all its heroic and brutal glory and which is reportedly in the process of being adapted into a major motion picture.

The most interesting point raised by the Discovery Channel program was the notion that western civilization as we know it was saved in no small part by the heroics of the Spartans at Thermopylae. The Spartans and their assorted Greek allies held off the advancing Persians of Xerxes for approximately a week, allowing allied forces to regroup and rally to eventually repel their would-be conquerors. In so doing, the seeds of democracy and classical Greek culture and philosophy were able to take shape before they could be extinguished by the autocracy of the Persians. Thus, Athenian liberalism, to which we owe so much, was protected by the might of the militaristic Spartans, whose culture is revered and still studied by our military today, yet which is utterly alien to modern day American civilian life.

The useful historical lesson serves as a welcome reminder that, as Tom Clancy once wrote, oftentimes the noblest of ideas need to be protected by warriors.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:02 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 26, 2003
LAW: Another Day, Another Inalienable Right

The Supreme Court today overturned Bowers vs. Hardwick (1986) by declaring a heretofore-undiscovered “right” to private, consensual sodomy. This is, no doubt, very encouraging news to those who faced criminal sanction for such conduct back when it was less fashionable.

It is almost hard to get worked up about this because sodomy laws are so stupid and ill-advised from a policy standpoint. I personally believe that they should all have been repealed long ago, that it is pure legislative inertia that kept them on the books for so long and that the state should keep out of people’s bedrooms as much as possible.

However, from a legal standpoint, it is a sure sign of trouble when the Supreme Court invents new constitutional “rights” based on prevailing cultural trends. The Court historically has had a way of morphing less-controversial “rights” such as the “right” to buy contraceptives (in Griswold vs. Connecticut) into much more controversial and pernicious “rights” such as the “right” to abortion on demand (in Roe vs. Wade).

It is worth noting that, in every such case, the Court has limited the American people’s freedom to enact laws consistent with their beliefs and to have policy determined by their duly elected leaders rather than dictated by the judiciary. And that, in the end, might be the most important right of all.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 10:26 PM | Law • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
June 25, 2003
LAW: Discrimination Now, Discrimination Forever (Or At Least 25 More Years)

Jonah Goldberg’s take on the Michigan case appears in his syndicated column. Having finally read through the 5-4 decision, I think his analysis is right on the money.

Trying to view the current Supreme Court without an excess of partisanship, I think that the most moderate judges, Justices O’Connor and Kennedy, seem to always be playing King Solomon on the Court and always looking for a middle ground that’s acceptable to the average American. They are compromisers by nature. This is a very appealing quality in a politician, but I believe it to be very troubling in a Supreme Court Justice. Discerning the acceptable, politically safe position to take in contentious matters is a job for duly elected political leaders. Interpreting the text and intent of the law as set forth in the Constitution, however unpopular or inconvenient, is the imperative of judges.

The Supreme Court’s continued dexterity in avoiding interpretive upheaval may be comforting from a political viewpoint, but it is highly disconcerting from a legal one.

Here, tellingly, even O’Connor and Kennedy split down the middle. She wrote the majority opinion, he joined with the dissent. The resulting ruling resolves very little except for muddling further the notion of “strict scrutiny.”

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:04 PM | Law • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 22, 2003
BASEBALL/BLOG: On the Road – Comerica Park in Detroit

One of us goes away, one comes back. I just returned today from another wedding-induced vacation; this time to the great state of Michigan. An excellent time was had, as always, and I was able to add another park to my all-too-short list of major league stadiums attended: Comerica Park in Detroit.

Having previously been to Shea and Yankee Stadiums as well as Camden Yards, Fenway Park and SkyDome, I was favorably impressed with Comerica, if predictably under-whelmed by the team that calls it home. My friends and I attended Thursday’s matinee game and watched the hapless, anonymous Tigers get crushed by the equally-anonymous, slightly-less-hapless Cleveland Indians.

Anyway, Comerica neatly pays tribute to the Tigers’ ample history (the statues of Cobb, Kaline, etc...in center, and of Ernie Harwell at one of the main entrances, are worth checking out) while offering a spacious, well-designed modern venue to watch a game. I was most impressed by the fact that the stadium offers great views even from the concession stands and by the comfy Tiger club lounge chairs and tables on the field level (which were easily commandeered late in the game).

Also of note: former Tigers journeyman Dave Bergman was signing autographs to a small crowd near our seats, and I found myself a new favorite player of the moment: wonderfully-named Cleveland outfielder Coco Crisp.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 09:14 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | Blog • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 09, 2003
POP CULTURE: What Was and What Should Always Be

I picked up the newly-released Led Zeppelin 1972 live album, “How the West Was Won”, the other day and have been listening to it on my commute. This is a long-overdue glimpse of the mighty Zeppelin in their undisputed prime, just after their definitive fourth album. It is a welcome addition to the album charts and to any CD collection.

A couple of things are immediately striking. It’s really something to hear Robert Plant introduce a song by saying “this is one from our new album.” Nowadays, a band would probably take a four or five year break after a master-work like “Led Zeppelin IV” in 1971, but Zeppelin released the also-classic "Houses of the Holy” in 1973 while touring in between. I wonder too whether, in the age of Internet bootlegging, a band today would be willing to try out new material of the caliber of “Over the Hills and Far Away” and “Dancing Days” on stage. The prospect of embryonic songs being downloaded and splashed across cyberspace is a major disincentive to working out new songs in a live setting; an unfortunate side effect of technology which helps explain the decrease in quality of much of today’s music. The distinctive seventies flavor of this album also makes it a welcome time capsule; it is hard to imagine a modern-day, attention-deficient audience sitting patiently through a nineteen-minute drum solo like “Moby Dick.”

Above all, though, what shines through once again is the awesome musicianship of the four-piece Led Zeppelin. Their studio prowess, of course, was legendary, but even on stage they were a tight, coherent foursome and their music remains tuneful, adventurous and furiously powerful. For all the tales of their notorious decadence, Led Zeppelin were true professionals who produced a lasting and prolific body of music which retains the mysterious allure it cast over rock fans throughout the late sixties and seventies.

Post Script: Of course, as great as they were, Led Zeppelin were not always recognized as such in their time. On its web site, "Rolling Stone" magazine reprints an interesting 1975 interview of Page and Plant by then-reporter Cameron Crowe in which they seemed to be justifiably defensive about their legacy.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:10 PM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
June 08, 2003

Yesterday was a rough day for those chasing sports history. The Devils were denied in their bid to capture the Stanley Cup in Game 6 of the NHL Finals. Roger Clemens was undone by the Yankees’ bullpen and will have to wait at least another start to win his elusive 300th game (a quest which is becoming reminiscent of Gary Carter’s agonizing search for his 300th home run). Finally, at the Belmont Stakes, Funny Cide was overtaken by Empire Maker and denied the Triple Crown of horse racing.

I attended the latter event, braving a dangerously overcrowded Long Island Railroad train out there and some atrocious weather. Having never been to a major horse race, I was struck by the colorful mix of people out at the Belmont, from the well-dressed horse racing elite and celebrities (Steven Spielberg apparently was whisked by us at one point by a huge throng of police) to the lower-income gambling junkies and rather-interestingly-attired race track folk. The home crowd was clearly pulling for local favorite Funny Cide and was obviously disappointed by his final showing. All in all, I had a good time though, despite the fact that my horse in the big race, long-shot Supervisor, appeared to be running in cement and, as far as I know, may still be out there trying to finish.

In the cattle car over to the Belmont, I overheard a guy talking about what a difficult choice it would be for the New York papers deciding which story to put on the back page if Funny Cide, Clemens and the Devils all won. Fate, it turns out, sometimes has a way of resolving such dilemmas.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:59 AM | Baseball 2002-03 • | Other Sports • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 05, 2003
BASEBALL: Putting a Cork in the Controversy

Continuing the discussion from yesterday, a Yale physicist argues today what I suspected: that corking one’s bat is a highly ineffective way to increase power production. A little more detail is provided here (thanks to a reader for the link). This doesn’t exonerate Sammy Sosa; he should be expected to uphold and abide by the rules, however silly they may be, but it does indicate to me that this story is becoming a little blown out of proportion.

On the other hand, the very real possibility of steroid use among many of the game’s top home run hitters is a far more serious matter which deserves the kind of focused attention and public outcry which is now being directed at Sosa.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:54 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
WAR/HISTORY: The "Big Fella" in Palestine?

David Frum today draws comparisons between the challenges facing new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and those which faced early 20th century Irish leader Michael Collins. The parallels are somewhat apt, although not highly encouraging for Abbas. Collins, after all, paid for his compromises with his life.

More generally, comparisons between Irish republicans and the Palestinians always interest me. Back in the mid-nineties, I did fairly extensive research on the future of the Irish Republican Army and its prospects for transforming, over time, into a primarily political unit (the jury is still out on that one, but hopeful signs exist). At the time, the Palestinians, and the PLO specifically, were considered the hopeful model for such a transformation. Now, very often, I hear commentators reversing the comparison and saying that the Palestinians, albeit PLO splinter-groups such as Hamas, need to emulate the IRA, and the Irish republican movement in general, by clamping down on political violence and making realistic compromises. History can be very cyclical.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:49 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
June 03, 2003
BASEBALL: The Draft That Time Forgot

It is time again for Major League Baseball’s amateur draft and, as usual, “Baseball America” was on the case, with Tampa Bay selecting high school outfielder Delmon Young, little brother of Dmitri, as the first pick.

Jayson Stark on ESPN.com also wrote an excellent article today about the draft in general and how unnecessarily obscure it is. Stark suggests several changes to the draft process designed to generate greater fan interest, including obtaining live national television coverage, moving the draft to the All-Star break and allowing for the trading of draft picks. All of these seem highly reasonable.

The main reason that the draft deserves more exposure is because of just how important it is to the long-term development of a successful franchise. Sure, even when a team has a good draft, it might produce only two or three eventual major leaguers from its many, many rounds, but the impact of choosing an Alex Rodriguez, Frank Thomas or Roger Clemens instead of a Brien Taylor, Shawn Abner or David Clyde is immeasurable. Just think how different Mets history would’ve been had they chosen Reggie Jackson over Steve Chilcott in 1966.

In the end, Stark’s main point is well-taken: if you want to convince others that your draft is a big deal, a good place to begin is by treating it as one.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:06 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BUSINESS/POLITICS: The Rent Control Debate in NYC

Both the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post have been railing of late against the proposed extension of New York City’s antiquated rent control laws and I agree with them. I recognize and am somewhat sympathetic to the sentimental case for trying to help older New Yorkers afford to live in the city in which they may have grown up, but it is a case which needs to be outweighed by the City’s urgent efforts to improve its woeful economy and to encourage people to come to New York.

The astronomical cost of housing in New York City is one of the major disincentives to relatively young, single people (like myself) choosing to live or work in the City. I can certainly understand any city not wanting me in particular to live there, but the demographic in which I fall is one which I would have thought New York would want to target at the moment. Living in New York City will always be expensive, and we should not kid ourselves otherwise, but the high cost should be determined by a free and fair housing market, not gouged upwards by the existence of artificial rent caps on incredibly valuable property. The government should protect against legitimately exploitative practices, of course, but it should avoid creating overly restrictive obstacles to competition.

Rent control laws are inherently antithetical to free market principles and appear to adversely affect New York City's housing quality, pricing and supply. They should be repealed; gradually, if necessary, but immediately, if possible.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:59 PM | Business • | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
May 28, 2003
HISTORY: The Motherland

I caught most of the second part of “Russia: Land of the Tsars” last night on The History Channel. It was pretty good despite strangely loud background music which almost drowned out the narrator a few times and despite taking a kind of “Russia’s Greatest Hits” approach to a millennium of history.

The striking thing to me was realizing all over again just how darkly fascinating Russian history, including that of the Romanovs, is, with its tragically-misguided political decisions, larger-than-life leaders and the consistently heartbreaking suffering of the Russian people. There have been many points in Russia’s history where the future of the nation hung precariously in the balance and so, so many times its leaders fatefully pushed it in the wrong direction. Those decisions have had profound rippling effects on the histories of Europe, the United States and the whole world and, for that, the story of Russian history is always one worth hearing and trying to understand.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 08:45 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 21, 2003
POP CULTURE/LAW: American Violence and “The Matrix”

The Crank forwarded me a couple of interesting e-mails from a reader concerning links between the “Matrix” movie franchise and certain high-profile homicide cases, including the Columbine massacre and the Washington sniper rampage. Apparently, Diane Sawyer of “Good Morning America” had strong opinions on this topic the other day and it was in the news again today. As I wrote in detail yesterday, I really did not like “The Matrix Reloaded” and am almost loath to defend it. However, common sense dictates doing so, albeit with qualifications.

Read More »

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:20 PM | Law • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 20, 2003
POP CULTURE: Movie Reviews – “X-Men 2” and “The Matrix Reloaded”

On Sunday night, I went out and saw The Matrix Reloaded. About two weeks earlier, I saw “X-Men 2: X-Men United.” Since both films are sequels from a similar genre and since I don’t really get out to the movies that much, I thought it might make sense to review them together.

I have to say from the outset that I’ve never been a huge fan of either of these series. I saw the originals of each on video or cable and never was all that into either of them. Of the two, I found the original "Matrix" more interesting due to its originality and innovative spirit, but I was never as excited by it as many others clearly were. Anyway, my opinions of the sequels is completely reversed: I believe “X-Men 2” to be the far superior film and certainly found it more enjoyable.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:16 PM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
May 16, 2003
BUSINESS/POLITICS: The Credibility Gap at the Times

The troubles keep mounting at the New York Times. This story amuses me as it develops but it could hardly be described as shocking. Personally, I have long since abandoned taking the Times seriously and no longer read it on any kind of consistent basis. Part of this is just the laziness of not wanting to constantly register for its web site and part of it comes from its lousy sports section, but those complaints are minor compared to my concerns regarding its overall credibility. In short, the stories in the liberal Times are as slanted as those in the conservative New York Post; the Times just uses bigger words, fancier font and a far "classier" style to advance its agenda.

I agree with those observers who have suggested that the also-liberal Washington Post is a superior paper to the Times and should have at least equal international stature to it. Of course, I suspect that it is the very biases of the Times which keep it so popular overseas.

The Times does have an excellent international section and has shown what it is capable of when tackling hard-to-spin stories such as profiling the victims of the September 11th attacks. However, unless you are in lock-step with its ideological agenda, once you lose trust in a paper’s basic journalistic credibility, you stop coming back. There is just too much media out there to waste time on those about whom you have serious doubts.

Revealingly, as I think back over the past few years, I can only recall having actually bought the Times on occasions when I needed to check the classifieds - an activity that Howell Raines may soon become familiar with himself.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:28 PM | Business • | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 14, 2003
POP CULTURE/LAW: The Return of the 25th Amendment

After my post earlier today, I felt obligated to watch “The West Wing” tonight. Sure enough, the plot surrounded the aftermath of the kidnapping of the President’s daughter and culminated with President Bartlett invoking Section Three of the 25th Amendment to temporarily abdicate the Presidency to, of all people, John Goodman. (Apparently, on the show, Goodman is the Republican Speaker of the House and became next in the line of succession after Vice President “Otter”…er…Tim Matheson had to resign earlier in the season).

Anyway, it seemed interesting that this was, along with “24”, the second major television series to utilize the 25th Amendment as a pivotal plot device this season. In neither case was it highly plausible, but there's no denying that it has been a big year in TV land for a relatively obscure Amendment.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 11:17 PM | Law • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
POP CULTURE/POLITICS: The End of an Era on “The West Wing”

Tonight is the season finale of “The West Wing” and apparently marks the last episode written by creator Aaron Sorkin. This is bad news for a show which has been taking a hit in the ratings this year. Sorkin, hallucinogenic mushrooms and all, is undeniably one of the most talented writers in Hollywood and, reportedly, he was intensely involved in the preparation of each and every episode from its inception.

Yet, when it eventually goes off the air, “The West Wing” will actually be missed, even, to some degree, by me.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:37 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 12, 2003
WAR: In the Belly of the Beast

Fascinating story here and here about how the IRA’s director of internal security apparently was a British spy and had to flee Ireland before being exposed. The agent, ominously code-named "Stakeknife”, was allegedly complicit in “at least 25” deaths or murders. This story reveals what a dirty business it is to infiltrate a terrorist organization and the extremes to which intelligence organizations some times allow agents to go in order to garner the trust of those they are monitoring.

The CIA used to refer to its work as “morally hazardous duty” and it is easy to see why. It sounds like British intelligence crossed a few lines here but it is always a cold calculus trying to weigh potential lives to be saved against actual lives to be lost. The moral questions raised here are the very same ones which we, as Americans, must continually ask ourselves in the “war on terrorism.”

For more on this subject, check out Raymond Gilmour’s “Dead Ground” which is a harrowing account of the author’s experience as an infiltrator of the IRA. It is not for the weak-hearted.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:31 PM | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 09, 2003
SCIENCE: A Great Leap Forward

Final story from across the pond: it appears that some serious scientific research has been going on over at Plymouth University in England. Testing out the theory that an infinite number of monkeys at an infinite number of typewriters will produce great works of literature, researchers have learned that six monkeys at one keyboard will...well, let them tell it:

At first, said Phillips, "the lead male got a stone and started bashing the hell
out of it.

"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over
the keyboard," added Phillips, who runs the university's Institute of Digital
Arts and Technologies.

This reminds me the Simpsons episode where Homer Simpson, anointed by the secret society of the Stonecutters as the all-powerful Chosen One, looks for something worthwhile to do with his powers:

Lisa Simpson: Well, maybe you could reach out to the community and help other
Homer: Hmm...I could help others. I'll get a bunch of monkeys...dress them up...and make them reenact the Civil War!
Lisa: Dad, that doesn't help people!
Homer: Couldn't hurt...unless the monkeys start hurting people. Which they almost certainly would.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:48 PM | Science • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 08, 2003
POLITICS: Cheney in 2004, Bush in 2008?

The news that Dick Cheney will be on the ticket again as Vice President in 2004
certainly is a shock to no one. However, at first, it was somewhat surprising to me that Republican Party leaders would not want to think more strategically here and choose someone else to replace Cheney. This got me thinking.

Read More »

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 04:32 PM | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
May 07, 2003
HISTORY/POP CULTURE: The Colorful, Disputed History of Rockall

As a big fan of Irish music in most of its varieties, I’m consistently amused by the curiously one-sided history lessons and tales of victimization which are, in many ways, the hallmark of traditional Irish music. This kind of music has been satirized many times but perhaps never more successfully than in Denis Leary’s hilarious “Traditional Irish Folk Song” – if you’ve never heard it, make sure to check it out.

Anyway, one of the funnier examples of what I'm talking about can be found in the contentious history of Rockall, a tiny and completely uninhabitable island off the coast of Scotland which found itself the source of an unlikely territorial dispute when it was discovered to be a source of valuable natural gas.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:40 PM | History • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 06, 2003
LAW/POLITICS: The Continuing Judicial Confirmation Mess

Insightful article in “The Legal Times” today about how Democrats in Congress are displaying bias in favor of conservative white males in the judicial confirmation process.

Or something like that.

The comments in this article reveal how much the procedure for appointing judges to the federal bench is suffering under the ever-increasing weight of political pressure from both sides. One could write whole books about the politicization of the judiciary and many have, one of the best of which (“The Tempting of America”) is by a man who should know, Robert Bork.

However, the best analysis of how we came to this point, I believe, came from Justice Scalia in his great, dissenting opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), placing the blame squarely on prior decisions by the Supreme Court which effectively circumvented the democratic process:

As long as this Court thought (and the people thought) that we Justices were doing essentially lawyers' work up here - reading text and discerning our society's traditional understanding of that text - the public pretty much left us alone. Texts and traditions are facts to study, not convictions to demonstrate about. But if in reality, our process of constitutional adjudication consists primarily of making value judgments; if we can ignore a long and clear tradition clarifying an ambiguous text…then a free and intelligent people's attitude towards us can be expected to be (ought to be) quite different.

The people know that their value judgments are quite as good as those taught in any law school - maybe better. If, indeed, the "liberties" protected by the Constitution are, as the Court says, undefined and unbounded, then the people should demonstrate, to protest that we do not implement their values instead of ours. Not only that, but the confirmation hearings for new Justices should deteriorate into question-and-answer sessions in which Senators go through a list of their constituents' most favored and most disfavored alleged constitutional rights, and seek the nominee's commitment to support or oppose them. Value judgments, after all, should be voted on, not dictated; and if our Constitution has somehow accidentally committed them to the Supreme Court, at least we can have a sort of plebiscite each time a new nominee to that body is put forward.

The situation, it seems, has only gotten worse since that time, as the confirmation hearings for lower court nominees have become just as adversarial as those for the Supreme Court.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 07:11 PM | Law • | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 05, 2003
BASEBALL: Phillips in the Crosshairs

Peter Gammons provides a sober diagnosis of the Mets here. His conclusion, that every move the Mets make from here on out should be directed at 2004, is sound, if optimistic. I would aim towards 2005 and beyond.

Steve Phillips is an agreeable person but he has to take the lion’s share of blame for the Mets woeful lack of player development during his six year tenure. All he has to do is look across town to the Yankees to see a model for developing and keeping star players. The free agents are nice, but the core of the Yankees (Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, Alfonso Soriano, Andy Petitte, Nick Johnson, Jorge Posada, etc…) is home-grown.

The Mets home-grown talent, by contrast, consists mainly of Ty Wigginton and Timo Perez, with some prospects on the way. The Mets need to re-focus all of their energies on scouting and player development as soon as possible. It is a misnomer to believe such a course would alienate the Mets’ fan base – loyal fans are much more forgiving and tolerant of home-grown talent than they are of mercenary free agents and stop-gap solutions. The best course for the present is to prepare for the future.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:13 PM | Baseball 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
May 03, 2003
POP CULTURE/LAW: "24" and the 25th Amendment

I’m a fan of the TV show “24” and have caught virtually every episode this year. The show is consistently entertaining if you willingly accept the contrived nature of its central premise: a breathless 24-hour day of intrigue, violence and national emergency revolving around a few central characters, primarily anti-terrorist agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). You have to give the writers of the show a lot of leeway considering the constraints this puts them under but the reward is a fun, suspenseful ride. That said, I thought this season was great right up until the time the nuclear bomb was detonated. Since that time, the show has been somewhat bogged down in some particularly implausible “black-helicopter” conspiracies which didn’t really agree with me (ex: the implication that a few rich, white oil men were trying to, and could successfully, frame certain Middle Eastern countries in order to force the U.S. into all-out war).

Anyway, the last few episodes have centered on a seemingly-ridiculous plot device surrounding a “palace coup” in the White House with a cadre of Cabinet leaders led by the Vice President invoking Section Four of the 25th Amendment to vote to remove the President (played by Dennis Haysbert).

Is this the most ludicrous development of all? No...and yes.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 10:49 PM | Law • | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
May 02, 2003
LAW/BUSINESS: Up in Smoke?

Lots of grumbling going on in New York City about the Bloomberg-imposed smoking ban. See here, here and here, among others. A statewide ban will soon follow. All of these laws were steam-rollered through; smoke-billowing drinkers, it appears, are not the best organized political constituency.

Even though I really dislike smoking, I think it is bad public policy for the government to be acting as the health police in bars and dictating to private establishments whether or not smoking is to be allowed. It is a waste of government resources and an unnecessary limitation on personal freedom. No one has a right to expect a health club-type atmosphere in a bar; it is an escapist environment by its very nature. Additionally, it seems that the ban is having at least a short-term, negative economic effect on business at City bars.

That said, there is something nice about coming home from a bar without feeling like you have to delouse. However, it may not be that easy. An anecdote: I was down at the aptly-named Village Idiot in Manhattan last Friday and, before long, a few of us found ourselves commenting on the mysterious, godawful smell inside. It took us awhile to realize that, lo and behold, that's how the bar actually smells and probably how it had always smelled, but we had never noticed before due to the ever-present haze and smoke which had always hovered inside the place.

Ahh, the unintended consequences of the health revolution.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:27 PM | Business • | Law • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (4) | TrackBack (1)
BASEBALL/HISTORY: Who You Calling Dumb?

One of my favorite baseball stories of all time is that of William Ellsworth "Dummy" Hoy - the greatest deaf player in major league history.

Dummy Hoy played the outfield for 14 seasons from 1888-1902 for the Washington Nationals (twice), Buffalo Bisons, St. Louis Browns, Cincinnati Reds (twice), Louisville Colonels and the Chicago White Sox. In a stolen base-friendly era, Hoy was one of the leaders, stealing 594 over his career, including a league leading 82 in his rookie season. At last check, he was 17th on the all-time stolen base list. He was also very adept at drawing walks (he led the league twice) and scoring runs. He scored over 100 runs eight times in his career. Baseball-reference.com lists Brett Butler as one of the most similar modern players to Hoy and it is easy to imagine the similarity.

Hoy had a reputation as an excellent fielder despite the 20-40 errors a year he made in the outfield. This was the era of tiny gloves, no lights and atrocious field conditions. Large numbers of errors were a big part of the game. (For a good example of this, check out Piano Legs Hickman's ill-fated 1900 season at third base.) Yet, there is a good deal of evidence that he was a fine outfielder, including the fact that, on June 19, 1889, he threw out three runners at home plate in one game - one of only three players ever to do that.

Dummy Hoy's lasting impact cannot be seen in his numbers though.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 07:41 AM | Baseball 2002-03 • | History • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 30, 2003
POLITICS/HISTORY: Airbrushing History

California’s Soviet-style sanitization of its history textbooks, as reported on
FoxNews.com and in the Los Angeles Times, is the kind of tirade-inducing news
story that gets me all riled up:

[M]any California textbooks will no longer feature pictures of hot dogs, sodas, cakes, butter and other kinds of food that are not considered nutritious. Nor will the books contain any phrases judged to be sexist or politically insensitive.

The Founding Fathers, for instance, are now referred to as "The Framers," in an
apparent effort to make them sound less male-dominant. And there will be no more reading about Mount Rushmore…where the faces of four U.S. presidents are carved into stone, because it appears to offend some Native-American groups.

Not only is this practice censorial, idiotic and, in and of itself, offensive but it is completely antithetical to any real kind of historical education. Nothing is gained by reducing textbooks to antiseptic and euphemistic catechisms of modern-day, politically correct orthodoxy.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 08:40 PM | History • | Politics 2002-03 • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
April 27, 2003
HISTORY/WAR: Churchill - Why He Was a Great Man and Why We Should Care

A short while back, I finished reading "Churchill: A Life" by British historian Martin Gilbert. The nearly one thousand page volume is a distillation of Gilbert’s massive eight volume official biography of Winston Churchill. I mention this not just to brag, as most readers understandably like to, of having read A Whole, Really Big Book but also because the book itself was so excellent. This is mainly because it would be damn near impossible to write a less than interesting account of Churchill’s epic life.

So I thought I’d reprint this little review (which I originally wrote for another friend’s embryonic web site) of this fine biography of the “Last Lion” whose inspiring quote is so prominently displayed on the left side of this page.

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Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 06:51 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
April 24, 2003
WAR/POP CULTURE: "Un-American" Activities?

There's posting on Bruce Springsteen's official web site denouncing recent criticism & boycotts of the Dixie Chicks as "un-American." Now we all like the Boss around here but this is, as they say, a load of bollocks. The Dixie Chicks have every right to express their opinions and to say whatever they like and, in bad-mouthing the President of the United States overseas in wartime to curry favor with foreigners, did just that.

American consumers, however, also have a right to free speech and that includes the right to criticize others and the right to refuse to listen to, play or buy music by artists with whom they strongly disagree. The Dixie Chicks have faced a backlash, not from the government, but from private citizens and country music fans (yes, they have rights too) who have a very different outlook on world affairs.

The only semi-legitimate point Springsteen makes, and it is made tangentially, is that FM radio stations are controlled by a few giant conglomerates and that artists frequently have to conform to the wishes of the overseers of those giant corporations. However, that is more of a business/possible antitrust argument, is nothing new and has little to do with the issue at hand. There is no inalienable right to radio airplay.

In fact, there is no suppression of free speech here in any form. The Dixie Chicks are talented artists and great performers (I even have one of their CDs) and their career should be just fine in the long-term. As many others have pointed out, what Springsteen, the Dixie Chicks and many others on the political left seem to want, is speech without any consequences. They should just be happy that people are listening to them enough to care what they say in the first place.

UPDATE: When I posted this earlier, I had no idea the Dixie Chicks would be all over the news today, giving explanatory interviews and appearing nude & covered in all kinds of odd slogans on the cover of "Entertainment Weekly." The latter is an interesting and, in this case, not all-together unpleasant, image-rehabilitation strategy. It is one, however, that I suspect would not work as well for Trent Lott or Peter Arnett or Geraldo Rivera, just to name a few.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 07:44 AM | Pop Culture • | The Mad Hibernian • | War 2002-03 | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 23, 2003
HISTORY/LAW: Arrgh, Matey!

One of the best books I've read over the last few months has to be Richard Zacks' "The Pirate Hunter" a swashbuckling, non-fiction account of the life of Captain Kidd.

The book has its share of serious history and can be read as an indictment of late 17th century English law as well as a cautionary tale of the perils of leading a mercenary existence. However, its hard to read it without getting swept up in the colorful life of pirates, especially since the book is cleverly fashioned as a duel between the legendary, mostly legitimate, pirate hunter Captain Kidd and the obscure, and completely unapologetic, pirate Robert Culliford. Zacks debunks a number of pirate myths (they generally did not fly the "Jolly Roger") while confirming many more - pirates really were foul-smelling, ill-mannered, drunken cut-throats.

A great, escapist story about an "occupation" that, as Jimmy Buffett noted, "just ain't around" any more - I highly recommend it.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 07:19 PM | History • | Law • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 22, 2003
HISTORY: Bones and Thugs

After a short search, I stumbled upon one of my favorite articles of all-time: this 1995 "American Heritage" article on the ignominious fate of the bones of Confederate raider William Clarke Quantrill.

I love this story because, not only is it a hilarious tale of how Quantrill's head ended up in an Ohio refrigerator and his bones used in fraternity rituals, but it is also a dark morality tale about how those most feared in life often find themselves an object of ridicule in death. Saddam Hussein take note.

When you get a chance, read the whole thing.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:32 PM | History • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
April 21, 2003

I'd like to thank the Crank for the opportunity to contribute to this fine site. By way of introduction, I think I should mention a few things at the outset.

First off, the name: I'm not particularly "mad" (at least in the sense that the word means "angry") and, of course, I'm 100% American and actually quite fond of the British, of all people. However, I am fascinated by the Irish and am proud of our ancestral roots, however tenuous, across the broad Atlantic. More importantly, I found this name to be pretty amusing and evocative of colorful Cardinals legend Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky. So there it is.

Second, about me: as previously alluded to, I have a few things in common with the Crank, not the least of which being that we are related. I am also an attorney, a former Patriot League-educated history major, an open-minded conservative, a big Springsteen & U2 devotee and, most importantly, a long-suffering Mets, Giants & Knicks fan. But I also have my own perspective.

Anyway, bear with me as I learn how to post. I look forward to contributing as much as time, and the Crank, permits and, hopefully, I won't overly "dumb down" the discourse here.

Posted by The Mad Hibernian at 05:09 PM | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
BLOG: Two Announcements

Now that the new site's been up and running a week, I have two major announcements:

The first, which I made last week over at the Projo discussion boards, is that I am ending my affiliation with the Providence Journal. I enjoyed my time writing for Projo, and I have nothing but good to say about Projo sports editor Art Martone, who offered me a spot to keep writing about baseball when Bill Simmons' Boston Sports Guy site closed down in May of 2001. Art remains one of the voices of reason in baseball writing, and of course I'll keep checking out his columns.

I intend to eventually load all my columns from Projo and the BSG site into the archives here, and put links to many of them up on the front page; there's already a bunch loaded, including many of my Hall of Fame columns. I'll still write longer column-length posts here when I have the time, but as long-time readers are aware, I've found it harder ever since September 11 to confine my interests to just baseball. In fact, I started writing columns, back in college, mostly as a writer on politics and world affairs (the sports columnist job on the school paper was taken already by Bill Simmons when I got there). Of course, the world has changed a lot since I was a college student writing columns calling for war with Saddam . . . if I really get ambitious some day I may break out the old WordPerfect for DOS floppies and dig up one or two of those old columns.

By the way, for those of you who are fans of my baseball writing but want to avoid the political stuff - or vice versa - you can do so by clicking on the "Categories" in the left-hand column; I believe you can actually bookmark them.

Second, this site - following the lead of successful blogs like the Volokh site, Asymmetrical Information, Oxblog, The American Scene, The Buck Stops Here, and others, will now be a group blog. While there are obviously some advantages to getting all the credit for a site yourself, this is another move that will assure more content, and more continuous content, on the site even when my work and family commitments don't leave me time for writing (and thus avoid long silences like the one Dr. Manhattan is now enduring; come back, Doc!).

I am very pleased to introduce my first two co-bloggers, who have chosen to remain pseudonymous. I'll leave it to them to do their introductions, but they will be writing under the names "The Mad Hibernian" and "Kiner's Korner." What I will say is that both are lawyers, both are Mets fans, and both are likely to bring a similar perspective to issues of war and politics to the table to ensure a consistent tone for the content at this site.

Posted by Baseball Crank at 06:31 AM | Blog • | Kiner's Korner • | The Mad Hibernian | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
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