Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sunday Reading

For those of you without TimesSelect:

  • Frank Rich reminds us all that the whole Plamegate story goes back to the war in Iraq and Vice President Cheney’s obsession with getting us into it. No one was going to get in the way of going to war.

    This is what Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s wartime chief of staff, was talking about last week when he publicly chastised the “Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal” for sowing potential disaster in Iraq, North Korea and Iran. It’s this cabal that in 2002 pushed for much of the bogus W.M.D. evidence that ended up in Mr. Powell’s now infamous February 2003 presentation to the U.N. It’s this cabal whose propaganda was sold by the war’s unannounced marketing arm, the White House Iraq Group, or WHIG, in which both Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove served in the second half of 2002. One of WHIG’s goals, successfully realized, was to turn up the heat on Congress so it would rush to pass a resolution authorizing war in the politically advantageous month just before the midterm election.

    Joseph Wilson wasn’t a player in these exalted circles; he was a footnote who began to speak out loudly only after Saddam had been toppled and the mission in Iraq had been “accomplished.” He challenged just one element of the W.M.D. “evidence,” the uranium that Saddam’s government had supposedly been seeking in Africa to fuel its ominous mushroom clouds.

    But based on what we know about Mr. Libby’s and Mr. Rove’s hysterical over-response to Mr. Wilson’s accusation, he scared them silly. He did so because they had something to hide. Should Mr. Libby and Mr. Rove have lied to investigators or a grand jury in their panic, Mr. Fitzgerald will bring charges. But that crime would seem a misdemeanor next to the fables that they and their bosses fed the nation and the world as the whys for invading Iraq.

  • David Brooks is positioning himself for a job in the post-Rove White House.

    Despite all the mistakes that have been made, it is nonetheless true that Bush has ennobled and saved American conservatism. As the G.O.P. moves forward, its leaders will break into two camps, post-Bush and pre-Bush. The post-Bush conservatives will build on the changes Bush introduced and refine his vision of using government positively to give people the tools to run their own lives. The pre-Bush conservatives will try to go back to the libertarianism and social conservatism of 1995.

    The future belongs to post-Bush conservatives. If you want a glimpse of that future, read the speech David Cameron gave earlier this month, which electrified the British Conservative Party conference. Cameron has learned the essential lessons of Bushism. He offered a positive, governing conservatism. He talked about helping moms afford child care and helping the people of Darfur survive. “A modern, compassionate conservatism is right for our times,” he declared.

    He’s right. In some ways future conservatives will be different from President Bush. But they will not succeed unless they absorb the essential lessons that are George Bush’s best legacy.

    I haven’t read such a pathetic offer of a blowjob since I read the personal ads at

  • Dohiyi Mir finds the lastest in teeny-bopper fashion — and fascism.
  • Both Ohio and California have redistricting measures on the ballot in November. Ha. Two states that can really teach us a lot about cleaning up politics. This is the first of three reports in the Toledo Blade.
  • Michelle Malkin slanders the Quakers. I wear her scorn as a badge of honor. Ms. Malkin demonstrates her complete ignorance of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). The fact that the Quakers have a 500-year tradition of opposing war in any form and bringing comfort to the afflicted means nothing to her, even if she knew it. Therefore anything she says is irrelevant and not worthy of consideration.
  • The Caribbean island of Montserrat is coming back to life.

    “Still home, still nice” is no catchy tourism slogan, but for the people of Montserrat, who have faced a trifecta of natural disasters in the past 16 years, it has become a sobering maxim to live by.

    Hurricane Hugo came first, hitting the island, a British overseas territory in the West Indies, with fury in 1989. Then, the Soufriere Hills Volcano erupted in 1995 and delivered the final blow two years later when it covered the capital, Plymouth, in up to 20 feet of ash and rock, forcing the government to proclaim the city and the southern two-thirds of the 40-square-mile island uninhabitable.

    Two-thirds of the 12,000 inhabitants fled to find new homes abroad after the eruptions, and tourism left with them. Yet today, Monserrat’s 13-square-mile “safe zone” – beyond the threatening grips of the volcano – is on the rebound. With British support, the $18.5 million Gerald’s Airport opened in July with at least four daily flights from neighboring Antigua on a 19-seat twin-engine turboprop. Plans for a new capital city and a nine-hole golf course are in the works, and construction continues to rebuild the tourist infrastructure.

    The Montserrat Volcano Observatory, in Flemings,, (664) 491-5647, serves as the hub for investigating the still-fuming dome, with a veranda looking out at the 3,000-foot monster and its plume, best seen on a clear day. Resident volcanologists lead hourlong tours of the observatory at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday for $4 , and a larger interpretive center with photos, videos and models will open in the coming months. To get a closer look at the destruction, call police headquarters in the commercial center, Brades, (664) 491-2555, to arrange an escorted tour of the abandoned streets of Plymouth, billed as a present-day Pompeii, for around $55. Only a church steeple and the roofs of homes break above the solidified ash in one part of town; in another, sneakers line the racks of a shoe store as if customers will return tomorrow.

    First inhabited by former Irish indentured servants in the mid-17th century, Montserrat conjures images of the other Emerald Isle thanks to 50 to 80 inches of annual rainfall, and a number of hiking paths criss-cross the lush, mountainous interior.

    The Oriole Walkway is a popular route, meandering through three miles of rain forest full of darting black and yellow orioles. To avoid getting lost and to learn about the kaleidoscope of flora and fauna, book a guide through the Montserrat National Trust Olveston, (664) 491-3086, for $20 an hour.

    Just off the handful of pearl gray beaches of the northwest coast is prime snorkeling and diving ground where green turtles and southern stingrays swim in the year-round 80-degree waters. Before the destruction, Montserrat had developed a niche as a haven for jet-setters and rockers like Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney with its get-away-from-it-all atmosphere.

    Even with all of the rebuilding and limited space within the Safe Zone, the island maintains the same persona. There are no stoplights and just one ATM, and traffic jams are limited to herds of goats roaming freely. Open-air restaurants – like Jumping Jack’s in Olveston, (664) 491-5645, where grilled wahoo and tuna snapper make regular menu appearances – dot the string of villages on the west coast. Next door, the Vue Pointe Hotel, (664) 491-5210, has 18 rooms and is one of only two hotels on the island. It has views of the volcano from each self-contained cottage starting at $100 (double occupancy). A number of guesthouses and private villas are returning to the rental pool as well.

    “It feels kind of like small town U.S.A.,” said Betty Dix, who visited from Chicago in 1978 and never left. That sense of place comes with a view of the Caribbean framed by mango and palm trees. It’s what made Montserrat famous before the destruction, and as the locals like to say, it’s “still nice” today.

    In 1993 my ex and I spent a week on Montserrat at the above-named Vue Pointe Hotel and fell in love with the island. We went back the next year and planned to return in 1996, but the volcanic eruption put the kibosh on that, but I still harbor a desire to go back to that little island, and now it looks like I can. By the way, Montserrat figures prominently in the novel Bobby Cramer, thinly disguised as the lush tropical island paradise of St. Edmund.

  • Football: The Dolphins played Friday night in advance of Hurricane Wilma and lost to Kansas City. The Lions play the Cleveland Browns. I’m not even sure that there will be football on TV here in Miami, what with the wall-to-wall hurricane coverage.