Archive for July 19, 2009

Tuesday, Service Dog

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment


Having slammed the WSJ in my previous post for the people they choose to put on their op-ed pages, I’ll now give an example of one thing I love about the WSJ: their daily front page feature articles. One such article, a week ago, was about psychiatric-service dogs, focusing on Tuesday, the companion to Iraqi war vet Luis Carlos Montalvan. (See also the accompanying video. It doesn’t explain as much, but you do get to see Tuesday in action.)

One small quote from the article:

Tuesday is with Mr. Montalvan at all hours. Taught to recognize changes in a person’s breathing, perspiration or scent that can indicate an imminent panic attack, Tuesday can keep Mr. Montalvan buffered from crowds or deliver a calming nuzzle. Other dogs, typically golden retrievers, Labradors or Labrador retriever blends, are trained to wake masters from debilitating nightmares and to help patients differentiate between hallucinations and reality by barking if a real person is nearby.

“Tuesday is just extraordinarily empathetic,” said Mr. Montalvan, 36 years old, a retired Army captain who received a Purple Heart for wounds he suffered in Iraq. “In bad moments, he’ll lay his head on my leg, and it’ll be like he’s saying, ‘You’re OK. You’re not alone.'”

Categories: Animals, Newspapers

Forfeiting Respect

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment


I wrote three days ago that my favorite blogger, hilzoy, announced her retirement, effective on Friday. I also quoted from her retirement announcement, which I won’t repeat here. But let me quote from her last post.

A democracy is essentially about determining the course of our nation together. To do that, it helps a lot to have a good citizenry. A good citizenry is informed, serious about things that are worth taking seriously, and not liable to be led off course by demagogues. (Everyone doesn’t have to be like this, but you need a critical mass of people who are.) But I’ve always thought that a good citizenry is also composed of people who assume, until proven wrong, that many of the people who disagree with them are acting in good faith.

This matters for policy: you’re unlikely to choose sound policies if you assume that anyone who disagrees with you is a depraved, corrupt imbecile. It’s hard to learn anything from people you have completely written off. But it’s also corrosive to any kind of community or dialogue to assume the worst about large numbers of people you’ve never met. It makes you less willing to try to take their problems seriously, and to try to figure out how they might be solved, or to try to understand what’s driving them.

I hate it when people do this to me. I never wanted to do it to them. … I also wanted to try, if at all possible, to treat people, and most especially my political opponents, with respect, except where respect had been clearly forfeited. (Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, I’m thinking of you.) Because, as I said, I think it’s just corrosive to democracy if people are not willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to one another. Besides, it’s uncharitable and wrong, and besides that, perhaps some people would survive in a world in which no one was ever more generous to them than they deserve, but I am quite sure that I would not.

hilzoy’s sentiments came to mind yesterday afternoon when I was catching up on days of the Wall Street Journal. There’s much that I enjoy in the WSJ. But they do manage to put a lot of people on their op-ed page who fall hilzoy’s category of forfeiting respect. Two of them appeared in Thursday’s paper: Karl Rove with his weekly column and John Yoo with a piece explaining, according to the headline, “why we endorse warrantless wiretaps.” I didn’t get past Yoo’s headline. Have we not had enough of his justifications for illegal government activities? Anyway, I gave you the links. Read them if you can.

Noonan on Hillary

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment
Clinton arriving in New Delhi today

Clinton arriving in New Delhi today

I can only take Peggy Noonan in limited doses, if at all. But she does write well, and when she’s not being overly partisan, she does have interesting observations. Like yesterday, in her weekly WSJ column. Noonan takes up four separate topics: the moon landing forty years ago, the Sotomayor hearings, Al Franken’s assuming his position in the Senate, and Hillary Clinton. The Clinton topic arises out of Noonan’s observation that Franken is engaged in a “Full Hillary.” When she entered the Senate, “she did the absolute commonsense thing, keeping her head down and charming people with her hardworking, non-Diva-like attitude.” On completing her discussion of Franken, Noonan turns back to Clinton and writes:

Clinton is in a different position now. By this spring it must have become apparent to her that when the nice new president came and offered her the secretary of state job, and she said yes, she got rolled. What he got was clear: He took her off the chessboard. She wouldn’t be in the Senate being a counterforce, wouldn’t be planning her next move or become the rallying point of anti-Obama Democrats. She’d be on board, part of the team and invested in the administration’s success, for now its success would ensure her future. If their relationship didn’t work, nobody would think it was his fault.

What she would not have known was that she would be a public face of American diplomacy—not the face but a face—and not a decisive inside power. The portfolio for key areas—Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Mideast—was day by day given to others. She was sent off to do interviews on “Good Morning Manila.” In a foreign-affairs apparatus of clashing egos, she’d be just another ego. A Henry Kissinger or George Shultz would never have allowed this. She didn’t even go to the G-8 or the Russia meeting. President Obama, that canny fellow, only wants Obama in the room. It is true she broke her elbow, but they make it sound like a farming accident where her elbow was torn from her arm as she fed the thresher. Tina Brown wrote a witty column saying Mr. Obama should let Hillary out of her burqa.

But you know, one thing Mrs. Clinton’s learned is how to wait. Things turn on a dime, you wake up in the morning and there’s a new headline that changes everything. Sooner or later Mr. Obama is going to get in trouble, sooner or later the trouble will take hold and settle in, and sooner or later she will be the unsullied one who quietly did her duty in spite of the slights to which she’s been subjected. And when that happens, she will emerge—reluctantly, painfully—as the Democratic alternative. The one who almost won, who knew—who learned the hard way—that you can’t do everything all at once, that it’s the economy, stupid.

They will look like kids playing with history. Hillary isn’t a kid. She’s experienced, and has been roughed up by history. Watch. She’ll roll right back.

Categories: Politics

Tour de France: Verbier

July 19, 2009 1 comment
Contador, in yellow at last

Contador, in yellow at last

I’ve been looking forward to today’s stage since the start of the Tour two weeks ago. Last week, I wrote, “Watch for Stage 15 next Sunday, which finishes with the climb to Verbier. That may be the first big shakeout of the general classification. My own guess? Lance is riding well. He may well be in top form, able to handle the stages that await in the Alps and then Mont Ventoux. But I suspect we’ll find that Contador is better still, and we may find that out at Verbier.”

I was right. But then, I don’t know who seriously thought otherwise. It got a bit tiresome in recent days to listen to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen during the TV coverage on Versus as they would tell us that Lance is still sitting in perfect position overall. I love listening to them. Phil gets confused sometimes, and I get tired of his talking about simple addition and subtraction as though it’s serious mathematics (as when he says that Paul is furiously working the numbers to see if a certain rider will be in the lead). Occasionally he’ll admit that you don’t need a mathematician to know who’s leading, but more often you’d think you need a super-computer to add figure out whether someone who is 45 seconds behind someone else will take the lead by finishing the day 1’13” ahead. Well, that’s just my little pet peeve, aside from which I could listen to them forever. Except when they’re dishonestly talking up Lance to keep the audience of presumably-ignorant, Lance-supporting Americans interested.

So when Contador took off early on the climb to Verbier today, as I have to think everyone in the world anticipated, I was stunned to learn from Phil and Paul that Lance was riding really well, all things considered. The guy is 37 after all, and 4 years removed from his last Tour. He sure is doing a good job. And yes, he is. But for days you had given us to believe that when the big climb came, we would find out once and for all whether Lance would win. We were to understand that Contador sure looked good — that he was probably the best climber in the world right now — but Lance looked good too, and surely the Tour winner would be one of the two. Well, guess what? Lance isn’t going to win, and I strongly doubt he’ll even finish on the podium. Which takes nothing away from his performance. He’s amazing. He just isn’t one of the best 2-3 riders in the Tour this year. He knows it. And now we all do. I just wish we weren’t led to believe he was second best, if not best, and then in just seconds, when Contador made his break and Andy Schleck left everyone else behind to go after him, the story changed so easily.

Anyway, now we have it. Contador is the class of this year’s field. Andy Schleck and Bradley Wiggins looked awfully good today. So did Kloeden, the Astana teammate of Contador and Armstrong. And Nibali. I think it’s going to be a pretty good race for second and third. In addition to mountains in the coming days, there’s Thursday’s individual time trial. Let’s look back at the opening day of the stage, also a time trial. Putting aside Cancellara, the winner that day but not a factor overall, we see that Contador was second, Wiggins 1 second back of Contador in third, Kloeden 3 seconds back in fourth, and Nibali and Armstrong were 19 and 22 seconds back in 9th and 10th. Andy Schleck was 42 seconds behind Contador, in 20th. I think these are the riders we need to be watching.

By the way, I enjoyed Lance’s comments immediately after the race. He immediately conceded that Contador was the best climber this year. No excuses. No explanations. The truth is on the road for everyone to see. There’s nothing more to add. He noted that everyone was suffering when they hit the climb, but Contador was the one who could do yet another acceleration when no one else did. And he reminded us that he knows the feeling. He has been that one in the past. But not this time.

It should be a great final week.

Categories: Sports

Turnberry Playoff

July 19, 2009 Leave a comment


I can’t watch. I hoped, but didn’t expect, Tom Watson to win. I kept my emotions in check. But when he hit his approach to 17, needing to birdie the par 5 and then par 18 to win, I couldn’t control myself anymore. Lee Westwood, a hole ahead, was at -2, as was Stewart Cink, in the clubhouse. Watson was also at -2. But Westwood was in trouble on a fairway bunker and ultimately made bogey to finish at -1. Watson got his birdie at 17 to move to -3. A par would win. A bogey would put him in a playoff with Cink. And I started wishing retroactively that Cink had missed his birdie put on 18 twenty minutes earlier, for if he had, Watson would have a two stroke cushion and a bogey would win. Instead, Watson needed to par 18 to avoid a playoff.

Watson hit a good drive, but then, sigh, he put too much into his approach to 18, which hit the green and rolled over. I was slamming the table in frustration, disappointment, fear. Gail told me to leave the room. I said he would probably hit it 8 feet past and need an 8 foot putt to win. That’s what happened. Still, maybe he’d make it. He didn’t. My heart sank. It wasn’t even close. A poorly struck putt.

I then did leave the room. My greatest golf-watching disappointment in decades. I didn’t want him to fall into a playoff. Everything would favor the younger and better-rested Cink. Under almost any other circumstance, I would love to see Cink win, but not today.

It’s a four-hole playoff at the Open, then sudden-death if necessary. I went back to the TV to see their putts on the first playoff hole. Cink parred; Watson bogeyed. I don’t think I can watch anymore though.

As I wrote last night, golf was created to dash hopes. Too painful.

Categories: Golf