Politics & Policy

Impromptus

Notification, not consent! Chinese evil continues (yawn). A slogan for '04 — etc.

You may have seen the following news item out of New Hampshire: The legislature has approved a bill requiring that parents be notified if girls under 18 apply for an abortion. The governor, Republican Craig Benson, has vowed to sign the bill (indeed, he pushed for it). Said Benson, “We require parental notification for children to get their ears pierced, to take an aspirin at school” — why not to get an abortion?

I have two (immediate) thoughts about this: First, the pressure from parents concerning abortion is not necessarily against; the pressure from parents is often for.

Second, this news item triggered a memory from the Democratic convention of 2000. I was there, covering the conclave along with my NR colleagues. To and from the convention center, we took shuttle buses.

One night, I was sitting on a darkened bus, returning from the convention center — and the Democratic delegates around me were talking about Joe Lieberman. He had just been confirmed as vice-presidential nominee. “But he’s for parental notification!” one woman spat. Another countered, “Yes, but that’s better than parental consent!”

I don’t think I had ever fully realized just how fanatical is the Democratic party on abortion. To be in favor of parental notification was a conservative, rather risky position; to be in favor of parental consent — why, Attila the Hun!

John Kerry was out in Iowa again, talkin’ populist — talkin’ anti-rich. He rapped President Bush for providing “tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans” when the people, in fact, want “better-paying jobs and more affordable prescription drugs.”

The people want better-paying jobs, do they? Then why not cut taxes for the “rich” (who tend to be employers, entrepreneurs)? And since when did a more socialized economy afford cheaper prescription drugs — that is, drugs that people would consider worth taking? Anyone who longs for Canada’s or Britain’s experience doesn’t know anything about it.

We’re supposed to have two free-market parties in this country (unlike, say, France, where even les conservateurs are socialist). Then why won’t the Democratic party acknowledge that a free economy is as good for health care — including pharmaceuticals — as it is for everything else?

Candidate Kerry also said, “When I am president [shudder], I am going to grow national service in America.” Yes, you read that right. He ought to be disqualified on grounds of violence to the language alone.

Bob Graham has been at it again, slashing and burning against the Bush administration — proving that a Floridian moderate can be a junkyard dog. (Note to Bob: I think you’ve amply proven that. You can cool it a little now.) He said, “There has been a Nixonian stench to the continued practice of putting the American people in the dark.”

This triggered a memory in me, and may well have in you: Midway through the 40th president’s first term, the New York Times — in its infinite wisdom — editorialized, “The stench of failure hangs over Ronald Reagan’s White House.”

And that’s not the stinkiest editorial that paper has published!

May I remind you of the greatness of Clarence Thomas (whom I have been pushing for chief justice, should William Rehnquist retire)? To a group of black high-school students, he said, “I have my own opinions and ideas. They’re mine. I won’t tell you you must believe certain things because of your skin color.” He also commented, “I was a little nappy-headed kid. That’s what they called me. . . . Who would have known what was in there?”

A great man — and he’d be a great chief justice.

Get this, friends:

“Jay, I thought you might find this funny. I work as technical support for [a major governmental institution]. We recently deployed software that blocks various websites that are deemed inappropriate. Now, while I would block all non-work-related web material if I were in charge, basically all that is supposed to get blocked is ‘adult’ material. So imagine my surprise when I tried to access a paintball website — www.gunsnstuf.com — and was redirected to a webpage that notified me that access had been denied because the content was deemed inappropriate by [the institution]. Imagine my even greater surprise when I was instructed to test the web-blocking software and found that it allowed access to www.playboy.com and some other adult websites, but denied access to just about every single gun website imaginable.

“None of this material is work-related; I can understand the desire to block access to these sites in the workplace. But if you’re going to spend thousands of dollars blocking web material, it seems silly to emphasize gun websites over adult websites.

“P.S. This software also blocks access to Nazi websites, but allows free rein to terrorist websites, including Hezbollah’s site and Hamas’s site, which include instructions for terrorist activities.”

Ah, America in 2003.

I pause for a language note: “free rein” is often written “free reign” — and the two are represented about equally on Google. But that doesn’t mean “free reign” is correct — indeed, most (reigns) aren’t (free)!

Speaking of unfree reigns: “Four friends who met on university campuses to discuss politics and who posted occasional essays on the Internet were sentenced [in Beijing] to long prison terms on Wednesday, convicted of ‘subverting state power.’

“The Beijing Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Xu Wei, 28, and Jin Haike, 26, to ten years. Yang Zilin, 32, and Zhang Honghai, 29, were sentenced to eight years . . .

“The case has long enraged human-rights advocates, in part because the group’s activities seemed to be innocuous and in part because the four men had been imprisoned for over two years without a verdict in their trial.”

That report was filed by Elisabeth Rosenthal in the New York Times. (Incidentally, Rosenthal has just won the first-ever Osborn Elliott Prize for Excellence in Asian Journalism. Elliott is a former Newsweek editor and, from my experience of him, a capital gent.)

A few years ago, I did a piece on the Falun Gong, and the Chinese government’s insistence on killing it. It is not a political group, and it should pose no threat to the PRC. These are people who just want to follow their philosophy/religion and do gentle, slow-motion exercises (usually in parks).

I asked Harry Wu, the great dissident, why Beijing should consider the Falun Gong so threatening. He said that the regime is so fragile, “they do not want people organized for anything, for any purpose, no matter how benign.” I have never forgotten the example he used: Say you’re Chinese, and you have an interest in matchboxes. You meet a neighbor who also likes matchboxes. Then the two of you discover a collector in another town.

Uh-oh. “That’s when the government gets worried,” said Wu. “Today, you are a matchbox organization. But tomorrow, you may turn your group to another purpose.”

Some people say that the PRC is not Communist anymore — that they’re just an authoritarian one-party state, not dissimilar to old Mexico under the PRI.

I don’t believe it. Just read the newspapers.

Incidentally, my friend Jian-li Yang is still “disappeared” in some Chinese (Communist) dungeon. The website maintained by his family and supporters, I remind you, is here.

On Saturday, Steven R. Weisman had a front-page analysis in the New York Times on the tussling between the Pentagon and the State Department. He remarked in his opening sentence, “American presidencies have often been riven by feuds between hard-liners at the Pentagon and diplomats at the State Department.”

Did you note that “hard-liners” and “diplomats”? Is that the way you would have put it? Do those strike you as exactly parallel?

Look, that paper commits way bigger offenses than this, but let’s play with it a little. You could have said “hard-liners” and “soft-liners” (very parallel). You could have said “hawks” and “doves” (certainly acceptable). You could have said “realists” and “diplomats” (unacceptable, I concede — though I like it). But “hard-liners” and “diplomats” — not the kind of thing you’ll find published in good ol’ NR (you are subscribing, aren’t you?).

An old theme of mine, played once more: I’m not crazy about it when people take the name off something in order to put a new, more recent name on it. I hold to this even when the name-changing concerns my great political hero and model, Ronald Reagan. Up in New Hampshire (hey, I began with New Hampshire), they’re going to rename Mount Clay, Mount Reagan. (It is currently named after the Great Compromiser, Henry Clay.) (Reagan was a pretty consistent compromiser too — he’s just not remembered as that, least of all by his conservative fans.)

It’s a bad habit, I think — this name-changing. Every time I see a Founder yanked off a school in favor of Dick Gregory (or someone), I wince. And I wince even when My Hero is involved.

In my view, we should just find new things to name more recent greats after — even if the mountains are largely taken.

The folks at www.thanxfornothing.com sent me a deck of their playing cards — “America’s Most Unwanted.” I must say, the cards are hilarious. These people managed to gather the most unflattering photos of the anti-warriors available.

Jimmy Carter, Tim Robbins, Nancy Pelosi, Dan Rather, John Kerry, Jean Chrétien — they all look ridiculous! I hate to laugh, but . . . geez. Bill Clinton is priceless: on the golf course (evidently), with a dopey look on his face and a cigar bluntly protruding from his mouth.

I laughed my [hiney] off.

I commend to all y’all James Traub’s piece in yesterday’s New York Times Sunday Magazine on how George W. Bush has driven the Left stark-raving mad, particularly after Sept. 11. These points are common to the likes of us — but not so common to the likes of the New York Times Sunday Magazine.

It need hardly be added that George W. Bush and the War on Terror have driven certain segments of the Right mad, too.

I was looking at the political listings for Sunday morning, and found this, for CBS’s Face the Nation: Joe Biden, Mark Warner (the Democratic governor of Virginia), Leon Panetta, and E. J. Dionne.

Uh, pardon my right-wing paranoid self, but . . .

On Nashville radio, I was talking with my boys on the “Let’s Be Frank” program (760-AM). They’ve come up with what they think is an excellent slogan for 2004:

“Bush: The Definition of ‘Is.’”

I quite agree. Print it! Ship it! Boast it!

It’s quirky, smart — and, as they say in the political biz, “comparative” (though fairly subtly so).

“Dear Jay: You wrote, ‘You could sort of feel the mob mentality build — as people discovered that it was safe to laugh and applaud, because they were sitting among their ideological fellows.’ [This refers to an Impromptu here.]

“I felt exactly the same way during a ‘humorous’ news panel at the Conference on World Affairs held here in Boulder, Colo. The nationally renowned liberal panelists made jokes about the president’s intelligence, and the liberal audience laughed uproariously. I’ve never experienced wink-wink-nudge-nudge smugness on such a large scale before. I told a friend later I felt like I needed to take a shower.

“And this is exactly why I disagree with your assertion that there is a nearly irreparable split between the ‘Two Americas’ along Left vs. Right lines. I would locate a more profound split — in life, not only in our country — between the smugly self-righteous (and often highly vocal) people and the curious and thoughtful (and often more circumspect) ones — on either side of the political divide. I’m a liberal atheist, and I’ve disagreed with many of the Bush administration’s policies from Day One. I am extremely grateful that the war went so quickly and relatively (as wars go) bloodlessly, and I am hopeful for the future of Iraq, but I continue to have grave misgivings about this administration’s foreign policy (I admit the U.N. is imperfect, but I think its goals remain more than worthy of our best, most earnest efforts).

“That said, I disapproved of many of the tactics of antiwar protesters, I’ve never referred to President Bush as ‘Dubya,’ and my response to policies I find objectionable will not be to sneer at our president or compare him to one fascist after another, but simply to haul tail campaigning for the Democratic candidate next year — surely not a point of view you would find ‘alien’?

“I mean, I don’t want to sound like a sap, it’s just that I really do believe that people of good conscience and character can be found, in great numbers, on either side of most political issues.

“Best wishes, and thanks for your writing.”

Um, let’s just say that, in my time, I haven’t run across many left-liberals like that — and I’m grateful for her.

Good week, y’all.

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