Politics & Policy

Telling Saddam What’s What, &C.

You know I like it when Judge Raouf Abdel-Rahman tells Saddam Hussein what the new facts of life are. Yesterday he told the ex-dictator that he could not use the courtroom to give political speeches. Saddam said, “I am the head of state.” The judge said, “You used to be a head of state. You are a defendant now.”

Then the judge turned off the defendant’s microphone.

When you get terribly down, about the events of the world, think of that, my friends.

‐Unfortunately, there’s this to think about, too: Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, a Cuban psychologist and journalist, has been on a hunger strike since January 31. He undertook this action simply because he wants to live free. More particularly, he wants the right that you and I have: to avail ourselves of the Internet.

Dr. Fariñas actually wrote the dictator, Castro–an incredibly audacious move.

For more information about this sad situation, please go here.

‐I might mention that I’ve always had reservations about hunger strikes, but this is not the time to launch such a discussion. What has kept me from opposing hunger strikes altogether is this: Armando Valladares, Natan Sharansky, and many other very great men have used this tactic–and who am I to criticize them?

‐I wanted to say something about that speech that Cheney gave, earlier this month, on saving–on financial saving, that is. This included retirement planning and everything that goes with it. I was particularly struck by this passage:

“There will always be a wagonload of excuses for ignoring the problem of entitlements. But Americans have a right to expect more out of the nation’s leaders, especially when it comes to Social Security and other defining national promises. The longer we wait to address the coming crisis, the more excuses that are made for inaction, the more difficult and expensive the job will eventually be.”

Cheney can do more than accidentally shoot his friends, you know. And let this be remembered, about the George W. Bush administration: They didn’t have a wagonload of excuses, certainly when it came to “entitlements.” But everyone else did.

That speech, incidentally, is here.

‐Poor Lee Hae-chan. He was South Korea’s prime minister until Tuesday, when he resigned. Why did he step down? What grave offense did he commit? He played golf, “rather than overseeing the government’s response to a railway strike.” I’m quoting an AP story here.

That story continued, “The prime minister had been under fire from the opposition and public for golfing March 1, the first day of a nationwide walkout by railway workers. Lee was off that day, a national holiday marking Korea’s 1919 civil uprising against Japanese colonial rule, but he was heavily criticized because South Koreans expect high-level officials to work overtime during times of crisis.”

Yeah–if only he had been playing canasta, or something, indoors. Or even reading! Probably no problem.

This discrimination against the golf-playing community must end!

What did that New Jersey governor say? “I am a gay American.” Lee should have said, “I am a golfing South Korean”–and, Lordy, the whole country would have understood.

(Maybe not.)

‐You will recall an item from Tuesday’s Impromptus–praising the Puerto Rican police for giving some visiting Castroite thug a talking-to. What happened? Well, at the World Baseball Classic in San Juan, a man in the stands held a sign that said “Down with Fidel.” (Abajo Fidel.) Angel Iglesias, of Castro’s National Institute of Sports, accosted him. The police took Iglesias down to the station and gave him a lecture about free speech.

My friend and colleague Rick Brookhiser had a typically tart and astute comment on the affair: “Cuban officials seem to assume they’re walking extraterritorialities–like European Muslims.”

The story has a dissatisfactory ending, however: Those running the baseball tournament lost their nerve, banning all political expression in the park. See this story, if you wish.

It was fun while it lasted.

‐Friends, if you’re in the Houston area, I hope you’ll consider joining us on April 5. We’re having a cocktail party and dinner in support of National Review and our star-spangled website. (For details, please go here.) Tickets aren’t cheap: $600 for an individual, $1,000 for a couple. But I hope you will agree that the cause is good, and your support would be deeply appreciated.

Anyway, come if you can, and I’ll see if I can stay on the mechanical bull. (I can’t guarantee there’ll be a mechanical bull. Other kinds of bull will almost certainly be in evidence.)

‐Reader of mine said something funny. I quoted a news item, in which a New Orleanian said he’d survived for days, during Katrina, on canned goods. Reader wrote, “What’s so hard about surviving for days on canned goods? Is that what Americans now consider hardship?”

Reminds me of one of my favorite stories: about the Calcuttan, years ago, who wanted to come to America for the sole purpose of seeing fat poor people.

‐A little fun with language? In Tuesday’s column, we–some readers and I–were talking about the mispronunciation of the word “cache” (as in weapons cache). The word is pronounced “cash.” It functions as both a noun and a verb (the verb meaning “to hide or store in a cache”).

Anyway, reader writes,

Unfortunately, it has become common practice in the Armed Forces to say “cache” as you would “cachet.” Reporters have probably picked up the mispronunciation from military briefings.

This bugs me, not just because I’m a language purist, but because it ruins one of my favorite Cold War jokes–about the midget who tries to escape from Prague to the West by hiding in a freight train. He asks the sympathetic engineer, “Could you cache a small Czech?”

We were also complaining about the mispronunciation of the word “forte”–no, not the Italian-derived word meaning “loud” (the opposite of “piano”). The French-derived word meaning “strength,” or “area of expertise.” That word is pronounced “fort.”

Reader writes,

I believe it was Tallulah Bankhead who said to Groucho Marx, “You know, singing isn’t really your forte” (pronounced correctly), to which Grouch replied, “I wish Knox were my forte.” Ah, the old days!

‐Way back in January, I devoted a couple of items to athletes’ names–mainly because I was taken with the West Virginia University basketball star Kevin Pittsnogle. (“You’ve been Pittsnogled!”) Readers contributed lots and lots of wonderful names from the sports world, and I declared the subject closed. But the nominations kept coming, and coming, and coming. We’re going to have another go ’round, right now–and that’ll be it, forever. And ever.

I swear. Am serious. Thank you.

Anyway . . .

“Jay, may I offer you Heine Manush, from the Detroit Tigers, circa 1930?”

You may.

“Jay, there was a pretty good Tulane baseball player a couple of years ago with a great name–Wes Swackhammer. It was always a thrill when the announcer said that Swackhammer was coming to the plate, with the bases loaded.”

“Here’s a three-pack of names you’ll like: Hunchy Hoernschemeyer, Detroit Lions; Cloyce Box, also the Detroit Lions; and Bibbles Bawel, Philadelphia Eagles.

“Also, there’s the 49ers ‘all initials’ backfield of the late ’50s: QB: Y.A. Tittle; RB: J.D. Smith; FB: C.R. Roberts; and slot back: R.C. ‘Alley Oop’ Owens.

“How you like them apples?”

I like ‘em, a lot.

“My all-time favorite was Jubilee Dunbar of the New Orleans Saints.”

“How about Oklahoma running back Elvis Peacock? How about Notre Dame defensive back Hiawatha Francisco? How about Wyoming hoopster Fennis Denbo?”

Good ones.

“All right, baby, you’re delving into my favorite topic: Flozell Adams (offensive lineman for Michigan State back in the day); Stromile Swift (basketball player from LSU); and of course my fave, Abram Booty (LSU football).”

“One of our all-time favorite athlete names in Texas was a basketball/track girl named Miracle Fingers. I kid you not.”

“I thought you should know of my current favorite sports name, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute–UCLA basketball team.”

“Jay, you of all people should remember Nate Rodgers and Mike Hammerstein on the defense of the 1984 University of Michigan football team. The UM announcer used to love mentioning that the tackle was by the duo of Rodgers & Hammerstein.”

“My all-time favorite: a full-blooded American Indian pitcher for the Cleveland Indians (natch) named Cal McLish. Full name: Calvin Coolidge Julius Caesar Tuskahoma McLish.”

“Jay, you missed my favorite–Nebraska University lineman Odious Lee.”

“One of Notre Dame’s starting linebackers was Mike Stonebreaker–perfect.”

“How about Joe Klecko and Stan Blinka? They were defensive linemen for the Jets in the early ’80s.”

“Jay, how about these Steelers players? Defensive end Kimo von Oelhoffen and center Chukky Okobi!”

“Jay, love your stuff, but you missed the boat on this one: Any discussion of great sports names has to begin with Wonderful Terrific Mons III, a 1993 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves.”

“How about I. M. Hipp, running back from Nebraska?”

“Oil Can Boyd, Boston Red Sox. Tee McCabe, golfer.”

“Sonny Sixkiller, the quarterback from the University of Washington.”

“From University of Miami football: Ethnic Sands.”

“Name that just rolls off the tongue: Amos Otis, of baseball.”

“Thane Gash (football, old Cleveland Browns). Sam Gash (Buffalo Bills).”

“Jay, what’s your problem? No Harlan Huckleby or Tim Biakabutuka, from the University of Michigan?”

“Jay, Fair Hooker was once traded for Jubilee Dunbar. That had to be one of the greatest ‘name’ trades of all time.” (Beautiful point.)

“Spud Webb!”

“How about the NASCAR driver Dick Trickle?”

“Dear Jay: I know you’ve decreed the subject closed, but I thought I’d pass this along anyway: Many years ago, I was having drinks (at the Buffalo Hilton, if you must know) with a now-deceased baseball arbitrator who had recently ruled against Mookie Wilson in his salary dispute with the Mets. ‘You know,’ he told me, after a long pull on his Scotch, ‘in the end, I just couldn’t bring myself to award a million dollars [or whatever the requested amount was] to someone named Mookie.’”


“Jay, I noticed the NHL was seriously underrepresented in your glorious list of names. Let me offer a few: Mush March, Chicago Blackhawks, 1928-44; Dit Clapper, Hall of Famer, Boston Bruins, ’30s and ’40s; Sprague Cleghorn, who played in the pre-WWI NHL. He had a brother named Ogilvie.”

Here I pause to say: I didn’t know the NHL predated World War I.

Continuing that letter: “How about Miroslav Satan, now of the New York Islanders?” And finally, “Imagine being a play-by-play man when the Philadelphia Flyers had Joe Reeki, Mark Recchi, and Mike Ricci on the ice at the same time.”

Leaving the realm of sports . . .

“Jay, he wasn’t an athlete, but I think that Willie McCool–one of the astronauts lost in the Columbia tragedy–had the best name for a fighter pilot ever.”

“Jay, something about [New Orleans mayor] Ray Nagin’s name has bothered me since Katrina. Finally it occurred to me: If you pronounce his name in a certain way, it comes out ‘Rain Again.’ Is this the man we want in charge of a flood-prone metropolis?”

And to wind up this jamboree, allow me a semi-personal note. When the sports names were flooding in, I heard from a pal of mine, from back home. He said that one of his good friends was christened Wilbur Screwby Argersinger. He was nicknamed “Buzz.”

But don’t you feel sorry for him: He merely married the most beautiful girl in our town–by far. (Except for the women I know personally, of course.)

Anyway, thank you–thank you all–and don’t we live in an amazing culture? I mean, I don’t want to get all jingo on you, but we do.


The Latest