Politics & Policy

Danny The Red Gets It Right, &C.

My favorite comment on the recent rejections of the EU constitution by the French and Dutch? It came from a most unexpected source: Danny the Red, or, as he’s known more formally, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a German member of the European Parliament. This was even before the French vote, actually: “The feeling of the people is that we want to say no to what exists to prove that we exist.” To prove that we exist: That’s exactly it. Hey, don’t forget about us down here, EU elites. We exist.

Big mistake of the European commissars, I think, to allow a little democracy. Got stuck in the eye.

‐You know, I wish Robert Byrd were other than he is. What I mean is, the Senate–and Congress generally–could use a crusty old constitutionalist, who embodies a kind of institutional history. Problem is, Byrd is an utter partisan hack. His devotion is to Democratic aims, not to democratic ones–not to the constitutional process. And too many things out of his mouth are simply nutso. But what a pity: A Robert Byrd without the Robert Byrdness–that would be very nice.

‐Sometimes I call attention to something just for purposes of Lest We Forget. What are we up against? I give you a little reporting from the Evening Standard:

Muslim protesters today called for the bombing of New York in a demonstration outside the US embassy in London.

There were threats of “another 9/11″ from militants angry at reports of the desecration of the Koran by US troops in Iraq.

Some among the crowd burned an effigy of Tony Blair on a crucifix and then set fire to a Union flag and a Stars and Stripes.

Led by a man on a megaphone, they chanted, “USA watch your back, Osama is coming back” and “Kill, kill USA, kill, kill George Bush”. A small detail of police watched as they shouted: “Bomb, bomb New York” and “George Bush, you will pay, with your blood, with your head.” . . .

The protest was organised by groups including the Muslim Council for Britain and the Muslim Parliamentary Association of the UK.

I just didn’t want you to forget. You hadn’t, had you?

‐You remember when that kid at Earlham College assaulted Bill Kristol with a pie? Well, his little white hiney (I’m assuming) is in court. This item comes from the Palladium-Item–beautiful name, isn’t it?–”serving the Greater Richmond, IN area”:

An Earlham College student who admitted to striking conservative speaker William Kristol with a pie in March will have a pre-trial hearing this week.

Josh Medlin will be in Superior Court III on Thursday afternoon. He was charged with battery, a class B misdemeanor, after striking Kristol with a pie as Kristol spoke at the college.

Medlin, a religion major from Lynn, immediately was suspended from Earlham following the incident. He has not been re-admitted to the school.

Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Shipman said Tuesday that Special Judge David E. Northam of Rush Superior Court will hear the prosecutor’s office and Medlin’s lawyer, Thomas Kemp, discuss the case and then decide how it will proceed.

Shipman said Medlin has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Not guilty? Of what charge? My favorite thing about the story, though, is the kid’s major: religion. Yes, the Church of Pie Throwing. Marie Antoinette had “Let them eat cake.” These people have . . .

What I want to know is, is the kid a lefty, or an anti-”Zion-con” righty? Is there a difference between the two camps?

‐You may know of Joseph Horowitz, who makes a living saying that classical music is dying, or dead, in America, thanks mainly to the stupidity of this culture. You’ll never go broke proclaiming the death of classical music–they’ve done it in every generation for centuries now. There’s always a willing audience. As Charles Rosen, the scholar-pianist, once wrote, “The death of classical music is perhaps its oldest continuing tradition.”

You’ll love this–it reads like a parody that one of us might have written, in a particularly unkind mood. In The New Statesman, Horowitz published a piece titled “Classical Music in America: An Oxymoron?” (Europeans would love to think so. In reality, these are boom times for classical music in America. But you can’t spoil these people’s treasured line.) Horowitz writes,

With the re-election of George W. Bush, many Americans found themselves asking questions about the future of American democracy: about the impact of money and of political machination, and about the power of both to sway an electorate already addicted to fast-food news and talk radio.

Considered as an experiment in the democratisation of high culture, classical music in America restates these questions.

The indulged and uninquisitive American electorate [!] is paralleled by classical music audiences that ask for little and give little back. A tangible acuity of knowing attention still found in Berlin or Budapest is no longer much encountered in New York.

Yeah, right. As I say, some people aren’t open to persuasion, or reason. They have a great investment–primarily an emotional one–in the belief that America is inhospitable to music. In the meantime, there is a cornucopia of music around them: more orchestras, opera companies, chamber festivals, etc., than ever before. More musicians, more presenting organizations, than ever before. More recordings than ever before. (But, true, the big labels are going bust, as well they should, for all their errors.)

Gary Graffman, the pianist and longtime director of the Curtis Institute of Music, has wearily tried to puncture the myth of classical music’s death, or ill health. He was forced to title one speech “Dead Again”–for classical music is always “dead,” even as it lives, or thrives.

The myth will never die, but neither will music, thank goodness. In some areas, we’re hurting, for no age is a perfect one. The recital is in trouble–largely because of the explosion of chamber music–and music education, in primary and secondary schools, is not what it should be. This is so even though schools have more money than ever before in our history. It’s a question of priorities, not resources.

Anyway . . .

Oh, and, by the way, you’ll hear people wail over “the graying of the audience.” There’s no one but old people in the audience! This, too, you hear in every generation. It has always been thus, and ever will be.

For those more than ordinarily interested, I have a long examination of this question in a New Criterion book, Lengthened Shadows: America and Its Institutions in the Twenty-first Century.

On to Cuba . . .

‐You want to read something good? Read Sergio Perodín Jr., a young man who survived what is known as the 13 de Marzo Tugboat Massacre, which took place off Cuba in 1994. He wrote his piece for the Miami Herald on the occasion of his graduation from Coral Gables Senior High.

It begins,

I was only 7 years old and living in communist Cuba. My parents yearned for freedom and dreamt of coming to America. They secretly planned to escape, along with 72 others who shared their dream. We embarked on a wooden tugboat. Our only luggage was hope, but in that attempt, 41 lives were lost. Among them, my mother and brother. My father refused to give up hope, and a short time later, we risked our lives in a second attempt, but on this occasion, aboard a raft. . . .

It ends,

I will be graduating from high school today. Another dream has been achieved. To this day, I remember that awful tragedy and I still struggle with the memories. But I know I have another dream to accomplish for myself and the memory of my mother and brother. I will go to college. I will do it in the land where everything is possible–in the land where I found something so valuable that people are willing to risk their lives to obtain it.

It is called freedom.

Read this piece, and marvel that people such as Sergio Perodín Jr. live among us–and marvel that countless Americans, many of them in high places (such as Hollywood, the media, and the universities), perpetually defend the sadistic regime in Havana.

‐Well, the Western companies seduced by Fidel have lost millions, which will never be recouped. They are said to be “bitter.” (The Reuters story is here.) All I can say is: Ha, ha, ha.

‐The other day, David Pryce-Jones was describing something that had gone wrong in London–some problem with basic services or order–and he said, “The Third Way is proving the Third World.” I thought that was wonderful (not the fact of it, the expression of it).

‐A reader sent me a news snippet, to wit, “Addressing the liberal Take Back America political conference in Washington, D.C., [Howard] Dean . . . asserted that Election Day voting delays of as long as eight hours affected Democratic voters much worse than Republican voters. While Democratic supporters didn’t have much time to stand in line because of their job commitments, Dean said, Republican voters didn’t mind as much. ‘Republicans, I guess, can do that because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives,’ Dean said.”

Comments our reader, “Oh, yeah, that’s what Democratic voters are known for: their hard-work ethic.”

I say (as usual), can you imagine the hell that would break loose if Ken Mehlman, Dean’s counterpart as chairman of the RNC, said something similar?

Also, don’t all those Democratic union members have the day off to work for The Party?

‐I consider it quite bad news that Dennis Miller’s show has been canceled. He is one of the brightest, most talented, most informed performers out there–and he’ll be back, at something. He is one of the few people on whom 9/11 had a genuine effect. He was outspoken in support of the United States, particularly against its Islamist enemies, and he even went so far as to appear with President Bush on the campaign trail. That took no little courage, considering his profession and environment. Hollywood isn’t kind to those who dissent. Miller invited both righties and lefties to his show, and was gracious and fair to all of them. He was a bright light in a dim and swampy land (i.e., television). As I say, he’ll be back at something, and I look forward to seeing what it is.

P.S. Miller staffers, in Burbank, were a joy.

‐Jimmy Carter has been being himself again. He was in Ethiopia, observing elections, messing them up, and EU personnel on the scene were apoplectic. (A fascinating news item is here.) According to the EU, Carter undermined the election process “with his premature blessing.” Of course, he blessed Arafat’s election in the PA, too. Frankly, he blessed Arafat altogether.

That said, I should admit that, when the EU and Carter are at odds, I don’t know what to think–whom to root for.

‐Speaking of Carter: Douglas Brinkley has written an article on Reagan’s D-Day speech for U.S. News & World Report. (Brinkley wrote a book on the Carter post-presidency; Reagan defeated Carter in 1980, as you may recall.) May I cite for you the most extraordinary sentence in this article? Writes Brinkley, “Even though Reaganites tried to pretend for political purposes that the Vietnam War was a morally justified crusade, in their heads and hearts they knew better.”

Perhaps Mr. Brinkley is someone who ought not to write about Reagan, or Reaganites. It’s hard to think of a more “morally justified crusade” than Vietnam. The ghosts of millions–such as those drowned in the South China Sea–attest so.

‐Speaking of Reagan: The other day, I got a card from a friend of mine, with a Reagan stamp on the envelope. On Reagan’s face, a mustache had been drawn. Now, how did that happen? Surely my friend–a proud Reaganite–didn’t do it. Did a postal worker (sure)? And where?

Let’s try to analyze the mind of our defacer. I, for one, am not crazy about John Kennedy–about his performance at the Bay of Pigs, about his performance elsewhere. Neither am I crazy about LBJ, or lots of other people who appear on stamps. Would I ever deface one of them? Would you?

The questions are too ridiculous even to pose.

Maybe Moe Biller rose from the grave to deface the stamp. (No, I’m not pausing to explain who Moe Biller was, because it’s late, and I’m tired.)

(Moe Biller was the longtime, bilious postal-union chief. He hated Reagan.)

‐Chris Rock said maybe the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Someone from Newsweek brought up his apparent lack of athleticism, then asked, “Do you throw like a girl?” Rock answered, “No, I wouldn’t go that far. Not like a girl. Maybe like a lesbian.”

‐Friends, will you join me and other National Reviewers in Chicago, on June 23? It’d be so pleasant, and you’d do our little enterprise much good. Thanks for considering.

‐I wish to offer some music criticism, from the New York Sun. For a review of a tribute concert for the late Renata Tebaldi, please go here . For a review of the Ensemble Intercontemporain, please go here. For a review of the New York Philharmonic, guest-conducted by Hans Graf, with piano soloist Hélène Grimaud, please go here.

Finally, for a piece on the contretemps surrounding Lorin Maazel and his new opera, 1984, please go here.

‐Couple of letters?

Dear Jay:

Something’s bugging me. When it comes to any other minority group, the Left says, “White folk can’t disagree with them, because they have no capacity to understand what it’s like to be in that minority.” But when it comes to Cuban Americans, the Left feels free to ignore what they say about the Castro regime, because the Left knows better.

Why is that?

Don’t answer that.


‐And two about the Palestinian in Jordan who told me he wanted to meet an ex-president — because ex-presidents are nonexistent in the Middle East (outside Israel, of course).


I had to chuckle at your friend’s remark concerning the lack of ex-presidents in the Middle East. It reminded me of what one of my favorite college teachers asked the class near the end of a discussion on a Friday. He queried, “What was George Washington’s greatest gift to the United States?” After hearing many answers from students, the cagy old professor smiled and said, “He quit. Have a nice weekend.”

Letter No. 2:

Dear Jay:

Your Palestinian reminded me of something my dad told me. A couple of years ago, he played host to a young, thirtysomething official from Albania who was visiting Silicon Valley. Dad gave him a tour of the San Francisco area, including a jaunt out to the Central Valley to look at some of our agricultural areas. Of course, The Question came up when Dad asked his guest what was the most amazing thing he had seen so far in the U.S. The Albanian pointed to a used-car lot. Dad was a little confused. “Used cars?” he asked. “No,” his guest replied. “That!” Then Dad noticed that he was pointing to a U.S. flag flying above the lot, as is done at many businesses. The man had to explain that in Albania only government buildings flew the flag–and that this was the first time he had seen private citizens proud enough of their country to fly the flag on their own.

‐Finally, I had I think five letters pretty much identical to this: “You wrote, ‘Mind you, I don’t long for the days when women had to be young, trim, and pretty in order to work for airlines.’ Liar!”

No, really! Honest Injun! (Can I get sued — killed — for that?)


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