There is a Barack Obama remark that deserves to be more famous. I think I read it years ago, but had forgotten about it. I encountered it the other day.
After graduating from Columbia, Obama worked briefly in the “corporate world.” Lame phrase, I know — too broad to mean anything. In Dreams from My Father, he writes that he was “like a spy behind enemy lines.”
Business as the enemy? That would confirm the Right’s darkest suspicions about Obama. But surely this fellow has matured since his twenties, right? Surely he has outgrown his undergraduate leftism, right?
Some days, you wonder. Or at least I do.
‐If corporations are Obama’s enemy, they are a very nice enemy to have. They have forked over zillions to him. I mean, voluntarily, in campaign donations.
The people I denounce? They never give money to me. Kind of weird.
‐A few days ago, a headline read, “Oil Output Soars as Iraq Retools, Easing Shaky Markets.” The article began, “Despite sectarian bombings and political gridlock, Iraq’s crude oil production is soaring, providing a singular bright spot for the nation’s future and relief for global oil markets as the West tightens sanctions on Iranian exports.”
For many years, I was told that the U.S. and its allies had invaded Iraq in order to steal that country’s oil. There was a bumper sticker: “How many lives per gallon?” I saw it on the car of a woman who used to work in the State Department. “No blood for oil!” Do you remember that cry? Our country rang with it for years.
Oddly, we left Iraq’s oil to the Iraqis. And the Left seeks to block us at every turn from pumping oil in our own country.
What a screwy situation.
‐Here is another headline for you: “China tells US to stop reporting Beijing’s bad air.” The article begins, “A senior Chinese environmental official told foreign embassies on Tuesday to stop publishing their own reports on air quality in China, a clear reference to a popular U.S. Embassy Twitter feed that tracks pollution in smoggy Beijing.”
It’s hard for me to imagine the U.S., or anyone else, refusing a CCP request — that is, a request, or demand, from the Chinese government. Wonder what’ll happen here.
The main problem with China, of course, is not air pollution: It’s the fact that they have a one-party dictatorship with a gulag. Big problem.
‐Speaking of one-party dictatorships with a gulag: The New York Public Library invited Mariela Castro, a Cuban official, and child of Raúl, to speak. She did. Apparently, the room was stocked with friends of the regime, with anyone who might ask an uncomfortable question kept out. To read about this depressing affair, go here.
I have dealt with the New York Public Library and the Cuban regime before. Years ago, the library had an item in its gift shop: a watch with Che Guevara’s face on it, and the word “REVOLUTION.” An ad for the piece went, “Revolution is a permanent state with this clever watch.” Oh, so, so clever. A Beria watch might be even cleverer! And then one could go for Himmler?
Anyway, this “revolutionary” watch sparked a piece in National Review: “Che Chic: It’s très disgusting.” Go here.
‐For weeks now, I have not known quite what to think about Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder who decamped to Singapore, apparently to avoid a whopping tax bill down the road. Was he an ingrate and virtual traitor? Or was he a man acting with perfect reason, even honor?
The question has now been settled for me — by Jeff Jacoby, who wrote an informed and wise column on it. Here. Saverin’s behavior is subject to differing interpretations, but mainly it is honorable. And the man’s worst critics, such as Senator Charles Schumer — nasty and stupid, in this matter.
‐While I’m recommending articles: Try Damian Thompson on alcoholism, here. A bracing column. Alcoholics Anonymous “probably saved my life,” he says, “by helping me give up drinking.” But “the ‘disease model’ it endorses is based on dodgy science.” What Thompson is suggesting, he says, is that “alcoholism and other compulsive problems are fundamentally self-destructive behaviour, not an incurable illness.”
Worth reading, whatever our ultimate conclusions.
‐This Ed West column, I’m simply going to excerpt, with no additional comment by me. You will probably want to read the whole thing, not merely my excerpt:
Last Saturday, Plamen Petkov, a 32-year-old British-Bulgarian from Sutton, was with his girlfriend on the beach at West Wittering in Sussex when he heard a mother shouting in distress. The woman’s four-year-old daughter had been dragged out to sea on an inflatable rubber ring.
Petkov dived into the water “without second thoughts”, according to witnesses, and reached the girl, swimming her back to shore and keeping her head above the water. He managed to pass the girl to his girlfriend but was dragged under.
He did not make it.
Because of Petkov’s actions a young girl has her life ahead of her, and her parents have been spared the most unbearable suffering imaginable. Petkov’s parents have the small comfort of knowing that their son died the most noble, heroic death imaginable.
‐In the May 28 NR, I had a piece on a composer you may wish to meet. His name is Michael Hersch, and he is an extraordinary person. He is one of the leading composers of today, yet he did not hear any classical music, really, until he was 18. By the time he was in his early 20s, he was winning all the awards.
Hersch is extraordinary for this and several other reasons. If you’d like to get to know him, that piece is here.
‐Sticking with the subject of music, but turning to something sad, try this piece. It’s a report from Cape Town, where they’re staging La bohème. This opera, you remember, is about a consumptive named Mimì. Consumption, or TB, is a going concern in Cape Town. Seems hard to believe.
‐A reader writes, “Have you seen this damned stamp?” No, I hadn’t. He continues, “I received it on an RSVP envelope for a liberal friend’s wedding. I’m still going, obviously, but I wrote ‘in France’ underneath the stamp.”
The U.S. stamp in question says “Equality” on it. Here in good ol’ Amurrica, of course, we believe in equality of opportunity (or used to). Equality of outcome — is that what most Frenchmen mean by “égalité”? — is a different story (and a much less prosperous and free one).
‐In December, Tiger Woods won something called the Chevron World Challenge. It is a not-quite-PGA event, with a very small field. Indeed, it is Tiger’s own charity tournament. Still, he won it. At the time, I said, “This could be a mere footnote in the story of Tiger Woods, his rise and fall. Or it could prove the most important victory of his entire career.”
You see, some wondered whether he would ever win again. And he had. Would this little win relaunch him?
In March, he won the Bay Hill Classic, as the tournament used to be known — Arnold Palmer’s tournament. But otherwise he has floundered this season. And I have caught myself, from time to time, speaking of Tiger’s career in the past tense — along with Jack’s career, and Arnold’s career, and Hogan’s career . . . I have considered Tiger kind of done. The walking dead, a ghost.
This past weekend, of course, he won Jack Nicklaus’s tournament, the Memorial, in spectacular fashion. He looked like himself. He played golf like himself. And I must stick assiduously to the present tense.
‐Did you read this astounding story, about the high-tech world in which we live? If I understand it right, someone stole a laptop. The laptop took a picture of the thief, sending the picture to a “security website.” The thief, nabbed.
It all took place in my hometown of Ann Arbor. Times are interesting. (And not just in the Chinese proverbial sense.) (“May you live in interesting times,” a curse, or alleged curse.)
‐On the subway, I saw an ad for “Caesars Atlantic City.” I think that’s what they call it; no apostrophe in “Caesars.” Anyway, the ad said, “Moderation has its place, and it’s not here.”
Great line, I thought.
‐The public keeps clamoring for ballet reviews. “Give us more ballet, Jay!” they say. Okay, okay — chill out. Here’s a mini, concerning the American Ballet Theatre’s Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera:
Hee Seo (Tatiana): sweet, girlish, endearing (largely). David Hallberg (Onegin): a very elegant line, at a minimum. The ballet itself: snoozy, compared with the opera and poem, or novel-in-verse. Music by Tchaikovsky is used in the ballet, but none from Eugene Onegin. A pity.
Brief enough for you?
‐A friend of mine sent me a classic letter from Ronald Reagan, written to his elder son, Michael, on the eve of Michael’s wedding. See it here. The future president, then governor, says,
You have entered into the most meaningful relationship there is in all human life. It can be whatever you decide to make it.
Some men feel their masculinity can only be proven if they play out in their own life all the locker-room stories, smugly confident that what a wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her. The truth is, somehow, way down inside, without her ever finding lipstick on the collar . . ., a wife does know, and with that knowing, some of the magic of this relationship disappears. . . . If you truly love a girl, you shouldn’t ever want her to feel, when she sees you greet a secretary or a girl you both know, that humiliation of wondering if she was someone who caused you to be late coming home . . .
Mike, you know better than many what an unhappy home is and what it can do to others. Now you have a chance to make it come out the way it should.
To order Jay Nordlinger’s new book, Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.