Politics & Policy

Nationalization, here we come, &c.

Some years ago, I interviewed Phil Gramm (maybe my favorite interview subject in politics). I said, “Is the Democratic party essentially socialist?” He said yes: “if by ‘socialist’ you mean the redistribution of wealth, more decisions made by the central government — no question about it.” The senator continued, “My grandmother thought of the Democrats as the party of the people. What they are is the party of government.”

Earlier this year, I interviewed George Shultz (another splendid interview subject). I said that many people assert that capitalism has achieved some final victory over socialism. He shook his head, saying, “You have to keep working all the time.” Then he said, “What’s the health-care debate about, really? It’s not about whether there are going to be adequate resources for people to have health care. It’s about whether those resources will be in the hands of a bureaucracy, which administers a health-care system à la Canada and Europe, or in the hands of consumers, who will decide for themselves.”

I might add that both Gramm and Shultz are professional economists (and former professors of economics). (I mention this because both men are widely known for other things, particularly Shultz.)

Anyway, why am I bringing up these interview snippets? Because I was reminded of them when seeing a headline the other day: “House Democrats call for nationalization of refineries.”

Yup.

‐One word about Bush’s bestowal of a Presidential Medal of Freedom upon Donna Shalala: He is a savage, beastly, unilateralist partisan. Never forget that (as though the education establishment, the media, and the entertainment world could ever let you).

‐If you’re interested in the Presidential Medal of Freedom, I had a piece on that subject in a National Review at the end of last year. (“A Tasty Presidential Perk,” December 17.)

‐William Safire once said, ‘I know how to spell ‘Sununu’ — I just don’t know when to stop.” I have had similar thoughts about “Shalala.”

‐I once heard her say, “My father was head of Lebanese for Taft.” (And she pronounced “Lebanese” “Lebaneese.”) Human history is not an uninterrupted march of progress, as generations improve on their predecessors . . .

‐Please take an excerpt from my Sharm El Sheikh journal of last month — I’m talking about Barham Salih, the deputy prime minister of Iraq:

He says that Iraq is the largest emerging market you can think of, “because there is nothing in our country that does not require investment.” Moreover, Iraqi oil reserves are triple what has been acknowledged. Salih actually seems excited about this — and he is not, in my experience, one to get excited. He is a calm, precise, steady-on man.

He is strongly for the liberalization of Iraq’s “oil structure.” “Let’s call a spade a spade,” he says: The state cannot hope to do this right; it requires the private sector.

Why do I recollect this meeting with Salih? Because of this headline yesterday: “Iraq nears first major oil service deals.” The AP story began, “Iraq is close to signing oil service deals with several major Western oil companies in an effort to boost its output capacity, the country’s oil ministry said Thursday — the first major Iraqi contracts with big Western companies since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.”

Good.

‐I had to smile, inwardly, when reading a story out of Moscow: “Russian air force planes dropped a 25-kg (55-lb) sack of cement on a suburban Moscow home last week while seeding clouds to prevent rain from spoiling a holiday . . .” Nothing to smile about there. At the end of the story, one read, “The homeowner was not injured, but refused an offer of 50,000 roubles ($2,100) from the air force, saying she would sue for damages and compensation for moral suffering. . . .”

I thought to myself, “How American!”

‐In all my days, I don’t think I have ever heard of a peace demonstration, or anti-war demonstration, in the Arab world. Until now. The Middle East Media Research Institute translates an interesting news report from Lebanon. The heading: “Lebanese Stage Anti-War Display.”

Reporter: Because the use of weapons has become so prevalent in Lebanon, and on the occasion of the International Week Against Armed Violence, young men and women gathered in Shuhada Square in downtown Beirut in response to the call by the Movement for Lasting Peace. They expressed their rage and condemnation of the use of weapons by staging various displays that depicted the tragedies caused by weapons.

Fadi Abu ’Allam, head of the Movement for Lasting Peace: The availability of weapons and the use of the weapons leads people to search for a victim. In addition, if we want to establish peace, we must use reason.

Reporter: The participants emphasized the need to establish a culture of peace in Lebanon.

Holy Moses. (For MEMRI’s clip, go here.)

‐Up above, I took a little shot at suing — the great American pastime. Indeed, I think this is one of the afflictions of our culture, currently. But sometimes, of course, suing can be right, even righteous. I took pleasure in a missive received from the Southwestern Legal Foundation, June 17:

Today, the Southwestern Legal Foundation (“SLF”) filed an amended complaint against Yahoo! and the People’s Republic of China for human rights violations arising from Internet use by democracy and human rights activists in China.

SLF president and attorney Patrick Manshardt filed the amended complaint on behalf of his clients, Cunzhu Zheng, Quan Guo and the China Democracy Party.

Zheng and other members of the CDP are democracy and human rights activists in China who are users of Yahoo!’s services. The amended complaint alleges that Yahoo! disclosed confidential e-mail communications to Chinese officials who used that information to arrest, detain, torture and imprison CDP members for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of speech and association.

Etc. The cooperation of Western companies with PRC authorities is one of the outrages of our time — or would be, if people were capable of outrage, even indignation, where the PRC is concerned.

‐A couple of words on Tiger — just a couple, because we haven’t the time. He had no business entering the Open, much less winning it. He is almost unimaginably great. I’m sorry he’s out for the rest of the season — but he is almost surely doing the right thing, for the long term. Would he have won the British Open and the PGA this year? Or one or the other? Well, he’s been playing some of the best golf of his life, starting with last season. One hates to see him denied chances. But he is doing what he feels is necessary to give himself more chances.

I further think, “What’s Jack thinking [Jack Nicklaus] at the moment?”

In the current National Review, I have a piece on golf (the reopening of the USGA Museum in New Jersey). I quote someone — a man who has been around golf for some time — who said to me, quite out of the blue, “Aren’t we lucky to live in the age of Tiger? Aren’t we lucky to see him play?”

Oh, yes. And the thought that we will not see him, even for a period of months — is a bit sickening.

Someone once described the retirement of an athlete as a first death. Well, I feel that this summer is in a way a prelude to the first death.

Terribly macabre thoughts for a breezy lil’ web column, huh?

‐Couple of words about Rocco Mediate — I thought the media depiction of him was a little unfair. And inaccurate. They portrayed him — they had an interest in portraying him — as a no-name, a near amateur, a guy out of left field, almost a joke. Tin Cuppy. They kept using the word “journeyman” about him.

Oh, baloney: He’s won five PGA Tour events. He’s made a zillion dollars. He won Doral, for crying out loud. He won the tournament in my home state, the Buick Open (Grand Blanc, Mich.). He’s finished in the top ten of the U.S. Open three times.

Yes, he’s had back trouble, and he hadn’t done anything for a while, before Torrey Pines. And he was David (against Tiger’s Goliath — most people are). But the idea that he was some kind of Cinderella story — a fairy tale.

Mediate’s been a player for a long time. A fixture on the PGA Tour for a long time. Come on . . .

‐Care for a little music, to go with your golf? For a review of Lorin Maazel leading the New York Philharmonic in a concert performance of Tosca, go here. And for a review of a recording of another Puccini opera, La Bohème — a recording starring Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón — go here.

These reviews were published in the New York Sun.

‐Finally, a letter?

Dear Jay,

While passing through LAX Monday afternoon I saw something I don’t remember ever seeing in an airport before: a throng of people gathered around a TV set in the corridor connecting the terminal to the baggage-claim area so large it was blocking the flow of foot traffic through the corridor. And there was something else: They weren’t just casually watching the TV, they were in rapt attention. Not eating, chatting, looking at their watches, but completely absorbed in what they were watching. You could have heard a pin drop. I saw the same phenomenon at another TV set farther down the corridor, and also at a third. My first thought was that there had been some natural disaster somewhere or, worse, an assassination. With some effort I worked my way closer to the TV and saw what they were watching: Tiger Woods in his Open playoff.

In that moment I saw the folly of much of the rhetoric we’ve been hearing about the Obama campaign. About America’s institutional racism, and about how we’re too bigoted to elect a black man president. I saw scores, maybe hundreds of people — most of them white, most of them male — mesmerized by the sight of their idol, a black man. And Tiger’s not their idol because he’s a great golfer (Barry Bonds never got this kind of adulation) but because he’s a great golfer who’s also a decent, family-oriented, hard-working, good-humored human being.

Like Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, Michael Jordan, Condi Rice, and Bill Cosby, Tiger Woods is one of the ten or so most admired people in America and he just happens to be black. Not most admired black people in America; most admired people in America, period.

Next time a pollster asks me if America is ready to elect a black president, my answer is going to be, “That depends: Which one?”

Hope this was of interest to you.

It was!

And let me remind you of the “Media Statement” that Tiger put out years ago. He did this in order to “explain my heritage.” And he said it would be “the final and only comment I will make regarding the issue”:

My parents have taught me to always be proud of my ethnic background. Please rest assured that is, and always will be, the case . . . On my father’s side, I am African-American. On my mother’s side, I am Thai. Truthfully, I feel very fortunate, and EQUALLY PROUD, to be both African-American and Asian!

The critical and fundamental point is that ethnic background and/or composition should NOT make a difference. It does NOT make a difference to me. The bottom line is that I am an American . . . and proud of it! That is who I am and what I am. Now, with your cooperation, I hope I can just be a golfer and a human being.

Have a great (if Tigerless) weekend, cool ones.

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