St. Louis Cardinals’ first baseman Albert Pujols recently joined the growing number of foreign-born Major Leaguers who have become American citizens. (Pujols grew up in the Dominican Republic and moved to the Kansas City area when he was 16.) These players take the oath for different reasons, not all of them noble or patriotic – and not that different from our own ancestors, or ourselves. But this was clearly not a check-the-box exercise for Pujols. He aced the citizenship test. "He even answered a bunch of additional questions and gave us more answers than we asked," the local customs and immigration officer reported. "He clenched his fist and said, I got 100 percent! He just had a grin from ear to ear. He was thrilled to become a citizen."
From what I know of the test, it’s not exactly as tough as Peter Schramm’s U.S. government exam at Ashland, but that’s not the point. The attitude was typical of Pujols; it didnt matter to him if the test was a fastball or a curve. He probably thinks he can bat 1.000, too. He was a lightly-regarded player coming out of junior college who worked himself into becoming a right-handed Ted Williams – with power, average, few strikeouts, a great clutch hitter, league MVP. When he came to the major leagues he really didn’t have a position in the field and bounced around at third base and the outfield, perhaps marked for eventual DH duty in the American League. Instead he worked himself into a Gold Glove winning first baseman.
He isn’t the most gregarious person with the media. He comes across a bit surly at times; not Barry Bonds surly, just the character of a man who wants to focus on his business and his family. Don’t get caught up with that. During baseball season, if I’m watching another game, I try to anticipate when Pujols might come to bat so I can switch over in time to see him. The same way I would want to see Ted Williams, another perfectionist. If hitting a baseball is the single most difficult thing to do in sports – arguable, but it’s a serious argument – you should make it a point to see the man who eventually may walk down the street and have it said about him, “There goes the best who ever lived.” And an American, to boot.
Here’s the speech, more Clintonesque (post-baby boomer edition) than Lincolnesque, more about the future to be build by BO’s generation than about the burden of obligations to and from the past. Above all, Obama reminds me of the early Bill Clinton, whose rhetoric was always too good to be true. Like Clinton also, he’s posing as the voice of a new generation, in this case consigning the baby-boomers (including, presumably, HRC) to the bad old past.
There are many things with which to quibble. What, for example, happens in Iraq when our troops are brought home by March, 2008 (!!!)? And are we really going to have "universal health care in America by the end of the next president’s first term"? At what cost? And while we’re at it, let’s end poverty in America. No sense of Christian humility or of human limits here.
Finally, there’s this:
I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.
For the moment, I note only the headline of this NYT story: "Congress Finds Ways to Avoid Lobbyist Limits." I assume, of course, that Obama has no intention of accepting either public funding or spending limits in his campaign.
If Diggins is right about Reagan (is he, Steve?), then, at the very least, RWR enabled GWB. And then also Reagans optimistic gloss on conservatism is ultimately unconservative, more Emersonian than anything else. On that subject, one should read Patrick Deneens magisterial Democratic Faith.
Deborah Howell, the WaPos ombudsman tries, in the context of William Arkins recent rant, to explain the difference between the print paper and WaPo.coms blogs. Arkin himself is presented largely as a blogger, though, as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out in a different context, his resume is more complicated than that and has a fairly substantial "journalistic" element.
What is clear is that WaPo.com is more lightly edited (and hence perhaps more revealing of the "feelings" of the writers) than is the print paper. Presumably, however, there is someone responsible for the thrust of the entire enterprise, so that we should in fact think that WaPo.com does reflect (badly or well) on the WaPo, whether Deborah Howell wants us to or not.
Peter Berkowitz reviews The Way to Win, by Mark Halperin and John F. Harris. According to Berkowitz, they contend that in large part the New Media (talk radio, the internet, and cable television) have transformed civilized campaigning into "the Freak Show," "a new carnival-style environment of shouting, mockery, character assassination, and extreme partisanship" (Berkowitzs summary).
Berkowitz doesnt agree, reminding us that partisanship (even the extreme variety) has a lusty heritage in America and that the role of the new media has often been to advance debates, consider issues, and examine questions that the old media wasnt willing to touch. He further argues that on their own terms Halperin and Harris dont succeed in demonstrating that the fundamentals of politics and campaigning have changed. Were left with the impression that their disquiet has more to do with the pre-2006 results and with the old medias loss of an information monopoly than with anything else.
While all of this might seem to suggest that Berkowitz wishes he hadnt read the book, but he does credit the authors with being good reporters when theyre not riding their hobby horse.
And reflecting on the 2006 results Berkowitz himself makes an observation worth chewing over:
In the aftermath of election 2006,...it’s worth underscoring that the system is working: The public remains closely but not deeply divided; a significant segment of the electorate is capable of voting for a Democrat or a Republican depending on the qualities of the candidate and the priorities of the moment; and any presidential candidate who neglects the center will put his or her election 2008 prospects very much at risk.
What say you, gentle readers?
Hat tip: Power Line.
I just finished a podcast with Steve Hayward regarding the recent allegations made in Londons Guardian that AEI is bribing scientists to "undermine" a report from the UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since that article came out, things have gotten truly silly, with four U.S. Senators, Democrats all, writing a letter to AEI President Christopher DeMuth expressing "very serious concerns" about AEIs activities. DeMuths response, as well as related materials, can be found here.
As Hayward explains in the podcast, this is all much ado about nothing.
Robert Reilly opines in todays WaPo that that broadcasting substance is more important than broadcasting music; and Reilly knows something about both having been the former director of Voice of America as well as a music critic! He thinks we should focus on the war of ideas rather than promote MTV. I agree.
The WSJs Kimberley Strassel tells all. Bottom line: Members of Congress still want them, and agencies are apparently eager to please the folks who draw up the appropriations bills. No surprises here.
Has anyone noticed that the three leading Democratic candidates all have pretty solid ties to the religious Left, and that none of the Republican front-runners is a conservative evangelical Christian? Kinda makes it hard to sing from the 2004 hymnal, doesn’t it (though John Edwards is working hard to turn back the clock)?
...from one outpost, at least, although NPR seems incapable of giving a hopeful report without the compensating negative note. (Hat tip, as they say, to Ryan Rakness)
Our friend Larry explains why extreme front-loading might eradicate all deliberation and produce both "buyer’s remorse" in both parties and a seemingly endless general election campaign. The possibilities are actually fairly scary, if you think about them.
Last night on "Lost" we were introduced to another character taken straight out of the history of political theory. Joining the ranks of Locke, Rousseau, and Hume, we now have Edmund Burke. Unfortunately he was an insignificant character, the ex-husband and boss in the "pre-island" life of one of the more central characters. And he was a creep, and (stop reading if you dont want the ending of last nights episode spoiled) he was promptly killed off, being hit by a bus.
While Im on the subject, I must confess that one of my guilty pleasures over the past few years has been "American Idol." Hokey? Cheesy? Absolutely. But in among all the garbage there are some genuinely great performances by extremely talented vocalists--much better than highly-synthesized mediocrities like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake.
Well, I dont think I can any longer in good conscience contine to be an Idol fan. It seems that now the audition shows--that is, the episodes based on the screening process by which the judges narrow the pool down to a relative handful of contestants--have become the be-all and end-all of the program. Moreover, these episodes had traditionally featured some of the best and some of the absolute worst of the bunch. This year the audition shows have been nothing more than a procession of talentless wannabees making idiots of themselves for our amusement.
And then theres the general sense of nastiness. In previous years everyone understood that Simon Cowell was there to make unkind comments. Now it seems that everyone--even goody-twoshoes Paula Abdul--has gotten into the act. Its one thing when some braggart is taken down a peg or two, but now were seeing perfectly ordinary people being insulted and, in some cases, brought to tears. Making matters worse, some genius at FremantleMedia came up with the brilliant idea of locking one of the double doors leading out of the audition room. Why? For no other apparent reason than to humiliate those trying to exit the room after having already faced the embarrassment of being told theyre not good enough to appear on the program. In fact, the producers put together a montage video of these unfortunates trying to push open the wrong door. Sorry, I consider myself an aficionado of trash television, but even I occasionally find some standards. "American Idol" is now officially off my viewing schedule.
Sorry for poaching on Steve’s turf, but this is hard to resist: Nancy Pelosi travels around D.C. in one of the worst gas guzzler/greenhouse gas emitters. Will someone build that woman a stretch Prius?
And while we’re at it, let’s not forget her request for access to a big USAF jet for trips to and from the Bay Area, a request that the Pentagon seems prepared to deny, at least as a matter of routine.
To be fair, the SUVs belong to the Capitol Police, which also uses them to ferry around Republicans. But as Richard Miniter notes, they’re not making pronouncements about global warming.
Update: Tony Snow thinks its a tempest in a teapot. I still want to see the stretch Prius.
The authors of this piece would have us believe that this (more here) is the future of higher ed assessment. I cant quote the latter longish document without permission, so youll have to read it for yourself, bearing in mind that the approach it describes and defends was favorably noted by the Spellings Commission.
My first impression is that widespread use of this instrument would share some of the problems I identified here. I would hope that well-educated students are capable of deploying the skills this test is designed to assess, but the availability of such an "objective" measure might tend to lead colleges and universities to make explicitly cultivating these skills (not to mention the "skill" of demonstrating them in a testing environment) the principal goal of their enteprise. Those behind the test might well be more modest in their aims, but the effect, I fear, would be to lead colleges and universities to be even more explicit in emphasizing the cultivation of generic, ultimately job-related intellectual skills at the expense of liberal learning.
I’ll have more when I get a chance to plow through the report.
Update: Get Religion provides links to these three articles, which take slightly different tacks on the report. The Boston Globe piece overemphasizes and oversimplifies (to my mind) the "real world" focus. I feel an op-ed coming on, but probably not tonight.
If you haven’t been following the story of John Edwards’ attempt to cultivate the leftist netroots by hiring prominent bloggers, this Get Religion post provides many of the relevant links. Suffice it to say that this was not a smart personnel move, however much the NYT wants to spin their venom as just "doing what bloggers do — expressing their opinions in provocative and often crude language." What the #@$^%&*** are they talking about?
They regret their past indiscretions--which weren’t intended to "offend anyone for his or her personal beliefs," but were only supposed to be "criticisms of public politics" [hah!]--but aren’t being let go. I guess this means that blasphemy is O.K. if the religious belief has political consequences. Only entirely private religion, with no political implications, shouldn’t be subjected to the most offensive remarks and characterizations. It certainly gives one a sense of what Melissa McEwen thinks is fair in political life. And, I suppose, by extension, what John Edwards thinks is appropriate....
Update #2: The religious Left feels marginalized in all this: they disapprove of Edwards’ hires, but don’t necessarily want to follow William Donohue’s lead.
I talked with Mac Owens this morning about Iraq. The conversation covered the surge, and counterinsurgency and Gen. Petreaus’ work. Mac maintains his guarded optimism. I’m with him.
Joe rightly thinks that true assessment is difficult enough, but a government enforced assessment and testing regime is an outrage and we should all oppose it. We have been fighting (and losing) this problem at Ashland for years. We have been forced to do some very silly things to keep the enforcers happy or at least placated. Imagine doing this sort of thing on a national level, overlooked and guarded by government officials. Joeâ€™s is right on all of it.
I’ve read several commentaries this morning on this crucial question that aren’t worth posting. Does smoking "humanize" the senator? Or does it indicate that he lacks willpower (and so will embolden terrorists or something)? Should he chew Nicorette or should he be a real man and just go "cold turkey"? I have to admit this is silly, finally. But not completely silly: I thought the one thing that recommended candidate Bill Richardson is that he looked like a regular guy, but he’s messed that up by abruptly losing 30 pounds. Now he looks like a walking cadaver. It turns out that he loses weight quickly for every campaign in order to create the (false) appearance of fitness. Not only that, I recently heard David Brooks proclaim that Gore and probably Gingrich are too hefty to president. Until I heard THAT, I had no sympathy at all for the the basically retread candidacies of Al and Newt. But as someone (like our friend Peter Schramm) who sometimes has the appearance (the only "sometimes" thanks to the wisdom of the late, great Dr. Atkins) and always the soul of a fat guy, I’m starting to rebel against this nouveau tyranny of the sophisticated majority.
It seems like spring this morning, about ten degrees warmer than the -4 of yesterday and the sun is beaming! So I’m amusing myself. 1. Rev. Ted Haggard is "completely heterosexual", a committe of preachers has announced. Yet he is asked to leave town. 2. China blames West for global warming. 2. Gay marriage supporters announce initiative that would limit marriage to those have children within three years. 3. Astronaut tries to kill rival for the affections of another astronaut, driving 900 miles in a diaper. 4. Iran demands proof of the Holocaust. 5. More women take bodyguard training in Russia. Olga Korolyova, a trainer: "People arrive at the idea that it’s not bad to have a woman in a team of men. A woman thinks differently, feels differently, acts differently. She’s softer. She smiles."
6. China bans pigs in ads. Not good for the year of the pig.
7. Study reveals that half the women
surveyed said their favorite article of clothing was more reliable than their man in giving them confidence and making them feel sexy. 8.
Gays are offended by Super Bowl Snickers ad. GLAAD demands apology. 9. Guiliani kisses wife. Front page news. She calls him "the Energizer Bunny with no rechargeable batteries." Honesty is an excellent thing in a woman. He’s running for president.
. . . or must not, because he’s quitting his smoking. This is either the end of his campaign or it’s new and more meaningful beginning. I suppose it could play either way if he knows what he’s doing. But I can’t help but comment that I find it pathetic and gag-inducing. The only thing worse than this sort of thing is the kind of people who will eat it up and canonize him for it. Now he can do a public service ad or a sanctimonious appearance on Oprah and/or Sesame Street. Sigh . . . I don’t smoke but this is the kind of thing that makes me want to.
The City Journal publishes this thoughtful reflection by Victor Davis Hanson on the 5th anniversary of his "Mexifornia" article which spurred his subsequent book on the theme. There is so much detail within it requiring thought and comment that I am at a loss to choose. I can only say, as a general thing, that the tone of his piece is one that seeks to address these issues in a way that avoids many bad things for all concerned, insult as well as injury. It tackles a though issue in a way that is admirable and judicious--but it does not pull necessary hard punches or abandon good principle. Worth a solitary and careful read.
Although its odd to hear talk of global warming on a day when the high temperature, for the third day in a row, is not expected to exceed single digits, George Will offers a few "inconvenient truths" regarding the matter:
1. "We do not know the extent to which human activity caused this [global warming]. The activity is economic growth, the wealth-creation that makes possible improved well-being—better nutrition, medicine, education, etc. How much reduction of such social goods are we willing to accept by slowing economic activity in order to (try to) regulate the planets climate?"
2. "Over the millennia, the planet has warmed and cooled for reasons that are unclear but clearly were unrelated to SUVs. Was life better when ice a mile thick covered Chicago? Was it worse when Greenland was so warm that Vikings farmed there? Are we sure the climate at this particular moment is exactly right, and that it must be preserved, no matter the cost?"
3. "Nothing Americans can do to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions will make a significant impact on the global climate while every 10 days China fires up a coal-fueled generating plant big enough to power San Diego. China will construct 2,200 new coal plants by 2030."
4. "Ethanol produces just slightly more energy than it takes to manufacture it. But now that the government is rigging energy markets with mandates, tariffs and subsidies, ethanol production might consume half of next years corn crop. The price of corn already has doubled in a year. Hence the tortilla turbulence south of the border. Forests will be felled (will fewer trees mean more global warming?) to clear land for growing corn, which requires fertilizer, the manufacture of which requires energy."
I have been reading some Kipling this morning. Mansfield mentions The Female of the Species in Manliness when he discusses Darwin. You might also glance at If-- and then, inevitably--since I had a very early stogie (cheap cigar, same root as the town in PA named Conestoga, where they first made those covered wagons; I guess the cigar was quickly associated with the Conestoga wagons, and also, by the way, with rough, heavy shoes that were called stogas)--The Bethroded. Enjoy your morning. It was four below this morning; not much better now.
Is Obama black enough, asks an unsatisfying article in Time? While this particular article may not have nailed the problem down, it does raise some interesting issues, perhaps a bit deeper than Joe Bidens untutored mouth raised. And it is also true that all this Obama watching, testing, analyzing, may seem to be either silly or just brutal politics. Sometimes it is both, of course. He does not seem to be getting a great deal of support among blacks, and yet Hillarys people are deeply worried. Yet, there are some very interesting issues raised by people who are rather serious and even sensitive, (see this by Stanley Crouch, for example) having to do with his immigrant father and white mother. Why should the white mother be less of an issue than that his father is from Kenya? The point, according to Crouch, will revolve around this: "Other than color, Obama did not - does not - share a heritage with the majority of black Americans, who are descendants of plantation slaves." I mean to watch how this plays out, and not only because there is an outside chance that Obama can stop Hillary, or, because Obama may well be just preparing himself for a run in 2012.
By the way, I just started reading Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas.
According to Morris, Rudy’s lead is growing for good reasons, and McCain is clearly fading, even in fund raising. Romney probably has insurmountable problems, and Gingrich hasn’t capatured anyone’s imagination. That means Guiliani’s main rival for the nomination will probably be some "dark horse," although, in my view, nobody on his list of long-shots is credible. In the end, the Republican nominee’s clock will be cleaned by Hillary.
Thats the gist of this AP story about a procedural vote in the Senate. Whats really going on, of course, is that the Republicans would like to have a fuller debate, with more options on the table, than the Democrats would like. But you can only read about that here.
There are two interests disserved by the way AP presents the story. First, any public interest in fairly presenting an understandable account of Senate procedure is missing. This AFP story, linked over at Power Line, comes closer to getting it right:
That [procedural vote] blocked the body from moving quickly toward a final vote [ed note: moving quickly is inconsistent with debate, which involves moving more slowly and, er, deliberately] on a non-binding resolution drafted in a compromise by Republican Senator John Warner and Democrat Carl Levin, which voices disagreement with the deployment of new troops and urges Bush to find other ways to achieve success in Iraq.
The outcome, on a procedural move to fix a time limit on the debate so the Warner bill would head for a final vote, was a blow to Democratic majority.
So from this story you learn that the Democrats wanted less debate and the Republicans, presumably, more. But the Democrats think the people spoke back in November and there should be no more debate:
"We must heed the results of the November elections and the wishes of the American people," said Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Was he taking that line back in 2005, after GWB was reelected?
The second interest disserved, in case you still care, is obviously a public interest in receiving a balanced account of what went on. We get the Democrats side of the story from the AP, but not the Republicans. But thats not news, is it?
It turns out that one of the closest advisors of General Petraeus--part of his "larger ring"--is our friend Lt. Col. Douglas Ollivant, who taught the first Tocqueville seminar ever at West Point and has published on political philosophy in distinguished journals such as PERSPECTIVES ON POLITICAL SCIENCE. Doug’s prize-winning article, it appears, had a big and maybe decisive influence in the formation of the general’s innovative and promising strategy. No one can deny that we have men of the highest competence, courage, intelligence, education, and experience guiding our efforts in Iraq now.
This rather hopeful. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is assembling a small band of warrior-intellectuals ("rank is nothing: talent is everything") in an eleventh-hour effort to reverse the downward trend in the Iraq war. We all think we know that Petraeus is a smart guy (no PhD needed for that, of course) and this WaPo article makes something more public than ever: "Essentially, the Army is turning the war over to its dissidents, who have criticized the way the service has operated there the past three years, and is letting them try to wage the war their way." The key guy may well be the Australian Lt. Col David Kilcullen who likes to talk about the war as counterinsurgency rather than counterterrorism; and also likes to talk about maintaining the initiative. This paper by him may help. There is plenty on Kilcullen, et al, including this by George Packer and this from the Australian. Like I said, Iâ€™m hopeful. It may be time to smoke a Henry Clay because, as Kipling said, a Clay has a "calming effect."
Congratulations to this month’s winners of a No Left Turns mug! The winners are as follows:
Thanks to all who entered. An email has been sent to the winners. If you are listed as a winner and did not receive an email, contact Ben Kunkel. If you didn’t win this month, enter February’s drawing.
...the Clint Eastwood movie. I saw it yesterday and now think its the best political movie of the year. Its brilliantly crafted and all that. But what distinguishes it most of all is its very, very nuanced portrayal of the genuinely aristocratic sense of honor, an amazingly cosmopolitan combination of utter realism, humane generosity to other particular, lesser human beings, and unflinching devotion to duty family, and country. (Aristocratic here, of course, has nothing to do with hereditary aristocracy.) The movies genuine aristocrats are two urbane (spent time in sophisticated America etc., know that the war against America is misguided and inevitably futile) Japanese officers, who separate themselves in all sorts of reasonable ways from the fanatical militarism that surrounds them, while being even more ready to die than the suicidal Japanese soldiers who also have a prominent place in the story. If you want to see honorable personal integrity that transcends all the ambivalence of manliness--a real point of view that makes authentic human liberty credible, watch this movie.
In his most recent column--headlined in the Atlanta paper "U.S. oil conservation could take down Iran" (hah!)--Thomas Friedman makes the following claim:
[I]f oil prices fall sharply again, Irans regime would have to take away many benefits from many Iranians, as the Soviets had to do. For a regime already unpopular with many of its people, that could cause all kinds of problems and give rise to an Ayatollah Gorbachev. We know how that ends. “Just look at the history of the Soviet Union,” [President of Russias Academy of National Economy Vladimir] Mau said.
In short, the best tool we have for curbing Irans influence is not containment or engagement, but getting the price of oil down in the long term with conservation and an alternative-energy strategy. Lets exploit Irans oil addiction by ending ours.
Now, dont get me wrong: Im all for conservation and developing alternative energy sources (including, if youre serious about it, ANWR, oil shale, nuclear power, and so on). But conservation in the U.S. (a panacea Friedman has been peddling for some time) is unlikely by itself significantly to drive down the price of oil worldwide.
A better strategy follows from a consideration that, in my view, Friedman got wrong. Heres Friedman:
I mentioned to [Vladimir Mau] that surely the Soviet Union died because oil fell to $10 a barrel shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev took office, not because of anything Ronald Reagan did. Actually, Mau said, it was “high oil prices” that killed the Soviet Union. The sharp rise in oil prices in the 1970s deluded the Kremlin into overextending subsidies at home and invading Afghanistan abroad – and then the collapse in prices in the 80s helped bring down the overextended empire.
Why did oil prices collapse? According to Paul Kengor in
The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, Reagan had a hand in the oil price collapse. By persuading the Saudis to ramp up oil production (from 2 million to 9 million barrels a day), the Reagan Administration delivered a body blow to a Soviet economy heavily dependent upon oil exports for hard currency. (To be fair, Kengor cites Peter Schweitzers two books for uncovering this incident.) The Saudis are currently producing roughly 9.5 million barrels a day. They surely fear Iranian designs in the Persian Gulf and beyond. What would it take to get them to increase production yet again, moving, say, to a level of 15 million barrels a day, of which theyre apparently "easily capable?" (Just to be clear, Iran exports roughly 2.5 million barrels a day.) Youd think that a reduction of what we import (currently around 10 million barrels a day) and an increase in Saudi production and exports would place an incredible strain on the Iranian economy. But I doubt that U.S. conservation efforts alone will do it, especially with rising consumption in places like China.
Friedman just cant ride his hobby horse to our rescue in the Persian Gulf. Hes going to have to give more credit to policies championed by Ronald Reagan.