Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Not-So-Dark Ages

By James V. Schall, S.J.
The Catholic Thing
Friday, 10 July 2009

Some very good things from the French mind are appearing among us. Daniel Mahoney brought Pierre Manent to our attention. He re-presents Raymond Aron, Charles de Gaulle, and the pertinent French background to Solzhenitsyn’s work. Jean-Luc Marion, Alain Besançon, and Rémi Brague have become “must-reads” if we want to escape modern ideology – unfortunately, not everyone does.

Mont Saint-Michel

Last semester a French exchange student attended one of my classes. Her father, a medical doctor from Nice, visited one day. I mentioned a review of Sylvain Gouguenheim’s Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel: Les racines grecques de l’Europe Chrétienne (“Aristotle at Mont Saint-Michel: The Greek Roots of Christian Europe”). Weeks later, his daughter presented me with a copy from Nice. I have now read this remarkable, enormously learned book.

It examines the now often heard and widely popular assumption that civilization was stimulated to become “modern” because of “enlightened” Islamic philosophy that arrived in the stagnant West through Toledo and Sicily. The Christian Dark and Middle Ages are pictured as be-knighted, populated mostly by primitive folks just vegetating till the Enlightenment came from Islam to early modern Europe.

Gouguenheim’s method often is to take a learned citation advocating this thesis, and then to demolish it. For example, he cites the following passage from a study of Islam in Europe: “Europe would not be that which it is if it did not know Islam. It belongs to its patrimony.” We should greet this thesis, he says, with a “profound reserve.” The reason is that the impetus in question came ultimately from the Greeks and the Christians, not Islam. And even when a Greek text appeared in the Arabic language, it was usually translated by Christians or those conquered by Islam.

Gouguenheim attacks the notion that the so-called Dark and Middle Ages were so backward that they could not recognize a self-evident principle if it stared them in the face. The book’s title refers to manuscripts of the works of Aristotle that were found in the famous abbey at Mt. Saint-Michel where they were translated into Latin not from Arab sources but directly from Greek texts. This endeavor happened before Arabic translations of Aristotle reached Toledo.

Gouguenheim then examines the whole history of what happened to Greek texts of the classical authors translated into Arabic. In general, he finds that writers often forget the Byzantine world, the world of the Eastern Roman Empire, a world that had Greek as its language. Christianity from the beginning recognized that it had to deal with precisely Greek philosophy and culture. Benedict XVI in the Regensburg Lecture remarked that the Christian mind was concerned not so much with classical myth or religion as with classical philosophy, with Plato, Aristotle, and friends.

Saint Michel, Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel

Gouguenheim, in an erudite study, shows that the Arab conquests in the beginning were of Persian, Syrian, and Byzantine territories. Only one Muslim philosopher was actually an Arab, al-Kindi; the others, the great ones, were Persians, Syrians, or Spaniards. Moreover, most of the texts that were translated from Greek to Arabic were translated by Arab speaking Christians: Syrians, Copts, or Greeks.

All through the classical, Carolingian, and Ottonian periods we find constant exchanges of texts. What Gouguenheim points out is that interest in Greek science and philosophy was restricted to a few scholars in the Muslim world. These acted as private citizens. They were often condemned or restricted in their philosophic activities.

In the Christian world, however, primary interest was devoted to finding the exact meaning of the dynamic Greek texts. This search was both religious and philosophic. So the classical texts were not “Islamicized” to meet the requirements of Koranic culture. The Christian understanding of reason led to a desire to know what Aristotle actually teaches, even if on some point he might be criticized.

This book is eye-opening. It is far more realistic than most things we read about the ease of multicultural “adaption” or endless dialogue. Gouguenheim’s approach is blunter than we usually encounter in the discussion of different religions: “Fundamentally, European civilization remains Greco-Roman, Judeo-Christian in inspiration. In its further course, European philosophy or science developed its own proper and original conceptions. Islam was, from the redaction of the Koran on, the bearer of another global system. From that point of view, Greek knowledge was able to be integrated only in a particular manner, limited to certain sectors or to certain thinkers.”

Islamic scholars, as Gueguenheim shows, go through contortions to demonstrate that the Koran preceded the Old and New Testament. Therefore, Jews and Christians must have deliberately rewritten the text so that the Muslim interpretation of its own revelation would still hold.

Cloister, Abbey, Mont Saint-Michel

Gueguenheim concludes that Western civilization does not owe its genius or energy to Islam. It has its own roots. In its dynamic form, Islam was not itself able to assimilate the Greek heritage. It proved too dangerous to the Koranic understanding of reality.

- James V. Schall, S.J., a professor at Georgetown University, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. His most recent book is The Mind That Is Catholic.

The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

Cronkite’s Signature: Approachable Authority

An Appraisal

The New York Times
July 18, 2009

Dissent on college campuses during the Vietnam War could turn nasty.
When students gathered in common rooms to watch television in the early 1970s, the seditious insisted on “Star Trek” reruns; the best and brightest would demand to switch to “Cronkite.”

Back then, “Cronkite” meant the news.

CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Walter Cronkite in October 1960

It’s almost impossible to convey the place Walter Cronkite held in American life for the 19 years he spent as the anchor of “The CBS Evening News.” It wasn’t just that he narrated the spikes in modern history, from the Kennedy assassination to the civil rights movement to the election of Ronald Reagan.

People tuned in to his program even on routine days when his broadcast — Senate subcommittee hearings, gas prices, détente talks with the Soviet Union — was as dull as toast. Mr. Cronkite’s air of authority, lightly worn and unquestioned, was unusual even then, but nobody comes close to it now.

Mr. Cronkite retired in 1981 at 64 and spent much of his remaining years giving charmingly self-deprecating interviews for tributes and retrospectives with titles like “Cronkite Remembers.” In one he explained his legendary status by saying, “Everything we did was for the first time.”

For viewers, however, it sometimes seems as if everything Mr. Cronkite did was for the last time, that his outsize tenure bracketed a bygone era when America was, if not a more confident nation, certainly a more trusting one.

And there’s a reason Mr. Cronkite stood out from other television newsmen of his time, and it wasn’t his credentials, even though he covered D-Day from a B-17 as a United Press correspondent, went on bombing missions over Germany and opened United Press’s first postwar bureau in Moscow.

It was his looks.

Mr. Cronkite, a dentist’s son who began his career as a radio announcer in Kansas City, Mo., wasn’t glossily good-looking in the starched, blow-dried way of so many of his successors; if anything, he was closer to homely than handsome. But behind a crisp speaking style, he had a natural, unaffected demeanor that made him more inviting than other television reporters.

When he took over from Douglas Edwards in 1962, Mr. Cronkite would announce the day’s events, and then, as anchors do now, turn to correspondents in the field. Those reporters — and in the early 1960s the CBS A-team included Mike Wallace, Howard K. Smith and Morley Safer — often read their reports sitting at desks in front of curtains in out-of-town studios, as stiff and unsmiling as hostages in a ransom tape.

Mr. Cronkite, who sat at a desk next to a typewriter in what at least seemed like a bustling newsroom, would fiddle with his earpiece, move his chair and glance down at his notes; he looked like a kindly newspaper editor interrupted in the middle of a big news day, busy, of course, but never too busy to explain the latest developments to out-of-town visitors.

Mr. Cronkite became a star when he was chosen to lead CBS’s coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions in 1952, the first presidential election year in which television outshone radio.
Photo: CBS News

He made history just by rising from that desk to check the wires. Every Kennedy documentary includes the clips of Mr. Cronkite announcing that the president had been shot and removing his thick black glasses for a pause after stating that Kennedy was dead. Those live moments of television news are as embedded into the tragedy as John-John’s salute and the Zapruder film.

No account of Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency leaves out the night in February 1968 when Mr. Cronkite concluded, on the air, that the Vietnam War could not be won. He had a toehold on the first manned lunar landing and a hand in the Begin-Sadat Middle East peace talks.

Viewers mostly associate him with calamity, but he liked to align himself with good news, shedding his famed neutrality to express boyish enthusiasm for what he called, somewhat quaintly, “the conquest of space.” (His first words when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon on July 20, 1969, were “Oh, boy.”)

But he didn’t turn into “Uncle Walter” overnight, and his last name didn’t become synonymous with television news until well into the 1970s. For many years “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBC had higher ratings and more pizzazz; CBS caught up only after Chet Huntley retired in 1970.

When Mr. Cronkite was No. 1, the nightly news mattered. College students nowadays get their information from blogs and Comedy Central, not CBS. Families don’t gather in the den to eat dinner in front of “World News Tonight With Charles Gibson.” Brian Williams and Katie Couric wouldn’t dare sign off with the words “and that’s the way it is.”

The television news business long ago lost that kind of prestige and importance; the audience for evening newscasts has so dwindled that this year there were more viewers on an average night for “American Idol” than for the programs on CBS, NBC and ABC combined.

Anchors try to project authority with sprawling desks and fancy computer graphics: “The CBS Evening News” studio today looks like a NASA command post. When Mr. Cronkite became anchor, the setting was somber and almost touchingly low-tech. For a report on unrest in Algeria in August 1962, Mr. Cronkite looked up at a screen to introduce a correspondent in Paris connected “via Telstar.” The boxy television sets along the wall of his studio look like the portholes of a Jules Verne submarine.

For years Mr. Cronkite read the news as if he were still on radio. On April 4, 1968, the night the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, the news came too late in the day for CBS to provide many images from the scene. America went into shock while staring at Mr. Cronkite as he read the bare facts aloud. His face, subdued, grave but studiously unemotional, was reassuring in a way that President Johnson, who that night gave a speech urging people to stay calm, was not.

Over the years, not only did the CBS studio get fancier, but also the technology, production values and expectations. But Mr. Cronkite didn’t change much, and that was the most reassuring thing of all.

Slide Show
The Most Trusted Man in America

Walter Cronkite, Voice of TV News, Dies (July 18, 2009)
Media Decoder: Memorable Video by Walter Cronkite (July 17, 2009)
Times Topics: Walter Cronkite

America's Newsman Was Last of a Broadcast Breed

CBS's Towering Anchor Won a Country's Trust

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 18, 2009

It's been 28 years since Walter Cronkite last told America that was the way it is, more than enough time for him to fade from our collective consciousness.

CBS news anchor, Walter Cronkite, covered NASA missions from Mercury through the space shuttle. (CBS News)

The fact that he didn't speaks volumes not just about him, but also about an era when an anchor could presume to tell the country -- without contradiction from bloggers, Twitterers and other carping critics -- that what he had just presented was indeed a definitive picture of reality.

For those of us who were lucky enough to know him, the resonant voice, the mustache, the avuncular manner were so reminiscent of the television presence who was with us during all those moments of joy and tragedy. But his death also reminds us that there can never be another Cronkite -- not just because of the media's fragmentation, but also because Americans will never again trust journalists how they trusted him.

And that is a healthy thing. From the JFK assassination to the moon landing, from his Vietnam visit to the Iran hostage crisis, the old UPI guy was a reliable narrator of national and world events. But every journalist should be challenged and fact-checked, as now happens roughly every second of every day. Cronkite's liberal views emerged in his latter years as a syndicated columnist, proving that no sentient being can practice journalism without forming opinions that they then strive to keep out of their work.

It is hard to remember, in this age of niche cable channels feeding every obsession, how dominant CBS and NBC (and, much later, ABC) were in their heydays. Every senior member of Cronkite's news team -- including, at various times, Dan Rather, Bob Schieffer, Roger Mudd, Marvin Kalb, Bernard Kalb, Fred Graham, Daniel Schorr -- was a recognizable celebrity in his own right. (They were almost all men.) You got your morning paper, and then you watched Cronkite or Huntley and Brinkley at night, perhaps while eating a TV dinner.

In later years, Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings -- and now Katie Couric, Brian Williams and Charlie Gibson -- played important roles at traumatic moments in history. But Cronkite and his team, with an audience as large as 20 million -- nearly as large as today's nightly newscasts combined -- shaped the news agenda every day.

Like many American broadcast personalities of the day, Walter Cronkite lent his support to the work of the Radios. Cronkite narrated Towers of Truth, a film about RFE's work commissioned by the National Committee for a Free Europe and shown in conjunction with Crusade for Freedom fund raising efforts.

The last time I saw Cronkite, in 2007, in his Manhattan apartment near the United Nations, he was infirm, slowed by age, hard of hearing, but mentally sharp and still opinionated. He regretted that he had been forced to retire, at 65, which now seems relatively young. Cronkite had been promised an on-air role, but CBS never made much room for him in the Rather era, and Cronkite made clear that he was bitter about that.

Historians point to his 1968 conclusion, after a visit to Vietnam, that the war was hopelessly stalemated, as the best single example of his enormous clout. But I vividly remember the "CBS Evening News" of Oct. 27, 1972, when President Richard Nixon was cruising to reelection despite the Watergate scandal, which had not yet implicated the White House inner circle. Cronkite insisted on turning over two-thirds of the broadcast to a 14-minute piece that attempted to explain the intricacies of the scandal to a mass audience. The Nixon White House called CBS Chairman William Paley to complain.

Brokaw has called Cronkite the "gold standard," and at a time when journalism commanded a whole lot more respect than it does today, he was its undeniable symbol. Perhaps it was his wire-service training, at a time when print experience was still considered valuable for broadcast journalists. Perhaps it was his calm demeanor, his mastery of understatement, his disdain for on-air showmanship. Perhaps it was the era, before Comedy Central, when anchors were not mocked for missteps or pomposity.

In later years, as he watched from the sideline, Cronkite became a critic of the evening news. "Nobody's asked me, which is strange, but I think the networks ought to be doing the headlines -- compressed as they must be -- and no features," he told me in 2002. "Drop that 'Your Pocketbook and Mine,' 'Your Beauty and Mine,' 'Your Garbage Can and Mine.' "

He also decried the staffing cutbacks as the networks shrank their evening news staffs, saying: "It's a dollars-and-cents issue with the ownership. There's not the sense of responsibility of the old-timers who were taught this was their duty."

Generations of journalists revered him, though none could quite aspire to be him. When Williams, now the NBC anchor, was first hired by New York's WCBS, he asked a colleague to show him what he considered a shrine: the faded newsroom wall that had formed the backdrop for Cronkite's broadcast, by then relegated to a sad little back office.

Shortly before Memorial Day 2007, CBS aired a prime-time tribute to Cronkite. ABC's Gibson recalled being riveted by Cronkite's coverage of the 1952 conventions. Couric recalled that after President John F. Kennedy's assassination, Cronkite reacted as a human being first and a reporter second. Cronkite would later pay Couric the honor of recording the introduction to her broadcast, keeping his voice on the program he made famous.

Cronkite's passing, in the end, is the passing of an era, an era of black-and-white television, of mass audiences, of a slower time when the country waited for the headlines at 6:30 in the evening. No anchor -- no journalist -- will ever wield that authority again.

A symbol of the Old West meets the gelded age

Government housing, federally funded contraception now the fate of many wild mustangs.

Syndicated columnist
Orange County Register
Friday, July 17, 2009

On Friday, July 17, the House of Representatives met to debate … Go on, take a guess: Health care? The cap-and-tax racket? Stimulus Two? No, none of the above. Don't worry, they're still spending your money. Wild horses couldn't stop them doing that.

And, as a matter of fact, that's the correct answer: wild horses. On Friday, the House passed the Restore Our American Mustangs Act – or ROAM. Like all acronymically cute legislation, its name bears little relation to what it actually does: It's not about "restoring" mustangs. The federal Bureau of Land Management aims for a manageable population of 27,000 wild mustangs. Currently, there are 36,000, and the population doubles every four or five years. To prevent things getting even more out of hand, the BLM keeps another 30,000 mustangs in holding pens – or, if you prefer, managed-care facilities. That's to say, under federal management, one in every two "wild" horses now lives in government housing. The American mustang population is road-testing the impending demographic profile of Japan and Germany: one worker for every retiree.

A wild mare and its foal from the Pryor Mountain Wild horse range, stand amid a field of lupine in Penn's Meadow atop the Pryor Mountains in Bridger, Mont., Tuesday, July 7, 2009. The horses carry rare genes that have been traced back to Colonial Spain and Iberian breeds. (AP Photo/The Billings Gazette, David Grubbs)

The welfare mustangs are supposed to be put up for adoption. But, what with the government taking all our money to fund the Barney Frank Institute of Bureaucracy Studies, many of us no longer have the necessary discretionary income to stable a mustang in the rec room. A lot of the nags in managed-care facilities are getting a bit long in the tooth, and thus are unlikely ever to find homes. So, rather than go on attempting to flog near-dead horses, the BLM was considering inviting the seniors to do the decent thing and sign up for "assisted suicide" – or, in the designated euphemism, "death with dignity." In the Netherlands, pretty much everyone over 47 who goes into hospital for a minor hernia winds up getting talked into "death with dignity." And, given that mustangs were introduced to America by the Spanish, it's not inappropriate that they should meet a European end.

ROAM would prohibit this option. In that sense, it would be acronymically more precise to name it REAM – the Restore Elderly American Mustangs Act. Under this legislation, no horses or burros could be, ah, terminated, and they would have to be released from their holding pens after six months. To facilitate the release of the tame "wild horse" population, the act adds to their present 33-million acre habitat (that's bigger than New York State) another 20 million acres – or approximately the size of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont combined. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the total tab at around $700 million – ie, chump change. If you look for it in the line-item budget, it comes down at the bottom under "rounding error." It's a mere ten-and-a-half grand per mustang. If you're wondering why it costs more to keep a horse on 52 million acres of wilderness than it does to stable him at an upscale horse farm in New England, that's because, in order to prevent the mustang population doubling again by 2013 and requiring the annexation of another 50 million acres (i.e., an area the size of Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands combined), the bill mandates "enhanced" contraception for horses and burros.

John Hinderaker of the Powerline Web site mused on whether this would involve Nancy Pelosi (who's very keen on federally funded contraception) personally installing the enhanced prophylactic device on every stallion. The pay-per-view rights on that would surely be worth $700 million at least. And it would certainly stimulate the American latex industry. Or perhaps we could import them from overseas. I seem to recall the European Union introduced shape and size regulations for a harmonized Euro-condom a few years back, only to have the Germans complain that these things were too small and obviously made for Greeks – or possibly vice-versa, before any Greek readers file a federal hate-crimes suit. Anyway, the point is that somewhere in a European warehouse there are piles of ill-fitting Euro-condoms gathering dust. Surely it's not beyond the wit of Congress to convert a few superfluous GM plants in Michigan into facilities for sewing together unwanted Euro-contraceptives to fit federally condomed mustangs. Just thinking outside the horse box here.

But I digress. The bill also calls for a biennial horse census (presumably run by ACORN) and mandates that government bureaucrats perform home inspections before Americans can adopt wild horses or burros. Presumably this will require a Federal Burro of Investigation or some such.

It's hardly worth batting an eyelid over equine welfare queens. It's a mere drop in the mountain of federal horse manure. But, in their own poignant way, the mustangs are almost too apt a symbol of where we're all headed. The Old West has been succeeded by the new California, in which a bloated government bureaucracy rides herd on the ever more emaciated workhorses of the private sector. And as California goes – and it's going, going, gone – so goes the nation.

There aren't enough of us to pay for all this – for government health care, government banks, government mortgages, government automobiles, government horses, government burros, for cap-and-trade, for stimulating phony-baloney nonjobs like Deputy Executive Associated Assistant Stimulus Resources Manager on the Stimulus Co-ordination & Compliance Commission. The wealthiest 1 percent already pay 40 percent of all taxes, the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of taxes – and there simply are too few of them – or, more to the point, of you: You'll be surprised what percentage of you fall into "the top 2 percent" by the time Obama is through with you. This isn't merely Swedenization. As that insouciant 19-million acre annexation suggests, when America Swedenizes, it does it on supersized scale. The salient point of that 1,200-page cap-and-trade monstrosity was that, in its final form, it was so huge that at the time the House voted it into law there was no written version of the bill, because Congressional typists were unable to type as fast as Congress can spend: They're legislating on such a scale that the poor bleeding typing fingers of the House stenographers can't keep up. Which means you can't keep up the payments on it all. If you've got a small business, you're wasting your time. You're going to be taxed and regulated into the ground because you're the designated sucker. Tell your kids to forget about the private sector and sign up with the Equine Census Bureau: Jobs for life, early retirement. Government is where it's at. When in ROAM do as the ROAMens do.

In 1971, the United States Congress recognized mustangs as "living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West." And surely nothing captures the essence of the "pioneer spirit" than living on welfare in a federal care facility while being showered with government contraceptives. Welcome to America in the gelded age.


Friday, July 17, 2009

The Song of the Strange Ascetic

by G.K. Chesterton
Illustrated by Ben Hatke

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have praised the purple vine,
My slaves should dig the vineyards,
And I would drink the wine.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And his slaves grow lean and grey,
That he may drink some tepid milk
Exactly twice a day.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have crowned Neaera's curls,
And filled my life with love affairs,
My house with dancing girls;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And to lecture rooms is forced,
Where his aunts, who are not married,
Demand to be divorced.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have sent my armies forth,
And dragged behind my chariots
The Chieftains of the North.
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And he drives the dreary quill,
To lend the poor that funny cash
That makes them poorer still.

If I had been a Heathen,
I'd have piled my pyre on high,
And in a great red whirlwind
Gone roaring to the sky;
But Higgins is a Heathen,
And a richer man than I:
And they put him in an oven,
Just as if he were a pie.

Now who that runs can read it,
The riddle that I write,
Of why this poor old sinner,
Should sin without delight-
But I, I cannot read it
(Although I run and run),
Of them that do not have the faith,
And will not have the fun.

The Moon We Left Behind

By Charles Krauthammer
The Washington Post
Friday, July 17, 2009

Michael Crichton once wrote that if you told a physicist in 1899 that within a hundred years humankind would, among other wonders (nukes, commercial airlines), "travel to the moon, and then lose interest . . . the physicist would almost certainly pronounce you mad." In 2000, I quoted these lines expressing Crichton's incredulity at America's abandonment of the moon. It is now 2009 and the moon recedes ever further.

Neil Armstrong on the moon

Next week marks the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. We say we will return in 2020. But that promise was made by a previous president, and this president has defined himself as the antimatter to George Bush. Moreover, for all of Barack Obama's Kennedyesque qualities, he has expressed none of Kennedy's enthusiasm for human space exploration.

So with the Apollo moon program long gone, and with Constellation, its supposed successor, still little more than a hope, we remain in retreat from space. Astonishing. After countless millennia of gazing and dreaming, we finally got off the ground at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Within 66 years, a nanosecond in human history, we'd landed on the moon. Then five more landings, 10 more moonwalkers and, in the decades since, nothing.

To be more precise: almost 40 years spent in low Earth orbit studying, well, zero-G nausea and sundry cosmic mysteries. We've done it with the most beautiful, intricate, complicated -- and ultimately, hopelessly impractical -- machine ever built by man: the space shuttle. We turned this magnificent bird into a truck for hauling goods and people to a tinkertoy we call the international space station, itself created in a fit of post-Cold War internationalist absentmindedness as a place where people of differing nationality can sing "Kumbaya" while weightless.

The shuttle is now too dangerous, too fragile and too expensive. Seven more flights and then it is retired, going -- like the Spruce Goose and the Concorde -- into the Museum of Things Too Beautiful and Complicated to Survive.

America's manned space program is in shambles. Fourteen months from today, for the first time since 1962, the United States will be incapable not just of sending a man to the moon but of sending anyone into Earth orbit. We'll be totally grounded. We'll have to beg a ride from the Russians or perhaps even the Chinese.

So what, you say? Don't we have problems here on Earth? Oh, please.
Poverty and disease and social ills will always be with us. If we'd waited for them to be rectified before venturing out, we'd still be living in caves.

Yes, we have a financial crisis. No one's asking for a crash Manhattan Project. All we need is sufficient funding from the hundreds of billions being showered from Washington -- "stimulus" monies that, unlike Eisenhower's interstate highway system or Kennedy's Apollo program, will leave behind not a trace on our country or our consciousness -- to build Constellation and get us back to Earth orbit and the moon a half-century after the original landing.

Why do it? It's not for practicality. We didn't go to the moon to spin off cooling suits and freeze-dried fruit. Any technological return is a bonus, not a reason. We go for the wonder and glory of it. Or, to put it less grandly, for its immense possibilities. We choose to do such things, said JFK, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard." And when you do such magnificently hard things -- send sailing a Ferdinand Magellan or a Neil Armstrong -- you open new human possibility in ways utterly unpredictable.

The greatest example? Who could have predicted that the moon voyages would create the most potent impetus to -- and symbol of -- environmental consciousness here on Earth: Earthrise, the now iconic Blue Planet photograph brought back by Apollo 8?

Ironically, that new consciousness about the uniqueness and fragility of Earth focused contemporary imagination away from space and back to Earth. We are now deep into that hyper-terrestrial phase, the age of iPod and Facebook, of social networking and eco-consciousness.

But look up from your BlackBerry one night. That is the moon. On it are exactly 12 sets of human footprints -- untouched, unchanged, abandoned.
For the first time in history, the moon is not just a mystery and a muse, but a nightly rebuke. A vigorous young president once summoned us to this new frontier, calling the voyage "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." And so we did it. We came. We saw. Then we retreated.

How could we?


Justice Ginsburg In Context

By Michael Gerson
The Washington Post
Friday, July 17, 2009

There was a scandal this week concerning the Supreme Court, though it didn't concern the nomination of its newest member.

The New York Times Magazine printed a candid interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, including this portion:

Q: "Are you talking about the distances women have to travel because in parts of the country, abortion is essentially unavailable, because there are so few doctors and clinics that do the procedure? And also, the lack of Medicaid abortions for poor women?"

Justice Ginsburg: "Yes, the ruling about that surprised me. [Harris v. McRae -- in 1980 the court upheld the Hyde Amendment, which forbids the use of Medicaid for abortions.] Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don't want to have too many of. So that Roe was going to be then set up for Medicaid funding for abortion."

AP Photo

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks to law students at Ohio State University to reflect on her years with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, April 10, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.

A statement like this should not be taken out of context. The context surrounding this passage is a simplistic, pro-choice rant. Abortion, in Ginsburg's view, is an essential part of sexual equality, thus ending all ethical debate. "There will never be a woman of means without choice anymore. That just seems to be so obvious," she explains. "So we have a policy that affects only poor women, and it can never be otherwise, and I don't know why this hasn't been said more often." Of pro-lifers, she declares, "They're fighting a losing battle" -- which must come as discouraging news to litigants in future abortion cases that come before the high court.

Given this context, can it be argued that Ginsburg -- referring to "populations that we don't want to have too many of" -- was merely summarizing the views of others and describing the attitudes of the country when Roe v. Wade was decided? It can be argued -- but it is not bloody likely. Who, in Ginsburg's statement, is the "we"? And who, in 1973, was arguing for the eugenic purposes of abortion?

It is more likely that Ginsburg is describing the attitude of some of her own social class -- that abortion is economically important to a "woman of means" and useful in reducing the number of social undesirables. Neither judge nor journalist apparently found this attitude exceptional; there was no follow-up question.

At the very least, Ginsburg displays a disturbing insensitivity to Supreme Court history. It was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. who wrote the 1927 decision approving forced sterilization for Carrie Buck -- a 17-year-old single mother judged to be feebleminded and morally delinquent. "It is better for all the world," ruled Holmes, "if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime, or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind." Such elitism has been discredited; it is not extinct.

The entire Ginsburg interview is a reminder of the risks of lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court. Immune from criticism, surrounded by plump cushions of deference, the temperament of a justice can become exaggerated over time. For Ginsburg, complex arguments are now "so obvious" and "can never be otherwise" -- and opposition is fated to failure. Such statements, made during Ginsburg's own nomination hearing, would have been disqualifying. Now she doesn't give a damn.

Her timing, however, is instructive. Ginsburg made her remarks as Sonia Sotomayor is emphasizing her poor and minority roots. In the past, Sotomayor has argued that her background as a Latina brings special insight and empathy -- a humanizing, bottom-up perspective on life and law. This is true in life, where her Puerto Rican experience offers many lessons. It should not be true in applying the law, where the goal is objectivity -- as Sotomayor herself has now backtracked to acknowledge.

But there is another view of the disadvantaged found on the left (and not only on the left). Instead of especially valuing the experience of the disadvantaged, some hope that public policy can thin their ranks. This is no longer pursued through the eugenic decrees that Holmes admired but through the advocacy of Medicaid abortions.

It is estimated that the Hyde Amendment limiting Medicaid abortions has saved 1 million lives since its passage in 1976 -- some, no doubt, became criminals and some, perhaps, lawyers and judges. It is a defining question for modern liberalism: Are these men and women "populations that we don't want to have too many of" or are they citizens worthy of justice and capable of contribution?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Today's Tune: Echo and the Bunnymen - The Killing Moon

(Click on title to play video)

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

In starlit nights I saw you
So cruelly you kissed me
Your lips a magic world
Your sky all hung with jewels
The killing moon
Will come too soon

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Under blue moon I saw you
So soon you'll take me
Up in your arms
Too late to beg you or cancel it
Though I know it must be the killing time
Unwillingly mine

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him
You give yourself to him

La la la la la...

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

La la la la la...

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

Up against your will
Through the thick and thin
He will wait until
You give yourself to him

La la la la la...

Two Scientists, Two Standards

By Michelle Malkin
Michelle Malkin Archive
July 14, 2009

The New York Times recently warned its readers about a wacky scientist in the Obama administration. But the fish wrap of record let the real nut job off the hook.

Francis S. Collins in March 2008.

Reporting last week on the president's choice to head the National Institutes of Health, Times writer Gardiner Harris noted that praise for Dr. Francis S. Collins "was not universal or entirely enthusiastic." The geneticist is causing "unease," according to the Times, because of "his very public embrace of religion." Stomachs are apparently churning over a book Collins wrote describing his conversion to Christianity.

It's called—gasp!—"The Language of God." Harris intoned: "Religion and genetic research have long had a fraught relationship, and some in the field complain about what they see as Dr. Collins' evangelism." [Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern, July 8, 2009]

And … that's it. Yes, the mere profession of Collins' faith is enough to warrant red flags and ominous declamations. A quarter of all Americans identify themselves as evangelical Christians and "publicly embrace their religion." But to the Times, Collins' open affiliation with 60 million American believers in Christ is headline news.

The rationality police in the newsroom have not, however, seen fit to print the rantings of a radical secular evangelist now serving as the White House "science czar." John Holdren, [Send him mail] Obama's director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and co-chair of the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, co-authored the innocuously titled "Ecoscience" in the 1970s with population control extremists Paul and Anne Ehrlich.

Earlier this year, Ben Johnson at the online publication FrontPage Magazine provided quotes shedding light on Holdren's embrace of "compulsory abortion" for American women "if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society."[Obama's Biggest Radical, February 27, 2009] In "Ecoscience," Holdren and the Ehrlichs also outlined their desire for "a comprehensive Planetary Regime (that) could control the development, administration, conservation and distribution of all natural resources."

Johnson outlined the book's ugly eugenics plan and neo-Malthusian vision of enviro-crats engineering the population. Yet, there was scant mention of Holdren's stomach-churning proposals during his confirmation hearings in February. Holdren's defenders might have comforted themselves by claiming that the quotes were taken out of context. But last week, another online investigative journalist scanned copious pages from the book to show that his words had been unedited and accurately transcribed. The disturbing documents can be found at

John Holdren

There, you'll find Holdren musing about how to infect the nation's water supply to make women infertile for the benefit of Mother Earth:

"Adding a sterilant to drinking water or staple foods is a suggestion that seems to horrify people more than most proposals for involuntary fertility control. … No such sterilant exists today, nor does one appear to be under development. To be acceptable, such a substance would have to meet some rather stiff requirements: It must be uniformly effective, despite widely varying doses received by individuals, and despite varying degrees of fertility and sensitivity among individuals; it must be free of dangerous or unpleasant side effects; and it must have no effect on members of the opposite sex, children, old people, pets or livestock."

Holdren's planetary regime would also breed out undesirables "who contribute to social deterioration" and "insist that all illegitimate babies be put up for adoption—especially those born to minors, who generally are not capable of caring properly for a child alone."

Single mothers who wanted to keep their children would be "obliged to go through adoption proceedings and demonstrate her ability to support and care for it."

If a conservative blogger or Republican political candidate had published such lunatic claptrap, the Department of Homeland Security would have him on a watch list. Instead, Holdren is Overlord of Science Policy.
"Ecoscience" remains on his curriculum vitae. Obama is still perceived as the champion of reason. And the national media, so concerned about the dangers posed by a born-again Christian scientist, have responded to a secular extremist's wild blueprints for forced abortions and mass sterilizations with a collective shrug. Scary.


- Michelle Malkin [email her] is the author of Invasion: How America Still Welcomes Terrorists, Criminals, and Other Foreign Menaces to Our Shores. Click here for Peter Brimelow’s review. Click here for Michelle Malkin's website. Michelle Malkin is also author of Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild and the forthcoming Culture of Corruption: Obama and his Team of Tax Cheats, Crooks & Cronies.

Persecution of Christians Increasing in Iraq

by Robert Spencer

On Sunday, July 12, Aziz Rozko Hanna, an Iraqi Christian who was serving as director of the Department of Financial Control of the city of Kirkuk, was driving with his daughter in Dumiz, a Christian neighborhood in Kirkuk, when he was stopped, pulled from his car, and shot dead in front of his daughter.

A car bomb damaged this Chaldean church in west Mosul on Jan. 17, 2008. (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Valgiusti)

On the same day, five churches in Baghdad were bombed, wounding eight civilians. And all this has come after persecution and harassment that has led over half of the Christians in Iraq to leave the country in the last few years. The situation has gotten so bad that the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baghdad, Jean Benjamin Sleiman, said in May: “I fear the extinction of Christianity in Iraq and the Middle East.”

Sleiman has good reason to fear. In 1909, the Middle East was 20 percent Christian; one hundred years later, that percentage has fallen to five percent. This decline is directly related to the resurgence of the Islamic jihad and Islamic supremacism around the world in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. As Muslimsreassert traditional Islamic legal stipulations mandating and institutionalizing discrimination against and harassment of Christians, Christians all over the Islamic world are feeling the heat.

Quasi-secular despots such as Saddam Hussein were not interested in enforcing the provisions of Islamic law mandating second-class status for non-Muslims. (Saddam chose his murder victims on other bases.) Christians enjoyed relatively equal rights under his regime, but after he was toppled, things began to change radically. Groups dedicated to the imposition of Islamic law over the country began to victimize Christians on a large scale. In March 2007, Islamic gangs knocked on doors in Christian neighborhoods in Baghdad, demanding payment of the jizya -- the special tax the Koran mandates for non-Muslims who submit to Islamic rule.

Nor was that the beginning of the terrorizing of Iraq’s Christians. In October 2006, a Syrian Orthodox priest, Fr. Boulos Iskander, was kidnapped in the Iraqi city of Mosul. He was never seen alive again. A Muslim group demanded $350,000 in ransom; they eventually lowered this to $40,000, but added a new demand: Fr. Boulos’ parish had to denounce the remarks made the previous month by Pope Benedict XVI in an address in Regensburg, Germany, that caused rioting all over the Islamic world. The ransom was paid, and the church dutifully posted 30 large signs all over Mosul, but to no avail: Fr. Boulos was murdered and dismembered, not necessarily in that order.

Five hundred Christians attended the funeral of Fr. Boulos Iskander. Another priest commented: “Many more wanted to come to the funeral, but they were afraid. We are in very bad circumstances now.”

Father Boulos Iskander

This murder took place against a backdrop of increasing persecution of Christians in Iraq. Women were threatened with kidnapping or death if they did not wear a headscarf; in accord with traditional Islamic legal restrictions on Christians “openly displaying wine or pork” (in the words of a legal manual endorsed by Cairo’s venerable Al-Azhar University), liquor store owners in Iraq were threatened and some were murdered. Many of their businesses were destroyed, and the owners fled. A onetime Iraqi liquor store owner now living in Syria lamented that “now at least 75 percent of my Christian friends have fled. There is no future for us in Iraq.”

Now that Barack Obama is removing U.S. troops from Iraq, this resurgent Islamic supremacism will only gain momentum. Though he could have helped protect Iraq’s Christians, Obama has shown no interest in using his bully pulpit to alleviate their plight. Instead, Obama has manifested a disquieting eagerness to cozy up to Sharia regimes – notably the one in next-door Iran, which is working still to create a Shi’ite client state in Iraq. Christians, as well as other non-Muslims, will suffer increasingly, in direct proportion to Iran’s success in Iraq. Muslim persecution of Christians -- built as it is into the foundations of Islamic theology and law -- is only going to increase as the Islamic reawakening continues in the Muslim world. Obama should -- if he had the guts and the vision that so many loudly proclaimed that he had -- stand up and say, “No more.” But he won’t.

Mr. Spencer is director of Jihad Watch and author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)", "The Truth About Muhammad," and "Stealth Jihad" (all from Regnery -- a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).


By Ann Coulter
July 15, 2009

Every time a Democrat senator has talked during the Senate hearings on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor this week, I felt lousy about my country. Not for the usual reasons when a Democrat talks, but because Democrats revel in telling us what a racist country this is.

Interestingly, the Democrats' examples of ethnic prejudice did not include Clarence Thomas, whose nomination hearings began with the Democrats saying, "You may now uncuff the defendant."

Their examples did not include Miguel Estrada, the brilliant Harvard-educated lawyer who was blocked from an appellate court judgeship by Senate Democrats expressly on the grounds that he is a Hispanic -- as stated in Democratic staff memos that became public.

No, they had to go back to Roger Taney -- confirmed in 1836 -- who was allegedly attacked for being a Catholic (and who authored the Dred Scott decision), and Louis Brandeis -- confirmed in 1916 -- allegedly a victim of anti-Semitism.

Indeed, Sen. Patrick Leahy lied about Estrada's nomination, blaming it on Republicans: "He was not given a hearing when the Republicans were in charge. He was given a hearing when the Democrats were in charge."

The Republicans were "in charge" for precisely 14 days between Estrada's nomination on May 9, 2001, and May 24, 2001, when Sen. Jim Jeffords switched parties, giving Democrats control of the Senate. The Democrats then refused to hold a hearing on Estrada's nomination for approximately 480 days, shortly before the 2002 election.

Even after Republicans won back a narrow majority in 2003, Estrada was blocked "by an extraordinary filibuster mounted by Senate Democrats" -- as The New York Times put it.

Memos from the Democratic staff of the Judiciary Committee were later unearthed, revealing that they considered Estrada "especially dangerous" -- as stated in a memo by a Sen. Dick Durbin staffer -- because "he is Latino and the White House seems to be grooming him for a Supreme Court appointment."

Sandy Berger wasn't available to steal back the memos, so Durbin ordered Capitol Police to seize the documents from Senate computer servers and lock them in a police vault.

Led by Sens. Leahy and Chuck Schumer, Democrats ferociously opposed Estrada, who would have been the first Hispanic to sit on the influential U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. They were so determined to keep him off the Supreme Court that Leahy and Schumer introduced legislation at one point to construct a fence around Estrada's house.

In frustration, Estrada finally withdrew his name on Sept. 5, 2003.

At the time, liberal historian David Garrow predicted that if the Democrats blocked Estrada, they would be "handing Bush a campaign issue to use in the Hispanic community."

Alas, today Democrats can't really place Estrada -- James Carville confuses him with that other Hispanic, Alberto Gonzales. On MSNBC they laugh about his obscurity, asking if he was the cop on "CHiPs." They also can't recall the name "Anita Hill." Nor can anyone remember African-American Janice Rogers Brown or what the Democrats did to her.

Only the indignities suffered by Justices Taney and Brandeis still burn in liberal hearts!

So when Republicans treat Sotomayor with respect and Sen. Lindsey Graham says his "hope" is that "if we ever get a conservative president and they nominate someone who has an equal passion on the other side, that we will not forget this moment," I think it's a lovely speech.

It might even persuade me if I were born yesterday.

But Democrats treat judicial nominations like war -- while Republicans keep being gracious, hoping Democrats will learn by example.

Sen. Teddy Kennedy accused Reagan nominee Robert Bork of trying to murder women, segregate blacks, institute a police state and censor speech -- everything short of driving a woman into a lake! -- within an hour of Reagan's announcing Bork's nomination.

To defend "the right to privacy," liberals investigated Bork's video rentals. (Alfred Hitchcock, the Marx Brothers' movies and "Ruthless People" -- the last one supposedly a primer for dealing with the Democrats.)

Liberals unleashed scorned woman Anita Hill against Clarence Thomas in the 11th hour of his hearings to accuse him of sexual harassment -- charges that were believed by no one who knew both Thomas and Hill, or by the vast majority of Americans watching the hearings.

But when the tables were turned and Bill Clinton nominated left-wing extremist/ACLU lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Republicans lavished her with praise and voted overwhelmingly to confirm her, in a 96-to-3 vote. (Poor Ruth. If Sotomayor is confirmed, Ginsburg will no longer be known as "the hot one in the robe.")

The next Clinton nominee, Stephen Breyer, was also treated gallantly -- no video rental records or perjurious testimony was adduced against him -- and confirmed in an 87-to-9 vote.

As Mrs. Sam Alito can attest, the magnanimity was not returned to Bush's Supreme Court nominees. She was driven from the hearings in tears by the Democrats' vicious attacks on her husband's character. The great "uniter" Barack Obama voted against both nominees.

Even Justice Ginsburg recently remarked to The New York Times that her and Justice Breyer's hearings were "unusual" in how "civil" they were.

Hmmm, why might that be?

To the extent that the Sotomayor hearings have been less than civil, it is, again, liberals who have made it so, launching personal attacks against the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, Sen. Jeff Sessions, and even the fireman whose complaint started the Ricci case.

But it was a nice speech.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Stan is still The Man

The Kansas City Star
Posted on Tue, Jul. 14, 2009

ST. LOUIS - The Man did not hit in 56 straight games. He did not hit .400. He did not hit 61 home runs in a season, and he did not hit 500 home runs in a career. Stan Musial did not play in 2,632 consecutive games, and he did not knock out 4,256 hits, and he did not hit three home runs in a World Series game. He did not say funny or clever things like “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” or “Nice guys finish last.” As far as I know, he did not have a candy bar named after him.

Getty Images

ST LOUIS, MO - JULY 14: U.S. President
Barack Obama shakes hands with hall of famer Stan Musial. before throwing out the first pitch at the 2009 MLB All-Star Game at Busch Stadium on July 14, 2009 in St Louis, Missouri.

Then, there were a few other things Stan Musial did not do, other things that filled the mind on an emotional Tuesday night in St. Louis, All-Star night, as Musial rode in a small red car from right field while 46,000-strong applauded for him — few shrieks, few yells, just applause, like waves crashing on the beach.

All night, the baseball gurus tried hard to induce goosebumps. That’s what they do at All-Star Games. Goosebumps are the point. They introduced the players one by one, of course. They played sweeping music. They had a video of all five living presidents talking about public service — George W. Bush got the second loudest cheer of the night behind Albert Pujols — and a gigantic American flag covered the entire outfield, and a B-2 Spirit Stealth Bomber soared majestically overhead. Sheryl Crow sang the national anthem. President Obama threw out the first pitch. And the American League won, like always.

But no part of the night could touch that pregame scene of Musial, 88 years old now, riding in from the outfield, the St. Louis applause all around him like humidity. He held a bright white baseball. He smiled his famous smile. They say that Musial these days has good days and bad days. This, obviously, was one of the good ones.

All around the stadium, undoubtedly, older fans tried to explain what Musial meant. It isn’t easy because, as mentioned, to explain what Musial did you really have to talk about all those things that Musial did not do.

For instance: He did not get thrown out of a single game in his career. Not one. Musial played in more than 3,000 games in his career, and he never once showed up an umpire, never once took his frustrations out on the field, never once treated the game with anything less than respect. Once, famously, he crushed a run-scoring double down the line, only to have the umpire call it foul. Several Cardinals rushed the umpire – it was obvious the guy had blown the call. The manager and a teammate were thrown out.

Musial walked back to the home plate umpire and said, “It didn’t count, huh?” When the umpire tried to apologize — he knew it was a fair ball too — Musial said “Well, there’s nothing you can do about it.” And on the next pitch, he promptly cracked a run-scoring double to precisely the same spot.

September 5, 1949

What else did he do? What else didn’t he do? Musial did not ever turn down a child’s autograph request. Harry Caray, the old Cardinals announcer, always remembered the time when on a steaming hot St. Louis day — plenty of those here — he watched Musial limp out to his car only to find a bunch of kids wanting autographs.

“Watch this,” Caray told the person with him. And Musial signed every one.
Musial did not ever take his time getting out of the batter’s box. You don’t hit 725 doubles in your life by loafing your way out of the box. You don’t lead the National League in doubles eight times and triples five times by waiting to see where your hit lands. Musial hit the ball hard, and he ran hard because that’s the way a man is supposed to play big league ball.

Musial did not take anything for granted. He grew up in Donora, Pa., at a time when the smoke from the zinc factory blocked the sky and killed anything green that tried to grow on the hillside. He did not forget. Every day, when someone would ask him how he was doing, Musial would say “Wonderful.” It was his favorite word. It was his favorite way to be.

Musial did not treat anyone as less than himself. Maybe my favorite Musial story is about the time he faced Joe Black, the Dodger pitcher, one of the first African-American pitchers in the big leagues. And when Musial stepped into the box, several of the Cardinals players started riding Joe Black, throwing racial taunts. Musial kicked at the dirt and spat and did not seem to hear a word.

After the game ended, though, Black would say that he was in the clubhouse getting dressed when he felt an arm on his shoulder. It was Musial. “I’m sorry that happened,” Musial said. “But don’t you worry about it. You’re a great pitcher. You will win a lot of games.”

Sometimes it seems like Musial’s brilliance has been lost — or, at least misplaced — in baseball history. Maybe it’s because his greatness was in his consistency — and consistency is so hard to capture. He had 1,815 hits at home and 1,815 hits on the road. He hit .300 for 16 consecutive years and won seven batting titles. He led the league in runs five times, in RBIs twice, he walked 100 times or more three times. And so on. And so on.

Then, maybe it’s because his greatness was in his class — and class is hard to capture too. Nobody has ever been more loved — by teammates and competitors alike — than Stan Musial. Nobody ever played the game with more heart.

Busch Stadium, St. Louis

Or maybe it’s just that time has gone on and all those things that Stan Musial stood for don’t matter to us as much as they once did. You worry about that sometimes, worry that sports have lost something — that our world has lost something — somewhere along the way. Then, on a warm summer night, you see Stan Musial, and you see classy young players like Albert Pujols and Joe Mauer and Curtis Granderson smiling broadly, and you hear the applause, and it all feels right again.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg and a Question of Eugenics

Does Ginsburg see eugenic culling as a compelling state interest?

By Jonah Goldberg
July 15, 2009, 0:00 a.m.

Here’s what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine: “Frankly I had thought that at the time [Roe v. Wade] was decided,” Ginsburg told her interviewer, Emily Bazelon, “there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Ruven Afanador for The New York Times

The comment, which bizarrely elicited no follow-up from Bazelon or any further coverage from the New York Times — or any other major news outlet — was in the context of Medicaid funding for abortion. Ginsburg was surprised when the Supreme Court in 1980 barred taxpayer support for abortions for poor women. After all, if poverty partly described the population you had “too many of,” you would want to subsidize it in order to expedite the reduction of unwanted populations.

Left unclear is whether Ginsburg endorses the eugenic motivation she ascribed to the passage of Roe v. Wade or whether she was merely objectively describing it. One senses that if Antonin Scalia had offered such a comment, a Times interviewer would have sought more clarity, particularly on the racial characteristics of these supposedly unwanted populations.

Regardless, Ginsburg’s certainly right that abortion has deep roots in the historic effort to “weed out” undesired groups. For instance, Margaret Sanger, the revered feminist and founder of Planned Parenthood, was a racist eugenicist of the first order. Even more perplexing: She’s become a champion of “reproductive freedom” even though she proposed a “Code to Stop Overproduction of Children,” under which “no woman shall have a legal right to bear a child without a permit.” (Poor blacks would have had a particularly hard time getting such licenses from Sanger.)

If Ginsburg does see eugenic culling as a compelling state interest, she’d be in fine company on the court. Oliver Wendell Holmes was a passionate believer in such things. In 1915, Holmes wrote in the Illinois Law Review that the “starting point for an ideal for the law” should be the “coordinated human effort . . . to build a race.”

In 1927, he wrote a letter to his friend, Harold Laski, telling him, “I . . . delivered an opinion upholding the constitutionality of a state law for sterilizing imbeciles the other day — and felt that I was getting near the first principle of real reform.” That was the year he wrote the majority opinion in Buck v. Bell (joined by Louis Brandeis) holding that forcibly sterilizing lower-class women was constitutional. In recent years, openly discussing the notion of eugenic aspects of abortion has become taboo. But as Ginsburg’s comments suggest, the taboo hasn’t eliminated the idea; it’s merely sent it underground.

To be sure, some heterodox liberals speak up. The writer Nicholas von Hoffman has written: “Free, cheap abortion is a policy of social defense. To save ourselves from being murdered in our beds and raped on the streets, we should do everything possible to encourage pregnant women who don’t want the baby and will not take care of it to get rid of the thing before it turns into a monster.”

In 1992, Ron Weddington, co-counsel in the Roe v. Wade case, wrote a letter to President-elect Clinton, imploring him to rush RU-486 — a.k.a. “the abortion pill” — to market as quickly as possible.“(Y)ou can start immediately to eliminate the barely educated, unhealthy and poor segment of our country,” Weddington insisted. All the president had to do was make abortion cheap and easy for the populations we don’t want. “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it. . . . Think of all the poverty, crime and misery . . . and then add 30 million unwanted babies to the scenario. We lost a lot of ground during the Reagan-Bush religious orgy. We don’t have a lot of time left.”

Weddington offered a clue about who, in particular, he had in mind: “For every Jesse Jackson who has fought his way out of the poverty of a large family, there are millions mired in poverty, drugs and crime.” Ah, right. Jesse Jackson. Got it.

Unlike Bazelon, I for one would like to know whether Ginsburg believes there were — or are — some populations in need of shrinking through abortion and whether she thinks such considerations have any place at the Supreme Court.

And while we’re at it, it would be interesting to know what Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor thinks about such things.

— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.

© 2009 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

Ted Williams was a great everything, but more than anything, he was The Hitter

by Jerry Izenberg
The Newark Star-Ledger
Sunday July 12, 2009, 6:30 AM

Ted Williams could do anything better than most people. And the thing he could do best of all was hit."He lived in a tunnel and he didn't let many people in." ... Mickey McDermott, Williams' former teammate

"Williams was the REAL -- as opposed to the REEL -- John Wayne.''
... Sandy Grady, USA Today

Everything that he was came into play on a day when the blue February sky over North Korea was pock marked with the deadly black punctuation marks that only a trail of anti-aircraft fire leaves. He had been there before. From the time he was called back into the service for a second war, Ted Williams flew 39 combat missions.

On this day, the reflexes and the eyesight that made him the greatest hitter in the history of baseball and the focus and patience that one day would earn him induction into the Fishing Hall of Fame, would combine to enable him to cheat death in a war that smug diplomats, safe and sound back at the United Nations a world away, would call called "a police action.''

On this day, his F-9 was ripped hard by shells designed to kill both him and his plane. His hydraulics were gone. He could not control his wheels. His radio was gone. He was physically and electronically alone. But Ted Williams, who through his whole major league career rarely swung at a bad pitch, didn't panic, and he didn't bail. Which is how, at 225 mph, he landed his burning plane, scraping its belly on the runway for 2,000 yards.

Small wonder that someone once said Ted Williams was the man John Wayne wanted to be.

He could out-hit any ballplayer who ever lived -- even though two military stints gave him exile time that triggered awesome thoughts of what his numbers could have been.

He could out-cuss any long-distance truck driver with a flat tire on Route 66 outside of Barstow, Calif.

He could out-fish almost any professional guide. A good fly-fisherman with a decent salmon rod should be able to cast 50 to 60 feet. Williams' average cast was 85 to 95 feet, he said.

Seventy years ago this season, he came to the Red Sox as a rookie. Forty one years ago, he made his debut as a major league manager. He will be celebrated at the All-Star Game on Tuesday in St. Louis and honored as the subject of an HBO documentary Wednesday at 9:30 p.m.

But in the hearts and minds of those who can see past the auras of Cobb, Aaron, Rose and DiMaggio there emerges a single undeniable truth:

Ted Williams was The Hitter.

He was 83 years old when he died in 2002, but because he was The Hitter ... the purest hitter of baseballs ever, with a .344 lifetime average. The gift of shared memory passed along will link the title and his name for as long as grown men play this spectacular little boys game called baseball.

In the pantheon of baseball artistry, The Hitter and Ted Williams are synonymous. If you don't know that, then you never saw him unleash the swing that could launch a thousand metaphors ... never saw firsthand the way he planted his left foot in the batter's box as though he were planting his own personal battle flag. And the way it stayed there, even when the catcher cocked his arm and fired the ball back to the pitcher. It was as though he had put it there to mark the perimeters of a private war.

Throw inside at him and he didn't go down. He leaned back as though the whole tableau were being played out in a kind of slow motion and he was its director.

His swing was theater and his reflexes were the kind of hair triggers that, as baseball men say only of the greatest, could pluck the pitch out of the catcher's glove.

The Hitter.

If you never had the golden gift of seeing that swing unwind before your eyes, then you were robbed by the calendar in much the way people were who were born too late to hear Isaac Stern or Charlie Parker live or to see Sir Laurence Olivier or John Gielgud do Hamlet.

The Hitter was a pure artist at what he did as much as Goya or El Greco; as much as Ernest Hemingway or Eugene O'Neill. But the poetry of baseball leaves no words and no pictures in its wake. It lives only in the blink of an eye and the special corners of memory.

How do you measure the skills and the beauty of them in action of a man who hit .400? Say he played the Met or Carnegie Hall or Broadway or his work was hung in the Louvre and then multiply by 1,000.

This was the prodigy who went from teenager to major-leaguer at a time when there were only eight teams in each league . . . who claimed and gave you no reason to doubt that he could pick up the stitches on a baseball as it roared toward home plate . . . who closed out his entire career with a walk-off home run that boggled the imagination.

And it was those special reflexes that brought him out alive in Korea after he crash-landed a flaming jet and fought it for 2,000 feet along the tarmac. That was his second tour of military service, and who knows what it ultimately cost him as a hitter of baseballs?

In the twilight of his life, The Hitter mellowed. He unexpectedly deferred to the role a media-driven history had dealt Joe DiMaggio -- even though logic and, at times, DiMaggio's overbearing attitude gave him reason to do otherwise. The Hitter, after all, was still who he was:

An obsessive individualist who was rude and angry with the media, rude and angry with the fans, rude and angry with anyone who crossed the line into his world without an invitation.

But do not let the game face deceive you.

This is who The Hitter really was:

Larry Doby is the first African-American to break into the American League. Few teammates even speak to him. Pitchers throw at him -- not to drive him away from the plate but to drive him out of the game. Now he is playing against the Red Sox for the first time. He is headed to the outfield and Williams passes him on the way in.

"Good luck, kid," he says to Doby. He looks him in the eye and he smiles.

And this also was The Hitter:

He was a tireless worker and contributor to the Jimmy Fund, a Red Sox-sponsored fund to aid children with cancer. And on so many Saturday mornings -- during which he tolerated no writers, no cameras and no publicity -- he drove the in-house train that took the kids on their hospital beds to the treatment rooms.

And this, too, was Ted Williams:

Without fanfare, he secretly chartered a plane to fulfill the request for a visit from a boy who was dying in a North Carolina hospital.

On the field, he was an artist who respected his medium. One day he argued with his manager, Joe Cronin, that home plate at Fenway had slipped off center. Cronin told him he was nuts and he was going to teach him a lesson. He brought in a surveyor. Home plate was a fraction off.

He was an outfielder who hated defense. But he played that left-field wall at Fenway, the one they call the Green Monster, like a pool hustler who knows every carom off every cushion. He was supposed to be a blase outfielder, but in 1950 he broke an elbow running into the wall during the All-Star Game at Comiskey Park -- and held the ball.

One April 16, 2004, the Red Sox unveilved the Ted Williams Jimmy Fund statue outside the Gate B entrance to Fenway Park at the corner of Ipswich and Van Ness Streets. Crafted by sculptor Franc Talarico, the 1200-pound, eight-and-a-half foot tall statue depcits Williams placing his upon the head of a young boy with cancer. it is a testament to the half-century of public appeals the late Hall of Famer made on behalf of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and its Jimmy Fund — the official charity of the Red Sox.

In 1969, he took over as manager of the expansion Washington Senators. It was a lousy ballclub. That spring I went over to Pompano Beach to watch this team take shape. They were hitting when I got there and Williams was standing behind the batting cage, shaking his head over and over, saying not a word.

When I walked over he broke his silence.

"What the hell do you want?"

"I want to talk to you?"

"What for?"

"Well, I was wondering where you stand on the Balkans and also whether your team can hit."

He turned away for a minute, poised between curiosity and anger, then turned back and said, "No, they can't hit. Let me tell you why."

He spoke for 20 nonstop minutes, never taking his eyes off the cage. Most geniuses can't tell you the "how" of what they did. But as Williams spoke he broke down every element of the eternal batter's war against the pitcher.

His team, arguably the worst in baseball going into that spring, actually finished 10 games above .500 that season.

You couldn't bottle what he knew. You couldn't bottle the kind of respect he had for his art that made him refuse to sit out the final day of a season when he could have had his .400 in the book and the way he attacked the pitchers that day to make it happen with honor.

It could be no other way.

He was The Hitter.

Slugger’s Daughter Lets Voice Be Heard

The New York Times
July 15, 2009

After Ted Williams’s death seven years ago and during the ensuing controversy over the cryonic preservation of his remains, his daughter Claudia was rarely, if ever, heard. Her brother, John Henry, was more the public figure, the one who occasionally spoke for their father and ran the Red Sox icon’s businesses. John Henry Williams died of leukemia in 2004.

But in HBO’s new documentary, “Ted Williams: There Goes the Greatest Hitter That Ever Lived” (Wednesday, 9:30 p.m. Eastern), Claudia Williams stands out from the interviewees you would expect to hear discussing her father: his teammates Bobby Doerr and Johnny Pesky; Indians pitcher Bob Feller; Richard Ben Cramer, who wrote a seminal Esquire article about Williams; and the biographers John Underwood and Leigh Montville.

In the documentary, produced by Margaret Grossi, Claudia Williams talked about the volatile relationship between her father and mother, Dolores, Williams’s third wife: “It was like two chemicals hitting each other in the chemistry lab. I mean, it either was an explosion or a wonderful creation.”

She described dealing with her tempestuous father: “It was hard to keep up with his emotions. But you needed to be a duck and let that water roll off your back. And it took awhile to, to learn that. Of course, it’s tough for a little kid to get yelled at and then five minutes later we get one of these, meaning, ‘I wanna kiss from you,’ and everything’s fine.”

Claudia Williams defended the decision to freeze her father at a facility in Scottsdale, Ariz.: “We all believed in science. And that is our personal choice. It is what holds us together, what gives us hope. And if you will, that is our faith.” Her brother is also believed to be in a tank filled with liquid nitrogen at the facility, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation.

Mary Carillo, the story editor and interviewer for the 75-minute documentary, persuaded Claudia Williams to talk. “A mutual friend helped introduce me to Claudia,” Carillo wrote in an e-mail message. She said Claudia Williams was a competitive tennis player and had watched coverage on networks for which Carillo is an analyst.

“I told her what we hoped to accomplish with the film and that in the effort we would have to discuss his complicated death along with his complicated life,” Carillo said. “She listened and understood and in a few weeks, we went to her home and sat with her and asked the questions. In the end, I suppose she trusted that we’d be good to our word.”

She added, “I also think Claudia sees her father with clear eyes.”

Carillo said that Claudia Williams had declined to speak for years because the criticism about the freezing of her father “was so ferocious, and I guess she’d felt she couldn’t fight the unrelenting ill will toward her family.”

Carillo said that Williams had also spoken to Ben Bradlee Jr., who has spent several years writing a biography of her father.

Montville said Claudia Williams was the interviewee who got away for his 2004 book, “Ted Williams: The Biography of an American Hero.” In an e-mail message, Montville said, “I had three occasions where she seemed all set to talk — two that involved trips to Florida, one where she ran the Boston Marathon — and she backed out each time.”

One person interviewed in the HBO documentary, Robert Redford, makes sense only when you hear that he modeled his character Roy Hobbs in the baseball film “The Natural” after Williams, and wore his No. 9.

“I just had him in my head as the perfect character to pattern myself after, in terms of hitting and determination and the ability to block things out and focus on just what you were there for,” Redford said.

Williams' legend built on more than numbers

HBO's documentary, to be shown Wednesday night, is a glossy reminder of why Williams lives on as much more than the last man to hit .400 in the big leagues.

By Mark Whicker
The Orange County Register
Monday, July 13, 2009

The essential Ted Williams story, as recounted by Jim Bouton in "Ball Four," happened in a batting cage before the Red Sox were to play Detroit.

With each startling echo of each line drive, Williams talked himself into fury:

"I'm Ted $#@& Williams."


"Jesus H. Christ himself couldn't get me out."


"Here comes Jim Bunning. Jim &$%*@ Bunning and that little &*#$ slider of his."


"He doesn't really think he's gonna get me out with that &#$&."


"I'm Ted %&$%# Williams."

He still is, to most of us. His goal was to make people say, "There goes the greatest hitter who ever lived," and most days he got there.

He won two Triple Crowns. No one has won one since 1967. He missed most of five seasons, thanks to World War II and Korea, and still hit 521 home runs.

He superseded the numbers but they enhance him, too. He was on base 48.2 percent of the time and had an OPS of 1.116 --- for his CAREER. And today's hitters can only gawk at Williams' 2,021 walks, set against 709 strikeouts.

In 1941 he walked 147 times and struck out 27 times, and hit .406. In 1994, a season truncated by lockout, Tony Gwynn hit .393, and in 1980 George Brett hit .390. Among the top 50 single-season BA's of all time, those are the only two that have happened since '41, and the .400 mark might become as inviolate as Joe DiMaggio's 56-game streak.

It's the equivalent of going 2 for 5 every game, in the hardest endeavor of any of our major team sports. A 2 for 20 slump, and you're pretty much cooked. It also requires health, luck, a certain amount of speed and an immunity to the public clamor in late September. If steroids really did contaminate baseball in the past 15 years or so, how come nobody hit .400?

"It will take a guy who will take his walks, because he can't give away many at-bats," Mike Scioscia said the other day, "and a guy with a solid swing without much maintenance. Everybody's looking for pitching now, but the difference is, everybody's got a guy in the long bullpen who can come in and throw in the mid-90s. I don't think that happened in Ted's era. Now the specialized relieving makes it tougher, because you see different guys in a game."

Williams insisted on playing in a goodbye doubleheader, on the final day of the '41 season, even though his average could have rounded off to .400 had he sat. That familiar tale is part of "Ted Williams," the documentary that HBO will show Wednesday night.

In perhaps the most interesting MVP race ever, Joe DiMaggio beat Ted Williams by one point for the 1947 AL MVP despite the fact that Williams won the Triple Crown. Williams' numbers -- .343, 32 home runs and 125 RBIs -- were far better than those of the "Yankee Clipper," who batted .315 with 20 home runs and 97 RBI for the pennant-winning Yankees. A writer left Williams off his ballot entirely, reportedly because of a disagreement between the two, costing the Splendid Splinter his second straight MVP award. (AP)

Tuesday's All-Star Game is the 10th anniversary of Williams' dramatic appearance at the Fenway Park midsummer classic, in which players who were born after he retired gathered around him like autograph hounds. Nolan Ryan is perhaps the only player, in the eyes of his peers, who can be called a walking monument, like Williams.

This show is factually detached, showing Williams' dismissal of family life and his misanthropic side, but sentimentally powerful. It also boasts star power, with President George H.W. Bush and Robert Redford commenting, and Redford reading John Updike's "Hub Kid Bids Fans Adieu" upon fadeout.

Updike was at Fenway in 1960 when Williams homered in his final at-bat and refused to tip his cap or wave from the dugout, then skipped out on the writers. "Gods do not answer letters," Updike observed.

(Mary Carillo, the most literary and intellectual of all TV sports analysts, was the lead interviewer and, with typical grace and propriety, stayed off-air.)

Williams' psychic pull was no less forceful even though Redford, for one, did not see him on TV. That is a lesson in itself. It's hard to be bigger than life when you're familiar. That was his problem in Boston, where he arrived with brittle emotions at 20 and never forgave fans and writers for piling on.

He was only 22 when he hit .406. Boston basically watched him fail to grow up for all those years, but teammates loved him. He was John Wayne, as biographer Leigh Montville said. And maybe with a dash of Bobby Knight.

The ugly conclusion is also examined, with daughter Claudia's steely insistence that everything happened as Ted would have wanted. Son John Henry pushed his dad to sign memorabilia nonstop, but also was there for him in a way that hadn't been reciprocated.

Ted Williams was relentlessly natural and anti-corporate, never a brand. In HBO's typically comprehensive fashion, we find ourselves learning about a man we thought we knew. And that might be the definition of journalism.

We also learn that Williams, who died in 2002, lived long enough to see .400 hold up. He also died knowing that everyone else knew who the greatest hitter was.

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