Politics & Policy

Pillow talk, &c.

Hey, guys, did you see what Michael Douglas (the actor) said, explaining his support of Hillary Clinton? “I would like my president to have pillow talks with Bill Clinton. I would be very happy with that.” Yes, that would be a happy event.

‐You know that Elvira Arellano, the famous deported Mexican lady, has become a hero in her home country. I have to ask: What kind of country makes a hero out of a person whose highest ambition is to live in another country?

These are weird times, y’all.

‐My colleague John Derbyshire spread the news that a lady from Scotland has become the first-ever female Beefeater — guarding the Tower of London. I had an idle question: Can you be a vegetarian Beefeater?

‐So, that Democratic fundraiser, Hsu, who fled the cops? Did anyone use the headline, “Hsu Fly”?

‐If you’re looking for a slice of American pop-culture heaven, put on Dinah Shore singing, “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” (“makes your eyes light up, your tummy say ‘Howdy’”).

‐So, Fred Thompson is going to announce for president on the Jay Leno show? Really? This country is at war; Thompson will run to be commander-in-chief. He’s going to announce on Jay Leno?

Say it ain’t so, Fred. Such a venue, for such an announcement, will not exactly make the enemy quake in his boots.

‐Learned something else from John Derb.: Some people are seriously advancing the notion that Muslims discovered America. Not Christopher Columbus, not the Vikings — Muslims. Sure — and Beethoven was Muslim, too.

Oh, hang on: He was black, that’s right.

Maybe a black Muslim?

‐From time to time, I write about Juan Carlos González Leiva, one of the leading human-rights figures in Cuba. He is a lawyer (blind) and president of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation. I have also written about Luis Esteban Espinosa, a young journalist, a member of Youth Without Censorship. You will find my article about Youth Without Censorship here.

I thought you would be interested in a statement by González Leiva, transmitted by the Coalition of Cuban-American Women. It was disseminated last week. What the statement describes is no big deal, really: No one was murdered. This was just another day in the life of the socialist paradise down south . . .

On Sunday, August 27, 2007, at 5:30 PM, I was arrested and beaten by several military personnel of the Penal Ward of Amalia Simoni Provincial Hospital of Camagüey and by policemen and State Security officials. Independent journalist, Luis Esteban Espinosa Echemendía, and Eisy Marrero Marrero, a member of the Cuban Council of Human Rights Rapporteurs, were also arrested and physically attacked.

The event took place when we were attempting to interview Michael, a handicapped individual in a wheel chair who is the son of the prisoner of conscience, José Antonio Mola Porro and who is in Ward H of that hospital. This ward, as well as the hospital, is not a military facility, but a rather public one, and it was visiting hours.

They locked us in the prisoners’ and tuberculosis ward, and they tried to search me, but I refused and said that I would only let them check me at police headquarters. . . . They threw me to the floor, and while beating me, they tried to snatch the two small bags tied to my body.

They dragged me toward their car where they tried to force me in it, but I opened my arms and legs trying to grab onto anything in the way and preventing authorities from achieving their objective. Infuriated, they pulled me outside, and they tried it again, violently throwing me against the hatchback of the car, that is, against the top of the door frame of the back left door. I took three hard blows to the head and one to the left shoulder . . .

Upon arriving at the Avellaneda police unit, I refused to get out of the car on my own feet, telling the policemen that if I had been forced into the car, now they would have to take me out by force. Then they told me not to make things worse for myself, that they would accuse me of resistance and that I am a very rude lawyer. With a policeman on each side of me, they dragged me by the hands and took me across the filthy floor of the police station to an enclosed cell that was extremely hot and reeked of urine and feces. I was there for three hours along with my friends, Marrero and Esteban. Then, they let me go, saying that everything had just been a mistake. . . .

I hold the Cuban government responsible for my health and my life, and I ask for solidarity from the international public opinion and world governments.

As I said, nothing blockbuster — just normal. And it doesn’t hurt to look in on perverse and cruel normalcy from time to time. (For the complete statement, go here.)

‐As I noted, Juan Carlos González Leiva is a blind lawyer. So is Chen Guangcheng. He’s the one in China who fights against coerced abortions — incredibly gruesome events (and cruel and murderous ones). To read the latest on this front, go here.

If these two men — González Leiva and Chen — aren’t making the most of life, despite very difficult circumstances, I don’t know who is.

‐Very, very good news out of Syria — thrilling news, in fact. I’ll let this news story tell the tale:

A rare sight welcomed visitors to some of Syria’s major cities last week — huge posters of Farid Ghadry, exiled leader of the Reform Party of Syria, the opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime.

Ghadry’s posters were plastered in three of Syria’s major cities: Halab, Idlib and Damascus. This was the first defiant act made against Assad’s regime since the suppression of Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood in 1982.

People in free countries have little idea what courage it took to hang those posters — what risk of life. The Reform Party of Syria is one of the most encouraging and gladdening facts in the entire Middle East.

‐This is not so great: Did you hear that the new commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards was one of the 1979-81 hostage-takers? (Story here.) Oh, yeah. President Ahmadinejad probably was too. If he wasn’t — he wishes he’d been.

‐News from my dear old hometown — Ann Arbor, Mich. What’s happened? Has the city council just reaffirmed solidarity with Hugo Chávez, or Kim Jong Il? Not to my knowledge. No, the People’s Food Co-op — a very “progressive” institution, if progressive means Ho-ite — is debating whether to boycott products from Israel. For a story, go here.

No word yet on the outcome of this debate. But I hope that the People’s Food Co-op goes ahead with the boycott. Their mission is to let it all hang out. I remember very well the hammer and sickle on their sign — may be still there. And to be anyone serious on the left today means: Hate Israel, the little Satan (right along with the Big Satan).

Come on, guys: Don’t wimp out. Let Poland be Poland, let Reagan be Reagan, and let the People’s Food Co-op of Ann Arbor be the People’s Food Co-op of Ann Arbor. If you don’t boycott Israel today, you might find that you’re apologizing for bourgeois democracy tomorrow.

And, hey: Just because Communist Vietnam has undergone some liberalization, doesn’t mean you have to. It all started to go downhill in Vietnam when the largest reeducation camps closed . . .

‐The other news from my hometown? Yes, little Appalachian State — from Boone, N.C. — beat the mighty Michigan Wolverines, 34-32. For Michigan, this was supposed to be a joke game: almost a pre-season warmup. But the Appalachian State Mountaineers had other ideas. In Ann Arbor’s giant stadium, they pulled off maybe the biggest upset in the history of college football.

My first reaction, as an Ann Arborite, was: That’s horrible. But my second, and better, reaction was: What an incredible — and incredibly wonderful — American story.

‐My homegirl Emmy Chang — not from Ann Arbor, just a former NR co-worker — sent me a most interesting, most telling map: a map giving “The Internet’s ‘Black Holes.’” That map is here. It comes courtesy of the invaluable Reporters Without Borders.

And the Internet’s black holes? Drum-roll, please: Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Libya, the Maldives, Nepal, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.


(The Maldives?)

‐A little language? I received some letters correcting a mistake I made in Thursday’s Impromptus. One of them went,

Dear Jay,

I hate to sound like a schoolmarm [no, be my guest!], but I’m afraid you have committed one of the most serious blunders in the English language. I’m sure you meant to say that Palm Beach was a lovely place despite the concrete (a product consisting of cement, sand, rock, and water), not cement.

So true!

‐A little music? Have a pair of reviews published in the New York Sun. For a review of the latest CD from Evgeny Kissin, the Russian pianist, go here. And for a review of the latest from Angela Gheorghiu, the Romanian soprano, go here.

More later . . .

‐A little attention to eateries? Received a letter from a fellow NR cruiser — we went to Alaska together. He wrote, “My wife and I loved not just the scenery but the quirkiness of the towns we visited. I thought you might appreciate this picture I took in Ketchikan.”

And here it is. For those of you whose computers might be balky, the sign outside a Ketchikan establishment says, “Chico’s Mexican Restaurant: The Best Pizza in Town.”

And I have a somewhat related story from another NR cruiser. He told me about an Indian family — the Patels — who took over some Italian restaurant. The restaurant had been called D’Annunzio’s, or something. The new owners, wanting to retain the Italian nature of the name, while associating the place with themselves, rechristened the restaurant: Patelini’s.

Love it.

‐You might remember, from Thursday’s Impromptus, that I talked about the Schloss Mirabell — Mirabell Castle — in Salzburg. It is a kind of city hall, and I mentioned that weddings take place there. I heard Mendelssohn’s march pealing out, when I happened to be visiting.

Anyway, got the following note from an Impromptusite:

Dear Mr. Nordlinger,

Your description of weddings at Schloss Mirabell brought back warm memories of my wedding there in 1991. My husband and I planned a Salzburg wedding without knowing if we would be married by a chain-smoking clerk in a room full of file cabinets; the reality was a wedding in a castle! Although I don’t know if the room in which the weddings take place is actually a chapel [as I’d said], it is certainly beautiful, lined with marble and gold and full of huge bouquets. Students from the music school make some extra money playing the organ for couples getting married.

I think that Salzburg may be rather a magnet for weddings. Our marriage certificate is in 14 languages, including Tagalog!

Wonderful. And shall we end with a note from my colleague Rick Brookhiser? In those Impromptus — that Impromptus? — I spoke of Salzburg’s mayor: He has a picture-perfect view out his office window. Therefore, he has placed his desk so as to have his back to the window. Otherwise, he wouldn’t get any work done.

Rick wrote,

I think I have the mayor of Salzburg beat. We had a friend in Athens, a Greek foodwriter, who has an apartment on the Acropolis with a picture window view of the Parthenon. I oohed and ahhed, and then said, “If you’re working, don’t you ever feel like saying — ‘Oh, shut up!’?” To which our friend replied that she never works in her apartment, but in her office — a second, smaller apartment, around the corner, with no view.

And what do we have here at NR HQ, NYC? Well — it’s okay!


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