Politics & Policy

Mr. Clinton Regrets, &C.

Did you hear about President Clinton’s appearance before the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies? (A report is here.) Clinton regrets that–despite all his talents and all his efforts–our land is still imperfect. “The idea that I live in a country I spent my lifetime trying to make better, but there’s still hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people, most of them people of color, who will die before their time, drop out of school, go to prison, never have a chance to live their dreams, is galling and painful to me.”

Yes, and after all Clinton did!

He continued, “One of the great regrets of my public life is that for all the progress we made in so many areas we are still losing so many of our young people of color, disproportionately African-American males.”

You know, if he wants to do them a favor, he might start by calling them “men,” instead of “males.”

But that, as regular readers know, is a pet peeve of mine. (And I picked it up, interestingly enough, from a black leftist.)

More Clinton: “I don’t know how you have a great country that is a beacon of hope for the world, for peace and freedom and democracy, if you let a third of any group of people wind up going to prison sometime in their lives.”

Point 1: If Clinton doesn’t know how a country can be great while at the same time being flawed–and having many flawed people within its borders–then he is not nearly as smart as we suppose. Point 2: I’m not sure that “we,” or “you,” as Clinton put it, are “letting” people go to prison. I think they have some role in that themselves.

William J. Clinton’s narcissism, condescension, and unreason know no bounds.

But then, I spent the ’90s saying that, and why am I back at it, in the Land of 2006?

‐The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, is defending his decision to kowtow to the Red Chinese. According to this article, he said, “We believe that the decision that we made to follow the law in China was absolutely the right one.”

A nice line: “to follow the law.” I wonder whether Schmidt considers some laws too brutal or unjust to be worth the trouble. And I wonder whether he considers any lawmaking body–e.g., the PRC–unworthy of respect.

Schmidt also said, “I think it’s arrogant for us to walk into a country where we are just beginning to operate and tell that country how to operate.”

Oh, is that it? It’s arrogant not to bless the oppression by some people of other people? Is there any regime Schmidt would feel unarrogant about criticizing? And even if you can’t do anything about oppression–do you have to cooperate with it?

I also love these particular words: “tell that country how to operate.” We’re not talking about a “country”; we’re talking about a Communist dictatorship that seized power 60 years ago and has hung on ruthlessly.

Finally, Schmidt said, “There are many cases where certain information is not available due to local law or local custom.”

I really love that “local law or local custom.” When I hear the words “local custom,” I think of native dress or dancing, or perhaps arranged marriages. Schmidt is talking about a vicious police state!

Beautiful. Just beautiful. And here am I, a booster of business (and incessant user of Google).

‐Schmidt’s remarks–particularly about “telling that country”–reminded me of some liner notes I had just been reading. They are to a Shostakovich CD. Discussing the composer’s cello sonata, written in 1934, the author says, “. . . the chamber music genre, with its elitist connotations, had proved controversial in a society at odds with itself about suitable music for the proletariat in the late 1920s and early 1930s.”

“Society”? Oh, come on: It was the Bolsheviks, a relatively tiny minority in that country, ruling an immense population through terror.

To say again: Oh, come on.

‐I’d like to inform you about another Chinese man I admire. (In my Impromptus Tuesday, I spoke at length about Charles Lee.) He is the political prisoner Zhao Changqing, and you can learn about him via Human Rights in China. According to HRIC, Zhao “has again been placed in solitary confinement after refusing to participate in military drills in prison.”

HRIC previously reported that last December Zhao had been placed in solitary confinement for more than 40 days after he refused to sing a socialist anthem during the prison’s flag-raising ceremony. Sources in China told HRIC that more recently, Zhao’s elder brother went to visit him in the Shaanxi Province No. 2 Prison, but was refused access on the grounds that Zhao had been placed in solitary confinement again on February 18. Prison guards reportedly said that Zhao was “stubbornly maintaining his incorrect attitude” and had argued with a corrections officer, and for that reason had been placed in solitary confinement for three months.

Stubbornly maintaining an incorrect attitude? Refusing to sing a socialist anthem? Refusing to participate in prison military drills?

Eric Schmidt would not like this at all. Citizen Zhao is not respecting the law, and he is not abiding by “local custom,” and, by golly–what kind of Chinaman is he?

Evidently one who wants to be a man. Not sure he’d by employable by Google.

‐A sad story out of Iraq, under the headline “Newly Crowned Miss Iraq Fears for Her Life”:

Iraq’s newly crowned beauty queen has gone into hiding, fearing she will be targeted by Islamic militants who reportedly threatened to kill other women who participated in a Baghdad pageant last week.

Silva Shahakian, an Iraqi Christian, received the title of Miss Iraq when the initial winner stepped down after receiving death threats and two other runners-up also bowed out, a person familiar with the event said Wednesday.

There are a million things to say about this story, but you can say them in your own head. Here’s one: Are there worse people on the planet than these “militants”? As I keep saying, not the kind of people you should turn a country over to, if you can help it.

‐A little intelligence from a reader in D.C.:

Hello, Jay–

Took my afternoon bike ride down the National Mall this afternoon and eyeballed the Immigration March (or whatever they were calling it). Lots of American flags. While waiting at 14th and Constitution for the light to change, I saw a large group of marchers with professionally printed signs in Spanish, and along the bottom of those signs . . . “A.N.S.W.E.R.”

Those meatheads never met a march they didn’t like, I guess.

Yes, A.N.S.W.E.R. is everywhere, apparently. And I especially like the reader’s use of the word “meatheads”–makes me nostalgic about Archie.

‐Mark Steyn likes to quote Australian officials, and I like reading those quotes. A recent column by Mark cited Australia’s treasurer, Peter Costello: “There are countries that apply religious or sharia law–Saudi Arabia and Iran come to mind. If a person wants to live under sharia law, these are countries where they might feel at ease. But not Australia.”

Can you believe–can you believe–that that came out of some official’s mouth?

Glorious.

‐You’ve heard some talk about how military officials–the Pentagon’s finest–felt unable to speak their minds to Rumsfeld about Iraq. General Pace had some things to say about that on Tuesday–if you’re interested, the transcript is here.

But have a taste of Pace: “We had then and have now every opportunity to speak our minds, and if we do not, shame on us because the opportunity is there.”

‐Longtime readers know that I dislike euphemisms for “poor” (and euphemisms in general). “Low-income,” “underprivileged,” blah, blah, blah–”poor” ought to do. When you’re poor you’re poor. What’s the point of trying to pretty it up?

Anyway, I was really pleased by something President Bush said when talking about the new prescription-drug benefit: “If you’re a poor senior, this program will help you a lot.”

I don’t know about this new Medicare entitlement. But I do know that Bush speaks well. (Yes, you read that right.)

‐And let’s look in on Rep. Cynthia McKinney. Forgetting her psyche and antics, we’ll do a language point. She said that her contretemps with the Capitol police “was instigated by the inappropriate touching and stopping of me, a female black congresswoman.” Ah, a female congresswoman, huh?

Thanks, Cynthia. (By the way, whether or not she’s a hateful loon, I think Congresswoman McKinney is pretty.)

‐In addition to being one of the smartest people alive, Thomas Sowell is one of the bluntest. I’ve been reading him for years–all my life, really–and I still think to myself, “I can’t believe Thomas Sowell just said that.”

Latest example, from this superb column: “When you see beggars on the street, they are usually white or black, but almost never Mexican. But American immigration laws and policies are not about whether you like or don’t like Mexicans, though some demagogues try to play the race card.”

Forgetting the substance of those remarks–the mere use of the word “beggars” (instead of “homeless” or something else euphy)! Many times, I’ve described Sowell as a cold bath, and, ooh, it feels good.

‐I saw an item about the marriage of two Hollywood actors: Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard. And I’m thinking, of course: “Wow, what a union of the Double-A’s!”

Matter of fact, Maggie Gyllenhaal, in her two names, has three double-letters. If she tacks Sarsgaard on to Gyllenhaal, she’ll have four double-letters!

All honor to this pair of Double-A’s.

‐In Tuesday’s column, I provided a punctuation puzzler. Several readers sent me another one–asking you to punctuate this:

That that is is that that is not is not.

Are you ready for the answer? Here comes:

That that is, is; that that is not, is not.

‐On this general subject, a reader writes,

Dear Dr. Nordlinger [BTW, I ain’t no doctor],

Today you provided the “Jane while John” puzzle. And that little puzzle qualified me as Miss Nolan’s idiot savant.

Miss Nolan was my 9th-grade teacher of English. She didn’t accept the title “English teacher,” for she was a fiery Irishwoman.

She gave us that puzzle to solve as a demonstration of the power of punctuation. I solved it straightaway, the only one to do so in the entire class. In recognition of that feat, she dubbed me her “idiot savant,” as I was struggling to maintain a high D-minus average at the time.

I am not sure how, but Miss Nolan instilled in me a love of the language that has been with me all my life.

I guess grades aren’t the measure of a teacher’s effectiveness.

Marvelous letter, isn’t it?

‐Have a piece of music criticism, from the New York Sun: For a review of a recital by the German countertenor Andreas Scholl, please go here.

‐Finally, a reader in the Golden State tells us,

Thought you might enjoy the latest at Davis Senior High School, here in the People’s Republic of Davis, Calif.: In celebration of “Human Relations Week” and to “celebrate multicultural awareness,” we’re having an international film festival. The featured film? None other than The Motorcycle Diaries, of course.

Of course. If Davis Senior High School doesn’t exist for the glorification of Che Guevara–what else does it exist for?

See you, guys.

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