Well, “cap and trade” has passed the House — such an innocent-sounding name, “cap and trade.” This marks a major change in the way we do business. Rep. Ed Markey, the longtime Democrat from Massachusetts, said, “This is revolutionary.” And that may well be right — bearing in mind that revolutionary is not always roses.
“Card check” is another innocent-sounding name. So is “health-care reform.” Don’t we all want it! But card check, too, could prove revolutionary, and so could Obama-style health-care reform — and some of us prefer our revolutions non-Scandinavian, so to speak.
‐By the way, the other week, some of us spoke to a gathering, and I said something about whether Americans would accept “the Scandinavian model.” Our publisher Jack Fowler piped up, “As a red-blooded American male, I have to say something in favor of Scandinavian models . . .”
‐Last January in Davos, I noted that Al Gore noted that “only the Scandinavian countries and a few provinces in Canada” have done what is necessary on global warming. Sure, sure. Right-wingers used to joke about how Democrats wanted America to be more like Scandinavia and certain provinces in Canada. Why is so little funny today?
‐Okay, one more item pertaining to Scandinavia: Yesterday I saw the headline “Norwegian convicted in theft of Munch paintings.” And I’m thinking: Norwegians steal? (Yes, that is a ridiculously pro-Norwegian remark.) (Maybe Walter Mondale would be pleased?)
‐After President Obama said he was “appalled” and “outraged” by the actions of the Iranian regime, Ahmadinejad said, “Mr. Obama made a mistake to say those things . . . Our question is why he fell into this trap and said things that previously Bush used to say.”
Obama is sounding like Bush? Just about the best thing I know about our new president . . .
‐I must say, too, that I rather liked his swatting of the fly — almost a Sister Souljah moment. (PETA and others were peeved.)
‐By the way, you know what was strange about Clinton’s Sister Souljah thing? What he said was, maybe it’s not such a hot idea to exhort murder. And the whole world hailed him for bravery. Strange country we live in, sometimes.
‐I cringed over the Ricci headlines yesterday. A typical one was “Court rules for white firefighters over promotions.” Such a racialist headline. I was thinking that the Court ruled on the law — and maybe even for basic American and liberal principles. (I mean “liberal” in the old, honorable sense.)
‐Don’t know whether you’ve had a chance to go through your new National Review. Lots of good in there. For example, David Pryce-Jones’s essay on Byron is flat-out anthologizable. (When I say Byron, I mean Lord, not York or Nelson. Or White or . . .)
My own contribution stems from something I started right here in Impromptus, not long ago: I was discoursing on the near ubiquity of Communist symbols. You know: the hammer and sickle, Che’s mug, etc. The piece is called “Undies, Comrade?” — and I was thinking of the goods found here.
Shortly after I wrote that piece, I boarded a plane, and a man sat near me wearing a red warm-up jacket: which said “CCCP.” Of course. He was just a normal American guy, about 34, I’d say.
In this piece, I explore the ins and outs of the subject — or a good many of them — and draw certain conclusions. When it comes to determining what is appropriate, I think you have to go with your gut, your stomach. You know what’s in good fun; and you know what crosses the line into — unseemliness, or the glorification of the despicable.
I end the piece by relating a personal item — well, more like an in-house item. It was proposed here at NR that we have T-shirts made up bearing my image (!) in the Che pose. It would say “Viva Impromptus!” or something like that. You know, just a novelty, for interested parties. Eventually, we decided against.
Of course, everyone and his brother has been done up in the Che pose — it’s de rigueur. And some of these satirical shirts are wonderful. But my thinking was: No matter what, he was a murderous, enslaving thug, the Latin American Beria. So . . . I don’t even want to play around. You know?
‐Last week in this space, I wrote of the National Endowment for Democracy, and its honoring of five Cuban oppositionists. Three of those people are in prison; two are out, for now. There was some drama surrounding the ceremony, as I indicated in a Corner item, here. The Obama White House was not exactly quick to celebrate these brave democrats.
One of them is Antúnez, the fearless, irrepressible Afro-Cuban dissident. He is a model and rallying-point for many. He managed to speak to the NED gathering by phone: and, to hear that, go here.
‐Some days ago, I was reading Victor Davis Hanson, and he was talking about presidential apologizing: Such apologizing can be harmful — counterproductive. And I thought, once more, of a statement that has always stuck with me. The first Bush made it in his closing remarks of the 1984 vice-presidential debate, versus Ferraro. He said, “I can’t tell you what a joy it is to serve with a president who does not apologize for the United States of America.”
A lot of people were perplexed by that, including Gerry, who kind of screwed up her face. But you know what GHWB meant, don’t you? You can feel it, can’t you?
‐Joan Baez is still around, and she is still singing. According to this article, she recorded a version of “We Shall Overcome,” with some Farsi lyrics. She is supporting the Iranians in the street, rather than the government oppressing them. Nice to see that she is now “on the right side of history,” to use a phrase that, to me at least, grates more and more. (It is important to be on the right side of an issue, question, or problem, history quite aside.) (Unless I am missing something.)
‐Have you heard the latest comedy stylings of Sen. John Kerry? He is a real card, that guy: with the lightness, suavity, and zing of Noel Coward. When Gov. Mark Sanford was thought to be on the Appalachian Trail, Kerry told a crowd, “Too bad, if a governor had to go missing, it couldn’t have been the governor of Alaska. You know, Sarah Palin.” Uh, yeah, we know, Big John.
Can you believe that, but for a relative handful of votes in Ohio, this guy would have been president?
Reminds me of something a well-known politician said about George W. Bush (off the record, I’m afraid): “Whatever his other accomplishments, at least he kept two of the sorriest sons-of-[guns] who ever lived from being president.”
‐You’ll like this — and I mean “like” in a particular way: The Associated Press had a story on the 20th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Check this out:
Much has changed since “Do The Right Thing” announced Lee’s special gifts to the world. The police choke hold that killed Radio Raheem — a fictionalization of the real death of Michael Stewart in New York City — has long been outlawed. Life on the ravaged Brooklyn block where Lee filmed the movie has improved. Ronald Reagan has given way to Barack Obama.
But for every measure of undeniable progress, “Do The Right Thing” also points to the divides that remain.
(For the full article, go here.) Um, you may detest Ronald Reagan, but, if you work for the AP, and are writing an AP story — shouldn’t you sort of disguise that? Or shouldn’t your editor?
‐Many of us speak of American exceptionalism, and how it is under attack. (At least we believe it to be so.) There is exceptionalism among states, too. For example, Vermont is different from Utah (obviously). I thought of state exceptionalism when reading this fascinating story about Arizona. The deal is, “Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow anyone with a concealed-weapons permit to bring a handgun into bars and restaurants serving alcohol.”
Let Poland be Poland, let Reagan be Reagan — let Arizona be Arizona? At any rate, what a state!
‐A reader sent me an article about China from the Daily Telegraph, which included this nugget: “China no longer publishes the figures for how many riots take place each year, but most people put the figure at around 80,000 and the vast majority go totally unnoticed.”
Eighty-thousand riots a year? Is that a lot, in a country the size of China, or with the population of China? Or not very many. Eighty-thousand riots: Sounds like kind of a lot to me, but, you know, I’m just a Michigan kid — and, in Ann Arbor, we had far fewer riots than 80 thou . . .
‐A little language? Following a column last week, a reader reminded me of an expression for going without underwear (it was relevant, believe me): “going commando.” An exuberant, wonderful American phrase. Almost makes you want to . . . well, you know: go commando.
Also, I received a package the other day, of checks (blank ones, not ones providing me with millions): On the wrapping, I read, “IMPORTANT: This package is tamper-evident.” A very interesting and useful phrase: “tamper-evident.” In other words, you can see if someone’s messed with it. Of course, tamper-proof is something else.
One more language note? It came up in the previous item — about the riots. I wrote, “Is that a lot, in a country the size of China, or with the population of China? Or not very many.” Now, technically speaking, I guess, there should be a question mark at the end of that second sentence. But I’m reluctant to place a question mark where I don’t hear a rising inflection — an inquiring inflection. I go by ear.
Except when I don’t. Language is like that, of course. And, sometimes in Impromptus — often — we play street ball. We play by feel.
‐Last week, I wrote something about teachers, teachers’ unions, and disillusionment. (Check it out here, if you care to.) Had some interesting responses. Will share two quite different, equally valid ones:
My first experience with the union occurred when, during the early part of my sophomore year of high school (1978), the teachers went out on strike and the administration hired “replacements.” I’ll never forget seeing my history teacher standing on the front bumper of a replacement’s car, beating the poor woman’s hood with his picket sign, and yelling, “SCAB!” My English teacher, whom I had always thought of as a mild-mannered, semi-attractive middle-aged woman (she was probably 30 at the time), stood by the passenger door of the same vehicle yelling sailoresque expletives through the window at the top of her lungs. The woman in the car was all of 5’2” and might have weighed 105 lbs.
My parents had taught me always to respect my teachers. Needless to say, this experience made that more challenging for the remainder of my education.
I know the feeling. But then there’s this:
As a former classroom teacher for over 30 years, and now a college supervisor of potential classroom teachers (out of the history department), I think your “gray area” position is appropriate. Union leadership does not always reflect teachers’ opinions. Most teachers just don’t have the fight in them to oppose the egregious policies you touch on. They’re too busy doing what you admire them for: hanging in the trenches and trying to teach students whose societal support groups — family, friends, and the general culture (or lack thereof) — have eroded. . . .
To be sure, teachers are a whiny lot. They have always been. But again, most just want to teach in a safe and orderly environment. Their unions often become the only recourse they have to challenge what’s imposed on them. But regrettably, those unions are too often responsible for the very policies that have caused the teachers’ anguish and difficulties. And although I would like to see more attempts to establish some types of voucher program, particularly for the poor in urban areas, I’m not optimistic that these will solve many problems.
We will return to this subject again, surely — and again. (I know, don’t call you Shirley.)
‐An additional language item, related to the above letters? Technically speaking, one should write, “Hi, Jay.” But more and more I see “Hi Jay” — or “Hi Monica” or whatever. Pretty natural, if you ask me — and who is against naturalness in punctuation? (Don’t answer — some are.)
‐A sort of cultural note: Received a wedding invitation in the mail, and the stamp had two rings — two wedding rings. Kinda sweet, no?
‐Okay, let me close with a vignette. I’m walking around Manhattan on Sunday morning, and this lady — middle-aged — is on a corner with a clipboard saying, “Are you a Republican? Any Republicans?” I am amazed. That is one brave lady. I’m in a rush, but I go up to her and say, “Yeah, I am.” “Oh, wonderful,” she says. “There are so few of us here.” She wants me to sign a petition, having to do with getting a Republican on the ballot, or making the Republican party legal or something. Afterward, I say to her, “Bless you.” She says, exuberantly, “Bless you!”
Would you stand out on a Manhattan street corner with a clipboard saying, “Are you a Republican?” I wouldn’t. As if often the case, I am glad that there are people with more of that kind of gumption in the world.