Plus ça change, &c.


Saw this headline from the AP yesterday: “Gates Unlikely to Make Pentagon Changes.” Oh? Well, then, why’s he necessary?

Also from the AP: “Pope Benedict XVI joined an Islamic cleric in prayers under the towering dome of Istanbul’s most famous mosque Thursday in a powerful gesture seeking to transform his image among Muslims from adversary to peacemaker.”

I see. Any Muslim trying to transform his image in the West from adversary to peacemaker? Just wondering.

A different story out of Turkey: “A university has suspended one of its professors for remarks he made about Turkey’s revered founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.” And what did the erring and defaming professor say? Among his offenses was to refer to Ataturk as “that man.”

Republicans would have been in deep trouble during FDR’s time!

The professor, Atilla Yayla, also “criticized the statues and pictures of Ataturk adorning government offices, and said an era of one-party rule under Ataturk had led to ‘regression rather than progress.’”

Turkey may be the freest country in the Muslim world. If so, that tells us something heartbreaking, and outrageous.

The headline said, “Bayh Moves Toward Presidential Bid.” Yeah, he did so when he voted against Condi Rice’s confirmation as secretary of state.

And he wasn’t making a point from the right, either (as could be done now — couldn’t it?).

Bayh’s principal problem as a candidate in the Democratic primaries is that he can’t do enough to prove to voters that he’s nuts.

People don’t like to read about Saddam Hussein’s mass graves, because it’s so much pleasanter to read about Donald Rumsfeld’s depredations at Abu Ghraib, etc. But, if you can stand it, look at this article.


An excerpt:

An examination of the remains of hundreds of Kurdish men, women, and children discovered in three mass graves show they were lined up, gunned down, and buried where they fell almost two decades ago, an American forensic expert testified Thursday in the genocide trial of Saddam Hussein.

Michael Trimble described several of the recovered bodies — a pregnant woman shot through her belly, killing the fetus; a young girl wearing little green boots whose leg had been shattered by bullets; an infant apparently smothered under the body of his mother.

That writer, from the AP, must be a sick anti-choicer: “killing the fetus”? But what is there to kill?

Was really, really fascinated by this story about “K-12 diversity,” and the busing undertaken to achieve such diversity. By the way, I thought the issue of busing was buried long ago. Shows you how much I know.

The whole report is worth reading, but I wanted to excerpt the following — first, for linguistic reasons:

Deborah Stallworth, who is black, says she was unhappy when her young son initially was denied admittance to his neighborhood school. He was assigned to one across Louisville that would have required “busing my baby halfway to Timbuktu,” as she recalls it.

I just adore that phrase: “busing my baby halfway to Timbuktu.”

But read on:

Stallworth got the decision reversed.

Now 15, her son, Austin Johnson, is thriving at predominantly black Central High School, a magnet school barred by court order from taking race into account.

Stallworth says arguments that a diverse student body is necessary to teach children how to get along are nothing but “foolishness,” recalling her own years in segregated Louisville schools before court-ordered busing began. “I don’t have any problems getting along with anybody,” she said. “I have a good life.”

You don’t have to be tolerant of segregation, or hostile to busing, to find this interesting — at a minimum, interesting.

Sometimes it’s hard not to hate our political culture, and I’ll give you an example — from this article, headlined “Bush May End Drilling Ban in Alaskan Bay.”

The Sierra Club’s executive director says, “If the Bush administration decides to allow drilling in Bristol Bay, it will simply illustrate the level to which they will sink to satisfy Big Oil.”

Ed Markey, the veteran congressman from Massachusetts, says that a change in policy would be “a giveaway of public lands as an early Christmas present to the big oil companies.”

Do major players in a serious political culture talk that way? I don’t think so. I am impressed, as the years go by, that you can barely have an adult conversation about anything in this country. And on the subject of environmental policy, adult conversation is virtually forbidden. The greens talk like kindergarteners, programmed for Marx.

“Big Oil.” “Giveaways.” Get real.

A question from American Government 101: Maybe it’s right for the U.S. to print money so that blind people can recognize it (i.e., so that they can distinguish between a 5 and a 20, etc.). But should a judge be able to order this change, all by himself? Whether district judge James Robertson or anyone else?

What does it say that we have reached a pass where such a question is required?

By the way, I think I told you this story before — but I’m going to tell it again: Years ago, when I was living in Maryland, I used a drive-through bank machine, and found that it included Braille instructions.

That was a puzzler.

Got many responses to my piece on outgoing Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich, published here. (I don’t mean that Ehrlich is extroverted and gregarious, which I think he is. I just mean that he was defeated on Election Day, and is therefore outgoing.)

Try this one from Maryland (and for one sentence in particular):


It is to the misfortune of Maryland that Ehrlich was not reelected. I listened avidly to his show on WBAL. He is one of the people who influenced my final conversion from feelings-based liberalism to commonsense conservatism.

It was with a heavy heart that I removed the Ehrlich sign from the front yard of my Baltimore row-house after the election. I could sense my O’Malleyite neighbors smiling gleefully from behind their window curtains as I uprooted the sign.

I hold no hope for anything good to come from the O’Malley administration, other than the fact that he is no longer my mayor. If O’Malley’s tenure as mayor of Baltimore is any indication, Maryland is in for troubled times. I should probably start searching for a good savings account to pay all the new taxes surely to come down the pike from Annapolis starting in January.

I do hold out a small hope that O’Malley screws up so bad that it opens up a window for Ehrlich in 2010. His administration truly was a miracle, if short-lived.

I just loved the thought that, “well, at least he’s not my mayor anymore.” Interesting, too, that Ehrlich had a role in the letter-writer’s “conversion” to “commonsense conservatism.” That does not surprise me. Ehrlich is the kind of politician who teaches as he goes.

Wonder if you saw the picture of “unidentified friends and relatives of Samir Azzouz” reacting outside an Amsterdam court last week. The court “convicted four Dutch Muslims of preparing terrorist attacks against political leaders and government buildings, and sentenced them to up to eight years in prison.” The heaviest of these sentences was given to Azzouz, 20, “who the judges said had played a ‘central role’ in the group and had prepared a suicide video meant to ‘strike terrible fear into the Dutch people.’”

Did you see the photo? It’s here, and not the most reassuring thing you ever saw in your life.

The clock is ticking for Europe.

Was in Michigan, my home state, the other week, and at an old-time restaurant. On the walls, there were pictures of the restaurant’s founder, with various luminaries. One showed Gov. George Romney — who was about the same age Mitt is now, and looked exactly like him.

I have no point — just a simple observation.

Speaking of my home state, some readers have asked me to comment on Bo Schembechler, the longtime football coach of the University of Michigan, who died last month. I grew up with him — I mean, he was a huge presence in Ann Arbor, our town. I always got a kick out of him, on the sidelines, and on his day-after TV show. (It aired on Sunday, following a game.)

Once, he left a message on the answering machine in our home. I remember the charisma in his voice, and in his message. It ended, “Okay, this is Bo Schembechler, signing off.” Kind of charming — even sort of exciting.

One has heard unflattering things about him, as one hears unflattering things about almost everyone. But this is no time for that — and, like everyone else where I grew up, I’ll miss him.

Woody (Hayes) and Bo were twin titans of my youth. And I think I will always see them, mentally, as they were, in their primes: stalking the sidelines, thinking and grinding, doing everything possible to win.

Feel like a little music? Have some reviews from the New York Sun: For a review of Chanticleer, the 12-man a cappella singing group from San Francisco, go here. And for a recordings roundup, go here. Under consideration are the Austrian mezzo-soprano Angelika Kirchschlager, the Russian composer Nikolai Myaskovsky, a new Shostakovich CD, and the late, great George Szell (playing and conducting the late, great Mozart).

A reader wrote to say that he was in a bookstore: One section was marked “Hanukkah Books”; another was marked “Holiday Books.” The latter section contained only Christmas books.

What the . . .?

Another reader wrote of another store. The signs were in both English and Spanish, and the English one said, “Holiday Gifts,” and the Spanish one said, “Regalos de Navidad” (meaning, “Christmas Gifts”).

What the . . .?

But this is an old, old story (and I love to tell it, don’t I?).

Bless you, see you.