Politics & Policy

Blaming The You-Know-Whos, &C.

What is perhaps more discouraging than the recent terrorist attack in Egypt’s Sinai is the fact that an Egyptian general blamed the attack on Israel. To see the relevant television clip, courtesy of the Middle East Media Research Institute, please go here.

I’ve often wondered, when contemplating these guys: Do they believe what they’re saying? Or are they just saying it?

‐You have heard me speak of Martha Beatriz Roque, the Cuban economist and ex-political prisoner. She is a very brave lady–and she has to summon up more bravery all the time. Earlier this week, she was beaten badly, by the usual government thugs. (For a report, please go here.) She has long been ill, and, apparently, this beating has left her shaken. As well it might.

But if I know her–and I believe I do, vicariously–she will keep going.

Wouldn’t it be sort of nice if our government–a source of truth and hope to people everywhere–said something about Martha?

‐If you want a hero–or just a decent Joe–among the Hollywood set, look to Andy Garcia, a Cuban American. He has made a movie about Cuba called The Lost City. And because it portrays Che Guevara in a bad light–which is to say a true light–it has been banned in some places. (Not only Cuba!) Garcia speaks honestly and fearlessly. For example, he has said, “Some people think Castro is a savior, that he looks out for the kids and the poor. It’s a bunch of hogwash. . . . People turn a blind eye to his atrocities.”

For more, please go here.

Will Andy Garcia be able to work in Hollywood again? I hope so. But if not, it will have been worth it.

‐I wish to offer one more Cuba item. Specifically, here’s a link to an interesting and moving article in the Miami Herald. It concerns someone I know, Maria Werlau, and her colleague Armando Lago. They are endeavoring to memorialize the many victims of the Cuban revolution and Castroism. Their website is The Cuba Archive–and like most such projects, it needs help. I hope it receives it.

Maria reminds me of someone else I know, Youqin Wang, who dedicates her life to memorializing the victims of China’s Cultural Revolution. (Youqin’s website is here.)

Just to state the elementary: Memory is important, not just for memory’s sake, but to ameliorate the present, and the future.

‐Spotted something very interesting in a Spectator piece about the Queen’s 80th birthday. (The piece is here, but a subscription is required.) The author, Mary Wakefield, has checked out what was in The Spectator the week Elizabeth was born. (We’re talking the English Spectator, of course, not the wonderful, Hoosier-born American Spectator.) Here is a snippet about Mussolini, from April 1926:

“Discarding vague talk about a place in the sun, Mussolini bluntly declares, ‘We are hungry for land.’ He enforces this with the reason, ‘We are prolific and intend to remain so.’”

We are reminded that Italy was, indeed, prolific–the land of big families. Now it is the land of no children, suffering from a severe “birth dearth.” The West has taken a strange, rather unnerving trip.

‐Here’s another interesting item from that Spectator article. Do you want to hear what an advertisement sounded like? Mary Wakefield writes,

“On the back page of the 1926 Spectator, an advertisement for Lotus shoes summed up the spirit of the England into which Elizabeth has just been born. ‘You can’t make a man’s shoe of doubtful material and questionable fit, and then put a kind of showiness on top of it, like almonds on a cake,’ said the copy, under an etched illustration of a stout boot. ‘The style of the shoe is the shoe itself, its strength, its flexibility, its comfort, its meekness coupled with a great masterfulness. They think of beauty last of all when they are making the Lotus shoes. It is perhaps for this reason that they never fail to achieve it.’”

Just like the advertising of today, huh? Oh, geez–I’m afraid we’re not only living in a different time, but on a different planet (and, yes, our planet is better in some ways–I’m not a nostalgist). (Entirely.)

‐I received something the other day calling itself “A Guide to the Perplexed.” (Had to do with an aspect of foreign policy.) The phrase, in reality, is “a guide for the perplexed”–but you hear “to” a lot. I’ve made that mistake myself.

So I’m not throwing stones at anyone. Just talkin’ a little, about language.

‐A reader of mine sent me an article about a political-campaign manager, fired for an infraction. But the man has a wonderful name for a campaign manager (certainly a good campaign manager): Morton Brilliant.

‐Please have some music criticism, from the New York Sun: For a review of Lowell Liebermann’s new opera, Miss Lonelyhearts (based, of course, on Nathanael West’s novella), go here.

‐And a word or two about yesterday’s Impromptus? I commented on the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter Schoomaker. I said, “What a funny spelling–I’ve seen ‘Shoemaker,’ of course, and ‘Schumacher.’ But never ‘Schoomaker.’” Well, many, many readers wrote to say that the general is a Dutchman: full name Peter Jan Schoomaker. And the name is pronounced “Skoomaker.”

One reader, in particular, said, “Jay, as a Michigander, you should have known that!” (We have a lot of Dutch in the state.)

Yes, but I’m from another part of the state!

My apologies.

Oh, and according to his bio, General Schoomaker was born in Michigan.

‐You may remember the bird I heard in Galveston–the one that said, “Cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger.” Well, many, many readers wrote in to talk about this bird–what they thought it was. One reader, from Galveston, said (approximately), “Jay, you idiot–that was no ’songbird’ you heard. That was a big ol’ nasty grackle, and we shoot to kill ‘em.” Another reader said, “Must have been a Carolina wren.” Still another said, “We have those–they’re cardinals!”

A fourth reader said, “Jay, we hear that bird all the time. Don’t know what it is. We just call it the ‘cheeseburger’ bird. And when we hear them, we say, ‘No Coke–Pepsi.’” (John Belushi/Saturday Night Live reference.)

‐A little more on Galveston: I remarked on its extraordinary 1/2 streets. They have Q Street, R Street, and so on. But also Q 1/2 Street, R 1/2 Street, etc.

A reader writes,

Old Town Galveston was originally laid out in huge blocks. As development spread, the too-large blocks were cut in half. Since the previously lettered streets were by then well established, the planners gave the new streets the 1/2 names. Even being cut in half, Galveston’s blocks are much larger and deeper than in most cities, resulting in house numbers that make the utility and phone companies crazy.

Up the road in San Leon (still in Galveston County), I used to live on the corner of 9th and A 1/2, which is about 10 feet wide. That’s not wide enough for two vehicles to pass each other, so drivers must look and wait at times, if someone else is in the same block. Quaint and annoying.

‐A reader writes,

Jay,

I reread that old piece again, which you linked to recently–the one about your time as a student abroad. [Here.] I was struck once more by an insight–that it’s a mark of adolescent immaturity to be embarrassed by or ashamed of your parents and other family members, imagining that other families are much cooler. It’s a mark of maturity to wake up, finally, and stop thinking that way. I suspect that American anti-Americanism is a lot of prolonged adolescence.

I suspect that’s right.

‐Recently, a young person explained to me how he became a conservative–and it rang so true, so familiar:

“In my freshman year of high school, I had a health teacher, and she never missed a chance to make a snide comment about George W. Bush. I didn’t like that. I didn’t know why. I’d never thought about politics. And when her comments got more and more outrageous–why, that just spurred me.”

The Left has no idea how many conservatives it makes–out of basically apolitical people–just by being jerkish.

‐A reader writes,

Hi, Jay,

You were talking about Beethoven’s opera Fidelio and political freedom. Well, last spring, the Pittsburgh Opera produced Fidelio. It was my first year as a subscriber (two tickets out of a block of four shared with my in-laws). The program listed all the nations–around 20, I think–with political prisoners languishing in jail. The list was alphabetical. The United States of America was second-to-last on the list. I did not renew my subscription.

How very depressing (not the non-renewal).

‐But this is not depressing at all! In yesterday’s Impromptus, I was talking about the Islamofascists and the Soviets, and I recalled how people would say, “Gorby’s no reformer, just because he’s the first Soviet premier to weigh more than his wife!” Ha, ha, ha.

Anyway, about a million readers wrote in to say, “The Islamist leaders are very much like the old Soviets. They weigh less than their wives–because they have multiple wives.”

(Most readers put it funnier than that, but I’m a bit tired at the moment.)

‐Got a nice one to end on–and it’s about birds! (You always thought this column was for the birds.)

I’m a law student at Texas Tech University, and I have a bird story. Sadly, this is just about the most exciting thing that’s happened on our sleepy campus.

Trees are a precious commodity in Lubbock, mainly because we don’t have any native trees here. That means that when somebody plants a tree, birds nest there. It’s that simple.

Well, in front of our law school a mockingbird has taken up residence. Mockingbirds, if you don’t know, are quite territorial, much like blue jays. And this particular mockingbird is attacking students and profs. Once, the bird’s claws got caught in a professor’s tweed jacket.

Fortunately for our winged raider, the mockingbird has official immunity–it’s the state bird of Texas. So we can’t kill the bird. We can’t even harm the bird. So what does the university do? Move the bird? Destroy the nest so that it will leave?

No. They erected a barricade around the tree. An orange one (barricade, not tree). Apparently, the university believes that the attack radius is only about 30 feet in diameter. According to the zoology department, however, birds are capable of flying much greater distances, and this mockingbird proves that daily as it flies over the barricade laughing as it targets fresh victims.

We climbed to the top of the food chain, only to mollycoddle mockingbirds. Sheesh!

At first I was mad about this, that we’re in Texas and can’t shoot some wacky bird. But then I rethought the situation. I’m now kind of proud that our state bird isn’t some pansy little songbird. No! Our state bird is a butt-kicking, fire-breathing, territorial, vicious beast. How could you get more Texan than that?

Very nice. See you later.

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