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Babe Ruth Day

By 7.11.14

On June 28, 1914, Gavrilo Princip burst from nowhere onto the international scene. His potshot at Archduke Franz Ferdinand on the streets of Sarajevo helped launch the Great War and everything else — industrial-scale slaughter, Soviet Communism, Hitler’s Third Reich — that would spring from it.

Two weeks later, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, another rookie made his debut, and he too would have a deep and lasting impact on the 20th century.

It won’t garner the attention that the centennial anniversary of Princip’s performance received. Nevertheless, it is incontrovertible that the appearance of reform-school product George Herman Ruth on a major league baseball field one hundred years ago today marked the beginning of a career that would help define our nation and shape our culture.

Babe Ruth, as everyone knows, turned out to be larger than life, a genuine sports hero, a man with outsized appetites to go with an outsized personality. His exploits both on and off the field inspired such awe that linguists added the term “Ruthian” to our lexicon.

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The Nation's Pulse

Falling Asleep to Pink Floyd

By 7.11.14

Pink Floyd releases its first album since 1994 in October. The Endless River will feature contributions from late keyboardist Rick Wright but not, apparently, from alive-and-quite-well bassist and longtime lyricist Roger Waters.

Pink Floyd has been gone for twenty years. They never quite went away.

A band that found radio airplay elusive throughout much of their career ironically enjoys in retirement heavy rotation on classic-rock stations. Despite the attempts of playlist authoritarians to shove “Money,” “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2,” and “Wish You Were Here” into the ears of listeners on an hourly basis, Pink Floyd fans don’t much appreciate singles. In an iTunes age, Pink Floyd remains a reminder of the album era.

Another misconception places Pink Floyd at 4:20 instead of seven or eight hours later. Some people get high to their music. I get drowsy. Nighttime is the right time.

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Enemy of the Week

Photo-Ops and Downs

By 7.11.14

Everyone’s scolding our president for passing up a golden opportunity to participate in his one-millionth photo-op since 2008. But it’s not his fault. No one made him a serious offer. Had Republicans been less obstructionist they would have asked a certain blonde Danish prime minister to intervene. “Mr. President,” she would have purred, “do please join me for a selfie along the Rio Grande.” It’s not enough that they’ll always have Johannesburg. Before you know it, we’d have seen them splashing and frolicking in the river’s borderline waters, pursuing full immersion in the immigration crisis. Michelle, we assume, would have come along as chaperone and lifeguard. Afterward, the president would have appeared before the press, still dressed in dripping trunks and life vest. Summer is supposed to be about fun.

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The IRS Oddities Add Up

By 7.11.14

Curiouser and curiouser. It's hard to see how the details of the ongoing IRS investigation could anything but mystify a fair-minded and careful observer.

Yesterday came news that employees at the tax-collecting agency use an internal instant messaging system called OCS, and that conversations held on it are not archived automatically. Further, Lois Lerner, the woman in charge of the department that targeted conservative non-profit groups, had specifically inquired about that very point. “I was cautioning folks about email and how we have had several occasions where Congress has asked for emails and there has been an electronic search for responsive emails — so we need to be cautious about what we say in emails,” she wrote to IT support in 2013. “Someone asked if OCS conversations were also searchable — I don’t know.…Do you know?”

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A Further Perspective

Our Boring Secular Consensus

By 7.11.14

In 1839, the future saint Jeanne Jugan gathered a group of women and girls, and began administering care to the poor of Rennes, France. One-hundred and seventy-five years later, Jugan’s group, Little Sisters of the Poor, has apparently become something far more sinister. That’s according to the reliably irrelevant National Organization for Women, which recently included the sisterhood on its “Dirty 100” list of groups that have been “using religion to justify discrimination, deny women’s equality.”

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Movie Takes

Ida and Wanda

By 7.11.14

It’s hard to imagine anything more different from Pawel Pawlikowski’s wonderful My Summer of Love (2005) than his new film, but Ida is just as wonderful in its own way. It is essentially a meditation on and unpicking of a paradox, that of a Jewish nun, as a kind of synecdoche for the Polish experience of World War II and its aftermath. The burden of the past always weighs heavily on those who try, and the victims of those who try, to remake the world, and the past of Poland, subjugated by both the Nazi and the Communist attempts at reinvention of European reality, is particularly burdensome.

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Book Chat

A Conversation With Pat Buchanan

By 7.11.14

Pat Buchanan’s latest book, The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority (Crown, 400 pages, $28), chronicles the political resurrection of Richard Nixon after he suffered defeats in the presidential election of 1960 and California gubernatorial election of 1962. It’s a fantastic read, giving an insider's look at the Nixon's character and the nation's politics during the turbulent mid-to-late 1960s.

I was lucky enough to sit down with Mr. Buchanan and ask him about the book, Richard Nixon, and the making of a president.

Ryan Girdusky: How did Richard Nixon, despite losing in 1960, put together a coalition for his 1968 comeback? And who was the New Majority?

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Teepee Populism

By From the July/August 2014 issue

If Elizabeth Warren ends up being the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee in 2016, don’t be surprised if she runs as a centrist, or even as a cultural conservative. The senator from Massachusetts and Harvard Law School professor known as the scourge of the banks and the inventor of the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will talk about her lesser-known roles as a Sunday school teacher, devoted grandmother, and loving dog-owner. She’ll talk about how she enjoys drinking beer and eating fried clams, McDonald’s, Burger King, and Mounds chocolate bars. She’ll talk about her Air Force pilot Vietnam veteran brother and about baking “four trays of peach cobbler” and cleaning up the dishes afterward while wearing her “long white apron.”

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Another Perspective

National Service for Those Who Missed Out

By 7.10.14

Our armed forces have been stretched to the breaking point with the continuing commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Troops have experienced three and four combat tours and repeated extensions of their tours in country beyond what was predicted. Reenlistments are down and military recruiters are having trouble meeting their quotas. 

Various strategies are being devised to boost recruitment. The Pentagon has appealed for more generous GI benefits, and some time ago the Army raised the maximum age for recruitment from 35 to 42, the second time it has acted to broaden the pool of potential recruits.

Recently, the Air Force announced extension of the maximum age for enlistment from 27 to 39, meaning it may now be the best choice for those who feel the call to military service later in life. The Navy and Marines continue to cap recruit ages at 34 and 28, respectively.

Not to worry, your average 42 year old Army recruit can probably manage the rigors of basic training just fine. In fact, I know some 62 year olds who would put some young, flabby 18-year-old recruits to shame on the obstacle course and the dreaded ten-mile forced march with full field gear.

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Political Hay

RNC Chair Priebus Under Fire

By 7.10.14

Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus has been asked to open an investigation into the Mississippi Senate GOP runoff election — by a member of the RNC.

In an interview with The American Spectator, Missouri State Republican Chairman Ed Martin says he believes what happened in Mississippi is symbolic of a “battle for the future of the party.” Martin says that RNC colleagues he has spoken to “are looking for Reince Priebus to show leadership” on the issue. “Leadership” defined as opening an investigation into what Martin and others see as race-baiting tactics used to win the primary runoff for six-term GOP establishment Senator Thad Cochran over Tea Party member Chris McDaniel. Martin says what happened in Mississippi is “beyond the pale.” One of his RNC colleagues, Dr. Ada Fisher, a physician who serves as the committeewoman for North Carolina — and the granddaughter of a slave — has volunteered to serve on a panel that would investigate the controversy.

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