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There he goes again, &c.


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John McCain is at it again, playing the veteran-status card. On Monday, The Hotline made his words the Quote of the Day. (The Hotline is National Journal’s “Daily Briefing on Politics.”)

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McCain had been criticized by a conservative publisher — Joseph W. McQuaid of the Manchester Union-Leader — for his views on terrorist detainees. McCain said, “I respect those views,” meaning McQuaid’s. “I respect more the views of those who have been in wars and worn the uniform.”

Okay. But what do our war veterans think? On the whole, do they agree with President Bush or Senator McCain on how to handle detainees? I suspect they agree with Bush.

That doesn’t make them right, of course. But if Senator McCain thinks theirs are the most legitimate views . . .

How long can McCain get away with talking like this, and using his veteran status as a blunt instrument? Forever, I guess. The media love him for it, when they agree with him, which is often.

But if ever he used that veteran status to bludgeon the Left (which he never does, to my knowledge) . . . lights out. I guarantee.

In The (London) Spectator, Toby Harnden quoted our 42nd president, Mr. Clinton. The subject was British politics, and the Blair-Brown dynamic. Clinton told Harnden, “You’ve got a great economy, better growth than America has, and less inequality than America.”

What a shoddy way of thinking: “less inequality than America.” As Milton Friedman and others have pointed out, America is the most prosperous country in the history of mankind. No wonder so much of the world seeks to come here.

But there is a socialist mindset — and a disgraceful one — that would rather a man made $15,000 than $30,000, if the former salary kept him closer to the top guy.

Let me elaborate a little, sketching two scenarios. In the first, the poorest guy in town makes $15,000, and the richest $100,000. In the second, the poorest guy makes $30,000 and the richest $250,000.

The mindset I’m speaking of would favor the first scenario, costing the poor man 15 grand — on the grounds that this scenario is more “equal” than the second. In the second, the “gap” between rich and poor is wider.

You all know people like this; I grew up with them. And New Democrat or not, Bill Clinton has apparently adopted this mindset.

Mark my words, my friends: Whenever you hear someone talk about “inequality,” watch out — it may well mean that he prefers general misery to a world in which, while the poor get richer, the rich get really, really rich.

All of this, of course, is disgustingly elementary — but what is Impromptus for?

In a previous column — here — I cited and quoted from a superb Business Week article that explained how American high-tech companies, such as Cisco, are aiding and abetting the Chinese police.

Well, have you heard about Wikipedia? Britain’s Observer had the story. It said,

The founder of Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia written by its users, has defied the Chinese government by refusing to bow to censorship of politically sensitive entries.

Jimmy Wales, one of the 100 most influential people in the world according to Time magazine, challenged other internet companies, including Google, to justify their claim that they could do more good than harm by co-operating with Beijing.

Mr. Wales said that censorship is “antithetical to the philosophy of Wikipedia.” Further, “we occupy a position in the culture that I wish Google would take up, which is that we stand for the freedom for information, and for us to compromise I think would send very much the wrong signal: that there’s no one left on the planet who’s willing to say ‘You know what? We’re not going to give up.’”

As the Impromptus reader who alerted me to this story said, “Wikipedia has its faults, but apparently lack of guts or honor is not among them.”

Many years ago, when “parental consent” became a hot issue, I was not entirely onboard — pro-lifer that I am. Why? Mainly because I had heard about too many cases where the parents were insistent on an abortion, and the expectant mother felt otherwise. If your bias is toward life — are you sure you want to go all parental-rights?

I thought of my early reservation when reading a news item from the AP, which began, “A Maine couple, upset that their 19-year-old daughter was pregnant, tied her up, loaded her in their car, and began driving to New York to force her to get an abortion, police said.”

Yeah — that’s the kind of thing I was talking about.

Our rhetoric was, “If a girl has to get her parents’ permission to have her ears pierced, should abortion be treated more casually?” I imagine that line is right. Still, as I’ve said, I’ve always felt a queasiness . . .

Okay, back to my theme of, “The mainstream press is always inserting opinion in its news articles, including in the leads.” Here’s my latest example, from the AP:

“Religious conservative leaders, sensing declining alarm over same-sex marriage, are warning that the debate over homosexuality has prompted attacks on religious freedom.”

Now, this may be correct — it may be true that conservatives are crying religious freedom because they “sens[e] declining alarm over same-sex marriage.” But it is an opinion, even a psychoanalysis.

That belongs in the lead of a wire-service report?

A longstanding and very common point of conservatives is this: Hollywood liberals are always making movies and TV shows that reflect a world they wish they had. Thus, in the movie The American President, they have the liberal leader of their dreams. And the same is true of that TV show, West Wing, I guess. (Isn’t he supposed to be Clinton without the problems?)

I thought of this when watching a movie preview the other night: There will be a Robin Williams vehicle in which a liberal late-night comedian, much like Jon Stewart, becomes president, after a rip-roaring campaign.

Wish-fulfillment, all the way around.

But maybe a Jon Stewart type should have to bear the burden of leadership for a while — just to wipe the smirks off their faces. Take national security, primarily: They decry every NSA-like measure as an assault on liberty, yet they say that, if one little bomb goes off, it will be the fault of a criminally negligent government.

Okay — you try it, buckos.

Perusing the papers yesterday, I noted that the Republican gubernatorial nominee in Massachusetts is Kerry Healey, the lieutenant governor.

Cripe, are they all Kerry in that state?

I also read about the crossed-leg strike in Colombia. Have you? I’ll quote Reuters:

They are calling it the “crossed legs” strike.

Fretting over crime and violence, girlfriends and wives of gang members in the Colombian city of Pereira have called a ban on sex to persuade their menfolk to give up the gun.

After meeting with the mayor’s office to discuss a disarmament program, a group of women decided to deny their partners their conjugal rights and recorded a song for local radio to urge others to follow their example.

“We met with the wives and girlfriends of gang members and they were worried some were not handing over their guns and that is where they came up with the idea of a vigil or a sex strike,” mayor’s office representative Julio Cesar Gomez said.

And so on. Aristophanes wrote about this, of course, in Lysistrata. And an American composer, Mark Adamo, recently wrote an opera on that play — I remarked on it here, in a New Criterion “chronicle.”

I certainly never thought that we’d see a real-life Lysistrata, and in Colombian drugland! Maybe there truly is nothing new, either in fiction or in life.

I think I may have remarked here that “California” is one of the most beautiful words in the history of language. Well, the other day — reading a concert program, as it happened — I noticed the place name “California, Pennsylvania.” And is that not one of the most beautiful place names ever?

My NR colleague Jason Steorts is from Bountiful, Utah.

That’s an awfully good one, too.

Feel like a little music criticism, published in the New York Sun? For a review of City Opera’s Carmen, and a review of the New York Philharmonic under Lorin Maazel, with Itzhak Perlman, guest soloist, go here. For a recordings roundup, go here. Under consideration are Joshua Bell, Myung-Whun Chung, Monique Haas, Evelyn Lear & Thomas Stewart, and George London. And for a preview of the season in New York — go here.

A funny letter:

Dear Jay,

There was an item in today’s Washington Post Express about “Washington’s Most Diverse Rugby Team.” Turns out, the team is mostly gay. As far as I’m concerned, a team like that is not so much diverse as homogenous (no pun intended). But I suppose that “Washington’s Gayest Rugby Team” wouldn’t have set the tone the editors were looking for.

I should say not.

An interesting, even touching, letter about the father of the governor of Massachusetts, the late governor of my home state:

Dear Jay,

You mentioned Mitt Romney’s dad, the late Gov. George Romney of Michigan. I wanted to mention something you may find interesting. My late mother was, for most of her adult life, both a resident of the great state of Michigan and a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, but she thought George Romney was the greatest. To the best of my knowledge, he was the only Republican she ever voted for, and she often expressed regret that he had never become president.

My mother was not only a Democrat by political inclination; she belonged to nearly every demographic identified with the Democrats, being (a) Jewish, (b) Irish, (c) an immigrant, (d) a graduate of Boston University, and (e) (after my dad died) a single parent with two small children.

And yet she swore by George Romney, a Republican.

If Governor Mitt has inherited even some of his father’s cross-party political appeal, he should be a formidable candidate for president in 2008.

Isn’t that a beautiful letter? (It came from Jerusalem, incidentally.)

Another reader says,

I remember those dreadful posters from back in the ’60s: “What if they gave a war and no one came?” I always thought, “What if they gave a war and only the bad guys came?”

Yes, that goes with our old favorite, “You may not like war, but war likes you.”

Finally, do you remember, a long, long time ago, I gave a little sermon on how, at a firm I worked at, we had to write the word “basura” for trash? (The janitorial staff was Hispanic.) I was making points linguistic, cultural, mental, and spiritual. I then published about a million letters on the subject. One of the hottest topics we ever had.

Anyway, received this, the other day — found it hilarious and astounding:

Dear Jay,

Over the weekend I went to the beach with my family, and around the dinner table my sister was telling us all how her VoTech school will soon be teaching Construction Spanish. Imagine, Spanish for construction here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. How about if they learn Construction English?

Have a good one, y’all.



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