Reading stories about the Beijing Olympics and protests against them, I’ve noticed something peculiar: The protests are about China’s support of Sudan, and its genocidal regime. Which is great, of course — I mean, the protests against China’s support. But there don’t seem to be protests against China’s treatment of its own citizens: the denial of rights, the torture, the “disappearing” of Falun Gong practitioners, etc.
Curious. But at least there are protests. Darfur is “hot,” even if nothing else is.
Also, regular readers of NR and NRO know about Jian-li Yang: He is the intellectual and democracy activist who was released from a Chinese prison last year after a five-year sentence. In the October 8, 2007, NR, I published a profile of him called “Leader of the Chinese.”
Well, he continues to lead them: He has now established an organization called “Initiatives for China.” In Chinese, the organization’s name is “Citizen Power.” You may read about it here.
And one more note, before leaving China: Did you see that it will boost its “defense” budget — I should say military budget — by almost 20 percent? That’s kind of a big boost.
‐I’d just like to point out one thing about Ferraro-gate: She said, “. . . in 1984 if my name was Gerard Ferraro instead of Geraldine Ferraro, I would have never been chosen as a vice-presidential candidate. It had nothing to do with my qualification.”
Um, was this spoken about so freely at the time? Acknowledged so freely? I don’t remember its being so — at all.
‐In the last week of January, someone sent me an article from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I’ve been meaning to share it with you. The article bothered and moved me, and you may see what I mean.
Al Franken, running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota, visited Carleton College. After a rally, kids gathered around him, naturally. Those kids included Peter Fritz, a senior history major. He was snapping pictures, for his friends. And I will now quote the article:
According to Fritz, things started out fine . . . Then Franken’s curiosity was raised about why Fritz didn’t want to be in a pic.
He’s a conservative, another Carl yelled out by way of explanation. [Students at Carleton College are known as “Carls.”]
At that point, Franken reportedly began peppering Fritz with questions about supporting President George W. Bush and former President Ronald Reagan’s tax hikes. Fritz told me he got tense and, as he does in those situations, started chewing the inside of his mouth, a gesture he said was mimicked by Franken; Fritz also thought his style of speech was mocked by Franken.
An aide eventually interrupted Franken’s act, Fritz said, by announcing to the candidate that it was time to go.
Fritz told me Monday that he then stuck out his hand to shake Franken’s. “Well, at least it’s nice to meet you,” the GOPer said he told Franken, who reportedly replied, I can’t say the same.
There was no handshake, said Fritz.
[Andy] Barr, Franken’s handler, said, “Al doesn’t remember saying that, but if the kid does, then okay.” . . .
Fritz told me Wednesday he was stunned by Franken’s behavior: “I usually expect politicians to, at least, pretend as though, even in that kind of interaction, that they can convince me or have some kind of reasonable dialogue — the whole Minnesota Nice thing, at least.”
Yes: “I usually expect politicians to, at least, pretend as though . . .”
And here’s one of the best parts of the story — it is the final line of the article: “Fritz’s version of the encounter was backed up by Pablo Kenney, prez of the Carleton Dems.” Good for Pablo Kenney.
According to the above, Franken badgered and mocked a student — imitated a physical tic, imitated his way of speaking. And then refused to shake his hand. This is stunning. Franken is almost 60 years old. He went to a campus, met a conservative kid, who apparently behaved graciously (“Well, at least it’s nice to meet you”). Civilized people simply don’t behave this way.
What if a famous conservative figure had done this to a liberal kid?
As I said, the story kind of shook me up. I always thought Franken was sort of likable, whatever his political views. I used to enjoy him on television. Perhaps I am making too much of this. And I know he’s a comedian. But: His behavior at Carleton College struck me as kind of monstrous.
‐Wednesday was the 70th anniversary of the Anschluss. And I read a very interesting article from the AP. It quoted one Jerome Segal, who took part in a ceremony in Vienna. The man said, “I have basically no problem living here. It’s just Europe. But on some occasions, like today, I feel there’s something still not completely cleared in Austrian history.”
As regular readers may know, I go to Salzburg a couple of times a year, to work at music festivals. I spend a fair amount of time in Austria. And I was moved by Jerome Segal’s comment — because I know so many who feel the same way. And he expressed it perfectly.
‐Did you read about Kwame Kilpatrick, speechifying in Detroit? He’s the mayor there, caught in an adultery-and-perjury scandal. And here’s a bit of what he said, the other day:
“I humbly ask members of council. I humbly ask the business community. I humbly ask the religious community. I humbly ask the brothers and sisters of the city of Detroit. I humbly ask that we say no more together. I humbly ask that we say no more together.”
Let me translate for you: “Shut up. Shut up, y’all. Obey the racial equivalent of omertà.”
You got it?
‐A reader sent me something kind of funny — comes from the Daily Telegraph. They had an article on Marion Cotillard, the actress who mused about 9/11 conspiratorially (“inside job” and all that). The article said, “. . . faced with losing millions as the notoriously patriotic Hollywood film industry reacted against her vitriol, Cotillard claimed there had been a misunderstanding.”
And our reader commented as follows: “‘The notoriously patriotic Hollywood film industry’? I know that there is more than one Hollywood in the U.S. — Wikipedia lists several — but I didn’t realize that any of them had much of a film industry.”
‐A friend of mine brought to my attention a death notice in the New York Times. The last line was, “In her memory, please vote Democratic in November.”
Too perfect, no?
‐Have a letter from a reader, language-related — and culture-related, and life-related. It came after I’d hailed Rotary, the Lions, and other such clubs.
In the mid-’90s, the Pennsylvania town of Shamokin was having an extended public debate about whether to allow “gentlemen’s clubs” (i.e., strip joints) within town limits. That euphemism had gained common currency, and for months “gentlemen’s clubs” was the only way these pending dens of iniquity were referenced.
Then an anonymous letter to the editor appeared in the local paper to the effect of, “We’ve had gentlemen’s clubs in Shamokin for generations. The Lions Club, the Kiwanis Club, the Elks Club, the Rotary Club . . .”
The editor’s response? “I wish I knew who wrote that letter, because I’d like to shake his hand.”
‐Do you care for a little music? Here are some reviews from the New York Sun:
For the San Francisco Symphony, under Michael Tilson Thomas, with violinist Gil Shaham, soloist, go here. For Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde at the Metropolitan Opera, go here. For the soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian in recital, go here. And for the pianist Gabriela Montero in recital, go here.
Enough? Thought so.
‐Wanted to give you a couple of WFB items. In my Impromptus Monday, I told a little story about Bill and Kentucky Fried Chicken — or, if you will, WFB and KFC. My colleague John Virtes said it reminded him of something. Bill loved salami sandwiches, salami heroes. But he regularly couldn’t remember the word “salami.” So he’d say, “Can I have one of those sandwiches with the little round hard stuff?”
And another colleague, Dorothy McCartney, talked to me about “reflected glory,” which I’d mentioned in my initial WFB notes. When you were with Bill, or associated with Bill, the sun would often shine on you.
When I first met Dorothy, ten years ago, I said that she was famous — famous because her name would appear in the closing credits of Firing Line. She denied it. But then she remembered something: “I was in a bank one time, out in Long Island, and the teller said, ‘Are you the Dorothy McCartney?’”
Yup: Just as I’d said: famous.
‐And let me leave you with something ah-making: a picture of a reader’s little daughter, Olivia, perusing National Review: here. The cover of the mag has Jonah Goldberg’s book on it. Go Jonah! Go Olivia! And go everyone.