An alarming headline, &c.


When I saw the headline, I was slightly alarmed: “Europeans Support Bush on Nuclear Stance.” And the first line of the article went, “President Bush won solid European support Wednesday for his handling of escalating nuclear crises with North Korea and Iran . . .”

I had to wonder, “Where did he go wrong?” Listen, if European support were our goal, we would have voted for Kerry. Remember the “global test”? The good senator from Massachusetts could pass it every time. But the Bible-thumpin’ gunslinger from Texas?

Heaven forfend!

Speaking of relations between Europeans and Americans: A couple of weeks ago, Ambassador John Bolton gave a speech in London. (Centre for Policy Studies.) During the Q&A, someone said, basically, “How can you speak about human rights, when America has the death penalty?” And toward the top of his answer, Bolton said, “Personally, I am a strong believer in the death penalty, and I think that what we do in the United States is, we have a democratic debate . . .”

President Bush did real, real good in appointing Bolton. And more than appointing him, he recessed him!

I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the American Family Association has launched a boycott-Ford campaign, because the automaker advertises in gay publications, appealing to that market, etc.

My only purpose here is to show you — via an AFA anti-Ford website — an ad that Ford has put out. (The ad, specifically, is for Volvo, which Ford owns.) The ad shows a very, very phallic emergency-brake handle raised, and the tagline is, “We’re just as excited as you.”

A Ford employee said to me, “If we had that photo as our screensaver, we’d be in big trouble. And it’s our own ad!”

A point — don’t you agree?

When hearing about immigration policy — and I get an earful, particularly from conservatives — I often hear about “skilled immigrants” who “wait in line” and can’t gain citizenship, while “unskilled” masses waltz across our southern border, to be amnestied virtually on the spot.

Therefore, I was especially attuned to this story from the AP, titled “Skilled Immigrants Wait on Congress.” It’s worth reading a few paragraphs:

The latest fights over immigration have focused on who should get a place in line for a legal life in the United States. But the real agony, says Tien Bui, comes when you finally get in line.

Bui, who came to the U.S. as a Vietnamese refugee and is now an engineer for Boeing Co. (BA), can’t take the career-boosting position he’s been offered because his citizenship application is lodged somewhere inside the Department of Homeland Security. With green card in hand, Bui has waited patiently since 2003 for his fingerprints to clear background checks, a process that’s become more involved since Sept. 11.

But if Congress approves a new guest-worker program, the overall waiting period for Bui and the millions of legal immigrants like him could grow even longer, says a report by the Government Accountability Office.

No matter what your view on immigration policy, that is kind of bad — isn’t it?

I saw that William Shatner is joining the TV Hall of Fame, and I wanted to say a brief word about him. I don’t know much about Shatner — Captain Kirk on Star Trek — but I do know this: I was on a television talk show with him, several years ago. I had just seen Trekkies — a documentary about Star Trek fans — and discussed it with him in the green room. He spoke wisely, sympathetically, and even touchingly about those “Trekkies.” He said — and I’m paraphrasing — “We soon learned that it was not about us — it was about them.”

In other words, the conventions (for example) were not centered around the actors in the TV series; they were centered on the participants — their curiosity, their enthusiasm, their sense of family. The actors could show up or not. It mattered little, or not at all.

One more memory from that time with Shatner: We were backstage, just about to go out before the audience and the cameras. Shatner was contemplative. Breaking in, I said, “This must be like sitting in your living room — you’ve done it so many times.” He answered — so kindly — “There’s always a certain anxiety.”

I’ve been a fan of William Shatner’s — Bill’s! — from that day forward.

I have a friend who attended an academic conference in Scandinavia, and I thought you’d enjoy — or at least be interested in — what she had to say:

“Over lunch, I asked one of the sharper guys about the problem of Islamic fascism in Scandinavian cities. He admitted that there are now no-go areas for police in certain cities. He said that no one in mainstream society will talk about it. They’re all too afraid. He said, ‘The only ones who are writing about what’s happening in European cities are American conservatives — so, please: Keep up the good work.’”

Isn’t that amazing? (Though not in the sense of surprising.)

Sometimes in this column, we like to talk about euphemisms, and . . . Well, let me just run you this item, shall I?

SINGAPORE (AP) — Singapore, famous for its spotless streets, is stepping up its campaign against filth in the restroom with a training program to boost the status and skills of the city-state’s toilet cleaners, a newspaper reported Thursday.

More than 50 toilet cleaners will be promoted to “restroom specialist” upon completing the three-day pilot course taught by Japanese experts in the latest toilet technology . . .

There are so many things to say . . . please supply your own commentary.

In Wednesday’s Impromptus, I had something I called Excuse of the Month, in which a speeder explained to a highway patrolman that he was merely trying to dry off his newly washed car. This prompted a reader to send in this story from the Boston Globe.

A schoolteacher faked having cancer so that she could raise $37,000 in donations. Her attorney remarked, “This isn’t a crime of violence. This was a situation where she couldn’t stand the pressure of opportunity.”

Couldn’t stand the pressure of opportunity. Do you love it?!

Music people may be interested in my May New York Chronicle, available in my archive at The New Criterion. Discussed in that chronicle: Kate Aldrich (a mezzo-soprano), Thomas Quasthoff (the bass-baritone), a Russian choir — sorry, Estonian choir! — and a couple of operas.

Finally, thought you might enjoy this letter, which I found astute:


Recently, flipping through the channels with a sleepless toddler on my lap, I stopped on an episode of Night Court on TVLand. This one was probably from around 1986 or 1987, I am guessing. It featured a madman who had kidnapped the U.S. Constitution (original) from the National Archives and was threatening to torch it, right there in Judge Harry Stone’s courtroom. Federal authorities were on hand, led by one particularly gung-ho, well-armed agent.

Harry is trying to mediate the situation and talk the guy out of destroying the sacred document, when all of a sudden they inform him that the president is on the phone. Harry takes the call, while trying to keep the perp from lighting the paper and the gung-ho fed from pumping him full of holes. The fed says something about just shooting the guy, and Harry exclaims something to the effect of, “We don’t need some trigger-happy cowboy in charge of things.”

Then he says back into the phone, “No, Mr. President, I did not mean you. I suppose you hear that all the time.”

Studio audience just thinks that gag is great, and I imagine Harry Anderson [the actor playing the judge] enjoyed the dig as well.

Doesn’t look like Hollywood has changed a bit in 20 years. There’s a GOP cretin in the White House — according to them — and he’s the most dangerous leader in the world.

I wonder if the idiots in Jon Stewart’s audience will sound as ridiculous in 20 years.

A sweet thought! Good weekend, y’all.


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