1. The Pope gave an interview saying, in Italian of course, that the United States of America, which he offensively grouped with Russia, China, North Korea and Syria, have “a distorted vision of the world.”
The Pope, who has spent the bulk of his adult life seeing the world through the narrowly focused lense of the Catholic Church, and who hails from a South American leftist state, thinks that the United States has a distorted view of the world. Wow. Besides the stunning hubris of this pronouncement, the Pope is engaging in an abuse of position and influence, and a remarkably short-sighted one. If he wants to exercise any influence at all over citizens of the world who have not been indoctrinate since childhood to regard him as a godly sage by virtue of a secret political vote by a bunch of superannuated Cardinals, he has to earn credibility by the evident quality of the statements he makes. Later on, in the same interview, the Pope made it clear that his undistorted vision of the world involves endorsing open borders.
I think the Pope has a distorted view of the trustworthiness of celibate men who have access to young boys, so I really couldn’t care less what he thinks about U.S. policies when he can’t objectively and responsibly process the terrible realities in his own organization.
2. I’ve been reading and listening to sportswriters since I was ten, and I have to say that I have little respect for the critical thinking skills of most of them. I was gobsmacked by an example of why this morning, as Steve Buckley, a long-time baseball reporter for the Hub’s #2 paper The Boston Herald, opined in a virtue-signaling mess of a column that “War heroes, not David Ortiz, deserve streets named after them.” David Ortiz, in case you live in a fallout shelter, is the recently retired iconic slugger of the Boston Red Sox. The team recently retired his number, and in a related honor, the city of Boston re-named a small street near the park after him. It had earlier named one of the many bridges in the city after him.
“We should reserve the streets, the corners, the squares, the playgrounds, to remember the men and women who died serving our country.” Buckley writes. Why? He never really gives a reason, he just tells us that this is the way it should be. Why are the veterans who die in military service more honor-worthy than those who risked their lives but survived? Since when are society’s only real heroes military heroes? Is he a time-traveler from Ancient Sparta? Do contributions to society during peacetime or on the home front matter less to a community than what happens on a foreign battlefield?
What about fallen police officers and fire fighters? Not worth a street name? Philanthropists, inventors and innovators who made life better for all, launched businesses, created jobs, helped families and neighborhood thrive—these don’t warrant a little bit of local immortality? David Ortiz made millions of people happy. In a racially divided city, Ortiz, a black man, became the face of Boston sports, at least for those who were nauseated by Tom Brady’s smug countenance. That was as important as his clutch home runs. Trivializing Ortiz’s contributions to Boston (the relationship of Bostonians to their infuriating baseball team is too complex to explain quickly to anyone who hasn’t been part of it) is trivializing the importance of entertainment and popular culture, which is nothing short of ignorant, especially in the United States. In the District of Columbia, a school is named after Duke Ellington. Good. In Los Angeles, for decades until California leftists finally removed it, a major airport was named after John Wayne. Excellent. And in Boston, the largest tunnel is named after Ted Williams, but maybe Buckley thinks that’s OK because Williams was a combat flier in two wars. (Pssst! Ted’s tunnel isn’t bearing his name because he crash-landed that jet, Steve!)
As a society and a species, we have a duty to remember those who have contributed to the culture we enjoy. There aren’t enough streets, schools, bridges and parks to honor them all, but they all deserve to be honored.
3. Speaking of baseball, now is a good time to get in my annual rant about how sports spreads consequentialism out of the way.
Yesterday I heard two more sports commentators reflecting on the wisdom of a particular contending baseball team trading promising minor league prospects for a key player who would be a “rental,” meaning that after this season, he would be a free agent, and the team acquiring him for a steep price in talent would have his services for less than half a season. “Of course they should make that trade!” one “expert” said. “Do you think, if one of those prospects the Cubs traded last year to get Aroldis Chapman (the fireballing closer who saved the final game of the 2016 World Series for the Cubs, helping the Chicago team end over a century without a championship) ends up in the Hall of Fame, that anyone in the organization or the city will regret making that trade? Of course not!”
“Right, ” said his partner. “Of course, if Chapman blows that last game, it would have been a terrible trade, and everyone would regret it.”
Idiots. The trade was ether smart or dumb when it was made. Whether it worked or not was moral luck. Consequentialism, judging the ethics or wisdom of a decision by using information the original decision-makers didn’t have, creates false lessons and future bad decisions.
As usual, history holds enlightenment. The Boston Red Sox made basically the exact same trade the Cubs did in 1990. Trying to lock up the AL Eastern Division and shooting for the play-offs and World Series, the Red Sox had an injured closer and were desperate for relief pitching. General Manager Lou Gorman traded minor league thirdbase prospect Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros for reliever Larry Anderson, who had been nearly unhittable. He was also nearly unhittable for the Red Sox, and did exactly what he had been acquired to do. Unfortunately, the Red Sox wiped out in the play-offs. Anderson spurned the Red Sox and signed elsewhere for 1991 and Jeff Bagwell immediately emerged as a star, and later a superstar, in Houston. He will be going into the Hall of Fame. To this day, that 1990 trade is derided in Boston, and the late Lou Gorman is vilified for making it. Yet if the Anderson trade was a mistake, so was the Chapman trade. If the Chapman trade was a good one, so was Gorman’s.
It’s not only bias that makes you stupid. So does consequentialism.
4. Do those liberal commentators who expressed alarm at President Trump’s speech in Warsaw just hate Trump so much that it has de-Americanized their brains, or do modern progressives really hate U.S. values? If so, either the nation is in trouble, or they are.
Or perhaps they are just pretending to hate US values so they can attack Trump and make their Trump-hating pals and readers happy.
Rod Dreher wrote a stunning and accurate rebuke of those who have attacked Trump’s evocation of family, country, God, individual autonomy and free speech as “alt-right,” and passages in the speech like…
“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive. Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”
as somehow sinister. He writes…
I’m sorry, duckies, but how is this all that controversial? An American president, standing in the capital of a nation that suffered in the last century the domination of two tyrannies — Nazi and Communist — that tried to eradicate its culture, a nation whose Catholic faith kept its spirit alive and led to its rebirth — proclaims that there are things unique and valuable about Western civilization, and that we should remember those things, affirm them, and defend them. The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we have become.
Dreher flags commentators like Peter Beinart in The Atlantic, Slate’s Jamelle Bouie (His tweet: “Imagine being a political writer in this moment and being utterly unable to identify clear white nationalist dogwhistles”) and James Fallows.
He’s no Trump booster: Dreher agrees with David Frum, who argued that Trump is not personally a very credible advocate for the values he praises in the speech. That’s another criticism rooted in anti-Trump bias, however. Donald Trump the individual wasn’t extolling Western values. The President of the United States, representing the champion of Western values, was. As Dreher concludes, that progressives “have criticized the substance of the speech itself, as if standing up for Western civilization was a vicious, racist act” is ominous.