Politics & Policy

Those Chicks, &c.

You know how the Dixie Chicks won all those Grammys? Maybe the president should have said, “I’m proud to be from Texas.” On second thought, he should probably float serenely above.

‐I don’t know who votes on these things, but I do know that an opera by Osvaldo Golijov, Ainadamar, won Best Classical Contemporary Composition. (What else but contemporary?) In addition, a recording of that work, from the Atlanta Symphony, won Best Opera Recording.

And the enthusiasm of the voters for Ainadamar tells me all I need to know about them. If you’d like a less enthusiastic view of this opera — a much, much less enthusiastic one — you may wish to see my review of a January ’06 performance: here.

‐Was interested in something Hillary Clinton said the other day (and found it in this article): “I know what Gingrich tells people privately, I know what DeLay tells people privately, I know what Karl Rove tells people privately: I’m the one person they are most afraid of. Bill and I have beaten them before and we will again.”

I don’t know whether that’s true, and I have my doubts. (Neither Gingrich, DeLay, nor Rove has said anything to me, privately or otherwise.) But I was interested in that “Bill and I.” Her opponents, mainly Republican, will try to lump her in with Bill, and she’ll say, “Hey, I’m the candidate in this race, and you should not assume that a woman is an appendage of her husband.” Blah, blah, feminist blah.

And yet she has now said, “Bill and I have beaten them before . . .” Interesting.

‐I rather liked something Obama said — found it rhetorically, or lexically, smart: Instead of saying “my opponents,” or “my rivals,” he said, “my fellow candidates.” He did so in this sentence: “At least two of my fellow candidates have been campaigning nationally for years.”


‐I have asked this question before, and you may be sick of my doing so: Why do Associated Press reporters write in such an opinionated style? Does the AP wish it this way? I thought the AP was supposed to be a traditional wire service, giving it to you straight — maybe dully, but straight, and reliably.

In a story dated February 11, Lolita C. Baldor said this: “The first public test of Gates’ diplomatic skills came at a venue that at times was dominated by his more bombastic Pentagon predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld.”

Now, I don’t regard Rumsfeld as bombastic, at all; but Lolita C. Baldor is free to, and so is anybody else. But does that opinion belong in a news story, from a wire service? Why don’t these people make honest men and women of themselves and apply to The New Republic, or The Nation?

I was further interested in this (from the same story):

Gates . . . made a deliberate move to separate himself from Rumsfeld.

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Rumsfeld sharply criticized nations opposed to the conflict — specifically France and Germany — and referred to them as part of “Old Europe.”

Without mentioning Rumsfeld’s name, Gates said some people have tried to divide the allies along lines such as East and West, North and South.

“I’m even told that some have even spoken in terms of ‘old’ Europe versus ‘new,’” Gates said. “All of these characterizations belong in the past.”

That reminded me of a conversation I had with Rumsfeld in 2003, shortly after he attended a NATO defense conference in Colorado. This is how I wrote up the relevant portion:

We talk about a range of things, beginning with NATO — as that has been the main business of the week. Do we still need NATO, more than ten years after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Yes, says Rumsfeld, and it has been freshened by new entries from the East. In fact, when Rumsfeld made that notorious remark, last January, about “Old Europe” and “New Europe,” he was really thinking of NATO: old, established NATO, and the new, augmented NATO. “The center of gravity had shifted to the east,” he says, “and I was being hit with all sorts of questions about, ‘Europe’s against you,’ and I was thinking to myself that the overwhelming majority of the European countries were supporting us — it just happened that the ones that weren’t were Germany and France.”

Just for the record.

‐Got a letter from a reader who had been in France, and ten people had told him, “I like America, I just don’t like George Bush.” When an eleventh Frenchman started to say this, the reader said, “I know, I know.”

That got me to thinking: Maybe the French national motto should be, “I like America, I just don’t like George Bush.” They could update it every now and then. When I was a college student, abroad, all I heard was, “I like America, I just don’t like Ronald Reagan.” And when the next conservative Republican comes along . . .

You get the picture.

‐Oops, I just assured myself a number of e-mails, explaining — scolding, screaming — that Bush “is not a conservative.” One reply: Tell it to the Left.

‐As we learn from this article, Nashville has just done something despicably bigoted, nativist, and jingoist: Its government “has adopted English as its official language, following similar moves by several smaller cities around the country. After months of debate,” the story continues,

the city’s Metro Council voted 23-14 on Tuesday to approve the measure requiring all government communications to be in English, except when multilingual communications are required by federal rules or are needed “to protect or promote public health, safety or welfare.”

I deplore this bigoted, nativist, jingoist, ethnocentric, anti-immigrant, unconstitutional, racist assault on core American values.

(Has my sarcasm been obvious enough? Go Nashville!)

‐I keep seeing these ads around town: “These Times Demand the Times.” They are talking about the New York Times. Can you think of times that less demand the Times? More than ever, in this War on Terror, we need clear thinking, an end to political correctness, an appreciation of Judeo-Christian civilization, an unillusioned look at our enemies. (Indeed, an acknowledgement that we have them.) We also need certain clandestine programs, intended to keep us safe from those trying to murder us en masse.

No, these times decidedly do not demand the Times.

‐I have received some information I wish to pass along — about the Cuban Memorial, to be held February 16-18 at Tamiami Park in Miami.

During three days, this symbolic cemetery will give testament to the world of the thousands of victims of the Castro dictatorship. Each documented victim will have a cross with his/her name together with the date and location of death. Almost 10,000 crosses will be planted under a larger cross symbolizing the many more victims who remain unaccounted for.

People of all ages and different nationalities — executed, assassinated, disappeared, killed in prison, lost at sea, or who gave their lives fighting for freedom in Cuba — will be honored with this sober memorial.

And so on. For more info, try www.MemorialCubano.org.

‐There is a lot to despair over, concerning the new Harvard president. But I am particularly struck by how proud she is to have been an activist against the Vietnam War. I wonder if she has ever reflected on what happened after the peninsula was united under Communism: the boat people, the reeducation camps, the usual hellish horror. If she doesn’t accept any responsibility: Is she mildly curious?

I rather doubt it. They seldom are.

‐I’m all for wealth, as you know — the honestly gotten kind — but I was slightly amazed by what I read the other day (here): “Due to a range of business ventures, aides have said Gore could spend as much as $50 million of his own money to launch a credible presidential run.”

Holy mackerel — that’s a lot of clams. Fifty mil? And that’s just a modest portion of what he has, for running for office?


‐Lay some music on you, I mean, beyond Ainadamar? For a review of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center — the opening concert of its English-music festival — go here. For a review of Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For a review of the pianist Till Fellner, go here. And for a review of the Artemis Quartet, go here.

All of these are from the New York Sun.

‐In last Friday’s Impromptus, I wrote about hissing, a subject I have addressed often. I have a strong aversion to hissing, which has been a tool for as long as I can remember. I wonder how far back it dates — antiquity? Anyway, I grew up with the sound of the Left hissing. (I have never known conservatives to hiss. Perhaps they do, somewhere.) When the Left didn’t like something, they hissed. They hissed both things and people. They hissed at movie screens, and they hissed at you and me — when we said something that went against the grain.

There is a sinister quality to hissing. It is fairly anonymous — a voice is distinct, but a hiss is not — and it may imply a threat. When people hiss as a group, the specter of the mob is raised. I have a feeling that the Left hisses less than in previous times, even as campuses are less intolerant and oppressive. I may be wrong.

Just last summer, by the way, I was hissed — while speaking to a small audience about music, of all things. I had said something just a tiny, tiny bit politically incorrect (not very): and a woman hissed me. (I think it was a woman.)

Anyway, a discussion of hissing usually brings a lot of mail. And I thought I would share with you a marvelous letter I received on Saturday:

Dear Jay:

I saw your comment about hissing, and it took me back to Harvard Law School in the mid-1980s. I was a student there, one of a handful of conservatives speaking up against the party line in class. We found ourselves hissed at every turn, something I had never encountered (or even heard of) in all my previous years. A good friend who had attended Harvard College was amazed at me — he told me that hissing was a common tool used to drown out anything other than the ultra-liberal viewpoint. Things became so bad in our classes that the professors hosted a discussion of hissing, and, to their credit, discouraged the practice. It didn’t help.

Which reminds me of a funny story. During my first year of law school, Ronald Reagan was campaigning for his second term in the White House. He showed up in Boston for what was billed as his final campaign appearance (in his own behalf). So my buddies and I decided to skip out of Contracts class and attend. We did, and heard the great man at his best.

The next day in class, our (very liberal) professor announced that he had handed out an important assignment the day before, but that several students had been absent. He said there was a rumor that they had been in Boston attending a Reagan rally (much hissing). He then declared that if those students wanted a copy of the assignment, they would have to walk down to the front of the room (an auditorium-style lecture hall) and take one from his desk. He apparently thought we’d be too shamed to announce ourselves. We, of course, were proud of our views, and we all marched forward to get the assignment as our classmates hissed with great energy.

Not exactly heroic, but a great memory.

Well, if not exactly heroic — not exactly unheroic, either. My hat is off to this wonderful lawyer, and his friends, and I’ll see you later, Impromptus-ites.


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