"Now, it's time for the happy recap." - Bob Murphy
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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The chance to move mountains and fix major bureaucratic problems does not come often. It came with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and it will come with the issuance and debate over the Commission’s final report. This is a window of opportunity to get America’s federal house in order for the long fight ahead. Our will and unity are already sapping, so now may be the best and last chance for awhile to evaluate and reorganize.
As for partisanship, you have to look past it and overcome it. Many of the commissioners, such as Lee Hamilton, John Lehman and Tom Kean have been very thoughtful and fair. As for Clarke, he offered some thoughtful testimony in addition to his unquestionably self-serving moments. As for the families, they all deserve our sympathy and condolences, but we must remember that they all had views on politics, just like the rest of us, before and after September 11 and that, by no means, do they speak with one authoritative voice. As for defensive public officials and bureaucratic sniping, welcome to Washington.
Still, it is important to remember the value of the critical oversight and audit function in our democracy. Western-style governments, especially the U.S., are self-critical, perpetually looking at and seeking to correct their mistakes. It is one of the qualities which make liberal democracies so economically successful and militarily lethal. If the 9/11 Commission focuses on strengthening the government’s ability to fight our enemies, rather than apportioning partisan domestic blame, it will have bolstered the long-term prospects for victory in the war on al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism.
This post has already gone on way too long, but three quick final points, which include some reservations:
* One “problem” for the Commission is that many of the glaring pre-9/11 flaws of the federal government have already been addressed, by the USA PATRIOT Act, the creation of the DHS and new outfits like the Transportation Security Administration and the Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC). Hopefully, the Commission can evaluate how those changes are working and what can be tweaked. On the other hand, there is some danger of it over-reaching in its quest to produce provocative new recommendations.
* Some observers seem so focused on partisan name-calling that they seem either blind or oblivious to where the Commission is actually going with all of this. Which is a shame, since, for better or worse, some historic reforms might be coming down the pike.
* Specifically, the Commission, while praising current director Robert Mueller, has been very hard on the FBI and seems to be moving towards recommending the British MI-5 model for a separate, domestic spying agency, without law enforcement capabilities, to operate within the U.S. President Bush explicitly mentioned on Tuesday night that the government is also considering that option. For a number of reasons, I do not think that the MI-5 model is right for America. Neither does Andrew McCarthy (see also here). I have a lot of thoughts on that matter, but, for now, suffice to say that the debate over the relatively minor reforms of the Patriot Act will likely pale in comparison to that over creating a new agency to spy within the United States.
UPDATE: Here is another good article on potential intelligence reform.
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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:
NL MVP: Jim Thome
AL MVP: Carlos Beltran
WORLD SERIES: Yankees beat Cubs.
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* I think A-Rod should do fine in New York, but if he puts up numbers which are big but less than what he did the last few years (a strong possibility moving from Texas) and the Yankees only improve a game or two in the standings, I just don’t see him repeating as MVP.
* I really love the races shaping up in the NL Central and AL West.
* The NL West and AL Central, on the other hand, seem awfully weak.
* For some reason, I think this may be the year that age, injuries, and/or off-the-field controversy finally catch up with Barry Bonds. Then again, I’ve thought that before.
* I’m of the pessimist-school of sports fans – I purposefully expect and predict the worst, while hoping for the best. Thus, I see the Yankees winning it all and the Braves, with all their personnel losses, still staying ahead of the Mets. I also wouldn’t mind seeing the Red Sox or Cubs finally win it all, but I’m not jinxing it.
* In short, I think it should be a great year for baseball, especially if MLB can start to get its drug policy in order. To steal a line from Thomas Boswell’s book title a few years back, time begins on Opening Day.
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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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It is a fact of life that most people change over time and that the way most of us behave at 15 is not how we behave at 22, which is not necessarily how we behave at 45, 55 or 65. Few of even President Bush’s staunchest supporters would argue that his qualifications for President are bolstered by his early years. Even a cursory knowledge of his biography reveals that Bush was nobody’s role model up until the time he gave up drinking and got serious about his future. He was a fairly harmless trouble-maker, cruising through life on his father’s money and support, doing what he had to do but not much more and living a rather care-free existence. I went to college with many such individuals – they are not necessarily bad people, but they are certainly not inspirational figures of leadership.
But Bush changed. He got married, gave up drinking and focused on business and politics. He became a much more serious, hard-working individual – the man we know from his years as two-term Governor of Texas, candidate for President and current Commander-in-Chief. Few today, though they may oppose his policies, could convincingly argue that Bush is fundamentally lazy or undisciplined. By all reports, he gets up consistently at the crack of dawn, works out diligently, manages his time and work schedule and goes to bed early to begin anew each day.
This is why the allegation, even if it were true, that Bush missed too many days in the National Guard doesn’t really tell us much – it is a swipe against a George Bush that no one thought was presidential material anyway. Though it isn’t supported by the facts, the image of a young man carelessly shirking his duties would be serious, but not entirely inconsistent with the picture of “pre-Laura” George Bush. Yet, it is entirely inconsistent with the diligent, focused man who currently occupies the White House. George Bush today, and since he has been a national figure, is not, in my view, the man he was in 1976 or 1972 or 1967 or 1963.
This is why I never held John McCain’s notoriously hard-partying Navy days against him. Though he has other faults, no one, to my knowledge, argues that McCain has these vices today or otherwise disparages his extra-curricular personal conduct since becoming a Senator. He is a different man today.
Of course, there is more than enough in Kerry’s political record to oppose him, just as I would have thought ideological opponents of the President would feel that his record is sufficient to run against.
Finally, this brings the issue around, as so many divisive political disputes do, to Bill Clinton. The issues from Clinton’s early years (the philandering, the draft-dodging, his ridiculously-strained explanations of his drug use) were issues in 1992 because people had still had the same character-related concerns about him as he was running for President. (I also think such issues were far more relevant in 1992, than in 1996, when his character was still an issue, but by which time he had a record, and then-current ethical and legal lapses, to run against). Clinton’s philandering was not some distant echo from the past – it was an ongoing problem, which would turn into all of our problems later in his Presidency. The draft-dodging was an issue because it spoke to Clinton’s “loathing” of the military, which became a major problem when those feelings became reciprocal and interfered with America’s national security. The recreational use of marijuana was a fairly minor strike against Clinton, but his tortured explanations of it raised very legitimate concerns about Clinton’s truthfulness and ethics – again, issues which reared their ugly head during his presidency and which marred most of his accomplishments.
The list goes on. The point, God knows, is not to relive the Clinton years, but to illustrate that the types of issues from his early days were ongoing concerns. His character and ethical lapses were, and will always be, among his most prominent liabilities. The Bill Clinton of 1969 was an issue, because that was pretty much the same guy who ended up becoming President in 1992. Love him, hate him or somewhere in between, I don’t think the same is true of George W. Bush.
In the end, the issue of whether or not someone is essentially unchanged from their early years and whether character questions from their past are relevant to the future is, of course, a judgment call and personal matter for each voter. But I just think that relationship is important and that some issues, by consequence, are more relevant than others.
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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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9. Charles Palliser, The Quincunx: This neo-Dickensian novel, which I picked up, appropriately enough, in London, is one of the more fiendish books I’ve ever read. The plot about five families fighting over a disputed will is frighteningly intricate and complicated and it was really only when I came to the end of the 1,200 page book that I realized I should’ve been paying closer attention, since the central mystery is not explicitly resolved and the narrator doesn’t tell you everything you need to know. That said, it’s a great puzzle and a very well-written book, highly evocative of 19th century London.
7. Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange: This is probably the hardest book to read I’ve ever made it through. As you know if you’ve seen the Stanley Kubrick movie, the narrator here speaks a form of broken, futuristic slang which highly resembles, but isn’t quite, modern English. Once you get used to it, though, the book flies along. Many works of art have tried to argue that the only thing worse than criminal violence is the authoritarian government response it can engender - this is the most creative and thought-provoking such effort.
6. Tom Clancy, Patriot Games: Growing up, I loved reading Tom Clancy and devoured his books religiously. The first five or so were classic (the later ones have since seriously declined in quality - either that or I’m getting older and more critical). Anyway, this was the first one I read and, while it might not be Clancy’s best, it is the one which first piqued my interest in our national security establishment as well as in Northern Ireland.
5. Frederick Forsyth, The Day of the Jackal: The best thriller I’ve ever read. Knowing your history, you’re pretty sure Charles de Gaulle isn’t going to be assassinated, but you almost doubt it at some points.
4. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings: I take the convenient view that this is one long book, rather than three, but I otherwise agree with the Crank’s sentiments on this one.
3. Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities: Again, see the Crank’s comments. Wolfe has a very colorful writing style all his own. The Right Stuff and, to a lesser degree, A Man in Full are also well worth a read. For extra points, I also once read Devil’s Candy: The Bonfire of the Vanities Goes to Hollywood, about how such a great book became such a bad film.
2. Herman Wouk, The Winds of War/War and Remembrance: These are two books, but one story. Taken together, these two capture the sweep and epic human drama of World War II better than anything I’ve ever read. From Pearl Harbor to the Russian front to graphic and terrifying scenes of the Holocaust, Wouk, through the eyes of an American naval family, captures the horrors and costs of the bloody conflagration, but also evokes the sense of romance and importance that one must have felt living through such great and terrible days. I read these when I was fairly young, but I think anyone would be moved by this World War II epic. In the 1980’s, these became two of the last great TV mini-series, each starring Robert Mitchum in the lead role.
1. Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels: The best war novel I’ve ever read is also the best novel I’ve ever read, period. The Battle of Gettysburg comes alive here like nowhere else. This book is unique in that it appeals to everyone from the anti-war reader to the Civil War buff. You get the sense here that war is wasteful, sickening and awful, yet important, not altogether pointless and sometimes even heroic. Historical figures comes alive, grand strategy mixes with intimate drama and you feel like you are right there on the fields of Pennsylvania in July 1863 - an unrivalled achievement.
MODERN FICTION: Fatherland by Robert Harris, Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, The Firm by John Grisham (still his best), The Godfather by Mario Puzo (I heard they made this one into a movie), An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears, Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton (his best, also adapted into a small independent film, I hear), Absolute Power by David Baldacci (far better than the Clint Eastwood film) and The Shining by Stephen King (his best, although I’m also partial to The Stand).
8. Hampton Sides, Ghost Soldiers: This real-life account of a daring American attempt to rescue Allied prisoners from a brutal Japanese prison camp in the Philippines is a great World War II story and would make a great movie. I think I literally read it in a day.
1. Sir Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life: A stirring, objective one volume account of the greatest political leader in recent times. To read it is to stand in awe of how much can be accomplished in just one lifetime. You can read my full review here.
Runners-up (again, in no particular order):
RECENT HISTORY: Faith of My Fathers by John McCain, Charlie Wilson’s War by George Crile (see here), The Brethren by Bob Woodward, Vietnam: A History by Stanley Karnow, Dead Ground by Raymond Gilmour (about infiltrating the IRA, see here), Behind the Mask: The IRA and Sinn Fein by Peter Taylor and Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam and the Future of America by Anonymous.
SPORTS: A Season on the Brink by John Feinstein (his The Last Amateurs is also a sentimental favorite), Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team, and a Dream by H.G. Bissinger, Beyond the Sixth Game by Peter Gammons and If At First… by Keith Hernandez.
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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.
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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His bio, also from the Baseball Library site, is quite colorful:
Mullane was a multi-talented marvel, baseball's first ambidextrous pitcher. He played without a glove, facing the batter with both hands on the ball before throwing it with either one. Handsome and muscular, with a reputation as a dandy, Mullane was also a skilled boxer, skater, and musician, as well as one of the better pitchers of his day. He twice led his league in shutouts, once in strikeouts, and once in winning percentage while regularly pitching over 400 innings. Despite his sober demeanor off the field (he did not drink, smoke, or gamble), Mullane was a free spirit who routinely ignored the game's reserve clause. He jumped to the Union Association and then to Toledo after winning 35 games for the Browns in 1883 without stopping to play in the UA. He was suspended for all of 1885 when he signed with Cincinnati after Toledo had resold him to the Browns. And in 1892 he sat out half the season to protest the NL's pay cuts. When he wasn't pitching, Mullane played every position except catcher, and switch-hit his way to a .243 batting average in 2,720 at-bats.In terms of ignominy, Mullane holds another record, for having once given up 16 runs in the first inning (!) of an outing in 1894, a very bad year for pitchers all around.
According to his 1944 obituaries (complements of the Dead Ball Era web site), Tony Mullane was born in Cork County in Ireland and came over to the U.S. at the age of five. He is one of 39 major league players to have actually been born in Ireland and was the product of an age when baseball was as synonymous with the Irish as hockey is with Canadians or as basketball is with African-Americans today. Reputed to have had a nasty temper, he would live to be 85, serving as a member of the Chicago Police Department after his playing days.
I recall Mullane’s name, and players like him, from having played all kinds of baseball simulation games like “Pursue the Pennant” when I was a kid. Mullane spent part of his final season on the 1894 Baltimore Orioles, one of baseball’s all-time most potent offenses and all-around colorful teams, featuring Hall of Famers like John McGraw, Wee Willie Keeler, Hughie Jennings and Dan Brouthers. I always remembered seeing Mullane listed on that roster as a “switch-pitcher” and wanted to know more about him. It is a tribute to the Internet that it is so easy to reconstruct the fascinating exploits and lives of players like him more than a century after their careers have come and gone.
UPDATE: There is an unflattering quote about Mullane in this bio of Moses Fleetwood Walker, one of the first (if not the first) black players in major league history. This is consistent with the times in which he lived, but nonetheless stands as a blemish against Mullane.
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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
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
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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A couple of thoughts:
1) We must get Saddam as soon as possible. This is hugely important symbolically and perhaps even important tactically. Saddam ruled Iraq with an iron fist and was the most feared strongman in the region for a long time. Seeing him killed or, ideally, captured, would be a huge morale blow to resistance forces and would send a strong message that his time is over. I have a hard time believing he could travel anywhere in complete anonymity and am frankly very surprised we have not already found him. Getting Saddam is as imperative as it is inevitable.
2) We should use Iraq as an opportunity to kill, capture or monitor as many al Qaeda as possible. Iraq is proving to be a magnet for al Qaeda radicals which is both good and bad. It is bad because it means additional danger for our troops. It is good because, if these individuals are going to Iraq, they are not trying to go to New York, L.A. or Washington and it provides an opportunity for our heavily-armed military to kill them out in the open or, alternatively, for our intelligence services to learn more about them.
4) We should, of course, encourage more foreign contributions, but we should not rely on or expect them. From the beginning, nations like France, Germany and Russia have shown disinterest in enforcing the will of the international community in Iraq. They thwarted the notion of collective military action and blocked any meaningful action by the Security Council to enforce relevant U.N. resolutions concerning Iraq. It would be desirable for them, at this late date, to change course and contribute troops and resources, but it is not a hope on which we should base our policy.
5) We need to protect the moderate Iraqis who will work to form a new government and to establish a written constitution. Jim Woolsey and Bernard Lewis wrote a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal last week, suggesting the interim adoption of the 1925 Iraqi constitution. This seems like a constructive idea and one that, by providing for a written template from which to start, might speed the process of developing a more permanent foundation for governance.
6) We must recognize that creating a stable and moderate Iraq is part of a larger regional project and must tailor our reconstruction efforts to dovetail with reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and perhaps a policy of engagement with moderate forces in Iran. The cause of Iraq is the cause of America’s credibility and influence in the Middle East for probably the next twenty years at least and should be part of a bigger picture of a less radical, more peaceful and economically successful Gulf region. It is, and needs to be, a relatively comprehensive political, diplomatic and military effort arising out of America’s post-September 11th war on terrorism.
In the end, the real test of long-term victory will come when, in a few years, the U.S. substantially pulls out of Iraq. Will it fall into chaos and set up an autocratic or theocratic government to again brutalize its people and ally with terrorists? Or will it form and preserve a moderate, relatively secular and imperfectly democratic state, which will be at peace and which will focus its efforts on the well-being of its citizens, rather than invading and threatening its neighbors? We do not yet know, but must do all we can to influence the outcome.
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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.
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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Historically, most military leaders who have successfully entered American politics have done so on the basis of a highly visible and highly popular military campaign that brought them into the national limelight. Just listing those former Presidents who come to mind:
George Washington – The Revolutionary War
All of these engagements brought these individuals significant fame among the average American at the time. Even an unsuccessful nominee like Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880 had significant prior name recognition from the Mexican and Civil Wars. It was this fame which served to counterbalance any lack of political experienece these candidates may have had.
Clark, on the other hand, is best known for overseeing America’s involvement in Kosovo, specifically as NATO Supreme Commander. He enters the fray here, not as a returning popular hero, but as something of a blank slate – people actually have to explain why he’s “famous”. Aside from military and political junkies, Clark was previously just another name from the news - from an engagement that, while not insignificant, is probably destined to be a historical footnote. His rather bland recurring appearances on CNN helped raised his profile, but I’m not sure how much.
Though rightfully viewed in retrospect as a success, the intervention in Kosovo has, I suspect, very little resonance with the American people. To the extent they remember it all, I think most Americans view it as an example of the U.S. having been forced to clean up yet another European security mess and as a fundamentally humanitarian mission for which we, as a nation, have received precious little recognition from those on whose behalf we intervened. (Although, to be fair, actual Kosovars appear more grateful than the Muslim world in general.)
What seems interesting to me here is that some Democrats seem to favor Clark’s candidacy, not because of who he is or what he’s done, but simply because he comes from the military. All of his specific positions and specific accomplishments, which are not inconsequential, are viewed as secondary. And that seems like a strange basis for a candidacy for President.
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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.
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.
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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The Promised Land – Bruce and the E Street Band open with this long-time favorite from “Darkness on the Edge of Town”.
People come to my shows with many different kinds of political beliefs; I like that, we welcome all. There have been a lot of questions raised recently about the forthrightness of our government. This playing with the truth has been a part of both the Republican and Democratic administrations in the past and it is always wrong, never more so than when real lives are at stake. The question of whether we were misled into the war in Iraq isn't a liberal or conservative or republican or democratic question, it's an American one. Protecting the democracy that we ask our sons and daughters to die for is our responsibility and our trust. Demanding accountability from our leaders is our job as citizens. It's the American way. So may the truth will out.
I happen to believe that the notion that we were “misled” into war in Iraq is a load of bollocks, so this was a little grating, but underplayed. In the end, Bruce clearly means well and dedicated the song to the troops over in Iraq, so I’m not going to sit here and complain.
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight) – after hammily pretending to be talked into it, Bruce and the band launch into one of the greatest crowd-pleasing party songs ever written and a personal favorite of mine. Great to hear live and in person.
All in all, Bruce was in good voice and displayed his typically manic energy (including pole-dancing and full-speed slides across the stage). I had only seen Bruce and the E Street Band once before (on the last tour at Continental Airlines Arena), but I think this celebratory three-hour concert outshined even that one.
If you ever get a chance to see them, take it.
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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.
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.”
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
OTHER SPORTS/BASEBALL: History Denied
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.
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Needless to say, any defense in an intentional murder case which tries to place the blame on a movie is garbage. Every sane criminal defendant should be held personally responsible for his or her voluntary actions and insane criminal defendants clearly are not made so by movies. That is the short, simple answer here.
That said, the “Matrix” films do seem to have a certain, particular appeal to violent, loner types. The whole series is built on the premise that the real world is illusory and that we are secretly being manipulated by malign forces which distort our reality in order to exploit us. It is fundamentally a paranoid world and the movies do superficially glorify highly-stylized violence and anti-authoritarianism. It is hardly surprising that this world held appeal for monsters like Malvo and the Columbine murderers. Yet, I believe this says more about the cinematic tastes of psychopaths than it does about the irresponsible nature of the films.
I do not absolve movie-makers of all moral responsibility for their product. (I am always amused by the contrast between how Hollywood-types portray their films depending on the context of the conversation. Listen to them talk at one of the zillion annual awards shows and you will see so many of them get up and talk about the magical, life-changing world of cinema without which we could not eat, breathe or survive. Listen to them talk when anyone criticizes the impact of pervasive violence, profanity or promiscuity in films and their reflexive answer is that these are “just movies” and that they have no real impact on anyone. As usual, the truth probably lies somewhere in between. But I digress).
In the end, the “Matrix” films, much as I disliked the most recent one, are not particularly immoral films. While they do give off a “Doom”-like video-game vibe, the largely bloodless violence in the films is almost entirely directed at machines (albeit machines that look like humans) and the main plot involves humanity struggling for freedom from oppression. Any person with a functioning moral sense can see that they do not advocate the kind of unflinching slaughter of innocents committed in Columbine or around the Beltway. Anyone without one will be drawn to commit acts of evil anyway.
I am a little troubled by the overwhelming popularity of the Matrix series, which I see as somewhat hollow, however I see no basis for using the films to justify violence or as a defense to acts of wanton murder. Nor do I see them as necessitating any kind of government intervention or legal remedy.
The best remedy might be if simply less people went to see them.
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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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X-MEN 2: as you probably know, the X-Men movies are based on the long-running comic book series involving genetic mutants with superhuman powers; they are divided among those who wish to peacefully coexist with the humans who deeply mistrust them and those that seek to destroy humanity. The first film introduced the various characters and was largely bogged down by the process – there are a lot of X-Men and introducing them all takes awhile.
“X-Men 2” picks up where the first one left off and starts with a bang. The opening scene of a mutant’s attempt to assassinate the President at the White House is legitimately thrilling (and leads to the amusing CNN headline “Mutant Attacks White House” as if to remind you that we’re in comic book land here). It also sets the tone; the movie is swift and exciting with quality action and welcome doses of humor. Despite the fact that the back story is covered in the original, “X-Men 2” stands on its own as a self-contained film, very much unlike “The Matrix” sequel.
“X-Men 2” also has a very solid and diverse cast which gives it a significant boost. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are characteristically great as the opposing mutant forces of good and evil who briefly have to team up to stop a villainous U.S. military leader (some things never change in Hollywood). Hugh Jackman is also particularly good as the ostensible main character, the cynical, metal-infused Wolverine, but all of the actors here do a good job.
Well-choreographed action scenes, admirable storytelling and, of course, amazing special effects also make “X-Men 2” worth seeing. The apparent death of a major character at the end was also a somewhat surprising twist. Even as a very casual fan of this series, I would recommend seeing “X-Men 2”.
THE MATRIX RELOADED: I really did not like this movie. A lot of things which bugged me about the first one came bubbling over in the sequel.
To name a few:
1) I Don’t Want to Live in Any World in Which Keanu Reeves is the Anointed Savior
This kind of speaks for itself. When I see Keanu up on the screen as Neo, I see Ted from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” or the guy in “Point Break” saying “The FBI’s gonna to pay me to learn to surf?” I do not see the all-powerful savior of humanity. In fact, I am more than a little scared by the thought.
2) The Action Scenes are Overrated
I have a bit of a bias against flying, physics-defying kung-fu fighting and am not a fan of the famous stop-motion, bullet-time cinematography which is this series’ trademark. It is supposed to be show-stopping but after awhile it all gets very boring. This movie is completely indistinguishable from a video game.
In any good action scene, you should be able to readily come up with the answer to the question “what is at stake here?” - this movie has very extended action scenes which consist of indestructible characters you don’t care about performing acts that you don’t believe. You often wonder what they are fighting to accomplish. Much of “The Matrix Reloaded” involves the protagonists searching for and fighting to protect some Japanese locksmith whose significance is explained but quickly forgotten. There is no real sense of peril here and, without that, the action signifies nothing.
3) The Philosophical Mumbo-Jumbo is Irritating
A number of characters in this movie simply don’t know when to shut up and their long-winded philosophical dialogue is both impenetrable and incredibly dull. In particular, Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne), the Oracle, the French guy in the restaurant scene and the architect of the Matrix drone on and on like painfully pretentious college professors who don’t know how to make a coherent point. Morpheus at least gets to swing a cool samurai sword.
Between the look of the film and its dialogue, the viewer is left with the overwhelming sensation of being locked in a janitor’s closet with a stoned-out, philosophy-spewing computer hacker.
4) As Portrayed, the Humanity We’re Supposed to Care About Saving is Mighty Unappealing
Watching this movie, I found myself growing strangely sympathetic to the machines' point-of-view.
The denizens of the human stronghold of Zion are grungy-looking, tattooed club-types generally clad all in black and wearing sunglasses even in their dimly-lit, subterranean atmosphere. They listen to terrible music and have little interesting to say. It is a vision of humanity as an overly style-conscious, post-industrial Manhattan dance club.
It is no wonder that the city keeps being overrun by the machines since it is probably protected only by a velvet rope and a couple of bouncers.
5) The Movie Cannot Stand On its Own
“The Matrix” sequel picks up right where the first one left off and makes no effort to treat the film as a stand-alone movie. The same is true of the “The Two Towers” of course but, even there, I imagine an uninitiated viewer would get much more out of the plot (to say nothing of the overwhelming superiority of that movie to this one).
I give “The Matrix Reloaded” points for being part of a larger story and enjoy trilogies, but this is not a movie anyone’s going to want to watch outside the context of the whole trilogy.
In conclusion, “The Matrix Reloaded” knows it audience and is very in tune with the younger crowd it speaks to (I feel old just writing that). Loud industrial music, cell phones, tattoos, hacker jargon, black leather clothing and over-the-top action scenes permeate the film along with the overriding sense of watching a soulless video game. All the while, there is a striking lack of interesting characters, any kind of warmth or real humor present.
A lot of people love this series but this is a movie I cannot recommend.
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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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I must admit that, despite the fact that it often airs between two shows I like, “The West Wing” has always annoyed me enough to keep me from watching it on any kind of regular basis. This is primarily for two reasons: the continuing tendency to portray conservative types either as cartoonishly-scheming, mustache-twirling villains or as vapid, misguided morons (examples of each can also be seen in the Sorkin-written films “A Few Good Men” and “The American President”) and the opposing tendency to portray the fictional President, as well as other administration officials, as paragons of staggering, unmatched genius.
On the show, President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) spouts Latin, gives note-perfect history lessons about the ancient Greeks and routinely displays a photographic memory and grasp of minute policy details. He reminds me of a grown-up version of the kid in “Jerry Maguire” (“d'you know that the human head weighs 8 pounds?”) or the kind of people you see on Jeopardy’s “Tournament of Champions” week. He is not, however, particularly credible.
This is not to say that Presidents and world leaders are not highly intelligent; by and large, they are (yes, including our current President). However, they are generally not the type of people who would, or should, shut themselves up in rooms brushing up on their Latin and memorizing minutiae. Presidents are meant to be leaders, focusing, above all, on the Big Picture; Sorkin’s portrayal of Bartlett reveals his obvious preference for number-spewing, eggheads like Al Gore over less-detail oriented, but more decisive, leaders like President Bush. This is Sorkin’s right, of course, and the show by its very nature had to pick one ideological side of the fence to sit on in order to be taken at all seriously, but it has always been a private gripe of mine.
There are other problems on the "The West Wing" as well, such as the show’s use of fictional foreign countries, its over-reliance on assassination attempts and fake crises, and a tendency to simply talk the viewer into submission, but every show has its faults.
In the end though, the television landscape will be diminished the day “The West Wing” goes off the air. Unlike so many modern shows, “The West Wing” is never vulgar or gratuitously violent, probably to its significant detriment in the ratings. It is, instead, a consistently classy show which honors and glorifies idealism, intelligent rhetoric and devoted public service. For that, it is a welcome addition to the network television lineup, however wrong-headed its ideology may be.
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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
"Another thing they were interested in was in defecating and urinating all over
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
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
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Cheney is clearly valuable figure to Bush as an advisor, especially on foreign
As the story above mentions at the very bottom, the GOP is missing an opportunity to groom a suitable "heir apparent" to Bush. Cheney is viewed by almost everyone as a competent figure but it is hard to see how he will help Bush win any new ground in the next election. The main reason he was chosen last time seems to have been that he would bring “gravitas” to the ticket and offset Bush’s lack of foreign policy experience or knowledge. But does anyone except his most hard-core enemies believe that Bush still lacks foreign policy experience or that his current national defense team (Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice, etc…) is not sufficiently capable on its own?
Cheney’s biggest asset on the campaign trail, as I see it, is his lack of
It is not brain surgery to say that Bush will either win or lose in 2004. If he loses, that will likely be it for this group anyway and the GOP will have plenty of time to find someone new to step into the leadership vacuum, as is happening with the Democrats right now (although the identity of that person is still anyone’s guess). That someone would have to challenge the Democratic incumbent in 2008.
However, if Bush wins, it seems all but certain that the Democrats are going to
It is way, way off but right now I see only a few potential 2008 GOP candidates:
That leaves Jeb Bush.
Re-nominating Cheney is both the loyal and, in the short-term, the conservative
Just a thought.
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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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The island provides the basis for the classic Irish rebel song “Rock on Rockall” by the Wolfe Tones - a rousing ballad asserting that Rockall is “part of Ireland” which the “greedy eye of England” seeks to claim for itself. The highly memorable chorus goes as follows:
Oh rock on Rockall, you'll never fall to Britain's greedy hands/Or you'll meet the same resistance that you did in many lands/May the seagulls rise and pluck your eyes and the water crush your shell/And the natural gas will burn your ass and blow you all to hell!
Can you feel the love? The Wolfe Tones’ lesson on the law of the sea bases Ireland’s claim to the island on the mythical giant Finn McCool’s having once “tossed a pebble across the sea” which eventually became Rockall. This is a little dicey even to the most sympathetic of ears and is akin to the U.S. claiming territory in Canada on the basis of reputed American folk stories saying Paul Bunyan used to visit there.
The lyrics of “Rock on Rockall” contrast sharply with the lively and highly amusing history of the deserted island as recounted on the satirical (and somewhat profane) British web site “The Rockall Times” which is named after it.
So, the British and Irish view a completely obscure plot of God-forsaken territory through the lens of two utterly contrasting histories. Bewildered outsiders are left to scratch their heads and wonder what else is new?
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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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The basic text of the 25th Amendment is accurately described on the show; Section Four states the following:
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide… to the Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.
Thereafter, when the President transmits to the…Senate and the…House of Representatives his written declaration that no inability exists, he shall resume the powers and duties of his office unless the Vice President and a majority of either the principle officers of the executive department or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit within four days to the…Senate and the…House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office. Thereupon Congress shall decide the issue, assembling within forty-eight hours for that purpose if not in session. If the Congress within twenty-one days after receipt of the latter written declaration, or, if Congress is not in session within twenty-one days after Congress is required to assemble, determines by two-thirds vote of both Houses that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall continue to discharge the same as Acting President; otherwise, the President shall resume the powers and duties of his office.
In the most recent episode, a vote among the cabinet was taken, and President Palmer was temporarily removed from office and told he could “appeal” to Congress within four days. (This is a convenient device on “24” since the viewer knows that nothing too important can be delayed beyond the 24-hour confines of the season.). So, I think the show did a nice job of following the letter of an obscure and relatively untested provision of our Constitution.
Of course, “24” takes a lot of liberties with the spirit of the 25th Amendment and asks the viewer to accept that the President’s hand-picked Cabinet members would readily embrace this provision to remove their boss within hours of having been targeted by nuclear terrorists. The motivation for their action is the President’s unwillingness to plunge into global war within a few hours of a thwarted nuclear attack, without first confirming all the facts as to who was behind it. This, of course, is silly. The U.S. waited months to attack Taliban and al Qaeda targets after September 11th, but “24” asks us to accept that it would widely be viewed as an impeachable offense for a President not to launch a massive counter-attack the same day.
Also, the 25th Amendment was clearly enacted to deal with situations where the President’s health is in question, not his judgment. A plain reading of the Amendment and the context in which it was enacted indicates as much.
Finally, to me, the most amusing part of the process on the show was the high-tech, “Press Your Luck”-style scorecard that the Cabinet used to register everyone’s vote by video-conference – is that a program Cabinet members keep on their computers just for such circumstances? The flawless operation of the government’s video-conference equipment was also a source of private amusement to me.
The lesson here is that “24” continues to walk a high-wire between realism and laughable fantasy, but as long as the show remains suspenseful and entertaining it will still be worth watching and a good way to spend a Tuesday night.
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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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Hoy's handicap is cited as the reason why players, managers, umpires and coaches adopted hand signals. Hoy's exploits are recounted in several places in the greatest baseball book ever written, "The Glory of Their Times":
Did you know that he was the one responsible for the umpire giving hand signals for a ball or strike? Raising his right hand for a strike, you know, and stuff like that. He'd be up at bat and he couldn't hear and he couldn't talk, so he'd look around at the umpire to see what the pitch was, a ball or a strike. That's where the hand signs for the umpires calling balls and strikes began. That's a fact. Very few people know that - Hall of Famer "Wahoo" Sam Crawford
I roomed with Dummy in 1899, and we got to be good friends. He was a real fine ballplayer. When you played with him in the outfield, the thing was that you never called for a ball. You listened for him, and if he made this little squeaky sound, that meant he was going to take it - Tommy Leach
My favorite anecdote about Dummy Hoy is recounted by Sam Crawford in that same book, recounting an ingenious doorbell used in the Hoy household:
Dummy had a unique doorbell arrangement in his house.... Instead of a bell on the door, he and his wife had a little knob. When you pulled this knob, it released a lead ball which rolled down a wooden chute and then fell off onto the floor with a thud. They felt the vibrations, through their feet, and they knew somebody was at the door.
Dummy Hoy overcame his handicap and the casual cruelty of his era - of course, the nickname "Dummy" alone, which was applied to other contemporary deaf players, is far from sensitive - to become an excellent major league player. He would live to the age of 99, reputed at one time to have lived the longest life of any major league player, to throw out the first pitch in a World Series game in 1961. His children and grandchildren would go on to prominence in Ohio's legal community and commemorations in his honor have been held in Buffalo, Cincinnati, Columbus, Louisville and Oshkosh.
Dummy Hoy has become a hero to many in the deaf community and his life and exploits are celebrated on a web site in his honor, advocating his induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame. While I think his accomplishments come up short, I admire the effort and the man who inspired it.
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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
[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.
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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History, by its very conflict-ridden nature, is oftentimes controversial, frequently harsh, and always best when subject to free-thinking discourse. No ethnic or gender sub-group can or should emerge unscathed or immune from the sometimes unpleasant truths which accompany any objective review of human history.
As the opinionated FOX News article points out:
Many of the changes seem to represent a direct assault on historical accuracy. For example, the new guidelines dictate Native-Americans should not be depicted with long braids, in rural settings or on reservations. There are no suggestions on how they should be depicted, however.
How can any accurate history of Native-Americans not depict them in “rural
How or why should anyone hope to make the founders of American democracy seem less “male-dominant”? They were all men and teaching children that fact in no way serves to discredit young women growing up today in the 21st century. Avoiding the historical truth does. We can refer to these men as “Sister Sledge” in our history books and it will not change the immutable fact of who they were. Every American child should know the basic facts about these men and part of that education is being able to properly identify them as “the Founding Fathers” (as well as, of course, “the Framers”). Once students know the facts, they will be free to form their own opinions.
And don’t even get me started about the anti-hot-dog policy.
The sort of nonsense advocated by these California "educators" is all too common in the academic community and is a disservice to free-thinking people of any background or ideology. It treats the contentious issues of history as land-mines to be tiptoed around and the facts as inconvenient obstacles to the pastel-shaded, politically correct past that exists only in the alternative universe of their minds. This mindset sees children primarily as delicate psyches at risk of being offended or corrupted rather than curious minds in need of honest education and thirsting for basic knowledge.
The most curious will, of course, always overcome the efforts of the small-minded to protect them from the search for truth. Why though must we make children face such an uphill battle to attain knowledge and even a basic understanding of those who came before them?
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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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I believe that Churchill was, without question, the greatest political leader of the 20th century. A thorough analysis of this assertion would put him atop the list ahead of such possible competitors as, listed chronologically, Theodore Roosevelt, FDR, Gandhi, Truman, Mandela and Reagan. It is worth noting that when, in 1950, Time magazine had to choose its Person of the Half-Century it chose Churchill. (Later, Time would reverse course and name Albert Einstein its Person of the Century in 2000). Churchill’s combination of foresight and historical and geopolitical significance is unmatched.
Most importantly, however, Churchill was invariably on the right side of history, fearlessly advocating the right ideas at the right time and place. His courage (both moral and physical) and tireless determination to shape and to dominate the events that surrounded him are the qualities which made him a great man and an essential historical figure.
It struck me as I read it that this is one of those biographies that makes the reader sit back and realize just how little one is doing with his or her life. It is a call to arms to those of us who toil away our days sitting on a couch eating a bag of cheesy poofs & watching reruns of “Law & Order” while telling ourselves that we are “doing something” with our time.
The catalogue of Churchill’s achievements is staggering. His early years alone were almost implausibly active. He fought in numerous battles on several continents, was a decorated war hero and noted war correspondent. His military exploits in the Boer War in South Africa, which included a daring prison escape from a POW camp, became renowned. All the while, he wrote and published novels and classic accounts of military adventures such as The River War, which detailed the turn-of-the-century British campaign at Omdurman in the Sudan in which he participated.
He became a Member of Parliament in his mid twenties where he would serve, first as a Conservative then as a Liberal then as a Conservative again, for over fifty years. During that time, he held numerous and diverse cabinet positions including Home Secretary, First Lord of the Admiralty (during each World War), Minister of Munitions, Colonial Secretary, Chancellor of the Exchequer and, of course, Prime Minister during World War II and later from 1951 up until his retirement in 1955.
More than any other figure from his time, Churchill was intimately involved in the prosecution of both World Wars. Before and during the First World War, Churchill was a member of the war cabinet and led the British navy. He displayed imagination and determination to ensure British readiness and war-making capacity before the war as well as decisive leadership once it began. His accomplishments included the development and advocacy of the forerunner of the tank (which would later make the ongoing style of trench warfare obsolete). When he was forced out of the war cabinet after the British-led Gallipoli campaign proved to be disastrous (largely due to factors which Churchill had warned against), Churchill was devastated but, while still a sitting member of Parliament, went over to France to ably lead a combat battalion in the bloody trench war.
Churchill’s had countless brushes with death and was renowned for his courage under fire. He was an early advocate of air power and was an accomplished pilot himself before he was forced by his wife and others to give it up due to their fears for his safety.
Like all truly great leaders, Churchill was a committed optimist and certain that his ideas and beliefs would triumph if implemented.
His eloquent and fierce leadership and inspiration of the beleaguered British people during World War II is well-documented and stands as Churchill’s most lasting accomplishment. A decade of inept pacifistic “leadership” had led Britain to the brink of utter destruction by the Nazi forces that it had gravely and negligently underestimated. It is not an overstatement to say that Churchill brought them back from that brink. His decisive leadership would rally the British until America entered the war and helped turn the tide against the Axis powers.
When one looks at the record, it is amazing how right Churchill was about virtually all of the major issues of his day. He was a lifelong advocate of free trade. He had open-minded and progressive views on social issues in the early 20th century and pushed for reforms at a time when reform was clearly needed (then, like a sensible person, he later returned to conservatism).
He was an early opponent of communism and totalitarianism in all its forms. He was willing and eager to fight for the rights of democratic freedom-loving people wherever they resided. At the very dawn of the twentieth century, he cautioned of the horrors that would follow if industrial European powers ever went to war. In his early writings, he even warned of the threat of Islamic radicalism.
He was an outspoken critic of dangerous disarmament policies after World War I and prophetic in his warnings about Hitler and Nazi Germany. As a reward for his foresight, he was continuously denounced as a war-mongerer.
Yet, he also had previously advocated positions, which, if heeded, could have prevented Hitler’s rise – he opposed the overly punitive war reparations and other humiliations, which the Treaty of Versailles inflicted upon Germany. And he supported the establishment of a symbolic central German figurehead rather than the loose Weimar republic, which would eventually crumble leading to the election of Hitler.
Churchill was a lifelong advocate of “peace through strength” and advocated strong policies of deterrence against Hitler in the thirties and then Stalin after World War II. In neither case was it popular. He always believed that the legitimate grievances of other nations should be addressed but opposed wholesale appeasement of rival military powers. As he put it, the best foreign policy was always to “appease the weak, defy the strong”.
He was an early and forceful advocate of the Jewish people in general and the state of Israel in particular. He was a believer in the creation of a viable United Nations and, later, a “United States of Europe.” He favored the development and use of chemical weapons in World War I and nuclear weapons in World War II to ensure the victory of democratic forces yet was ever mindful of the need for limitation of such weapons in the future.
Above all, he believed Britain’s future lay in a close and “fraternal” association with the United States, which he whole-heartedly admired.
Far from exaggerating the catalogue of his achievements, there are many not even mentioned above. Churchill’s genius, optimism, imagination, determination and foresight were unrivaled and served to lead a wayward and self-questioning empire to ultimate victory over the dark forces which threatened to destroy it. An essential and fascinating historical figure, Churchill’s legacy is one with clear relevance to the modern world and his life and leadership can and should be instructive to all who seek to preserve and promote freedom.
P.S. – In addition to his disregard for physical danger, Churchill also smoked big cigars and drank consistently throughout his life, yet lived to the age of ninety. This caused one colleague to note that “if you were to write a book on ‘Health without Rules’ it would outsell all your other books.” This is yet another reason why Churchill is a role model to the hopeful.
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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.
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
THE MAD HIBERNIAN: Greetings
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.
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)