Politics & Policy

Monumental Selfishness, &C.

Friends, can I talk for a second about the New York City transit strike? I realize that was ages ago–it feels like the Crimean War or something–but I’d like to vent a little.

The strike was spectacularly dislocating–and spectacularly mean. (I should remind readers that, like a lot of NR-niks, I live in Manhattan.) I’ve tried not to be anti-union, I really have. I was raised in the pro-union faith: Walter Reuther, the Battle of the Overpass, corporate “goons,” etc., etc. It was all quite clear, morally. But ever since I read about union truckers shooting at–and killing–”scab” drivers, I have been skeptical.

Anyway, back to NYC: The thing that impressed me about the strike was its monumental selfishness. A relative handful of people decided to wreak havoc on millions of people–millions of strangers, to them. Workers of every type, employers of every type, human beings of every type. The transit people were dissatisfied at their work. Okay. But a lot of people are dissatisfied at their work, and they don’t inconvenience, or threaten the livelihood of, their neighbors.

I can’t imagine doing so. Can you? Can you imagine being caused, by your own grievances, to endanger the ability of others to earn a living? I doubt it.

Someone said to me, “But everyone depends on the transit workers. They make the city go. They should get what they want.” Frankly, the city depends on a lot of people: grocers, restaurateurs, hoteliers, bankers, cabbies, sewage engineers–everyone. (Maybe not magazine editors.) Workers with the power to cripple ought to be extra-careful, in my opinion.

You know what the strike did? It strengthened my appreciation of Reagan. How is that possible, given my longtime veneration of the man? Because he fired those PATCO rats, and didn’t bat an eye.

Of course, as he would say, he didn’t fire them–”they quit,” because their contract promised termination if they struck.

Anyway …

‐I’m going to continue a theme here, y’all: After ten years of Republican control of Congress–half of those years coinciding with a Republican presidency–why do we still have government television and radio?

Couple of nights ago, I wanted to watch a TV program at midnight. Was on PBS. I tuned to the station–or whatever the proper language is–about ten minutes before. And there was a program about global warming. Of course. Global warming is our culture’s current obsession. As I listened to the program–I wasn’t quite watching–I became conscious of hearing something that might have been produced by Mother Jones magazine. In fact, Mother Jones was quoted, as an authority.

Global warming was assumed as a hard fact. The Bush administration was portrayed as indifferent, or venal. Energy executives were mustache-twirling villains–really, this could have been vaudeville. Critics of global-warming theory were made out to be as stupid as possible; global-warming activists were presented as heroes.

In other words, this was like a right-wing parody of a PBS program on global warming.

Sometimes I fear that we conservatives go too far in what we say about public television, public radio, and the mainstream media generally. But then I dip into these media–and I realize we don’t overstate our case; we may understate. They are shockingly awful, aren’t they?

So I ask once more: Why does a liberal republic like the United States have government television and radio? Ideological bias aside: Why? I mean, if the Left wants to disseminate its global-warming propaganda, let them do so on their own dime. They have plenty of money, as the 2004 election, in particular, proved. I think I would miss the occasional ballet or monkey program. But it would be worth it, to break a stranglehold, and to honor what ought to be American principle.

‐The University of Michigan has banned Coca-Cola from its campuses. I kid you not. Why have they done this? Because students demanded so, out of their concern for conditions at bottling plants in Colombia. Hmm. There are lots of things to be concerned about in Colombia: Marxist guerrillas; narco-terrorists; Hugo Chávez’s subversion. But Coca-Cola bottling plants? Ay, caramba!

Needless to say, the University of Michigan isn’t a serious place. I feel I can speak with some authority, having grown up in Ann Arbor and attended the university. The place is like lefty kindergarten. It’s far more Michael Moore than, say, Antonio Gramsci. You can count on the kids, and much of the faculty, to be stupid–but why does the university administration have to bow to them?

Probably because they agree with them, and respect them. Listen, I think I prefer Pepsi, but I’m about to go out and drink a Coke.

‐Saw this headline from the AP two days ago: “Experts: Roberts, Alito Side with Business.” Gee. You have to ask the question, “Side with business against whom? People?” But business is people, of course. It exists for people, serves people, is staffed by people.

Amazing how many years it takes you to learn that when you grow up in Ann Arbor!

‐Wonder if you saw this story from Iraq. (I again quote the AP.)

U.S. soldiers in the northern Iraqi desert dug up more than 1,000 aging rockets and missiles wrapped in plastic, some of which were buried as recently as two weeks ago, Army officials said Tuesday.

Commanders in the 101st Airborne Division said an Iraqi tipped them off to the buried weapons, perhaps an indication that residents in this largely Sunni Arab region about 150 miles north of Baghdad are beginning to warm up to coalition forces.

“The tide is turning,” said 2nd Lt. Patrick Vardaro, 23, of Norwood, Mass., a platoon leader in the division’s 187th Infantry Regiment. “It’s better to work with Americans than against us.”

That is terribly, terribly good news, y’all. At least to those who hope that this project in Iraq succeeds.

‐Longtime readers know of one of my favorite moments in life. It occurred in 2002, during the Salt Lake City Olympics. (These were Winter Olympics, of course.) An American woman won a gold medal in the bobsled, and she was the first black woman to win a gold medal in the Winter Games. But the TV network–NBC–had no way of expressing that: because they can’t say “black,” or think they can’t say “black.” They have to say “African-American.” So they had no way of telling people that this dear girl was the first black woman ever to win a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.

The announcers were reduced to saying, “She’s the first African-American woman from any country to win a gold medal”!

Gosh, I loved that. Laughed my hiney off, for ages.

I was reminded of this when I read an article in USA Today about the businesswoman B. Smith and the “African-American angel” that adorned the top of her Christmas tree. (Holiday tree. Whatever.) An African-American angel, huh? Interesting that that angel had a nationality. What are white angels? Are they American, too? Or are they Danish, French, or Russian?

Just asking.

‐Sometimes you know you’re not on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. When do you know it? Well, you know it a lot, when you’re in Gaffney, S.C., as I was recently.

You want a couple of fun facts about Gaffney? William Kincaid, the great Philadelphia Orchestra flutist, is buried there. (His wife was from Gaffney.) And another celebrity–that was tongue-in-cheek, friends–is from there: Andie McDowell. Her original name was Rose. (First name, I mean.)

Anyway, how do you know you’re not on the Upper West Side? One way is the Vend-a-Moo. With the Vend-a-Moo, you insert three dollars and get a gallon of milk–fresh, cold, really good milk, I’m told.

And everyone “Merry Christmas”es you. At least they do in the days before Christmas. I didn’t hear “Happy Holidays” once. Was out on a country road, having a walk, and this man pulled up in a pickup truck. “You want a ride?” “No, thanks, just walking.” “Well, Merry Christmas to you.”

As he pulled away, I saw two bumper stickers on the back of his truck: “Real Men Pray” and “God Bless America.”

Nope, you’re not on the Upper West Side anymore.

And how about tuning in to “Swap ‘n’ Shop”? This is a show on the local radio station, and it airs three times daily, I believe. You call in offering things for sale–or seeking things to buy. Or trade. It’s swap ‘n’ shop. Makes absolutely riveting listening, I can tell you. No, seriously: It’s amazing the things people want to unload, and the things people seek.

A beautiful marketplace. (Not to mention the utter felicity of the language.)

The ads are interesting, in that you might have a restaurant owner talking to the host of the show. I heard Donnie, who presides over … well, Donnie’s. He was excited about all the cakes and pies he had to offer. “Grandma’s been busy!” And he ended his spiel, “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, God bless our troops!”

No, you’re not on the …

I can just hear my friends–or non-friends–in Ann Arbor (or on the Upper West Side): Well, this is just homogenous, Red State America.

Let me tell you about a restaurant called Saskatoon. It specializes in wild game: yak, buffalo, wolverine, and so on. (I might have made up the wolverine.) The proprietors appear to be Cambodian or Laotian. My waiter was Arab or Persian.

Think of these various elements: Theme of the restaurant is rustic-Canadian (complete with trophies on the walls); owners are East Asian; waiter is from the Middle East.

That’s America, friends, and sometimes we’re okay.

‐End with a little music criticism, from the New York Sun? For a review of the New York Philharmonic’s New Year’s Eve concert–conducted by Lorin Maazel, with the soprano Angela Gheorghiu, soloist–please go here. For a review of another New York Phil. concert–also conducted by Maazel, with the violinist Julia Fischer and the bassoonist Judith LeClair as soloists–please go here. For a review of Wozzeck at the Metropolitan Opera, please go here. And for a review of Die Fledermaus, also at the Met, please go here.

That oughta hold you. And have I said Happy New Year, dear hearts? Have a good one.


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