Painfully clever, &c.


Want to start with something light — or rather, lightish? Yesterday, I saw a bumper sticker I hadn’t seen before. It had the design, including the colors, of the familiar Bush-Cheney sticker. (Perhaps you can imagine it.) But the words were, “The Worst President Ever.” A rather clever sticker, but also diabolical.

Do me a favor, would you? If you ever see me put a negative sticker on my car, just shoot me (or let the air out of my tires or something).

You know that bumper sticker with the Christian fish, only with the little running “Darwin” feet on it? Gosh, people in my hometown, Ann Arbor, got a kick out of that! (I seem to remember that it was popular in Cambridge, Mass., too.)

The “Worst President Ever” sticker must score big with that same crowd.

Longtime readers of this column have heard me gripe about Charlie Rangel — the beloved Harlem congressman (beloved of the media, certainly); such a charming guy; and a close friend, and tireless advocate, of Fidel Castro.

Well, I’m going to harp on him once more (and I can’t promise it’ll be the last time). I happened on this item in New York magazine, which begins, “Representative Charlie Rangel has been scrambling to explain away inconsistencies surrounding a mission he and other New York power brokers took to meet with Fidel Castro.” It continues, “According to forms Rangel filed with House overseers back in 2002, he claimed he and his family took a $5,700, four-day trip to Havana on the dime of an obscure Minneapolis-based environmental group.” But the Center for Public Integrity “discovered some major missing info: Rangel now says the government of Cuba paid for their stay at the posh Melia Cohiba hotel.”

You’ll appreciate the conclusion of New York’s item: “‘There’s no reason to hide the damn thing,’ [Rangel] says, adding that he’s met Castro a half dozen times on Cuba’s dime.”

There’s no reason to hide the damn thing. You can’t argue with that.

I’ve been giving you lots of John Bolton lately. May I give you some more? A reporter asked him last Wednesday whether we would deploy SDI, in some form, if North Korea launched again. Our ambassador to the U.N. responded,

“I think that what North Korea did yesterday shows the wisdom and leadership that President Bush displayed in 2001 in moving beyond the 1972 ABM treaty and relieving us from the antiquated restraints of that treaty, and [the wisdom] of his efforts to develop an effective limited missile-defense system to guard against attacks from rogue states and accidental launches.”

A U.N. ambassador who sticks up for missile defense (and withdrawal from the ABM treaty)? That’s pretty good. Very good, actually.

You know what’s really, really good? Tom Sowell, always. You have heard me say — if you’ve been reading for a while — that I regard Theodore Roosevelt as one of the most overrated figures in history. I could go into the reasons; I have before; I will again, I’m afraid. But let me just direct you to this Sowell column. About the lionized one, he says,

“Aside from questions of flamboyant style and rhetoric, what did Theodore Roosevelt actually accomplish that would justify putting him on Mount Rushmore, alongside Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln?”

Oh, Sowell, once you’re gone, who the hell will say the unsayable? (The true but unsayable, I should clarify.) Thank goodness for those thousands of books, essays, and columns.

Every once in a while — pretty frequently, actually — you read of a terror plot, foiled. And you think, “Gee, they did it again — the government’s doing a pretty good job.” But then you think of the old cliché: “The bad guys have to be lucky only once; we have to be lucky all the time.”

I had such an experience when reading a July 7 item from the AP: “Authorities disrupted a terrorist plot to attack the train tunnels beneath the Hudson River that carry thousands of commuters between New York and New Jersey every day, the FBI announced Friday. Law-enforcement officials said the plot involved at least eight people overseas, including an alleged al-Qaeda operative arrested in Lebanon who had sworn allegiance to Osama bin Laden.”

Shouldn’t we pause, somehow, to express our gratitude to these anti-terrorists? Shouldn’t we thank or honor them, in some way, for “disrupting” these plots? We must also say, nervously: Keep going, please. Keep going.

The AP’s Jennifer Loven had this to say, about the president’s Chicago press conference (the article is here): “Bush gave a rambling 15-minute opening statement in which he talked about Chicago’s vibrant economy, the war on terrorism, and the war in Iraq.”

Um, I’m not criticizing, just want to say that, to me, the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq are the same, baby. And I’m afraid this is so in reality as well.

A bulletin from Moscow: “Authorities have dramatically curtailed the number of stations broadcasting Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Voice of America news programs, officials said Friday, sending an unsettling signal about the state of press freedoms in Russia.”

Um, are we allowed to be nervous about Russia yet, or would that still count as undue panic, born of ignorance about this great post-Communist state?

As you may know, I’m second to none — or almost none — in my opposition to Sen. Joe Biden, and in my readiness to find fault with him. But this “controversy” about Indian Americans? Biden’s remark that they prevail in Delaware’s 7-Eleven and Dunkin’ Donuts shops? What a lot of hooey. I mean, Biden says a lot that’s offensive (mainly when he’s being “substantive”) — but give me a break!

If you don’t like Biden (on the subject of Indian Americans), you really don’t like The Simpsons.

I’d like to give you an item, then make a lil’ statement. Oh, the title of this item? “Whale Concerns Halt Use of Navy Sonar.”

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge on Monday [July 3] temporarily barred the Navy from using a high-intensity sonar that could harm marine mammals during war games that began last week in the Pacific Ocean.

The temporary restraining order, sought by environmentalists, came three days after the Defense Department granted the Navy a six-month exemption from certain federal laws protecting marine species to allow use of the “mid-frequency active sonar.”

Environmentalists argued that the exemption was aimed at circumventing a lawsuit they filed last week to stop the Navy’s use of the sonar in the Rim of the Pacific 2006 exercise off Hawaii. The use of sonar in the war games was set to start Thursday.

In her order, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper wrote that the environmentalists “have shown a possibility that RIMPAC 2006 will kill, injure, and disturb many marine species, including marine mammals, in waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands.”

Okay, here’s the statement: I’m not saying whether this is right or wrong; whether it’s right for the world’s sole superpower — on which the freedom and peace of billions depend — to defer its military exercises to marine species or not. Maybe it’s ridiculous; maybe it’s admirable.

All I’m saying — for now — is: What a peculiar society. Has there been anything quite like it, in the long march of man?

A reader sent this article about a new play, concerning Che Guevara. The reader’s comment consisted of one word: “revolting.” Quite so.

According to the playwright, his work shows that Guevara “would have had plenty to say about the war in Iraq.” No doubt he would have. (He would have supported the beheaders, perhaps wielding a chainsaw himself.) And the playwright observes, “When you’re in a situation where you’re killing people and no one really knows why, the times require someone to ask those questions.”

Does this dear man, José Rivera, really not know why we’re at war in Iraq, and elsewhere? Someone should sit down with him.

And don’t forget to read what’s at the bottom of the article (after Rivera compares Guevara to Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy):

“My daughter wore a Che T-shirt to school and she was criticized by one of the teachers saying ‘He’s a terrorist,’ and ‘Why would you glorify a terrorist?’,” Rivera said, adding that he does not expect to take the new play to Miami.

Holy mackerel — there’s a teacher somewhere who identifies Guevara as a terrorist, and who asks, of a student wearing a Che shirt, “Why would you glorify a terrorist?” Can I possibly meet and bow to this teacher? And does the union know about him/her? Can the teacher be executed for this (perhaps at La Cabaña, Guevara’s old murdering ground)?

And you had to love that kicker: “. . . adding that he does not expect to take the new play to Miami.” I bet not.

You have heard me remark — ad nauseam — on the special relationship between Czechs and Cubans. The former, somehow, care about the latter. So where did Andy Garcia go, to unveil his anti-Communist movie, The Lost City, in Europe? The Czech Republic, of course.

If you wish a news story, go here.

Have another slice of Cuba news: This story tells of student activism, in behalf of Cuban freedom. And that activism occurs at . . . Harvard.

A snippet: “At Harvard University, where Candice Balmori is a senior, she and fellow activists once erected a life-size jail cell and hung a Cuban flag inside to let the campus know about the arrests of dozens of dissidents in Cuba. They have also held candlelight vigils and discussed Cuba with dignitaries, all in an effort to bring attention to the island’s totalitarian system.”

Um, let me just say that they didn’t do stuff like that when I trod those grounds. And to Candice Balmori and her friends — well, I am just speechless, with admiration.

Care for a little language? Speaking about Kenneth Lay’s widow, President Bush said, “She’s had a rough go . . .” That is an expression I grew up with. And Bush, in the course of superbly sensitive remarks, applied it perfectly.

Care for a little music? Here are two reviews, published in the New York Sun: For the New York Philharmonic, in a pops, or semi-pops, concert, go here; and for a subsequent such concert, go here.

Care for a little mail?

Dear Jay,

In your column today, you wrote, “Please accept my 1,024th example of Why It’s Utterly Amazing that John R. Bolton is U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.”

Is there any particular reason for your selection of 1,024? Did you know that 1,024 megabytes = 1 gigabyte? So, a gigabyte of examples, huh? If only that amount would actually serve to make some positive changes at the U.N.!

Anyhoo, just noticed and wanted to pass along.

Thank you so much — and I wish I could say I’d known what I was doing. The number? Plucked from thin air — but it seemed about right.

Another reader says, “Dear Jay: Do you know there are 2007-model cars being driven around with Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers on them? What kind of a thought process does it take to buy a car two years after an election and affix a sticker promoting the losing argument?”

Hey, don’t blame me — I voted for McGovern!

Finally, I have a message for all Nantucket Impromptus-ites: If you attend the speech at the Atheneum on Wednesday night, do say hello. And I promise: no limerick jokes.

I was going to sign off, right here, with a limerick — but, sparing you, I’ll just say: I’ll catch you later.


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