Dear friends: Been a while since I’ve written you (at least in this forum). What have I been doing? I’ve been a) meeting deadlines, b) communing with nature (roughly speaking — very roughly), and c) communing with golf courses. Sometimes cursing at them.
As for the nature bit, I will say merely this: The Upper Peninsula of Michigan (my home state) is underrated as a place for humidity and biting, flying insects. I had always thought of the North as pristine, cool, and dry. I am a geographic know-nothing.
And one more word about nature: I quote Woody Allen seldom — not my cup of tea, usually — but I’ve always loved this: “I am two with nature.” I have borrowed it repeatedly (always footnoting, of course).
But hang on, what is this — a freakin’ diary or a serious political column, in the tradition of Lippmann and Reston (gag twice)? On with something non-personal . . .
You have frequently heard me praise Raouf Abdel-Rahman, at whom I marvel. He is the judge in the Saddam Hussein trial. A little over a week ago, he had one of Saddam’s codefendants, Barzan Ibrahim, tossed from court, for the kind of disruption typical of that side. As guards were removing him, Ibrahim yelled that this was “dictatorial.” “You know dictatorship,” Abdel-Rahman replied.
Also — according to the AP report — Abdel-Rahman “scolded the defense team, telling them to stop what he called ‘political speeches.’ ‘This is the last session to hear the testimony of defense witnesses,’ he said. ‘We don’t want speeches . . . So choose one — speeches or hearing witnesses.’”
Raouf Abdel-Rahman is obviously a brave man to take this job, and — judging from reports like the one cited above — the right man, too.
I liked the words of Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, after Zarqawi’s death. He said, “Those who disrupt the course of life, like Zarqawi, will have a tragic end.” He also said that “whenever there is a new Zarqawi, we will kill him.” Simple as that.
More: “This [the taking out of Zarqawi] is a message for all those who embrace violence, killing, and destruction to stop and retreat before it’s too late.”
Words matter, in war as in other parts of human living, and the Iraqi PM seems to be good at them.
Have you read anything about Army Gen. Abdul-Qader Mohammed Jassim al-Mifarji, the new Iraqi defense minister (and a Sunni)? Consider this, from the AP:
Mifarji, who is not affiliated with any Sunni Arab party, told the [Iraqi parliament] that he graduated from the Iraqi military academy in 1969 and was thrown out of the military and Saddam Hussein’s now outlawed Baath party in 1991 after he criticized the invasion of Kuwait — which led to his conviction by a military court in 1994 and a seven-year prison sentence.
“All my properties were confiscated. In 2003, my only house was returned. Then I joined the new Iraqi army as the commander of the operations room and then commander of military operations in western Iraq, and finally the commando units of the infantry.”
He said he was “not affiliated with any political party, and as a defense minister I will work for all Iraqis and will not work according to my tribal, religious, and ethnic background. I will be only an Iraqi and will spare no effort. If I find myself unqualified I will be the first one to quit.”
War critics, left and right, tell you that the American liberation made no difference, and even that Iraq is worse off than before. Do not disturb their fantasy. Nothing could, actually.
(For the article from which the above paragraphs were pulled, please go here. And if Mifarji’s words don’t sound like those of a patriot — what words could?)
The other day, I was engaged in one of life’s most pleasurable activities: I was reading an article by Mark Steyn. He related a story about Bob Dole, and his attachment to the congressional world.
One day, the senator was visiting a school, and a little girl asked him about acid rain: What did he plan to do about it? Dole replied, “That bill’s in markup.”
But forget Bob Dole: That story got me to thinking, What happened to acid rain? I mean, it was on the cover of Time magazine about 100 times. It was the concern of the century, the environmental crime of the century. Schoolteachers everywhere told their kiddies that Ronald Reagan and the Republicans were climbing into the sky to create that rotten rain. At a minimum, they were indifferent to it.
And then . . . silence. No Time magazine cover. No Democratic talking point. The enviro crowd just moved on to something else (chiefly global warming, a successor to the coming ice age).
To repeat: What happened to acid rain? Or rather — to ask this differently — what does the Left say happened to acid rain? Did their crusade take care of the problem — or did they simply get bored, searching out different alarmist pastures?
(You will recall that, at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, the Left and the media claimed that the Republicans were “putting arsenic back into the water” — that was before the administration began wiretapping Aunt Hazel’s phone, for no good reason.)
I don’t know what happened to acid rain. But I continue to be amazed at the rapid flickering out of the most burning issues in American life. Just wait a little while: Global warming will be the dangerous new ice age again. Environmentalist scaremongering is sort of like hemlines.
Incidentally, have you noticed this? Often the phrase “global warming” is replaced by “climate change” — which is far more catch-all. Indeed, it is catch-allness itself. The flick of a degree constitutes “climate change.” You may recall my reporting from Davos, last summer: Bill Clinton listed as his number-one concern in life “climate change.” Yes, with “climate change,” you are always safe: Global warming, ice age, you’re covered. You’re also disgustingly irresponsible.
You know that Bob Dole anecdote, up above? They used to say that Walter Mondale, too, was a hopeless creature of Congress. Proof of this was that, in one of his debates vs. Reagan, he referred to some proposal as a “nonstarter.”
The estate-tax issue is multilayered, but I’d like to stress the macabre: A friend was saying the other day, “You know, there are people — not necessarily bad ones, either — who are kinda sorta hoping that their parents will die in 2010. They have to die sometime, goes the reasoning, andif they’re going to kick off — why not in 2010, when the estate tax is zero?” Another friend joked, “If you’re wealthy, be sure to protect yourself from your children, during 2010! Watch that they don’t put something in your Metamucil!” Certain heirs will feel like they hit the jackpot, four years from now.
A sick tax, this death tax — really.
Friend of mine — a homegirl, ex-NR editor, now Princetonian, Emmy Chang — sent me this story out of Boston. The pols up there are having a fierce fight over . . . Fluffernutters. Which is okay by me, because otherwise they’re upending marriage or furloughing murderers sentenced to life without parole.
(My, I’m a dredger-up, aren’t I?)
(Are you one of those who say you can’t say “aren’t I”? If so — please don’t tell me, just now. Thanks.)
A little language — or rather, a little further language. You know that military spokesman in Iraq, Bill Caldwell? In the course of talking about the Zarqawi operation — or maybe I should say “the anti-Zarqawi operation” — he said, “We just don’t have that granularity.”
Granularity — geez.
On the subject of language — sort of — you know what I don’t particularly like? Signs of the “Thank You for Not Smoking” type. It used to be “No Smoking.” But I guess that was too severe. Then it was “Thank You for Not Smoking.” (In the mid-’90s, Chris Buckley had the idea for that excellent title, “Thank You for Smoking.”)
On the door of a store in Marquette, Mich., I saw a sign that said, “Thank You for Enjoying Your Food and Beverages Outside the Store.”
Care for a little music? For a review of the pianist Francisco Abyar in recital, please go here. For a review of the American Symphony Orchestra et al., under Leon Botstein, in two one-act Russian operas, please go here. And for a review of a concert from the Mannes School’s Beethoven Institute, please go here. All three reviews appeared in the New York Sun.
And speaking of music, NRO came up yesterday with a review of mine from 1999 — of Vikram Seth’s novel An Equal Music. The review is here, and it ends with Schumann’s comment on the young Chopin: “Hats off, gentlemen — a genius.” That much was clear from A Suitable Boy (Seth’s sprawling, Tolstoyan epic of modern India).
Speaking of genius — did you see James Lileks’s article following the discovery of that Canadian terror ring? Oh, do, do — I think I read it three times.
Finally, I wish to present the Excuse of the Month. I realize we haven’t had an Excuse of the Month — but I was, somehow, tickled by this Reuters report out of Amsterdam: “Police confiscated the car and driver’s license of a Dutchman caught speeding who said he only wanted to dry his car after he had washed it.”
Try that out on Smokey, next time he pulls you over!