Sequestration is “looming.” Sequestration is, indeed, upon us. I wrote a little about this in the January 28 issue of National Review. The piece was called “Defense Is Different.” Let me give you some comments that people have made, with regard to sequestration — particularly with regard to the defense budget. The comments did not find their way into my piece. But I collected them (and others), in preparing the piece.
This is Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, in May 2012: Congressmen must not “just allow sequestration to take effect. I mean, the whole purpose of sequestration, or even developing a crazy vehicle like that, was to ensure that they would exercise leadership to prevent it from happening.”
Here is Panetta more recently, making the same point: “Sequestration was never intended to be implemented and there is no reason why both sides should not be able to come together and prevent this scenario.”
Here is Lindsey Graham, the Republican senator from South Carolina: “This is the dumbest idea that Congress has come up with — and we’re known for doing dumb things. The idea that, if a bunch of politicians fail to do their job well and correctly, you’re going to destroy the military and fire a bunch of soldiers . . . Fire the politicians, keep the soldiers.”
The most important player in all this is President Obama. In a debate last fall, his opponent, Mitt Romney, expressed concern about the defense budget. Obama was, of course, dismissive, and not exactly honest: “First of all, the sequester is not something that I proposed. It’s something that Congress has proposed. It will not happen.”
Yeah, right. The American people did something momentous when they reelected Obama on November 6. The price, I’m afraid, will be terrible.
Obama did an interview with Al Sharpton the other day. Let me tell you something about Sharpton, or remind you: During the Tawana Brawley hoax, he smeared a man named Steven Pagones. This was no ordinary smearing: He accused Pagones of raping Brawley. Pagones was an assistant district attorney. When he was cleared of this crime — a fictitious crime, in any event — he held a press conference. Sharpton tried to crash it, bellowing, “Your accuser has arrived!”
No accuser of Sharpton ever arrives. He’s a star of this left-wing network, MSNBC. The president comes to sit by his side. Sharpton has never apologized to Pagones, for his evil lies. He has proudly said he will not apologize. He is a Christian minister, or something like that. People call him “Reverend,” or “Rev.”
Would Obama ever sit down with Steven Pagones? Hard to see it happening. Yes, the American people did something important when they reelected Obama in November. They, we, said something about our character.
I thought of Frederick the Great when I read this news report: “Kerry has said he is eager to discuss new ways of persuading Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down and usher in a democratic transition” in a country “wracked by escalating violence that has killed at least 70,000 people.”
Frederick was an interesting fellow: king and musician (flutist). He said, “Diplomacy without arms is like music without instruments.”
The Czech Republic has done something superb — a little late, you might say, but not too late, and, again, superb. Here is the story:
The Czech government signed deals with representatives of 16 religious groups on Friday to pay them billions of dollars in compensation for property that the country’s former Communist regime seized from them.
The move is considered highly controversial in the Czech Republic, and the left-wing opposition has asked the country’s highest legal authority, the Constitutional Court, to stop it.
The prime minister, Petr Necas, called the compensation “an act of justice.”
I would like to quote one more paragraph, and then make a media comment, if I may. Here it is:
The story harks back to 1948, when the Communists seized power in what was then Czechoslovakia, a mostly Christian country. The Communists confiscated all the property owned by churches and persecuted many priests. Churches were allowed to function only under the totalitarian state’s strict control, and priests’ salaries were paid by the state.
Okay, here’s my comment: While Eastern Europe was Communist, our mainstream media would never — ever — have referred to the government of Czechoslovakia as “totalitarian.” (The report I have been quoting is from the Associated Press.) They would not likely have said “the Communists” either. Only since 1989, I guess, has it been safe to speak plainly.
You may laugh at this — or not. The headline said, “Putin’s idea to house Jewish collections rejected.” I thought, “Are Putin’s ideas ever rejected? Doesn’t he get his way, on everything?” Then I read the article: “A U.S.-based Jewish group Thursday rejected Russian President Vladimir Putin’s suggestion to house disputed historical collections of books and documents at a Jewish museum in Moscow.”
Ah! (I doubt that Putin’s ideas are ever rejected within Russia.) (Although maybe Mrs. Putin says no once in a while.)
This article is about the evil that Islamists inflict on children in Mali. I won’t go into detail. But I would like to cite one detail, just for its poignancy, and maybe for its incongruousness: “They sit cross-legged on mats on the sand floor of the thatched hut — the girls on one side all wearing headscarves with some carrying Hannah Montana backpacks, too.”
I had a special interest in this: because I’m from Michigan. I have linked to Forbes magazine’s list of America’s Most Miserable Cities. Three of the top ten are in Michigan. Three are in Illinois. And three are in California.
Think of that: Of the ten most miserable cities, nine are in three states. The tenth is in New York — is New York City. I can tell you this: NYC is a Garden of Eden, if you’re lucky to live in the right place. Are there gardens of Eden within Detroit, Flint, or Warren (the three Michigan cities in the ten most miserable)? Doubt it.
A man named Adolf Hitler is running for election in India — reelection, actually. Read about it here. “His father had worked with the British army, but apparently developed enough of a fascination with Great Britain’s archenemy to name his son Adolf Hitler . . .”
Seems not to have hindered him, weirdly.
I have a headline that you might like to file under “The Infantilization of America”: “Judges learn it’s human to have feelings on bench.” (Article here.)
Ay, caramba (as Lisa and Maggie’s brother would say).
I had a thought while reading A History of the English-Speaking Peoples: Churchill refers to Britain as “our Island.” He does this a lot. Note the capital “I”! My question is, Do immigrants and their children think of Britain as “our Island” — as their Island?
Hell, do regular old Britons?
Walking on the West Side the other day — though not the Upper West Side — I passed a High School for Environmental Studies. (I’m speaking of Manhattan.) For the last many years, my impression has been that all high schools, throughout the land, are high schools for environmental studies.
Is this a school where the green education is even more intense? (I phrased that question as politely as I could. Took several tries.)
Maybe someone could explain this to me: According to the AP account, James Franco, an actor, started the Daytona 500 in a peculiar way. He said, “Drivers . . . and Danica!!! . . . start your engines.” Danica is Danica Patrick, a female driver. But she’s a driver, right? So why “drivers and Danica”?
I admire the way the Indianapolis 500 handled it in 1977 — a historic year. The traditional announcement is, “Gentlemen, start your engines.” But, in ’77, Janet Guthrie was among the drivers — the first woman to race in the Indy 500. How to preserve the traditional announcement but include her?
The announcer said, “In company with the first lady ever to qualify at Indianapolis, gentlemen, start your engines.”
I like Carl Pettersson too. He’s a golfer, and, at their recent tournament in Arizona, it was uncharacteristically cold. Snowing, in fact. As we learn in this report, Pettersson said, “This is one time I have the advantage of being fat.”
Thanks for joining me, ladies and gentlemen — drivers and Danica! I don’t think I’ll be scribbling at you again this week. Traveling. But will report back to you “in due course,” as WFB would say.
Want to close with a letter, which responds to this column last week. In an item about Somalia, I said that Iman, the model, was a beauty “not atypical of her country.” A reader writes,
As is often the case, P. J. O’Rourke has the last word on the matter. I quote from memory: “The best thing about Somalia is that the women are absolutely the most beautiful in the world. The worst thing about Somalia is that every male above the age of five has a gun.”
A few years back, I relayed that quip to a Somali immigrant co-worker. He eyed me warily for a full five seconds, wondering if there was an insult in there somewhere. Then he grinned wide with a wicked gleam in his eye and said, “He’s right.”
To order Jay Nordlinger’s book Peace, They Say: A History of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Most Famous and Controversial Prize in the World, go here. To order his collection Here, There & Everywhere, go here.