Politics & Policy

A Name to Know, and More

Wanted to let you know of a name, in China: Li Jianping. Forty years old, he has been indicted basically for writing–for posting articles on the Internet and so on. The charge against him is “incitement to subvert state power.” You can’t be Tom Paine in China–not without dire consequences.

Li, incidentally, is a Tiananmen Square man. For more information on him, and many others, please see Human Rights in China.

How in the world could the International Olympic Committee have given the 2008 Games to Beijing? Craven bunch.

‐I will give you the perfect “Dog Bites Man” headline, which a reader forwarded to me. I mean, this is perfect: “U.S. Bishop Praises Cuba.” Try to control your yawning.

The reference is to Frank Tracy Griswold, head of the Episcopal Church in America. Earlier this month, he huddled with Castro, and repeated propaganda about Cuban health care, education, etc. Such clerics never give the dictator any trouble, as they move about the island, with their minders. Political prisoners are safely out of sight, in their dungeons.

I could go on about this–you know I could–but I will simply say, When the history of totalitarian Cuba is written, mainstream U.S. religious leaders will occupy a dark, dark chapter. They already do.

‐But would you like some good news? I’ll simply let the AP story unspool:

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico–While Cuba played the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, a spectator in the stands raised a sign saying, “Down with Fidel,” sparking an international incident . . .

The image of the man holding the sign behind home plate was beamed live Thursday night to millions of TV viewers–including those in Cuba. The top Cuban official at the game at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in San Juan rushed to confront the man.

Puerto Rican police quickly intervened and took the Cuban official–Angel Iglesias, vice president of Cuba’s National Institute of Sports–to a nearby police station where they lectured him about free speech.

“We explained to him that here the constitutional right to free expression exists and that it is not a crime,” police Col. Adalberto Mercado was quoted as saying in El Nuevo Dia, a San Juan daily.

Is this not incredibly, fantastically delicious? Bless that sign-holder: You can see him, and his sign, here. (And bless the Puerto Rican police, too.)

‐Gale Norton has resigned as interior secretary, and that made very little news–which I think is significant, somehow. Interior secretary used to be a very, very big deal–an incredibly sensitive and controversial position. James Watt, of course, was in the news every second. And the interior secretary was always held responsible for the sniffles of every squirrel.

The position has been quite low-key lately. And I have an idea as to why. The global-warming mania has overwhelmed everything else. Every ounce of environmental energy is poured into that.

Anyway, just an idea . . .

‐My aunt was telling me the other day, all the news will talk about is the president’s polls. They start with that, they linger over it, they savor it. The lower the numbers, the better, of course.

This fascination with the polls is interesting, especially in the second term. Bush is determined to do what’s right, not necessarily what’s popular. (I hate to sound like a kindergarten teacher, but you remember the title of that onetime bestseller: “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in . . .”) It used to be, people admired a leader who did what he thought was right, popularity be damned. In other words, indifference to popularity was, in a way . . . popular.

And may I make a point about Cheney I’ve made before? The hatred of him–the demonization–just flabbergasts me. Because all career long, he was respected by one and all: the conservative Republican everyone agreed on, as a sober, steady, measured, bright, experienced, responsible, stand-up guy. Heck, some of the wingers were suspicious of him, because he was so admired, in all quarters!

When John Tower was scotched as defense secretary, Cheney was tabbed, and everybody–all the pundits, all the arbiters–said, “Hurray! Couldn’t have picked an abler, more reassuring guy.”

Now, all of a sudden he’s the second coming of Joe McCarthy. But Cheney hasn’t changed at all.

So, so weird . . .

‐In yesterday’s Impromptus, I recommended that you try John Bolton’s press conferences (transcripts of which are posted on the U.S. Mission’s website). I said that he was blunt, informative, entertaining. Well, you may wish to try–just for a quick sample–a press conference from yesterday (here).

He was asked when he expected a full meeting of the Security Council, on Iran. He replied, “Among other questions I don’t answer, I never predict the timing of Security Council action, having been uniformly wrong every time I have tried in the past.”

Later he was asked, “Do you think it is about time to have a dialogue with [Iran]?” He said, “I don’t think we have anything to say to the Iranians.”

And how about this exchange?

Reporter: “Are you . . . closer to an agreement among the P5 on a statement?” (“P5″ means the five permanent members of the Security Council.)

Bolton: “We are still in consultations.”

Reporter: “How much unity is there among the P5, you feel, on Iran?”

Bolton: “We are still in consultations. Go ahead, try again, go ahead. (laughter)”

Anyway, just trying to enrich your reading life (the way Iran is enriching its you-know-what).

‐I noted this story concerning Bruce Willis and Colombia. Bruce Willis and Colombia? Yeah–the actor cheesed off the country with something he said at a press conference promoting a new movie. He said that the U.S. should consider “going to Colombia and doing whatever it takes to end the cocaine trade.”

The Colombian ambassador to the U.S. wrote Willis a scathing letter. And that’s what I’m interested in: not the letter, but the identity of the Colombian ambassador. He used to be president of the country, Andrés Pastrana. And I think that’s an amazing act of humility, to become an ambassador after having been president of the country (even if it’s the ambassador to the most important country, as far as Colombia is concerned).

Reminded me of what I thought about John Quincy Adams when I was a boy: I was astounded that, having been president, he could enter the House of Representatives. I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t be able to do that. (I don’t think I’ll get the chance.) How many of us would? William J. Clinton, rep from southwestern Arkansas?

But back to the Bruce Willis story. The now president of the country, Alvaro Uribe, said that the actor’s comments had been “a shock to Colombia’s dignity.”

As you know, if you’re a longtime reader of this column, I love President Uribe–one of my favorite world leaders. But, really: a shock to Colombia’s dignity? Grow up.

‐A few weeks ago, there was an unusual concert at Carnegie Hall: unusual because there was a long, long line outside. There were also concrete barriers. And the people in that line were having to pass through some kind of security. The concert would start about a half-hour late.

What gave? This was the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, of course–and only for them are these measures taken. Because only for them do threats this grave exist.

After 9/11, I started noticing concrete barriers–Jersey barriers, I guess they’re called–around New York. And I’d look up and they’d always be in front of Jewish centers: a school, an old-folks home, whatever.

I see concrete barriers on the sidewalk, and I assume the building is identifiably Jewish. True every time.

Just reporting a slice of New York, in the modern age. In too many ages.

‐On a related topic (the same, really): You will want to read Bernard Lewis’s essay “The New Anti-Semitism” in the Winter issue of The American Scholar. I was told that it was a magisterial and first-class essay–and so it is. I have read it once, and intend to read it again–more slowly. Lewis describes anti-Semitism up through history, as this virus has shifted, adapted, poisoned, and killed. You will understand a great deal, after you’ve read this essay.

About how many pieces of writing can you really say that? We ain’t talkin’ Impromptus here!

By the way, when I was in college, I read Lewis’s new book Semites and Anti-Semites–that explained a lot to me, and Lewis is still explaining things to me. It’s not that I’m a slow learner (necessarily). It’s that Lewis, as he reaches 90, is throwing off ever brighter shafts of light.

‐In the small-beer department: It half amuses, half annoys me when I receive envelopes–usually related to finances–marked “Important Information Enclosed.” Makes you think you should never open anything else. And even many of the “Important Information Enclosed” envelopes aren’t worth opening. Maybe they need to ratchet it up to “Really, Really Important Information Enclosed.”

Which reminds me: Are you reluctant, as I am, to open any e-mail with that “urgent” red exclamation point beside it? Thing is, I hardly ever receive such an e-mail from anyone I know. The very name conveys urgency or non-urgency.

I’m sure you know what I mean.

‐One piece from the New York Sun: For a review of an all-Shostakovich program, given by the Kirov Orchestra under the conductor Valery Gergiev, please go here.

‐A little language? Reader says, “Jay, I’ve noticed something in the past week: News reporters are saying ‘cachet’ when they mean ‘cache,’ as in ‘weapons cache.’ Is this a new trend, or an old one I’ve only now noticed?”

I think it’s an old one–but what’s really old is the habit of saying “cadret” (to rhyme with “padre”), instead of “cadre.”

You know?

People think that “cadre” is Spanish, like “padre,” instead of French.

And don’t even get me started on “forte.”

Look, we realize these battles are good and lost, but what’s a conservative magazine–or website–for?

‐Finally, a reader says, “As a resident of San Francisco for six years, I can tell you that, the longer I live here, the more conservative I get.” Tell me about it, baby. You think I’d be working for National Review if I hadn’t grown up in Ann Arbor?

See you.


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