The real Nick Saban, and more


Alabama head football coach Nick Saban takes his team onto the field for the second half against Arkansas at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala on November 3, 2017. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters)

A coach who tells people the truth; smallpox on “moral equivalence”; an ode to Rite Aid; a tribute to Bob Dole; and more

I, a Wolverine from Michigan, came to praise Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach. He is a hero in my eyes. Why? Because of his greatness as a football coach? Now, leave that out just a moment. I’m talking about something he said, regarding the fans – the Alabama fans, in particular, but his words could apply to a lot of fans, including the Michigan ones (trust me).

For years I have made one point in politics: people like to “speak the truth to power”. They brag about it. They hit their chests about it. In fact, “speaking the truth to power” is the easiest thing in the world to do, that is, in a free society. You are not locked up or executed. You are applauded.

Do you know what’s hard? Tell the truth to people. To the people. Because this is where the real the power resides (certainly in a democracy).

You think Kevin McCarthy means to people – his people, Republicans – that Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election fair and square? Surely not. Do you think Biden means to tell people that saying “Latinx” or “birth attendant” is crazy? Certainly not.

Anyway, back to Saban. He denounces the feeling of “right” of the fans. (We conservatives in the bad old days warned about a “culture of law” that brought our country down.) When he arrived in Alabama, fans were just happy to win. Grateful. Grateful. But the team’s success has spoiled them – and now they’re complaining if the team doesn’t win quite.

Oh, come on, says Saban (in short). He really ignited in him. (To read about it, go here.) My hat is off – a hat with the M block on it – to this’ bama coach.

You may remember a Janet Jackson song, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”, Released in 1986. There is a lot of that in sport and in life – a common human attitude, which must be watched.

• I saw a headline that made me say, grimly, “Good”. It reads: “Chinese Communists disparage American democracy ahead of the Biden summit. If these guys don’t put you down, you’re doing something wrong, as far as I’m concerned.

The article begins,

The Chinese Communist Party took American democracy to task on Saturday, sharply criticizing a world summit on democracy hosted by President Joe Biden next week and extolling the virtues of its system of government.

Party officials wondered how a polarized country that botched its response to COVID-19 could lecture others. . .

I happen to have been thinking about this “teaching others a lesson” business lately. It appeared in the context of Ukraine and Russia: “Who are we? [we Americans] lecture the Russians? We interfere in Ukraine, they or they interfere in Ukraine. In the bad old days, we called this “moral equivalence” (and a false one).

A year ago I wrote an article called “Trump and Dictators” – the headline told the story. The play begins,

Donald Trump’s first overseas presidential trip was to Saudi Arabia. On landing, he said, “We are not here to lecture. We are not here to tell others how to live, what to do, who to be or how to worship.

It was undoubtedly music to the ears of dictators. It is their work, as they see it, to tell others how to live, what to do, who to be and how to worship.

The Saudi government does this job every day. The same goes for other dictatorships all over the world.

A presidential candidate in 2016, Trump was asked about civil liberties in Turkey. The strong man, Erdogan, had fiercely suppressed the country. That’s what Trump said: “I think right now, when it comes to civil liberties, our country has a lot of problems, and I think it’s very difficult for us to get involved in other countries when we don’t know what we are. do and we can not see directly in our own country.

The candidate continued, “When the world looks at how bad the United States is and then we’re going to talk about civil liberties, I don’t think we’re a very good messenger.”

I heard this from the left, throughout my childhood – practically verbatim. These days you never know who you’ll hear it from.

Another example: Bill O’Reilly, then of Fox News, said to President Trump, as you will recall, “Putin is a killer. Our president’s response, you will also remember: “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?

This is the classic “moral equivalence”.

We must avoid hypocrisy, like the plague. (Probably a bad phrase these days.) At the same time, we shouldn’t be afraid to value liberalism and democracy over illiberalism and dictatorship.

• For 20 years – 30 years? – I wrote the following: “The UN General Assembly targets Israel in X number of resolutions” – call it ten. “The General Assembly targets the rest of the world combined in a Y number of resolutions” – call it two.

Okay, I’ll come back to that: As we speak, the General Assembly is targeting Israel in 14 resolutions, and the rest of the world combined in five. You can read about it on UN Watch, here. Members of the General Assembly: Are they ever embarrassed by these figures?

I guess they are not.

• You’ve probably never heard an ode to Rite Aid. I want to write one. In fact, I’ve written about one Rite Aid in particular – the one in my neighborhood, or the one that was in my neighborhood. I mentioned it a few times in an article I wrote in the summer of 2020: “Pandemic City: One man’s experience in New York. Let me quote a quick passage:

I have grown to love the young cashiers at Rite Aid, Pinkberry and other places. I see them almost every day. They are behind plastic partitions, getting by, rubbing their hands, enduring all kinds of weirdness and nervousness from customers. We have formed something like a bond. I feel almost parental towards them.

Rite Aid was fast, friendly, reliable, well stocked, and inexpensive. (I always used the store as a grocery store, not a drugstore.) (Weird, I know. I’m too lazy for Trader Joe’s and all that browsing.) It was almost family-friendly, seeing the employees time and time again, chatting with them, laugh with them. And now the place is. . . gone, closed, which gives me a sense of loss, I blush to say.

For an ode this will have to do, I guess:

Oh how I loved you, Rite Aid.
You have never strayed from the light.
I wish you had stayed in my eyes.
You’ve been a champion – call it “brilliant trading”.

The place deserves better.

• Last year I wrote an article on Russia’s disinformation war here. I would like to quote a quick passage – for a specific purpose:

The “misinformation” is an innocent mistake: you report that Mr. Smith lives on Elm Street when he actually lives on Maple Street. By learning this error, you correct it. “Disinformation” is not innocent. It is a lie, intended to achieve a political goal.

It has always been my understanding. Last week the Associated Press published a report titled “Inside the ‘Great Wave’ of Disinformation Targeting Latinos.” The report begins,

Prior to last year’s presidential election, Facebook ads targeting Latino voters portrayed Joe Biden as a communist. During his inauguration, another conspiracy theory spread online and on radio in Spanish, warning that a pin worn by Lady Gaga indicated that Biden was working with dark left figures abroad.

It sounds like a “dis-” to me, not a “mis-“. We made much of it during the Cold War era.

• The New York Times published an obituary titled “Famous Indigenous Actor David Gulpilil Dies at 68”. I would like to paste just a paragraph, to make a point:

“David can’t stand alcohol,” said De Heer in his manager’s notes. . . “He can’t stand cigarettes, sugary drinks, or almost anything that is addictive. All these substances, foreign to its culture, appease it and enrage it at the same time.

Isn’t that true for – quite a mess of people, in cultures far removed?

I hope David Gulpilil has full freedom now, and that we all have it.

• Some musical links: to a review of a New York Philharmonic concert, with Itzhak Perlman, and to the last episode of my Music for a while. You can appreciate.

• A few more links? I did a Questions and answers with Walter Wolf, author of The Right Drug Rehab: A Guide to Recovering From Addiction and Mental Illness When Crisis Strikes Your Family. This Questions and answers is here. I made another one Questions and answers with John Bolton – subject: Ukraine. Here.

• Sick links? Want a picture? Here’s a slice of New York City, getting ready for Christmas.

• It might be a bit early for Christmas. Want to hang on to fall a little longer? Here is a photo of Central Park from yesterday.

• Bob Dole passed away at 98 years old. I have a small connection with him: because I was an intern in his Senate office in the fall of 1984 (the same period when he was elected majority leader by his Republican colleagues). They’re leaving, the WWII generation. We will miss them: us Americans and us the world. But other brave people appear in their place.

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