Politics & Policy

Behind their masks, &c.

Was semi-amused to read a story about riots in advance of the G-8 summit in Germany:

Masked demonstrators showered police with grapefruit-sized rocks and beer bottles, then were driven back with water cannon and tear gas during a protest march . . .

The clashes left smoke from burning cars and the sting of tear gas drifting through the harborfront area in the north German port of Rostock. Some 146 police were hurt, 18 of them seriously.

Radicals “are smashing everything in their way to pieces,” said Karsten Wolff, a police spokesman.

Yup, that’s what they do: “smash everything in their way to pieces.” And note that these “demonstrators” — really hooligans and thugs — were masked. The Lone Ranger might have been a good guy, but most people in masks are not.

And 146 policemen were hurt, 18 of them seriously. What punishment awaits the “demonstrators” for this? (They were demonstrating their criminality.) Any punishment at all?

And should we really speak of “clashes,” as the news report did? It seems to me these were more like unprovoked attacks on society; and the police stood between us and the attackers, absorbing the blows.

“Demonstrators” such as the Rostock assailants are treated way, way too lightly, by us all.

And did you note that they burned cars? Borrowing a page from les jeunes to the west, no doubt.

Well, maybe one of the German rioters will grow up to be foreign minister — a bad one, too.

‐Campaigning in Iowa, John McCain had a nice line. “I respect your disagreement,” he said of those who oppose the new immigration bill. “But what’s your proposal? The status quo is not acceptable.”

Sure thing — but the bill’s opponents have many proposals. And some of them can be summed up in such shorthand as “enforcement first” and “attrition.”

Opponents of what is now on the table should be as specific as possible, about what they themselves would do. I’m happy to say that NR has. (You’re subscribing, by the way, aren’t you?)

I noted, in this story, that McCain was speaking in Le Mars, Iowa, “which proudly calls itself the ice cream capital of the world.”

And I haven’t been there? Criminy.

‐You have been following, I know, the plight of American hostages in Iran. (For a bracing Michael Ledeen piece, go here.) One of those hostages is Haleh Esfandiari, director of the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, in Washington. That center is headed by Lee Hamilton, the former congressman (D., Ind.).

A friend of mine wrote me, “I find it irritating that Hamilton keeps emphasizing how nonpartisan Esfandiari is, as if that were the salient fact about this situation — as if, had she actually spoken out against the Iranian regime, her treatment would be justified!”

Hear, hear.

‐Out of the mouths of babes . . .

Dennis Kucinich, campaigning in New Hampshire, said, “Peace is inevitable if we have a president who is willing.”

He is right: Any president could yank troops out of Iraq. That would be “peace,” from Kucinich’s point of view — from the kindergartner’s point of view. In all probability, however, withdrawal would be more like violent hell — for Iraqis, for their neighbors, and, sooner or later, for us.

‐Speaking of presidents: Noticed a fascinating picture of Nixon on the Internet. He is in grade school, and he looks classically worried already.

The snap is here.

‐A friend of mine in the Bay Area sent me an amazing article from the Contra Costa Times — amazing and infuriating. Have a few paragraphs, holding on to your hat:

A former teacher of nearly 20 years who has previously led two other school districts and been a high-ranking administrator in a third will be Pittsburg’s next schools superintendent, the school board decided Wednesday night.

Barbara Wilson, who has been the superintendent of the Jefferson Elementary School District in Daly City for the last five years, will become Pittsburg schools’ top administrator effective July 1, school board President Laura Canciamilla said.

Wilson, who will earn $185,000 annually on top of other benefits, will start her new job July 15 after she completes a two-week Spanish language immersion course in Mexico.

Whaaaaaa’? I truly hope that this two-week immersion course is for personal purposes only — but I kind of have a feeling it’s job-related.

In NR a few months back, I wrote a piece called “Bassackwards,” about the insistence that Americans learn Spanish. (The centerpiece of my essay was “Construction Spanish” — the Spanish that contractors and others have to take in order to communicate with workers.)

And our country’s bassackwardness proceeds apace. A hundred years ago, were school officials sailing to the Balkans, for an immersion course in Serbian? No? Then how on earth did they deal with their immigrant children?

‐Please note that Islamist beheaders have a pedigree — forebears:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI approved recognition of martyrdom for an Austrian who was beheaded by the Nazis for refusing to serve in Hitler’s army, a step toward possible sainthood.

Nice company, eh?

(The rest of that news report is here.)

‐And speaking of beheaders — present-day ones:

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Islamic group threatened to behead female TV broadcasters if they don’t wear strict Islamic dress, frightening reporters and signaling a further shift toward extremism in the Gaza Strip.

The threat to “cut throats from vein to vein” was delivered by the Swords of Truth, a fanatical group that has previously claimed responsibility for bombing Internet cafes and music shops. The new threat was the first time the organization targeted a specific group of people.

And, my dear friends, allow me to tell you something you already know: Those beheaders are not just the enemies of ladies on television; they are your enemies too, whether we like it or not.

(For the rest of this story, go here.)

‐A headline — and a typical one — out of the AP in Havana: “New Leader Keeps Cuban Life on Track.” (The story is here.) Oh, I bet he does! The Castros tend to be good at that — have for almost 50 years: “keeping Cuban life on track.”

What an outrageous, repulsive headline — and, as I said, entirely typical.

How about this headline out of Albania, c. 1983? “Hoxha Keeps Albanian Life on Track.” Yes, sir.

‐Credit to the AP: The news service had an interesting roundup of comments by Israelis and Palestinians, on the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War. (Incidentally, in the current NR, our senior editor David Pryce-Jones has a glowing and magnificent essay on the war. It is partly autobiographical.)

I share with you a couple of comments from the AP’s roundup. This one is from Sari Nusseibeh, a Palestinian intellectual, on “rival Israeli and Palestinian claims to Jerusalem”:

“I would love to be able to love Jerusalem, but as hard as I try, I am finding it extremely difficult. And faced with the choice, Jerusalem or a human being, I would certainly put the human being above. And I think we have put Jerusalem for far too long above humanity. And I think enough is enough.”

Can Mr. Nusseibeh long remain alive?

And this from a “settler,” Israel Harel:

“I am ready, for the sake of peace, to give up parts of my country, but I can never accept that this is an occupied land.”

I’m with you, baby.

‐And now for something terribly mundane: For the last many days, there has been construction outside my window — jackhammering, jackhammering. My question: Can’t they make a quieter jackhammer? Can’t they build a better mousetrap? What happened to Yankee ingenuity? Maybe a quiet jackhammer is too much a contradiction in terms. But how about a quieter one? In this advanced year of 2007, should jackhammers still sound like jackhammers?

Anyway . . .

‐A little music: For a review of a gala featuring Anna Netrebko, soprano, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone, go here. (The review is from the New York Sun.)

‐A little mail?


Did you happen to see the interview with Evan O’Dorney after he nonchalantly won the 2007 National Spelling Bee? [Evan is 13 years old.] It was classic! Young Evan’s innocence and intelligence were refreshing. A few tidbits:

On why he doesn’t really care for the Spelling Bee: “My favorite things to do were math and music. And with the math, I really like the way the numbers fit together; and with the music, I like to let out ideas by composing notes. And the spelling is just a bunch of memorization.”

Asked whether he likes the Spelling Bee more, now that he’s won it: “Are you saying I’m supposed to like it more?”

Simply classic.


‐Here’s a letter referring to an item I had in Thursday’s Impromptus. I said that I was made to read two Richard Wright books — Black Boy and Native Son — over and over, from K to graduate school. (I exaggerate slightly.) This was in response to the news that a Canadian high-schooler was made to watch the Al Gore movie four times in one year.

Mr. Nordlinger,

I can beat your Black Boy/Native Son record. In four years of college, I had to read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed nine times. I had to read it for five of my political-science classes, three history classes, and a class on business.

It was fun to watch my big-city upper-crust classmates — the children of executives and professionals — marvel at how people had to work hard from sun up to sundown to make ends meet. Being a kid from a blue-collar refinery town, I was surprised by nothing in the book. It only served to illustrate how Marxist rhetoric still has a hold over the naïve.

A Barbara Ehrenreich book nine times? Doesn’t the Eighth Amendment prohibit that?

‐Finally, a word about Virginia — which, in Thursday’s Impromptus, I referred to as the State of Virginia. Boy, did I hear from Virginians — insisting on “Commonwealth.”

One patient Richmond-dweller explained,

Yeah, we’re funny that way down here. You have to remember, this is the place that calls itself the “Old Dominion,” and that names its flagship university’s athletic squads the “Cavaliers.” Modesty has never been our strong suit. Also, if you pass us a bourbon, we will remind you that we are the Mother of Presidents, home to the first permanent English settlement in North America, have the longest continuously operated, democratically elected legislative body in existence, were the site of the first Thanksgiving . . . you get the picture.

It’s like the old saying about North Carolina: “A valley of modesty between two mountains of conceit.”

No offense to anybody!

See you.


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