Saturday, January 29, 2005

Iraq, take 2

I worked for Howard Dean in New Hampshire a year ago last week. After the scream, even. I drove down in an old green Acura, one of my true cars, and went door to door with 300-pound Floridians and the like. We peddled a slogan, simple: "Hope, not Fear". And we believed it.

Let's let that mantra reign on the left tonight and through tomorrow. Let's not lose sight of the brilliant shining light of our goals, even though they be fought by those who we don't believe have our hopes at root. We are for elections everywhere, for freedom of speech and thought and voice and dancing (sorry Aschcroft) everywhere. We need to remember that as the voting begins. There will be carnage and theft and difficulty in voting. Let's refrain from the "I told you so" and say instead, "I tell you anyway".

Hope, not fear. Let the voters in Iraq believe it, through threat and intimidation and all the other shit that has unfortunately resulted from the failed occupation. But we hope for them. We hope. Hope.

Iraq, take 1

Sullivan has the blog entry of the day:

HOW DO WE JUDGE SUCCESS? How do we tell if the Iraqi elections are a success? That they happen at all? Surely we should have a higher standard than that. Here are my criteria: over 50 percent turnout among the Shia and Kurds, and over 30 percent turnout for the Sunnis. No massive disruption of voting places; no theft of ballots. Fewer than 500 murdered. Any other suggestions for relevant criteria? Am I asking too much? I'm just thinking out loud. But it makes sense to have some guidelines before Sunday so we don't just fit what happens to our pre-existing hopes or rationalizations.

I think a successful election would have close to 60 percent Shia and Kurd turnout, and higher than 25 percent Sunni turnout. U can't see how there won't be some theft of ballots (after all, I'm sure there was some theft of ballots in several US states, even if they didn't impact the election results.) Realistically. This is not going to be a one-day, one-size-fits-all solution, but it's a start. I don't care what political stripe you paint yourself with; let's hope this goes well for the people of Iraq. (Post-game tomorrow.)


After a miraculously cheap and smooth flight, I'm back in Britain. (I've got a mobile phone, too; if you're on Friendster, check the bulletin board, or just email me if you're desperate to hear my voice.) Coming up on the schedule: sitting down with MacDuff and tuning into the Beeb's coverage of Manchester United v Middlesbrough in the fourth round of the FA Cup. We'll hoist a Bombay Sapphire & tonic for all you out there left behind in the New World.

Our Wonderful World

A miscellany from Drudge today, as I go to collect Cooper from the Gloucester Green Bus Station here in Oxford. Likely a night to take advantage of his duty-free purchases, followed by a sobering day following the BBC's coverage in Iraq. Best and sincere wishes to those attempting to vote through such adversity. May they get a government worthy of their efforts. The story of our world is filled with such wonder.

Story #1 : Love triumphs.

Story #2 : Buffett triumphs.

Story #3 : Dean triumphs ?

Story #4 : Beer triumphs. (although for this last one, did it occur to you as well that instead of drinking beer to urinate, he could have just poured the beer out the window to melt the snow?? Call it the slovakian solution, I guess.)

Kid R.E.M.

Not really a huge fan of the new Kos posters, but every now and then "Kid Oakland" really scores with a magical post. And so he does here. I can do no more than urge everyone that passes through this blog to read it in its entirety. A beautiful essay, as Cooper sets sail over the Atlantic this evening. I wonder what movies flyzoom is offering...

"He looked at me and said, without missing a beat, "There still is. In some places. There still is."

UPDATE: (soon after) - is there a reason for blogging through the wee 5AM hours? Perhaps. But while on the subject, just wanted to hit on another great Kos entry - this time a recommended diary that Cooper himself would salute. These days I find myself both frustrated with Europeans who hold a simplified position on Bush and also an angered position at the Repubs themselves (of course)... So, I guess I'm just looking forward to engaging in such battles full time when the law studies are through... for now, bring on the BOPs. A demain.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Time to dust off the A-Z Guide

I don't really have a comprehensive email list for my friends/contacts, so I thought I'd use the blog to announce that I'm moving back to London this weekend. This is a spontaneous decision -- one I've made in the last week or so -- but the timing is right for many reasons (job, apartment leases, etc).

My Ahab's posting will continue unabated, however, even from overseas; the pantheon of Canadian bloggers in London is small, after all. We might even sneak a little more British political content in there. (Lord knows our Canadian content couldn't suffer further.)

Farewell, Toronto -- I hardly knew ye.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Senators, On your Mark...

Well, in reviewing the Senators who voted against the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice, is it a surprise that Evan Bayh's name appears among the 13? Hardly. Instead, see it as a sign that the campaign for 2008 has already begun, as this MSNBC article explains.

And while one frontrunning conservative Democrat moves left, another more liberal one moves right. Does anyone who read Hillary Clinton's comments on abortion earlier this week doubt that she is moving to cover her perceived weak flank as well? Senators may not be well suited Presidential candidates, but they certainly make appealing Primary candidates due to their national exposure. Add Governor Warner to this list, and we already have a stronger Democratic field than 2004.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Life imitates 24

In an eerie and tragic replay of the season opener of the excellent-but-fading "24", a Los Angeles commuter train was derailed by an SUV deliberately parked on the tracks. They'd better check for a guy on board with a bullet hole in his head and a severed handcuff on his arm. (Don't fear, I'm sure Jack Bauer's on the case.)

The Greatest Resume

Have fun seeing Roger Bannister -- as it turns out I saw him about six years ago at Yale. He's a wonderful human being.

Reminds me of a debate I got into a couple of years ago over which individual has the best resume of all time. I suppose any interpretation of that distinction is valid, but I'm thinking about somebody who has dominated a few fields of human endeavour, and probably in both the physical (military/athletic) and intellectual/academic realms. Bannister is a contender: his resume boasts one of the great athletic achievements of all time, an Oxford degree, and a career in neurosurgery that includes authorship of a textbook in the field.

This web site on all-time scholar-athletes is a good place to start.

A few contenders include George H.W. Bush (though a little weak on the athletic side, as he was only captain of the college baseball team at Yale, he fought in WWII, headed the CIA, and became US president). Dr. Benjamin Spock was an Olympic rower and the greatest pediatrician ever; Bill Bradley was a Princeton grad, Rhodes Scholar, NBA champion and hall of famer, and if he had moved from the Senate to the White House, he may have achieved the greatest all-time resume.

Perhaps I'm biased toward 20th century figures (Plato, for one, is mentioned in the above web site). Suggestions?

"In a time of Three..."

Off tonight to see Sir Roger Bannister speak at the Oxford Union, so lazing away the day doing some reading up on the Four Minute Mile achievement. Check out some anniversary columns from the New York Times and USA Today for some well written coverage of that day back in May '54 when Bannister ran into history. Full report, and back to some political blogging, tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

"We're not fools"

Lame duck DNC Chair Terry McAuliffe sent out an email today, calling for all Democrats to "send a message to President Bush: It's time for him to stand up and tell America that tying Social Security benefits to race and gender is wrong."

Not unreasonable, but misleading. The quote refers to Rep. Bill Thomas' comments last Sunday, but takes them somewhat out of context. Thomas said that extending the retirement age for certain groups of people was tantamount to cutting their benefits, and argued that any proposal to reform Social Security would have to examine that phenomenon:

MR. RUSSERT: So if someone is a woman and they live longer, they would get less per year?
REP. THOMAS: It's not that you would do it; it's something that you need to look at. Because if you extend the age beyond 78, if you go to 80 or 82, all of those concerns about race, occupation and gender are exacerbated. And you shouldn't just extend the age without understanding the additional complications and unfairness that you're bringing into the system. That's the point I'm trying to make.

And who agrees with this assessment but NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, no Republican he (from 2000):

"The problem is if you are ... of African ancestry you don’t get to 65 that often. But if we’re not even getting to 65 and you want to take what little we have and tell us we can’t get it until we are 70, we want to say that we’re not fools and we’re not going to stand for that. Leave Social Security alone and don’t mess with the retirement age!"

The fact is, any meaningful reform of Social Security needs to consider the retirement age. People are living longer lives, and life expectancy in America will almost certainly rise over the next half-century.
Like I said, I don't know a whole lot about the mechanics of Social Security. But if the Republicans and the NAACP agree on the notion that race affects benefit payouts (even if they disagree fundamentally on the privatization of SS), it should at least be discussed. Tell me if I'm missing something.

The terrorist vagrant

The biggest damage to the NYC subway since 9/11? Memo to Al Qaeda: hire this man. (If you can find him.)

Happy 246th Robbie

January 25th can only mean one thing: a celebration of the lyrical genius and womanizing skills of Scotland's favorite son, Mr. Robert Burns. Last year I had a small dram in Concord, New Hampshire 2 days before the primary - doesn't THAT seem like ages ago.

Certainly my favorite Burns Day memory dates back to 2000, though. On exchange in Glasgow, and a few of the exchange students went out on the town for Scotch and poetry. Cutting back through George Square, Derek Jackson and I took a slight detour to pay our respects to the Burns statue. Out of nowhere emerged an old Scot, who verified that we were not about to steal any of the flowers and then struck up a conversation. Each year at this time I will remember his slightly slurred description of Robbie Burns - the man who "dreamed in laughter".

So here is a small verse in honour of the great one. If you have some time, check out my favorite Burns poem, Tam O'Shanter, as well.

And be sure to get your shot of Scotch tonight - I will try and track down my preferred Talisker, but even the Teacher's is suitable enough.
Epigram On Parting With A Kind Host In The Highlands (1787)

When Death's dark stream I ferry o'er,
A time that surely shall come,
In Heav'n itself I'll ask no more,
Than just a Highland welcome.

Hope you found just that, Robbie. We'll all raise a glass for you tonight.

And the Moore Award goes to...

I have a feeling it's going to be a long four years for Australian columnist Mike Carlton. His most recent column, titled "The Emperor of Vulgarity", tries to scathe George Bush but ends up being so absurd, it's hilarious.
To wit:

George Bush's second inaugural extravaganza was every bit as repugnant as I had expected, a vulgar orgy of triumphalism probably unmatched since Napoleon crowned himself emperor of the French in Notre Dame in 1804.
The little Corsican corporal had a few decent victories to his escutcheon. Lodi, Marengo, that sort of thing. Not so this strutting Texan mountebank, with his chimpanzee smirk and his born-again banalities delivered in that constipated syntax that sounds the way cold cheeseburgers look, and his grinning plastic wife, and his scheming junta of neo-con spivs, shamans, flatterers and armchair warmongers, and his sinuous evasions and his brazen lies, and his sleight of hand theft from the American poor, and his rape of the environment, and his lethal conviction that the world must submit to his Pax Americana or be bombed into charcoal.

Shortly after this wild-eyed tirade, Carlton calls Bush "the dumbest and nastiest president since the scandalous Warren Harding died in 1923." He then rips into two Pentagon undersecretaries, calling them "a mad-eyed Zionist" and a "three-star bigot", respectively.
I recognize Carlton's audience is Australian, not American, but this kind of vitriol transcends borders. Does this kind of commentary do anything but allow Bush supporters a good chuckle at the raging frustration of their opponents?

(Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan -- surely this column will be a frontrunner for his "Moore Award" all year. For the uninitiated, Sullivan comes up with awards to showcase the most ridiculous polemicist thinking on the web. The Moore Award, formerly the Sontag Award, recognizes absurdity in "moral equivalence in the war on terror - after Michael Moore, who once compared the Jihadist and Baathist thugs in Iraq to the Minutemen.")

Monday, January 24, 2005

The 50 Million Dollar Man

Why not raise the ante for Osama? It's not like anything else has worked. They're offering $25 million for al-Zarqawi, and they already ponied up $15 mil apiece for the Hussein brothers. Hell, put it at $100 million and I'll take the next flight to Karachi.

Social Security's hot button

There's a fury a-brewing over the recent "Meet the Press" comments of Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA). As the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Thomas is a high-profile congressman and a proponent of reforming the US tax system alongside Social Security. On Sunday, he claimed Congress should consider looking at Social Security reforms that would pay out future benefits based on factors like race and gender:

We also need to examine, frankly, Tim, the question of race in terms of how many years of retirement do you get based upon your race? And you ought not to just leave gender off the table because that would be a factor.

Later, he qualified his statement:

If we discuss it and the will is not to do it, fine. At least we discussed it. To simply raise the age and find out that you've got gender, race and occupational problems later, I would not be doing the kind of service that I think I have to do. You and I have been around quite a while.

Still, according to Drudge, the "depressed" and "determined" Democrats (dandy alliteration, Drudge) are sharpening their knives:
"Bush's Republican Party is full of ill-conceived, dangerous ideas about the future of Social Security. But no idea seems more dangerous or patently unfair than linking Social Security benefits to a person's race and gender," blasted one well-placed Dem. In another report, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said, "foolish isn't a strong enough description" for Thomas' idea that benefits might be based on factors like race and sex.

But Thomas's proposal doesn't strike me as such an absurd notion that it should not even be discussed. George Bush's anti-affirmative action stance was red meat for Democrats in the election campaign. (Rightly so.) Hearing about the Thomas brouhaha reminded me of the comments of one of America's leading political pundits (excuse the unedited profanity, it's a direct quote):

Social security. They should ask you if you want to take that shit. Would you like us to save money for you when you get old? No, I want to spend the shit now.

You don't get the money til you're 65... Meanwhile, the average black man dies at, like, 42. Niggas don't live that long. Niggas don't live to be no 65...Ooh, boy, 64 [makes croaking sound]. Hypertension, high blood pressure, crazy white boys -- something will get your ass.

That is from Chris Rock's genius standup show, "Bigger and Blacker", and as usual, he provokes some tough political questions through the edgy hilarity.

Acturaries determine insurance risk all the time by using race and gender as factors in a larger statistical determination of receipts and benefit payouts. And the study Rep. Thomas appears to be advocating here seems perfectly germane, especially to liberal supporters of affirmative action: if people of a certain race are disadvantaged by having to pay into Social Security while statistically not receiving the reciprocal benefits, couldn't the system be reformed to reflect that? Chris Rock is not the first person on either side of the spectrum to point out the fact that lower life expectancy makes the SS tax especially punishing to members of certain minority groups. Ask yourself this: if Barbara Boxer or Maxine Waters demanded that any reexamination of Social Security include actuarial studies of race or gender, would that have been so misplaced and misguided?
I'm no scholar on the issue (I don't even know if any of these life expectancy claims are true or myth), and I'm not advocating any reforms to SS that base taxation and payout according to race and gender. But shouldn't these ideas be discussed, even if only briefly within a committee?

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Kinsella Pats Himself on the Back

Since last summer's Canadian election, my travels (and the highly annoying "registration" firewalls at both the Globe and Post) have prevented me from following the intricacies of Canadian politics as closely as usual. Plus, when you really look at it, both the American and (to a lesser extent) English political systems are just plain more interesting: better, more sophisticated, more consequential debate. So it has been awhile since a post of substance on my "domestic" political scene.

I suppose this is simply a roundabout way of saying that I have not paid the slightest attention to the Gomery inquiry. My simplistic take on the whole sponsorship scandal is that this is the type of scenario that seems to arise inevitably when one party retains an unchallenged hold on power for so long. Were their abuses and kickbacks? Sure. Did Martin know about it? Almost certainly. Does it rise to a level of criminality, or should the rightful punishments be leveled in the voting booth? Who really knows - but tracing the way back through the bureaucracy is no small matter and national unity is something you can hide behind. Frankly I think Sheila Copps' "flags for everyone" investment was just as terrible a mismanagement and waste of taxpayer cash. So there's the difficulty, and an indictment on the Conservatives as an opposition that they were not in any position to turf the Liberals for such mismanagment.

Which brings me to Kinsella. I know of Warren only through his website and blog - one that I highly recommend and have been reading for the better part of a year now. I like him. I like the fiery partisanship, the loyalty, the insights into the backroom angle of electoral politics, and confess we probably are quite closely aligned on the left-wing Liberal portion of the spectrum and share very similar opinion on our current Prime Minister's abilities. You know what to expect when you read his posts, and he never pulls any punches. I wouldn't use him as my only source on the whole Gomery affair, but it is nice to see him speaking up aggressively against what has become the conventional wisdom of what actually occurred in the sponsorship mess.

And yet, and yet... at times he veers so far off the edge that the partisanship and hyperbole is simply unfunny, outright snipy and meanspirited, resulting in an extremely "holier than thou" tone. When the histrionics are just a little too much to stomach, to be honest. The line is a difficult one to straddle, I guess, so I don't really know if this is a real criticism per se. I do know that I certainly take him less seriously over all - and react to many of his postings with sentiments of "Oh Warren" and "There he goes again". At times, his comments contain valuable perspective, but at other times he can offer up some pretty terrible partisan hackery.

Strong opinions make the blogosphere what it is, so by all means I hope he keeps at it. But I wonder if he ever realizes how it comes across to casual readers (though he would no doubt respond that he doesn't care). Case in point - and what finally compelled me to post a substantial comment on all this - is today's comment about Ivison. The link, for now, is here - though as the days go by you'll have to scroll back to January 23rd to find it.

I have read John Ivison columns in the Post. While he is not Andrew Coyne [for my money the best commentator Canada has got, would he only return to his abandoned blog], Ivison is a top political writer and covers the daily beat in Ottawa for the Post. Kinsella's bitterness at the man for critizing him in a column is downright juvenile. If you take Warren's word, it sounds like I have no access to Ivison's actual piece, but can imagine some of the legitimate statements that have Warren up in arms. And his response is predictable, as he wheels out some vague story [one he calls, hilariously, a "revealing and true anecdote"] to basically imply that the consensus on Ivison is that he's no good.

Pathetic. Notice the classic name-dropping ["the rest of us - a group that included me, plus few senior staffers and ministers-to-be"], a completely over-the-top cheapshot ["because you have to be one of the six people in Canada who actually pay to scrutinize John's attempts to sound informed about politics"] and his feeding on an overstated sense of personal importance, that his snide little put-down will get him "banned" from the pages of the Post. He even insinuates that Ivison's motives are due to some petty jealousy at the fact that more people read Kinsella's webpage than his National Post column. Please.

As I said at the beginning, I like Warren. But if the Ivison column does deride his site for a too-congratulatory tone that verges into hackery at times, then count me firmly on John's side in the argument. Enjoy the NFL games tonight, they should be fantastic. I'm outta here.

Saturday, January 22, 2005


Some pleasant Saturday afternoon Grand Strategy" reading for your tea and cider, courtesy of the Times. The subject of Empire (with the inevitable comparisons to ancient Rome and turn-of-the-century London) is a fascinating one as we look ahead and attempt to guess at the shape of things to come. Is Bush hastening the Decline and Fall?

Also, look for an upcoming post on what I'll call the Dreyfuss Thesis. Saw the legendary actor speak at Oxford yesterday. His talk mixed some surprisingly cogent advice for the Democratic party with a bizarre concern that Bush's evangelical leanings mean Armaggedon may be soon at hand. Stay tuned...

Friday, January 21, 2005

(The pictures are clickable)

The vitriolic Juan Cole pulls no punches as he weighs in on Bush's inaugural address with...a pictoral commentary!

(And our man Avent reports in from the mean streets of DC...and, to make an understatement, he didn't like what he saw there yesterday. I think he'd appreciate Juan Cole's pictoral.)

Freedom=chocolate bars and beautiful dancers?

When I wrote "sounds reasonable" in my assessment of Bush's speech, it was mostly in jest. Bush's is a grand vision, the sort we've come to expect from him. It is no secret that he is an admirer of Reagan's bold foreign policy, one which commanded Gorbachev not to "put a gate in this wall," but to take down the wall altogether. The difference with Bush's rhetoric is that he is not simply trying to encourage domestic dissidence to overthrow oppressive regimes, he is telling the oppressive regimes to clean up or face the consequences. As James and others have noted, this position is difficult to reconcile with the administration's close ties with "allies" Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. That is why Bush articulated a different message for them: we will walk alongside you as you mend your ways and embrace "freedom" and democracy. Having lived in Riyadh, I say, fat chance.

What we don't yet know is how well he is able to deliver on this grand vision. The one laboratory of Bush's brand of "freedom" worth its salt is Iraq, and we're nine days away from seeing the proof in the pudding. Andrew Sullivan is hyping a new poll that shows a large majority of Iraqis plan to participate in the elections. Yet other reports show a million Iraqis have documented their opposition to the Jan. 30 election. Nobody knows exactly what will happen.

Meanwhile, Der Spiegel gives us the lighter side of the Iraqi election's most interesting dilemma: how do you bring democracy to a people who don't know what it is?

"We voted twice under Saddam," says al-Rakib, "and both times it was touching how much attention the state paid to the voters. Saddam let them off work on election day; he brought them to the ballot boxes, handed out chocolate bars and staged performances of beautiful dancers. And in the end, Saddam even saved them the trouble of having to choose among a variety of candidates."

Al-Rakib also likes to tell the joke about the Iraqi safe-crackers who, after the fall of Baghdad, broke into the central bank. Though they found no money in the main safe, they did find a couple of official papers: The official election results from 2009.

Quote of the (Fri)day

In honour of the Oxford French Society, whose random meeting I attended last night for wine and cheese and merriment, I offer this as the Friday quote of the week. Those who enter the annual "Most Beautiful Word in the English Language" summer contest would do well to mark it seriously:

"I do not pretend that Joy can have no association with Beauty, but I would say that Joy is one of its most vulgar ornaments; whereas Melancholy could be said to be its most illustrious companion, to the extent that I can hardly conceive of (is my head, then, a witch's mirror?) a type of the Beautiful in which there would not be Misfortune."

- Charles Baudelaire

2008: Obama vs. the Field

As Tim continues to drag his heels on the vetting of future Presidential candidates, here are two links to whet the appetite (and perhaps to help with the narrowing of the field).

Right-Wing News has done an impressive job of polling right-of-center bloggers on who they would most (and least) like to see grab the Republican Nomination. 20 candidates are listed as potentials, although I really don't see Newt or Cheney with a shot. A number of little-known Governors round out the field though, so take a look. The run-away winner? Condoleeza Rice. Good luck.

On the other side of the spectrum, a few days ago Kos linked to a column from the Chicago Tribune that outlined 8 reasons why Barack Obama will run for President in 2008. Kos found the arguments largely unconvincing, but I am not so sure. Watching Edwards ride the rough primary waters to a close 2nd place on the basis of a meager few years in the center, Obama's time may be sooner than later. He is wise to insist he is not running, for now. But depending on how the tides shift, it is certainly not out of the question.

Ultimately, what the column does reinforce is the true wide-open nature of the next Presidential contest. Now that the inauguration is behind us, let the running begin.

The Invention of Don Quixote

Is it with a touch of irony that Simon Jenkins wrote his ode to the importance of Don Quixote in the Times today, following hard upon Bush's 2nd inaugural? Perhaps. In any case, it is an absolutely wonderful piece, and a fitting tribute to Cervantes and his Man from La Mancha.

Check out the column here. It reaches its greatest heights in the final paragraph:
Somehow I shall survive without Einstein. I can drive spaceship Earth without knowing the workings of the atom. But I cannot do without my icon. I raise my glass to the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance, Don Quixote of La Mancha, as he trots across the plain of life in search of self-fulfilment. He knew that reason would triumph, but he also knew that reason was not enough. Quixote’s epitaph ran: “It was his great good fortune to live a madman and die sane.” Amen to that.

Rhetoric vs. Reality

Sure Bush's inaugural works well rhetorically, but how much of it can we really take seriously. London's The Times has a wonderfully sceptical headline today: "His Second-Term Mission: to end tyranny on Earth" I thought I was idealistic...

Alas, forgive me for questioning both the desire and ability to follow this pledge through. I admire the lofty, underlying goals of the speech, of course. But all too frequently, my stomach turns at Bush's opportunistic invocation of those ever-esoteric terms "liberty" and "freedom". What do these mean? Bush talks as if they exist only as ends and - like so much of Bush's political vision - they can only be achieved by one means alone, his.

But where oh where was this argument in the days leading up to a declaration of War in Iraq? Only as it became clear that no WMD would be found did the rationale for the invasion focus on the "morality" of liberation. A switch of convenience in an election year? Or a genuine overhall of American foreign policy? I can't help but see it as the gap between rhetoric and reality. It is so easy to be for liberty and freedom everywhere. The argument is about your actions, speaking will not make it so.

A Washington Post article today attacks the gap between reality and rhetoric. Some examples:

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, was struck by the fact that Bush mentioned "liberty" repeatedly but did not use the phrase "human rights" as an overriding goal. "The decision to speak in terms of liberty instead of human rights was deliberate," Roth said. "Liberty is an abstract concept, but human rights bind everyone, including the Bush administration. It's easy to say I'm for liberty but difficult to say I'm for human rights when he's overseeing what we know is a conscious policy of coercive interrogation, including inhuman treatment and sometimes torture."

During her confirmation hearings this week, Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice also stressed that she would focus on spreading democracy and freedom around the globe. Several senators questioned her on the inconsistency of the administration's approach, notably Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee (R-R.I.). He challenged her to explain why the administration looks the other way when it comes to countries with near-dictatorships, such as Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Pakistan, while heaping scorn on nations with some level of elections, such as Venezuela and Iran.

Read the whole thing. Now I know you need to proceed incrimentally and that we cannot "free" all the world's countries at once, but pundits on both side of the aisle need to keep the microscope focused on the intricacies and execution of Bush's Second-Term Crusade. Beyond the propaganda, why THIS country, for example. Why is the "freedom" of Iranians more critical than those of citizens elsewhere?

Is "liberty" to become a convenient cover for pre-emptive invasions conducted mainly for other purposes? This is the primary concern. Kerry and the Democratic party missed an opportunity to define a foreign policy in their own terms last year, beyond the simplistic criticism that can be directed at the "global test" concept. I suggest they get going.

UPDATE [10 minutes later]: Even Peggy Noonan found the speech unnerving, referring to it as "mission inebriation". I have to agree. And does it strike anyone else as odd that Bush could have "danced all night" but instead was home in time for bed at 10:03PM? You think on this night of all nights he would party it up a bit...

Super terrific inaugural address breakdown

Yeah, I campaigned for his opponent, but today's was a very good inaugural speech by Bush, at least rhetorically. (Nobody's was worse -- or longer -- or more tragically hilarious -- than Harrison's.)

Best metaphor: "By our efforts, we have lit a fire as well -- a fire in the minds of men. It warms those who feel its power, it burns those who fight its progress, and one day this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."

Better in delivery than in print. This is the hope of all who supported the invasion of Iraq.

First-term disappointment: "I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes. You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers. You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs. Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself, and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country but to its character."

This is what Bush should have called for since Sept. 12. In my mind, Bush committed the greatest squandering of political and moral capital of my lifetime by not standing before the ruins of the WTC and pleading for all Americans to sacrifice and give of themselves to serve the nation. (No, shopping doesn't count.)

Best reference to Saudi Arabia while implying you won't invade: "The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side."

Best reference to the remaining two members of the Axis of Evil while implying you will invade: "The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: 'Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.'"

Best (subliminal) reference to abortion: "Americans, at our best, value the life we see in one another and must always remember that even the unwanted have worth."

Biggest hyperbole: "America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength -- tested, but not weary -- we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom."

Ever seen "Band of Brothers"?

Best reference to the big domestic issue of the second term: "By making every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny, we will give our fellow Americans greater freedom from want and fear and make our society more prosperous and just and equal."

Social Security is the biggie.

So, we've got Bush's second term agenda, neatly wrapped in a 21-times-drafted bow: reform Social Security, keep a wary eye on Saudi Arabia without invading, and prepare to whoop Iran and NK if they act up.

Sounds reasonable.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Believe It or Not

With all respect to Ripley and George Constanza, this story is simply beyond belief:
"A dentist found the source of the toothache Patrick Lawler was complaining about on the roof of his mouth: a four-inch nail the construction worker had unknowingly embedded in his skull six days earlier."
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio... Incredible.

A Cinderella Readies for the Ball

Every dog has its day, and that day has arrived for lowely Exeter City in England’s FA Cup, arguably the "world's oldest and most famous domestic cup competition."

11 days ago, the “Grecians” emerged from Manchester United’s Field of Dreams with an unlikely 0-0 draw before 67,500 fans, setting the stage for a home-match tonight that will decide who moves on to the final 32 of the competition. Fox Sports notes that Exeter falls a full 98 places below the most famous football team in the world, and claims a loss by United would rank as THE biggest upset in the Cup's 133 year history. Consider: there are 20 teams in the Premiership, followed by 24 in the Championship Conference, followed by 24 in League One, followed by 24 in League Two... and THEN we come to Exeter City, currently 7th in the Non-League "Nationwide Conference", behind such giants as Aldershot, Halifax (!), and Accrington Stanley. Exeter City is struggling to survive. Manchester United just announced an upcoming Asian tour through Hong Kong, Beijing, and Tokyo.

Yet that's what makes it so compelling, of course. Cinderella stories rarely arrive to the Ball dressed in fancier shoes.

According to the BBC's key match stats, "this is the first time the Red Devils have met non-League opposition in the FA Cup since Walthamstow Avenue in the fourth round in 1953, when they were held 1-1 at Old Trafford and won the replay, staged at Highbury, 2-5." In the previous match, Sir Alex Ferguson fielded a line-up composed mainly of substitutes in the embarrassing draw. For tonight's replay, the 9,500 fans of Exeter lucky enough to score tickets to St. James Park can expect to see the likes of Wayne Rooney, Christiano Ronaldo, and Ryan Giggs gunning for goal in a much more serious attack. So the odds of a shocking result are bleak, at the very best. And yet...

Call it David vs. several Goliaths. But nevertheless, I'll be watching BBC1 tonight at 7:45 for further proof of the miraculous. Can you believe that the Exeter City supporters have a chant in which they simply yell "Cider, Cider" to the tune of Amazing Grace? Oh my.

It doesn't cost anything to dream.

Ambiguous headline of the year

Where was the copy editor on this one?

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

How high the Moonves

Juicy tidbit from the lips of CBS exec Les Moonves: everybody's favourite "news" anchor might soon hit primetime.

CBS will probably replace Dan Rather on the evening news with a multi-anchor, perhaps multi-city format that changes the "antiquated" way of reporting the day's top stories, CBS chief Leslie Moonves said Tuesday ... Asked twice, Moonves wouldn't rule out a role on the evening news for Comedy Central's Jon Stewart, whose "The Daily Show" skewers politicians and the news media each night. Moonves is co-chief executive of Viacom, which owns both CBS and Comedy Central.

Today's headlines are satire anyway. Why shouldn't the mainstream media take the next logical step?

Second on the axis

It's early in the Bush administration's second term (so early that it hasn't even begun), but the stars are aligning for an even bigger story than the first term's invasion of Iraq. Seymour Hersh's controversial new article in the New Yorker quotes unnamed intelligence officials as saying Iran will be Public Enemy State #1 in the coming years. According to the article, which a Pentagon spokesman said relies on "rumor, innuendo, and assertions about meetings that never happened, programs that do not exist and statements by officials that were never made", the US has been gathering intelligence in Iran to identify potential military targets. The issue: once again, weapons of mass destruction.

Of the many money quotes from the article:

“This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign. The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone,” the former high-level intelligence official told me. “Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.”

The president's quote on the matter is unsurprising: "I hope we can solve it diplomatically, but I will never take any option off the table," Bush said in an interview with NBC News when asked if he would rule out the potential for military action against Iran "if it continues to stonewall the international community about the existence of its nuclear weapons program."

I think a confrontation between the United States and Iran is more likely to occur than not in the next few years. Here's where we see if the Iraq gamble pays off in the deterrence category. Knowing that America destroyed the neighbouring regime even when it emerged they had no WMDs, Khatami and co. would have to be bat-guano crazy to push Bush's (and Rummy's) buttons. Right?

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Open Camino

In an odd twist of fate, the break between Hilary and Trinity terms might just see me off to Northern Spain for a modern day pilgrimage of 800km along the "Open Camino" from Roncevalles to Santiago de Compostela.

Ryanair is now offering a new route that will fly me home following the arduous journey for a mere 15 Euro, the timing between St. Paddy's Day in Dublin and the start of Trinity term is just over the required 30 days, and who knows when this opportunity might present itself again. I can still recall first hearing about this back in the summer of 2003 and daydreaming about it from the cubicle of summer employment, and so it feels as though it must be seized. Random events seem to have converged, in any case.

Should this revery become reality, you will certainly be hearing much more from here on the history of the ancient St. James Pilgrimage and its modern day adherents. Sounds like an appropriate adventure to culminate the year abroad before settling into the last sprint toward examinations. Whitman would be proud. In the mean time, check out this site if you feel to lazy to google for information on your own.

Dante wrote in his Vita Nuova that a true pilgrim was he who had been to Santiago de Compostela. We shall see.

"Ay, Every Inch a King"

The restoration of the RSC's reputation continues apace - last Saturday's 4-hour matinee proved to be a mindbogglingly glorious success. Sometimes you can tell instinctively from the very first lines that an entire production will capture the mood and pitch of a play just so. An absolute joy. And while Hamlet remains my favorite Shakespearean character, Lear works so much more powerfully as an ensemble, with its host of magnificently drawn personalities. In this performance, Kent and Edmund seemed to shine the brightest in captivating style.

But above all, I treasure Act 4, Scene VI - when the blinded Gloucester crosses paths with a maddened Lear. "When we are born, we cry that we are come/ To this great stage of fools". I look forward to the day when Kenneth Branaugh grows old enough to tackle this colossus.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

Re: Markosgate

Agreed: the Dean-Kos quid pro quo "scandal" is a tempest in a teapot. It seems a bizarre rebuke from the mainstream media in the wake of the revelation that Armstrong Williams was on the take from the Department of Education (!). [Here's the Wall Street Journal story that started the Kos scandal.-ed]

I do have a certain admiration for Kos, but since the implosion of the Dean campaign I've found the blog to be increasingly hard to stomach. DK is at its best when it brings attention to debates and issues that lie just under the surface: glancing at this week's entries, the DNC election, the de-gerrymandering of California and reforming Social Security stand out. It was a must-read during the Democratic primaries.

But Kos is at its liberal, knee-jerk worst on Iraq. Never have I read a positive word on the invasion/occupation/liberation/whatever of Iraq on the site. That is to be expected given the site's politics and its implicit mandate to counterbalance the mainstream. But if the Kossacks are going to accuse other media outlets of being excessively partisan to the point of blindness to the facts, they are in no position to cast the first stone. Criticism is fine, and necessary. But it is clear to me now that Kos, and Kossacks, want to see the Iraq project fail primarily because it is George Bush's doing. They will seize on any piece of bad news from Baghdad and shout hosannas to the sky, because it means another chip of Bush's credibility has been cut away. (I avoid some of the moonbat pro-Bush sites for the opposite reason, of course: I don't care how much you love George Bush, he makes mistakes too.)

The question is, would Dailykos's tune on Iraq be different if Kerry had been elected? Or would it continue to splash the same "can do no right" criticism all over its front page? That the answer isn't clear reveals the problem.

The Kos-Dean Non-Story

Anyone who either talks or listens to me long enough on politics will quickly appreciate my admiration for Markos Moulitsas and his magnificent dailykos weblog. While I agree with Cooper that sometimes the comments section can range off into the stratosphere of extemity (at least he permits them...) he still ranks for me as one of the original giants of the new media revolution. If given the choice, I would rather meet him than Gore, Kerry, or Bush II. His site is always the opening page of my daily browsing, and as readers of Andrew Sullivan can attest, he has a unique style of posting that cannot be simply replaced.

How sad then, to see an otherwise admirable deaniac - Zephyr Teachout - initiating a completely shit-for-brains story about his alleged "corruption" regarding payments from the Dean campaign dating back to June 2003. I won't link to any of this - instapundit and hugh hewitt and atrios and the rest are awash in discussing the "controversy". It is early in this new blog's career, so let me refrain from harsh language. But anyone - ANYONE - that has spent time reading Markos' ongoing commentary on the US political situation can only be flabbergasted at these accusations of "bias" in favour of Dean way back when. Chalk it up to another knee-jerk reaction from the mainstream media against bloggers in general - and, sadly, those on the right who wish to sully a fellow titan of the blogosphere.

I don't know where to begin, so fortunately Kos et al. have done an admirable job in rebutting the charges. I won't even link to it, just get over to his site and read it for yourself. It almost feels like some right-wing "Blog Readers for Truth" conspiracy - since you cannot get into the story without first remembering its origin, some conservative pundit paid with taxpayer dollars to flout Bush initiatives without letting on to the fact! Right out of the Rove school, I guess - attack them at their strongest point.

So, in a word, it's all just patently ABSURD. Remember that kos was allegedly "bought" in June... Well read this post from March '03 - a live take on the watershed moment for Dean's campaign. Accuse Markos of being overly optimistic and passionate, fine. But never on the take. Damn those people who just don't get it should be ashamed. And Novak continues to look old and ridiculous.

Flies and Wanton Boys

well, we will have to start commenting on the new site of ms. riske to learn more i think, though i wonder if she will prove as interesting as the lady met a few months back at the purple turtle, who entered her name in my phone as Ms. Elaineous. Genius.

a hilarious evening just past, spent in part with Sir Patrick Kennedy and his sidekick Mike McNair - the latter fresh off some rest following the 29 hour cycle. God bless O'Neill's for breaking the rules and staying open long past the requisite closing time of Tony Blair. And to a lovely Aussie lady who certainly has the power to make dreams come true. It is shocking that on two separate evenings I have attempted to show Gartner the Generator's epic bar, and have been denied entry on the basis that we are not staying there. A sobererer (is that a word) will be developed to ensure future clowning.

yet is there anything substantive to all this? well, I was hoping to go home to oxford last night, and yet instead found myself on a Night bus to Turnpike lane and some cushions on Craig Gartner's floor. The upside is that I will now make the attempt to see the RSC's Lear today. Always found the play ironic in a personal sense - while Hamlet is both my favorite play and character, I guess I am just not old enough to sympathize with Lear, prefering the Edgar-Edmund conflict and the roles of Kent and (especially) Gloucester above the titular role. And depending on the performance, the fool can also be classic. A full report on the morrow. Until then, my favorite quote from the play off the top of my head:

"As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods,
They kill us for their sport."

Friday, January 14, 2005

Unintended consequences

Two related news stories for you to consider.


Departing from fiery Islamic slogans, Iraqi guerrillas have launched a propaganda campaign with an English-language video urging U.S. troops to lay down their weapons and seek refuge in mosques and homes.
The video, narrated in fluent English by what sounded like an Iraqi educated in the United States or Britain, also mocked the U.S. president's challenge to rebels in the early days of the insurgency to 'bring it on'.
"George W. Bush; you have asked us to 'bring it on'. And so help me, (we will) like you never expected. Do you have another challenge?," asked the narrator before the video showed explosions around a U.S. military Humvee vehicle.


During a round-table interview with reporters from 14 newspapers, the president, who not long ago declined to identify any mistakes he'd made during his first term, expressed misgivings for two of his most famous expressions: "Bring 'em on," in reference to Iraqis attacking U.S. troops, and his vow to get Osama bin Laden "dead or alive."
"Sometimes, words have consequences you don't intend them to mean," Bush said Thursday.
"'Bring 'em on' is the classic example, when I was really trying to rally the troops and make it clear to them that I fully understood, you know, what a great job they were doing. And those words had an unintended consequence. It kind of, some interpreted it to be defiance in the face of danger. That certainly wasn't the case."

I am a bit surprised that Bush would be so contrite after winning reelection. Now, everyone's got their favourite Bushism. (The one gaffe I'll never forgive him for -- and the one that drove me to campaign for Kerry -- was cracking a series of jokes about the failure to find WMDs.) But the killer is this: who in their right minds didn't believe that "bring 'em on" would be a rallying cry for the Iraqi insurgency? I'm not one of those people that believe Bush can do no right, but please, sir, consider the meaning of the words before you say them.
And for that matter, what was the deal with apologizing for the "dead or alive" statement? Is Bush sorry for declaring the condition in which he wanted bin Laden captured, or for making a failed promise to catch him at all?

Quote of the (Fri)day

... but first a slight explanation of the new blog address/relaunch.

Ahab's Dream began back in September '04 - within the friendly confines of the Marianplatz station Internet cafe. Tim had recently visited me in Munchen and the Presidential race was entering the homestretch. We each shared an enthusiasm for blogging and no shortage of opinion, along with a desire to participate in this media "revolution". Yet we lacked the overarching title, theme, and first-mover initiative to take the plunge. One night after several Hofbrau litres of Ale, I entered blogger under the pseudonym "satirical_rogue" with the Guinness commercial "Surfer" as inspiration, and out of that haze emerged our first crack at a blog.

So consider the past 4 months our trial run. Now having awoken from something of a Christmas slumber, we'll see if we can run through the year without any prolonged Coyne-style absences with a slightly more professional and concerted effort.

I guess we figure that in marking a new commitment for a new year, why not relaunch completely at a new address? And since Ahab's Dream IS the Whale, why not simply give the old concept its proper title? "I don't care who you are, here's to your dream." Simple, true, and I do love a good toast.

And speaking of toasts, here's one for the weekend. Make it a good one:
Here's to the lady dressed in black,
Once she walks by she never looks back,
And when she kisses, oh how sweet,
She makes things stand that never had feet.

The Red Shoe Returns to Mabou

Nothing like a little good news to greet you in the morning.

I spent last May 2-4 weekend driving the backwoods of the Cabot Trail with Blair Stransky, dipping into the frigid Atlantic and dancing along to the late night chords of Smooth Herman's. But alas, we were forced to steer clear of Mabou due to the closure of the Red Shoe Pub, a classic favorite. But now, word has come down from on high that the clarion call of the fiddle may be soon heard there again (via Blair Stransky and the National Post):

Rankins to revive music lovers' pub - Cape breton's Red Shoe
by Graeme Hamilton

Cape Breton's musical Rankin sisters are stepping in to resurrect a pub in their native Mabou that had become a destination for Celtic music lovers across the continent before it closed last year. Musicians on the island mourned the loss last summer of the Red Shoe Pub, which a transplanted Torontonian had opened five years earlier.

"It's kind of the heartbeat of the village," Raylene Rankin said yesterday in an interview from her home in Halifax. "It became, in a very short time, a tradition, and a meeting place to hear live music and socialize. When it closed it was really missed by the locals and also by people who made it a destination."

One of the five siblings who made up the Rankin Family, credited with lifting Nova Scotia's Celtic music onto the world stage, Ms. Rankin said she and her sisters wanted to return something to Mabou, where they began making music as children.

"I don't know what kind of a business venture it's going to be. It's too early to tell, but I think we're very happy to be able to give back to the community in this way. I think it's a constructive way to invest in the community," she said.

The property sits on Mabou's main street, just up the way from the mural welcoming people to the "home of the Rankin family" and the museum displaying their gold and platinum records.

Before Rob Willson, who previously worked in advertising in Toronto, opened the Red Shoe, the building had long housed Mary Beaton's general store. "Growing up, I remember it was the place to go to get sneakers and clothes," Ms. Rankin recalled.

Kinnon Beaton, a Mabou-raised fiddler whose aunt ran the general store, said the Red Shoe was sorely missed last summer. "It seemed to be the topic of conversation everywhere you went," he said. "What's going to happen to the Red Shoe?" He said it is "great news" that the Rankin sisters plan to reopen the establishment this May.

"We need it back," he said. The place was special because of its "small, cozy atmosphere" and the diehards it attracted, he said. "Everyone who was in there really knew the music."

Designed to hold 70 people, crowds would often spill out on to the sidewalk. Performers included Ashley MacIsaac, Irish tenor John McDermott and occasionally one of the Rankins would take the stage.

Coming from a family of 12 children, Cookie, John Morris, Raylene, Heather and Jimmy Rankin performed together professionally for 10 years. Starting out recording independently and selling records from the trunk of their car, they had five platinum albums when they decided to quit in 1999. In January, 2000, John Morris Rankin was killed in a car accident.

Raylene, Heather, Cookie and Genevieve Rankin are the partners in the pub. Raylene said they plan to build on the Red Shoe's reputation for live music and emphasize good food, enlisting the innovative Halifax chef Craig Flinn to craft a menu.

She laughed when asked whether the owners, who are now spread from Nashville to Halifax, might occasionally sing a tune. "We're going to be busy slinging hamburgers," she said, before adding: "I think we will be involved in many capacities."

Ms. Rankin said the sisters closed the purchase of the Red Shoe from Mr. Willson last Friday. She declined to divulge the price paid.

Back in December 2001, Tim and I made the Red Shoe a "destination" and I highly look forward to going back. Just click those ruby red shoes together three times, and say "There's no place like home..."

February 12th

Well, arrived safely back to Oxford via the always sketchy Zoom airlines, and slowly recovering from the jet lag before the new term (and hopefully a new-found work ethic) begins on Monday. So why not an attempt at the first substantive blog entry of the new year? And since Tim has already covered the Prince Harry Nazi fiasco, here is a quick attempt to summarize the current Dean for Chairman situation before an evening of Guinness at LSE's Three Tuns in London [warning - beware of hyperlinks]:

First of all, Tim and I share our fair share of healthy political differences - though they do seem to be converging all the time - but Howard Dean's election as DNC Chairman is an area of absolute accord. Almost immediately after Kerry's loss, we both registered our support (here and here) and I am pleased to see the cause picking up steam as we near the vote. Kevin Drum has recently joined the fray as well. It is clear from various articles such as this one that Dean remains the front-runner, though the race is far from won.

For my money, the race will probably boil down to Dean, Simon Rosenberg, and maybe some establishment candidate. Rosenberg remains a compelling choice and has racked up a number of impressive endorsements, including Joe Trippi (on Hardball) and Matthew Yglesias - to name but a few.

I like Simon's focus on reform and the power of the netroots. But Yglesias' argument that Rosenberg is "Dean without the baggage" fails to fully appreciate the passionate support of Deaniacs, his wide personal recognition and proven charisma, and his past experience as Chair of the Governor's association. Basically, I think Dean can incorporate Rosenberg into his organization, while I doubt he could play second fiddle to the lesser known man. While candidate Dean could never overcome the infamous Scream, it suits chairman Dean just fine.

In any case, here's hoping for the reform duo. But beyond all this, just who has a say in this election, and when will the decision be made? Certainly the blogosphere has done its part to help explain how it all works and how activists can help - is it just me, or was I under the impression that Clinton just appointed McAuliffe in 2000? Here is the latest from my email inbox from Tom McMahon, Executive Director of Democracy for America. Aside from the usual calls to contribute, here is the critical information on the process and Dean's plan in one sentence:

"Here's how it works: less than a month from today, on February 12, the 447 members of the Democratic National Committee (made up of leaders from across the country) will meet to select a new chairman. Between now and their vote, DNC members from various states will be holding a series of forums and listening sessions to hear from candidates and grassroots Democrats -- these events have already begun.

As Governor Dean crisscrosses the country, he will try to meet face-to-face with as many DNC members as possible. He has a strategy for this race not unlike his strategy for our party's future -- stand up for what you believe, make a clear case for reform, and fight for every single vote."

That strategy sounds like the winning one alright. Keep your eyes on Blog for America for transcripts of Dean interviews and further updates. If Democrats want to take their party back from loser consultants (anyone crying over Schrum's retirement? not us), Dean is the choice. And hopefully he can find room for Rosenberg as his #2.

Just said no

Props to the Major League Baseball Players Association for recognizing what its members, and this blogger, have known for ages: steroids are harmful to the game and the men that play it.
Could, and should, the new steroid testing policy be tightened? Sure, but as ESPN writer Jayson Stark's nice FAQ on the agreement notes, "the significance of this policy is that it gives baseball a program similar to the other pro sports. And we couldn't have made that statement last week."
On a political note, remember when pundits were a bit mystified when, in the State of the Union a couple of years ago, Bush declared war on steroids in pro sports? John McCain, who has crusaded for a tighter drug policy in baseball, is now looking mighty good. You've got to think Bush was purposely giving a helping hand to his 2000 primary rival, who is among the frontrunners for 2008.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

PLEASE tell me this is a joke:
The Pentagon considered developing a host of non-lethal chemical weapons that would disrupt discipline and morale among enemy troops, newly declassified documents reveal.
Most bizarre among the plans was one for the development of an "aphrodisiac" chemical weapon that would make enemy soldiers sexually irresistible to each other. Provoking widespread homosexual behaviour among troops would cause a "distasteful but completely non-lethal" blow to morale, the proposal says.

Damn shame Dave Barry just quit writing columns -- you can't get better material.

Heil Harry

An inescapable fact of public life is that those under the watchful eye of the paparazzi are held to higher standards than the rest of us. That said, there is no defence for Prince Harry in the firestorm he's created over wearing a swastika to a costume party. I'm an unabashed defender of free speech in all its forms, but anybody wearing the Nazi flag, in jest or not, had better have a pretty good reason for doing so. That is especially true for somebody who is third in the line for the British throne. Though some have chalked it up to youthful indiscretion, and even the rebellious nature of a second child, it is pretty clear that Harry simply should have known better.

It appears now that Harry is contrite: he will be headed to Auschwitz later this month to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the concentration camp's liberation. Still, he has not delivered an in-person, public apology, and apparently there are no plans for him to do so. This is a mistake. His printed statement on Wednesday was of the cookie-cutter variety: "I am very sorry if I caused any offence or embarrassment to anyone. It was a poor choice of costume and I apologise." Conservative leader Michael Howard is right to call for a public apology from the boy who could be king. Maybe Auschwitz would be the perfect stage, and Harry would have nothing to lose and much to gain by apologizing properly.

If there is one silver lining to Harry's wardrobe malfunction, it is that it brings further attention to the Holocaust. If there is a second silver lining, it is that he didn't pick this outfit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005


New year, new blog. You may have noticed that James and I took a brief hiatus from Ahab's. That was partially due to the holidays and partially (okay, largely) due to rank laziness.

Since then we have resolved to make 2005 the Year of Ahab's Whale. The prelude is Howard Fineman's piece on the decline of the mainstream media -- not a secret to anybody who's been following blogs for the last year, but an inevitability that will only become more apparent as time goes on. You can expect MacDuff and I to post regularly (promise: at least eight posts a week between us) and thoughtfully, from both sides of the center of the political spectrum. I'll get going on the 2008 US election preview soon (promise promise). And there will also inevitably be the random post here and there. In that spirit, let's get started with this, the funniest random online video I've seen in many a month (thanks to Leisure Suit Larry creator Al Lowe for the link).

Why the change from the Dream to the Whale? We'll explain as time goes on. Just keep reading.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


And the most beautiful word of post ONE might just be "one", actually, if it is not "forgiven"... (though no good definition was ever found - so the new word is required)

I'm a sucker for the chase though... from both sides of the atlantic. And so the search continues...

We do search for greater than this, on the whale's refit and such an opening movement. Business Communications be damned. 1st 2nd 3rd, who cares. And if the tunes and the liquor doth flow, if it is in A minor, I'll give it a go.

Not just the dream: The whale. It is a relaunch, Ahab.

We shall see you in Tampere.