Politics & Policy

Impromptus

My Michigan. There was a man. The guilty Weather bomber — and more

So, I’ll give you a little vignette. It comes from a lunch attended primarily by liberals (and by “liberals,” you know what I mean — I ain’t talking John Locke). One man — a friendly Briton — says to me, “So, where are you from?” I say Michigan (being from Ann Arbor, as many Impromptus-ites know). He says, “Ah, that’s where the militias are, right? Were your family militia members?” I just sort of smile — thinking that posters of Che Guevara and Mao in Ann Arbor way outnumbered any guns. And possibly American flags.

At this same lunch, the subject of the rededication of the Justice Department building — in honor of Robert F. Kennedy — came up. Someone commented that “people” weren’t too happy that President George W. Bush presided over that rededication: He was an unwelcome guest in “Camelot.” I, of course, couldn’t help remarking that some other people weren’t too happy . . . the other way.

End of (double) vignette.

I received a letter saying Justice Thomas didn’t deserve to be elevated to chief justice, because, in his decision-making, he simply followed others. This gives me a marvelous opportunity to quote from a great speech, which you can find here. It was delivered at the National Bar Association convention in 1998:

With respect to my following, or, more accurately, being led by other members of the Court, that is silly, but expected since I couldn’t possibly think for myself. And what else could possibly be the explanation when I fail to follow the jurisprudential, ideological, and intellectual — if not anti-intellectual — prescription assigned to blacks? Since thinking beyond this prescription is presumptively beyond my abilities, obviously someone must be putting these strange ideas into my mind and my opinions.

Though being underestimated has its advantages, the stench of racial inferiority still confounds my olfactory nerves.

Thomas for Chief, y’all.

Something really unusual happened last week: A Cuban hero appeared at the United Nations, failing to be blocked by Castro and his many, many supporters among the “community of nations.” He is Ramon Humberto Colas, founder of the independent-library movement in Cuba. It’s not often that I, or anybody else, runs a press release, but I found this one so powerful, I thought I would publicize it. With emendations, here it is:

“Ramon Humberto Colas, founder of Cuba’s independent-libraries movement, held a briefing on June 11th for the press corps of the United Nations, where he was attending meetings. . . .

“Reiterating [the movement’s] offer to close down independent libraries, he said these would be unnecessary once Cubans have [broader] access to books and publications now forbidden and are free to exercise their cultural and intellectual rights. An Afro-Cuban, he also denounced the Castro regime’s propaganda on racial issues; highlighted blacks’ participation in the peaceful opposition movement; and denounced Castro’s need to find external scapegoats and excuses for his failures and absolute control. . . .

“The Cuban ambassador to the United Nations made several attempts to have the meeting canceled. The United Nations Correspondents Association (UNCA), which hosted the briefing, refused to cave in to the pressure. An audience of correspondents from all over the globe and several diplomats accredited to the United Nations attended the event.

“Mr. Colas, a psychologist, and his wife, Berta Mexidor, an economist, founded the movement in March of 1998 after Fidel Castro declared at the International Book Fair in Havana that ‘in Cuba, there are no forbidden books, just no money to buy them.’ Avid readers, they were emboldened to open their personal collection of books and publications from abroad, kept private until then for fear of reprisal. Their project grew into a grassroots movement as more people overcame fear of persecution and opened their homes for the population to gain access to books, including those forbidden in Cuba’s public libraries.

“As book donations and support started coming in from overseas, the Colas family faced reprisals, harassment, detentions, and, finally, [exile]. In December 2001, the couple and their two children became political refugees in the United States. The movement, however, has continued and today there are 105 independent libraries in private homes all over the island offering books and hosting workshops and roundtables to discuss cultural and social issues missing from the officially sanctioned discourse. Since last March, when a repressive crackdown began, Cuban State Security has ransacked 22 of the libraries and sentenced 14 independent librarians to long prison terms.

“Independent libraries have no access to any public or commercial spaces, and donations of books and materials such as pencils from abroad are often confiscated by the authorities. Banned books include the literary production of leading international authors, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the works of peace-loving activists such as Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and Vaclav Havel.”

The Cuba pot is a-boiling a little. I’m going to do a piece on this for the next NR. Meantime, if you wish to find out more about the independent-library movement, their site is at www.bibliocuba.org. (The English-language button is on the upper left.)

I give you a strange snippet about a strange state in a strange country. See what you make of it. It comes from the New York Times:

[California] unveiled two antismoking advertisements that will appear in publications for gay men and lesbians. It is the first time that the state has used tax money from an antitobacco initiative to reach gay audiences. Officials said that the prevalence of smoking among gay men and lesbians was 70 percent higher than among the general population. . . . One advertisement says that smoking is the No. 1 killer among gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. The other says tobacco companies promote their products among gays. Two tobacco companies have challenged the campaign in federal court.

It all comes together, doesn’t it? Gay rights, tobacco, social crusades by government, lawsuits — America (today, that is).

I would like to note the passing of Selahattin Ulkumen, a Turkish diplomat. But not just any Turkish diplomat.

Here is what the obit, over the AP, had to say:

Selahattin Ulkumen, a Turkish diplomat who saved Jews on the Nazi-occupied island of Rhodes from being sent to concentration camps during World War II, died Monday. He was 89.

He was Turkey’s consul-general on Rhodes when Jews were being ordered to report for deportation in 1944. He stood up against the deportations and protested to the German commander in charge.

In July 1944, he issued exit visas to Turkish Jews living on the island and their non-Turkish children and spouses. Forty-two Jewish families were spared.

His house in Rhodes was bombed in retaliation. His wife died from injuries suffered during the bombing shortly after giving birth to their son, Mehmet.

The Jerusalem Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum awarded Ulkumen the title of Righteous Among the Nations in 1990.

“I carried out my duty as a human being. If I were to live my life again, I would do exactly the same thing,” he was quoted as saying by his son.

There was a man. There was a man.

Are you ready for some Democratic-party crazy talk? A correspondent of mine said that, in acting the way he has, Bob Graham of Florida was simply “paying his left-wing-crazy dues” — in order to have any chance at the nomination (and perhaps at the vice-presidential nomination).

Graham the other day said, “We not only cannot find Osama bin Forgotten or Saddam Hussein, we can’t find the weapons of mass destruction.” This is something a particularly dull and ill-mannered undergraduate might say — perhaps reciting what he’d read in a bathroom stall.

And John Edwards is even more off-the-wall. Said he, “The fundamental difference I have with this president . . . is that he seems to value wealth and preservation of wealth over the value of work.” Huh? How could he even entertain this absurd lie? “You know, the value that I disagree with the president about is that he values and honors wealth and the protection of wealth.”

That’s Edwards.

A little more from the North Carolina senator? Bush’s tax-cut program is “the most radical and dangerous economic theory to hit our shores since socialism. It’s time to end the failed conservative experiment and return to the idea that made this country what it is. Instead of helping wealthy people protect their wealth, we should help people build wealth.”

Etc.

Let’s move on to Edwards and Miguel Estrada. The senator has been saying that Estrada was nominated for a judgeship only because of his surname — because he is Hispanic. Actually, Estrada is one of the legal stars of his generation. But because Democrats act routinely in this fashion, why wouldn’t others? What do the psychologists call that again? I always forget: transference or projection.

On to Gephardt. If you can understand the following statement, you’re a better man than I: “The president is right to begin withdrawing American troops from Saudi Arabia. . . . But what good will it do if our government remains shackled to Saudi oil producers? That’s why this administration tolerated Saudi silence when we struck back against the Taliban.”

Huh?

And here’s Gephardt in his Marxian mode: “[The Republicans] go on and on passing programs for the wealthiest Americans. It’s immoral.” Excuse me, what programs for the wealthiest Americans? Tax cuts? These are “programs” for them? I wonder whether Democrats can even speak right — even when they’re wrong — anymore.

A final Gephardt note: As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, his daughter Chrissy said, “Being an open lesbian, it’s really important to have the visibility, and I’m in a unique position, as the daughter of a presidential candidate . . . to have a voice.” As for her dad and support for gay marriage, she said, “I’m working on it. It’s a matter of time, as far as I’m concerned.”

That’s no doubt true.

A little Dennis Kucinich? He picked up a “super-delegate,” fellow representative Lynn Woolsey of California, who works with Kucinich in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Make your own jokes.

Finally, I read that while Gephardt is calling his energy plan “the New Apollo Project” and John Kerry is calling his “the New Manhattan Project,” Joe Lieberman is calling his “the Declaration of Energy Independence.” I may be weird (no comments from the peanut gallery), but I think it’s mildly offensive to call your latest energy proposals “the Declaration of Energy Independence,” given the grandeur and world-historic importance of the real Declaration of Independence, which continues to be one of the truest, most breathtaking, and most inspiring political documents ever fashioned by man. I have no doubt that Republicans, too, have had their own “Declarations of Energy Independence” — but I still don’t like it.

So sue me!

We should not speak ill of the dead, but since so much warmth is being poured on Gregory Peck, the world can perhaps tolerate this: The incredibly handsome star was a total apologist for Castro, like so many others in his (Hollywood) community. A lot of my Cuban friends are saying some pretty bitter things about Peck now. And he really did a number on Bob Bork, didn’t he? In a TV ad, he said, basically, that the judge was coming to your house in his brown shirt to knock down your door at midnight.

Still, he was astoundingly handsome. And what else counts in life?

Kathy Boudin — the Weatherwoman and Brinks murderer — was up for parole again recently, and she told the board, “I saw myself as the whole person who felt extremely guilty about being white.” Yeah, well, she ought to feel guilty about killing people — including Officer Waverly Brown, the first black policeman on the Nyack, N.Y., force.

Congratulations, Kathy.

“Dear Jay: Thought you might like this jawdropper of a quote from our ever-modest ex-prez. It’s from an article in the New York Times about the Clintons’ life in Westchester County:

“‘Mr. Clinton said he had gotten to know several people on his street, Old House Lane, quite well. He said he often plays golf with one neighbor, Dr. Tony Sanfilippo. And Mr. Clinton said he was pleased and surprised to find a Kosovar Albanian family living across the street. “They have a relative that’s in the Kosovo government right now, and you know because I basically saved them from Milosevic, it’s nice to have a neighbor who knows something you did when you were president. What are the odds of that?” he said.’”

“Dear Jay: I thought you might want to remark upon two things in the Economist of late. Last week there was a little article indicating that classical music, contrary to many reports, is doing very well, at least in England. It’s not only the old who are paying attention.

“And in the current issue, the Economist calls the Unabomber a ‘right winger,’ in the article on the Atlanta bomber’s capture. Somehow they associate him with the militias.

“Finally, how could you resist an opportunity to say, regarding fluoridation, that ‘the water tables have turned’?”

Wish it had occurred to me!

“Dear Jay: There are 4.5 million Jews in Israel and roughly 300 million people in America. Three thousand Americans died on 9/11 — that’s the population equivalent of 45 Israeli Jews, and they’re losing that, what, several times a year? If terrorists in this country were blowing up malls and buses, we would be tracking them down like dogs and liberals would be crying ‘Let Ashcroft Be Ashcroft!’”

“Jay, I know this is a topic dear to your heart: I was at a wedding last weekend, and noticed that a friend of mine had on a Mao watch (pictures of Mao all over it.) I asked her about it.

“Me: ‘Um, is that Mao?’

“Her (grinning): ‘Yeah, I got it on Ebay.’

“How does one react to and more importantly pierce such appalling ignorance? (I fixed her with a cold stare and walked away silently.) This is a supposedly educated, intelligent woman. And while she is a fervent Bush-hater, I would not in any way designate her as a radical. She is some sort of art director for a gallery, and apparently thinks it’s cute and hip to have he-who-is-probably-history’s-greatest-murderer adorning her timepiece.

“(I have another friend who owns a Che Guevara T-shirt. Again, this person is not a radical; he just thinks he is being cool.)

“When and how will we live in a society where the appalling horrors of Communism are known and appreciated?”

Dunno.

“Dear Mr. Nordlinger: This note has its basis in your comment that university officials will always find ways to use race as a factor in admissions. I just want to make certain that I understand the current situation with respect to the University of Michigan case, and the document that the president just signed banning ‘racial profiling.’ So, is the liberal position that it is acceptable, and even laudable, to use race as a factor in granting admission to college, but not in apprehending criminals?”

Yes.

“Jay, I’ve noticed (who wouldn’t!) the big pitch to raise money for NRO, and I will do my part. I’m writing to you now to mention a reason why it may be difficult — given that you’re a conservative organization.

“I get appeals all the time from groups I’d never give money to: Sierra Club, Earth Watch, Planned Parenthood, etc. They always have some emotional appeal and imply that if I don’t cough up dough RIGHT NOW! then some conservatives will destroy all they’ve set out to accomplish.

“This creates the impression that conservatives have all the money and power, and the liberal groups are on the verge of destruction (I particularly like getting direct mail from environmental groups that want to save trees!).

“Personally, I like the VDH presentation, but still, it does not compel me to take action. It’s too academic. Perhaps the call for reasoned thought makes impassioned pleas distasteful. I can understand.

“The best alternative would be humor. Mock the liberal groups by reproducing their frantic pleas, but with an NRO twist. Here’s a free one:

“Picture of a factory worker who grinds up trees for pulp: ‘Terry works nine hours a day producing the paper that becomes National Review. He has a wife, three children, and a mortgage. When you subscribe to National Review, you do your part to help Terry live the American Dream. Subscribe today to National Review. Otherwise, you crush the dreams of five humble people in Kentucky.’”

“Jay, I know you like clever headlines and golf, so how about this? After Jim Furyk set the 54-hole record in the U.S. Open, America Online’s news service ran the following headline, alongside a jubilant headshot: ‘Jim Beams.’”

Later.

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