It’s very easy to laugh at lunacy in the Muslim world, and I suppose we’ve all been guilty from time to time. Remember the great scare in Sudan, earlier this decade? What, fear of genocide? No, fear that your penis would fall off, if a foreigner shook your hand. Many of us had a good laugh over that. And now there’s this, from the Agence France-Presse:
“Hamas suspects that Israeli intelligence services are supplying its Gaza Strip stronghold with chewing gum that boosts the sex drive in order to ‘corrupt the young,’ an official said on Tuesday.”
It’s funny, yes. But countless Palestinians and others stew in ignorance and hate because of lunatic lies that float about. And as soon as those lessen: the safer all of us — including those of us snug as bugs in the Free West — will be.
‐There was a lot of good in Barack Obama’s speech to the NAACP, to go with the bad. There was some “straight talk” to go with the standard left-liberal claptrap. For example, Obama said that black kids — like other kids, I would say — may be poor or face long odds: “but that’s not a reason to get bad grades. That’s not a reason to cut class. . . . No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands.”
If Obama keeps that up, he will indeed accomplish good as president.
But I’d like to focus, in this little impromptu, on one line. Obama said, “We know that even as we imprison more people of all races than any nation in the world, an African-American child is roughly five times as likely as a white child to see the inside of a prison.”
I’d like to concentrate on that formulation, “even as we imprison.” That may be true. But are not people imprisoning themselves, by committing crimes? America has a lot of people in its prisons, true. But we have a lot of lawbreakers, too. We are, for example, an exceedingly violent society.
You could say that we are imprisoning too many Americans. You could also say that too many Americans are committing crimes. And wouldn’t it be nice if our society were less criminally inclined?
Politicians usually don’t talk that way, however, because part of the job of a politician — or part of what he thinks is his job — is to flatter people.
‐I hope you’ll bear with me while I make a familiar point: There is something in America’s liberal officeholders that compels them to go around the world apologizing for our country’s sins, real or imagined. And these liberals do a fair amount of imagining.
So, the secretary of state, Hillary, was in India, apologizing for America’s triggering of global warming. Specifically, she said, “We acknowledge now with President Obama that we have made mistakes in the United States, and we along with other developed countries have contributed most significantly to the problem that we face with climate change.”
“Most significantly”? If every country had the environmental record of the United States, the planet would be well-nigh pristine. It is an unfree economy that makes dirty, as well as poor, not a free economy. Sober analysts recognize this. Ideology-soaked political evangelists do not.
Apologies such as HRC’s may make the apologizers feel good, but their apologies seldom do the United States any good, and they are not too friendly to the truth, either.
I told you all of this would be familiar!
‐I know, I know, you can’t judge a book by its cover. And you can’t judge a person by his résumé. Still . . .
There is a woman named Jacqueline A. Berrien. And she has a perfect résumé — a nightmare résumé, from the point of view of the likes of us. (Us meaning NR types.) She went to Oberlin College — there’s a strike! She worked as a program officer for the Ford Foundation — in Peace and Social Justice. “Social justice,” as you know, is just about the most alarming and confused term around. “Peace” can be pretty slippery, too.
She worked as an attorney for the ACLU. And she did the same for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
In other words, she appears a model left-wing legal activist, checking off every box, representing a thoroughly modern racial-political mindset. She has done everything but teach sociology at Brown.
And now, thanks to President Obama’s appointment, she will be this nation’s chief of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Chances are she will not be as wise in that position as Clarence Thomas (who occupied it for most of the 1980s). But maybe she will not be so bad as Oberlin, etc., suggests.
I look forward to being surprised, Jackie B.!
‐Not to sound parental or anything, but I’m kind of proud of Esquire magazine. They published Bjorn Lomborg (here). He is the Danish environmental scientist who is the scourge of the Al Gore crowd (which is a very big crowd) because he says that their ideas and dictates are absurd. Now, Lomborg should be swallowable for the likes of Esquire: because he believes that global warming is real (to a degree) and that the problem is man-made. And he believes George W. Bush is a chump. So, he is not entirely a pariah. But he is partially a pariah for believing that Gore-like solutions are a nutty and ruinous response to whatever climate change we face.
And Esquire published him anyway. Which is good. Don’t you think?
‐A reader wrote me something that tickled me. His Subject line read, “CNN Liberates Cuba!” And he went on to cite this, on Kim Jong Il, from CNN’s website: “His recent health problems and long absence from public functions have prompted speculation on whether he was ready to groom an heir to the world’s only communist dynasty.”
You might call it a pathetic dynasty when one old man bequeaths the dictatorship to his old-man brother. But still . . .
‐As regular readers know, I am pretty regularly appalled at what the Associated Press does. I mean, I rely on the AP, a lot. I’m glad it exists; I would hate for it to disappear. But many of its dispatches read like opinion pieces — and all the opinion is left-oriented, of course.
Upon decrying a recent item, I said, “Did wire services always publish rancid opinion pieces?” And a reader sent me this note:
The answer is no. Just out of college in 1974, I worked for The Associated Press. (We always pronounced it with a capital “T.”) From the gruff Wes Gallagher at the top all the way down to rookies like me, we were fiercely nonpartisan. The culture of the place involved a default attitude of suspicion and cynicism toward politicians — both parties, not just one. Any AP reporter feared the loss of peer approval from being used by a politician. To cut all that off, we wrote it straight.
I am truly saddened by the turn the AP has taken since then. I’m a Ph.D. economist and used to mention my AP background, but today people wouldn’t understand, so I have let it fade. I’m proud of what the AP was but not what the AP has become.
‐Late last week, I wrote about Obama, Henry Louis Gates, and the Cambridge, Mass., cops, and I said that the president behaved exceptionally jerkishly — up there at the presidential podium, sounding off on national television. A reader wrote to say, “How about what Obama and Biden did to ‘Joe the Plumber,’ ridiculing him in campaign speeches to large audiences?” That was jerkish, too.
This reader also wrote, “The guy [Obama] creeped me out from Day One.” It has taken some others somewhat longer . . .
‐A little language. My colleague Fred Schwarz noted something interesting. He saw a “Tweet” (“tweet”?) that said, “G8 summit is just a bunch of paper.” And Fred at first thought to himself, “What the hell is the Gate Summit?” He later said to me, “Is that not a sign of these linguistic times or what?” It is.
‐Now and then, I note extraordinary — interesting or touching or beautiful — names, and I did so a couple weeks back. Naturally, readers responded by submitting their own nominations. One reader liked the name of an NIH doctor: Pebbles Fagan. Another said, “One of the better baseball names was just acquired by our lowly Pirates: Lastings Milledge.” This reader went on to record a second baseball name: Jair Jurrjens, “born in Curaçao, I believe” (correct). “That’s a lot of j’s in one name.” True!
There is a book called Kneadlessly Simple, about making bread. It is by Nancy Baggett.
Another reader said, “Molly Taylor Jolly is vice president, finance and administration, for the Anaheim Angels. Wonder why she uses her middle name!” (“Molly Jolly” is a hinky-pinky. You know that game?)
Another reader was prompted by something I’d published to send me this story: “In our church was a lady named Helen Neal. She once found a purse that someone had left at church and told the church leaders, who later announced from the pulpit, ‘A black purse has been found. If you think it’s yours, go to Helen Neal for it.’”
(This column is sounding more like Reader’s Digest all the time, isn’t it?) (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)
Finally, a reader forwarded me an (excellent) obit about a minor-league-baseball official. Our reader was especially interested in the names of teams: the Kannapolis Intimidators (North Carolina), the Hickory Crawdads (ditto), the Delmarva Shorebirds (Maryland), the Savannah Sand Gnats (Georgia, of course).
‐Been a while since you read the Declaration of Independence? Me too. A reader wrote,
In light of the recent coverage of the Waxman-Markey bill and the new bureaucracy it spawns, and the economic costs it imposes, I was struck by a line from the Declaration, which I was reading yesterday. It is in the section that lists longstanding grievances against the British king. And I found this line an apt prediction of what will come from our carbon-emissions police.
That line is, “He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.”
Is that a line for our times generally? Let us hope not! (I hasten to point out that, yes, our president was elected — unlike George 3.) (Our Congress was elected too, for that matter! If we are going to be taxed into sluggishness and mediocrity, it’s at least with representation. In other words, it’s our own, collective choice.) (Thanks a lot, my fellow ’muricans.)
‐Now and then, I — like other NR-niks — talk with Will Cain, of Off the Page. Last week, we did something light: presidential vacations. Care to see? Go to this part of our site.
‐I had a memory the other day — a memory of WFB. This occurred because I was writing about Lorin Maazel, the conductor. (For my Impromptus re Maazel, go here.) I asked him, during our interview, “Who are the great conductors of the 20th century?” And he responded, at first, with an amusing story.
A matron accosts Koussevitzky after a concert and says, “Maestro, you are the only one.” He says, “Nonsense. There’s Koussevitzky. And then there’s . . .” He turns to his wife and says, “Can you help me? Then there’s . . .”
Well, some years ago, Bill had Sharon Isbin to dinner one night. She is a classical guitarist. And, as we were sitting down, he said, “I understand you are the No. 1 guitarist in the world.” And she said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. You can’t say that. It would be like saying there’s a No. 1 writer.” And Bill said — with his unbeatable, shining charm — “Waall . . .”