Suspend my passport if you like: this once loyal citizen of Red Sox Nation hadn’t watched an inning all season, until Wednesday night. I kept hearing, of course, that they were an interesting and likeable bunch, in contrast with their recent predecessors. No more Bobby V. (though I somewhat enjoyed him, in the rubbernecking sense). No more Beckett. No more Youkilis. (I know this may be blasphemous, but the Greek God of Walks had long since stopped embodying discretion at the plate, and his beards were all menace, with none of the chuckle that his dainty batting stance might recommend—they lacked the klezmer charm of the current lot.) Even John Lackey, I gathered, had become a redemptive figure, absolved of the chicken and biscuits, and the double-fisted Bud Lights.
It has become painfully clear that what the National Security Agency lacks, above all, is discretion. That probably occurred to President Obama on Wednesday, when he got on the line with Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, who was calling with what was apparently unmitigated anger to ask why the N.S.A. was monitoring her cell phone. Obama told her that it isn’t, or won’t—a “wasn’t” seems to have been missing—but Merkel’s government had seen enough, in N.S.A. documents obtained by the German news magazine Der Spiegel, to know what it thought. (According to Reuters, one listed her mobile phone number.) Obama had a similar call with France’s François Hollande, and may have about thirty-three more, based on the latest Guardian report on the number of heads of state whose phones it tracked. But the N.S.A.’s wildly indiscreet character had already come well into the light in the first documents leaked, this summer, by Edward Snowden, about its mass, often indiscriminate collection of American telephone and Web communications. The Agency moves broadly and clumsily; it’s greedy in a way that is unhealthy; it tells itself that rules can mean what it wants them to mean; it is a poor judge of people; it has no real discernment—and that, for a spy agency, may be the worst part of all.
Good game last night, a certificate of the high-end excitement we demand in October. The imposing starters—sour-faced Boston veteran John Lackey and the Cardinals’ tall, twenty-two-year-old righty Michael Wacha—scooted us through a quick five innings, with most of the fans’ attention, I think, going to Wacha’s fastball, which comes out of his hand like an escaping barn swallow and slips, barely noticed, into the upper level of the strike zone. With a Sox runner aboard in the sixth, he chose a change-up, to David Ortiz, however, who deposited the ball just over the sill of the Green Monster, in left, for a shocking, reversing 2–1 Boston lead.
On a road trip through Ohio a few weeks ago, I stopped at a gas-station market, where a bulletin board outside the restrooms was covered with flyers. Somebody was selling black-and-white piglets; a pumpkin patch was offering hayrides. And there were several handmade leaflets fund-raising for people who couldn’t afford their medical costs. Two of them I particularly remember: one seeking help for a four-year-old who required dental surgery and whose family couldn’t afford the anesthesia, and another for a smiling older couple; the husband had ocular melanoma and could no longer see.
There are three things to recognize about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and all the criticism of it: First, the Web-site glitches really are a problem. Second, the hearings that Republicans in Congress insist on holding are no way to fix them. Third, when it comes to evaluating the worth of Obamacare we may not remember the Web-site hiccups all that well. What we will remember, and what ultimately matters, is whether, in the next year, the A.C.A. fulfills its promise: to provide affordable health insurance to people who did not have it through an employer, could not afford it on their own, were denied it on the basis of preëxisting conditions, paid more for it than they should have because they were, say, women of child-bearing age, or could no longer get by because their insurance benefits had been capped. In short, people like those on the flyers, who were trying to scrape together the money from neighbors or from passing strangers to pay for health care that they desperately needed.
The government shutdown is behind us, but the Republicans, it seems, still can’t let Obamacare live. “Now, they’re focussing on the problems with the rollout,” Ryan Lizza says. “They’re not really talking—at least in Congress—about defunding Obamacare, although there’s still a little bit of talk about delaying the individual mandate. … What is the point of that oversight? Is it to fix it? To expose how the exchanges can get up and running in a better way?” Lizza joins Amy Davidson, John Cassidy, and host Dorothy Wickenden on this week’s Political Scene podcast to talk about the health-care law and the political battles on the horizon.
Here are two things I learned today about Obamacare: it’s getting more popular, and it’s working reasonably well in Kentucky, a state that went for Romney over Obama by sixty to thirty-eight per cent.
According to a new Gallup poll, forty-five per cent of Americans approve of the health-care reforms, up from forty-one per cent in in August, even though the new poll was taken in the midst of all the publicity about the disastrous rollout of the Web site for the national insurance marketplace. That change is within the margin of error, but as Gallup put it, “The results suggest that the problems with the health exchanges have not negatively affected Americans’ overall views of the law, at least to this point.”
When the comedian Noré Davis was getting started, he would drive into Westchester County for his day job, in graphic design, and at night he would head to open mics in New York City—as he put it, “Collecting lots and lots of miles on my first car.” He wasn’t getting paid; the draw was having a chance to practice his new material and to see the headliners who took the stage after him. “The best way to learn is to watch,” he says. “There’s no formula, you just have to do it, see where you fall, and make adjustments.”
Last night, in the bottom of the first inning of Game One of the World Series, something very odd happened. The longtime Fox analyst Tim McCarver said he couldn’t recall ever seeing such a thing. It wasn’t a record-breaking home run or a startling new pitch but instead a basic procedural matter: Red Sox manager John Farrell argued a call with the umpires, and he won.
With one out and runners on first and second, the Sox’ slugger David Ortiz hit a weak grounder to the second baseman, who flipped it to short for what had the makings of an inning-ending double play. Except that the ball flicked off the glove of the Cardinals’ shortstop, Pete Kozma. The umpire watching the play, Dana DeMuth, called the runner, Dustin Pedroia, out at second. It was immediately clear that he’d made a mistake: people watching at home knew it, the announcers knew it, and so did the fans in the stands, who let out a collective groan once the replay had been shown. (Even Roger Angell’s fox terrier knew it.) But too bad—the call had been made. Baseball has its share of bad breaks, and this one broke against the Red Sox. First and third with two outs, then, right? Maybe not.
In the past, a city was said to have “Manhattanized” when it bulldozed old storefronts to make room for dense clusters of commercial skyscrapers: think San Francisco in the nineteen-sixties or Miami in the early aughts. Recently, however, city dwellers have adopted the colloquialism to refer to a different New York City phenomenon.
“How do you Manhattanize a townhouse?” Christabel Gough, a New York resident and the secretary for the Society for the Architecture of the City, asked last year in a speech about Brooklyn’s brownstones. “First, you pay a seven- or eight-figure price to buy it. Then you destroy it—except, of course, for the street front, if it is in an historic district. You expand underneath with new underground levels, which may include a swimming pool, a dog-grooming room, and other such essentials….” The list went on.
World Series opening games can feel like a sunny day at Camp 6, a deserved picnic where we enjoy the fabulous views we’ve attained and contemplate the last push to the summit, but all images of the sort flew away quickly last night, when the inept Cardinals gave up five runs in the first two innings at Fenway Park, in the course of an 8–1 pasting by the Red Sox. Jon Lester, the lefty Boston starter, struck out eight Cards over seven and two thirds innings, and David Ortiz knocked a home run and a single and a sac, driving in three runs: thrilling star material on a better night, but only satisfactory here. The Cards, the best defensive team in the National League, were stinko, with three infield errors, two of them by shortstop Pete Kozma. The pattern of the game became clear when the veteran Cardinal starter Adam Wainwright could only smile wanly after allowing a feeble pop by Stephen Drew to drop like a thrombosed dove at his feet, to begin the Sox’ second. One never knows, do one, as Fats Waller said.