A real man, &c.


Prime Minister John Howard of Australia is a man –  a real man. Let me quote from a news story out of Canberra:

“Australia’s Parliament on Wednesday lifted a four-year ban on cloning human embryos for stem-cell research despite opposition from the prime minister and other party leaders. The legislation passed 82-62 in the House, where [Howard] and other major party leaders voted against it.”

And here is what Howard said in Parliament: “In the end, you have to take a stand for some absolutes in our society. And I think what we’re talking about here is a moral absolute, and that is why I can’t support the legislation.”

Yes, he is a man. And don’t his words sound foreign to the modern American ear?

That article further reported, “All parties encouraged their lawmakers to vote according to their consciences rather than following party lines. A conscience vote is rare in Australian politics.”

As for Labour leader Kevin Rudd, “he wrestled with his conscience over the legislation and decided he could not support it.” Said Rudd, “I find it very difficult to support a legal regime that results in the creation of a form of human life for the single and explicit purpose of conducting experimentation on that form of human life.”

Hats off to the Aussie leaders, no matter what the result of the vote. I believe they will be remembered with profound admiration.

As some people like to stare at car wrecks and their aftermaths, I enjoy looking at news articles –  news articles that often resemble opinion pieces –  by Laurie Kellman of the AP. Here are the first two paragraphs of her latest, which is titled “House GOP to Vote on ‘Fetal Pain’ Bill”:

The last days of Republican congressional rule are shaping up to be symbolic and brief, with GOP leaders hawking an abortion restriction with no chance of becoming law, loading up tax breaks with unrelated matters, and dumping an unfinished budget on Democrats.

“It’s appropriate that the do-nothing Congress is ending by doing nothing,” said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., the next House majority leader.

I especially liked that word “hawking” –  “hawking an abortion restriction.” Also “breaks,” as in “tax breaks.”

Why not just allow stories for the AP to be written in, and by, Steny Hoyer’s office?

On the subject of the media, I recently had a visit from a European friend, who is an expert on all matters political and journalistic. He knows CNN International very well, and commented on our own domestic CNN: “Your CNN looks like Fox News, compared with CNN International. CNN USA and CNN International are as far apart as CNN USA and Fox.”

My own experiences abroad confirm the same.

I commend this news story to you, because it shows a Supreme Court justice speaking candidly. Actually, the justice, Stephen Breyer, had spoken candidly on Fox News Sunday, which this story reported.

Some excerpts:

“Justice Stephen G. Breyer says the Supreme Court must promote the political rights of minorities and look beyond the Constitution’s text when necessary to ensure that ‘no one gets too powerful.’”

“He said judges must consider the practical impact of a decision to ensure democratic participation.”

“Acknowledging that critics had a point in saying [McCain-Feingold] violates free speech, Breyer said the limits were constitutional because [they] would make the electoral process more fair and democratic to the little guy who isn’t tied to special interests. ‘You don’t want one person’s speech, that $20 million giver, to drown out everybody else’s. So if we want to give a chance to the people who have only $1 and not $20 million, maybe we have to do something to make that playing field a little more level in terms of money,’ he said.”

I see: So, he’s interested in a level playing field? Well, the New York Times has a greater reach –  much greater –  than Human Events, and NPR has a much greater reach than, oh, Monica Crowley. (Besides which, NPR is taxpayer-funded.) Wanna level those playing fields, baby?

Finally, here is Breyer on Roe v. Wade: “The more the precedent has been around, the more people rely on it, the more secure it has to be.”

And does the constitutional soundness of the precedent matter at all?

We fault President Clinton for many things; we perhaps don’t fault him enough for Stephen Breyer. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It seems they don’t want to judge so much as enact laws and policies they consider good and worthy. Such judges should make honest men and women of themselves and run for office.

May I talk about some language? On our recent NR cruise –  I wrote about it here, incidentally –  we had a panel entitled “Whither Conservatism?” I made some joke about “whither” and “wither.” I further commented that, in Bill Buckley’s mouth –  he was listening –  they are clearly two different words. He pronounces the “wh” in the first one. But in my mouth, they sound the same, humble Michigan kid that I am.

I thought of this when watching, yesterday, that clip of the former President Bush with his son Jeb, the outgoing governor of Florida. He said, “He didn’t whine about it” –  a dirty campaign run against Jeb –  and you really heard that “wh.” Much different from the word “wine.”

Further on the subject of language, I thought you might like this article, titled “Queen Sounds More Like Subjects.” A professor of phonetics says, “In 1952 she would have been heard referring to ‘thet men in the bleck het.’ Now it would be ‘that man in the black hat.’”

Etc. Highly interesting.

Feel like a little music? For my review of the Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, published in the New York Sun, go here.

While we’re on the subject of high art, consider the Turner Prize, written about here. This is a British art prize devoted to basically the worst stuff conceivable by man. It has now been given to a German-born lady named Tomma Abts. For what, I can’t quite tell. But I do know, from the article, that “the $49,000 prize was presented by Yoko Ono during a ceremony at” the Tate. Yoko Ono! Perfect! I also know that this year’s “shortlist” included “an installation made of trash and a video of dancing Palestinians.”

As I said, I don’t know what Frau Abts has done. But I’m shocked –  stunned –  that neither the trash installation nor the dancing Palestinians won. Shocked and stunned.

I’m here to report true equality, ladies and gentlemen. In the beginning, all the attendants on airplanes were females –  and young and pretty ones. Then they got older. Then they got fatter. That is, they could be fat. And somewhere along the line, we picked up stewards.

Well, on a recent flight, I saw a first: I saw a fat steward. I mean, a quite fat male flight attendant. I quietly rejoiced –  true equality has come. The fellow may be a pioneer. And if a fat man can be a flight attendant, anyone can.

You may be aware of a timely directive from Missouri governor Matt Blunt. It has been reported on the splendid blog Power Line. I, too, will reproduce it: 

From: Governor Matt Blunt
To: Department Directors
Date: December 4, 2006
Re: “Merry Christmas”

Last year there was a great deal of public discussion regarding the Christmas season. Specifically, we heard from those who believe that the Christmas break should be called by a non-religious name such as “Winter Holiday.” They also argued that traditional Christmas greetings such as “Merry Christmas” should not be used.

Missouri state government employees should not have to worry about this matter. To ensure that there is no confusion regarding our state policy I am directing that each of you inform all members of your department that they should feel at ease using traditional holiday phrases, including “Merry Christmas,” and they should have no fear of official reprisal. I also ask that you inform your staff that the objections of those who are offended by these phrases be given due consideration, but that no state employee will be reprimanded or in any way disciplined for saying “Merry Christmas.”

This holiday season should not give state employees reason to feel as though they must check their religious views at the door of a government building. Instead, it is my hope that each state employee enjoys the holiday season with full confidence that their government exists to preserve their liberty rather than constrict it.

Tell you something funny: The other night, I was sitting at dinner with a bunch of musicians. We were talking about how most musicians –  classical musicians –  are on the left. (Although you’d be surprised at how many closeted conservatives there are in music –  they e-mail me, and whisper to me. Of course, just about everybody with experience behind the Iron Curtain is conservative.) Anyway, a pianist said to me, “You know, [a certain conductor] is very conservative, a real conservative.” And the singer sitting next to him said, “Well, maybe, but he wouldn’t go so far as to think George Bush is good, would he?”

I thought that was just priceless. True story –  gospel truth –  I swear.

More on music? Guy wrote me to say, “Jay, Bach’s okay, but I always say I like both kinds of music: country and western.”

I loved that.

Finally, a reader from Philadelphia wanted to report a conversation he overheard on the Penn campus – Locust Walk:

Student 1
: “Because if Israel and Iran go to war . . . the United States is in a war too, you know?”

Student 2: “Yeah.”

Student 1: “And then Iraq and Syria get involved . . .”

Student 2: “Yeah.”

Student 1: “And we’re not paying attention to North Korea, you know?”

Student 2: “Yeah, dude. South Park was talking about this stuff years ago.”

I absolutely adored that.

Guys, I’m turning to other work for the rest of the week. For Monday’s piece on Gov. Robert Ehrlich, in Maryland, please go here. For Tuesday’s Impromptus, go here. For yesterday’s, here.

And I’ll see you.