Politics & Policy

Louse Upon Louse, &C.

I know it’s easy to jump on Dem chair Howard Dean, but sometimes he has to be jumped on. He says, “… the idea that we’re going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong.” That’s just plain lousy, isn’t it? Even if you thought it true, I believe a sense of caution or humility would keep you from saying it, if you were chairman of one of America’s two major parties.

I guess I stopped being amazed at the behavior of Democrats in this war when Jimmy Carter invited Michael Moore to join him in his box at the 2004 Democratic convention. Or was it when all those Democratic leaders turned up at the premiere of Moore’s movie, and hailed it? I can’t remember.

Anyway, Howard Dean–pretty lousy.

‐I know it’s easy to jump on Sen. John Kerry, but sometimes he just has to be jumped on. I mean, here’s how he describes the work of American soldiers in this war: “… going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children …”

As you know, the activity of American soldiers in Iraq is to prevent and defeat the terrorizing of kids, children, and others.

(By the way, does Kerry intend a distinction between kids and children? Or was he just caught up in his melodrama?)

What John Kerry said is pretty lousy–very, very lousy. I don’t care how many medals he wears, or tosses, or whatever.

‐You know, friends, that I’m not nuts about “chair” in place of “chairman,” or even “chairwoman.” But I called Dean, above, “chair,” and I think that was right, don’t you? I mean, it goes with him, his party, his sensibility–his governorship in Vermont, his bike-path religious politics, etc. It is the mot juste, as John Kerry might say (while screwing up that “u,” I bet).

‐The testimony out of the Saddam trial is really big–I mean, the witnesses are laying it all out, what Saddam and his accomplices did. Human experience does not get more depraved than this.

Do you have a sense that the world cares much? (And by “world,” we often mean the media, and other elites.) I have a sense that it does not–because this testimony is a distraction (or would be a distraction) from the accepted narrative: bad, lying America, imposing itself where it has no business.

This should be the Iraqis’ moment in the sun: the chance when they finally get to tell their story, after decades of the worst suffering. Instead, it’s all Valerie Plame, 16 words, an American female interrogator rubbing–or not rubbing–her breasts against a detainee, blah, blah, blah.


Remember this, friends, and you’ve long known it: Iraqi suffering doesn’t count, because that might mean that Bush & Co. weren’t so wrong to remove that regime.

And no fair talking about girls in Afghanistan! (It makes Bush critics uncomfortable.)

‐Every day, it seems–every day–we read of another suicide attack in Iraq, killing dozens of police graduates, or enrollees. And yet, Iraqi men continue to sign up. Remarkable.

‐It is clear, too, that what Iraq faces is an “intifada.” Don Rumsfeld doesn’t like “insurgency”–he might try that. For the Israelization of Iraq accelerates.

‐If you read the news about Iraq–a wide variety of news, not just what the Establishment Press gives you–you can’t help being furious to hear John Murtha say, as he just did, “When you fight an insurgency, you have to win the hearts and minds of the people, and we’ve lost the hearts and minds of the people.”

How can he say such a thing? How? I think the hearts and minds of the people are made clear on election day. And, in a week or so, Iraq will have had three of them this year. And those hearts and minds are with a new, democratic Iraq–an Arab experiment, which the Americans are making possible. Iraqi voters dodge terrorists as they go to the polls. I’ll never forget the image of a woman spitting on the corpse of a suicide bomber, as she walked around it, to cast her ballot.

Hearts and minds, indeed. Come on!

‐In my Impromptus the other day, I was complaining about great (or at least illuminating) ignored speeches. I give you–if you care to read it–Secretary Rumsfeld’s speech on “The Future of Iraq,” from Monday: here. In my view, this is a clear-eyed assessment–not boosterish, straight.

See what you think.

Or do you rely on CNN to tell you of such matters?

‐I haven’t read much about the new chief justice, but I like what I’ve read so far. Consider (from the AP):

The Supreme Court appeared ready Tuesday to uphold a law that says colleges cannot turn away military recruiters in protest of the Pentagon’s policy on gays if the universities also want to receive federal money.

New Chief Justice John Roberts said schools unhappy with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy have a simple solution: turn down federal cash.

As my old friend Herb would say, “That’s too much like right.” (Another old friend–I can hear her now–would say, “That’s too much like right-wing!”)

‐My libertarian juices stirred a bit when reading this:

WASHINGTON (AP)–SpongeBob SquarePants, Shrek and other characters kids love should promote only healthy food, a panel of scientists recommended.

In a report released Tuesday, the Institute of Medicine said television advertising strongly influences what children under 12 eat.

The report said the food industry should spend its marketing dollars on nutritious food and drinks. That means SpongeBob, the popular animated star of the Nickelodeon cable TV network, and other characters should endorse only good-for-you food, the panel concluded.

This does not seem like a governmental directive yet, but does it nevertheless seem too Nanny State for you? Me too–or is it just that I likes me not-good-for-you food?

‐While I’m on the subject of food, check this out, y’all:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)–Citing health concerns, the city is considering a ban on taco trucks and other mobile food wagons that dot the busy streets in Nashville’s immigrant neighborhoods.

But critics say the proposed ban has more to do with cultural differences than health. [I give you my Surgeon General’s Warning, friends: Here comes race.]

“There’s a resounding feeling that these actions are driven by racism,” said Loui [sic] Olivas, a business professor at Arizona State University. Nashville is one of several cities with fast-growing Hispanic populations that have tried to restrict food trucks recently, he said.

“Folks weren’t pointing fingers or speaking loudly with traditional hot dog vendors or bagel or ice cream vendors,” Olivas said. “That’s always been a part of growing up in America. Why the concern now?”

Ay, caramba! I don’t think it’s a matter of race, Loui–I suspect it’s more a matter of creeping Nanny Statism.

This guy gave me a vivid memory, from my youth. When Reagan was shot, there was a new push for handgun control. On Detroit television, an angry (black) commentator said–shouted–”No one talked about banning rifles when Vernon Jordan was shot!”

Again: Ay, caramba.

‐P.S. Bagel vendors? Did Loui Olivas say “bagel vendors”? Were bagels ever vended on the streets? Or was he just trying to throw the Jews in?

‐A U.N. investigation has confirmed reports of torture in China. Interesting. If even the U.N. acknowledges torture in a “socialist country” (as William Kunstler used to say), it must be really, really bad.

Would the U.N. care to go into Cuba?

‐Lowell Weicker is considering challenging Joe Lieberman for his Connecticut Senate seat, saying, “I have seen this country propagandized into war. It’s now a second wave of propagandizing, with the president taking the stump, joined by persons like Sen. Joe Lieberman.”

I know which candidate National Review will endorse, if it comes down to Weicker or Lieberman!

(An allusion to BuckPac, of course.)

‐Reading this story from Reuters, I felt I knew which way it was going:

One of Australia’s largest banks apologized on Monday for a “grooming handbook” that suggested staff wear flesh-colored underwear and advised against shiny stockings because they make legs look fatter.

The grooming guide–which also recommended that earrings should be no bigger than a small coin and that women should wear no more than two rings on each hand–was given to retail banking staff at the Commonwealth Bank.

“The guidelines are just that–guidelines,” bank executive Hugh Harley said in a statement. “I apologize to any staff who may have been offended or who do not feel comfortable discussing such matters.”

I thought the problem would be racial–”flesh-colored underwear.” (What color is flesh? Whose flesh? Remember the Crayola controversy?) But it seems like the people just didn’t like being told what to wear. Even guided!

Poor babies.

(Actually, it was probably the “fat leg” stuff that did it.)

‐Oh, geez:

ROME (Reuters)–Calling a foreigner a “dirty negro” in Italian is not necessarily a racist insult, Italy’s highest court has ruled.

The verdict, relating to a case where a group of Italian men punched and insulted some women from Colombia, caused deep unease at a time when Italy is struggling to contain racism.

The court on Monday ruled in favor of one of the men, who argued he was not being racist when he launched the assault with the words: “Sporche negre–cosa ci fanno queste negre qua?” (“Dirty negroes–what are these negroes doing here?”)

Most Italians would have no doubt that calling someone a “dirty negro” was a racist insult.

Well, that’s good to know!

‐A little music criticism, from the New York Sun: For a review of a concert celebrating (the composer) George Perle’s 90th birthday, please go here. For a review of a recital by the pianist Garrick Ohlsson–and a review of a concert of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center–please go here.

‐A reader says,


I overheard this on the Bob and Tom radio show out of Indy. Comedian Emo Phillips says he’s dating a Cuban girl, “and she’s teaching me to speak Cuban, which is a lot like Spanish, but with fewer words for luxury items.”

Monday’s Impromptus inspired this, from another reader:

Have a story to share with you.

My next-door neighbor is a retiree who loves to travel. He and his wife took a trip to India just a few years ago, and found themselves in a smallish town or village. They were approached by a man in his fifties who asked where they were from, and upon learning that they were American he began to ask a number of questions. He had read the Bible and asked many questions about apparent contradictions. He had read the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and Democracy in America, and asked question after question about America and our customs. He was dressed rather shabbily, but spoke excellent English, and was an NBA fan!

As my neighbor and his wife had to get back on the tour bus, the conversation only lasted about an hour. But just prior to taking his leave the man said to them, “In my religion we believe that how we live in this life determines what life we will lead in the next, so that our rewards are not eternal but must be deserved again and again. I believe that you must have done something extraordinary in your past lives to have been born an American in this one.”

I share this story with crowds both large and small, and still get choked up.

Thanks for sharing it with us.

And by the way: I hear, or hear about, comments like that Indian man’s all the time–in a world that is supposed to be one giant cauldron of America hatred. My eye. (Aren’t you glad I cleaned that up for you?)

‐A little Xmas news?


The City of Chicago is again sponsoring a Kristkindlmarkt in the City Hall Plaza. It’s a nice place to shop and eat German-style. I guess that, like saying “Feliz Navidad,” the name is okay because it’s not English.

You betcha!

Did I ever tell you about the singer who, in a tree-lighting ceremony, was requested to sing “O Christmas Tree” and “Silent Night”–only he was required to sing them in German, lest religious words (e.g., “Christmas”) offend certain ears? (The presumption was that German would be safer, before an American audience.)


‐You will love this, dear ones–love it:

Dear Jay:

In regards to the kindergarten class that thinks Santa’s “ho” refers to jollies rather than jollity, rest assured: All hope is not yet lost.

[The letter-writer is referring to the item that appeared at the end of Monday’s Impromptus.]

I live outside rural Lampasas, Texas, where the year’s largest festival is still called “Spring Ho.” (Oddly enough, it’s in July and refers to the city’s healing springs, not the season.)

The festival comes complete with a pair of beauty pageants whose winners are proudly and innocently dubbed . . . Miss Spring Ho and Little Miss Spring Ho.

All hail Miss Spring Ho and Little Miss Spring Ho! I can see their sashes now.

‐Last, I present you with–victory:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

Thank you for your article “December’s C-Word” from December 2003. [That article is found here.] It’s because of articles like yours that parents at our public school took action. Every Christmas, the 5th graders have hummed “Silent Night” rather than sing it. A number of us felt it was offensive that the students were not allowed to sing the song and also that the students never sang a real Christmas carol. They sang religious Hanukah songs and even a Kwanza song. Well, this year the principal responded to our complaints and the 5th graders are actually going to sing “Silent Night.” This is a wonderful step in the right direction.

Thanks for raising the issues regarding Christmas.



The Latest