Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bayou of tears

Houston was my home for just three years, and the great State of Texas about six - one of which was when I was four years old. Houston did not change my life, and I don't now think of it as "home" or yearn to go back, though of course I miss our friends there.

But did you see those Astros? They were swept, but in stark contrast to what one of my son's classmates said about them ("They're sheer losers, dude!"), they made the Sox dig for every out and every run and every inning and every one of the four games that constituted this incredible Series. Game 2 tied up at the middle of the ninth, the Sox forced to fall back on their homefield advantage? A fourteen-inning Game 3? Seven shut-out innings in Game 4? I don't even follow baseball with any degree of devotion, but it was a great run for the Astros, as hard as it was for me to watch. (I'm an inveterate fan of the underdog, plus my family firmly believed in the "McArdle curse," which required us to leave any Cardinals game we were attending back when we lived across the river from St. Louis or risk costing the Redbirds a victory.)

Backe's pitching last night seemed to improve (from darn good to great, I should point out - what a slider he's got!) as he closed in on 100 pitches; why they took him out when they did, I don't know - he still hadn't walked anyone, though it was late at night and I didn't take note of how many pitches he was throwing per inning or how many hits or would-be hits the White Sox were hitting off him in the 7th versus the 2nd. Ensberg's stance is the weirdest thing I've ever seen on a baseball diamond, and clearly it ain't working for him, so I hope he closes it the heck up. I never did figure out the beard thing, but it made it quite a trick for me to tell the boys apart; never mind, they all looked pretty good with it. And finally, I sincerely hope that going almost all the way this year, when they had no right nor reason to expect it, will give them the gumption to take it that last step next fall.

Baseball is, to me, the best spectator sport there is. The action is easy to follow and frequently concentrated in one relatively small area; unlike football and basketball, where your seats - no matter how "good" - will yield bad views for a major portion of the game, in baseball, for the most part you know what you're getting when you buy your ticket. The strategy is accessible on levels from beginner to super-genius. Its pace is neither frenetic nor the hesitation waltz you get in football. It relies not on size or strength (recent emphasis on beefy sluggers notwithstanding) but on a magical arm or winged feet or stunning reflexes or glue in the glove, or two or more of these, and, as with a decathlete, a baseball star can be less than the best in any area and still be The Best thanks to his concatenation of traits. There's almost never blood, almost never a broken bone, yet there are opportunities to "take it for the team" by slamming into a wall in pursuit of the potential home run or by diving face-first for the plate, or, as Backe demonstrated last night, by blocking a line drive with your tender, unpadded flesh and then, without pause, picking up the ball and throwing the batter out at first - you can be a hero without risking a coma or a snapped neck.

And it makes great movies. We picked a good game as our national pastime. And that's all I have to say about that.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Oh, Jane...

So one of my favorite blogs is this one, but this entry has me shaking my head in dismay. (There was an earlier entry that had me shaking my head more vigorously, but it's fallen off the page now, so I'll stick with the one I can see.) Jane Galt, the primary author of the blog (Megan McArdle is her real name), is a Manhattan semi-libertarian who supported Bush's reelection after a lengthy opening of the floor to her commenters on both sides (actually more than both sides) on a number of questions concerning the candidates' fitness, and who supported the Iraq war on the basis of finding and removing WMDs, mostly. It appears that now, perhaps in the spirit of keeping her left-side commenters coming back, she is advancing late criticism of the Bush administration for its foreign policy decision process, in particular with regard to the war.

Me, I'm not about to. If there were a law about how presidents had to make decisions, we wouldn't need presidents, and we'd have rule by committee. If Bush makes mistakes, they're on his own head - and in contrast to some of his forebears, he at least tends not to try to save face by repudiating those who advised him. As I said during the election season, there was absolutely no reason for Bush to yield to Democrats' calls to "admit his mistakes"; it would only have damaged his reelection prospects, provided aid and comfort to the enemy both foreign and domestic, and weakened the confidence of his supporters. The only important factor is whether he corrects those mistakes that actually turn out to have been mistakes. (That is, one side of the political spectrum's claiming that an action has been a mistake ought to be insufficient cause for a president - any president - to take action beyond assessing whether the claimed mistake really is one.) Public confession is a non sequitur.

We elect our executives to bear the crushing weight of a responsibility the likes of which was undreamt of even by Caesar; we age them, kill some of them in office, and I'm certain cost them sleep for the rest of their lives if they do survive their terms. Second-guessing them is our right, but history is long and memory is short; we'd be wise to be sure that our critiques are valid before we go assigning them staggering importance. Like this: was it stupid to have inappropriate relations with a very young intern in the Oval Office? Yes, but not a matter of national security. Was it stupid to nominate Harriet Meirs to take O'Connors's seat on the Supreme Court? We don't know yet, though many legal and/or conservative scholars and commenters appear to think it was an unnecessary risk; it's a question I'd rather learn more about before declaring it so.

Was it wrong to attempt regime change and democratization of Iraq? Seems to me that those who claim it was are not looking very hard at even the proximate effects. If they base their claim on their memory of how the White House "sold" the war (there's always a lot of outraged finger-in-the-face about "This war was sold!" as if any war at any time has been thoughtfully debated in the public square and a plebiscite taken before war was declared), it's a selective memory. I definitely lean toward the "emphatically not a mistake" side, though I recognize that failure and/or unintended consequences are always possible. In those events, as always, we'll have to respond as they come up.

Here's a great tidbit about disagreement within presidential cabinets:

According to John Quincy Adams, at one cabinet meeting late in the Monroe administration Treasury Secretary William Crawford called the president a "damned infernal old scoundrel" and "raised his cane, as if in the attitude to strike." For his part, Monroe "seized the tongs of the fireplace in self defense, applied a retaliatory epithet to Crawford, and told him he would immediately ring for servants and turn him out of the house."

It has little if anything to do with the subject at hand, but it's funny.