Friday, June 13, 2008
By Jonah Goldberg
June 13, 2008, 0:00 a.m.
Sen. John McCain said this week he would not drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the same reason he “would not drill in the Grand Canyon ... I believe this area should be kept pristine.”
Pristine means unspoiled, virginal, in an original state.
One wonders how pristine the Grand Canyon can be if it has roughly 5 million visitors every year, rafting, hiking, picnicking, and riding mules up one side and down the other. Campfires, RVs, and motels that do not conjure the word “virginal” ring around large swaths of it.
This isn’t to say that the Grand Canyon isn’t a beautiful place; it inspires awe among those who visit it. ANWR (pronounced “AN-wahr”) inspires awe almost entirely in those who haven’t been there. It is an environmental Brigadoon or Shangri-La, a fabled land almost no one will ever see. That is its appeal. People like the idea that there are still Edens “out there” even if they will never, ever see them.
Indeed, if Americans could visit the north coast of Alaska, as I have, as easily as they can visit the Grand Canyon, the oil would be flowing by now.
ANWR is roughly the size of South Carolina, and it is spectacular. However, the area where, according to Department of Interior estimates, some 5.7 billion to 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil reside is much smaller and not necessarily as awe-inspiring. It would amount to the size of Dulles airport.
Question for McCain: Has South Carolina been ruined because it has an airport?
Most of the images of the proposed drilling area that people see on the evening news are misleading precisely because they tend to show the glorious parts of ANWR, even though that’s not where the drilling would take place. Even when they position their cameras in the right location, producers tend to point them in the wrong direction. They point them south, toward the Brooks mountain range, rather than north, across the coastal plain where the drilling would be.
Caribou in Artic National Wildlife Refuge
In summer, the coastal plain is mostly mosquito-plagued tundra and bogs. (The leathernecks at Prudhoe Bay joke that “life begins at 40” — because at 40 degrees, clouds of mosquitoes and other pests take flight from the ocean of puddles). In the winter, it reaches 70 degrees below zero (not counting wind chill, which brings it to 120 below) and is in round-the-clock darkness.
A few years back, Jimmy Carter wrote of proposed drilling in ANWR in the New York Times: “The roar alone — of road-building, trucks, drilling and generators — would pollute the wild music of the Arctic and be as out of place there as it would be in the heart of Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon.”
The roads are made from ice, hence constructed in winter, doing no permanent damage to the environment. As for the discordant notes such activity would introduce to the Arctic symphony, I don’t know whether a falling tree makes a sound if no one is there to hear it, but I suspect that the “wild music” of the Arctic in winter is only euphonious to those — like Carter — who are not actually there to hear it.
Even in summer, people who actually live on the north coast of Alaska, like the residents of Kaktovik (just three miles north of the coastal plain where drilling might take place) overwhelmingly think good jobs in their backyard is music to their ears.
Meanwhile, is the “music” of the Grand Canyon really so pristine? Babies crying, kids chasing lizards, campers laughing, donkeys braying, cars honking: Why does this not trouble the consciences of Carter and McCain?
Perhaps it’s because the analogy between ANWR and the Grand Canyon is spurious on its face. “Pristine,” after all, is not synonymous with beautiful (there are ugly virgins), and “well-trafficked” is not the same as ugly (millions of people have seen the Sistine Chapel).
Indeed, before the age of environmental Romanticism had captured elite opinion in this country, such analogies didn’t pass the laugh test. Both the New York Times and Washington Post editorial boards enthusiastically supported drilling in ANWR in the late 1980s. The Post noted that the area “is one of the bleakest, most remote places on this continent, and there is hardly any other where drilling would have less impact on surrounding life. ...” To say such things today is to unforgivably pollute the inane music of groupthink. And that’s something even the “maverick” McCain will not do.
— Jonah Goldberg is the author of Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.
© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
The Wall Street Journal
June 12, 2008
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Charles de Gaulle once wrote off the nation of Brazil in six words: "Brazil is not a serious country." How much time is left before someone says the same of the United States?
One thing Brazil and the U.S. have in common is the price of oil: It is priced in dollars, and everyone in the world now knows what the price is. Another commonality is that each country has vast oil reserves in waters off their coastlines.
Here we may draw a line in the waves between the serious and the unserious.
Brazil discovered only yesterday (November) that billions of barrels of oil sit in difficult water beneath a swath of the Santos Basin, 180 miles offshore from Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The U.S. has known for decades that at least 8.5 billion proven barrels of oil sit off its Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts, with the Interior Department estimating 86 billion barrels of undiscovered oil resources.
When Brazil made this find last November, did its legislature announce that, for fear of oil spills hitting Rio's beaches or altering the climate, it would forgo exploiting these fields?
Of course it didn't. Guilherme Estrella, director of exploration and production for the Brazilian oil company Petrobras, said, "It's an extraordinary position for Brazil to be in." Indeed it is.
At this point in time, is there another country on the face of the earth that would possess the oil and gas reserves held by the United States and refuse to exploit them? Only technical incompetence, as in Mexico, would hold anyone back.
But not us. We won't drill.
California won't drill for the estimated 1.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil off its coast because of bad memories of the Santa Barbara oil spill - in 1969.
We won't drill for the estimated 5.6 billion to 16 billion barrels of oil in the moonscape known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) because of - the caribou.
In 1990, George H.W. Bush, calling himself "the environmental president," signed an order putting virtually all the U.S. outer continental shelf's oil and gas reserves in the deep freeze. Bill Clinton extended that lockup until 2013. A Clinton veto also threw away the key to ANWR's oil 13 years ago.
Our waters may hold 60 trillion untapped cubic feet of natural gas. As in Brazil, these are surely conservative estimates.
While Brazilians proudly embrace Petrobras, yelling "We're Going to Be No. 1," the U.S.'s Democratic nominee for president, Barack Obama, promises to impose an "excess profits tax" on American oil producers.
We live in a world in which Russia's Vladimir Putin and Venezuela's Hugo Chávez use their vast oil and gas reserves as instruments of state power. Here, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid use their control of Congress to spend a week debating a "climate-change" bill. This they did fresh off their subsidized (and bipartisan) ethanol fiasco.
One may assume that Mr. Putin and the Chinese have noticed the policy obsessions of our political class. While other nations use their oil reserves to attain world status, we give ours up. Why shouldn't they conclude that, long term, these people can be taken? Nikita Khrushchev said, "We will bury you." Forget that. We'll do it ourselves.
Putin intimidates Ukraine, Georgia, the Baltic states and Poland with oil and gas cutoffs, while Chávez uses petrodollars to bankroll Colombian terrorists. Cuba plans to exploit its Caribbean oil fields within a long tee shot of the Florida Keys with help from India, Spain, Venezuela, Canada, Norway, Malaysia, even Vietnam. But America won't drill. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said just last month he's afraid of an oil spill. Katrina wrecked the oil rigs in the Gulf with no significant damage from leaking oil.
Some portion of the current $4-per-gallon gasoline may be attributable to the Federal Reserve's inflationary monetary policy or even speculators. But we can wave goodbye to the $1.25/gallon gasoline that in 1990 allowed a President Bush to airily lock away the nation's oil and gas jewels. This isn't your father's world of energy. New world powers are coming online fast, and they need energy. We need to get back in the game.
The goal shouldn't be "energy independence," a ridiculous notion in an economically integrated world. It's about admitting the need to strike a balance between the energy and security realities of the here-and-now and the potentialities of the future. Some of our best and brightest want to pursue alternative energy technologies, and they should be encouraged to do so, inside market disciplines. But let's at least stop pretending the rest of the world is going to play along with our environmentalist moralisms.
The Democrats' climate-change bill collapsed last week under the weight of brutal cost realities. It was a wake-up call. This is the year Americans joined the real world of energy costs. Now someone needs to explain to them why we - and we alone - are sitting on an ocean of energy but won't drill for it.
You'd think the "national security" nominee, John McCain, would get this. He's clueless - a don't-drill zombie. We may mark this down as the year the U.S. tired of being a serious country.
Daniel Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page.
The Wall Street Journal
June 12, 2008
Detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
"The Nation will live to regret what the Court had done today," Justice Antonin Scalia writes at the end of his dissent in Boumediene v. Bush, the case in which a bare majority of the Supreme Court, for the first time ever, extended rights under the U.S. constitution to enemy combatants who have never set foot on U.S. soil.
It's worth noting that the nation has lived to regret things the court has done in earlier wars. In Schenck v. U.S. (1919), the court upheld the conviction of a Socialist Party leader for distributing an anticonscription flier during World War I--material that would unquestionably be protected by the First Amendment under Brandenburg v. Ohio (1969). In Korematsu v. U.S. (1944), the court held that the government had the authority to ban Japanese-Americans from certain areas of California, simply on the ground that their ethnic heritage rendered their loyalty suspect. Korematsu has never been overturned, but there is no doubt that it would be in the vanishingly unlikely event that the question ever came up again.
This war was different. Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, we began hearing dire warnings about threats to civil liberties. Five members of the high court seem to have internalized these warnings. As Justice Anthony Kennedy put it in his majority opinion today, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." Kennedy and his colleagues seemed determined to err on the side of an expansive interpretation of constitutional rights.
And err they did. As Justice Scalia writes:
[Today's decision] will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. That consequence would be tolerable if necessary to preserve a time-honored legal principle vital to our constitutional Republic. But it is this Court's blatant abandonment of such a principle that produces the decision today.
In establishing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, President Bush relied on a Supreme Court precedent of more than a half century's standing, Johnson v. Eisentrager (1950), which held that nonresident alien enemy combatants had no right to habeas corpus. As Scalia explains:
Had the law been otherwise, the military surely would not have transported prisoners [to Guantanamo], but would have kept them in Afghanistan, transferred them to another of our foreign military bases, or turned them over to allies for detention. Those other facilities might well have been worse for the detainees themselves.
This points to a key limitation in today's ruling. The majority distinguished Guantanamo from the facility at issue in Eisentrager--a U.S.-administered prison in occupied Germany--on the ground that although the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is technically on Cuban territory, America exercises "complete jurisdiction and control" over it. Thus, detainees have constitutional rights pursuant to today's ruling only if they are held at Guantanamo.
What does Boumediene mean in practice? Almost all Guantanamo detainees already have lawyers and have petitioned for habeas corpus. Those cases will go forward in the Washington, D.C., federal trial court. The judges there will have to settle on a standard of proof, and to rule on such tricky questions as how much classified material the government is obliged to provide to terrorists and their lawyers. Since the military's existing procedures are already overly lenient--Scalia lists several cases of released detainees showing up on the battlefield--it seems unlikely that many detainees will end up winning release.
Both Barack Obama and John McCain have said they want to close down Guantanamo, and this ruling makes that outcome more likely. There is little advantage to the U.S. in sending enemy combatants to a facility where they will immediately be able to lawyer up, and indeed, Guantanamo has admitted few new detainees in the past several years. A notable exception occurred in 2006, when President Bush transferred Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and a dozen or so other "high value" detainees there--a dramatic action that helped galvanize Congress to pass the Detainee Treatment Act This turns out to have been a mistake. KSM & Co. now have "constitutional rights." Had they been kept where they were, wherever that was, this would not be the case.
It's possible that Scalia is wrong when he predicts more Americans will die as a result of this ruling. It may be that al Qaeda is a weak enough enemy that America can vanquish it even with the Supreme Court tying one hand behind our back. Anyway, keeping future detainees away from Guantanamo should prevent them from coming within the reach of the justices' pettifogging.
Perhaps decades from now we will learn that detainees ended up being abused in some far-off place because the government closed Guantanamo in response to judicial meddling. Even those who support what the court did today may live to regret it.
Fair-Weather Civil Libertarians
The New York Times's initial coverage of the Boumediene decision is written by David Stout, not Linda Greenhouse, so it's fairly muted. But it still depicts the ruling in the predictable way: "a historic decision on the balance between personal liberties and national security . . . a harsh rebuke of the Bush administration." Greenhouse has accepted an early-retirement buyout from the Times, but she did write as recently as Tuesday, so we assume she's still working and will cover the decision in her characteristically over-the-top fashion in tomorrow's paper.
But the Times is not always so enthusiastic about civil liberties. Today it published an article by Adam Liptak on the prosecution of Mark Steyn before a Canadian "human rights" tribunal. Steyn is charged with employing words to hurt the feelings of Muslims--i.e., with exercising what we Americans call the right to free speech. But instead of sounding the alarm about the Canadian assault on civil liberties, Liptak emphasizes how different America is from the rest of the world. His tone is not approving:
"In much of the developed world, one uses racial epithets at one's legal peril, one displays Nazi regalia and the other trappings of ethnic hatred at significant legal risk, and one urges discrimination against religious minorities under threat of fine or imprisonment," Frederick Schauer, a professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, wrote in a recent essay called "The Exceptional First Amendment."
"But in the United States," Professor Schauer continued, "all such speech remains constitutionally protected."
Canada, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, South Africa, Australia and India all have laws or have signed international conventions banning hate speech. Israel and France forbid the sale of Nazi items like swastikas and flags. It is a crime to deny the Holocaust in Canada, Germany and France. . . .
Some prominent legal scholars say the United States should reconsider its position on hate speech.
"It is not clear to me that the Europeans are mistaken," Jeremy Waldron, a legal philosopher, wrote in The New York Review of Books last month, "when they say that a liberal democracy must take affirmative responsibility for protecting the atmosphere of mutual respect against certain forms of vicious attack."
Professor Waldron was reviewing "Freedom for the Thought That We Hate: A Biography of the First Amendment" by Anthony Lewis, the former New York Times columnist. Mr. Lewis has been critical of efforts to use the law to limit hate speech.
But even Mr. Lewis, a liberal, wrote in his book that he was inclined to relax some of the most stringent First Amendment protections "in an age when words have inspired acts of mass murder and terrorism." In particular, he called for a re-examination of the Supreme Court's insistence that there is only one justification for making incitement a criminal offense: the likelihood of imminent violence.
Liptak is unfair to Lewis, who in his book (see page 167) makes clear that he seeks only to lower the threshold for "imminent violence," not to create other categories of unprotected speech:
I think we should be able to punish speech that urges terrorist violence to an audience some of whose members are ready to act on the urging. That is imminence enough.
What the Steyn case illustrates, however, is how the foes of Western civilization seek to use hate-speech laws to silence criticism of radical Islam. The First Amendment renders America largely immune from this tactic. In this case, civil liberties and national security are in complete accord. How telling that in this case the Times's usual ardor for the former is so dampened.
Conservative talk radio -- one of the most potent forces in US politics -- could be neutered by a return of the “Fairness Doctrine” unless Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) is able to get 28 more signatures on his “discharge petition” to force a House floor vote.
The so-called “Fairness Doctrine” -- initiated in the 1930s under Franklin Roossevelt -- enabled the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the content of radio and later television programming. In its heyday, it proved effective in keeping nearly all conservative opinion off the air.
Part of former President Ronald Reagan’s legacy included ridding America of the Fairness Doctrine. When the measure was shelved in the 80’s, free speech went live and conservatives were no longer shut out of mass broadcast media. Radio truly became a free market.
The “Fairness Doctrine” could be revived by liberal appointments to the Federal Communications Commission, certain to happen if Barack Obama is elected this November. (It has been upheld by the Supreme Court, though it could be susceptible to further challenges.)
At a press conference yesterday, Pence urged members of Congress to sign a discharge petition that will bring the Broadcaster Freedom Act to a vote on the House floor.
When members of the 110th Democratic Congress picked up the Fairness Doctrine as their issue last year, Pence devised The Broadcaster Freedom Act to oppose this potential censorship.
The BFA would prevent the FCC from implementing regulations and prohibitions on broadcasters, and would ensure that no future President could reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.
As it stands, the measure has been shelved because Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to schedule a vote. She and the rest of the Congressional Dems would rather let time run out in the term in hopes that a Democrat president -- assuming Barack Obama --would veto it and appoint liberals to the FCC.
Pence called for members to sign the discharge petition, which will force a vote, before July 4, in order to “declare support for freedom.”
If 218 members sign the petition members can demand a vote. Pence said he is confident the Act will pass because “freedom always wins on the House of the floor of the people.”
2004 "Communists for Kerry" rally
Almost every Republican signed onto the BFA when it was introduced but not one Democrat budged. Republicans Timothy V. Johnson (Ill.), Ralph Regula (Ohio) and Shelley Moore Capito (W.V.) have yet to sign the petition.
Renowned conservative radio host Laura Ingraham said she will stand against the FD as the BFA is “imperiled” by these Democrat Congressmen and Senators.
“This is nothing more than an attempt to have government regulate one of the most effective forms of political discussion today,” said Ingraham, who ended her comments with a pledge: “out of my cold, dead hands.”
Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, joined Pence at the conference to recommend a new website -- hypocrisycaucus.com -- so voters can see “which politicians wake up every morning and lie to them on this issue.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner encouraged constituents to contact their member of Congress and hold them accountable for their part in the BFA. Boehner called the stalling of the Act in the House “bizarre” and said there was nothing “fair” about the Fairness Doctrine.
Brent Bozell, President of the Media Research Center, called the FD a “real threat to free speech” and lambasted the four decades when the broadcast wing of America was “chilled and silenced” until it was lifted in 1985.
“With the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, conservatives found a home in broadcast,” Bozell said. “The leftist ideas have no market there.”
Craig Parshall, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Religious Broadcasters, took the stage as well, noting a recent trip to the Netherlands that he thought might preview America’s future.
Parshall said that politically incorrect statements in the Netherlands are reported to the government and imposing the Fairness Doctrine here would only be a “thinly disguised form of tyranny.”
Republicans need the support of every member, including some moderate Democrats willing to take a stand.
“We want to challenge the House Democrats to take a stand for freedom and be a signer,” said Pence, who urged everyone to “cherish the dynamic forum that is American talk radio.”
Ms. Andersen is a news producer and reporter for HUMAN EVENTS. She previously interned for The Washington Examiner newspaper. She has appeared on MSNBC live and been a guest on the Lars Larson radio show and the Jim Bohannon radio show. She wrote for the Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University's daily newspaper. E-mail her at email@example.com.
By Eric Peters
The American Spectator
Published 6/12/2008 12:07:48 AM
The Hummer is history.
GM is desperately looking for a place to unload the brand that, literally, almost no one wants anymore. Even the littlest Hummer -- the H3 -- has become a hard sell in an era of $4 per gallon regular unleaded.
Total Hummer sales (all models) have fallen to a dismal 10 percent or so of what they were at the height of the cheap gas bubble -- 75,939 units circa 2005-2006 -- and GM probably feels like a farm dog with a dead chicken tied around its neck right about now.
The scent of death was in the air as long ago as 2006, when GM dropped the hugest Hummer, the military-based H1 that Arnold used to parade around in. That year, only 376 were sold -- a canary in the coal mine if ever there was one.
GM should have taken the hint -- and folded the entire Hummer line right then. Instead, it tossed a V-8 into the formerly in-line five-cylinder powered H3 -- apparently figuring that just what the market wanted was even worse gas mileage.
Sales of the littlest Hummer have predictably tanked.
Ditto the second-largest Hummer, the Chevy Suburban-based H2. GM has managed to get rid of only about 3,000 of them so far this year -- $100 fill-ups and 15 mpg have become about as appealing as a saggy 60-something Arnold in a speedo.
Three years ago, GM might have shaken some loose change out of Hummer. Too late for that now. There will be layoffs and plant closings -- and tax write-offs.
HUMMER OWNERS themselves (the few, the proud, the profligate) will be left to rumble around in their outre modern-day equivalents of chocolate brown metallic, landau-roofed '68 Sedan de Villes circa 1975: ungainly relics of a time still within living memory but fading fast.
You'd see one of the old dreadnoughts every now and again, turn to look, and marvel at the spectacle. Did people really drive those things?
For GM, the Hummer's demise is more serious. Because it's not just Hummers that are going away but in all likelihood, just about every vehicle that's like them. And with that goes GM's -- and Detroit's -- profitability.
The whole business is built on big SUVs and pick-ups. GM hasn't made money on small cars in years. Maybe a few hundred bucks per at the retail level. Inside the biz, such cars were referred to with great contempt as "loss leaders" -- and built for the sole reason of making GM's overall fuel economy track record look a little bit better than it would have otherwise.
No, the money was in big SUVs -- which had profit margins (at peak) of several thousand dollars per vehicle. There was more cash to be made selling one GMC Yukon Denali than half a dozen Chevy Cobalts. Who could resist such a mountain of cash?
Not GM (and not Ford, either). That's why Detroit spent the '90s cranking out as many big SUVs as possible -- and thinking up new models that would be even more colossal, and profitable, while relegating small car development to some distant, hopefully never-to-arrive manana.
THUS IT HAS COME to pass that GM, Ford, and Chrysler all find themselves several days late -- and as a result, many dollars short. All three have reported double-digit downturns lately.
GM is throttling back its total truck/SUV production capacity by more than 700,000 vehicles annually -- which is huge. But then, so is the $38.7 billion GM lost last year. The automaker hasn't made a net profit since 2004.
And it's bound to get worse the higher gas prices go -- because all three lack top-tier small cars and are still playing catch-up on the hybrid and electric vehicle front.
GM, for example, has a plug-in electric car (the Volt) on the way. But it won't get here for another two years. And reports are that GM will want $40,000 a copy, too.
Meanwhile, arch-nemesis Toyota has been selling its Prius hybrid for ten years now. It has a fleet of highly successful small cars -- and is literally swimming in black ink. Industry watchers believe Toyota has enough cash lying around to buy the corpse of GM and pick its bones clean.
Sic gloria transit mundi.
- Eric Peters is an automotive columnist and author of Automotive Atrocities (MBI).
By George Neumayr
The American Spectator
Published 6/12/2008 12:08:28 AM
Actor Clint Eastwood arrives at a screening, celebrating the DVD box set release of the "Dirty Harry" film franchise, as he walks past a poster promoting the DVD in Los Angeles May 29, 2008. Eastwood starred as Inspector Harry Callahan in five films featuring his character starting with the 1971 film "Dirty Harry.
" REUTERS/Fred Prouser (UNITED STATES)
Soviet propagandists used technology to take the politically inexpedient out of photos. Hollywood propagandists now demand that the politically favored be put into them.
Clint Eastwood, not adopting the proper mindset of political correctness, failed to picture blacks in his recent World War II movies playing a prominent role at Iwo Jima, for which he has been rebuked by fellow director Spike Lee.
"Clint Eastwood made two films about Iwo Jima that ran for more than four hours total, and there was not one Negro actor on the screen," Lee said to the press last month at a Cannes film festival press conference. "In his version of Iwo Jima, Negro soldiers did not exist."
Eastwood then compounded his sin by assuming that historical accuracy is an acceptable defense. "Has he ever studied history? [African-American soldiers] didn't raise the flag," Eastwood said. "If I go ahead and put an African-American actor in there, they'd say, 'This guy's lost his mind.'"
Lee countered Eastwood's alleged racism with a dollop of ageism. "He sounds like an angry old man out there," said the angry middle-aged director.
France's 1960s screen icon Brigitte Bardot, seen here in 2007, received a 15,000-euro (23,000 dollar) fine on Tuesday for inciting hatred against Muslims.
MEANWHILE, ANOTHER insufficiently enlightened aging and angry Hollywood star found herself in a French court for racial hate speech. On Tuesday, Brigitte Bardot was convicted of a charge of provoking discrimination, fined $23,325 and told to pay $1,555 in damages to an anti-racism group.
She had written that the influx of Muslims was damaging French culture and not even the left-wing origin of her criticism -- as an animal-rights activist, she dislikes the Muslim feast of Aid el-Kebir which involves "slaughtering sheep," reports Associated Press -- could spare her from punishment for incorrect thinking and speaking.
Voltaire claimed he'd fight to the death for free speech. His intellectual children fine people for it.
But there is one aging star in which Hollywood and French society can take pride: Roman Polanski. With HBO's documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired this week, his rehabilitation continues apace.
Hollywood finds it odd that people still hold his illegal sexual congress with a13-year-old against him. It is not like he engaged in hate speech.
The upshot of the documentary is that this honored figure in France -- he fled to Paris in 1977 -- was hounded out of America by an irresponsible press corps and judiciary. True, the judge in the case, Laurence Rittenband, was baldly unprofessional, making Judge Ito look almost circumspect.
But what's most striking about the affair, even in this documentary's pro-Polanski telling, was the 1970s-style indulgence of his conduct. For acts that today would land someone in jail for over 40 years, he got a little more than 40 days, during which time he was in protective custody and scribbling out notes for an upcoming movie.
In fact, Rittenband was prepared to give him a probation sentence until Polanski showed him up in the press by partying during a gap in the trial at an Oktoberfest event in Germany.
Polish-born French director Roman Polanski, center, arrives with French Culture Minister Christine Albanel, left, and French actress Valerie Lemercier for the award ceremony at the 61st International film festival in Cannes, southern France, on Sunday, May 25, 2008.
(AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
THE DOCUMENTARY HAS almost a whimsical quality to it, with dashes of moral equivalence sprinkled throughout.
Los Angeles, for all its famous transience, seems changeless in it: correspondents still on the air appear in the footage with longer sideburns, playing the same silly roles in a celebrity circus that would reassemble in the O.J. trial and innumerable others. Even the detective made famous by the O.J. trial, Phil Vannater, appears in the documentary, having served on the Polanski case.
It falls to Vannater to note stolidly to the sympathetic documentarians that Polanski did after all have sex with a 13-year-old (and was charged with five other serious offenses which were dropped). Perhaps it helped Polanski that he looked like he was 13 too.
The only real lesson gleaned from the documentary is that in Hollywood talent and charisma are the most powerful forms of protection and absolution, and that the only sins it treats as unforgivable (the footage of stars jumping to their feet at the Oscars to applaud Polanski in absentia when he won best director for The Pianist contrasts nicely with their sullen sitting during Elia Kazan's award) are ideological ones.
- George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.
Posted on Wed, Jun. 11, 2008
By ARMANDO SALGUERO
The Miami Herald
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 10: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers matches up against Ray Allen #20 of the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 10, 2008 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)
If he didn't start the debate, Kobe Bryant certainly joined in when he told a national TV audience he wants ``to be the best, simple and plain.''
Bryant added to his case for being considered the NBA's all-time greatest player by scoring nine points in the final seven minutes to lift the Lakers to a Game 3 victory over Boston in the NBA Finals.
The championship series renews Thursday and, no doubt, so shall Bryant's reach for the individual title he apparently covets as much as another championship.
And there is little argument Kobe Bryant deserves to be in the theoretical debate over who is the NBA's all-time greatest player. By the time he is finished, Bryant might indeed be right there with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell and Julius Erving and some others.
But that is as far as Bryant has gotten. He is merely in the conversation. He is not anywhere near being the subject of that conversation.
That would be Michael Jordan.
It has been only a decade since Jordan left the Chicago Bulls at the end of the team's second three-peat in eight years. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the people who cover the NBA today or fancy themselves experts on the sport are obsessed with identifying Air's heir.
That is why Vince Carter and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James ebb and flow in popularity. It seems when any is making a push for an NBA title, he must logically be the next Michael Jordan.
None is, of course. And neither is Kobe.
THE NEXT BIG THING
He is the next big thing -- again -- because his team is in the NBA Finals again.
Sure, you heard talk of Kobe taking Jordan's mantle when the Lakers won three consecutive titles earlier this decade, but that soon faded, didn't it?
When Shaquille O'Neal was dealt to the Heat, when the Lakers dropped out of contention and Bryant got busy pleading innocent to sexual assault charges or pleading to be traded, there wasn't a grand debate about him being better than Jordan.
But now Bryant is hot again because he is in living rooms all across America again. Suddenly we remember that he is a gifted player because he is leading a good team to the title's doorstep.
Suddenly we remember he once scored 81 points in a game, and we believe that anoints him the next Jordan.
But what about the things we seem to forget?
Those 81 points, though impressive, came against a 55-loss Toronto team with no All-Star on the roster. When Jordan scored 63 points against Boston, it came in the playoffs, against the eventual world champions, after which Bird compared Jordan to God.
It has become easy in today's shrinking-planet Internet age to lift up the now and dismiss yesterday. It has become easy to view things in a vacuum of current events, with little regard for history.
But let me jar your memory about Michael Jordan.
In December 1987, he scored 44 points against Houston and, while doing so, blocked shots by Hakeem Olajuwan and Ralph Sampson and finished the game with more blocks than the two 7-footers combined.
In May 1989, the Pistons were headed toward the NBA title, but Jordan didn't know that at the time. He guaranteed that the upstart Bulls would win Game 1 of their Eastern Conference playoff series against Detroit.
In the 1993 NBA Finals, Jordan scored at least 40 points in four consecutive games. The Bulls beat Phoenix.
In only his fifth game back from an 18-month baseball hiatus, Jordan traveled to Madison Square Garden and scored 55 against the Knicks. With the game at stake, Jordan rose for a shot and instead passed to Bulls center Bill Wennington, who converted an open, game-winning layup.
''Michael is probably the only player in the world who can score 55 points and his biggest play of the game is a pass,'' Wennington said.
That was, by the way, Jordan floating toward the rim in the 1991 Finals against Los Angeles when two Lakers met him mid-flight. Jordan, tongue wagging, shifted the ball from his right hand to his left hand while the two defenders returned to Earth.
Still above the rim, Jordan laid the ball in, and the Bulls' championship dynasty was born.
The run ended in June 1998 when Jordan stole the ball and connected on a championship-winning jump shot against Utah. Jordan held the follow-through pose for a memorable, magical moment.
It was amazing then. It remains amazing today.
So no one should forget -- not even when we're watching Kobe Bryant or the next guy whose goal is to be the greatest player of all time.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sophia Loren (here with Robert Hossein) plays a Parisian laundress in “Madame Sans-Gêne,” directed by Christian-Jaque.
By DAVE KEHR
The New York Times
Published: June 10, 2008
These days, all it takes to be labeled a diva is to release a couple of pop albums in a row and exhibit some bad behavior in public. But at least two extraordinary examples of the genuine article continue to walk the earth: Sophia Loren, 73, and Catherine Deneuve, 64. This week Lionsgate Entertainment honors these two near-mythological figures of the European cinema with boxed sets of seldom-seen films.
Catherine Deneuve, as a glum anesthesiologist, and Patrick Dewaere in André Téchiné’s “Hotel America” (1981).
Although their careers overlap — Ms. Loren’s first film dates from 1950, Ms. Deneuve’s from 1957 — they represent two very different traditions. Both have regularly crossed the Alps, Ms. Loren to appear in French-language films and Ms. Deneuve in Italian ones, but they seem to belong to sovereign territories of their own, which barely have diplomatic relations.
Lorenland is a proletarian world of workers and peasants, defined by spontaneity and sensuality, a world of broad comedy and even broader melodrama. The petit principality of Deneuve is the Monaco of movies: a primarily urban environment of designer boutiques and chic restaurants, in which emotions are muffled and sex discreet (and frequently unhappy).
Where Ms. Loren is a pagan goddess, all bosom and hips, with almond eyes and pillowy lips, Ms. Deneuve is a perfectly proportioned Renaissance angel, thin-lipped, wide-eyed and enveloped in a nimbus of golden hair. Ms. Loren has the imposing physical presence of a monumental statue; Ms. Deneuve the exquisite, pocket-size beauty of a cameo brooch. Ms. Loren invites us to live more intensely in our world; Ms. Deneuve exists in another space entirely, one surrounded by velvet ropes, and she’s not sure she wants to share it at all.
Sophia Loren in Boccaccio '70 (1962). (credit: Brown Brothers)
Ms. Loren began as a bit player (she can be glimpsed as a slave girl in the MGM “Quo Vadis,” filmed in Rome in 1951), and it took her several years to assemble a star persona. Even as directors discovered her remarkable physical gifts, it took them a while to figure out what to do with them. The oldest film in the “Sophia” boxed set, Ettore Giannini’s kitschy Technicolor tribute to Neapolitan song, “Carosello Napoletano” (1954), takes Loren’s statuesque quality almost literally. As the most beautiful girl in 19th-century Naples, she poses rigidly for a photographer, an object to be contemplated. She is barely more animated in “Attila” (also 1954), a sword-and-sandals adventure directed by Pietro Francisci (whose 1958 “Hercules” would turn this most distinctive of Italian genres into an international phenomenon), in which she plays a scheming Roman aristocrat opposite Anthony Quinn as the well-known Hun.
Sophia Loren and Vittorio De Sica
Ms. Loren really came into her own in another 1954 film, Vittorio De Sica’s “Gold of Naples” (not part of the present collection, but said to be a coming Criterion release). In a single traveling shot, held an outrageously long time, De Sica simply records the astounding sight of an ungirdled Ms. Loren, playing a Neapolitan pizza-maker, as she walks the length of a crowded street, moving in ways that definitely do not bring marble to mind. Galatea had come to life, and Ms. Loren, with this one image, became a star.
The Lionsgate set flashes forward to 1962 and the French-Italian co-production “Madame Sans-Gêne,” a costume adventure that represents one of the last flowerings of the French “tradition of quality,” with direction by Christian-Jaque. Ms. Loren, spilling out of a low-cut peasant blouse that defies several laws of physics, is a Parisian laundress who befriends a tiny Corsican colonel during the French Revolution and rises to the nouveau aristocracy under the empire, without losing her bawdy forthrightness.
By this point Ms. Loren had already passed through Hollywood (most gloriously in George Cukor’s 1960 “Heller in Pink Tights”) and won an Oscar under De Sica’s direction (for the pompous “Two Women”), yet here she seems to be playing a caricature of Italy’s über-diva Anna Magnani. There is much hearty laughter with hands on hips — and not a whole lot else. The Lionsgate set builds to an anticlimax with De Sica’s tedious, saccharine “Sunflower” (1970), among the least engaging of the many films in which Ms. Loren appeared with Marcello Mastroianni.
The Deneuve collection begins with a genuine curiosity, Jean Aurel’s 1968 “Manon 70.” Based on the 1731 novel by Antoine François Prévost, as updated into a best-selling novel by Cécil Saint-Laurent, the popular (and pseudonymous) author of a long series of historical bodice-rippers, the film offers Ms. Deneuve as a sort of contemporary courtesan, dressed in Op-Pop Ungaro outfits accessorized by oversize sunglasses.
Manon pings capriciously among assorted wealthy lovers (one is played in deadly earnest by the gifted American comic actor Robert Webber) until she discovers her grand amour, a self-serious journalist (Sami Frey) who destroys his career in order to support her in the jet-setting style to which she has become accustomed. Very much a film of its unsettled time, “Manon 70” strenuously draws parallels between the libertines of the 18th century and the sexual revolutionaries of the 1960s, frequently to unconsciously comic effect.
The downside to being Catherine Deneuve is that no matter how she is cast, she invariably ends up playing the Most Beautiful Woman in the World, seldom an interesting role. Directors have tried to cope with this in different ways over the years. Most struggle unsuccessfully to deglamorize her: In “Le Choc,” a 1982 thriller included here, the director Robin Davis gets some kind of a prize for casting her as the proprietress of a provincial turkey farm (which does not prevent Alain Delon, as a hit man on the run, from falling madly in love with her); in “Le Sauvage,” Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s popular comedy from 1975 set on a tropical island, gives her a sunburn, takes away her couture and dumps her in the drink. (She is little more than a guest star in Alain Corneau’s “Fort Saganne,” a heavy 1984 military epic with Gérard Depardieu, which is also in the Lionsgate box.)
Among Ms. Deneuve’s more recent directors, André Téchiné seems to have found the best solutions to her excess of attractiveness. In the 1981 “Hotel America,” the first of five films they have made together (and by far the best in this collection), he shifts the burden of glamour from her to her male co-star, the wide-eyed, childlike Patrick Dewaere.
Ms. Deneuve is the glum, dowdy Hélène, an anesthesiologist no less, who has come to the resort town of Biarritz to get over the death of her fiancé. Mr. Dewaere is an irresistibly helpless local, a painfully sensitive dreamer who lives in a room in his mother’s small hotel. Although he makes the first advances, soon it is Ms. Deneuve who is pursuing him, rationalizing his emotional upheavals and capricious changes of mind (he’s Manon 81), while she functions as the center of stability. For once, she is not an object of desire but an individual afflicted by desires of her own. The reversal makes her human.
(Lionsgate, $39.98 each box set, not rated)
New York Post
June 11, 2008
Feinstein: Reluctantly privatizing the Senate's food services.
Al Gore claims that "good enough for government work" once implied that such work met the highest standards of excellence. Maybe. But in the US Senate's kitchens, "good enough for government work" means any meal that doesn't require a stomach pump.
The first time I was invited to the Senate for lunch, I was jazzed to sup in the corridors of power. But my meal seemed to have sat under a heat lamp since LBJ was running the place. I felt more like Robert Redford in the 1980 film "Brubaker," where the prison food often moves on its own.
As befits a government-run commissary, the Senate cafeteria has a decidedly Soviet attitude toward variety. It has averaged only two new menu items a year over the last decade. The food is so bad, every lunch hour Senate staffers rush to the House side of the Capitol like starving New Yorkers of the future storming the last Soylent Green vendor.
According to auditors, the chain of restaurants run by the Senate food service, including the snooty Senate Dining Room, has almost never been in the black. It's lost more than $18 million since 1993 and dropped about $2 million this year alone. If the food service doesn't get an emergency bridge loan of a quarter-million dollars, it won't be able to make payroll.
So how will the Senate fix the problem? Well, with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein taking the lead, the Democrats - that's right, the Democrats - have called a classic Republican play: Privatize it.
The House of Representatives made the switch in the 1980s, and its food service is now better. And profitable: The House has made $1.2 million in commissions since 2003. The Senate has taken 20 years to follow suit.
This was a painful decision for many Democrats who believe that privatization can't be justified simply because it delivers better service and higher quality for less money. "What about the workers?" they cried. Apparently, some Democrats feel that the top priority in the restaurant business is to generate paychecks for people who are bad at their jobs.
Feinstein, head of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, was forced to deal with reality. "It's cratering," The Washington Post quoted her as saying. "Candidly, I don't think the taxpayers should be subsidizing something that doesn't need to be. There are parts of government that can be run like a business and should be run like businesses."
Yes, yes, go on, Dianne. Run with that thought. Explore it, as the therapists say.
Perhaps you might meditate on the District of Columbia's public school system, which spends roughly $14,000 a pupil in exchange for one of the worst educations in the country. Every year, one of the greatest mysteries in the nation's capital is whether textbooks have been delivered to the right kids, or even to the right schools. It can take until Christmas to get it all worked out. FedEx Corp., meanwhile, can tell you where any of its millions of packages are in more than 100 countries, right now. (Why not just FedEx the textbooks to the kids?)
Or you might ponder the hilarious example of New York's OTB. For most of the last 40 years, these state-run betting parlors have actually lost money. Apparently, the house always wins - except when the government is the bookie.
Look wherever you like, it's not as if there's a shortage of examples. And more are on the way.
Indeed, all augurs point to a tsunami of government ambition in the years ahead, particularly if Barack Obama wins in November. Obama promises a national health-insurance plan overseen by the kith and kin who serve the Senate its navy bean soup.
He believes that the failure of public schools - like DC's - is largely attributable to the under-funding of education. DC's schools already are among the best-funded and worst schools in the country. By all means, let's have more of the same!
Feinstein, to her credit, witnessed an abject failure of government right under her nose - on her plate, in fact - and did something about it. "It's clearly not the sort of thing that I ran for the Senate to do," she said, according to the Post. "But somebody has to do it."
Alas, the possibility that she or her colleagues will make a similar call about anything that doesn't affect them directly in less than another 20 years seems too much to hope for.
By JASON WHITLOCK
The Kansas City Star
The Lakers’ Kobe Bryant was in full Kobe form on Tuesday night, putting up a shot over the Celtics’ Paul Pierce in the second half. Bryant finished with 36 points. The Celtics lead the series 2-1.
LOS ANGELES | The system is broken, and David Stern’s belittling of disgraced and criminal former NBA ref Tim Donaghy won’t fix the officiating crisis undermining the credibility of all big-time sports.
The system is broken, and the one “media” organization — ESPN — that could provide significant pressure to enact dramatic change from sports leagues is in partner$hip with the leagues in question.
Stern and the NBA soldiered on Tuesday night, conducting game three of the Celtics-Lakers finals series at Staples Center as though Donaghy’s most recent media maneuver didn’t question the legitimacy of the proceeding.
Donaghy, who is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to betting on and manipulating games he worked, alleged in court filings that two referees in a 2002 Lakers-Kings playoff series favored the Lakers in game six to ensure extending the best-of-seven series to seven games.
The game was one of the most controversial in recent NBA history. The Lakers shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter alone. Journalists covering the contest labeled it horribly one-sided officiating. Then-Kings coach Rick Adelman blasted the officiating.
Donaghy’s court document also alleged that top league officials instructed the refs to avoid calling technical fouls and fouling out big stars. Donaghy also claimed that the league manipulated games to increase ticket sales and ratings.
His charges couldn’t be more perfectly timed. Game two of the current series was marred by the huge free-throw disparity enjoyed by the Celtics. As predicted by longtime and casual NBA followers, the Lakers benefitted from favorable officiating Tuesday night in their 87-81 victory.
Kobe Bryant shot 18 free throws Tuesday, which is eight more than the entire Lakers team attempted in game two.
Game three was an awful mess. The Celtics shot 35 percent from the field. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett combined to shoot eight of 35 from the field. The Lakers connected on just 43 percent from the field. Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol combined for 13 points on five-of-18 shooting. Both teams were terrible from the free-throw stripe. Four players broke double-figure scoring and only three players — Kobe Bryant, Ray Allen and Sasha Vujacic — played at a high level.
“It was not a beautiful ballgame,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson admitted. “Hopefully, both of us will play better basketball on Thursday night.”
Yeah, they need to, because Tuesday’s game is hardly worth discussing. Donaghy and his allegations were a much more relevant topic. They are not as easy to dismiss as Stern would lead you to believe.
“This is criminal activity that Tim Donaghy has admitted to, and this is sour grapes,” Stern said. “… Because a convicted felon said something about his colleagues in order to lower his time away, am I worried about that? I’m worried that someone is out there saying it, but you’re the one who will either deal with it or not as part of the media.”
Stern is worried about the media. Why?
ESPN, the worldwide leader, has no real interest in exhaustively examining Donaghy’s allegations. Not when there is a Barry Bonds or O.J. Mayo or Miguel Tejada to embarrass and expose.
Why hold a league’s billion-dollar feet to the fire and jeopardize a lucrative relationship when you can cherry-pick cheating and lying athletes to blame for sports’ ills?
As Stern said countless times, there was nothing really new about Donaghy’s allegations. His claim of unethical and manipulated officiating has been out there for some time. We in the media know that fans have a growing suspicion that games are consistently and intentionally being impacted by bad officiating.
At the very least, referees should be subject to questioning by the “free” press. The American system is predicated on checks and balances and watchdog organizations. Why are refs treated as a protected, fragile species?
A 25-year-old quarterback has to answer for his dumb decisions, but a 50-year-old ref gets escorted from the field and almost never has to answer for the mistakes he/she makes that dictate the outcome.
Sports have become too lucrative to operate under customs developed before there were billion-dollar TV contracts at stake. This problem isn’t limited to the NBA. I still remember Super Bowl XL and the one-sided officiating that sabotaged Seattle’s chances of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Stern talked about “transparency” and how his league has nothing to hide. If that’s the case, then he should be the first commissioner to make his refs accessible to reporters after every game. I think we would be less likely to see another Tim Donaghy if refs knew they had to immediately answer for their suspicious actions.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
June 10, 2008
Listening to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton repeat stories they claim to have been told by the poor and the unemployed, who are unable to pay for food and medicine and feel miserable about it, is enough to make one think we are living in a Third World dictatorship and not the United States of America. But victimhood and a "can't do" spirit is what the Democratic Party has mostly been about since the Great Depression.
A more positive narrative comes from a new book, "Lessons from the Poor: Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit," edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa and published by the Independent Institute. The book is an optimistic triumph and a lesson about the unlimited capacity of the human spirit, properly inspired and unencumbered.
In the introduction, Llosa writes, "Entrepreneurial ability and energy are present almost everywhere. But in those countries that still languish in backwardness, the labyrinth intervention of the state and the absence of adequate institutions have kept that ability and energy from translating into full development." He writes of nations that used to be poor but are no longer, detailing how their people climbed out of poverty. He blames political, legal (and I would add in some cases, religious) systems for stifling prosperity.
Llosa is about creating wealth and his inspirational stories about real people and how they did it ought to be read in every school and in every home that has accepted inevitable failure.
In 1988, the Ananos family of Ayacucho, Peru -- the cradle of the Maoist terrorist organization known as Shining Path -- founded the Kola Real Company. Coca Cola and Pepsi had pulled out due to the unstable political situation. In just 20 years the Ananos family has transformed a mom and pop operation into the biggest transnational manufacturer of nonalcoholic beverages in Latin America. They now have subsidiaries in Mexico, Venezuela, Ecuador, four Central American countries and Thailand. By 2005, they had more than 8 million customers and employed 8,000 workers. Their sales totaled US$1 billion.
The Ananos family overcame years of socialist and populist experiments that hurt Peru's economy. They demonstrate what can be done when obstacles are overcome by the power of optimism.
Aquilino Flores is another Peruvian who started out washing cars 40 years ago. He had no capital. Today, Flores is the most important textile businessman in Peru, heading a company called Topy Top with annual sales of more than US$100 million. As Daniel Cordova writes in his contribution to the book, "...the story of the Flores family and Topy Top is one of tenacity, determination and intuition." Didn't we used to teach such things in American schools before class warfare, envy and penalizing the successful?
The story behind Nakumatt, Kenya's largest supermarket chain, could have been written in America. Google Nakumatt for details.
In Nigeria, a clothing design industry has been created to produce and sell adire attire, traditional in the Yoruba culture. There are thousands of adire workers, most of them women with little or no education, but they have "an entrepreneurial drive to make a living and create wealth where there was previously only misery," writes Thompson Ayodele in his essay. "These entrepreneurs receive no government aid. In fact, through action or omission, the government has placed and continues to place many obstacles in their way. Yet they have been able to combat poverty much more effectively than foreign aid and official poverty-reduction programs."
Please re-read that last sentence. Government aid impedes success and creates dependence, while entrepreneurs create success and independence.
In countries with far less capital and opportunity than America, people haven't sung songs about overcoming. They have overcome through tenacity, risk-taking and self-reliance.
During the presidential campaign, each time Barack Obama focuses on misery and the need for more government spending, John McCain should trot-out American stories of the formerly poor and let them tell how they made it so that others can too.
Llosa says Spain is "particularly interesting and instructive for those who think that certain nations are doomed forever by virtue of their culture. In the past two decades, Spain, whose culture was once inimical to notions such as self-reliance and individual initiative, has experienced an economic and social transformation."
If Spain and the poor in Peru and Africa can do it, what's stopping America and poor Americans?
June 09, 2008
"I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. ... I mean, that's a storybook, man."
Thus did Joe Biden famously describe his rival for the nomination, Barack Obama, to The New York Observer, a year ago.
Biden, however, thought Obama might not be able to win the fall election, as he is "a one-term, a guy who has served for four years in the Senate. ... I don't recall hearing a word from Barack about a plan or a tactic."
Biden was forced to apologize, but was dead on in discerning Barack's strengths as a candidate in the primaries, which might prove weaknesses in the fall.
A new face in the game, Barack opened with three aces. He opposed the Iraq war, the defining issue in a party that had come to detest the war. He was an African-American. Thus, as the hopes of millions rose that he could be the first black president, there were surges of black voters whom he begin to sweep 90-10.
Lastly, Barack is a natural, a Mickey Mantle, a superb political athlete like JFK, who has looks, charm, youth and a speaking style that can move crowds to cheers or laughter.
Barack was thus able to unite the McGovern wing—young, idealistic, liberal, anti-war—with the Jesse Jackson quadrant of the party, black folks, and defeat Hillary's coalition of working-class Catholics, women, seniors and Hispanics.
As of today, by the traditional metrics of national politics, Democrats should roll up a victory this fall like FDR's first in 1932.
Bush's disapproval is near 70 percent, and 80 percent of the country believes the nation is on the wrong course. Unemployment is rising. Surging gas and food prices compete for the top story not only on business pages but front pages, with home foreclosures and the housing slump. Family incomes of Middle Americans have ceased to rise, as millions of their best jobs have been outsourced overseas.
Yet, national polls show McCain-Obama a close race, and the electoral map points to critical problems for Barack.
He seeks, for example, to target Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico. But in all three the Hispanic vote may be decisive. And Barack was beaten by Hillary two to one among Hispanics, and between these two largest of America's minorities, rivalry and tension are real and rising.
Barack must hold Michigan and Pennsylvania and pick up Ohio or Virginia. Yet, his weakness among Southern and working-class whites and women is remarkable. By two to one they rejected him.
After his string of primary and caucus victories in February, Barack proceeded to lose Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, then West Virginia by 41, Kentucky by 35, Puerto Rico two to one and South Dakota by 10. That last one Barack was supposed to win.
The longer the campaign went on, the more reluctant Democrats seemed to be to embrace his nomination.
What is Barack's problem?
Middle America knows little about him, and much of what they know they do not like. When West Virginians were asked what they knew about Barack, a plurality said the Rev. Wright was his pastor. In Pennsylvania, a goodly slice of Democrats knew Barack had said they were "bitter" about being left behind and were clinging to their bigotries, Bibles and guns.
By June, resistance to Barack's nomination in the party that he now leads was extraordinary, stemming from a belief that he is too naive to be commander in chief in wartime and too far left, and does not like or understand Middle America or its values.
"He is not one of us."
And if Barack cannot erase this hardening perception in the American mind, he will not be president.
Democrats may talk of making the economy the issue this fall, but Republicans are going to make Barack the issue. Story line: We cannot entrust our beloved America, in a time of war, to this radical and exotic figure who has so many crazy and extremist associates.
Barack's problem is thus Reagan's problem.
As the country wished to be rid of Jimmy Carter in 1980, so the nation today wishes to be rid of Bush and his Republicans. But America is apprehensive over a roll of the dice, in Bill Clinton's metaphor.
With his persona, Barack may be able to do the same—in the debates. The problem is that he had two dozen debates with Hillary and, by the end of the primary season, five months after it began, he was still losing ground.
Patrick J. Buchanan needs no introduction to VDARE.COM readers; his book State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America, can be ordered from Amazon.com. His latest book is Churchill, Hitler, and "The Unnecessary War": How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, reviewed here by Paul Craig Roberts.
ESPN The Magazine
Updated: June 9, 2008
Ken Griffey Jr.of the Cincinnati Reds hits his 600th career home run against the Florida Marlins in the first inning at Dolphin Stadium in Miami, Florida. Griffey became just the sixth player in Major League Baseball history to hit 600 career home runs on Monday with a two-run shot off Florida Marlins hurler Mark Hendrickson.
(AFP/Getty Images/Eliot J. Schechter)
We knew 20 years ago, when he was 19 and skinny, that an achievement of this magnitude was possible. The signs were everywhere. Ken Griffey Jr. was the son of a major leaguer, he was from Stan Musial's hometown, Donora, Pa., he says he never struck out in a high school game and he was the Seattle Mariners' No. 1 pick in the June 1987 draft.
Now he is 38 and thick, he wears Babe Ruth's No. 3, not Willie Mays' No. 24 as he did in those early seasons. He plays right field now, not center field. He doesn't scale fences like he used to and he doesn't smile as often as he used to. But nonetheless, in the first inning Monday night at Florida against Mark Hendrickson, he joined Ruth, Mays, Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Sammy Sosa in the most exclusive and prestigious club in sports, the 600 Home Run Club.
"I was there in his prime," said Cubs manager Lou Piniella, who managed Griffey in Seattle. "He was special. And he was fun to watch."
It was clear right away that he was special. Only days after Griffey signed with the Mariners, he came to Seattle and took batting practice with the major league club before a game.
"I've seen it before when a No. 1 draft pick comes to the big club right after he's drafted, and the kid is nervous, he gets in the cage, pops up a bunch of balls, swings and misses at a couple because he's trying to hit it so high and so far because he doesn't feel like he belongs," said Scott Bradley, who is Princeton's baseball coach, and a former teammate of Griffey during 1989-92. "That wasn't the case with Junior. He got in the cage, and he was kind of carrying on a conversation with the media while he was hitting. The first 25 swings, he just hit line drives to left field. He didn't overswing one time. Then he hit balls up the middle. Then he took a break, came back loose, and started hitting balls into the seats. I looked at [veteran Mariners] Harold Reynolds and Alvin Davis and said, 'It looks like he belongs.'"
After two seasons in the minor leagues, none above the Double-A level, another clear sign came.
"When he came to camp in 1989, he had no chance to make the team," Bradley said. "But he got a lot of at-bats early that spring because a lot of veterans don't like to play a lot early. After 20 games, he wasn't just the best player on our team, he was the best player in the league that spring. The Mariners basically said, 'We don't want this to happen, we don't want to rush him, we don't want him to make the team.' So they started running him out there against every elite pitcher, against all the nastiest left-handers they could find in hopes that he would stop hitting, and they could send him out. It never happened."
He made the club as a 19-year-old, the youngest player on an Opening Day roster that season. In his first at-bat at the Seattle Kingdome, he hit a home run on the first pitch he saw from the White Sox's Eric King. Griffey went on to hit 16 home runs that season -- in baseball history, only Tony Conigliaro and Mel Ott hit more homers as teenagers.
Griffey started the All-Star Game in his second season, then the third youngest player ever to do that. Almost as memorable in 1990 were the back-to-back home runs that he and his father hit against the Angels' Kirk McCaskill, a first in baseball history, and likely to also be the last. In 1993, Griffey hit a home run in eight consecutive games, tying the record held by Dale Long and Don Mattingly. During 1997-98, he joined Babe Ruth as then the only American League players (Alex Rodriguez has joined that club) to hit 50 home runs in back-to-back seasons. When he hit 50 for the first time, he joined Mays as then the only players ever to win a Gold Glove in a season in which they hit 50. In 1999, he became the first American League player since Harmon Killebrew to lead the league in home runs three seasons in a row.
"His swing," former Oriole Brady Anderson said, "is absolutely perfect."
Griffey had the amazing ability for a young hitter to see, react and hit the breaking ball if it stayed in the strike zone for too long. As he grew as a hitter by developing his opposite field power and still maintaining his pull power, the huge home run seasons came. He was then the youngest player to reach 300, 350, 400 and 450 home runs. He was named to the All-Century team when he was 29 and he was named the Player of the Decade for the 1990s. When he was 31, he was a legitimate threat to break Hank Aaron's record of 755 home runs. The projections were for 800 home runs, nothing could stop him.
"The first time I saw him was in Arizona for spring training," Piniella said. "He would hit these towering fly balls that would carry and carry, and go out of the ballpark. I just figured it was the thin air in Arizona. Then he kept hitting those towering fly balls wherever we went, and I realized it wasn't the thin air, it was him. And it was so effortless."
When the Reds traded for Griffey before the 2000 season, bringing him home to Cincinnati in a trade that left Mariners fans wanting and angry, it seemed inevitable that Griffey would break Aaron's record as a member of the Reds. On the day of the trade, then Reds general manager Jim Bowden called Griffey "the Michael Jordan of baseball." That first season in Cincinnati, he hit 40 home runs and drove in 118 runs.
Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr., smiles in the dugout before the start of a baseball game against the Florida Marlins Monday, June 9, 2008 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Then the story began to change. Four seasons in a row, Griffey suffered a major injury, limiting him to 111, 70, 53 and 83 games played, respectively. When he finally got to 500 home runs in 2004, everyone knew, that without the injuries, 500 might have been 600. The following three seasons, he missed another 105 games. We all realize that with better health, the 600 he just reached would have been 700.
But Griffey is far from done as a power hitter. There are still homers to hit, and milestones to reach. He could become the third player ever, joining Ty Cobb and Rusty Staub, to hit a home run as a teenager and as a 40-year-old. He could join Ted Williams, Rickey Henderson and Willie McCovey as the only players to hit home runs in four different decades and he could become the first player to hit 300 home runs for two different teams.
It is easy to look at 600 and wonder what might have been with improved health. But it is easier and more fun to remember Griffey at his best, a wondrous athlete who streaked through the outfield, climbed an outfield wall and made a catch that only Mays could make, then the next inning, hit a ball to places that very few players could reach. Six hundred home runs is a tremendous milestone, but Griffey at 100, 200, 300 and 400 was simply breathtaking.
Tim Kurkjian is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.
Jack Wilkinson > VIEWPOINT
Like Nos. 200, 300, 400 and 500, Ken Griffey Jr.'s 600th home run came on the road.
In the annals of Junior Achievement, this milestone looms large, even on his considerable, Cooperstown-bound résumé. It's not every night that someone hits home run No. 600, even in these pharmaceutically enhanced times.
It happened for just the sixth time in major league history Monday evening. If only the setting had been more apt. It's OK to hit No. 600 on the road, as long as that road isn't an exit off the Florida Turnpike. But there was Ken Griffey Jr., in the left-hand batter's box at godforsaken Dolphins Stadium, a fine setting for football, an abomination for baseball.
Before a gathering of 16,003 -- a smattering of whom congregated near the right-field foul pole, all seeking a piece of history -- Griffey joined a most exclusive big league club. He became the sixth player to reach the 600-homer plateau. On a 3-1 pitch in the bottom of the first inning, Griffey got the best of Mark Hendrickson. The Marlins' 6-foot-9 left-hander hung the most tantalizing curve this side of Jessica Biel, and Griffey smacked it into the dying sunlight of a South Florida night.
Or as George Grande, the Cincinnati Reds' longtime play-by-play man, put it so nicely: "The 3-1 to Junior ... That's going back! ... Yessirree! That's gonna be ... gone!! One more step up the ladder to Cooperstown and the Hall of Fame for Ken Griffey Jr.!
"Celebrate, Griffey family. You deserve it!" Grande continued, as TV zeroed in on Griffey's wife and their two youngest children, sitting in the stands, his wife, Melissa, wiping away a tear. Too bad it didn't occur in Griffey's hometown, Cincinnati, where he grew up the namesake of a Big Red Machine icon, starred himself at Moeller High and returned home in 2000 after spending 11 stellar seasons in Seattle.
Cincinnati Reds Ken Griffey Jr. watches after connecting with his 600th career homerun during first inning action against the Florida Marlins in MLB National League baseball action in Miami, Florida June 9, 2008. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES)
One, two, three steps out of the box, Junior finally went into his home run trot Monday. He'd just joined five other men in baseball's exclusive 600-homer fraternity. Of course, only three of those five -- Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth and Willie Mays -- are untainted. Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa? Please.
"Griffey's clean. If anybody in baseball is clean, I'm pretty sure he is," said Jeff Herzenach, 39, who grew up a Twins fan in Minnesota and is now a bartender in Atlanta at the Brewhouse Café and an astute observer of the sporting scene. "He's one of the only ones."
On Herzenach's current reading list? Vindicated, by former All-Star-turned-tell-all author Jose Canseco. "I wanted to hate Jose Canseco so bad, that [jerk]. But now, I'm reading it and he didn't even mention Ken Griffey Jr. once." Indeed, few -- if any -- people have used the words "steroids" and "Junior" in the same sentence.
"If he didn't get injured," Herzenach said, "I bet he'd be going for 700. Now that 500's been wrecked [Rafael Palmeiro, come on down!], you're gonna have to hit 600 to get into the Hall of Fame. Bonds is juiced. Sosa?" He smiled. "Babe was a drunk," he said, laughing. Prohibition be damned. "Hank Aaron was clean-cut. And Willie Mays was Willie Mays."
At 7:51 p.m. EDT Monday, less than a half-hour after Griffey went deep and into posterity, this was posted on the Cincinnati Enquirer Web site by Justin M. Gibson of Taylor Mill, Ky.: "I am a Cleveland native and have been a Junior fan since I was 12. I couldn't have been more prouder [sic] of him than if he was my dad! Only three players in history [have] done it clean, with him being the fourth. I wish Cincinnati would have been a more gracious city for him, but the fans here are terrible. Go back to Seattle, Griff, where a true legend like you is appreciated. But I will miss seeing you play!"
If South Florida was no country for old men to make home run history, Griffey's hometown hasn't exactly enveloped him in a warm, welcome-back embrace. Since a second-place finish in 2000, the Reds have had seven straight losing seasons and are well on their way to an eighth. Griffey, who belted 40 homers in his 2000 return, has had just two 30-homer seasons since. He's been chronically injured, hamstrung by hamstring woes in particular. Blessed by good genes and bad legs. "General soreness" is how the Reds' recent pre-game notes describe his physical condition.
Cincinnati Reds' Ken Griffey Jr., left, laughs with Florida Marlins' Andre Dawson, center, and Tony Perez during the Reds warm up before a baseball game against the Marlins Monday, June 9, 2008 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami.
(AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Yet he's rarely alibied, and never honked his own horn. Never had to. When Griffey hit his 600th, his was a dignified, major-league loll around the basepaths. Not too slow, not too fast, not showy in the least, before hugging his oldest son, Trey, in the dugout. It was the antithesis of Bonds' preening, look-at-me sashay after his 756th dinger.
Give Hendrickson credit for pitching to Junior, who was 5-for-8 lifetime off the elongated lefty, with one homer. Since hitting his 599th homer, Griffey was 7-for-17 (.412) with nine walks (think they were pitching around him?) during that seven-game stretch. It's a pity Griffey didn't wait until Tuesday, when the Reds begin a nine-game homestand in the bandbox that is the Great American Ballpark, to hit No. 600. He deserved to do so at home, literally home, even if he and his family now live in gated-community, sequestered splendor in Orlando in the offseason.
He's still a Cincy kid at heart, a Skyline Chili-fed son of a key cog in the Big Red Machine. Yet the Queen City has never really warmed to Junior. Not as you'd expect, or he and the club hoped. The team has a 21st-century stench to it, Griffey hasn't been the Kid who smote 398 homers in 11 seasons in Seattle (209 in his last four seasons alone), and this may well be another endless summer for the last-place Reds.
Come late July, the question may be this: Will Griffey, the sixth man to belt 600 homers, become the first to be traded in the same season? The eight-year extension he signed in 2000 has a club option for 2009. Whatever the Reds decide, Griffey, at 38, still has aspirations to join the 700 club. Who knows how high they'd have been had he not been injured so often this decade? Say, 800? The one 800 club member? Who'll know?
Know this: Junior's achievement was not only extraordinary, but untainted. Welcome him home properly, Cincinnati.