... in a soccer game against Afghan women. This is a pretty inspiring story, given that these women face death threats. See here. (I tried to embed the video, but it didn't work. And sorry about the commercial at the beginning.)
Twenty-nine years ago yesterday I came back from my first trip abroad, which was to Rio de Janeiro. Because of that trip, I tend to be on the alert for news about Rio, and in recent days there has been plenty of news about how the police there are stomping out armed gangs in the slums, which are called “favelas.”
For years I’ve been buying Silver Series sneakers at Walmart. They’re cheap at about ten dollars a pair, they last longer than one would expect for such a cheap shoe, and instead of having laces they have Velcro straps.
Suddenly, Walmart has decided that all of their Silver Series sneakers will come in the wide size rather than regular. (This, of course, doesn’t say much about how they perceive their average customer.) A perusal of the Internet suggests that there is no other place to buy them, and also that other people are wondering why Walmart has stopped carrying regular widths. I suppose they have an arrangement with the factory in China that produces them, which means that the regular size simply won’t be produced anymore.
Here is a good blog entry on Lori Berenson. In case you’ve forgotten who she is or never knew, Berenson went to Peru a number of years ago and joined a revolutionary group there. She was eventually arrested, tried, and sentenced to many years in prison. Apparently, she was finally released just a few weeks ago.
Yes, she was dedicated to helping the poor, but it was under the guise of what I call RPL, that is Rich People’s Leftism. (See here.)
Anyway, I once knew someone almost as idiotic as Berenson. He took a trip to Peru, and despite the fact that he didn’t have any first-hand knowledge of Peru, since it was his first trip abroad, he and a friend immediately called a press conference to denounce the government. He was arrested and held for a few days and was then expelled and told not to come back. Having returned home, he wrote up his experiences and observations for The Nation, and naturally those observations were strewn through with accusations of fascism. This happened in about 1991, and given what happened to Berenson later, he ought to be happy that they weren’t really as fascistic as he made them out to be, or he would have spent twenty years in a cold Peruvian cell the way she did.
It’s true that when I think about Berenson (and my former friend) I think, “There but for the grace of God go I.” After all, I spent plenty of years serving in the army of RPL, though at the same time being from a lower-middle-class background, the idea of getting a chance to go abroad and then wasting it on politics rather than simply the pleasures of travel would probably have saved me from a fate like hers.
A few years ago I had to replace my ice scraper, which I’d had for twenty years or so. I thought this would be no problem, but it turned out that they no longer make that kind of ice scraper. This is madness! The kind of scraper I mean is one that has a brush at one end – and this is a brush that runs along the stick – and a scraper and a squeegee at the other end. This simple, cheap, and perfect tool isn’t made any more, apparently. The scrapers I now see either don’t have a squeegee or else have the brush perpendicular to the stick, which seems utterly insane. Having the brush along the stick means getting to sweep a lot of snow off one’s car rapidly, while having it perpendicular means having to push it off, which just doesn’t work very well. Just as important is the squeegee, which one uses to scrape off ice when it has formed in just a thin layer. The squeegee deals with this ice very quickly, while with the regular scraper it takes a while.
I have no idea why a perfect tool – and by perfect I mean that any change one might want to make in it would make it worse, not counting a radical new design – has vanished. I have no idea when it vanished, but vanished it has. I just can't find them anymore. If I had known this twenty or thirty years ago, I would have stocked up. Too late now.
This morning’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune has a piece (here) on the editorial page by two academics, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, both professors of political science at Yale and Berkeley, respectively. They argue that the rich are getting richer here in America, and that we shouldn’t allow that. It makes us look like countries that are economic oligarchies.
In this morning’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune, there is the sort of article that passes for journalism these days (here), an article that promotes belief in global warming. We are told that there is a consensus of “experts” agreeing that global warming is happening and that one expert in particular, a local professor, had been the target of some offensive personal remarks by the skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton. This professor, John Abraham of the University of St. Thomas, was inspired into action by a talk of Monckton’s, and he found that other scientists like him had been reluctantly drawn into the fray, into the political arena. A debate with a talk-show host (Jake Judd) who was a skeptic was mentioned, and the poor fellow was reduced to saying that almost everyone agrees that global warming is happening.
At some point in the future, it’s possible or maybe even likely that the current leftist bias in academic scholarship will be seen as something to be avoided. Everything from our era will be looked at with suspicion and all studies will be ignored unless they were obviously non-political or unless their results have been replicated by less politically motivated researchers.
Those who are anti-war are notorious for bashing the United States and its allies for waging war and remaining silent when other countries wage war. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, the anti-war crowd protested against, not Iraq, but the United States, and they did this before the U.S. had actually engaged in combat.
Now they have the chance to redeem themselves by protesting against the attack by North Korea of an island near their border. Of course, they won't. They will offer a laundry list of excuses for why they won't engage in protests, such as claiming that their protests won't influence North Korea and that in any case South Korea is to blame. Regarding the first, the point here is not to influence North Korea but to show people here in the West that one is sincerely against war and not just against war waged by the United States. Regarding the second, all one has to do is to imagine how these people would react if the facts were reversed: would they then blame North Korea? Almost certainly not. The facts don't really matter, because the U.S. and its allies are always to blame.
Down through the years we've heard lots of tired rhetoric about endless war being waged because it helps the arms manufacturers or because it's about male pride or some other nonsense. But somehow this rhetoric is always applied to the United States and never its enemies.
Will the anti-war crowd pass this test by protesting against North Korea? I'm betting they won't.
Yesterday was the MLS Cup, the final game of Major League Soccer in North America for this year. Soccer is a world-wide game, which suggests that it counts as a multicultural sport, a sport that deserves the attention of our multiculturalists. And this particular game was played in Toronto, which adds to the multicultural mix. So, it’s worth taking a look at how so-called progressive newspapers covered this game. I’m now in Minneapolis visiting my mother, and the Minneapolis Star-Tribune barely noticed the event. There were many pages in the sports section devoted to the Vikings, pages that included large photos, but almost nothing at all devoted to a championship game in soccer (and of course no photos). Keep in mind that the Vikings play American football, a sport which most of the rest of the world ignores. Why is a progressive newspaper paying so much attention to this sport?