Politics & Policy

Those magic, boozy words, &c.

Now, this astonished Mike, for a couple of reasons. First, Mike was, and is, a Christian, although he has Jewish ancestry. And second, he had no idea Tom knew about this ancestry, or cared. The two had known each other for years — and Mike had never heard Tom say anything at all about Jews.

But there it was: some liquor, some argument, and “f***ing Jew.”

Their friendship was never quite the same, as I understand it. But, really, Mike is so affable, he’d be friends with Saddam Hussein. (“Nice swing, Saddam. Where’d you groove that thing, the Tikrit Country Club?”)

The second story — or the second version of this common story — comes from my friend Ben. He lives in Israel, but went to college in Michigan. One night, his roommate got ripped, and accosted Ben with “f***ing Jew.” (Unlike Mike, Ben really is a Jew.) As Ben tells it, relations with his roommate were always better after that. Go figure. Something about openness.

So, is there veritas in vino? Is alcohol a truth serum? Probably so — but you don’t necessarily want to know the truth. Then again, you may.

In any case, I was thinking someone could market a wine or a vodka or something, naming it “F***ing Jew.” A few swigs, and out come the words.

Funny old world, to use a phrase I’ve always detested.

‐Oh, I have a related story for you — and very recent. The other day, I was walking through Riverside Park (in West Manhattan) and overheard the following conversation, between a young man and a young woman.

Young Woman: But every time you go out with my friends, you get hammered. Can you just stop doing that?

Young Man: No, I can’t. That’s what I do.

I believe that is the most perfect American exchange — the most perfectly representative American exchange — I have ever witnessed.

‐Here is a question: If you have a deadly enemy, and that enemy places itself among innocents, what do you do? Do you fight back, or do you decide you can’t, owing to the civilian casualties that would result?

If only that question were hypothetical.

As has long been said, just about the worst thing Arab aggressors do to Israelis is force them into a situation in which they kill innocents. (Golda Meir: “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons. But it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”)

‐For the last several years, I have cited the USS Cole as an example of America’s former impotence and inaction. You will recall that, in October 2000, terrorists attacked this American warship in Yemen, killing 17 sailors. Some of us said this wasn’t so much an act of terror as an act of war. But we did nothing.

Something occurred to me the other day: I don’t know why I don’t cite Khobar Towers. In June 1996, terrorists — Hezbollah (i.e., Iran) — attacked our complex, killing 19 Americans. And we did nothing — have done nothing, maybe I should say.

This is mind-boggling. Obviously, Israelis don’t share our posture. Maybe it’s because they can’t afford to.

Surely, the United States must have a reckoning with Iran one day. And preferably that day will come before the mullahs go nuclear.

You know?

‐“The prosecution has asked for the death penalty for Saddam and two other defendants. Executions in Iraq are carried out by hanging, but Saddam has asked to die like a soldier before a firing squad and not by the gallows ‘like a common criminal.’”

Those words come from an AP report (found here). The former dictator is mighty finicky about his means of death. His thousands of victims had no choice — and their deaths were generally more difficult than either a firing squad or a noose.

‐A correspondent of mine forwarded me a remarkable column published in the Kansas City Star. (Go here.) The column was written by Jason Whitlock, a sportswriter. There is no substitute for reading the whole thing, but let me provide a couple of excerpts:

There are no easy solutions when it comes to diversity, and the villains in America’s struggle to diversify the sports world are nowhere near as obvious as the media would have you believe.

It cannot all be pinned on white racism. No way. And unless we, African Americans, move away from explaining and defining these topics totally through the prism of white racism, things will not change. Not because of white backlash. Because we will continue to fail to prepare our youth for the opportunities that are out there to be snapped up. . . .

Skin color is a characteristic, not a qualification. Yes, there are numerous exceptions, but for the most part, races are won by the people who spend the most time preparing.

Friends, this column may be perfectly commonsensical — even obvious — but it is extraordinarily brave. As someone who has written about race and sports, I really appreciate it. (For my 2003 article entitled “Color in Coaching,” go here.) Hell — as a human being, I really appreciate it.

Once in a while, a column inspires genuine gratitude, and this is one of them.

‐And I am always grateful for Paul Johnson’s column! Do you know what he wrote in the current Spectator? “Rock music is the single most blatant stigma of the death of civilisation that we are witnessing.”

Go, Paul, go. And don’t let anyone stop you (as if there were any chance of that now).

‐I have to tell a story on myself: I misread a headline from the AP, going too quickly. The headline was, “Miss. Death Row Appeal Tops Court Agenda.” And I thought, “Miss Death Row? Geez, they have a beauty pageant for everything now.”

‐Friend of mine writes, “Jay, I’ve got a name I think you’ll like a lot: Gunner DeLay. He’s a Republican running for attorney general in Arkansas. Wear it in good health.”

I will!

‐Let’s have a little language (I mean, other than that dear man’s name). Yesterday, I was looking up “iterate,” finding, “To say or perform again; repeat.” If that is true, why do we need “reiterate”?

‐Let’s have a little more language:

Dear Jay:

Yesterday I heard a reporter on NPR use the word “long-lived,” pronouncing “lived” to rhyme with “dived.” Now, I’ve read that this pronunciation is correct, but I still wonder.

It is absolutely correct, but if you say it correctly, people will look at you funny, and try to correct you incorrectly. It’s happened to me all my life. I now use “long-lived” only with non-ignoramuses, or with people who are open to learning. Otherwise, I avoid it — it’s just not worth the hassle (and I’m too stubborn to say it stupidly).

“Long-lived” relates to the noun “life,” not to the verb “to live.” “Long-lived” means long of life (as “short-lived” means short of life).

Anyway . . .

And please don’t get me started on “err,” or “to feel badly” (which means that something is wrong with your sense of touch).

‐To heck with language. Shall we have some music criticism, published in the New York Sun? For reviews of two pianists — Philippe Bianconi and Fou Ts’ong — go here and here.

Clerks II renews an old question:  Is “ABC” the best song ever written, or merely in the top five?

‐A little mail, concerning bumper stickers:

Dear Jay:

While driving home from work through Deerfield, Ill. (Chicago suburb), I saw this bumper sticker on the car of a teenage male: The Road to Hell Is Paved with Republicans. Rather harsh, wouldn’t you say?



I saw a wonderful sticker pairing in Berkeley (of course). On one side of the bumper, Don’t Kill Children for Oil. And on the other side, Keep Abortion Legal. I thought, “Yes! Don’t kill children for oil, kill them for your personal convenience!”


And this:


I’ve seen this bumper sticker here in Florida: “Make it as hard to get welfare as it is to get a building permit.”

Very nice — a lot of just resentment packed into one relatively brief sentence!

Finally, I received this note from a woman I know well, in my hometown:

On my way to a meeting, I saw this bumper sticker: “I know my car is crappy, but I have a Ph.D.” The car part was true. Only in Ann Arbor?

Thanks, Mom.


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